Entrepreneur in the Spotlight: FUTURE/PROOF Co-Founder and COO Aimy Steadman
November 27, 2019 | Scott Murphy
The alcohol market is experiencing a sharp increase in demand for single-service packaged wine, hard seltzers, and high ABV flavored beverages. FUTURE/PROOF (formerly known as BeatBox Beverages) is tackling all three of these product lines. They debuted with BeatBox Party Punch and have expanded into the hard seltzer and convenience wine categories with the launch of Brizzy Seltzer Cocktails and Corkless Canned Wines.
BeatBox was co-founded by CEO Justin Fenchel and COO Aimy Steadman, both alums of the University of Texas at Austin and former MBA students of Congress Avenue Ventures Managing Partner Rob Adams. The company has become a key success story for the McCombs ecosystem and programs developed and funded by Rob Adams through Texas Venture Labs.
We connected with Steadman for a Q&A about her business, important entrepreneurial lessons, and her connection to the Austin startup ecosystem.
In a nutshell, describe the products your company produces.
FUTURE/PROOF Brands is a collection of millennial founders and established industry veterans developing innovative beverage brands for the next generation of drinkers.
What’s your connection to our firm? What’s most inspiring to you about this particular community of alums?
I met my co-founders at Entrepreneur Society for full-time MBAs at UT Austin. We had an idea to revolutionize boxed wine. We had seen it at every party, every tailgate, floating the river in San Marcos, but the product itself wasn’t really geared for our generation. We set out to create BeatBox Beverages, a party version of boxed wine in flavors like Blue Razzberry and Pink Lemonade. Through the program we met Professor Rob Adams, who through the Texas Venture Labs program helped us develop our initial business plan, test it through the business plan competition network, and benefit from other graduate level students working with us. The program also helped me have stable income and insurance by providing an opportunity for me to work at Texas Venture Labs and help other startups and students while growing BeatBox Beverages on the side.
Through Rob and the UT community we also were able to meet Alan Dreeban, a member of the UT Chancellor’s Council and one of the partners at Republic National Distribution Company. This led to a distribution deal with RNDC, a program with H-E-B, and other important local retailers. During that year, my co-founders and I landed a place on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and secured a $1M investment from Mark Cuban, one of the largest deals on the show of all time. After that I was able to move on from working at Texas Venture Labs and go full-time with our company and completely focus on growing the business. Rob Adams continued to be a resource to our company after we left the University environment and helped me work through the tough times as well as celebrate the wins. During the ups and downs, he was the one I (sometimes literally) cried to.
We have had many twists and turns with BeatBox. In 2017-2018 we pivoted our product line (to focus on large format to single serve) and distribution network (wine and spirits networks to beer) as well as brought in a team of industry veterans to help us maximize growth for our BeatBox Party Punch products. In 2019, we raised a Series B and launched an additional two brands: Brizzy Seltzer Cocktails and Corkless Wines and transitioned our company name from BeatBox Beverages to Future Proof Brands. We were very excited to hear about the launch of Congress Avenue Ventures this year and to be able to partner with the team and include the community in our Series B round. With how much support we’ve received over the years from the alumni community and Rob Adams specifically, we could not be more excited to learn more about the network and how else we can grow together.
How does your company/organization change the status quo in your industry? Which initiatives are you most excited about?
Our product lines push the industry forward in terms of flavor and brand experience. We created a new category with BeatBox Party Punch. Brizzy Seltzer Cocktails pushes the seltzer format forward by combining it with the craft cocktail trend. Corkless meets environmentally conscious consumers demand for quality wine in a convenient format. I’m most energized seeing customers enjoying something truly new and different in these exciting categories.
What sparked your entrepreneurial drive? How do you sustain it?
I moved to this country from Syria in 1998 with my family. My parents were entrepreneurs and always invested in my education. The opportunity we have in the US is so incredible. On top of my experiences at UT, with “Shark Tank,” and my startup, I feel so lucky and resourced to do anything I might dream. I certainly get burned out, but I often just think about how few people in the world truly have the opportunity I have and I just get back up and get at it. Call it immigrant hustle – it’s a different perspective!
What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned on your entrepreneurial journey?
- Mental health is important to actively manage as an entrepreneur. Find some strategies to keep yourself healthy.
- Surround yourself with the best people you can in your space.
- Keep a laser focus on the biggest impact things you can do. Saying no to opportunities is a big part of the job!
Which resources or sources of inspiration (podcasts, books, blogs, mentors, etc.) are most useful to you on a regular basis?
I’m part of Naturally Austin and Entrepreneur’s Organization. Working with a community of peer entrepreneurs and mentors has been an amazing way to grow as a leader.