An investment from former Chiefs player Dezman Moses valued at $3 million is expected to help flood Kansas City with storytelling — and a new surprise flavor — from the first Black-owned seltzer in the market, said Joshua Lewis.
Kin Seltzer announced the strategic investment from the Kansas City linebacker-turned-entrepreneur, noting plans to use the funding for production and distribution expansion, as well as boosting the local nightlife scene with digital, as well as on- and off-premise marketing, said Lewis, co-founder of Kin Seltzer.
Moses, also a veteran of the Green Bay Packers, is now a Realtor and real estate investor, podcast host, and sports analyst for KCTV5.
“Dezman and I met over a decade ago and became friends,” he continued. “As his entrepreneurial grind increased, it just made sense for us to finally connect and see what we could get done business wise. The timing was right, the branding is right, and what we’re building is right. It’s something that he’s super interested in.”
Full details of the investment were not disclosed, though Moses is expected to gain equity in Kin Seltzer, as well as a seat on the startup’s board, Lewis said.
Click here to explore Kin Seltzer.
Moses’ interest in Kin Seltzer is rooted in his belief in the importance of the Black business and his desire to contribute to the black community’s influence in the beverage industry, he added.
“For him, it was about helping Black-owned brands to be more visible and make more money in these spaces,” Lewis said. “He feels like there was a gap just like I did, the gap that needs to be covered in the party nightlife drink beverage space.”
Moses confirmed the investment deal to Startland News, but was not immediately available for comment.
Click here to follow Dezman Moses on Instagram.
Taking it up a notch
Like Moses, a serial entrepreneur in his post-football years, Lewis didn’t follow a traditional path to business and startup life.
Graduating from Park University in 2014 with a marketing degree, he quickly entered the nightlife scene, organizing parties and events for a little more than a decade. He created the app Updown Nightlife through which he built a community around the app, connecting with more than 30,000 people.
Drawing from his experience in the industry, Lewis noticed a growing market for seltzers and acted on it.
“The seltzer space was one that I could get my hands on quickly and develop relationships with breweries. I’ve always wanted to see more Black people in the nightlife space. And seltzer market was the one that I could attack the quickest.”
Kin Seltzer is the result of a partnership between Lewis and creative Kearra Johnson, founder of Studio Lo, along with Eric Martens, founder and owner of Border Brewing Company.
“We’ve already perfected the taste, and now our focus is on elevating our brand presence and consumer engagement,” said Johnson, reflecting on the Moses investment. “This latest round of funding will help us do just that.”
“On the operational front, we’re planning to implement updated can designs and a delivery van,” the co-founder and brand designer continued. “These initiatives will integrate seamlessly into our organic marketing strategy. Enhancing our brand experience is another priority, including revamped pop-up displays, enriched marketing materials, and exciting collaborations with creators. As we reflect on our accomplishments as an early-stage company, we’re driven to maintain our success while taking it up a notch.”
Pioneering as the first Black-owned seltzer brand in the market, Kin Seltzer currently can be found in 15 locations throughout Kansas City. These venues range from retail outlets like The Black Pantry and Made in KC to popular clubs and restaurants such as Society and Brickhouse.
Click here to follow Kin Seltzer on Instagram.
With a background in marketing and a deep understanding of community-building, Lewis and the team launched Kin Seltzer with a mission to promote diversity, he said.
The tagline, “For the folks,” embodies his vision of inclusivity.
“When you hear ‘folks’ you think Black, but folks means everybody,” Lewis said. “With our mission we believe that when we lead with black culture, everyone else will follow.”
Lewis already has shown a knack for raising outside funding through his years in the nightlife space, with more than a million raised for his app.
“With the influence that I have gained, and the relationships that I have built with high growth business individuals, people want to invest,” Lewis said. “I always tell people, one of my strengths is that I can build a community.”
Building thirst through engagement
Two key strategies have been instrumental in Kin Seltzer’s success: community-building and storytelling, Lewis said, emphasizing that these elements are crucial for aspiring Black founders.
“If you’re a Black entrepreneur trying to build your business, you need to find a way to build community,” he said. “But the work to build that community is storytelling; and you have to be able to tell a good story to get people engaged in what you’re doing.”
“If you know how to do those two, then whatever product you create, people obviously will want to get it and you’ll also be able to engage with them the right way.”
Kin Seltzer’s founders ultimately are moving toward the company’s eventual acquisition by a prominent spirit, beer, and marketing brand in the nightlife industry, Lewis said.