Business In:Brief with Drew Bilbe (Nexba)
Co-CEO and co-founder of Nexba – 2010-present
Drew is the Co-CEO and co-founder of Australian drinks company Nexba. He and his co-founder Troy are committed to changing the way people think about soft drinks by providing gut-healthy, sugarless, zero-calorie drinks to Aussies everywhere.
Drew talks more about his company and its plans for the future. He also delves into what it was like starting out a business at a young age, and what advice he'd give to others in his field.
What was your first job?
I got my first job at 14, working at the local supermarket packing shelves on the weekend. You can still catch me hanging out at supermarkets, testing new product designs on shelves!
What's your proudest achievement?
It has to be cracking our proprietary Naturally Sugar Free sweetener blend after six years of R&D. It's now globally patented and in all our products. It's the closest alternative to emulating sugar both in taste and mouthfeel on the market.
What's something that you have learned in business that took you by surprise?
We started Nexba with no formal business training, when I was just 23 and my co-founder Troy was only 21, so I gained a real appreciation for cashflow and P&L management very quickly – that's putting it politely!
It was a very steep learning curve as we didn't have the time or money to make too many mistakes. However, there's nothing like being thrown in the deep end when it comes to learning. We were fortunate that we had a number of mentors and advisers, even in the early days, to lean on and soak up as much knowledge as possible from, which really helped us swim.
How do you plan on growing your business in the near future?
Our mission to reduce sugar and artificials in the world's diets hasn't changed since day one so that's still very much our focus for growth. We have a proven business model in Australia and the UK and we're currently securing growth capital partners to help further scale Nexba worldwide. Exciting times ahead!
As a challenger brand, we have largely focused on customer centricity with our retail partners and building great tasting products that deserve shelf space up until now. We're still going to be doing that as we grow, just bigger and better.
However, our next exciting focus in Australia is developing our first brand campaign and a platform to share our story with more consumers. We've hired a host of awesome new team members to help communicate and educate that Nexba "Goodsweet" exists – categories you love, like soft drinks, now have alternatives with no sugar, nothing artificial and a taste you won't believe.
What other business leader do you most admire and why?
Ray Dalio, Bob Iger, Tim Ferris, the Atlassian founders, our Nexba Legends (our investors), my local fish and chip owner. I appreciate the value of gaining insights through conversation and pressure testing ideas. I'm inspired every day by people who make an impact, both small and large, because they follow their passion and are dedicated to bringing that to life in a meaningful way for others.
What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
Peter Baron, who my business partner Troy and I term the "God Father of Nexba", instilled in us very early on that "success is the by-product of doing business right". Practically that has given Troy and I the trust in ourselves to continue pushing through every challenge and hurdle that we encounter because our guiding impact, to reduce sugar and artificials in people's diets, is the right thing to do.
What advice would you pass on to someone starting out in your area?
Don't do it if your primary purpose is to make money. Businesses die from within; your authentic passion is everything. You need to really love and be passionate about the idea before contemplating a start-up. The drive from the idea has to come before the drive to start your own business.
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