Engine of Growth

Submitted by: Webster Bank

Proven entrepreneur Bill Creelman’s next aspiration is to change the American soda experience, but to compete in the congested beverage market he needed more than just a fresh idea. He needed a bank with an open mind for small business. Webster served up a refreshing solution.

Bill is no newcomer to the beverage world. A few years back, he sold his first company, Stirrings, a successful collection of cocktail mixers. His thirst for the perfect beverage, however, was yet to be quenched. His next concoction was a mix of fresh-squeezed fruit juice and triple filtered carbonated that gave rise to Spindrift Soda Company.

After nearly a year, he perfected his idea—the perfect marriage between juice and soda—and Spindrift Soda was born.

In the soda market, it’s a long road from mixing up a recipe to turning a profit. Bill is a savvy entrepreneur with a fruitful track record, but past success isn’t often enough to secure financing for a new venture. Especially when that venture is a start-up soda in the middle of a massive recession.

‘In this economic climate, a new idea is almost unbankable,” says Bill. “I needed a banking relationship, and I was tired of the big banks.”

Bill met with Jeff Pagliuca, Vice President of Business and Professional Banking for Webster Bank’s Massachusetts region. “Bill wasn’t planning a traditional kind of business,” he explains. “Most people just think, ‘Who’s going to start a soda company in this economy? It just seems so unattainable.’”

Spirited but realistic, Bill was the first to admit the odds were stacked against him. “The mainstay soda category is a race to the bottom,” he says. “Two major players dominate all ends of the supply chain and even have their own bottling plants. So there’s a confluence of circumstances working against you.”

Jeff was willing to listen. “We didn’t prejudge him because he was selling soda,” He explains. “A lot of banks have a peg board: This loan or this idea either fits or it doesn’t. We don’t have that. With every client we sit down and try to meet in the middle.”

Bill’s business plan was near brilliant, and Webster agreed to provide startup capital for Spindrift. Jeff recalls, “At the end of the day, we valued him and his story.”

Bill enjoys working with a local and more personal banking enterprise. “Most of all it’s been refreshing to be dealing with just one person,” says Bill. “Webster is relationship-minded. Jeff and I get together often just to have lunch. We’re partners. It’s the way banking should be done.

These days Bill spends a lot of time on the road. With support from Webster, however, he isn’t alone on his journey.

“It’s going to be an interesting ride together,” Jeff adds. “We look forward to growing with him.” And grow they shall. Already in 200 locations, Spindrift is well on its way to changing the American soda experience—an impressive launch made possible by a bank that believes in the American small business dream.