Name:Mark Convery Age: 40 Location: Canada Business: CoCo Vodka & CoCo Rum Industry: Food & Beverage Year Founded: 2019 Number of Employees: 4 full time, 2 part time, 5 contractors
Co-founders Av Grewal (left) and Mark Convery (right)
Mark Convery and his co-founder, Av Grewal, always knew they wanted to run a beverage company. The pair started with a bourbon distillery in 2018, but grew impatient with the slow barrel-aging process, and pivoted to a faster business model: cans.
In November 2019, Convery and Grewal launched CoCo Vodka, a canned hard coconut water, completing their first year of business in the midst of the pandemic.
“I wouldn’t recommend any new business in a competitive industry try to launch during a pandemic. It was probably a bad idea, but Av and I are persistent and knew we had something special,” says Convery.
In addition to contributing a combined $360k of their own savings to get CoCo Vodka off the ground, the founders also created an online retail business to generate revenue that they could funnel back into the beverage startup.
The business, which they named Bondi Spark Brands, imports products from Australia and sells them to large Canadian and American retailers. Convery says it’s a lucrative, low-effort business model — and it brought in an additional $250k to launch their drink brand.
But once CoCo Vodka was approved to be carried in Walmarts across Florida, the founders knew they needed more capital, and quickly. To make it happen, they raised $2m in convertible debt equity from a Canadian capital management firm in November 2020.
Here, Convery lets us inside his business — and his wallet — and breaks down average monthly expenses, salary, revenue, and more.
Each month, Convery keeps his cash on hand constant for himself and his business, never dipping below:
$200k for the business
$75k for personal savings
Convery likes to keep generous burn rate projections that ensure the company never comes in short. His current burn rate projection is:
$60k per month
Production runs — when the company orders cans and ingredients and manufactures product — happen sporadically throughout the year:
The average production run makes 5k-10k cases, totaling $75k-$150k in costs
Convery hopes to more than triple sales in 2022, and projects 205k cases of CoCo Vodka & Rum sold and $7m in revenue. The firm will focus on building strategic partnerships and expanding the line into more creative flavors.
“I’m a ground-up guy,” says Convery. “I had never raised capital before our raise last year. I cherish every dollar because I’m used to not having money and working my way up. It’s about keeping up with this crazy momentum we have and doing it properly with the money that’s here. This is such a pivotal year for us.”
In a moment of pure fate, the president and CEO of RNDC, the 2nd-largest beverage distributor in America, was out for a run in Mississippi when he ducked into a beer shop to pick up a drink for the evening. He happened upon a case of CoCo Vodka, grabbed one to go, and emailed the founders through the company website that same night.
“We thought it was a scam at first,” Convery remembers. “We jumped on a call with him and within an hour he had us in touch with their national team. Within a few days we had an agreement to expand with RNDC.”
With RNDC’s help, the company will scale up from 30 states to 45 states within the next 6 months. In Canada, the product is sold in 5 provinces, and expansions are planned to the Bahamas and Israel as well.
Along with geographical growth, Convery has big plans across the business: to hire more regional staff in 2022 and ramp up marketing spend to just over $1m annually. As of February 2022, the company is currently in a 2nd fundraising round with the aim of fetching an estimated $7m with a $20m company valuation.