ELMWOOD, La. - It all started a few years ago, after getting kicked off a beach for having a glass bottle. At that moment, three guys from Kenner came up with an idea. That idea became a product and a company, and a multi-million dollar company with eyes on the world.
There are growing pains and then there’s what the company Big Easy Blends has enjoyed since launching in 2009.
"When you're growing at the speed we are growing, it’s unbelievable growing pains,” said co-founder Sal LaMartina.
When Eyewitness News first met the three young co-founders from Kenner, their product, a frozen cocktail in a pouch called the Mar-GO-Rita, was relatively new. They initially hand-filled each one, screwing on each cap.
But now this is a company exploding. They have 135 employees across 44 states. Their first year, in 2009, they did $140,000 in sales. Last year they did $5 million and this year, they've doubled that -: $10 million plus, and growing.
And no more hand-filling; now fully automated, they churn out 300,000 a day.
"I think it’s just the right time, right place,” said LaMartina. “Pouches are becoming more and more popular and I think we just hit it at the right time with the right product, a good product.”
The third co-founder, Sal's younger brother Antonio, wasn't around the day we visited. He was in Paris, pitching the pouch product to a thirsty international market, their next target.
"It’s a huge opportunity for us,” said co-owner Craig Cordes. “We get a lot of requests, probably at least four or five a day.”
In the peak of summer, the company’s plant runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This year, Big Easy Blends rolled out two new flavors and a football-shaped drink pouch. Six days later, they were gone.
“It’s surreal. I mean, we have retailers calling us to take in the product,” said LaMartina. “It’s been an amazing journey.”
Over the next month on Eyewitness News, Mike Hoss will introduce you to other young entrepreneurs who have taken a simple idea and turned it into a new Louisiana company. Look for those stories on Eyewitness News at Six.