College friends create spiked water for millennials in Newmarket
Three college friends hope to cash in on the thirst of their generation.
“Think spiked seltzer without the bubbles,” said Richard Roy, co-founder of NOCA, which last week launched a new non-carbonated spiked water aimed at female millennials.
With a friendship forged in a college investment group, Roy and two fellow 2016 grads of the University of New Hampshire quit their finance jobs to form the Newmarket-based beverage company.
The 20-something trio tapped not only what they learned while pursuing their degrees but also used school connections to meet new advisers and investors.
Without help from UNH, bringing NOCA to market would have been “impossible literally,” acknowledged co-founder Galen Hand.
It took a university to make a beverage company.
Even before graduating, the trio brainstormed ideas about new startups or business opportunities.
“The three of us became very close friends,” Hand said.
After college, however, they went their separate ways — to Illinois, New York and Massachusetts — and kept in touch by text message.
Hand quit his job first, leaving a Chicago investment banking position last July.
“I took the 17-hour drive back to New Hampshire and moved back into my house and spent six to eight weeks idea-generating and doing due diligence,” he said. The trio identified industries they liked, and then worked to see if “there was some area where we could carve out a niche,” Hand said.
He called the non-carbonated spiked water idea a “golden ticket” because no company had developed that particular niche. But before they got their product into stores, they were beaten to the market by Pura Still, another spiked water without bubbles.
“That was a little bit of a shell shock,” recalled Hand. But later, “we realized it was probably the best thing that could have happened to us,” he said. “They proved out this was a market.”
The trio also received help from current students. A UNH student-run digital marketing agency “helped us strategize a marketing plan at launch, what things to be thinking about as well as helping us with some social media content creation,” said Roy, who lives in North Hampton.
A UNH beverage management class “helped us prove out the viability of the product relative to our competitors through a blind taste test with roughly 100 students,” Roy said. “The results were overwhelmingly positive and NOCA ranked roughly 60 percent higher than our only direct competitor.”
In stores soon
While headquartered in Newmarket (in Hand’s residence), the NOCA contracts with a company in Baltimore to make and can the product.
Roy said their company has sold 4,000 cases to four distributors who will place the beverage in stores in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. NOCA will launch in roughly 100 New Hampshire stores, but not in supermarkets. A six-pack will cost between $8.99 and $9.99.
NOCA comes in three flavors: watermelon lime, dragon fruit mango and triple berry. A 12-ounce can has 95 calories and 4.5 percent alcohol by volume.
NOCA is planning a launch event at WeWork in Boston on Thursday.
Blake said the trio needs to sort out job titles and duties soon, something Hand said would come in time.
Hand, who estimated the company would turn an operational profit in three to nine months, said he isn’t looking back.
“This venture suits me. It gets the way I think and my personal aspirations more than my previous occupation,” he said. “We’re building a brand and company, and I’m also working with my best friends.”