Business Monday

Startup Spotlight: Beyond Zero makes liquor ice

DRINK UP: Jason Sherman, center, who founded Beyond Zero, a product that makes liquor ice cubes, is joined by team members Sean O’Brien, left, and Tim Couch.
DRINK UP: Jason Sherman, center, who founded Beyond Zero, a product that makes liquor ice cubes, is joined by team members Sean O’Brien, left, and Tim Couch. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

BEYOND ZERO

Headquarters: Midtown Miami

Concept: Beyond Zero appliances make, store and dispense pure liquor ice. Plug it in. add liquor, and just a few minutes later, it comes out like ice. It makes cocktails colder, smoother and stronger than if regular frozen-water ice cubes were used.

Story: Jason Sherman has always been a fan of bourbon and scotch and would frequently receive drinks served with too much ice, leading to a watered-down waste of alcohol. So he created a machine to easily solve the problem.

“After you mix the cubes with more liquor or a mixer, they melt, and you have this incredibly cold smooth drink that has removed the ethanol bite and left behind great flavors regardless of the type of spirit,” Sherman said. “We are fortunate to have a great team, solid investors, excellent mentors, and are looking forward to selling machines so the general public can start ‘product testing’ along with us.”

The company has three models: a single-serving unit that makes the cubes, a second unit that stores the cubes, plus another unit that does both. Currently the single-serving unit encased in a decorative barrel is priced at $5,000, but Sherman expects to bring the price down with volume manufacturing.

The company’s startup journey has covered a lot of miles — 38,000 in the past year. With a trailer Sherman calls “the spaceship,” the team visits liquor distilleries and retailers, meets with master distillers and branding experts, and attends trade shows and industry events. On a visit to the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky, for instance, a chance meeting with an economic development official led to discussions at the state offices about possibly manufacturing the product in that state. Beyond Zero’s tagline “We Don’t Water It Down,” which Sherman said “speaks to how we live our lives,” came from Joey Reiman, a visionary who generally works exclusively with Fortune 500 companies.

“We feel very lucky to be in the situation to get really good feedback from really smart people in the industry,” said Sherman, who holds degrees in finance and law but considers himself more of a creative person.

“People are very passionate about what they drink and how it is served. These products will open a lot of new markets for millennials to try a drink that isn’t overbearing because it takes the bite out of it. ... We don’t want a fad — here today and gone tomorrow — so we have been very strategic about how we introduce this new category and getting the right people behind us.”

Founded: 2009, but product was introduced to market in ’14.

Management team: Jason Sherman, Tim Couch, Wesley Suskind, Russell Suskind, Sean O’Brien.

Website: bzice.com

Financing: $750,000 in friends and family investments and from brothers Wes and Russ Suskind, Beyond Zero’s first investors.

Recent milestones reached: Product introduced at National Restaurant Association Show in May; first patent issued in October; first sale to Beam Suntory Innovation Center in Clermont, Kentucky, in September, where the machine gets prime exposure.

Biggest startup challenge: Building a manufactured product vs. a software app.

Next steps: Developing pilot program to get the product into more businesses. Selecting a contract manufacturer and actively working with the State of Kentucky Economic Development Association about relocation and manufactuing. Educating the industry about the “In The Rocks” style of drinking. Raising additional capital to support growth. Considering a Kickstarter campaign.

Advisor’s view: John Christopher of Christopher & Weisberg is Beyond Zero’s intellectual property attorney and advisor. “Jason is charismatic, intelligent, organized, prepared, all the right things, and we have been working closely with him to protect his ideas. … There’s a lot of excitement about it. It’s a whole new thing, and there isn’t anything else like it.”

Nancy Dahlberg

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