It’s a soda company with wacky, customer-inspired flavors – like bubble gum, turkey and gravy and corn on the cob. And maybe — just maybe — your picture on the label.
Peter van Stolk never wanted to do things the “regular way.”
As a young man, he spent his time skiing the Canadian Rockies and giving ski lessons for cash. When his father told him to go to school, Stolk responded- “Are you crazy?!”
He started a fruit stand instead. From there, he began importing juice. His goal was to become the “orange juice czar of Canada.”
It wasn’t long before he had his own beverage distribution company. He was successful, but after almost a decade of selling other peoples’ goods, he wanted a brand of his own.
So in 1995, he started Jones Soda.
Soda isn’t exactly the friendliest market for newcomers. Major names like Coke and Pepsi totally dominate the playing field. But Jones Soda isn’t Coke or Pepsi. And Stolk made sure the distinction was clear. For one thing, the soda is sold in glass bottles with stark black and white labels.
And while they started with relatively tame flavors like Cherry, Orange and Strawberry Lime- they soon branched out to wackier ones like Bubble Gum, Candy Corn, and Chocolate. They even began offering limited edition Holiday flavors like Turkey and Gravy, Gingerbread Man and Corn on the Cob…
Having edgy flavors is one thing. But Stolk wanted to go after edgy customers too. He worked at getting his soda stocked in places like skate shops, music and clothing stores, and tattoo parlors.
Jones started gaining a loyal and enthusiastic fan base. And it wasn’t a one-way relationship. Everything from the pictures on the bottles to the crazy flavor ideas came from Jones Soda customers. They still do.
Volk stepped down as CEO in 2007, but the company’s future looks bright and bubbly. In 2010, Jones announced that their sodas would be sold in Wal-Mart’s all across the country. That year, they also secured $10 million in venture capital.
Peter Van Stolk exemplifies one of our Axioms For Entrepreneurs: Think Unique. Intentionally go against the grain.