This Entrepreneur Bet His Existing Business to Launch a Coffee-Shot Brand

Neel Premkumar believed so strongly in his two-ounce energy shot idea that he was willing to spend all his money on it.

  • Premkumar’s company, Dyla, first came to the market with Stur, a natural water enhancer, in 2012. Forto launched three years later. Now Forto products are sold in 50,000 stores, and the brand has grown 400 percent year over year. Its top sellers are its Chocolate Latte, Vanilla Latte and Donut Shop Sweet & Creamy Latte.
  • I started our company about seven years ago with our first brand, Stur. We compete with Kool-Aid and Crystal Light, but we use all-natural food extracts. I started it because my wife was pregnant with our twin girls at the time, and she wasn’t drinking enough water. She kept asking me to find natural mixes that we could use to make water taste better, and I had a hard time finding anything on the shelf that was natural. I started working on the side with a friend who’s a food scientist, who mixed fruit extract and stevia leaf extract to get a little sweetness. I gave it to her, and she didn’t know that it wasn’t a product on the market.
  • Forto launched about four years ago, and it was a big risk. I kind of bet the business on it. We were building out Stur, and by then we had probably $10 million dollars in sales and were growing pretty quickly. I’d invested in a production facility to be able to make these two-ounce concentrate bottles for Stur. I was drinking a ton of coffee and energy drinks and shots and kept thinking, there’s gotta be a quick, easy way to get an espresso to go. How come nobody’s ever done this? I was trying to figure out how to do it myself. I realized pretty quickly that when you brew coffee to make it taste the same that day as it does 12 months later, it’s difficult. There was an opportunity to do it, but we’d had to invest all the money I had raised. I took that risk and put all our money into the Forto side, and it ended up working out. Four years later we quintupled the business.