Celzo co-founders disclose their secrets about following a fruitful career.
By Chandler Maloney
In search of a purpose after moving to Austin from Mexico City, Fernanda Sampson-Gómez joined forces with her wife and co-founder, Cat Sampson-Gómez, to create their extraordinary hemp- and vitamin-infused beverage Celzo. Unique from other sparkling waters, the brand features Latin American flavors, using ingredients like basil, tamarind and hibiscus to craft the nonalcoholic drink. Nutritionists and other certified health professionals have commended the founders for inventing a delicious and all-natural product. Apart from its health benefits, the brand connects with consumers by encouraging them to seek happiness and balance in their daily routines through the motto “Vive el Momento” (live the moment).
While many people googled at-home cocktail recipes during the pandemic, Fernanda embraced her creativity by making original nonalcoholic mixtures. After purchasing ingredients from H-E-B, the search for the perfect concoction commenced. “The first one, you know, we were working on it,” says Cat, the original taste-tester. “I think it was a little too citrusy for me. But eventually we got to a place that was absolutely perfect.”
After final tweaks had been made, the two began distributing cups to family, friends and neighbors. “Everybody really, really loved it,” Fernanda says. “That’s when I understood that there was something going on there. And that’s when I decided everybody should be able to have this flavor experience.”
The main factor that differentiates Celzo from its competitors is that the Mexican-style sparkling water is composed of entirely natural ingredients. “In other beverages, you can taste the cannabis, so it’s not a good experience” Fernanda says. To disguise the bitter taste of cannabis, some brands use artificial sweeteners. Assuming a healthier approach, Celzo incorporates agave and real juice from a variety of fruits. “A lot of flavors you see on the market are the same because they have the same palettes that are being marketed to; that is why this Latino kind tastes so good,” Cat says.
Whereas most typically associate CBD with relaxation, Celzo defies stereotypes by using hemp to promote functionality. Fernanda was raised in a culture where she was constantly encouraged to make magic happen. However, during the pandemic, Fernanda’s energy fell and she became desperate for something that might improve her performance. After researching, she decided to include additional benefits like vitamin B, green tea extract and even L-theanine into her unique beverage. “I was looking for vitamins everywhere; that’s how I came up with the idea of creating a beverage where everyone can have this first-time experience in an elevated way with some functionalities,” Fernanda says.
The biggest obstacle the team has had to overcome has been the lack of diverse representation within their industry. “There’s a very limited number of women in most industries, especially Latina and queer women. You don’t see people like us in our space,” Cat says. “There is this unconscious bias in the background every time you go into a conversation. Whether we like it or not, people are just used to talking to the same people and working a certain way.”
The group wants to make it known that their brand is more than sparkling water; it’s also a symbol of expanding opportunities for people of different backgrounds.
Fernanda applied the knowledge she learned from personal experience to craft this drink for everybody, but specifically women. Suffering from endometriosis, she endured cramps so painful that she occasionally would visit the hospital. After attempting several unsuccessful pills and treatments, she discovered CBD oils as a solution. “In general, [women]tend to be more bloated than men, because we tend to be more worried about things. It’s just how our body works,” Fernanda says. “I think CBD, especially for women, could be a huge benefit, not just like drinking seltzer, but understanding more about CBD and how it can really affect our bodies in a positive way.” Celzo incorporates CBD into each flavor to reduce inflammation, anxiety and stress.
In addition to flavor and functionality, family is another value that Celzo embraces to distinguish their brand from competitors. Whereas many people believe merging family and business is a recipe for disaster, Cat argues that having her spouse as a co-founder makes work more meaningful. With her expertise developing startups and Fernanda’s knowledge of marketing strategies, the two have successfully turned their dream into a reality. “We’re married, and we’re doing this thing together,” Cat says. “You just have to communicate and work together. It’s been fun because I get to see my partner and do something she’s also so passionate about.”
The team is excited about its recent success and hopes to expand their product to new markets. Consumers can purchase the drink at smaller niche grocery stores and soon, the product will be available to order at local breweries. The team not only hopes to infiltrate local, but also national markets including Mexico, Colombia and the U.K. The ultimate goal is to leave a legacy. “We want to keep growing,” Fernanda says. “To leave a huge footprint. We want to get into every single household in the U.S. because why shouldn’t everyone have a taste of happiness?”