Bobby Chacko made it early in the corporate world. But as he earned an executive income, occupied swank offices and lived the expense account life, he yearned for something else.
He wanted to do it himself. He left his position as an international commercial director with Coca-Cola Co. a year ago and launched his own Atlanta healthy drinks company, EYL Beverages Inc. whose products contain Chinese and Indian herbs and tea extracts. He calls them "drinks with purpose."
"I've been an entrepreneur all my life. I just happen to have 18 years of corporate experience," said Chacko, 36, who also worked for GE, Philip Morris and InBev.
Chacko, born in Nigeria of Indian parents, moved to the U.S. at 15. He long had an interest in building a beverage business. The idea for EYL (Enrich Your Life) flowed from talks with his mother about the benefits of herbs.
The drinks are available online at www.eyldrinks.com and Chacko said they will be in metro Atlanta stores by fall, the result of a distribution deal he declined to discuss. The first two drinks in the all-natural, zero-calorie EYL line, in 5.5 ounce cans, are DeCompress, marketed as a "true de-stress herbal remedy," and DeBug, called a "true daily defense booster."
About a half-dozen people help Chacko, but he has no other full-time employees, and he has a small leased office in the Galleria. He outsources manufacturing and packaging.
Chacko calls his venture an "all-in proposition" -- he's added investors, but put up most of the money for EYL himself. He figures to invest more than "a couple million dollars" by the end of 2012 when he'll know if it's a make or break deal.
He'll need to grow distribution, increase same store sales and still have cash, he said. It's a tough road, but others say he's capable.
EYL is "a brilliant venture. Functional beverages are the wave of the future and I believe that EYL's positioning and products are at the cutting edge," said Thomas Cardella, president and CEO of the Craft and Import Division of MillerCoors.
Cardella, who hired Chacko as director of marketing while CEO of Beck's North America, said, "Bobby has great strategic capability. He consistently envisions future scenarios and has the unique ability to to define and validate new directions..."
Gary Hemphill, managing director of Beverage Marketing Corp., a research and consulting firm, said to be successful, EYL's drinks will have to have the right packaging and get broad distribution. Hemphill said individual entrepreneurs have succeeded in the beverage industry before.
"I'll never wake up at 65," Chacko said, "and wish I had started my own business."
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