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Success Stories

What I've learned: Drew Bilbe, the king of cool

Jenna Hanson
Business and Technology Journalist

Jenna Hanson covers business news and technology for Smarter Business™

Jenna Hanson
Business and Technology Journalist

Jenna Hanson covers business news and technology for Smarter Business™

For Drew Bilbe a holiday to Mexico was the trigger he needed to start Nexba, a beverage company that markets ice tea infused with natural fruit juices.

While studying abroad, Drew was enjoying a natural ice tea on Mexico’s Rio Nexpa beach when he realised there was a gap in the Australian drinks market. Capitalising on the idea, he and high school friend Troy Douglas launched Nexba in 2010, and officially brought it to market in 2011 when 7-Eleven decided to stock their range of low-calorie ice teas. 

Now, three years on, we talk to Drew Bilbe about why healthier food and drink options are the way of the future, how persistence has been the key, and the importance of brand loyalty.

nexba cherry lime

Ice tea represents about two per cent of beverage sales in Australia

... but 12-14 per cent in the USA. We wanted the opportunity to grow the market by creating a natural, healthy, locally-made and owned product. Australians are becoming more health conscious and want to support local business. Our goal is to try and encourage young Aussies to make healthier choices, one can of Nexba at a time.

Find a point of difference

Nexba’s point of difference is that we are a natural, low-sugar ice tea that’s 100 per cent Australian made and owned. Our product has 73 calories per can and half the sugar per serve of other leading ice teas. It’s really important to both of us that Nexba continues to evolve to make competitors irrelevant. We’re all about innovation and finding fresh, new, out-of-the-box ways to do business and engage with young consumers.

Ice tea has traditionally been a small market

As a result, the growth we’ve created in this category has been received really well by key accounts and competitors alike. Our business approach is to look at relationships differently so we’ve also chosen to turn some competitive relationships into supportive ones. We have alliances with other local beverage brands, which allow both parties to support each other’s growth.

When people don't know you or of your brand, the hardest thing is securing meetings with decision makers

For Nexba, persistence paid off. We focused on understanding our prospects needs and what opportunity we could offer to reward and grow their business. In the very least, every meeting and new relationship will lead you to an opportunity or a new idea.

Cash flow is king

We got ourselves in an uncomfortable cash flow position early on, not because the business wasn’t growing, but because we hadn’t implemented the accounting systems to ensure efficient collection of accounts receivable. The bigger you get, the harder it is. Speaking to the right people and having a contingency plan is vital.

There will always be things that you look back on and wish you had done differently, but if you learn fast and don’t repeat them, it’s not a mistake.

Drew Bilbe, Nexba

Every challenge we’ve gone through has helped us set up a stronger business

All small businesses face hardships but it’s strengthened our core. There will always be things that you look back on and wish you had done differently, but if you learn fast and don’t repeat them, it’s not a mistake.

Innovation is really important to our brand ID so we’re always searching for ways to lead consumer trends 

... be it via new ingredients and or ways of engaging our audience through social media. A new product we’re launching in August 2014 will include an active ingredient that is new to the Australian market. It’s a real game-changer for soda and coffee drinkers alike.

As a young business it’s very important we remain nimble

We run our finances via a small business accounting software company called Xero. It’s a really efficient way to manage our accounts, invoicing and employee cost claims. The team also uses an organisation app called Wunderlist. Twice a week our team meets to run through our Wunderlists − our personal virtual to-do lists visible to the entire team. It’s a useful program to oversee productivity and delegate tasks.

Go above and beyond and engage consumers in a rewarding way

Nexba has been really fortunate to develop a really loyal brand following, particularly on Facebook. It’s because we interact with them on a personal level, and also offer great rewards for fans, like our micro-site, which gives consumers prizes for purchasing our products.

Find out more

Successful entrepreneur Drew Bilbe uses Xero to manage his business finances.

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