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Creating Marion Beverage Co.: A Senior Project

Posted by James Estabrook ’20 on May 11, 2020 2:34:05 PM

Since the moment I came to Tabor I've always wanted to pursue a senior project. My intended major in college is Entrepreneurial Business, so this was the perfect opportunity to pursue a business venture. I started with an idea that I felt was missing in the market. My childhood memory of the Shirley Temple soda. A simple concoction of Grenadine and a lemon-lime soda, or in some cases Ginger-Ale. Since I was a child I have loved the drink but had never seen it in stores or in bottles. With that in mind, I set out to learn the basics of starting a new business and create a soda company inspired by Tabor, and the quaint town that it resides within. With that, Marion Beverage Co. was born. 

unnamed (36)My initial plan was to create a recipe and send it off to a co-packer, someone who would bottle and package my beverages for me. I was then planning on having it in the Beebe and the surrounding stores in Marion no later than the second week of April. I had secured an internship with the nation's oldest bottling factory and local craft soda company Simpson Spring to learn the trade, and I had worked out a financial deal with Tabor that would allow me to make this initial purchase. I was just about to begin when Corona hit. Like many other senior projects, my project took a completely different turn. Many co-packers were only accepting large scale orders, and the stores where I could sell my drinks would soon be shut down. I was forced to adapt and decided I would not only create and market Marion Beverage Co. but I would also produce and bottle my own soda.

Now, I never ended up making a Shirley Temple. I tried. Again and again with no luck. To my surprise, there was very little information on how to actually create your own soda. Every stay at home mom’s food blog seemed to tell me to just use a Sodastream or squeeze a lemon into some seltzer water. Coming into the project, I had assumed my recipe creation would have been the easiest part of the whole project. Boy, was I wrong. Creating my recipe was hands down the hardest and most time-consuming project I have ever undertaken. I've made hundreds of batches of soda searching for the right one. It wasn't until my mother stumbled upon me, frustrated and annoyed that my homemade Grenadine (a syrup consisting of just pomegranate juice and syrup) was not tasting remotely like the Shirley Temple I had come to know and love. “That's not pomegranate juice you ding-a-ling, it's pomegranate cherry juice!” she said as I explained my recipe to her. For over a day and countless trials, I was using a completely different ingredient than I previously thought. After this discovery, I made huge leaps and bounds and came up with a recipe I enjoyed. It wasn't a Shirley Temple, but it was a delicious home-brewed soda. 

Aside from recipe development, there were a lot of other things that went into creating Marion Beverage Co. There was an immense amount of research, from longevity to carbonation there were countless things for me to discover about the actual soda making process. I taught myself how to use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, for use in graphic design, as well as my prior knowledge of premier pro and Inkscape to work on marketing, brand development, and logo creation. I learned how to use Wix to create a website and Google Domains to purchase a custom domain. From learning about marketing to dealing with supply chain issues amplified by the COVID-19 crisis, I began an undertaking of a scale I could have never imagined. The amount of hours I have spent on this project is far beyond what I expected but I enjoyed every moment of it, and I am excited to see where Marion Beverage Co. goes in the future. 

unnamed (38)Marion Beverage Co. is set to release its first soda on May 17th. The light pink fizzy lemon-lime soda with a splash of pomegranate and cherry will be named “Sippican Sunrise.” The name pays tribute to Sippican Harbor and plays off of the soda’s bright pink color. I especially want to thank Tabor’s Director of Dining Services, Mike Sirriani, Chef Joe Colletti, David Dodge, Julie Crosby, Kristen Reimold, and several other Tabor faculty members who made this senior project possible and assisted me in my journey. Following the conclusion of my senior project and time at Tabor I hope to continue on with Marion Beverage Co. and my dream is to get my soda sold in the Beebe student center at Tabor Academy as well as the local stores in and around the Marion Area. This, of course, is just the beginning!

To follow Marion Beverage Co. Check out our website www.marionbeverageco.com or visit our Instagram @MarionBeverageCo. We also made a launch video that shows some great shots of Marion and Tabor. Enjoy.

Thank you for reading about my senior project. I hope one day you will be able to enjoy an ice-cold soda from Marion Beverage Co. 

~James Estabrook 

Marion Beverage Co. Owner/Operator 

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Topics: Senior Projects