Exeleon Magazine

Jeff Church: Transforming the Beverages Industry

Jeff Church_Exeleon Magazine

An influential leader is someone who is capable of leading different things simultaneously. A leader is also a creative person who can articulate the company’s vision into an understandable and digestible way for all stakeholders.

While they have their heads in the clouds, but their feet are placed firmly on the ground when it comes to the essential nuts and bolts of running a business. It’s also important for them to gain consensus among peers, investors, and the board to support the ambition, motivations and goals of the organization.

Interestingly, these are the characteristics of one such game-changing businessman in the beverages industry. Jeff Church is the man of the hour who has taken the reins to bring a revolution in the energy drink category. As the CEO and Founder at Rowdy Energy Drink, he aims to deliver smarter, cleaner and 100% natural energy drinks for sustained energy.

For the past 21 years, he’s been on his own— starting, buying, building or selling brands and it’s been an incredible professional joy for him. “I’ve tried over the years, from time to time, to manage a portfolio of brands and yet I keep getting pulled into the action, where, I have to admit, I’m most engaged and inspired,” he shares.

An understated entrepreneur

Growing up, Jeff never thought that he could be an entrepreneur because he believed that all entrepreneurs were born, not made. He had envisioned Ted Turner, who created Turner Broadcasting, and Richard Bronson of Virgin, that they were larger than life characters and unless someone had their same sizzle or chutzpah, no one could be a successful entrepreneur.

But Jeff couldn’t have been more wrong about this. While there are unique outliers like Steve Jobs, Ted Turners and Richard Branson, the vast majority of entrepreneurs are ordinary people who decided for their own reasons, at the most basic level of empowerment, that they want to be their own boss. He believes “As an entrepreneur some would want that primal independence but also leave their own stamp or mark as an amazing experiment of humanity.”

Infact when Jeff Church was young, he was more worried about failure than he was about mediocrity.  He recalls, “I just didn’t want to fail in front of my high school friends. But later at the age of 38, I started to get the entrepreneurial itch and began to think that I was now more afraid of mediocrity than I was of failure.”

He recollects a late night special where an interviewer invited a few senior citizens to share the most regretful memory in their professional careers. While they had all been pretty successful in life, they all wished to have taken “the shot” at really trying to change their stars. Perhaps, a yearning for a certain degree of professional risk in their careers.

This discussion caused a dramatic shift in Jeff’s mindset and encouraged him to finally take the entrepreneurial plunge. As a President of twelve businesses, in both — North and South America – he then decided to drop his 6 months’ notice period before going all in to pursue his entrepreneurial dream.

Rowdy Energy_Jeff Church_Exeleon Magazine

Rowdy Energy: A bubbling energy revolution

Jeff started his first energy drink business with Suja Juice in different places. Sometimes, working from his co-founders James’ nightclub closet, also called the ice chest room and the other times, in his very own garage. These humble beginnings eventually led to remarkable success as the company now generates nearly $250 million in annual revenue and $40 million in profits.

He shares, “I learned and validated a lot of what to do but even more important and unfortunately more costly was learning what not to do”.  These were the really valuable lessons that Jeff brought to his next venture, Rowdy.  “I feel that finally in my career, with Rowdy being my 8th company, that I have my own playbook of what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense,” he concludes.

Rowdy is a unique and healthy energy drink with complete focus on the wellness and longevity of the people. Jeff found that there is a widening gap in the total energy drink category that generates more than $17 billion in annual revenue.

However, less than 1 percent of energy drinks are “better” and devoid of artificial flavor, ingredients and chemical preservatives. To undo the notorious reputation that energy drinks have earned themselves, especially among women, Jeff based his new thesis at Rowdy — to bring clean, better, and functional energy drinks to consumers.

An amusing story behind the name Rowdy is that his partner Kyle Busch, one of the top drivers in Nascar, is nicknamed Rowdy. The name was also influenced by a 20-year old movie called Days of Thunder that starred Tom Cruise as the star of the movie and his cantankerous competitor was named Rowdy Burns. The name ‘Rowdy’ was loosely meant to be Dale Earnhart who was always known for his attitude to win — at all costs.

Rowdy is Jeff’s eighth company that he’s either started or bought in the past 22 years.  Of the seven excluding Rowdy that have been sold, using a baseball analogy, three have been what he would refer to as “home runs”, two would be “doubles” and the other two would be “blazing strikeouts.”

About ten years ago, he researched and did a deep dive on the differences between the five businesses that were successful versus the two that weren’t. He realized that all the successful brands had an element of disruption whereas the unsuccessful brands were more commodity brands.

The successful businesses had an “it” factor that protected the gross margin for a foreseeable future. These could be things like route to market, intellectual property, an amazing team of people among other things. He says, “if you had some amount of these competencies, you were putting yourself in a much higher probability of being successful.”

Inner harmony and balance

Being a serial entrepreneur, a beverage expert, business coach, investor, and a father among many things, Jeff Church focuses on three aspects, or buckets, in his life: family and marriage; work; and self-care. He ensures uninterrupted care and attention while focusing on one particular bucket at a point in time.

Jeff adds, “When I’ve felt really good about one of them, it unfortunately has meant that I may not be doing well on the other two.” However, he’s learned that if he’s mediocre in each of them, he tends to be in a pretty balanced place.

He also subscribes strongly to the theory of an emotional bank account— a paradoxical similarity between relationships and a bank account. He remains cautious of the fact that one can withdraw from the emotional bank account but it cannot, and should not, be overdrawn.

His 3 business tenets

Jeff’s advice to emerging and aspiring business leaders is extraordinary and multi-faceted. He proposes to recognize the “law of two” that points towards being wary of your time and money. This can often result in running out of both and can cause you to be proverbially being held over a barrel and having to give up a lot to keep the business going.

He also suggests learning on someone else’s “nickel” rather than your own. Infact, Jeff encourages young people to not quit their day job to pursue their passion, until or unless you have the right experience and skill set to be successful.

It would also help to approach your passion as a hobby and focus on it on nights and weekends while working your normal job. “When the timing is right you would have made limited mistakes on your own nickel thereby expanding your own cash runway,” he adds.

Lastly, and most importantly, he advises to keep your heads in the clouds and your feet planted firmly on the ground. Jeff thinks that too many people are dreamers and a dream without a vetted and realistic plan is a pipe dream.

“While it’s fruitful and important to dream of an idea that you have, however, too many people don’t build smart executable plans in order to be successful and their dreams don’t become realities. I like to do both, dream but keep my feet on the ground planted in realism and humbleness,” he concludes.

A healthy & energized future

Jeff Church is hopeful of a bright future for himself and his venture, Rowdy Energy Drinks. As the energy drink category is a large one, about $17 billion in size, and less than 1% of the market is both Better For You (BFY) and without any artificial sweeteners, ingredients and chemical preservatives.

His mission is to help consumers understand that they can get great functional beverage energy drinks without having to sacrifice clean ingredients. Subsequently, there have been many ingredient breakthroughs over the past decade and today more than ever there are great choices of functional ingredients. In many cases they are supported by clinical studies and yet only a very few energy drink brands are embracing this. This is where the existence and expansion of Rowdy Energy and their new Power Burn line comes in.

Jeff’s company uses only efficacious levels of ingredients, often times backed by clinical studies, and continuously seeks to provide consumers with a waterfall of several benefit platforms including natural energy, demonstrative levels of electrolytes, thermogenic, calorie burning ingredients, mental focus and clarity and synergistic amino acids to help build lean muscle mass.

Rowdy Energy seeks to support those that embody a spirit of quality and premium work life. It’s not just for all-star athletes but also caters to other people — the weekend warrior, superhero mom, the ambitious college student, and the men and women in uniform.

Read the Digital Version of the Cover Story.

Visit Rowdy Energy Website.

Influential Leaders_Jeff Church_Exeleon Magazine

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