Episode 49
April 13, 2021

Shaking up the Soda Space

with Marisa Zupan, CO-Founder and CEO of United Sodas

About this episode

Marisa Zupan is the Co-Founder and CEO of United Sodas. United Sodas is a DTC soda brand on a mission to reinvent soda into a high quality, better for you beverage with inventive flavors and an elevated design aesthetic delivered straight to your door. In this episode, Marisa shares with us her journey from growing up as an only child living in Italy and Ohio to working in marketing, media and brand strategy at agencies such as Anomaly, 360i, and Undercurrent, to launching United Sodas during a global pandemic in May of 2020. She talks with us about press strategy, how she was able to achieve over a billion impressions within their first six months, and how she thinks about entering into retail.

This episode is sponsored by

In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • How growing up in an Italian family, getting to go to Italy in the summers, and loving fashion as a child and young adult led Marisa to believe that the fashion industry is where she belonged
  • How she ended up in marketing after moving to New York post college to pursue a career as a fashion writer and why she decided to stay in marketing
  • Why her time at Anomaly under an incredible boss and mentor helped her learn the industry of advertising and branding and gave her a strong foundation and a confident awareness of where she fit within that space, and funny enough it was in the beverage branding space
  • Why her time in strategy at 360i gave her a lot of opportunities to hone her people management skills, which have become critical to her success with what she is doing now
  • How Marisa and her team came up with the name United Sodas of America and why they wanted to start this company in the first place
  • How their press strategy created such momentum and success at their launch, even though they launched in May of 2020, literally in the midst of a pandemic
  • Why actually selling out of the product within the first three months led to bringing production in-house for a time, what they hope to see in the future as the company scales, and why they are currently blissfully self-funded
  • What challenges come with building a business in the midst of a pandemic and why compassionate leadership is critical as everyone is re learning how to balance life, work, and the world around them
  • Why their retail strategy is helping them get in front of the right people at the right time, and how it is successfully working out for them as a DTC brand
  • What business advice Marisa has for aspiring entrepreneurs and operators of brands and also what to expect soon from United Sodas of America

To Find Out More:



“If you can make it work with the people that you work with and if you can learn from the best person you know, then that makes it all worthwhile.” 

“It doesn't matter what we're working on, we'll find a way to make the work incredible if we’re with the right people on the right team.”

“My mentality is when you're somebody's manager, you're building a team, like you're responsible for their work, but you're really responsible for making sure that they're in the right mindset to do their work. And that includes the right environment.”

“When you hire someone, when you manage someone, know as much as you can about what they prefer to do and what they want and where they want to be going. As long as you can guide people to where they want to be going, even if that's outside of your company or above your own title, that's going to be good for you and for them.”

“The inclination to want to do a beverage, a soda space beverage, whatever that was, mixed with the strikingness of the name really set us down the path of what we ended up creating visually, brand wise, everything.”

“We're not a brand that's trying to satisfy every soda drinker. The Mountain Dew drinker, the hardcore Mountain Dew drinker, for example, might not be the person for us.”

“I'm a big believer in that if you do something interesting and make something beautiful, press will care.”

“Timing is really important. So making sure everything launches, at least in the same flight of days, can really create a huge difference and maintain momentum.”

“I'm a big believer in developing a brand strategy at the same time as looking at the visuals.”

“We are re-learning how to do life at the same time that we are building a company and, you know, managing that for my own personal self, whatever, being sensitive to the employees that I have and making sure that the excitement and the momentum of the brand isn't crushing their spirits and is rather raising their spirits is really, really a fine balance.” 

“You have to have a kind of like a willing naiveté, I think, to be an entrepreneur. If you know too much about the industry that you're about to disrupt, you won't disrupt it.”

“Consumers always call the shots. So if you launch DTC, and consumers and press and celebrities and whoever else is buying your brand talks about it and says, "This is what we want. This is what we love," distributors will get it. And so will retailers. And so other buyers.”

Read the transcript

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