Behind the business: Ben Lenart, Almighty Beverages

Ben Lenart - Almighty

Every business is important to someone. So they’re all important to us.
In this series, we’re chatting to some BNZ customers and getting to know the people, and inspiration, behind the business.

Almighty Beverages all began in 2015 when Ben Lenart and a few friends decided to try their hand at juicing…

What is your personal business journey and the inspiration behind Almighty Beverages?

It really started when I opened up a coffee shop in Wellington when I was really young. Along the way, I brought on some friends as partners and subsequently, we started a juice shop. That evolved into what is now, Almighty.

We wanted to create conscious, clean drinks made by nature for those with a thirst for life – ultimately, we want to add value to people’s lives. It’s about maintaining quality and integrity, and not trashing the environment. We’re trying to balance a number of things, but we really stick to those values. It’s the reason why we turn up every day and try to keep getting better.

Do you feel that you are fulfilling what you set out to achieve with your business? Has anything changed along the way?

We are fulfilling what we intended, but it is taking a lot longer to have as much impact as we’d hoped.

One part of our business is that we contribute money from every drink we sell towards Edible Education. That’s been a very fulfilling part of the business and it’s been part of the business since day one.

We’re foodies, you know, we’re from a hospitality background so we love food. My view is that there are huge benefits to encouraging that kind of living from a young age and Edible Education is pretty amazing at that – teaching kids how to grow veggies and how to cook delicious food. You can just see how much a difference that makes to their view on food.

That’s not to say you can’t indulge every now and then, but it’s about giving the basic foundation of what good food is. Not everyone has necessarily been exposed to that. It’s not a particular type of person, or about a social demographic being well educated, it’s just the general population could be eating better in New Zealand. There’s a lot of upside in people eating well and we just think that that would add a lot of value to society and the communities we operate in, so that’s why we do it.

We always feel like we could do more, so there’s this constant drive to do better. But we’re quite happy with how we’ve stuck to our values and our principles and that’s not going to change.

The business as a brand has evolved, though. We started off selling organic juice into hospitality wholesalers, exclusively in New Zealand and now we’ve got a number of product ranges that we sample through supermarkets, and a number of different sales channels via export. So, it’s really evolved quite a lot from what we thought we were doing at the start to where we are now.

Almighty Juice bottles

What was that transformative moment when you knew what you were doing was great/working?

It constantly feels like we need to keep pushing really hard to make it work. It’s not like there’s one moment where we’re like, “yeah, we’ve cracked it.”

But there was a moment where we saw that the product and the brand was resonating with people. Different consumers were connecting with it and enjoying it. People were regularly buying from our online store.

At the very start, as business owners, you’d be out and randomly see someone drinking one of our beverages. That was like, wow. This was actually working. But even now, when you see people holding a can at a café, it’s still quite a thrill, I’m still amazed.

How did you come up with the name for your company?

It comes back to what we use in our juice. Our juice is all certified organic fruit and veggies, and super foods. So, connecting that with the Edible Education part of our business, we really wanted to highlight the power of eating and drinking vegetables, and super foods.

We were throwing around lots of names and we liked the word ‘mighty’ – how mighty vegetables can be, how mighty eating a balanced diet can be. Then ‘almighty’ just kind of had more elevation. It wasn’t really scientific!

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

There’ve been a number but I think that last year was the hardest. The pandemic triggered a number of things and it felt like every kind of issue came to the surface all at once. But we had to do whatever we had to do to get through, so we had to adapt. That meant opening up new sales channels, jumping on new opportunities, creating new opportunities. There’s a lot of creative energy that came from it and that energy drove business growth.

What advice would you give any person starting their first business?

Go 110% and give it hell. And remember, perseverance goes a long way – just keep turning up and you’ll come out the other side.

Also, ask for help, advice and insights. Don’t be shy to ask people you admire or respect. People are really open because they’ve been there before, and organisations are ready to help; BNZ, government and council agencies, there are a heap of resources right in front of you.

How important are the people and relationships you build to running your business, including the one you have with BNZ?

People and relationships are everything. There are a lot of efficiencies in doing business through automation and all sorts of things, they are great, but the real drivers of growth are people and relationships. It’s critical.

The BNZ relationship is very key to our business. You need a great partner and having a really good relationship with my banker from the beginning, is super valuable. They don’t just do transactions, they add value in so many ways.

What does the future hold for Almighty Beverages?

We’re pretty excited! It’s about getting great products to more people in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore, that’s aim of the game.

We’re opening up new channels in New Zealand and have new products coming out consistently over the next 6 – 12 months, plus a big export push to Australia and Singapore. We currently operate there but are working really hard to build those markets in the next 12 months.

Read more Behind the Business stories here.

This article is for general information only. It’s not advice (financial, legal, or otherwise) and can’t be relied upon. If you do, then no one, including BNZ, is liable for resulting losses (both direct and indirect). Any opinions may not be the same as BNZ (or anyone else). Contact BNZ or your professional advisor for help or advice specific to you.