Product mixes innovation and perseverance

Paul Mayne

Bobby Besant is someone who likes to mix it up.

The recent Ivey School of Business graduate may have received the cold shoulder from a professor during his fourth-year New Venture Business project, but his idea has since made its way to the shelves of your local LCBO store.

His idea was simple: When making a mixed drink, why the need for two bottles? Why not put a bottle within a bottle so the alcohol and mix could be contained in the same packaging, but still separated to maintain freshness?

“I threw out the idea in class and he (professor) turned it down,” Besant said. “He was more into the technology side of ideas and solving larger world problems. This really wasn’t about solving a problem, per se, but more of an opportunity. I was told manufacturing would be tough, too many incumbents in the industry and that it’s extremely tough to get in the LCBO.”

Flash forward and Besant, along with friends and co-founders Cam McDonald and Daniel Bartek – both Rowe School of Business (Dalhousie University) graduates – is taking Sage Mixology to the masses.

“We always talked about doing something right out of school, and if the right idea came around, we’d go for it,” Besant said.

But how did guys in their early 20s, still in school at the time, find the financial backing to get their idea off the ground.

“It was definitely hard at first to get any sort of backing because investors were interested but a bit skeptical with us going back to school and being a long way away from commercialization,” he continued. “Ignorance was bliss, that’s for sure.

“If we had known how tall the mountain would have been back then, it might have been hard to convince us to go on that journey to begin with.”

After a long journey to get to this point, Besant is excited, but he also knows a tremendous amount of work lies ahead.

“We’re just starting to get up the mountain,” he said. “The top of the mountain is when we see more product in the stores. We’d like to build innovation to different categories as well, perhaps beer and wine. This is an opportunity to get in the market and build a great company around our product.”

While his Ivey education has played into the early success of the business, Besant has an interesting motto for being successful in the industry.

“One thing that calms our nerves is finding people who are smarter than us and know more about it than we do,” he said. “You have to believe in it. It’s like stepping off a cliff; sometimes you just have to go for it.”

And perhaps one day, Besant said the business could come full circle – sharing a drink with the professor who shot down his idea.

“That would be nice,” he said.

Story originally appeared in the Aug. 21 edition of Western News.