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‘It was intense’: SOFI Spritz founder spills on the Shark Tank experience

SOFI Spritz founder on the Shark Tank experience. Source: Getty

SOFI Spritz is Australia’s answer to the Italian bubbly cocktail, and while you may have heard of it, you might be less familiar with its origins.

Founder Tom Maclean told Yahoo Finance the inspiration for SOFI came during his travels through Italy, where he saw the Italians’ love for the aperitivo first-hand.

“But it wasn't until I returned to Australia that I realised there was a gap in the market for an all-natural pre-batched cocktail that fit perfectly with a backyard Aussie BBQ,” he said.

Quitting his job in the finance industry to pursue SOFI full-time was risky, but worth it, Maclean said.

“It has been a great adventure,” Maclean said. “I knew there was always going to be a risk that it wouldn't work out but my research convinced me that it was worth a crack.”

And with that, Maclean took SOFI to Channel 10s’ Shark Tank, and experience that he described as “intense”.

“I had fairly low expectations around the outcome to be honest,” he told Yahoo Finance.

“The preparation was nerve-wracking and you are on the stage for a lot longer than one might expect from watching the show.

“But in the end, we were lucky that it was the perfect time for SOFI to step up having just won distribution with BWS and the Sharks loved it.

“Four out of five made an offer and we ended up getting our asking price from Steve [Baxter] and Glen [Richards] who have been fantastic to work with.”

It wasn’t an easy road

Breaking into Australia’s liquor industry wasn’t straightforward, Maclean said.

“One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is that it is the cost of a sales force that is the biggest barrier to entry in Australia for liquor,” Maclean said.

“We got great support early on from some big retailers but it’s hard to get around and see all the individual bars and independent bottle shops around the country. We must be focused on where SOFI works best, and that is working for us.”

His advice to Aussie entrepreneurs

While some entrepreneurs might be unwilling to release their product until it’s absolutely perfect, Maclean advises aspiring entrepreneurs not to sit on their hands.

“Start selling,” he said.

For SOFI, Maclean said it was crucial to start selling as early as possible.

“In under one year from when I had the idea, we were selling SOFI at Bondi Farmers Market and out of my car to local bars and bottle shops,” Maclean said.

“After about a year, we did a rewards-based crowdfund to take SOFI national, and we landed a national retailer off the back of that.

“We were able to make adjustments along the way with feedback from consumers at the farmers market and from our crowdfunders, so my simplest advice is don't wait too long thinking about it – start selling.”

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