A man and woman drinking Savvy coffee on the beach
Case Study

How Savvy Beverages built a successful nootropics brand using partnerships

May 31, 2022

Intribe sat down with Mark Curry, founder of Savvy Beverages, to learn more about how he built his business using partnership marketing. 

Hi, Mark. Welcome to the Intribe blog. Just to start off, can you tell us more about yourself? Just a brief professional background and how you ended up starting Savvy, of course.

One of the main reasons why we started Savvy was because there wasn't a product that helps out with improving focus. A lot of things in today's world make you quite stressed, whether it's large amounts of emails, the fact that we're so easily contactable by our boss, co-workers and other people…

So I thought, wouldn't it be great if there was a product specifically made for the brain to improve focus, help to reduce stress, and help to improve mood so you can produce better quality work and work at a faster pace?

I started the product in 2016. I was working as a commercial lawyer before that. I was always thinking, I wish there was something I could have better than tea, better than coffee or an energy drink or whatever. I wish there was something that would just really be good for my brain to help me to remember a little bit more. And there wasn't, but there was a clear need. So I left law, studied nutrition, worked with a group of other people — nutritionists, naturopath dietitians, and we started on working on a solution. 

The solution was to create a product that is literally just pure nutrition for your brain. Some of the ingredients people may have never heard of before, like Ashwagandha or Rhodiola. Brain health and options that improve the way you feel are increasing. So these types of products are the future. 

Mark Curry, the founder of Savvy Beverages, stands infront of a pinkish yellow backdrop while smiling
Mark Curry, founder of Savvy Beverages

That sounds quite amazing. So how do you feel like your previous roles impacted how you run your business to this day?

I actually was asked just the other day, and it always kind of makes you stop and think because there's limited skills like being a lawyer for a bunch of years, like, how do I use that working in a nutrition company? But I use it all the time, just sometimes without thinking. So I think the fact that Savvy is based on 512 pieces of evidence is in itself kind of similar to law, because whenever you want to win a case or make a point, you need to make a point and prove the point. 

What I wanted to do here is make a product and prove that it works and actually show people the science. I think that's why we relied upon so much scientific evidence to say this does work at the amounts that we've chosen. Just day to day running of the company, being aware of what I need to do to be legally compliant, because I'm in an area of health and nutrition where people are eating the foods and drinking the foods, so I’ve got to be very careful about what I put in it. I think it helps there as well. 

Just to segue into partnerships, how did Savvy get into partnership marketing? How did you incorporate that into your business and was it always a part of Savvy's plan in terms of branching out and finding your audience?

I've always wanted to work with other brands in health and nutrition because of what we're trying to do with nootropics and adaptogens. Any food, coffee drink or anything in nutrition that helps what we do, whether it's in a pill format or a powder format or a drink or a coffee, a snack bar or bite anything... I want to collaborate with these brands because there's always a way for us to work together as a team. 

I think collaboration with good companies that are ethical is really good because the major companies tend to not be very good. Unfortunately, they're the ones that aren't particularly ethical or they don't use the right amount of ingredients or they manufacture things in a low quality, cheap, cost effective way. I want to find other brands like Savvy to work with and partner with. So when we collaborate, we help each other because I help to pull them up and they help to pull me up. That means they get more exposure, which is great for them by sharing our market space and I get more exposure with Savvy through doing the same thing. As long as there are two companies that share similar values, I love collaborating because I can learn so much, they can learn so much, and we pull each other up, which is great. That's the whole idea of it, right?

Definitely! Do you have an example of any partnerships you've done recently or in the past? 

I do. So at the end of last year, we did a partnership with two different companies. One was called Tonic Alchemy and the other Neuratech. Neuratech makes really high quality neutropic powders and tablets. They're different to what Savvy does because one of them is really good to help you fall asleep and another one of the products is a multivitamin for brain health. We did a big giveaway together, and we gave away the major prize which was a paddle board with some gym equipment with all of our products. 

It was like $800 or $900 worth of stuff. Now for one company that’s a fair bit to pay, so we all chipped in a bit of the cost. Then suddenly we're all sharing the same post so more people see it, more people enter and get involved. It worked out really well. 

I'm also doing one in the next month where we're going to both go to a trade expo together because we're collaborating. It's cheaper because sometimes these things can cost up to $10,000 to be there for a day or two. But if we're both there together, we halve the cost.

A reddish pink box of 25 Savvy Smart Coffee Brain Boosting sachets from a collaboration with Neuratech,. The background is white.
Savvy Beverages and Neuratech collaboration

That sounds quite interesting. So would you say the collaboration you did with Neuratech was your most memorable collaboration, or do you have another brand collaboration you've done in mind, which you find is quite memorable?

I think the major brand collaboration we've done ended up turning into a brand new business. It was a company called Calmwater. So Calmwater is an amazing product and I was lucky enough to help develop the blend for it. It happened because of a mental health expert and a mental health speaker, a guy called Mitch Wallace. We ended up having a coffee together, which was Ironically a Savvy coffee and that was like a year and a half ago,. He can't drink caffeine, so he mentioned, “I can't have caffeine. I get nervous, I get jittery, I get anxious. I can't have caffeine.” And I said, “Mitch, just trust me. Have one of the Savvy coffees. They don't make you anxious. In fact, they reduce anxiety.” 

So he tried it out and then he goes, “Oh, my God, I haven't been able to enjoy coffee for like 15 years. Why do I feel good and I don't feel anxious? How have you done this?” I explained the science behind it because with Savvy, we spent a lot of time in the science part of it. He then asked if we could create a really cool product that can do what Savvy does but without coffee. Something that helps to reduce stress, reduce anxiety, but also it doesn't make people sleepy. It just helps to make them chill. I said, I think there is and then that turned into a collaboration. 

Now we’re business partners in something called Calm Water. So that was the best collaboration. 

A Calm Water sachet being poured into a glass of water with a big packet of Calm Water next to it. The wall color is cream white and to the right, the window shows a glimpse of a tree with green leaves
Calm Water, a partnership between Mark Curry and Mitch Wallace

I think that's quite a great story of two different brands coming together to create something quite amazing. So how do you navigate a collaboration? How would you approach someone or if someone approaches you, how would you navigate that situation to make sure that both parties benefit in the end?

Very good question. I actually did this this morning with a gentleman for a meeting we're having on Friday. So it's a company called Yes, You Can. It's a nonalcoholic beverage. The gentleman's name is Tyler. How we did it is we just chatted over an email, and then I said, would you be up to have a quick chat on Zoom or Google Meets on Friday? Just a 15 minutes, maybe 20 minutes, and let's just have a catch up and we can try and share a bit of industry insight together. I'll tell you what I do, you tell me what you do, and who knows, maybe there's someone that I can connect you with or maybe someone you can connect me with. And so that was it. 

Literally, the conversation was just, do you want to put 15 or 20 minutes aside and just see if there's something that we can help each other with? If there is, great. If there's not, oh, 15 minutes. We had a nice chat. I know who you are. You know who I am. No harm, no foul. But what's great is there could be a little piece of gold in there similar to the gold that Mitch and I had when we made this [Calmwater].

I saw on your social media you launched your coffee pods in 2020. What made you launch a product like that in the middle of a pandemic and how did you leverage partnership marketing to make sure that launch was a success?

So in the middle of a pandemic? Well, people aren't going out to coffee shops as much. A lot of people were having home based coffee. The most popular brand for home based coffee is Nespresso compatible coffee machines. 

The issue with Nespresso compatible coffee machine pods is they're usually made of plastic or oil, which is terrible for the environment. It takes 500 years to break down. Awful. So we went ahead and worked with a company. These capsules are made of plants, they're made of sugar beaten sugar cane. These biodegrade, you can compost these. So once I put it in my coffee machine, I don't dump it in a bin. I put it in my compost bin. These turn into nothing, they turn into dirt after ten weeks. 

To make things better, we got an organic, fair trade, mold free coffee. We added all these ingredients which make coffee even better, put it in a really good, environmentally friendly capsule and launched it on the market. Now people can feel good about purchasing the coffee because it's good for themselves and good for the environment. It's good for the coffee farmers because it's fair trade. It's organic, which is better for their communities. And it's mold free, which means it's healthier. 

The partnerships that we did were partnering with companies that sell coffee pod machines because you can't get your coffee pod without having the machine. We reached out to many machine manufacturing companies and said, would we be able to hook up a deal where I can provide a machine to my customers for free but will I be able to get it at a wholesale price instead of paying a retail price?

If people go and get this coffeepot subscription, I give them a free coffee pod machine with their first order, and I do that because of partnerships with coffee pod machine manufacturers.

A box of Savvy's mental performance coffee pods. The background is white, the box is dark blue and there is an eco-friendly coffee pod right next to it
Savvy eco-friendly and Nespresso compatible coffee pods

Not all partnerships are great. Some are not a good fit. How do you navigate or have you experienced partnering with a brand that just ended up not matching your values or just ended up not being what you thought it would be?

Yes. I don't like speaking bad about people, but he didn't mention that he's planning on shutting the company down soon. So he wasn't very transparent with us and I felt like I was doing everything and they were doing nothing, which is kind of unfair because it's a partnership. So I was doing my work and their work. They got the benefit but didn't pay the part and it ended up just costing me more money. I put more work in and it was a bit of a disaster. 

So that's an example of one that I'm like. I wanted it to be good and it wasn't. There's lots of examples as well where I've partnered with influencers who might be nutritionists, dietitians, doctors, athletes, whoever they are and they’ll be like oh, yeah, send us all of this product, and then we'll do exposure and you never hear from them again. They don't answer your calls or emails or anything. All we've done is sent them a few hundred dollars worth of product. 

Just to wrap up, one last question, do you have any tips for emerging entrepreneurs or brands that would like to use partnerships to build their businesses?

Yeah, absolutely. So one thing that I did a lot when I started out is when I started working in Savvy, I'd only worked as a nutritionist and an entrepreneur for a very small amount of time. I identified that period of time as a lawyer because I started doing all that in 2007, and now in 2016, I'm doing something new. But I just spent the last ten years wanting to be a lawyer, training to be a lawyer, practicing as a lawyer for three or three years and now I've been a nutritionist and entrepreneur for one year. 

So I was like, oh, I felt like I was an imposter. I didn't belong there.  When people were saying “oh Mark, you need to go ahead and provide more material about why your product works,” I was like, “who wants to listen to this stuff?” I had what's called imposter syndrome and so what I'd always recommend people to do is go to networking events, Talk to other people, surround yourself with other founders because it doesn't make a difference whether what they're doing is in tech, education, mining, logistics, nutrition, whatever. Everyone is in the same boat.

They're starting a company from scratch and they're learning how to make it work. It's hard work, it's not easy. I think it's a really cool thing for people to spend time chatting because there's so much to learn, to teach each other and they can also just support each other as well. I think that's probably another really cool thing just being able to talk about problems from different perspectives. Everyone is really good at solving other people's problems because they're viewing it from an outsider's perspective. 

Find out more: www.savvybeverage.com.au