Episode 76
October 19, 2021

Growth That's Bubbling Over

with Stephen Ellsworth, Co-Founder and CEO of Poppi

About this episode

Poppi is a better-for-you, functional, prebiotic soda designed to keep your gut in check. Founded by husband and wife duo, Stephen and Allison Ellsworth, Poppi combines real fruit juice with apple cider vinegar to create nine different flavors of soda that taste amazing and provide real health benefits. In this episode, Stephen shares with us his journey from growing up in Utah as one of six siblings, to meeting his wife, Allison, at a snowboarding shop where he was working, to working in the oil and gas industry, to discovering the health benefits of apple cider vinegar and creating Poppi as a way to make it taste better. He talks with us about how they got their first big break while selling Poppi at a farmers market, why he wishes he raised more money early on, and how he grew the team from just 2 people to over 50 employees in just 18 months.

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • Why Stephen didn’t feel like he was cut out for corporate life and what that led him to do instead throughout college
  • How he met his wife and Co-Founder, Allison, and started working for her family in oil and gas
  • What led to Allison discovering the health benefits of apple cider vinegar and the desire to make it taste better
  • What turned their first iterations of the product from a hobby to a business and why it was a huge game changer 
  • What hard lessons they have learned and what they have learned through the fundraising process
  • What it has been like to grow their team from two to 50 people in just 18 months and what they have learned about leadership and team dynamics as well as  the importance of building relationships with those on your team
  • Where you can find Poppi and what’s next for them in terms of flavor profiles

To Find Out More:



“{Allison} read that drinking apple cider vinegar could really help to detox and reset her body. So that's where this whole concept really came about.”

“‘How do we figure this out? How can we take this product from our kitchen and put it into a manufacturing facility and meet all of the qualifications and have all of the policies in place? How do we get it done?” So we just got to work. We just jumped right in.”

“Looking back, I would have raised capital sooner. But that kind of just that wasn't the way that I was thinking about it. So we just made do with what we had.”

“Early on we had talked to some of these co-packers, and their capabilities weren't there. They weren't willing to work with the product that was unpasteurized. A lot of them didn't want to work with vinegar because they felt like it would contaminate their lines. So being where we are now, obviously we just weren't talking to all of the right people.” 

“It was like, "Get equipment, let's scale it. Let's continue to grow sales and then reinvest in the business and continue to kind of bootstrap it.’"

“I wasn't building on building a brand or taking it to market or putting together a promotional calendar to incentivize trial and do all of these other things to try and get people to try the product and build the brand. So I mean, that was honestly the biggest thing that I think halted our growth.”

“The good thing and the bad thing is that Poppi is just been blowing up. At this stage of our business, we're growing faster than Vitamin Water did and Bai did.”

“When you become a family and you're all pulling in the same direction, you don't mind picking up the slack for the other person because you know, when the tables are turned and you need someone to pick up the slack, they're there for you.”

“It's all about Poppi being a mission-driven company rather than a maintenance-driven company.”

“Making money should be a result of doing something good.” 

“I try not to have an ego because I want people to be able to speak up. And if it's not the best idea, know that we still love and respect you and are just excited that you're bringing ideas to the table as opposed to, you know, feeling like you're shamed because it wasn't the idea that we went with.”

“Throw yourself in so far that the only path is forward.”

Read the transcript

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