New Jersey-based business owner Ben Weiss—founder of Bai anti-oxidant infused drinks and Crook & Marker organic cocktails—has brought his entrepreneurial skills to TV.
Fox Business Network partnered with Weiss for Billion Dollar Idea. The show features Weiss training entrepreneurs around the country to see if they have the grit and drive to run a business of their own. Weiss sold his first business, Bai, for over $1.7 billion, so he knows a thing or two about growing something from the ground up.
Taping took place at Weiss’ Crook & Marker headquarters in Trenton. There, entrepreneurs test their ideas, hoping to become America’s next big success. At the end of the season, one will be given the opportunity to receive up to a $1 million investment from Weiss.
New Jersey Monthly chatted with Weiss via email after Billion Dollar Idea premiered in late April. New episodes air Tuesdays at 9 pm ET on Fox Business Network.
What is your favorite thing about running a business in New Jersey?
Ben Weiss: Trenton has a rich history of being a place of building and making—that’s really what being an entrepreneur is about and that’s why we’re proud to have Crook & Marker’s headquarters here. We also benefit from being in this state because New Jerseyans support their own, but they’re a tough audience who will tell it like it is. When I started Bai in Princeton, selling cases out of the trunk of my car with my dad, the positive reception we got from local retailers and consumers gave us the proof of concept we needed to grow the brand regionally and then nationally.
How did you learn when you started as an entrepreneur?
I started my first entrepreneurial venture selling coffee in movie theaters not long after I graduated college, and I just learned by doing. I went into meetings with big companies as a 23-year-old kid with nothing but a homemade brochure and a concept. Every time I got turned away, I learned something new that I applied to my next pitch. And when I finally got a deal, I went right into a crash course on building retail displays, motivating employees and turning an idea into reality even when you’ve never done it before.
Have you mentored entrepreneurs before?
I’ve always made it a point to help mentor and guide budding entrepreneurs—including companies that I have invested in. Following the publication of my book, I launched a “Basementality Sessions” tour of major colleges and universities, speaking with entrepreneurship-focused students and alumni at highly ranked institutions.
What is the process underlying Billion Dollar Idea?
The first half of the series, I’ll travel around the country to meet the entrepreneurs in their hometowns and get to know them, their families and their ideas. Only six entrepreneurs will be invited back to our underground speakeasy and idea lab that sits under Crook & Marker’s headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey, to compete in special elimination challenges designed to test their business acumen, products and, most importantly, their grit.
What is the most important advice you have for someone starting a business?
Entrepreneurs must take the time and effort to understand their end game even as they’re just getting started. 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? I always advise entrepreneurs to take the time to put their vision and goal down on paper and use that to guide their journey.
What was it like filming the show in the Crook & Marker headquarters?
In the second half of the series, the format of the show shifts into an elimination challenge—with the six entrepreneurs invited back to the Basement in Trenton, New Jersey, competing head-to-head to win a chance at receiving my investment. We put a lot of effort into turning our Crook & Marker HQ and the underground speakeasy that sits underneath it into a truly special place that inspires our team, our partners, and aspiring entrepreneurs. The show was a great opportunity to showcase this space and also spotlight Trenton.
Why did you want to make this show?
Entrepreneurs are the backbone of America and are fundamental to fueling the economy, especially during times of uncertainty like the current pandemic. 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.
Only a small number of those businesses will survive. 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.Click here to leave a comment