In 2015, husband-wife duo Nicholas Reichenbach and Tammy Eckenswiller launched Flow Alkaline Spring Water, a Toronto-based company that considers both sustainability and healthy hydration during the production of their water products. Their latest innovation is a collection of collagen-infused spring water beverages, available in watermelon, pink grapefruit, and cucumber flavours. The skin-supporting collagen boost these beverages give promote beauty from the inside out, making them the perfect part of our quarantine at-home self-care wellness regimes and socially distant outdoor workouts.
This summer, we got to chatting with Tammy, who acts as the VP of the Brands Creative, all about the new collagen-infused spring water, what it was like co-founding Flow with her husband, her wellness and health tips, and her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs.
To start, briefly walk us through your career path before Flow. How did you get to where you are today?
I went to Ivy at Western for business school, graduated, and moved to Toronto. I was really interested in fashion and had a wholesale deadstock e-comm business, which is how I started to meet people in the industry. I started assisting bigger stylists, like John Gerhardt and got hired by John at Images, then went over to FASHION Magazine under Susie Sheffman and was there for around five years.
I really wanted to get into e-commerce and made the decision to move to NYC, but I needed a visa. As a work-around, I decided to get my O1 as a stylist and editor, then applied for full-time jobs. I freelanced for the Gilt Groupe when they were just launching their business. I made myself indispensable and they hired me full-time on the creative team. It was truly the perfect training ground for me stepping into the e-comm space. I learned everything about scaling brand creative. I worked there for three years, but my husband, who was in tech at the time, needed to move to San Francisco, so I joined him. I enjoyed San Francisco for the experience of working with interesting start-ups like Everlane, but I missed the energy and level of talent in creative available in NYC.
Fast forward a year and I accepted a position as VP, Brand Creative at Rebecca Minkoff and moved back to New York City. Nicholas at the time was looking at launching Flow Alkaline Spring Water, so for a year and a half, I helped him launch the brand in my spare time and made the decision to move back to Toronto to work full-time on Flow.
You and your husband founded Flow in 2015. What inspired you both to launch this business? What is it all about?
Nicholas and I were living in SoMa in San Francisco at the time, a very tech-focused neighbourhood. We kind of got “tech’d out” by that culture. I wasn’t ready to give up on fashion, but I wanted to build a brand that would last. Nick went to the music and art festival Burning Man and actually called me from a satellite phone to tell me about an epiphany he had, “I have an idea. I think we should look into using my family’s spring to create a boxed water.” It really happened like that; he saw all the plastic bottles being trucked out as the festival ended and it triggered the idea. He really is the heart behind Flow, my focus is more on the vision of the brand, the soul of Flow. I spent all my spare time and holidays working on it and really hoped the water in the spring would be alkaline – I knew how important this would be. And the testing showed Flow was naturally alkaline with a pH of 8.1 at the source! We went through so many ups and downs: getting a co-packer, funding and building a plant, controlling production from end-to-end, building sales and marketing teams, everything. I mean, I’d worked with entrepreneurs before, but I’d never actually been one. It’s one of the most difficult, bravest things you can do. The pressure is intense, but the rewards can be worth it. I have so much respect for those who have the courage and tenacity to build something from nothing and make it successful. You really don’t know what it takes unless you actually do it yourself.
What challenges or hurdles did you face as you grew your business, and how did you overcome them?
You name it and we faced it. Everything was a challenge, our biggest being scaling the business. Co-packing, raising money, and building a plant was all a learning curve. Teaching ourselves the beverage industry took time and one of our biggest challenges was developing strong leadership in marketing and sales. I have brand and creative expertise, but I need a strong data-driven marketing lead. Understanding your customer, capturing data, and knowing what to do with it is essential to the business.
Your needs change as the business grows, so adapting to our needs and determining the best steps was big. It’s a slow build and we’re in it for the long haul. There’s fewer quick successes, especially now. Brands attached to a trend tend to disappear, we’re looking at longevity.
What’s it like working as a team with your husband? What are the ups and the downs?
It’s not easy, but we learned some techniques over the years. We try not to talk about work at home and when on vacation. What actually worked the best was having separate divisions at work – while I’m involved in many areas of the business, my focus is predominantly on the marketing and creative side. What makes it easier is having a phenomenal team to work with (shout-out to our Chief Marketing Officer Krissie Millan!).
Tell us about the new collagen-infused spring water that you just launched. What are the health benefits?
This was an idea I had about two years ago, but we wanted to first launch our Flow flavour family. Once that was launched, we decided to jump in feet first with collagen. We wanted this to be a similar profile and taste to our flavoured water, so we really focused on the “taste” aspect. Most collagen products don’t taste good because of the texture and that’s why most people drink it in their coffee. Flow’s Collagen-infused Spring Water formula is special because it’s so delicious and easy to drink. It’s an easy way to get that collagen boost on the go without the messy powder or weird, gritty taste.
Which is your favourite flavour?
For collagen, I like the cucumber the best – it’s so refreshing.
What makes Flow Alkaline Spring Water’s new collagen line perfect for quarantine life?
What makes Flow’s new collagen line perfect for quarantine life is the focus on self-care. Taking care of yourself sometimes feels like a treat but it’s so important, especially if you have to take care of others too.
How do you personally make sure you stay healthy? What are your top wellness tips?
Some of my top wellness tips and a huge part of how I start my day is through meditation – it’s very important for me to practice being mindful and living in the moment. Getting enough sleep, enough nature, and drinking enough mineral-rich spring water is so important as well. Our bodies need it. My nine-year-old basset hound Buttercup is an essential part of my wellness too, she’s a reminder that love is number one. I’m currently working out about four to five times a week. I love the LEK Fitness app for rebounder workouts and the Melissa Wood Health app for yoga and pilates.
What do you love about your job?
I think my favourite part of the job is learning about our consumer and having a positive impact on their lives. Adapting marketing and brand to the consumer is so exciting – the feedback loop is amazing. We know in real-time what our consumer likes and engages with; it’ truly is gratifying. Catering to the consumers’ needs and positive feedback makes me so happy.
What is a regular day-in-the-life like for you?
I wake up at 5am and go to the garden for meditation then do some gardening during the summer – water plants, pick weeds, veggies, etc. I have a coffee and spend time with Nicholas, Romy [our daughter] and Buttercup, work out, shower and head to the office. Our condo is open concept, so it’s difficult during COVID with a young child. I’m currently focused on consumer research and 2021 planning at work. Anything consumer-facing, content, copy and overseeing an amazing creative team are all part of my day to day. We pump out a lot of assets 24/7 – for digital, retail and ecomm. It’s super busy but fun!
What are your tips for aspiring wellness entrepreneurs?
Enjoy the journey – don’t focus on the end goal all of the time. You need to have fun and enjoy the journey to get there. Building a brand takes time; building a relationship with the consumer and understanding them takes time. You need to trust the journey and yourself and really commit to it. Also, be honest with yourself and others about what you’re good at and what you want to do. It’s important to realize your strengths and weaknesses.
Surround yourself with smart women! Support each other! It’s more difficult for women and we have to support each other through our careers.
Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
I love what I do; I’m a creative. In five years, I hope that we’ve scaled Flow through the conventional channel and develop a bigger substantial direct-to-consumer business. We work hard on it; the real loyalists are there. I also hope to continue to work through some new and innovative products to bring to market and to continue to be an incredible mom, life partner, and meditator.