Intro to Business

Meet Richard Wang, a recent graduate from Western University's very own BMOS program and the visionary CEO behind  — an innovative cocktail concentrate guaranteed to spruce up any shot, plain drink, or even water in a world of hard liquors and flavourless drinks. 

In this interview, Richard shares how he draws lessons from his upbringing and his time at Western University in shaping the success of Just Myx– A must-read if you're considering the route of entrepreneurship and founding your own business!

Firstly, I have to ask, what is your personal favourite Just Myx flavour?

My personal favorite is Pina Colada, I think it tastes the best and I'm also a huge fan of tropical tastes that remind me of a beach. 

What are the circumstances surrounding the creation of Just Myx? I can imagine an interesting story surrounding how this product was invented.

When I was in my second year, I applied to the W5 accelerator competition to try and win some money for my painting business idea. The judges said that they were trying to fund a new idea, not really an existing one, and a painting business is not a new idea. However, they did say they respected my business skills, and they introduced me to this team called Just Myx who were looking for a new partner. They've seen a lot of students drinking around parties and pre-games by bringing for example a juice or a pop and just drinking it with alcohol to mask the taste, so they had the idea to create a cocktail flavour that you can Just Myx right into your glass or cup.

So I interviewed with them, and we worked together and we won about $12,000 throughout the various business competitions we did. From there we used the money to lift us off the ground, and then we kind of just went ahead and did it.

Can you tell us a little bit about what your first product development was like – did you try making formulas at home first or go directly to food scientists and formula labs?

Right off the bat, with the money that we won from pitch competitions, we decided to go with a food scientist. The Propell Accelerator here at Western which we were also connected with introduced us to a food scientist group, Crunch Foods, who are actually still the same people we work with today. 

They created the formulas for us, and throughout the conception process we were doing a lot of taste testing and sampling to help us decide what we did and didn't like. Then once we had a formula we liked, Western connected us to a manufacturer to help us get started in production. And then at the end of the summer of 2022, that's when we made our first official batch: 3,000 bottles of our first flavour, Sex on the Beach.

What would you say were the challenges of entrepreneurship and founding your own company that you think people don't talk about enough?

There's going to be unforeseen obstacles and unforeseen opportunities. I think a lot of people tend to plan too much - they try to create a perfect plan, right? But the first few steps you take in your business are never going to be your most perfect ones, and I don't think enough people just jump in and adjust on the fly. 

Because I think in the time that it takes for you to create a perfect business plan, I would have already started my business and done tangible things while adjusting my business based on the real experiences I'm having, and by the time I'm done with that you are probably still planning. I think that is something a lot of people don't talk about enough, because people are afraid to begin.

Can you share a specific learning moment or turning point in your entrepreneurial journey so far?

Let's talk about the pivots that a business makes. We thought that Just Myx would be used primarily as a party product, but in reality, we find that a lot of people creatively mix our flavours in with their water to create a zero-calorie and zero-alcohol cocktail flavoured drink, which is a huge market. These are things you learn about once you start, getting your product integrated into the market, and you discover it during a phase at the beginning where you test the product market fit to see if your hypothesis is really correct. And through getting to know your clientele, you get to know their journey of buying the product and how they chose to use it. 

You've also done some other entrepreneurial ventures outside of , what would you say are the benefits of entrepreneurship as opposed to say a traditional, corporate business career like Consulting or Investment Banking? 

It really depends on the person that we're speaking about. I think I've been an entrepreneur my whole life. I've grown up watching my mom and my dad run their own restaurant, Northern Dumpling Kitchen in Richmond Hill, in the Times Square Plaza. I remember everything from when they started it to the restaurant to how it is now, and just watching them build this business from the ground up, even though they still don't know how to porpoerly speak English. They taught me that anything is possible, and I've been very passionate about business eever since. Just being able to create something out of nothing is a lot of joy for me, and what I want out of life is joy. I believe if you are doing something that you truly love, it's not really work.

The benefit of being an entrepreneur for me is that I'm confident that I'm never going to be too poor or go homeless. I'm always going to be able to create a painting business, or a drink business, or a landscaping business whenever I need. I can just knock on some doors, book some painting jobs, get some deposits, use the deposit money to buy the paint supplies and boom, I can support myself. It opens up your mind to think out of the box.

Can you tell us where  is currently being featured and sold?

Right now we're in about 150 stores and across Southern Ontario, you could say east of Peterborough, all the way to North Bay, even to Niagara Falls, Windsor, and Sarnia. 

We're in about seven Sobeys stores, 25 Foodland stores, around three of Your Independent Grocers stores, two Value Marts, and then the rest are in LCBO-certified independent liquor stores. 

As a recent Western graduate, would you say your education at Western prepared you well for running your own business and a career in entrepreneurship?

I've always wanted to come here and be a Western student, ever since I was a kid. I'm very happy I did. I think it's a unique place here, and I think everybody is open and has something to prove. When you walk around here, you feel it in the air – it drives you to be the best that you can be. And everyone's very social here, and I think it's a great environment and the perfect place for me. 

I was in a ton of business clubs: I was in W5, Western Marketing Association, doing their events almost every weekend, helping with event planning – even today, I love going to Western business club events, I was just recently showcasing  at Western Founders Network's Elevate Career Fair. I was also part of the Propel Accelerator, a big part of my entrepreneurial journey, where they coached us on how to run  and helped us do a lot of our networking, connecting us with industry professionals and such.

When I was part of the Student Works House Painting business, the Student Works Management Program taught me how to run a painting business. So I was very much involved in all the business-oriented activities, and I was so happy Western provided me with all these opportunities. I think every minute mattered here at Western, and I think just staying focused and being attentive to my goals helped things fall into place.

Looking back, what accomplishments or milestones are you most proud of achieving with ? 

With Just Myx, I would say the retail presence we have is what I'm happiest about. My goal for 2023 was to get into one big store, just one Sobies or Loblaws, and I didn't imagine that they'd be as receptive to my product as they've been. I know that no matter what happens with Just Myx, the fact that I'm able to say we're in all these stores that I used to grocery shop at as a kid brings me immense satisfaction. I never thought this would happen, and anybody who asks me  is doing, I say better than I thought, period. I'm extremely proud of our retail presence.

What is new for Just Myx in the next couple of months? Where are you expanding? What are the next steps?

2024 is going to be a huge year for us. We want to scale our distribution and sell  products all over Canada by the end of this year – expanding into more stores: more Sobeys stores, more Foodland stores and then also enter blocks chain stores like Metro and No Frills – just making  a strong household name.

We already have the retail partners to do so, and our next steps are working on tailoring the manufacturing process to match. We're also just getting everything in order right now, like making sure that all required audits and housekeeping tasks are done so we can check all the boxes that these big stores need. Come Spring we will also have four new flavours coming out, ones that we've been developing for three years now, and so it's going to be huge. I mean, it's going to be a movie – that's all I gotta say! 

Finally, what advice do you have for individuals contemplating an entrepreneurial path?

The number one thing I believe in is that when you're doing business and you're dealing with other people, it's the relationship that you're building as opposed to what you're offering. You could say that, yeah, maybe  is an innovative product and that's why the stores are taking us in, but I could also say maybe half the stores that do take us in are believing in me and in the relationship that I'm building with these managers. 

And it's got little to do with 's products – maybe I could be selling anything: it could be protein bars, cookies, chips – but they're investing in me and they want me to succeed. It's not just the business money, transactions are not just services they are interactions between two people helping each other . That's really something I hold dear to me, the relationships with those I do business with. 

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