Desmond Williams has teamed up with Plant City’s Wish Farms to bring a healthy watermelon juice drink that rivals sugary sports drinks.
Grocery store shoppers might have noticed a new pink drink popping up in stores across the Tampa Bay area.
Missouri native Desmond “Dez” Williams is the co-founder of AquaMelon, a healthy watermelon drink for athletes, health nuts and watermelon aficionados. The drink is made of pure watermelon juice, without any preservatives or GMOs.
Williams and his team — which includes help from CEO of Plant City’s Wish Farms, Gary Wishnatzki — created AquaMelon to be the healthy, fruity alternative to popular, sugary sports drinks.
Williams came up with the idea for AquaMelon while training for the Tough Mudder, a mud run. During training, Williams and his girlfriend would place halves of watermelons in the fridge. When they returned from a tough training, they would devour them.
“We would come back exhausted, and we would just take a spoon to these watermelon,” Williams said.
After finishing the watermelon, Williams began drinking the juice that was left at the bottom of the skin. He noticed that he felt great after drinking it. It spurred him to look up the benefits of watermelon. Watermelon juice is full of vitamins and minerals, and is great for healthy kidneys, weight loss and blood circulation.
Once Williams realized the health benefits and how many other athletes also drank watermelon juice, he decided that a drink form should be commercially available, without any unhealthy additions or preservatives.
With a plan for a product in mind, Williams knew that he and his team, including co-founders Ashley Auguste and Joseph Hunter, needed advice, but they could not afford expensive consultants. Williams enrolled at the University
of South Florida and founded the student incubator to get help with his business plan and to give other students a platform for their companies.
He has since earned a Master’s degree in business and entrepreneurship and will walk across the stage to accept his diploma in the spring.
“I went there specifically to start the company,” Williams said.
As the incubator and William’s development grew, he began looking for opportunities to grow his business. With AquaMelon based in the Tampa Bay area, Williams and his team looked for a facility that was close to Tampa, with room to grow into chain stores.
“We knew we needed to partner with somebody that understood the infrastructure,” Williams said.
One of William’s mentors at USF introduced him to Wishnatzki.
After Williams pitched a way for AquaMelon to showcase some of the farm’s products, such as through an AquaBerry drink, Williams and Wishnatzki teamed up.
“He liked it and said, ‘Let’s partner up,’” Williams said. “That’s how we got there.”
AquaMelon uses watermelons from Wish Farms. The fruit is processed in the farm’s production facility, at 1205 Wood Court in Plant City.
WATERING THE ROOTS
From the time the idea for AquaMelon formed, Williams’ business endeavor has been extremely fast-paced. Within nine months, he had a prototype. Within a year and a half, he had a final shelf product.
The toughest part of producing AquaMelon, Williams said, was creating a scalable manufacturing process while maintaining the integrity and profitability of his product. But with his team, he has created a product that is set to hit chain stores in the near future.
“As a start-up … you can’t put more emphasis on the quality of your team,” Williams said. “That is literally the crust. If you believe, they will believe.”
Through partnerships and work with the business incubator, AquaMelon is on its way to becoming a well-known staple throughout the Tampa Bay area.
AquaMelon can currently be found at Nutrition Smart, the Ritz-Carlton, Hank’s Catfish & BBQ and on many Hillsborough Community College campuses. The drink, which is cold-pressed, is available in a variety of flavors, including Miami Mist, Cabana Breeze and Best Harvest.
AquaMelon also won first place in the University of South Florida’s Fintech Business Plant Competition and first place runner-up in the Florida Venture Forum Early Stage Conference, which is a state competition.
Williams remains focused on providing a quality product to consumers, while looking for room to grow his business.
The AquaMelon team is actively looking for chain retail opportunities and courting investment opportunities.
Contact Emily Topper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watermelon Fun Facts
- Watermelons contains vitamins A, B6 and C, which help the immune system and eyes.
• A watermelon is 92% water.
• Watermelon delivers lycopene — which has been studied for its potential role in reducing risk of heart disease, various cancers and protection to skin from harmful UV rays.
• Farmers grow watermelon in rows (8 to 12 feet apart) and in raised beds (4 to 12 inches high) composed of well drained sandy soils.
• Watermelon pickers look for a pale or buttery yellow spot on the bottom of the watermelon, indicating ripeness.