“As a kid, coconut flavored candy was my least favorite.”
Not exactly what I was expecting to hear from the man that started what I’d describe as THE drink for coconut super fans. Take a whole organic coconut — yes, all of it — the coconut water and the coconut meat — and blend it. There you have it. It’s Genius — and it’s the whole coconut smoothie.
As a self-described coconut-junkie, I’d say it hits high on the coconut meter for flavor.
The Original is all coconut taste with a mouthfeel that’s both predictably creamy and surprisingly textured with real coconut pieces.
Is it dessert? Is it just a drink? Both? It tastes like it should be bad for me… For now, I’ll chalk this up as one of life’s many great contradictions.
Speaking of contradictions. Alex. Let’s go back to Alex.
Alex is a Man that’s Nearly Perfected The Recipe for Disarming Discomfort
Just a few minutes into walking The Strand in Hermosa Beach — sun beating down and runners zipping past us — Alex gets real with me.
Dressed in a button-down shirt, tucked in neatly and with board-room ready leather shoes (a great contrast to my beach-friendly sandals), I half expect our conversation to be all business and nothing personal.
Yet no more than 100 yards of walking and talking and I’m quickly reminded just how personal business is — especially for an entrepreneur. Alex shares that in the past he’s been prone to social anxiety.
I totally get it. I really do. It’s a reminder to me that to achieve anything great — and especially to start a business, you must treat life, and professional pursuits, as one great experiment in growth.
Alex’s growth mindset around his personal life extends to his professional pursuits. Today, for his company Genius it means embodying a mindset that anything can be achieved with positive manifestation, hard-work, and persistence.
Social angst could lead to social isolation. Yet, Alex knew what was good for him, and that was to challenge himself to get out of his shell. In college that meant joining a fraternity at San Luis Obispo. Then it led him to pursue a career in corporate insurance sales where days were spent in front of people vs. behind a computer. Now he’s running a company, constantly meeting with people and in many ways the face of the Genius brand.
Let me just say it. This guy’s got gumption. He’s not only self-aware, but he’s actively seeking discomfort. He’s found the recipe for disarming his discomfort to find growth.
It’s the Micro-Moments that Matter
Sure, there was a bit of an ah-ha moment (taste) that helped inspire the Genius product people enjoy today. But it’s the micro-moments before and after the dinner party where Alex first tried a whole coconut smoothie that inspired the creation of Genius.
Tiny blips on Alex’s radar — one so insignificant that he almost didn’t mention it to me. Yet, as an outsider hearing his story for the first time, I see the greatness that’s emerged from the difficulty.
Frustration can be fuel to an Entrepreneur‘s Fire
And often entrepreneur fire can mean great stuff for the rest of us. Six months spent working sales for an office supplies company. An intense boss with questionable motivation tactics. A friendship with a co-worker who was also vegetarian. Those moments and more indirectly gave Alex, and the rest of us, the gift of Genius.
Where did the idea for Genius come from?
While at a vegetarian dinner party. His friend’s wife served him a whole coconut smoothie for dessert. This next part sounds made up, but Alex assures me it’s all true. After taking a sip of the coconut drink Alex literally said out loud — “this is Genius!”. Then he wondered, “Why isn’t anyone doing this?”
It might be convenient to tell you next that “the rest is history”. But, does anything interesting in life come from what’s easy and convenient? I think not!
No, no. There’s more to this story.
It was an even shorter stint at a next job — such a small window of time that Alex first skipped over it when sharing his work history — that really whacked the proverbial coconut off of the tree.
I dug a bit deeper. Where did his food experience come from? What gave him the confidence to launch a beverage product? (Not that there needed to be one, but there was).
Four months at a family-run honey company in Brentwood. Alex worked hard to grow the company, yet he felt unappreciated. His co-worker felt similarly. The two realized that together they could start a food company — and probably fair better than where they were.
The Fairy Tale Part
Once Alex left his job at the food company in Brentwood, it took only six months for him to take the idea for a whole coconut smoothie and to get it on the shelves of local Whole Foods.
For anyone that’s built anything, that’s insanely fast. For anyone that’s started a food or beverage company, that’s the speed of light, fast.
Yet, Fairy Tales are only interesting by the challenges overcome and there’s more to this story.
When Barriers Lead to Breakthroughs
A shut down by the FDA, a co-founder departure, and a manufacturing challenge which led to five months of no product on the shelves at stores. Any of these are tough. A combination of all three at once could certainly be lethal for even the most well-run and well-funded company.
Yet, those that weather storms benefit by seeing the sun, and sometimes a rainbow.
Genius saw the rainbow. And is still building the proverbial pot of gold.
All of these events pushed Alex to dig in deeper and make changes. Changes in the team, supplier network, the co-packer, and marketing strategy that led to 10x the monthly sales, and upward.
All of this has led to raising money to continue to inspire growth. It’s meant listening to the people that drink Genius most and making flavor combinations that they want.
It’s meant breathing a little easier knowing that a positive mindset can manifest positive outcomes in life. A mantra and belief that Alex shares are essential to his daily life.
The energy we exchange — both in our interactions with people and the earth — matter to our health and well-being.
It’s why Genius isn’t just for people wanting something tasty and healthy, but for people that like the Earth and want to stay here a while.
Genius Juice started as not only a mission to bring the healthiest and tastiest product to market, but also to be a zero-waste company. Alex’s goal is to utilize the entire coconut inside and out.
After extracting the coconut water and coconut meat which is blended into a delicious coconut smoothie, Genius ‘UP-CYCLES’ the coconut husk.
They are used for generating alternative energy and also converted into coconut charcoal for detoxification products.
Genius truly believes in zero waste and so they utilize the entire coconut!
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About the author: Dessa Brennan is an entrepreneur, new mom, and a relative newbie to Southern California by way of the Midwest. Through her consultancy, Spinach Strategy, she partners with food entrepreneurs to bring their stories to life.