July 27, 2012

Entrepreneur Spotlight – sow pop-up juice bar

sow juice bar san franciscoLuisa Alberto and Derek Castro believed that San Francisco needed more fresh juice.  But with both of them working full-time already and limited financial resources how could they legitimately get their dream off the ground?  From those constraints was born a pop-up juice bar funded, in part, through a Kickstarter crowd sourcing campaign. 

Can you tell us about how you and Derek became interested in juice and why you decided to start a fresh juice bar?

Derek and I met while working at Blue Bottle Coffee.  He was a barista trainer and did a lot of brewing research and development.  I started as the wholesale program manager.  I learned a lot from Derek about coffee.  Having a shared background in specialty beverage and an appreciation for the pure and aesthetically pleasing, it wasn’t too long before we forged a bond and uncovered our shared passion for turning gorgeous produce into a beverage that gives coffee a run for its money.

There is also a serious lack of fresh juice in san francisco, a place where we’re so fortunate to enjoy amazing seasonal food grown close by.

For those who don’t know, what’s the difference between fresh fruit and vegetable juice and more traditional “smoothies?”sow fresh organic juice san francisco

Fresh fruit and vegetable juice is just that; juice from produce pulled from the ground or the vine.  Smoothies tend to be blended with other additives like ice or frozen yogurt.

Fresh juice obviously requires a lot of fresh fruits and veggies – does your menu change as what the farmers’ are able to offer changes?

It certainly does!  our menu will definitely change with the seasons and we source direct from our local farmers, so we always have an ear to the ground for what’s in season and what’s on the horizon.  A farmer the other day offered to plant extra carrots for us once we told him how many we need each week.  I thought that was pretty neat.

You describe SoW as a “pop up” establishment.  What does that mean?

A ‘pop-up’ is a business that does not own its own space or ‘brick and mortar’ location.  We set up and serve fresh fruit and veggie juices inside Pause wine bar, taking over the entire bar, on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  We pack everything up and leave no trace before the space opens for wine and dinner service in the evening.

How did the partnership with Pause come about?

Chris, the owner of Pause and Yield wine bars in san francisco, is a friend of ours and has been for a while.  He also happens to be an avid juice fan, which certainly helped!

In order to fund your venture, you and Derek went  the Kickstarter route aiming to raise $12,500 in order to fund supplies, equipment,and other startup costs.  Why did you choose Kickstarter versus asking friends and family directly for loans or trying to fund it all yourself?

We decided to use Kickstarter because it’s comprised of a large community of people doing amazing things who want to support each other.  As a small business start up, you also tend to take the path with the most support and Kickstarter made the whole process really easy.  It was also important for us to get a sense of whether anyone would even be interested in what we were doing, let alone support us by opening their wallets.  Crowd source funding was a way to test those waters in a more general sense and reach out to people outside of our immediate circle as well.

Tell us a bit about your experience with Kickstarter.  From when you first contacted them to when your project went live on the site how long did that take?

Working with Kickstarter was super simple.  filming, editing and producing the video all on our own took the most time.  We decided to do it ourselves because we have a clear vision of what we’re trying to accomplish and how.  We wanted everything to feel really genuine and not overdone or done by someone else.

Your Kickstarter video talks about relying on the help and talent of friends and family throughout this process.  Did you have someone you know help you with the Kickstarter video?  What about your gorgeous logo?

We did the video ourselves, but our friend Vanessa Yap-Einbund worked with us on our logo (which we totally love), our friend Kim of Austin Press designed our adorable business cards and our friend Earl built our sidewalk sign.  We all know each other through Blue Bottle Coffee and the small, intimate world of bay area food and drink.  It was important to support to us that we work with and support local artists and businesses.

Your Kickstarter project was officially funded on April 1 of this year.  When did SoW actually open for business?

We opened Memorial Day weekend – Saturday May 26, 2012 was our first pop-up at Pause.

How’s it going so far? Any surprises you weren’t anticipating?

It’s lovely, surprises at every turn.  There has been a lot of demand for us to offer bottled juice, so we are exploring that route.  Derek is also a barista at Piccino and sells SoW bottled juice there on Monday mornings.  He usually sells out within a couple of hours.  All in all, people have been super supportive and we get repeat customers so that’s a good sign of things to come.

How do you go about spreading the word about your establishment when it is a pop-up concept and not open every single day of the week?

I use social media a lot.  Lots of Facebook posts, Twitter posts and picture sharing.  We also send our menu out weekly through Mailchimp email newsletter, which is awesome.  Everyone we know knows what we’re up to as well, and word of mouth is a powerful thing!

What are your next plans for SoW?

We would love to have our own location in a year or so and build stronger relationships with local farmers as well as inspiring local restaurants and cafes to make fresh, organic, seasonal and sustainably sourced juice more widely available throughout the city and beyond.  Can’t have too much of a good thing, I always say.

If you want to get some fresh-made juice from SoW during the weekend you can visit them at Pause which is located at 1666 Market Street at Gough in San Francisco.  You can view their Kickstarter video here.

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