Growing up in Iran, Homayoon Ershadi drank his mother’s “twist” on an ancient Persian summer beverage. Now he’s turning it into a startup.
Ershadi is the founder of Durham-based Jabin Beverage Co. The main product is Jabin, a Persian sports beverage with natural ingredients that hydrates and accelerates recovery after exercise.
It seems to be a case in which mom knew best.
“She put her twist on it by lowering the amount of sugar and adding some elements like the pink Himalayan salt,” he said. “That sort of made it a hydration-focused drink for me—a big cyclist and runner.”
Ershadi was born and raised in Iran and moved to the U.S. in 2009. He graduated from UNC Greensboro, where he studied economics and planned to do international relations and policy work.
After college, he took a different route than he originally planned. He moved to the Triangle and began to pursue Jabin Beverage Co.
“Initially, I planned to move to Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I was going to do international relations and policy work. But when the light bulb moment went off, I was like, ‘what better time to do this than now?’ I just dove right into it.”
Ershadi has an intern who helps with the company, along with his family. He said once they ramp up, he wants to make strategic hires to help around the production process.
While Jabin Beverage Co. has not officially launched, they are actively market-testing the drink to gather feedback. He said that the timeline is mostly based on how they can ramp up their production capabilities.
Customers can currently find the product for sale in the Triangle at the Durham Co-Op, Bulldega, Elk Local Foods, Harmony Farms and the South Durham Farmers Market.
“We are in the beta stage, essentially,” Ershadi said. “We are in specialty retailers, farmers markets and different pop-ups to just get thoughts around what the consumers think about the product.”
He said they received a lot of positive feedback about its profile, taste and unique backstory. He believes that the hydration and nutritional elements makes Jabin stand out.
“People working at the farmer’s markets in the summer come by our booth to get some and drink it through their shift to stay hydrated, and it makes them feel great,” he said. “A lot of runners and cyclists also gave great feedback.”
Unique profile in hydration market
He said no other beverage in the hydration and sports drink market uses apple cider vinegar as a key ingredient. He explained that it has many nutritional benefits, which sets them apart.
“We have other competitors in other categories, such as major brands like Gatorade and Powerade,” he said. “But frankly, they use so many artificial ingredients and dyes that I do not consider us in the same space.”
Jabin was one of 22 North Carolina startups that won a $10K MICRO grant from NC IDEA in October. He said winning this award was crucial for the startup and it confirmed business viability.
“It’s been pretty bootstrapped,” he said. “NC IDEA is the first group to give us funding. We have also been fortunate to partner with Launch Chapel Hill and other groups. There is no funding there, but there is still a lot of guidance and mentorship.”
Ershadi said that much of their focus is on research, development, and production to understand how they can increase production capabilities for the product.
“I thought it would be pretty simple,” he said. “But a lot of chemistry and food science goes into it. That is where the funding is going to go.”
One of the hardest things has been scaling the product because he does not have a background in food science, and he had to learn a lot.
“Fortunately, there is a strong food science community here,” he said. “NC State has one of the best programs in this field. So, I have been leaning on and getting help from them.”
He said he did not rush the science process to ensure he produces a beverage that is both delicious and safe.
“It is a very craft process and we use fresh ingredients,” Ershadi said. “It is not just mixing a bunch of flavor packs.”
He hopes people recognize the labor and the subtleties that come with it, and that it helps them hydrate during exercise and replenishes them afterwards.
The startup concentrates on the Triangle but hopes to expand to the rest of North Carolina.
“We are excited to share this product with more people in the Triangle,” Ershadi said. “I would love people to stay up to date on the kind of work that we are doing.”