By Victor Ruiz Lafita, Co-Founder and CEO of Vita.
The idea for VITA came from personal experience. Perhaps not surprising when you consider what it is! It was towards the end of the Summer in 2016 and at the time I was spending a lot of time with some friends on a boat off the coast of Ibiza. It was a beautiful summer, but I felt that drinking regularly had started taking its toll on my appearance and my health. I thought about the lack of healthy mixer-drink options and decided to make a vodka that was designed specifically to taste great when mixed with just water. Fizzy or still.
Almost immediately playtime was over and I had started my search for the best ingredients, the best team, and the strongest infrastructure in the whole of the Mediterranean region. Admittedly these were my first steps into the spirits industry, but I knew I had a great idea that filled a gaping hole in the market. And that confidence was helped by the incredible team we came to have. The spirits veterans bring a wealth of experience and fantastic connections within the industry, whereas the young entrepreneurs bring energy (and keep us grounded in our Millennial target market).
The Research Stage – the most important part of being an entrepreneur
That search was also the beginning of what was about to be a long process of researching, reading and re-researching. I dug into the market, got under its skin, and kept digging until I knew it inside out. It seems obvious, but this research stage is unequivocally the most important.
Once you know your market, it’s time to get to know your competitors; how did they start, where did they go wrong, what did they do right, and how can you do it better? Also, through understanding your market and the competitors that already inhabit it, you’ll see time and time again the value of relative trends reports. Yes, more reading, but it’s incredible what these reports can confirm, suggest and accurately speculate.
Crunch the numbers
Once I felt like I must know the answer to every question about the product and the market it inhabits, I was ready to prepare a business plan. The most important thing was just to make sure that it all actually made financial sense! Also I utilised all of my new expert contacts and asked for their comments. An expert’s perspective is there to be utilised.
Ask the experts
If you start to feel like you’re turning into a hermit with all the reading and research, don’t worry, talking to the right people is also invaluable. Whether these are other entrepreneurs in similar or alternative categories to yours; experts specific to your market, your USP or your aim; or key investors with the kind of wisdom and knowledge that only comes with experience. Talk to them all.
I’ve already mentioned the incredible team behind VITA, but to reiterate, the biggest factor behind the success of any business is the team driving it. Go and build up your team of experts, each one an authority in their particular relevant field. There’s no way you’re going to be able to know everything, so you’re going to have to get comfortable relying on the knowledge of others.
Team + Idea = Everything!
It was around this time I was then able to start looking for investors and eventually starting to sell. Again, the team’s combination of experience, connections and drive really came into its own here. We got ourselves established, got some great media coverage around the product and its revolutionary thinking, tested VITA in the Spanish market and it was successful enough to become the top selling vodka on Amazon Spain. This reaction meant that we were able to sign an exclusive deal with leading Mexican spirits retailer La Europea, cementing us in the Mexican market as well. This in turn lead to a great recommendation to the purchasing manager, which (after some great persuading skills) our team handled perfectly. And now, VITA has just launched in the UK, where vodka consumption is 15x higher than in Spain(!) – to be distributed by Drinks 21, who are also taking VITA to Italy and France.
Young entrepreneurs need to have confidence in their ideas. I consider myself lucky to be in a position to bring this worldwide first to the market; and you need that same certainty. If you put your passion to the test and research your industry inside out (I know, I know), you’ll eventually start to make an impact, and all those hermit nights and long days will pay off.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victor Ruiz Lafita is the Co- founder and CEO of Vita, a spirits brand founded in 2016 and based in Madrid, Spain. Vita is best-known for creating Vita Vodka Water – the world’s first vodka designed to be mixed with water, which allows drinkers to enjoy alcohol without the sugar, gluten and additives prevalent in soft-drink mixers.
When coming into contact with still or carbonated water, Vita releases a burst of natural scents, flavours and freshness, creating a low-calorie, refreshing vodka drink that offsets dehydration and eliminates the need for sugary mixers.
After a strong reception in its native Spain and significant interest from international distributors, Vita is set to launch in the UK – via spirits distributors Ooberstock and Drink21– where vodka consumption is 15 times higher and health trends are far stronger.