Behind the Shelves: Meet The Drink for the Social Athlete

Behind the Shelves: Meet The Drink for the Social Athlete

Jan 10, 2024

Courtside is a fun, hydrating & refreshing sparkling coconut beverage that’s built around community. The first store they every launched in was Monsoon Market (Check out our interview with Monsoon here). We had the pleasure of chatting with Courtside’s co-founder Ariel Irby on how Courtside is supporting retail and building their community!

Why is community important to you?

My co-founder, Austin, and I have been best friends since college. We even had a quick stint as roommates! When we set out to do a project together, we had no idea what we were going to do, but we knew it would be centered around community. We are both very big on community and bringing people together. 

Courtside is for the “social athlete,” what sports communities have you partnered with?

We’ve done a few big partnerships with companies like Wilson. We’ve also sponsored a few events for Racquet LA. We also host our own events! During the summer we did pickleball events and we plan to do more this year. We like to partner with smaller more localized community groups like Dance Church (this is a dance workout class, not an actual Church). 

How do you select the retailers Courtside goes in? 

There’s no selection process! When we first launched, we were way smaller and did small production runs. We were in 25 stores last year. We got connected to some retailers, like Monsoon Market, through Snaxshot.  

It’s been really cool to see how supportive these shops have been throughout our first year of launch and finding our footing. We’re also in some great shops in LA like Wine + Egg and Gjusta. We also recently launched in Foxtrot! But we’re mostly in these small shops, and they’ve been so supportive and helpful. I also love going to those shops and having that curated shopping experience.  Since community is at our core, we really develop close relationships with these shop owners that aren’t just based on business. 

What areas are you focused on building Courtside’s presence? 

We're primarily focused on SoCal and Seattle and a bit of Chicago and Texas. We aren’t taking any institutional funding; Courtside is completely self-funded and we really want to grow sustainability. We’re focused on slow, sustainable growth.We really care about building a company, a team, and a product. We’ve gotten a lot of advice from founders who told us to avoid VC funding if we can. We’re taking it day by day!

Given slow, sustainable growth, how do you think about the longevity of Courtside’s branding? 

Longevity is an interesting topic, especially when it comes to branding and honestly staying interesting. I did all the initial branding of the website and packaging. When I was creating the branding for Courtside, I really wanted to make sure that it was flexible and had a lot of room for play. You see big brands like Facebook rebranding every four to six years because preferences change in terms of style and aesthetics. With our branding, I wanted to create space for us to flex our creative muscles and keep things interesting. 

Courtside has a great video on its website. Did you direct that? 

I had all my best friends come together for that photo shoot. One friend did the art direction and photography for it. Another friend captured behind-the-scenes footage and video. All the models were also our friends. It was a really fun day of just hanging out and playing sports!

What are some of your favorite shops that carry Courtside? 

Besties Vegan Paradise in East Hollywood. When Austin and I were roommates, we lived around the corner from that store. We used to go in there to get snacks and buy all these great brands. It’s come full circle now that we’re stocked in there. Besties is also expanding, so it’s really cool to see how they’ve grown!

What advice would you give to someone who's like afraid or wants to get involved inthe community?

I used to be like this before I moved and became a founder. It’s definitely scary showing up somewhere for the first time when you don’t know anybody. It can feel weird, but it’s important to embrace being uncomfortable and keep showing up.  Showing up consistently is a big thing. It’s about getting comfortable in the space and the people you’re with. If it's a good environment, people will be friendly and welcoming. If they’re not welcoming, that’s not a community you want to be in so go seek out another one!  

Communities Ariel Recommends Checking Out: 

Courtside (obviously!) 

Venice Run Club

Dance Church