When opportunity knocks, entrepreneurs must throw risk out the window and do whatever it takes to open the door, said Luke Einsel.
Elevator pitch: We’re a beverage distribution company, focused on commercial accounts. We source the healthiest, best-tasting products that have minimal sugar, minimal artificial ingredients, and maximum health benefits.
Year founded: 2012
Funding raised to date: $3.5 million
Number of employees: 13
“[This was] really the deal of a lifetime,” said Einsel, founder and CEO of Thirsty Coconut, detailing a business deal he struck with 7-Eleven stores across Mexico late last year. The transaction saw Einsel’s company acquire an estimated $7 million worth of liquidated beverage equipment.
The deal included 3,600 smoothie machines used for making frozen drinks, he said. Thirsty Coconut is starting a new bar and restaurant lease program where the company will make it easier for anyone to own a frozen drink machine to make smoothies or slushies for $199 a month, Einsel said.
“I did something kind of bold, you know … I really didn’t know how I was going to pull this off,” he recalled thinking. “It was really a huge chunk for us to bite off and say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to buy an entire country’s worth of equipment.”
Einsel plans to refurbish the machines as part of Thirsty Coconut’s machine refurbish program, he said.
Click here to learn more about Thirsty Coconut.
A chain reaction, the deal empowered Einsel to open his mind as a startup leader and buckle down on his efforts to propel the company forward, he said.
The result: a move across the state line for the company, formerly headquartered in Johnson County.
“[The city] essentially rolled out the red carpet and said ‘Look, we want companies like yours to come to the Kansas City metro and explore what we have to offer,” Einsel said of the way KCMO city officials and the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri, have supported his company.
City representatives specifically reached out to Einsel as he considered moving Thirsty Coconut out of Kansas — noting Johnson County specifically as an area with limited resources for startup success, he said — which helped lure him downtown. The company has relocated previously, between locations in Overland Park, Olathe and Louisburg.
Not only did moving Thirsty Coconut into an 18,000-square-foot warehouse space — on the former Richard Gebauer Air Force Base on Westover Road in Kansas city — enable the company to take on a dramatic increase in inventory, it also placed it in an opportunity zone, Einsel said.
“[The opportunity zone] helped us close our latest round of funding. I mean, it was just kind of a perfect fit for us,” Einsel said. “Over 15 months, I was rejected by 60 banks [most of those were in] the metro area. … Eventually we found a broker who connected us with a guy in Atlanta who introduced me to Advantage Capital.”
Click here to learn more about Advantage Capital and the group’s commitment to small business success.
Newly connected, Thirsty Coconut has just closed on a $2 million funding round, Einsel said.
“The loan broker told me, ‘You know, we spend a lot of time trying to find deals like yours. They don’t come across our desk very often,’” Einsel said, highlighting the importance of resilience in business.
“ … The 7-Eleven deal really injected a lot of new life and excitement because of the scale of it,” he added. “Sometimes, like with any company, you have to pivot if you’re going to continue to grow — and I think part of our problem was that we had a mindset that was limiting us.”
Renewed by risk, Einsel sees a new path for Thirsty Coconut, he said.
“We want to refurbish these machines,” Einsel continued. “We want to put an IoT component on them so that we can see in real time when a customer’s machine is broken — maybe we can even diagnose it and preventatively fix machines before they go down and use the technology that’s available out there to really build a moat for this business.”
The entrepreneur is eager to innovate the beverage space, approaching opportunities — no matter their scope — with an eager sense of entrepreneurial ingenuity. A direct example of risk and reward, he said.