TAMPA, Fla. — A couple of former Ivy League football players say they are seeing exponential growth in their Tampa-based flavored water business.
The company is called Cirkul, and the two founders say the annual revenue they made in their first year of business is what they’re now making weekly.
Even though it’s only been five years since the company began, Cirkul’s co-founder Garrett Waggoner says it feels like no time has passed since the early days when he spent his nights packing boxes.
“I still remember back when I’d toss on a hairnet and gloves after you're done with calls for the day and go make some cartridges,” he said.
Instead, Waggoner and his business partner and co-founder, Andy Gay, now only briefly pitch in packaging some of their products to ship out.
“We try to, you know, build a business during the day and, you know, make cartridges at night,” Waggoner said.
He says the cartridges are the major focal point of Cirkul.
Waggoner says he and Gay came up with the idea while they were teammates on Dartmouth’s football team.
“One day in the locker room we were sitting and had a basically narrow mouth bottle of water and a powdered sports drink, and we're pouring it into the bottle and kind of making a mess and said, ‘What if you just had something you popped in the bottle and you could just drink it?’” Waggoner said.
Thanks to a specialty lid, Waggoner says a person is able to decide how much flavoring is added to their water as they're drinking it.
He said business was going well at the beginning, but things really took off when some influencers got ahold of their products and began showcasing them on Tik Tok.
“It was a lot of small micro-influencers that were doing that, ‘Hey, I got this bottle. It can't be as good as they say it is. Let me try it,'" Waggoner said. "Two billion video views later, here we are.”
Originally, they started in a smaller 4,000 square-foot warehouse — now Waggponer says the company operates out of multiple warehouses with a combined area of 700,000 square feet.
“I remember chatting with Andy and they like, 'Do you think we're going to outgrow this?” Waggoner said.
Not only did they outgrow that initial workspace but he says they’re also now able to make most of their products in-house in Tampa, which made a difference when the pandemic started impacting the supply chain.
“We've been fortunate enough to onshore a lot of that manufacturing for the plastic components, to be able to be really resilient and adaptive with changes,” Waggoner said.
He said having a lot of the imported goods already on hand — like the bottles they attached their lids to — made it possible to ride out supply chain issues rather seamlessly.
“We've grown about 150% year-over-year, compounded for the last five years,” Waggoner said.
Waggoner, who is originally from Sarasota, said planting Cirkul’s roots in Tampa has been a positive for the growth of the business too.
“It's been a great area for us to be able to recruit,” he said. “I don't think we've missed on a hire that we wanted in the past 18 months.”
With more than 1,200 employees, the founders of Cirkul say the business shows no signs of slowing down.
Aside from direct online sales, Waggoner said the company has been able to reach agreements with retailers like Walmart and Kroger to sell Cirkul products in their stores.