By AnaMaria Bech
The local beverage company Big Easy Bucha founded by Austin Sherman and Alexis Korman, announced on November 4 its acquisition by the Latin American company Beliv. This transaction allows Big Easy Bucha to expand its products worldwide, allowing Beliv to penetrate the American market with its portfolio of 28 products.
The entrepreneurial couple started Big Easy in 2014 in their apartment near Bourbon Street with a bucket, a straw, and 700 dollars. With the help of angel investors, they grew their kombucha drink products organically until 2017, when the company began to grow exponentially.
In 2020, a friend of Sherman’s introduced him to Beliv’s partners, Carlos Sluman and José Enrique Alba Escamilla. This meeting was, according to Sherman, “love at first sight.” “We saw an opportunity to partner with a company that values its people, so in terms of culture, we had chemistry. They had the vision to bring innovative products to international markets, and they saw that opportunity with us as their first acquisition in the United States,” added the Big Easy founder.
With the acquisition of Big Easy, not only will the products that originated in Louisiana be distributed throughout the more than 30 countries where Beliv has a presence, but also its brand, immediately associated with our city, will be recognized internationally.
José Enrique Alba Escamilla, CVO of Beliv, shares the joy of this new partnership with Big Easy. Beliv is a tech and innovative company that produces more than 28 beverage products. Its main headquarters are in Puerto Rico, and the bottler is in Guatemala. They are currently exporting their products to China, and this acquisition is another crucial step for Beliv.
“Beyond finding a product or a brand, we are looking for talent and an entrepreneurial mindset. Finding a partnership with entrepreneurs like Austin and Alexis was a perfect opportunity to get into the US market known for its entrepreneurial environment and innovative vision,” said Alba Escamilla.
Beyond investing in Big Easy and its products, Beliv is also investing in the state of Louisiana. “They’re betting on our people,” Sherman says, admitting to the difficulties in New Orleans and Louisiana in raising capital. “It is a great opportunity for a great and respected strategic partner to be integrated into our city and our state.”
The relationship of Beliv with the state is a story that is just beginning. “We want to improve our logistics and create our innovation hub in the United States, and we have many plans with Big Easy and its talent,” said Alba Escamilla.
Economic development organizations in Louisiana have played an essential role in the growth of Big Easy Bucha and other local companies. According to Norman Barnum, CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA), his organization has been pivotal in helping Big Easy select its operations site and serving as a strategic guide for them since 2014. “Seeing the growth of this company from then until now is what’s important. Nurturing and being able to provide solutions to emerging companies to reach this point is something that fills me with excitement”.
This transaction is retaining 27 jobs and creating 50 direct jobs and 119 indirect jobs. Beyond the merger with a Latin American company that allows the expansion of the Big Easy brand to an international market, NOLABA is also excited about the boost this move gives to entrepreneurs and the impact this acquisition has on the New Orleans community.
With the proper business support, a product created in the closet of an apartment can become a global product. Tax breaks, opportunities to present a brand at different events, financial grants, workforce training programs, and support from Louisiana Economic Development and NOLABA, among other economic-boosting organizations, were essential to solidify Big Easy Bucha.
Big Easy Bucha’s story serves as a testament to the incredible talent and entrepreneurial culture in New Orleans. “We want to see more food and beverage entrepreneurs; our community has an entrepreneurial culinary talent that we want to support,” says Sherman.
The new owners of Big Easy are very excited that their growth within the United States begins in New Orleans. Alba Escamilla confesses that NOLA is “one of his favorite cities in the world” and adds that Beliv’s presence in the city is a “first step to support entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry in the United States. Perhaps we can create a hub for this purpose in the country. New Orleans meets the requirements for this mission, and this is the beginning of this dream.”
Beliv wants to maintain operations in the state long-term and hire additional staff. “We have seen great acquisitions these days in our city. It is an opportunity to create impact; we want entrepreneurs to see that this is possible,” said Sherman.