Princeton native Ben Weiss, founder of beverage companies Bai and Crook & Marker, is giving 15 entrepreneurs the opportunity to secure up to $1 million in investment money and his mentorship.
Through Weiss’s new show Billion Dollar Idea, which debuted on FOX Business Network on April 26, Weiss will select six entrepreneurs out of the 15 he meets across the country.
The six selected will join him at the Basement, described by Crook & Marker as an entrepreneurial hub, at his headquarters on 1 N. Johnston Ave. in Hamilton.
As host, Weiss will put the six entrepreneurs through a series of challenge assignments with the goal of choosing one entrepreneur and helping them turn their idea into the next Billion Dollar Idea.
The chosen entrepreneur will receive a residency in the Basement, his mentorship and investment.
Weiss has chosen the first of the six entrepreneurs during the debut of Billion Dollar Idea. A new episode arrives each week on Tuesdays on FOX Business Network at 9 p.m.
“Entrepreneurs are the backbone of America and are fundamental to fueling the economy, especially during times of uncertainty like the current pandemic,” Weiss said to The Princeton Packet. “The timing of Billion Dollar Idea is perfect because the show takes an inside look at entrepreneurship in a way that’s never been done before.”
He added that nearly 5.4 million new businesses were registered in 2021.
“Which is up 23% over 2019 — and it’s the highest number in single year in more than 15 years. Only a small number of those businesses will survive,” Weiss said. “Entrepreneurship is a grueling journey and not everyone is cut out for it, no matter how good their ideas are. Our show will give viewers a better sense of how demanding the journey is — and how rewarding it can be, too.”
Weiss did not go into what the specific challenges would entail for the six entrepreneurs, but that the challenge assignments would test their business acumen, their products and their grit.
“In general, we wanted to expose them to some of the real-world experiences that I’ve faced over two decades as an entrepreneur. I had more failures than successes before I hit it big with Bai — and I learned as much, if not more, from losing than winning,” he said. “To be a great entrepreneur, there’s nothing more important than grit and determination. You can learn all the fine points about whatever business you’re in along the way.”
For Weiss he wants people watching each week to understand that entrepreneurship is a challenging journey.
“A challenging journey that requires what I call “Basementality” — a mindset that blends foresight, scrappiness, flexibility and passion to empower you to achieve success,” he said. “The basement has a special meaning for me. It’s the quiet, safe place you go to become one with your idea. But the key is you can’t stay there for too long.”
Weiss said people have to fight to get out of the basement to turn their idea into reality and bring it into the world.
“New businesses are like babies — they come out kicking and screaming, so you have to learn how to crawl and walk and eventually you’ll be ready to run. They need the entrepreneur to provide attention and nurturing 24/7 to become a success,” he added.
Weiss founded Bai, an antioxidant beverage brand, in 2009 during the Great Recession. With Bai’s growth following its founding in the basement of his house, Weiss sold Bai to the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group in a $1.7 billion acquisition.
Then later in a next adventure Weiss founded Crook & Marker, an organic low-calorie alcohol beverage company.
“Technology continually creates new opportunities and challenges in our business landscape, but the fundamentals of entrepreneurship remain the same over time: passion, grit and determination,” he said. “I advise new entrepreneurs to be original rather than simple creating new versions of popular trends — to be a black sheep rather than just one of the flock.”
Weiss added that it is critically important to also identify something they’re passionate about that needs fixing and dedicate themselves to creating the solution.
“For me, the enemy is ‘Big Sugar.’ My solution was Bai and now Crook & Marker. I understand the challenges that entrepreneurs face today because I’m back at it again with Crook & Marker,” he said. “After leaving Bai, I started to think about what I wanted to do next and saw another industry that was ripe for disruption — beer. So I went back to the basement to create Crook & Marker, the world’s first zero sugar organic cocktail portfolio.”
According to Weiss, Crook & Marker is giving consumers great-tasting USDA organic margaritas, mojitos, piña coladas and palomas, and some new innovations with consumers in recent years seeking to escape sugar, carbs and calories in beer.
When asked about what are some of the top skills or abilities an entrepreneur needs, Weiss said, “Entrepreneurs must wear bifocals — they must be equally focused on the unsexy hard work in front of them at all times, while also looking into the distance to the future they’re trying to turn into reality. You can’t fully accomplish one without the other.”
He added that as an entrepreneur, people must be willing to risk it all to achieve proof of their concept.
“That’s the only way to find and then scale success. Perhaps most challenging, entrepreneurs must take the time and effort to understand their end game even as they’re just getting started,” Weiss said.
“Too many entrepreneurs fall in love with their ideas and start businesses without really knowing what they’re trying to accomplish. Do you want to create and run an iconic brand for years? Do you want to build your business for a big financial exit? Put your vision and goal down on paper and use them to guide your journey.”