Running his own business was always the intention for Nude Vodka Soda co-founder Julius Makarewicz. The former Powell River resident was recently named by BC Business Magazine in its annual 30 Under 30, a list that highlights young business entrepreneurs throughout the province
The Brooks Secondary School graduate moved to Vancouver to attend Simon Fraser University, but dropped out, eager to start his career.
“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and do my own thing,” said Makarewicz. “I spent several years working at different startups and was always looking for an idea, something I could stand behind.”
He first secured a sales job with Vision Critical Communications, then worked for a few other companies before finding a niche in the market and beginning development on an adult beverage in 2015.
“I finally saw a gap in the market,” he said. “Everything on the liquor store shelf had too much sugar. I found that a lot of people were switching over from beer and sugary coolers to things that were healthier, but there was nothing on the shelf that reflected that.”
Makarewicz hired a natural beverage developer and started to raise money. Together with business partner and head of sales Jerin Mece, he founded Nude Vodka Soda, a low-calorie, gluten-free, sweetener-free adult beverage.
The drink hit shelves across the province last July and since its launch has sold more than 24,000 24-packs at private liquor stores, amounting to more than $1.3 million in retail sales. It finally hit BC liquor store shelves this March.
“It’s been awesome,” said Makarewicz. “We’re the fastest-growing beverage in BC in the alcoholic category. We’re projected to being one of the top three in BC.”
The business has been a full-time job for Makarewicz for the past year and a half, and the company is in the process of hiring more staff. Currently they have four full-time employees and various contractors.
“I have some really cool people on board already,” he said, adding that momentum continues to build.
Makarewicz’ said his ties to Powell River are strong and that local liquor stores were some of the earliest supporters of his then-fledgling brand. His parents are Polish immigrants who arrived in Powell River by way of Ottawa when he was six months old.
“Powell River has this cool thing where it’s isolated but it’s not,” said Makarewicz. “It’s such a special place. It’s the best place to grow up in the world.”