“Everyone was telling me to drop it. But the thing is… this brand came from me. This was mine. I didn’t want to just give it up.”
Head to a few, select yoga gyms in Manila, and you might see a line of bottles filled with black lemonade on sale. Black lemonade? But yes, you read that right. Activated-charcoal lemonade is the cult-drink offered by GO BLACK, the brain child of entrepreneur Katrina Magat and her three friends.
“Activated charcoal is popular as a strong detox,” she explains, “If you take this as a health supplement, or a health drink, the activated charcoal attaches to the toxins in your body and flushes them out… And it’s all natural.”
When we commented on how unusual black lemonade was, Kat quickly mentioned, “Actually, black lemonade is pretty big in other countries!”
It seems like Kat really had an eye for bringing the best to the Philippines. She spent early years living in California, but after the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11, her Filipina parents felt it was safer for her to move back into Manila. Just thirteen years old at the time, Kat had to deal with a massive deal of culture shock.
In time, though, she regained her confidence. Independent and positive as she is, she took up her Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications in college, always holding on to an ideal of one day being her own boss.
But the real idea behind GO BLACK came along when she and her classmates wrapped up their work on their thesis and residency at their respective work places. It was a stressful time having classes and work at the same time: the situation made it difficult to sleep and eat right, and so they resolved to live and promote a healthier lifestyle. The idea of charcoal-activated lemonade followed. They knew what they had to do:
First, they needed the right recipe and ingredients: the group did their research and mixed the drinks themselves, trying out different recipes and formulas to get the right taste and effect they wanted. Being all marketers, they were very meticulous on the design of their bottle logo, and found inspiration in the design of foreign beer brands. Picking up a few local yoga studios as partners for spots to sell their black lemonade, GO BLACK was soon in business.
“The sampling went well,” Kat explains, “At first they’re always scared when they see it, because it’s… it’s black. And the word ‘charcoal’ is not exactly the most inviting. But once they do taste it, they always come back for more.”
The biggest hitch in GO BLACK ‘s operation, however, wasn’t getting people to try the lemonade. It turned out to be the unexpected demand, especially after the brand was featured on the When In Manila blog. Customers placing personal orders and hoarding the goods increased dramatically. Their small four-man team, still hand squeezing their drinks out of their own kitchens, had difficulty keeping up with the orders. Not to mention, the team all had full time jobs.
“Our partner studios were frequently out of stock, sometimes more than a week at a time,” Kat lamented. “As we tried to fulfill all personal orders, our restocking at the studios was being compromised. There were many walk-ins at the studios but… there was no supply.”
Being in charge of Sales & Marketing, the missed opportunities did cause Kat to get frustrated. “I realized that running a business is not for everybody. It takes a certain kind of person who’s passionate and very committed to their craft to make things happen.”
Kat cites the necessity of persistence in moments like that. “People closest to me were telling me to drop it, seeing how I was always distressed about it,” she said: “But the thing is… you have a sense of ownership when you build a brand from scratch. I wasn’t willing to just give it up.”
It looks like the persistence of Kat and the team is paying off, because now, things are rolling smoothly again. So smoothly, in fact, that they’re starting to focus their attention on new product offerings to be launched this year. It’s an exciting thing for Kat, who – despite the hiccups of GO BLACK – keeps going because of one thing.
“I’m happy when I get the feedback from my customers!” she says. “Especially when people say that they feel cleaner, lighter or healthier after drinking the lemonade… As a brand builder, it’s gives me great pride to see that our product is remaining true to its promise! To add to that, the team wants to show the world that being healthy doesn’t have to be so hard.”
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