Waku with Nicolás Estrella feature #31 of Together Talks
Updated: Oct 25
"Together Talks" feature # 31: Waku presented by KLS, freight company
Some Background on Waku
Today's edition of "Together Talks" campaign, KLS had the opportunity to interview Nicolás Estrella, Co-Founder, of Waku. Waku is a Boston-based beverage brand creating delicious and nutritious wellness teas using 20+ herbs and flowers from the Andes Mountains of Ecuador. This blend of herbs has been consumed for centuries in the Andean region because of its digestive benefits and amazing taste.
As we keep evolving as human beings and due to the influence of technology and globalization, many cultural traditions are being lost and the bridge with the low-income population around the world keeps increasing. Waku is set on a mission to provide this low-income population of farmers in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador with access to a value-added market for their products. In addition to that, Waku products are based on ancestral traditions from this region which aims to preserve the cultural heritage from our indigenous communities while also preserving the cultivation of medicinal herbs that have been part of our diets for centuries. On the other hand, market-facing, the reason why these herbs have been cultivated and used for centuries is due to their medicinal properties. They contribute to the overall body well-being through their anti-inflammatory, digestive, and analgesic properties. As life continues to evolve, we are constantly under more pressure and stress –Waku can encourage consumers to live a more balanced life supporting their gut health while providing better opportunities to underrepresented communities in Ecuador.
Waku was founded in 2017 by Nicolás Estrella and Juan Giraldo. Previously the duo had started an E-Commerce business for courses in Latin America. While the company was successful, neither felt passionate about the project. The yearned for something that brought them meaning and purpose. The biggest goal for them was to create a company that could make an impact on society. And in order to do that they felt they needed to start the product here in the U.S. to scale it globally and make a presence. Nicolás did tell us they are grateful for learning so much about branding and marketing from this business that would benefit them down the road.
Juan was attending Babson Graduate School at the time. And in 2017 they began tinkering with ideas for the company they would soon create. During the summer of 2018, Juan was part of an incubator program at his school for start-up companies. This was the launching pad that Waku used. While the idea took nearly a year to formulate it was important to stay true to their initial goal, "make an impact". How did they set out to accomplish that?
Well the product they were about to launch was directly going to impact Ecuador. The product is manufactured and bottled in Ecuador and shipped stateside for distribution. That is in addition to using the local ingredients and farmers of Ecuador as well. Both gentleman realized that there was a growing desire for people to make health conscious choices including gut-health. They saw the opening and bet on themselves, the longevity of the product, and the impact they were building.
Waku was born.
The product is based on a tea that is very common in Ecuador. It is herbal and consumed for the health benefits. In Ecuador it is usually consumed with lemon and sugar. Nicolás told us it is equivalent to drinking iced tea here in the U.S., but with actual health benefits. Being committed to developing and growing a brand here but not losing sight of their mission is important to the company. As Nicolás told us, "We are able to represent the farmers, local community, we can give them sustained opportunities. It is important for us to not let this incredible product get lost over time. We've enjoyed it, past generations have enjoyed it, and we made it our mission to spread the importance."
What makes this product unique is it has 5G of pre-biotics in every serving. Again the duo wanted to pair the wonderful tasting tea and create a focus on gut-health. Often times beverages that focus on health benefits or specifically gut-health might lack quality or struggle to taste well. Nicolás and Juan knew that to get this product to where they wanted to go taste would be paramount. But they never questioned that because they had already experienced the flavor back in Ecuador.
Waku has grown to selling in over 150 stores in the Northeast region. Part of their success is attributed to their marketing efforts both organically and paid. Also Nicolás told us the ROI they have from field marketing has been beneficial as well. The company currently has 5 full time employees and 3 part-time. A big momentum swing considering what the company endured during the Pandemic.
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We asked Nicolás the biggest challenge the company had faced and he told us it was the period of the pandemic. They lost their biggest customer at that time and they had just imported FIVE containers of their product. To minimize the damage they had to start selling their product online. However, it was packaged for retail so we had to repackage the entire inventory to accommodate. It ultimately took them a year to sell through that product inventory! Once again they took a negative and turned it into a positive by taking this opportunity to learn about packaging, this process, and improving their brand.
He said that was the realest talk he had with Juan about closing the doors for good. "We had gone under maybe 4 or so times prior, but that was the first time where it felt real like this is it. Our thing is when we need to talk about something important we go for a drive to clear our heads. Juan was driving and I just remember telling him, I believe in this, I don't think we've reached our peak yet. If we had I'd call it quits, but let's give it six months and see if we can turn it around."
And with it the company has grown coming out of the pandemic. Early on the challenges were finding the right market fit for their product. Nicolás told us the main competition is bottled tea, but very few are offering what they are. On top of that, most of the common brands have in excess of 25G of sugar in a single bottle plus added sugar. Waku is able to easily differentiate. On top of differentiating they innovate and continuously improve the product.
In speaking with Nicolás, he told us that the company recently released its 10th version of the product. While the liquid formula and taste are unaltered, they continue to try and improve packaging and design. "It is important we listen to our customers and our audience. We take their feedback and implement what will better serve us. The main focus now is on presentation and packaging. We are looking to get our product into cans as well so we are doing our due diligence on that currently."
Nicolás believes it took the company about 4 years to find its market fit. By not scaling too fast and being selective about their strategic partnerships it has allowed them to grow with purpose. That led to Waku getting into Whole Foods. Nicolás told us it was the greatest moment of "appreciation". But the company isn't satisfied with getting their foot in the door, they want to kick it down. He shared with us the goal for 2023 is to become the best-selling tea on their shelf.
Culture and Impact
Waku means "together", which is why they chose it because they wanted a sense of community and togetherness. As Nicolás told us, "To build a brand it takes a tribe, well we have ours: Our team, the people, partners, farmers, copackers, retailers...but we are all on the same mission with Waku."
Nicolás told us his favorite aspect is creating new products and formulations. He is in charge of the R&D and creating a product and then getting the instant feedback from watching consumers try it is gratifying to him. Knowing the company is making a product that is innovative in the space and can provide real measurable benefits to the consumer is why they believe in Waku so strongly.
As Nicolás told us, "We are the first essentially iced tea product with NO added sugar AND 5G of prebiotic fiber. Some other companies introduced low sugar, but that is in the soda/pop category. We are trailblazing in the tea industry which is a $7B (billion with a B) industry. We are disrupting the industry and we are doing it for the good of the people and we are doing it Together."
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KLS wants to thank Nicolás Estrella of Waku for sharing with us for this week's "Together Talks". You can visit their website here to purchase their different products if you aren't in the northeast region! The company also has a newsletter on its website you can sign up for. Also stay informed with Waku from their social channels:
The company has been featured in a few publications recently, check out the articles below!
And the company has the first season of its podcast available on its website here!
Klimson Logistics Solutions - Waku with Nicolás Estrella feature #31 of Together Talks
*Klimson Logistics Solutions is an Industry Leading Customer Service 3PL. Our focus and commitment to our clients has us striving to be the BEST customer service 3PL for LTL, FTL, Reefer, and Drayage in the country. KLS, freight company, is a 3PL providing nationwide logistics solutions. KLS shipping services include: LTL freight, FTL freight, Reefer LTL freight, Reefer FTL freight, and Drayage. Klimson Logistics Solutions thanks you for viewing our marketing campaign "Together Talks" if you have any interest in being featured or questions regarding your freight operations please contact us today!
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We handle every shipment with the exact same process. It does not matter if you move one shipment a year or ten per day, you will receive the same level of customer service from us. When we started this company, we had one goal in mind, treat every shipment like it was our own. With our vast knowledge of the industry, we understood what a customer would want from a communication standpoint. We applied that process to be the standard here at KLS. Our reliability and being able to depend on our consistency is why we have such long-standing relationships with our clients.
Every shipment in our industry starts with a quote. We are firm believers that time is money, thus we strive to have quotes back in a 5-10 minute reply time for LTL and FTL, any FCL quotes are at the mercy of the carriers getting back to us. For LTL we have the flexibility to quote both off of NMFC and also Density depending on the carrier. Utilizing our services, you’re allowing us to use our expertise to class your freight accordingly to ensure we are providing the best rate we possibly can.
Once a quote has been submitted and a client chooses to proceed with KLS handling the arrangement of the shipment our full process begins. We create the BOL that will be used for the shipment. If it is a new location for our system, we will obtain all the important/special details (reference numbers, contact details, shipping hours, closed for lunch, dock/doors, etc.). We meticulously build every detail into our software for all future shipments involving that location. After we have both locations built and necessary reference numbers have been applied we will tender the shipment to the carrier. We use this method because it provides us a real time pickup number from the carrier to obtain updates prior to pickup. Our staff will either email the BOL directly to you or to the shipper (at your request) the minute after the tender has been accepted by the carrier. LTL carriers require a 2 hour window prior to close time in order to schedule it for a same-day pickup attempt.
The following morning you’ll receive an email from us. It will either provide the reason the pickup was missed (driver’s trailer filled up, driver missed the close time, truck broke down, shipper said no freight, etc.) or if the pickup was successful you will receive the PRO (tracking) number from us, along with the eta for delivery. Our staff will track it throughout the duration of transit and advise if anything happens that will alter the estimated delivery date. The day the shipment delivers we will email you with confirmation and the POD (Proof of Delivery), should you require it.
Your shipment has been quoted, scheduled, picked up, and delivered. The next step is waiting for the carrier to invoice us and make sure the rate matches up. If it does, we close out the invoice from the carrier in our system and automatically your invoice is created and sent to the requested party at your company. In the event the carrier has an additional charge on their invoice “Variance”, we will never send you an invoice with an additional charge without first identifying you of the charge.
Let us repeat, NEVER WILL WE JUST BILL OUT AN EXTRA CHARGE WITHOUT YOU BEING NOTIFIED.
You are our customer, we represent you. Should the carrier provide an extra charge on an invoice, “Lift gate, additional weight, reclass, detention, etc.) We notify you of the charge via email first. Second, within that email we identify what is required should you choose to dispute the charge. Again our goal is to honor your request, if you want to dispute, we will dispute. During a dispute we will provide you updates every step along the way. Once a dispute is closed out, whether it is approved or rejected, then we will invoice you as the invoice has been resolved.
For reference, our company only had 6.2% of all shipments go to dispute in 2022 and we successfully won 91% of those disputes on behalf of our customers.
This is our process for every single shipment you move with us. We don’t cut corners, we don’t hide from difficult situations. We believe in being available, honest, and transparent. We don’t ever want to tell you that a shipment is lost, damaged, misrouted, but it is our duty to notify you the second we find out something has gone wrong. We hate to present bad news, but it is part of the job. What you can guarantee is that we will work a shipment all the way through and turn over every stone until we get a resolution for our clients.
Our core business is LTL and FTL. Within these options we have options for both dry and refrigerated/frozen. We also offer FCL/Drayage options. Our company as a 3PL has nationwide options and services clients across the US.
Let’s breakdown our services more in-depth
LTL: Standard and Guaranteed CFS (Imports & Exports) Tradeshows Hazmat Anything that is on a pallet can be moved LTL. Typically LTL is up to 10 pallets, but the sweet spot for a carrier is 6-8 pallets at most for an individual shipment. LTL quotes are good between 5-30 days depending on the carrier. LTL can be quoted either via NMFC or density to determine the class (we do this for you).
Volume: Anything over 10-12’ of space in the truck is the technical rule for a volume shipment. When we run a quote for you we will determine if it qualifies for volume and provide you a rate if available. Volume moves allow you to get a reduced rate for larger shipments. The caveat to volume shipments it the quotes are only valid for 3-7 days and they move on capacity between terminals. If a terminal is backed up they will move their LTL freight first before the volume freight, which can lead to longer transit times for volume moves.
FTL/Dedicated/Expedited: 53’ Dry and Reefer 26’ Box trucks with lift gate Sprinter Van The main difference for FTL vs LTL is space and transit time. For standard pallets you can fit either 26 or 30 pallets in a 53’ dry van. The other main difference is transit time, for FTL each day counts in the transit time, whereas LTL does not count the day of pickup, weekends, or holidays in their transit time.
Reefer/Frozen: LTL and FTL We specialize working in the CPG space with food manufacturers. We regularly deliver to the following locations: Kehe UNFI Core Mark DPI Wegmans Cugini H.T. Hackney Netrition HEB ALDI Chambers and Owens EBY Brown Nassau Candy Harris Teeter Wakefern NU INC Long Distribution
What makes KLS different?
There are thousands for freight brokers and 3PL in our industry. Barrier to entry is rather easy and agents or owners will often hire sales people without any intention of properly training them. It results in high turnover for many freight companies and a forgettable experience for the client. We choose to operate differently through our consistency. We truly care about doing right by our clients and prospects too. While we would love to help provide our services to every company we speak with, that just isn’t realistic. We won’t always be the right fit for every company that moves freight and that is ok. Our authenticity as a shipping company sets us apart from the competition and that is backed up by our testimonials. We also run a marketing campaign bi-weekly called “Together Talks”. We interview, highlight, and promote two businesses every week. Our goal is to grow our network, make new connections, and learn something new with each collaboration. Check it out on our website and if you’re interested in being featured reach out.
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