Tell us about your business/company or hustle. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a company? What sets you apart from others?
Sanzo bridges cultures by connecting people to global flavors. We’re starting with the 1st Asian-inspired sparkling water. All of our beverages are flavored with real fruit juice, no added sugars, preservatives, artificial or “natural” flavors.
We’re most proud to be part of a movement that seeks to increase Asian/AAPI representation among brands and creative endeavors. We believe these movements are how culture is shaped. And oftentimes, shaping culture leads to changes in the more important, but often less glamorous things in life such as public policy.
What we believe sets us apart is our desire to both do well by the AAPI community that has so well supported us, but take on the broader task of bridging cultures between our flavors and folks of other communities.
Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you got started and how you got to where you are today. You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like.
I had the original idea in mid-2018. At the time, Crazy Rich Asians was the number 1 film at the box office, Korean pop was hitting a fever pitch, and the influence of Asian food and culture was really starting to make its mark on American culture. But when I walked the beverage aisles at both markets like Whole Foods and H-Mart, I didn’t feel there was anything properly capturing this shift in culture. At the time, I worked for a technology startup where our fridges were copiously stocked with different brands of flavored sparkling water that I felt utilized the same flavors over and over. That’s kind of when the switch flipped. I can’t say I started Sanzo because I wanted to fill a void in the trendy sparkling water world. I started Sanzo because I felt sparkling water was the best way to represent the cultural shift that has gone on in America.
What specific obstacles or challenges have you faced while on your journey? What were they and how have you overcome them?
I self-funded my business in the beginning. The great thing about this is it forced me to constantly ask questions. If I was going to invest money in r&d, raw materials, manufacturing, branding, etc., knowing that it was my money on the line encouraged me to remain focused and understand all the ins and outs. The difficulty, as you can imagine, is lack of leverage. Money talks. But relationships are also currency. Since I didn’t have a ton of investors backing me, I initiated and developed relationships with other entrepreneurs in the space, suppliers, manufacturers, etc. I invested time in understanding the troubles they were going through and seeing how I as a brand owner could make their life easier by working with me.
Grit. In my opinion, the most dangerous myth perpetuated in entrepreneurship media is the idea of “overnight success”.
Looking under the hood, almost all of these stories actually took years to develop. Years of constant “nos” from customers, investors, you name it. But the entrepreneurs who have grit, who know how to process those “nos” to get better, those are the ones who ultimately win. And I hope this demystification is helpful to folks who are hustling in their own way, be it through working multiple jobs to make ends meet or moonlighting on a side business while they work their 9-to-5.
Yes, you have to generally be pretty enterprising and resourceful. But being able to build through the bad times and stay positive is what I think separates folks.
To keep up and follow along with Alessandro Roco and Sanzo: