Alumni Spotlight: Siwat Siengsanaoh C’03, Co-Founder at Recoup Beverage, Inc.

Siwat is co-founder of NYC startup beverage company Recoup beverage.  Recoup is a Ginger-Powered Hydration and Health beverage geared towards post-workout recovery and daily wellness. Every bottle of recoup has 2 tsp of ginger the amount used to support muscle recovery, aid digestion, and boost immunity.

Siwat has experience starting numerous companies ranging from a t-shirt company during college, a magazine company, and a mobile social networking app. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Siwat worked at Columbia University Medical Center working with children with heart and lung disease. Siwat also spent time working at McGraw-Hill Education. Prior to starting recoup, Siwat worked with the founding partners of a digital healthcare startup accelerator called Blueprint Health. Siwat holds a BA in Political Science from Drew University, an MS in Applied Physiology from Columbia University, and an MBA from Cornell University. Siwat and his wife Kit currently live in the Upper Westside of Manhattan.

THE BENEFITS OF DREW

Siwat was born in New York City but has spent most of his life in New Jersey.  He was recruited to play soccer at Drew and other colleges, but when he came to Drew’s campus and saw the many opportunities for courses, majors, etc. he felt it was the right place for him. He said, “I thought it was a beautiful school and it was exactly what I needed. I knew I wanted to spend four years here.”

He came to Drew thinking he would major in computer science but after struggling through some of those classes, he chose political science as a major, since he really enjoyed classes in that subject. He knew he was not going to pursue a career in politics or law, but he had a deep desire to learn about this field.

Some of his favorite memories of Drew include his soccer games. He said, “These games were always fun.  The home games usually took place on a Saturday night and we always drew a crowd. It was great to see the community come together to support a sports team.  That was fantastic! Those are some of my best memories.  Another great memory are the classes I took with Governor and former President of Drew, Tom Kean.  He was an inspiration and helped motivate me and other students.

GRADUATE DEGREES

What inspired you to apply for a Master’s in Applied Physiology from Columbia University?

Some of my inspiration goes back to my childhood experiences.  I spent the first three years of my life in a hospital. I had 10 major surgeries by the time I was 12 years old, one being open heart surgery.  Health and wellness has been something I was always drawn to.  I originally applied to grad school because I thought I was going to med school.  I did a summer internship at Columbia Medical Center in New York City which was the hospital where I spent the first three years of my life.  I was in the physiology lab working with children with heart and lung disease. I thought going to grad school in Applied Physiology would better prepare me for medical school.  When I got accepted to Columbia’s program I told my internship supervisor I was in the program and he said there was a position available in the same department so I ended up working at the Physiology lab while I was pursuing my Master’s degree still working with children with heart and lung disease. The first year working there I ended up connecting to some of the nurses and doctors who had taken care of me as a child and this helped me put some of the pieces together of my own medical history.

Why did you decide to get your M.B.A. from Cornell University?

I ended up working at NY Presbyterian Hospital for a total of 11 years.  After 5 years as a Cardio-Pulmonary Physiologist I moved up to management as Supervisor of the Pediatric Pulmonary Department. At meetings and in various committees I noticed that most people had some type of Public Health degree or MBA. Outside of work, I had started many companies, a t-shirt company, magazine company, and mobile apps, etc.  I felt that it was time for me, since I wasn’t going to med school, to establish a solid foundation in entrepreneurship and business, so I started looking at various business schools.  Since Cornell was aligning itself in New York with its entrepreneurship and tech programs, I thought it was a perfect fit for what I wanted to accomplish.

ENTREPRENEURIAL VENTURES

What was your first entrepreneurial venture?

I was always inquisitive and I liked the idea of starting things.  When I was in college I wanted to take my ideas and bring them into something tangible.  A friend and I started a t-shirt company at Drew and unfortunately we ordered way too many extra-large t-shirts and not enough mediums, so it was a learning experience.  This miscalculation in sizes kept us from making any money, but we were lucky to break even.

Can you talk a little bit about your work as CEO and Co-founder of the magazine Creative Spaces and websites such as ToYL and Rippleffekt, etc.? 

Creative Spaces was something that spawned as soon as I moved to NYC.  I had an empty apartment and I had no idea what to do with it.  I always had an understanding of trying to solve problems so I posted a flyer at the School of Visual Arts, New York University and Pratt saying “Any aspiring interior designer that would like to expand on their portfolio and would like to decorate my apartment, please reach out to me.  I will give you a percentage of my budget as well.”  Many students got back to me but I ended up working with one person who added this interior design experience to her portfolio and resume. This inspired the idea for Creative Spaces.  I knew I was not the only person who moved into a studio apartment in NYC who didn’t know how to decorate it. I decided to create a magazine to combine aspiring interior designers with creative or unique spaces in Manhattan apartments.  How can they maximize these spaces?  We were going to sell advertising and we were also planning on listing real estate agents and their properties as well.  It would be a mix of interior design and real estate brokers that are looking to rent units. We were ready to go to print and someone told me to put it online but I thought it would be better to give it out as a free magazine where we would make our money from advertising. Another magazine came online backed by a larger company and it dominated the market and we had to put a hold on Creative Spaces.

Toyl is an abbreviation of “time of your life.”  It was a concept I came up with around the time Facebook was coming out and they had problems with opening it up to everyone. I understood the value of Facebook but I also understood the formative years of college where you want certain things private. I wanted to create a social networking platform that allowed you to pick and choose the people who could see your content.  Also, at the end of an allotted amount of time, probably your 4 years of college, you could purchase a running story line as a published yearbook for yourself.  This evolved into Rippleffekt.  We pivoted quickly once we understood that way too many people were set in their ways with Facebook and the cost and time to convert was too much.  Rippleffekt was a mobile app that was targeted to creating small little groups and enjoying various experiences either random or planned. You can either get a group of friends together for Happy Hour and then all content, check-ins, messaging would be streamed on this “Ripple” and then you could keep and have it as a timeline. It could also be used by a wedding party, etc.  This was being backed by a bank who wanted to use it for their concerts and events within their credit card company but ended up stepping away from the company due to grad school and the other founders took it over.

Is there any other venture you would like to discuss?

One interesting project that I started in business school that I hold near and dear to me is Catalysts. It was supposed to be the soft skill version of Kumon.  So if Kumon is your math supplementary help, we wanted to develop something where students could develop soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, public speaking, people skills, etc.  We understand that most parents feel their children get soft skills from sports or acting classes but there is no equivalent that emphasizes people skills.  If we look into the future, and more than half of our jobs will be automated, what’s left is the interaction we have with people and how we understand them, having empathy and how to influence people to get behind a cause, etc. We used this in our Innovation class and ended up in the finals.  I think in the future I may revisit this idea to inspire and motivate students to increase their emotional intelligence.  I think that will be beneficial no matter what career you take whether it’s medicine, business, or the legal profession.  Those type of traits are priceless.

RECOUP BEVERAGE

What inspired you to co-found Recoup Beverage?

I spent time with the founders of a digital healthcare startup called Blueprint Health. It was amazing because I ended up meeting other entrepreneurs working in digital health. I learned what they stress about and what investors wanted their entrepreneurs to do and what metrics they have to meet to move their business forward.  So it was a great learning experience.  I then decided that I have enough in my toolset to really pursue something again.  Timing has a lot to do with it. I have a book where I write down all of my ideas and one stood out.  I went through a lot of medical research when I was working at the hospital that showed that ginger is known to help with muscle soreness, aches and pains, boost immunity, help with nausea and vomiting from post-anesthesia or chemotherapy, etc. I did more research and I looked at the beverage market and saw that ginger is growing in leaps and bounds with people acknowledging its benefits.  It’s big enough that people are not confused by it.  I started doing customer development and people said they were putting ginger in their smoothies, etc. This reassured me that this is something I should look into.  I started Recoup in my kitchen in my Manhattan studio. I bought a juicer and started playing around with different recipes and then I invited friends to taste 20 flavors at first and then boiled it down to three.  Originally the model was built for pregnant women with nausea during their first semester and chemotherapy patients.   As I started to go to hospitals, I realized it was difficult to get through to those groups.  Alternative medicine is helpful, people doing yoga, people looking at acupuncture, etc.  I spoke to those people and they were willing to give me a try, along with friends who really liked it. I decided to expand the market and went door to door through Manhattan and Brooklyn to get into stores.  We are currently in about 30 different stores in Manhattan, Brooklyn, NJ and Connecticut and we’ve been picked up by two distributors and that’s exciting.  It comes in three flavors: Cucumber Lemon, Pineapple Coconut, and Watermelon Blood Orange. There are two teaspoons of ginger in every bottle and that’s the same amount that’s been used in clinical studies to help with aches and pains and nausea.  We are a hydration and health beverage.  We are trying to combine the hydration category, water, Gatorade, with functional benefits like ginger.  We are combining both.  We use maple water.  It’s clear water from a Maple tree that has 46 different nutrients, minerals and organic acids and is a great way to replenish your electrolytes.  This water is usually boiled to make Maple syrup.

One of the attributes I’ve been told I have is that I am resourceful in reaching out to people. As I started this business I reached out to more people. Recoup would not have come as far without other people helping me.  As far as maple water I reached out to my alma mater Cornell University’s and asked their Food and Agriculture Department.  They had a maple farm.  I spoke to the director there and drove up to Lake Placid every other weekend to pick up maple water for the first 6 months to make our beverage.  We were juicing out of a commercial kitchen at the time and I had to reach out to beverage processing to extend our shelf life.  If you ask enough people you will find people in the industry or know someone in the industry that can help you out.  In the beginning I was making 500 bottles and driving them up to Connecticut at 2 a.m. for beverage processing to be there at 4 a.m. because I had to be the first person there. I had to drive the beverages back into the city and deliver them to the stores.  It hasn’t been easy.  I don’t think starting anything is ever easy.  My advice for anyone who wants to start something is to find something that you’re drawn to and you’re passionate about because all the other stuff you’ll find a way to get it done.  We started out buying 8 oz. bottles from Amazon in the beginning and then buying from a wholesaler, then to a 12 oz bottle to now, we source bottles from a bottle maker and we outsourced our labeling to a great graphic design company.  It takes time.  If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to make sure you can commit the time to it.  Time is important.

What do you think is the secret to your success?

It’s all the people who have helped me.  I could not have done it alone and I’ve had amazing people help me, like my co-founder.  Everything that you see in regards to marketing and the design can be attributed to my cofounder Susan Buchwalter. She has been fantastic.   Everyone who has helped us along the way and pointed us in the right  direction.

Outside of that I would say two other things.  I have an innate desire to continue to learn and I truly do enjoy connecting with people and learning about who they are.  I don’t have a problem reaching out to people and asking them what makes them who they are, and to share their career experiences. I’ve been told that when you reach out to people ask them to share their story most of the time they’ll be willing to do so. And most of the time peoples stories and experiences are able to point you in the right direction.  I have done that multiple times.  Reaching out to others has helped me.  I spent most of my 20’s trying to figure out what I wanted to do.  People should have a desire to learn from other people’s experiences.

ADVICE FOR STUDENTS

What advice would you give students interested in becoming entrepreneur?

Reid Hoffman has a book out that says, students graduating now should treat their career as a way to acquire skills so that they can start their own business.  That was exactly what I did without knowing.  You can always start things as a side hustle.  That’s great but even better is to find a young company or a well-funded venture backed company and start working there.  You’ll be assigned to a project.  At startups, people are hired “to put out fires” and most of the time in a startup there are usually several fires that need to be put out .  Once you excel at one project, you’ll move on to other projects as you acquire these “badges of honor”, you’ll have a better understanding of what it takes to start and run a business.  If a better opportunity comes along you can take that opportunity but stay within young companies that have enough money to provide benefits and provide a culture and mission that you believe in.  Learn from those and then you can go on to start your own company.

Are there any fun facts you would like to share?

I love taking in information.  I’m addicted to Podcasts and Audible and take in a book a week. I also love soccer and support coaches.  I love how they can get their teams to move forward.  It’s no different than leading a start-up.  I follow Carlo Ancelotti who has a lot of great books.  I would highly recommend the book Quiet Leadership .  I also recommend the books Tribal Leadership and Finding Your Why.

Buy Recoup HERE  For a 15% discount off of your first order (PROMO CODE is DREW)

Check out Siwat Siengsanaoh in this podcast: “How To Create a Thriving Wellness Brand One Step at a Time

Siwat Siengsanaoh | co-founder
recoup | 
www.recoupbeverage.com
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Yahoo Finance article on Siwat –Ginger-Powered Recoup Beverage: A Founder’s Unlikely Story of Survival and Success

 Recoup also has an internship program.  Contact Yasmin Acosta at the Career Center for more information.

 

Posted by Yasmin Acosta
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