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Startup Spotlight: Navy Hill Soda + Tonic gets investment, sees growth at grocery chains and ABC stores
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Startup Spotlight

Startup Spotlight: Navy Hill Soda + Tonic gets investment, sees growth at grocery chains and ABC stores

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Three years after their beverage mixers first started to hit store shelves, the founders of Navy Hill Soda + Tonic have pulled in an investment and are rolling out their cocktail mixers at more grocery stores.

Silver Falcon Capital, a direct investment company and brand incubator founded by Brian France, the former chairman and CEO of NASCAR, announced recently it has made an investment in Navy Hill.

The amount of the investment was not disclosed, but it comes just as Navy Hill — founded in 2017 by Richmond-area friends Katie Williams, Jenny Lucas and Amanda Coulbourn — is seeing sales growth and is starting to stock its beverages at 265 Harris Teeter grocery stores.

Navy Hill products already have a presence at several other grocery chains, including Whole Foods Market, The Fresh Market, Publix, World Market and several Wegmans stores in Virginia.

“And then there are lots of independent retailers,” Lucas said, including stores in the Richmond area such as Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market, Libbie Market, Good Foods Grocery, Stella’s Grocery and Yellow Umbrella Provisions.

Navy Hill also is available at Virginia ABC stores as well as equivalent stores in Pennsylvania. The company offers online sales, too.

The pandemic may have been a contributing factor to the company’s sales growth at grocery stores as people stayed home.

“We have seen really great growth within our existing retailers, because folks are enjoying cocktails at home,” Williams said.

The friends concocted the idea for Navy Hill mixers as they were hanging out on a rooftop bar in Richmond and sipping cocktails in 2016.

The idea was to create a cocktail mixer that would be half tonic and half club soda. They wanted to make something with fewer calories and less sugar than typical mixers.

“We use all-natural ingredients, and it has electrolytes to help keep you hydrated,” said Williams, who manages the business with Lucas. Coulbourn is a partner but isn’t involved in day-to-day management.

The company uses a contract manufacturer and sales force.

Founded about 18 months ago, Silver Falcon Capital is based in Charlotte, N.C., and invests in businesses in consumer goods, sports-related businesses, health and wellness brands, and restaurants. The fund provides equity investments typically between $5 million and $50 million to help companies market their brands and scale up.

“We are all about helping people build brands and grow intellectual property,” said Austin Tate, president of Silver Falcon Capital. “We really focus on the nuts and bolts of marketing and brand management.”

Navy Hill fits within a category called “better for you” food and beverage brands that Silver Falcon believes has enormous potential as consumers seek out products that are healthier even if they are not traditional health foods, Tate said.

“Those products not only need to be better for you, but they need to taste good, too, and Navy Hill does taste good,” he said.

“We think there are more exciting companies within the Southeast, especially within this consumer space,” Tate said. “We really think there is a lack of capital being focused on early-stage entrepreneurs within the Southeast.”

Navy Hill’s products were featured on NBC’s “Today” in October as part of the show’s “She Made It” segment that highlights women-owned businesses.

“We really saw an explosion in our direct-to-consumer sales after the segment aired,” Williams said. “We received thousands of online orders from all over the country. That has really helped us build our direct-to-consumer business.”

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