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Want to Start a Business Right Now? Look at These Hot Industries

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Meet the Millennial Who’s Breaking All the Rules of the Wine Industry

Emma Toshack always enjoyed having some wine when she went to the beach or the pool behind her Los Angeles apartment building, but glass containers and public consumption of alcohol weren’t permitted. So to get around the rules, she would pour a $30 bottle into an empty San Pellegrino can.

It was not an ideal solution. There were canned wine options, but she felt none offered both the convenience and premium quality she craved.

“There was a perception that the drink doesn’t matter in those formats,” Toshack, the founder and CEO of Nomadica, an L.A.-based canned wine company that launched in 2017, says of the quality of canned wine. “I think the wine space has been ripe for doing things differently and starting to break the rules for a while.”

Nomadica founder and CEO Emma Toshack.

CREDIT: Carolyn Merrell

Toshack’s two-employee company aims to do just that, starting with its cans, which are decorated by illustrators and street artists. And Nomadica doesn’t own a vineyard, instead collaborating with wine makers to provide its varietals. The company pays the wine makers a fee up front rather than giving them a percentage of sales. 

Toshack says these collaborations keep costs low, and allow her to sell a wide variety of wines from different parts of the world. A 187-milliliter can costs $5, the 250-milliliter option sells for $6, and a case of 24 cans–the equivalent about eight bottles of wine–is priced at between $115 and $130.

“I thought, ‘What if there was a wine brand that was nomadic in a way and takes people on a wine journey around the world?'” Toshack says. “That way, they feel more comfortable trying something from a new region because they recognize the brand and know they can trust us.” 

Her company is achieving that goal by selling wines including a white blend made from Oregon grapes, a pinot noir from California’s Mission Ranch Vineyard, and a sparkling rosé made from Santa Ynez Valley, California, grapes. Nomadica is sold online and in restaurants, hotels, bars, and boutique liquor and grocery stores.

Nomadica sells in California, New York, Vermont, Oklahoma, and Washington, D.C., areas that Toshack picked to gauge interest in her wines. She plans to expand to another 12 states and Australia later this year. 

Toshack declined to share Nomadica’s sales, but says revenue was in the low six figures last year, and grew 1,400 percent in January 2018 compared with the same month in 2017.

Canned wine’s growing popularity.

Canned wine is still a small niche within the wine industry, but it’s a rapidly growing one. Total U.S. sales for canned wine jumped to $32.3 million last year from $3.3 million in 2014, according to Nielsen. A major force in the industry’s expansion is Millennial wine drinkers who want a beverage they can take on the go. And in contrast with bottled wine, most people don’t feel they need a special reason to purchase wine in a can, says Nielsen senior vice president Danny Brager, citing a November 2017 survey by the data and analytics company. 

The industry’s fast growth has made the competition fierce for entrepreneurs. Nielsen estimates there are more than 60 brands that either exclusively sell canned wine or offer a canned option in addition to their bottled varietals. Toshack says Nomadica competes with wine bottles priced between $18 and $30. 

CREDIT: Saksham Gangwar

Despite the crowded market, Toshack says one of the major challenges she faced early on was skepticism about wine in a can. She says that hesitation already has declined since Nomadica’s launch as people have become more comfortable with the product, but there are still some traditionalists who prefer bottles. Another obstacle is juggling the many disparate roles required of a wine startup founder–she’s the one responsible for finding collaborators, canning the wine, and delivering it to distributors. 

Toshack’s winding career path mirrors her company’s nomadic theme. The 33-year-old founder dabbled in multiple fields before starting the company. She grew up in Sydney and enrolled in law school, but dropped out before earning her degree. She then started a modern Australian restaurant, where she served as head chef and got experience buying and tasting wine. When her restaurant burned down a year later, Toshack went back to law school.

Following her graduation in 2009, Toshack spent several years working at the Boston Consulting Group in Sydney before enrolling at Harvard Business School. It was there she got the itch to start something of her own but didn’t yet have the right business idea. She worked at Snapchat in Los Angeles for nearly two years before launching Nomadica. 

While Toshack says her experience and education helped prepare her for entrepreneurship, she didn’t anticipate her work’s being such a heavy load–literally. She jokes she’s eager for Elon Musk to finish his driverless Tesla trucks so she won’t have to lift and haul heavy boxes of canned wine.

“Come on, Elon,” she says. “We need you.”

Meet the Millennial Who’s Breaking All the Rules of the Wine Industry

Emma Toshack always enjoyed having some wine when she went to the beach or the pool behind her Los Angeles apartment building, but glass containers and public consumption of alcohol weren’t permitted. So to get around the rules, she would pour a $30 bottle into an empty San Pellegrino can.

It was not an ideal solution. There were canned wine options, but she felt none offered both the convenience and premium quality she craved.

“There was a perception that the drink doesn’t matter in those formats,” Toshack, the founder and CEO of Nomadica, an L.A.-based canned wine company that launched in 2017, says of the quality of canned wine. “I think the wine space has been ripe for doing things differently and starting to break the rules for a while.”

Nomadica founder and CEO Emma Toshack.

CREDIT: Carolyn Merrell

Toshack’s two-employee company aims to do just that, starting with its cans, which are decorated by illustrators and street artists. And Nomadica doesn’t own a vineyard, instead collaborating with wine makers to provide its varietals. The company pays the wine makers a fee up front rather than giving them a percentage of sales. 

Toshack says these collaborations keep costs low, and allow her to sell a wide variety of wines from different parts of the world. A 187-milliliter can costs $5, the 250-milliliter option sells for $6, and a case of 24 cans–the equivalent about eight bottles of wine–is priced at between $115 and $130.

“I thought, ‘What if there was a wine brand that was nomadic in a way and takes people on a wine journey around the world?'” Toshack says. “That way, they feel more comfortable trying something from a new region because they recognize the brand and know they can trust us.” 

Her company is achieving that goal by selling wines including a white blend made from Oregon grapes, a pinot noir from California’s Mission Ranch Vineyard, and a sparkling rosé made from Santa Ynez Valley, California, grapes. Nomadica is sold online and in restaurants, hotels, bars, and boutique liquor and grocery stores.

Nomadica sells in California, New York, Vermont, Oklahoma, and Washington, D.C., areas that Toshack picked to gauge interest in her wines. She plans to expand to another 12 states and Australia later this year. 

Toshack declined to share Nomadica’s sales, but says revenue was in the low six figures last year, and grew 1,400 percent in January 2018 compared with the same month in 2017.

Canned wine’s growing popularity.

Canned wine is still a small niche within the wine industry, but it’s a rapidly growing one. Total U.S. sales for canned wine jumped to $32.3 million last year from $3.3 million in 2014, according to Nielsen. A major force in the industry’s expansion is Millennial wine drinkers who want a beverage they can take on the go. And in contrast with bottled wine, most people don’t feel they need a special reason to purchase wine in a can, says Nielsen senior vice president Danny Brager, citing a November 2017 survey by the data and analytics company. 

The industry’s fast growth has made the competition fierce for entrepreneurs. Nielsen estimates there are more than 60 brands that either exclusively sell canned wine or offer a canned option in addition to their bottled varietals. Toshack says Nomadica competes with wine bottles priced between $18 and $30. 

CREDIT: Saksham Gangwar

Despite the crowded market, Toshack says one of the major challenges she faced early on was skepticism about wine in a can. She says that hesitation already has declined since Nomadica’s launch as people have become more comfortable with the product, but there are still some traditionalists who prefer bottles. Another obstacle is juggling the many disparate roles required of a wine startup founder–she’s the one responsible for finding collaborators, canning the wine, and delivering it to distributors. 

Toshack’s winding career path mirrors her company’s nomadic theme. The 33-year-old founder dabbled in multiple fields before starting the company. She grew up in Sydney and enrolled in law school, but dropped out before earning her degree. She then started a modern Australian restaurant, where she served as head chef and got experience buying and tasting wine. When her restaurant burned down a year later, Toshack went back to law school.

Following her graduation in 2009, Toshack spent several years working at the Boston Consulting Group in Sydney before enrolling at Harvard Business School. It was there she got the itch to start something of her own but didn’t yet have the right business idea. She worked at Snapchat in Los Angeles for nearly two years before launching Nomadica. 

While Toshack says her experience and education helped prepare her for entrepreneurship, she didn’t anticipate her work’s being such a heavy load–literally. She jokes she’s eager for Elon Musk to finish his driverless Tesla trucks so she won’t have to lift and haul heavy boxes of canned wine.

“Come on, Elon,” she says. “We need you.”

This Guy Started a Multi-Million Dollar Cleaning Products Business. Now He Wants You to Buy Pea Milk

Eight years ago, Adam Lowry and Neil Renninger were sitting in a bar, discussing the conference they had just attended, when both admitted they were jealous of each other’s careers. Lowry wanted the patented technology from Renninger’s renewable energy company, Amyris, so he could extend into different product lines. Meanwhile, Renninger longed for Lowry’s direct access to consumers through his sustainable home cleaning product company Method.

“We just sort of shrugged our shoulders and said, ‘The grass is greener on the other side of the fence,’ and that was it,” Lowry says. “Roll the tape forward eight years and that conversation ended up becoming the founding vision of Ripple.”

Ripple co-founder Adam Lowry.

CREDIT: Courtesy Company

Lowry and Renninger, both 43, are the co-founders of Ripple Foods, a Berkeley, California-based startup that makes dairy-free milk, half-and-half, and yogurt from, of all things, pea protein.

Renninger, who holds a PhD in biochemical engineering, began tinkering with the idea of plant-based alternative dairy products in late 2014. Ripple was born the following year. While some options were already on the market (think: soy and almond milk), Renninger wanted to create something that tasted good and had as much protein as traditional milk.

Renninger chose to work with pea protein because it’s the most abundant and accessible plant protein that isn’t soy, which Lowry says has a lot of consumer baggage. Ripple’s milk has eight grams of protein per one-cup serving, compared with the same amount in regular milk, one gram in almond milk, and zero grams in coconut milk. The founders tout pea-based products as the creamiest and best-tasting, too. Most other plant-based foods, Lowry says, “taste really planty–not because of the protein, but because of all the other junk that comes for the ride.” 

But don’t mistake Ripple for being solely the pea milk company. “We are plant-agnostic,” Lowry says. “It’s novel that we are the first to make milk out of peas, but we could make it out of any plant source that contains protein.” 

Ripple co-founder Neil Renninger.

CREDIT: Courtesy Company

Lowry declined to give specific figures, but said the company’s revenue was in the tens of millions of dollars last year. Ripple’s milk landed on the shelves of Whole Foods in 2016 and by last summer its sales at the organic grocer had grown 300 percent. The company also sells at Kroger, Target, and other regional chains. It has 70 employees and recently closed a Series C round that included investments from Google Ventures and Goldman Sachs, bringing its total funding to $108.6 million.

Both Lowry and Renninger have startup backgrounds. In 2000, Lowry and his friend Eric Ryan founded Method, which grew into a $100 million business. Three years later, Renninger co-founded Amyris, which made products using renewably sourced carbon from plants (for example, the company converted plant sugars into an effective and inexpensive anti-malaria drug). In 2014, two years after leaving Amyris, Renninger began developing the technology for the pea-based milk. He called Lowry, who left Method the following year to work at Ripple.

Plant-based foods rich in protein have been gaining popularity recently, thanks to trends like the paleo and ketogenic diets, which encourage people to add more protein to their meals. Additionally, technology has made it easier to create nutritious and delicious options. Startups have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to take a bite out of the alternative protein​ market, which was valued at $4.2 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow 6.8 percent between 2017 and 2022, according to Research and Markets.

Ripple pea protein-based milk.

CREDIT: Courtesy Company

While there’s demand for these products, Lowry says the biggest challenge is bringing down the cost of production so the company can scale quickly. Right now, it’s expensive to make Ripple products because the company doesn’t use synthetic biology–instead, it uses a combination of temperature, pressure, and heat to purify the pea protein. As a result, its products typically cost more than conventional dairy-based ones. 

Another barrier to entry for startups in this industry is availability of supply, as relatively little U.S. cropland is dedicated to new and emerging protein sources, says Dries Zender, the principal of brand growth solutions for the consumer insights firm Spins. What’s more, alternative protein companies still need wider consumer acceptance to survive.

“I don’t think the future of food is exclusively plant-based, but I believe that we’re in the midst of seeing a mainstream adoption,” Lowry says. “I think humanity is going to realize that a big hunk of animal protein in the middle of the plate is probably not the best for us from a health standpoint.”

This Guy Started a Multi-Million Dollar Cleaning Products Business. Now He Wants You to Buy Pea Milk

Eight years ago, Adam Lowry and Neil Renninger were sitting in a bar, discussing the conference they had just attended, when both admitted they were jealous of each other’s careers. Lowry wanted the patented technology from Renninger’s renewable energy company, Amyris, so he could extend into different product lines. Meanwhile, Renninger longed for Lowry’s direct access to consumers through his sustainable home cleaning product company Method.

“We just sort of shrugged our shoulders and said, ‘The grass is greener on the other side of the fence,’ and that was it,” Lowry says. “Roll the tape forward eight years and that conversation ended up becoming the founding vision of Ripple.”

Ripple co-founder Adam Lowry.

CREDIT: Courtesy Company

Lowry and Renninger, both 43, are the co-founders of Ripple Foods, a Berkeley, California-based startup that makes dairy-free milk, half-and-half, and yogurt from, of all things, pea protein.

Renninger, who holds a PhD in biochemical engineering, began tinkering with the idea of plant-based alternative dairy products in late 2014. Ripple was born the following year. While some options were already on the market (think: soy and almond milk), Renninger wanted to create something that tasted good and had as much protein as traditional milk.

Renninger chose to work with pea protein because it’s the most abundant and accessible plant protein that isn’t soy, which Lowry says has a lot of consumer baggage. Ripple’s milk has eight grams of protein per one-cup serving, compared with the same amount in regular milk, one gram in almond milk, and zero grams in coconut milk. The founders tout pea-based products as the creamiest and best-tasting, too. Most other plant-based foods, Lowry says, “taste really planty–not because of the protein, but because of all the other junk that comes for the ride.” 

But don’t mistake Ripple for being solely the pea milk company. “We are plant-agnostic,” Lowry says. “It’s novel that we are the first to make milk out of peas, but we could make it out of any plant source that contains protein.” 

Ripple co-founder Neil Renninger.

CREDIT: Courtesy Company

Lowry declined to give specific figures, but said the company’s revenue was in the tens of millions of dollars last year. Ripple’s milk landed on the shelves of Whole Foods in 2016 and by last summer its sales at the organic grocer had grown 300 percent. The company also sells at Kroger, Target, and other regional chains. It has 70 employees and recently closed a Series C round that included investments from Google Ventures and Goldman Sachs, bringing its total funding to $108.6 million.

Both Lowry and Renninger have startup backgrounds. In 2000, Lowry and his friend Eric Ryan founded Method, which grew into a $100 million business. Three years later, Renninger co-founded Amyris, which made products using renewably sourced carbon from plants (for example, the company converted plant sugars into an effective and inexpensive anti-malaria drug). In 2014, two years after leaving Amyris, Renninger began developing the technology for the pea-based milk. He called Lowry, who left Method the following year to work at Ripple.

Plant-based foods rich in protein have been gaining popularity recently, thanks to trends like the paleo and ketogenic diets, which encourage people to add more protein to their meals. Additionally, technology has made it easier to create nutritious and delicious options. Startups have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to take a bite out of the alternative protein​ market, which was valued at $4.2 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow 6.8 percent between 2017 and 2022, according to Research and Markets.

Ripple pea protein-based milk.

CREDIT: Courtesy Company

While there’s demand for these products, Lowry says the biggest challenge is bringing down the cost of production so the company can scale quickly. Right now, it’s expensive to make Ripple products because the company doesn’t use synthetic biology–instead, it uses a combination of temperature, pressure, and heat to purify the pea protein. As a result, its products typically cost more than conventional dairy-based ones. 

Another barrier to entry for startups in this industry is availability of supply, as relatively little U.S. cropland is dedicated to new and emerging protein sources, says Dries Zender, the principal of brand growth solutions for the consumer insights firm Spins. What’s more, alternative protein companies still need wider consumer acceptance to survive.

“I don’t think the future of food is exclusively plant-based, but I believe that we’re in the midst of seeing a mainstream adoption,” Lowry says. “I think humanity is going to realize that a big hunk of animal protein in the middle of the plate is probably not the best for us from a health standpoint.”

When Apple and Microsoft Want to Advertise on Social Media, They Turn to These 2 Guys From Canada

Mat Micheli and Joseph Gagliese were among the first to recognize that  social media creators could become celebrities in their own right. In 2014, the two wanted to leverage their Instagram and Vine savvy to represent content creators–those now known as “influencers.” “We had a good grounding of what it meant to represent someone,” says Micheli, who had previously worked as an agent for friends who’d played in the National Hockey League. “So, we went out and started to build contracts as a talent agency for social celebrities.” 

Since then, their Toronto-based startup, Viral Nation, has evolved into one of the largest social media-marketing firms in the world, on track to generate more than $15 million (U.S.) in 2018 sales, according to the founders. Some 80 percent of their business now comes from the United States. The company has grown to roughly 30 employees, who work to connect their network of more than 1,300 social media stars with brands including Apple, Crayola, Microsoft, and the NBA.

“Back in 2014, influencer marketing was a space that the big boys weren’t playing in yet,” says Micheli, referring to traditional advertising agencies. The founders wisely decided to focus on the talent first and on technology second. By the end of 2014, Viral Nation had signed more than 100 influencers exclusively, booking $200,000 in revenue to write up contracts and represent their business interests in entertainment.

The real turning point, though, came in 2016 when Micheli and Gagliese launched their own marketing shop as an extension of the agency, planning ad campaigns for corporations with their influencers, and taking a cut of the transaction. “After that,” Micheli says, “we saw more than 300 percent growth annually.”

Viral Nation is among the dozens of companies riding the wave of activity in the growing social media marketing industry. Last year, U.S. influencer agencies brought in nearly $10 billion in revenue, a more than 22 percent increase from 2012, according to market researcher IBISWorld.

Experts say that the growth has to do with the way that younger consumers spend their time. “Millennials do not trust or respond to traditional marketing in the ways that they have in the past, or that previous generations have,” says Claudia Page, a vice president at the video-sharing service Dailymotion and a former executive at the influencer marketing firms Crowdtap and Sulia. “They discover products on platforms where they are spending most of their time. That’s not conducive to traditional advertising methodology.” 

Here’s how an influencer marketing deal through Viral Nation works: A brand will tell the company what it hopes to get out of its campaign–for instance, reaching soccer moms in the Pacific Northwest. The Viral Nation team will then come up with several options for a creative campaign–say, getting an influencer to “unwrap” a raincoat on YouTube, and describe the product on Instagram–as well as a list of influencers who would be interested in getting involved. Once the concept is agreed on, the company sets a production schedule and prepares the desired influencers to go live with the series of posts. 

The size of these deals varies widely. “It could be as little as, I’ll trade you a boom box, to a quarter of a million dollars for a couple of posts on Instagram,” suggests Micheli. “It all depends on the influencer’s following, clout, and celebrity status, and which platforms they are strong on.” (YouTube influencers usually command the heftier fees, since their following tends to be more engaged than those of content creators on Instagram, Snap, or Facebook.) Viral Nation’s fees also vary, depending on the nature of the deal.

For Devon Gibby and Rob Zimmerman, the couple behind the popular Instagram account Dads Not Daddies, signing with Viral Nation was the beginning of generating real revenue. Since May 2017, the agency has connected them with brands including Google, J.C. Penny, and the producers of the film Call Me by Your Name. The company takes a cut of 15 to 20 percent for every sponsored post, such as this one, on social media. “We have definitely been able to make some money,” says Zimmerman. “Viral Nation deals with the negotiations and contracts, so now this is a real side job we get to work on together.”

Challenges remain for these types of agencies, in large part because influencer marketing often relies on especially erratic people. Earlier this year for example, Viral Nation was preparing to launch a major Valentine’s Day campaign for the Chinese internet firm Baidu, when Micheli received an unsettling call. One of his anchor content makers said he couldn’t post his YouTube video because he was in the middle of a forest in Australia and there wasn’t any internet connection. With influencer marketing, Micheli says, “you always have this scary chip on your shoulder that something could go wrong.” 

Meanwhile, independently owned agencies must increasingly contend with tech giants such as Google and Facebook, which are working to develop their own marketing shops, says Dailymotion’s Page. “The big platforms haven’t been ignoring the fact that [influencer marketing] has moved well beyond money between the couch cushions,” she adds, noting that Google and Twitter both have made strategic investments in the space, acquiring FameBit and Niche, respectively. 

Still, if Viral Nation continues to be successful moving forward, Micheli and Gagliese will credit their network of fierce, if fallible, content creators. “Influencer marketing is people marketing–it’s not digital advertising,” says Micheli. “In order to scale, you need to have real relationships.”