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From Mexico to Australia: Award winners, Nexba Beverages, tell of their journey

Relaxing on a beach in Mexico might not be where most would expect to find the business venture of their lifetime but for engineer, Drew Bilbe, that’s exactly what happened.

In 2010 while enjoying a glass of cold ice tea on a beach in Rio Nexpa, Drew felt inspired to create his own natural, low calorie genuine ice tea.

For some, this may have been a passing dream but on his return to Australia, Drew teamed up with his childhood friend, Troy Douglas, and made it happen. In 2011, Nexba, winners of the 2015 NSW Telstra Business Awards Micro Business category, was launched.

Nexba_TroyDouglas_DrewBilbe_2For many, launching a new beverage might be considered risky in what appears to be a saturated market, but Drew and Troy did their research.

“We looked at the market in Australia and saw ice tea was representative of about two per cent of the beverage market whereas overseas it is typically about 12 to 14,” Troy told Dynamic Business.

Troy said that while the carbonated soft drink segment was in decline, they discovered a developing trend in healthy beverages in the Australian market and an opportunity in Nexba.

“In addition to ice tea being small in the market, we saw an opportunity to create a global ‘better for you’ brand.

“Ice tea already in the market was typically high in sugar so we wanted to create a brand which was low in sugar, natural and ticks all those ‘better for you’ boxes,” said Troy.

While Troy and Drew were not short of passion and enthusiasm for their brand, they knew they had much to learn about the industry they were stepping into. They are just “two Aussie boys giving it a crack,” said Troy.

In the quest to fulfill their ambitions, the pair held a two-day workshop where a number of potential investors were invited to pick apart their business plan. A year later, one of those investors, Peter Baron, inventor of the Unistraw Device, jumped on board and now sits on the executive board at Nexba.

“The big thing personally and professionally for the business is mentors, we have been fortunate to reach out to industry leaders and hear about their success. They really challenge the decisions that myself, Drew and the team make to drive growth.”

According to Troy, there was no single time when they considered their business ‘born’. He said there have been several ‘birth’ dates for Nexba – from their first self-funded canning line in Hornsby, Sydney to securing a key partnership with 7Eleven in 2012 and then Coles in 2014. All were significant milestones for the business having a ‘knock-on’ effect.

DrewBilbe_TroyDouglas_5Since its conception in 2011, Nexba has doubled its revenue each year and aims for 300% growth in 2016.

When asked about the growth Nexba has experienced, Troy said “it’s about digging deep and not necessarily wide. It’s a tough market to crack.

“We want to be known as the beverage innovators. From a consumer and drink perspective we want to be known as Nexba, the naturally brave and ‘better for you’ beverage brand.

“In today’s climate its more important than ever to have a brand that means something. Success is a bi-product of doing business right so we want to have a brand that resonates. We listen to our consumers.”

The “two Aussie boys” have definitely given it a good crack so far and are highly optimistic about Nexba’s future expansion opportunities. Their onward strategy, Troy said, will be to “build bigger collaborative partnerships with key accounts and by building the Nexba range.”

“There will be more proactivity in terms of global expansion, exploring markets overseas.”

It has not been an easy road and while Troy says passion and enthusiasm is an essential component for any new business venture, he asserts that much of their success is owed to having strong mentors and a skilled team.

“We need to recognise where we are not strong and hire what the business really needs. What we really need to develop is resources in the form of people, not financial,” said Troy.


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Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs was editor of Dynamic Business.

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