"We want to be a company that champions odd pairings and put two things that you wouldn't expect to go together together and see what happens," Lam said.
What those odd pairings have led to is nothing short of remarkable. In less than a year, the spare-time experiments resulted in a deal with Whole Foods Market to sell Lam and Lagerman's beverage.
Lam is surprised and humbled by recent events. Less than a year ago they were making 50 bottles at a time by hand, selling roughly 10 cases a month. Now they are churning out thousands of cans in a factory. They sold 350 cases in August and, due to limited resources, had to turn down an invitation to sell their product at the trendy Coachella music festival in California. The founders' first soda was made in a bottle, but on the advice of Whole Foods — that cans are "hotter" among consumers right now — they switched their entire production over to cans.
Lam breaks down the rapid company success story using five factors:
1. There are no shortcuts — hard work, long hours and lots of research are required.
Lam and Lagerman spent many hours learning about coffee, soda and the beverage industry. They spoke to people in the industry and found mentors. They read a variety of books, including The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and Honest Tea by Seth Goldman, co-founder of the popular bottled organic tea company now owned by Coca-Cola.
They watched countless YouTube videos and learned how to use beverage equipment and how to carbonate drinks from "funny Midwestern brewery guys," Lam said.
And the pair did whatever it took to bring their vision to life. Hard work for them meant staying up all night to bottle their drink, pushing heavy carts of product through the streets of Manhattan to deliver to customers, and taking every opportunity to demonstrate their product in stores.
"We drink, think and live Keepers 24/7," Lam said.
2. Build on your existing strengths.
As graphic designers at a branding agency, Lam learned the basics of branding. The agency would ask clients many questions about their brand, target audience and marketing goals, and that information would be used to inform the design. Lam used this same process to bring Keepers to life.
"I think the brand personality separates us." They express this personality through the design of the cans, which they describe as bright, light and fun, and through the messaging, which they strive to keep lighthearted, quirky and honest. Marketing experience from their previous jobs also helped them think about how to position their product to take advantage of market trends. Soda sales have been declining in recent years, and seltzer water sales have been steadily increasing. Keepers set out to intentionally position their product between these two categories.