Episode 157
May 9, 2023

Something in the Water

with Sandro Roco, Founder and CEO of Sanzo

About this episode

On today’s show, Lee is joined by Sandro Roco, the Founder and CEO of the first Asian-inspired sparkling water brand, Sanzo. Sandro’s career journey has been as flavorful as his products. Before founding Sanzo, he worked as a nuclear power plant engineer, on the trading floor at JPMorgan, and created his own fashion app! Tune in today to hear how Sandro’s pride in his Asian American heritage combined with his desire for financial freedom, led him to found Sanzo, the lessons that he has learned through the process of building the company from the ground up, and the myths about entrepreneurship that he is trying to bust!

This episode is sponsored by

Exclusive Deals from Our Sponsors:

  • AWESOME CX by Transcom provides high touch, personalized customer experience services to consumer brands of any size! Email Lee at lee@stairwaytoceo.com to learn more about their award-winning services and Awesome Coffee Chats. 

In This Episode You’ll Hear About: 

  • [03:54] How Sandro’s upbringing in diverse central New Jersey as a child of immigrant parents helped foster his entrepreneurial spirit (and what his first entrepreneurial venture was).
  • [12:48] What he loved about his first job as a delivery boy for his then girlfriend’s family’s deli. 
  • [15:51] The valuable lessons that he learned during his years at Villanova University, particularly as editor-in-chief of the college newspaper.
  • [19:49] Sandro explains the motivation behind his decision to get a corporate engineering job when he graduated from college and when he realized that wasn’t the path for him. 
  • [23:26] The app that he developed while working on the trading floor at JPMorgan and how it altered the trajectory of his career. 
  • [30:00] Myths that have left many people feeling intimidated about founding businesses.
  • [34:15] The culmination of factors that inspired Sandro to found Sanzo (and what the business was like in the early days).
  • [40:35] The worst and best Sanzo flavors that have been created to date. 
  • [42:36] Why Sandro believes a beverage company requires a different funding strategy to many other types of businesses, and his advice for fundraising successfully. 
  • [51:33] Some important things that you should know if you are thinking about taking the leap into the entrepreneurial world. 

To Find Out More:

Sanzo

Sanzo on Instagram

Sanzo on Facebook

Sanzo on LinkedIn

Sandro Roco on LinkedIn

Sandro Roco on Instagram

Lee Greene on LinkedIn

Stairway to CEO

Stairway to CEO on Instagram

Quotes:

“Before I even really appreciated what a job was, I just enjoyed the idea of ”Hey, I sell something and I then get additional money and it gives me a sense of freedom.” — [0:12:06]

“I really appreciated the humanity in a small mom-and-pop business.” —[0:14:08]

“What really set the foundation for me was I had the opportunity to be the editor-in-chief of our college newspaper…[and] we had the ability to run it like a business.” —[0:16:33]

“I knew pretty early on that being a traditional engineer was really not it for me. I wanted something a little bit more exciting.” —[0:21:01]

“We’ve done a disservice over the last however long in empowering people to take control of their careers and their lives.” —[0:30:47]

“It’s important when you're doing R&D to measure your taste and aroma because a lot of times those can differ.” — [0:41:47]

“The world of beverage in particular tends to be quite capital intensive.” —[0:42:21]

“If you can operate a business profitability and never have to take a dime in investor capital, I would be the first one to say, ‘Go and do that.’ There’s a lot less stress to it in many ways and you are really much more in control of your own destiny.” —[0:43:25]

“I don’t think you can self-finance a beverage company unless you have generational wealth. Maybe you can get off the ground in five, six figures, but to really get it moving, in my experience, it takes seven figures worth of capital.” —[0:43:46]

“The biggest thing that I’ve learned about fundraising [is that] it all comes down to storytelling.” — [0:44:12]

“Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. It is a taxing journey. It is a taxing life. There are a lot of sacrifices that you end up having to make, especially in the earliest days. And I think it is important to demystify that part.” —[0:51:45]

“You really have to have a bias towards action. Do something each day, something to push the ball forward. It’s not just reading something on the internet or reading a blog about how to start a business. It’s going out there and actually starting a business. It’s going out there and talking to prospective customers. It’s going out there and trying to build something and if and when it fails, finding an entrepreneur who is willing to give you some feedback.” — [0:52:48]

Read the transcript

More Episodes

Episode 193

Turnarounds, Transformations, and Taking Charge

with Mary van Praag, Global CEO at Milani Cosmetics
Listen
Episode 192

Connection, Community and Conversation

with Julie Rice, Co-Founder and CEO of Peoplehood
Listen
Episode 191

Behind the Frames

with Nathan Kondamuri, Co-Founder and CEO of Pair Eyewear
Listen