SOFI Spritz are wine-based cocktail beverages inspired by Italian classics using all Australian products. Tom Maclean is the man behind the trending alcoholic beverage brand who has appeared on TV show, Shark Tank.
SOFI Spritz is now stocked in all the large bottle shops across Australia, is on-tap at over 100 venues, and is soon to go global! We caught up with Tom to discuss his career change from the finance industry to entrepreneurship.
Can you explain the transition from working at an office job in Funds Management to pursuing your entrepreneurial journey that would eventually bring you to Shark Tank and other crowdfunding campaigns?
I had worked in sales in the finance industry which taught me to take 100 “No”s and get 1 “Yes.”
I spent plenty of time analysing businesses a credit analyst, chartered financial analyst and eventually, in equity capital markets but I had an undeniable desire to run my own business rather than study others—so when the idea came along, I jumped!
SOFI Spritz is stocked in all the major bottle shops across Australia and is on tap at over 100 venues. How has business changed since you’ve made your appearance on Shark Tank? Anything you wouldn’t expect?
The business has multiplied many times over and the team has grown. Now, we have a broadened the range from 2 products to 12— It’s been a wild ride!
If you could pin your success down to one thing or one moment, what would that be?
Hmm, tough one! There have been a bunch of crucial moments along the way – the first ranging with a major retailer, the deal on Shark Tank, the crowdfunding campaigns… But the first that stands out was the first event we sponsored with the first small batch.
It happened to be a modelling agency Christmas party at Bucket List in Bondi – We were sponsoring the event to get some nice photos, and it was one of the first times I had seen SOFI being enjoyed incognito as a fly on the wall.
It was super thrilling to just see people loving it and saying it was their new favourite drink! I was there with a mate and I still remember him saying, “I think you may be on to something!”
What qualities do you look for in potential SOFI Spritz team members?
We’re still a small team so versatility, ability to work with autonomy and a “can do” attitude are all key!
They have to be able to have a laugh and enjoy working hard to get results—Of course, they need the tick of approval from Majer as well!
Best tip for leading a meeting?
Prepare ahead of time and bring some structure – I have been trying to adopt some of the Gazelles techniques but still a work in progress to be honest!
What advice do you have for anyone looking to pursue a career in the beverage industry?
Do your research.
Start with a small batch and don’t wait before you start to sell so you can get feedback directly from the market, refine, and improve—The Lean start-up model!
What is the best business advice you’ve received?
“You don’t need money, you need publicity – go on shark tank!” from a potential (successful) investor. He was right. He didn’t give me money but it was great advice.
What do you think is the most important aspect to consider when building a successful brand or product?
Listen to the consumer and the customer (for us, this is the retailer) – give both what they want and you have a win/win/win!
What’s next for you and your career? What are some of your goals for Sofi Spritz in the next 5 years?
We have new product lines coming out and our distribution continues to expand… Probably the most exciting is our first export orders – SOFI is going global!
Interview and Write-up by: Katrina Lubiano