Field Notes: Slowing Down to Get Ahead

Field Notes: Slowing Down to Get Ahead

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”

You might recognize this little motivational one-liner from the children’s tale, The Little Engine That Could. In case you forgot (or if you have kids, a quick recap) the Little Engine That Could is about a youthful train engine that volunteers to tow a larger train over a hill (a seemingly insurmountable task—but hey, with a positive attitude and a supporting cast of musically-inclined endangered animals, I’d be optimistic, too). A few chugs and a little chant later, that tiny train is lugging his bulkier counterpart up and over the intimidating hill. Pretty simple, right? Maybe not.

Starting a small business, like climbing that hill is no easy task. Just ask any entrepreneur—if you can catch one in a rare free moment—about how one little train goes about towing the proverbial weight of an economic crisis, barriers to entry and fierce market competition in its wake over a hill.  For many, it takes more than singing panda bears and a catchy mantra to reach the summit.
So, in true entrepreneurial spirit, energy drinks were invented.  Smile.
These little heart-attacks-in-a-bottle seem to be the natural ally in a culture that insists a faster paced and technology-infused lifestyle. In fact, in a recent Morgan Stanley industry report, the market for energy drinks has shown strong and sustained growth. In a year-over-year comparison, Red Bull (up 15%) and Rockstar (up 30%) led the pack in this new industry niche. They’re even trumping well-known soda market competitors like Coke and Pepsi.
Energy drinks like 5-Hour Energy are marketed directly at office workers and small business owners. “You know what 2:30 in the afternoon feels like, right?”- a handsome spokesman asks in a recent 5-Hour Energy drink commercial, sporting a tie and a smirk as his co-workers yawn and nod-off at their desks around him. “Groggy?” He says. “Sluggish?” 5-Hour Energy is the end-all solution for “when you gotta get stuff done.”
We live in a culture that is perfectly poised to embrace a product like 5-Hour Energy drinks—and entrepreneurs in particular surely feel the effects of this performance enhanced lifestyle in their 80-hour workweeks. Energy drinks are a capitalistic nudge—a nice tail-wind for these little engines that could.
The ying to the kick-start yang is the emergence of new relaxation beverages. Listed as one of the Top 11 Hottest Businesses to start in 2012 by IBISworld (a Los Angeles-based publisher of industry research), relaxation beverages are the baby of what I like to call the “liquid solution” industry. While my generation of entrepreneurs bellied up to the bar for micro-brews and local wineries, the younger crowd has glommed on to their own version of happy hour and bonfires.
IBISworld predicts rapid growth for the relaxation beverage market: 24.8% annually, the largest 5-year revenue growth of the industries included in the study. In 2011, these drinks had a profit margin of 6.8%, and they’re promoted with names like Dream Water and iChill.
Relaxation beverages target the crazy-busy entrepreneur. Staying awake and alert throughout the day is no longer the problem—now, we can’t sleep. According to the Daily Muse, one of the three “Bad Habits of Entrepreneurs” is over-commitment. The article states, “we [entrepreneurs] accept all the work that comes our way instead of the work we want,” the effects of which include “checking email [just] one more time before going to bed (only to lose sleep thinking about whatever we’ve read).” However, it seems this may soon be a thing of the past. With relaxation beverages, you can still check that e-mail before going to bed, but instead of fretting horizontally for the next three hours, you can sip a little Dream Water and drift off easily and painlessly into a healthy night’s slumber.
Hmmm. That’s what they told us about a glass of Chardonney.

Maureen Collins-Williams is Director of Entrepreneurship Outreach at University
of Northern Iowa

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