Always searching for ways to combine art and design into the overhead theme of entrepreneurialism, WTRMLN WTR‘s founder Jody Levy found a way to produce the ultimate trifecta of these themes with her product. The uniquely refreshing, ultimately hydrating WTRMLN WTR originated after Levy discovered the amount of watermelons wasted per annum, as a result of appearance–deformed or defected watermelons are never sold.
Levy told us this was the trigger to begin her journey of “sensory storytelling to assemble puzzles and solve problems.” She wanted to create something that never existed before, like “assembling part sand pieces, bringing together humans and connecting it all through a tightly woven web to bring order and integration.” Labeling herself as a “born-maker,” Levy explored a variety of options, resources and recipes before eventually giving way to WTRMLN WTR. We sat down with her to discuss her natural leadership capabilities, surviving the entrepreneurial grind (with her product as fuel, nonetheless), and the fate that led to onboarding Beyoncé as an investor.
How did you transition from a creative background to entrepreneurship? What was this experience like?
My background in creating immersive stories through art and design applies to everything I do, including my brands. It is all about storytelling through the senses. With WTRMLN WTR, we aim to connect to our consumers emotionally. Any time we think of ways to communicate about our products, or our mission, we aim to connect in ways that impact people on a personal level and invoke memory.
We have buses out in the fields that we call our “Liquid Love Rides” that raise awareness about WTRMLN WTR and are filled with our teams that help people understand how to make healthy lifestyle choices so they can maximize living. Our brand ambassadors wear full body athletic suits that look like the bottles and have all of the functional benefits and nutritionals running up and down their limbs. We hand out little cards that are filled with plantable watermelon seeds so that people can grow their own WTR. It all connects to our philosophy of giving back and inspiring people whenever possible.
When did you first discover the unused, “damaged” watermelon waste?
In 2013 my co-founder Harlan Berger shared this crazy fact that there are hundreds of millions of pounds of ugly, misshapen but perfectly nutritious ‘waste’ watermelons in the United States annually. This is what set us on our trajectory for WTRMLN WTR. The idea of using waste watermelons, otherwise known as ‘seconds’, and cold-pressing them into a super clean functional hydration beverage.
How did you turn that discovery into realizing watermelon water as the next biggest hydration craze?
When we founded WTRMLN WTR the concept of drinking watermelon was rare and special. We knew we were onto something with our first batch of super clean, plant-based water. Once we started to get the science of how WTRMLN WTR re-hydrates in a way nothing else does, paired with the super clean taste of only watermelon and lemon, we knew we were on to something very exciting. We created our brand, launched our product, and invented a category all at one time.
Watermelon is a very special fruit because people from all walks of life across the globe have a connection to it. There is an emotional link and memories that people have to the delicious water that comes from within. Watermelon is 92 percent water, and the water of a watermelon is packed with functional nutrients including the amino acid called L-Citrulline, a vasodilator that prevents muscle fatigue and aids in recovery. WTRMLN WTR has significantly more electrolytes that most sports drinks with huge amounts of potassium.
Talk me through getting Beyoncé on board as one of your biggest investors.
We launched WTRMLN WTR with Whole Foods Market in conjunction with the opening of their first Brooklyn store. The launch of the store was slated to open in September 2013 but did not actually open until December 12, 2013. On that day, after the ribbon cutting and the first bottles of our hot pink juicy “Liquid Love,” as we call it, was on the shelves, Beyoncé dropped her track Drunk In Love which ends in the lyrics, “I’ve been Drinkin’ Watermelon.” It was an amazing synchronistic moment for us and that was the beginning of our connection. A year later, we got together to discuss partnership, mission driven business, female entrepreneurship, investment, life and more.
What is your favorite flavor or WTRMLN WTR? And when is your favorite time to drink it?
I am a modernist and a purist, so I love the OG, our original WTRMLN WTR. But the WTRMLN WTR BLNDS all add extra function, never just frivolous flavors. It’s hard to pick favorites with my babies but I do LOVE our LMNade … WTRMLN LMN. I typically drink WTRMLN WTR after I workout. I spend a lot of time on my bicycle and WTRMLN WTR powers my body and brain.
What do you do to ground yourself on your busiest days, or busiest weeks? Conversely, what is something you indulge in on your slower days?
I make time to dance. It’s my medicine. On crazy days, I’ll take a few minutes to play some loud music and get in my body. When things get intense I get on my bike and move – fast with the wind.
What has been one of the biggest lessons you learned, both personally and professionally, throughout the WTRMLN WTR journey?
Trust my gut. The only time I ever get into trouble is when I do not listen to my intuition.
What is your relationship like with your co-founder, Harlan?
Harlan is like a brother. Our relationship is the best professional partnership I have ever known. We have a way we work where we communicate with one another about our perspectives and always get to the same place. So, we tackle everything as a united front. We very much respect one another’s role in the company. Most importantly we have a lot of fun.
What is one of your proudest moments in the industry thus far?
I have lots of proud and excited moments. Most of them have to do with people being so inspired by our mission and wanting to spread the Liquid Love by joining our tribe. I get very proud when I hear we helped a grower in America save 250,000 tons of watermelons that would have been wasted, or that we helped convert a soda, corn syrup-drinker, to understand why they want to make healthier choices for their own lives, families and our planet.
Who is the one person you go to with everything—happy, to sad, to everything in between?
My sister Melissa is the most grounded, wise, hilarious, intelligent human I know. She and I have a very rare connect and she keeps me grounded and humble and twists me when I need to be twisted in the right direction. I would not be where I am today, nor would I understand myself the way I do, if it were not for her in my day-to-day life.