Brand Over Everything Is Our Philosophy

Small Business Canada

Alex Simonelli, Founder of Daydream

Alex Simonelli is a 25-year-old Toronto-based entrepreneur who founded Daydream, Canada’s first hemp & adaptogen-infused sparkling water. With a background in sales and a love for entrepreneurship, since the age of 17, Alex has always been a free thinker pursuing work in hopes to design a life worth living. His previous intrapreneurial & sales experiences have taken him across start-ups where he built and led teams, witnessed different markets emerging for growth, and saw founders exit successfully.   

Daydream is an accumulation of his growth, and his first step into full business ownership. Alex saw a gap in the market for “better for you” hemp & adaptogenic beverages in Canada and has not looked back since. Daydream’s branding is just as calming as the ingredients inside. Alex refers to this as his art to the world.

Outside of the office, you can find Alex playing his piano, or traversing across Toronto for the city’s best takeout restaurants!  

What was the inspiration behind the founding of Daydream? What are you hoping to accomplish through your company?

The inspiration behind Daydream is to bring more calming moments to the world. It’s a reminder for people to live in the present moment and to be their most authentic selves.

Daydream is for the health-conscious individual, looking for a functional beverage without sugar or caffeine to get them through the different stages of the day. Personally, I’ve always had a hard time finding healthier alternatives to drink and believe that people would see the same value I saw in adaptogens. I envision Daydream as an eclectic brand that could become the “red bull” for health-centric and creative individuals.

At the moment we’re scaling Daydream across Canadian retail and are on track to reach 1000 retail locations by the end of the year, with grocery partners such as Loblaws & Metro, and countless independent retailers.

My goal is to take hemp & apoptogenic beverages from being targeted to the vocal minority who are health-conscious, to be accessible to the masses in Canada.

The future possibility of more geographical expansion excites our team and investors!

There are very few beverages that are plant-based and have positive health benefits. What are some of the strategies you’ve used that have contributed to the company’s success? 

I’ll touch upon the most important few. First, “Brand over everything” is our philosophy. The design language is one of the best ways to cut through the noise and distinguish oneself on the shelf and in the mind of the consumer. Someone’s experience when finding Daydream and idea of the potential use case is as important as the liquid inside.

The next strategy was making sure Daydream was digitally native, while pursuing a traditional wholesale B2B model with grocers. For instance, our vocal & verbose Instagram doubles as a “resume.”

In today’s fast-paced world consumers need a mix of social proof and core value alignment, in order to want to ambassador your brand.

With that said, building a direct-to-consumer eCommerce store is capital intensive, and difficult for a hemp company due to advertising restrictions on Facebook. Having consumers want to organically share us while being able to showcase the product on more grocery shelves has had a multiplier effect.

Lastly, persistence and passion for my vision have always been the best “strategy” if you can call it one. Nothing can stand in the way of a passionate individual who won’t quit. Keep your ideas in mind and try not to be bent by the preconceived notions of an industry.

People respect that. I believe it was my clear vision for Daydream that opened many doors, and that attracted the right partners, suppliers, and employees to the company, of which I am very grateful to have on this journey. 

What are your thoughts on the recent data that shows most consumer behavioral drivers continue to be stress and fatigue reduction, and that functional beverages will be growing to surpass regular bottled water sales by 2023?

I proudly echo this data in meetings as it gets people thinking about the future. It makes sense that people search for stress-reducing products (in our ever-changing society) and that will only continue to accelerate. Data shows that adaptogens will continue to lead the way in many product forms, as they have a myriad of different natural effects on the body’s endocrine system, which regulates mood, stress, and fatigue.

What initiatives have you put in place to ensure the environmental aspect and how is the company addressing this issue?

One of the reasons we chose an aluminum can is because they are the most recycled beverage package on the planet as it is almost infinitely recyclable. They also require a fraction of the energy to produce and ship. Mother Nature loves aluminum cans.

We’ve also just launched biodegradable e-comm packaging and plan to continue pushing for more sustainable options for all of our packaging and supplies whenever we can. 

You’ve created yourself quite the reputation as an innovator with the launch of “Daydream”. Would you consider yourself an innovative leader and why do you believe it’s important for entrepreneurs to be innovators?

I consider myself unafraid of change (which took many years of my life to cultivate) and I truly enjoy the process of learning and leading. Throwing myself into an abyss only to realize it is a bed of feathers, is quite frankly how all of 2019 felt while starting Daydream. I think if you’re being innovative, then you’re breaking the traditional status quo & opening new doorways of thought for yourself and others.

People will always follow bold ideas that are better for the future. We all need to be a little bolder in our lives, not just the entrepreneurs.

As Robert Frost says, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.”

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