Launch Pad: Neel Premkumar WG’08, Founder of Stur and Forto

Forto and Stur

With a background at Nestle, starting a company in packaged foods was a natural fit for Neel Premkumar—but it wasn’t until his pregnant wife needed something more fun to drink than water to keep her hydrated that he got the idea for Stur.

She wanted something truly natural and organic, but also tasty, so Neel developed Stur, a liquid concentrate that uses real fruit extracts and some stevia leaf extract for sweetness; 2 ml flavors an 8 oz glass of water.

However, the way Neel built his company didn’t match the Nestle model. He explains: “how I built the business was more like a software company, less like a packaged goods company.”

Instead of spending a year and a half to two years perfecting a product, “what we figured out was, now with online sales you can put products up on Amazon and other online platforms, your own site, and get rapid feedback and just change the product. So our drink mixes have changed probably 20 times in the last five years.”

Then the twins were born, and Neel realized that he needed a lot of caffeine to keep up with them. Like, a lot of caffeine. But he didn’t love the high-caffeine energy shots already on the market, so he developed his own: Forto.

Forto is, in Neel’s words, “a premium coffee, organic, fair trade, and cold brewed for 20 hours. It’s basically like drinking two cups of coffee at once. Like two cups of premium coffee fast.”

That’s right: the caffeine in 2 regular cups of coffee, but in a 2 oz shot. Perfect for that afternoon jolt you need to get through the workday.

Listen to Karl and Neel go deep into how these charming origins turned to one of the fastest growing beverage companies in the US, with these two brands sold in 22,000 retail stores nationwide. And why entrepreneurs have an advantage over the big companies in bringing new products to market.