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Fizzy business

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By Adam Schrader
Robert Peters fills and caps a bottle of grapefruit Aqua Pop at Priceless Caterings in Flower Mound.Adam Schrader
Robert Peters fills and caps a bottle of grapefruit Aqua Pop at Priceless Caterings in Flower Mound.
Adam Schrader
Adam Schrader
Adam Schrader
Adam Schrader
Adam Schrader

Creative director turns entrepreneur to craft unique sparkling water

FLOWER MOUND — At 43 years old, Rob Peters still skateboards on weekends when he’s not leading Denton rock band Wirewings.

He’s a self-proclaimed punk, but emphasizes that the word is a way of seeing life, not a style of dress or music.

“When I was in high school, all I wanted to do was skateboard,” he said. “It was a way to be independent and move at my own speed.”

Peters is also an entrepreneur. He said it defies his affinity for punk culture, but also supports it, in a way. It’s all about denying the established business culture, he said.

In the early 1990s, Peters ran the Argo, a music venue off Fry Street, before joining the University of North Texas as a senior designer in the marketing department. After eight years at UNT, he spent another 10 years as a creative director for a Dallas business.

But Peters recently left the company to work at his own speed again. Three months ago, he started Aqua Pop, a company that makes all-natural bottled sparkling water in Flower Mound.

Peters said Aqua Pop was created to keep his wife, Melissa Peters, from drinking soda. To curb her cravings, they started drinking case after case of sparkling water.

Because of how many of the fizzy drinks they were buying, Peters decided to make them — 2 liters at a time, in his garage.

“Aqua Pop has really helped to wean me off of Coke and high-calorie, sugary drinks,” Melissa Peters said. “It even makes your food taste better; it cleans your palate. Now, I crave it.”

The Argyle couple kept buying other sparkling waters such as Perrier and Topo Chico. But Rob Peters wondered why none of them tasted like his handmade drink.

“My research showed that the way I made it wasn’t really prevalent,” he said. “I’ve come to find out my product is harder to make and it’s perishable, not shelf-stable.”

His drink has a shelf life of eight weeks. In production, he puts together filtered water, juice and carbonation.

As a former graphic designer and art director, Peters said marketing is always in the back of his mind. Part of Aqua Pop’s branding is that it represents a cleaner, simpler way of eating and drinking. His product doesn’t need chemicals, he said — even if they would make it much easier for him to produce.

First, he needed a name for the beverage business. When he sought feedback from family and friends, they were on board, he said.

“So that encourages me more, and I think there’s maybe something to this. I trademark the name,” Peters said.

Finding a facility to house the production came next. One day, during his son’s swimming lessons, Peters started talking to another parent, Lisa Price, who was there supervising her son. Price told Peters about the catering business she runs with her husband, Dwayne. Priceless Caterings’ commercial kitchen in Flower Mound’s Parker Square had enough space for Peters to use for his budding business.

Price said she decided to partner with Peters because she liked his sense of entrepreneurship and knew there was a market for Aqua Pop.

“My husband and I were extended many helping hands while we built our catering business, so we paid it forward,” she said. “His product resonated with what we do in our business. It brings an organic, healthy, delicious product to the table.”

In exchange for the kitchen use, Peters uses experience as a creative director to redesign Priceless Caterings’ menus, create ads and do other design work.

Peters also went to work on the branding for his new business.

“If I had someone else creating the logo and other design work for my company and product, the amount they’d be billing me for the hours of design and marketing work would be about $45,000,” he said. “I’m grateful that I had the background to create all the things.”

Aqua Pop is made and bottled by hand, which requires time and labor. The company has no employees, so Peters’ family helps when they can. He hopes to eventually expand the business to its own facility.

His wife helps him make, fill and label each bottle. His mother, Elizabeth Peters, makes calls in the day trying to set appointments with business owners and managers. Then, Rob Peters pitches his product to potential clients.

Each 12-ounce bottle, priced around $2.50, contains less than 10 calories and is unsweetened. Consumers who are drawn to Aqua Pop want to drink something healthy or support a local product, Peters said. He was surprised to find Aqua Pop sells well in bars that use it in mixed drinks.

The business isn’t supporting his family yet, Peters said, but he believes it will soon.

“Aqua Pop supports itself, but we’re cashing in 401(k)s and dipping into our savings to live right now,” he said. “So this is what you do — you believe in it. It could fail, but I just don’t think it will.”

Whenever he’s discouraged, Peters reflects on a time when he was first thinking about starting the company.

One person told Peters he would never get shelf space or be successful in the industry.

Peters didn’t let that stifle his do-it-yourself attitude.

“I’m thinking, why? There’s nothing out there quite like the way I make it,” he said. “I’m going to get shelf space. I’m going to make something and I don’t care what you think.”

 

ADAM SCHRADER can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @schrader_adam.