The beauty of small businesses is their ability to listen to their customers, quickly pivot and reassess. Backyard Soda Company started with a vision of a modern version of a soda shop, but after trying to bootstrap the business with a food cart in 2011, they realized they might be going about selling their product from the wrong angle. Co-owners and founders Patrick Creager and Ari Murdock officially started Backyard Soda Company in 2012, and in the last three years have seen their business boom.
It all started when Patrick was a general manager for a restaurant. He began making custom simple syrups for use in signature cocktails, and realized he had a passion for it. The syrups could be used in many different ways, and the idea for a soda shop started brewing. After the trial and error with the food cart, they decided to focus solely on the syrups. Their customers gave them feedback and new ideas of how they used the syrups, energizing their decision. “As soon as we realized we were filling a niche, it was like ‘ding’!” said Ari.
In 2013, they began selling the syrups wholesale to local retailers while gaining confidence, and they lined up 15 accounts in the first year. By 2014, they hired Libby, a former co-worker of Patrick’s at the restaurant, to help expand their sales reach. Within another year, Backyard Soda Company had 75 accounts, including regional distribution with Whole Foods. The same week they landed the Whole Foods distribution, they were named a finalist in the Martha Stewart “American Made” competition. “It was a long shot, but we figured ‘why not?” said Patrick. Ultimately they did not win, but the visibility from the contest helped them increase their online sales.
With their business growing so quickly, they sought out the assistance of the SBDC and enrolled in the Leading Edge Program through North Metro Denver. “Sometimes teaching is the best way to learn,” said Ari, and the course helped them prioritize the possibilities for their product. They also met with several consultants who helped them with learning about how to add a partner to the business, contract negotiation and figuring out how to make their business go where they want it to go.
“This is something I enjoy doing, taking a craft and turning it into a business,” says Patrick. Backyard Soda Company is excited for future growth and the potential for opening a bottling line, but they recognize one of the elements of their success is their ability to hand sell their product directly to their customers. They’ll continue to sell their cocktail, soda and coffee syrups at farmer’s markets, and continue their Sunday tradition of donating 20% of their sales to local charities in support of their local community. “We have a following now!” says Ari. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm and we feel so welcome in the community. We are very fortunate to be in Denver at this time.”