Michel Boissy | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Michel Boissy

Background:  

Founded in 2009, New Haven, Connecticut-based Freshbev Craft Juicery has grown to $6 million in annual sales and 110 employees. A second manufacturing plant is being planned and will likely be established on the West Coast, to be closer to the prodigious fruit and vegetable markets in that part of the country. Apples and kale grown in Connecticut are among the 100 percent traceable ingredients used by Freshbev, which does not use pasteurization; instead it uses cold and high pressure to maintain flavor.

Freshbev products were first sold in Connecticut in 2010 at the Whole Foods Market in West Hartford. The company continues to have a strong relationship with Whole Foods, according to Freshbev CEO Michel Boissy. Freshbev’s $4 million New Haven plant produces juice for Massachusetts-based Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. with Ocean Spray becoming an investor in Freshbev, Boissy said.

Boissy, a Wallingford native, was schooled as a mechanical engineer and marketer. He also worked as a chef in college. Top quality juices were hard to come by in his restaurant work, Boissy said, so he decided to join the craft beverage revolution that is changing the landscape for beer and other products in Connecticut.

The Mistake:

If I had to do it over again, I would have saved more money for the beginning.

If you’re afraid of giving the company away then you’re probably undercapitalized. I borrowed a bit more than I wanted to but things have worked out.

Our biggest growth year was 2012-13 and we’ve been growing strongly every year since. We expect to more than double our sales this year as we explore getting into larger supermarkets.

I’m the juice guy of the craft beer revolution.

The Lesson:

I’ve had great funding partners – the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Innovations, the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, and Webster Bank – but it never hurts to have a bigger reserve.

Be sure of your business plan and be doubly sure of your community support.

Connecticut has been good to us. We’ve received tremendous support. I’ve read about Connecticut not being friendly to business but that has not been my experience.

When you start a business be prepared to put all of your learning and experience to work. You go to school for one thing but then you learn other things and you learn about people.

If you’re going to challenge the status quo then know that you’ll have to invest. I’m the juice guy of the craft beer revolution. My industry has had some guys doing the same thing for so long. I tasted the results of that and I wasn’t satisfied. When I was a chef I knew that I could either make up for that by squeezing a lot of juice by hand for the restaurant’s customers or I could leverage some really cool technology and make better products available to many more people.

We had to build our own equipment. It had to take account of overlooked realities like if you squeeze the fruit too hard you can bring out its bitterness. And time is everything. There’s a not a big time window in making good juice. It takes a lot of money and thought. But now we’re pioneering and establishing the next level of the juice revolution.

It feels good to create jobs. We expect to add another 50 in Connecticut plus what we might hire in our plant out west.

Invest in good people. My employees are talented people. I make sure they know that it’s all about bringing better juice to people.

Freshbev Craft Juicery is on Twitter at @DrinkRipe.

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