Atomic Fizz, a unique fusion of crème soda, citrus and the blood, sweat and tears of six 2015 graduates of Truman High School is flying off the shelves of the All Things Independence store on The Square and many local bars and restaurants.
The brainchild of the Truman grads is bottled at the Polly’s Pop facility located near The Square and proves the American dream is not only alive and well, but and cool and refreshing.
The group – president Tanner Masters, director of marketing Mark Driscoll, vice president Sam Heacock, CFO Mitchell Pritchard, head of inventory Antonio Johnson and partner Shawn Armour – were sitting around one evening this past summer throwing out business ideas.
“We came up with the idea of creating a soft drink,” said Driscoll, a sophomore at Metropolitan Community College-Blue River. “Antonio talked about a lemonade stand, and then, we starting talking about creating our own soda drink.”
They collected various syrups and flavors, including mint – which was quickly ruled as undrinkable – and sat in the Driscoll family kitchen until 3 a.m., trying to find the perfect combination.
“We were all ready to throw up, too much sugar – way too much sugar,” Masters quipped, “then, we came up with our drink – Atomic Fizz.”
They managed to put together the funds, overcoming an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign that netted just $40.
With each student putting in $300, and getting some additional funding from some compassionate friends and relatives - they are now bottling the tangy crème soda flavored soft drink at the Polly’s Pop Plant in Independence.
Before they quenched their thirst for a new business project, they did their homework – finding an American company that would sell glass bottles for 14 cents each. The first bottles they purchased made buying the drink cost prohibitive, as they had about $1.60 invested in each bottle of soda.
There was just one catch in buying the less expensive bottles, they had to buy 17,000.
“Have you ever seen 17,000 soda bottles?” asked Masters, who is attending the University of Central Missouri. “We had to purchase that many to get the lowest price. They were stacked so high – and looked like they were going to fall over at any minute.”
The group spent nights “guarding” the bottles at a downtown Kansas City location, hoping no vandals would come along and see a mountain of glass that was just begging to be toppled.
Then, one of their first big breaks happened when they met Randy and Delora Harbin of Funtastic Balloon Creations.
“They invited us to give out samples at their grand opening in June,” Masters said. “They were the start of our networking efforts and without them we wouldn't have been able to get this far. We want them to know how important their role was in all of this.”
Then, through some contacts with the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce, they were invited to sell their new drink at the Blue Springs Fall Fun Fest, Sept. 16-18.
They managed to get the bottles, print the patriotic red, white and blue label, secure American flag themed bottle caps and get their first batch of Atomic Fizz bubbling and ready to be delivered to the Fall Fun Fest with hours to spare.
“Literally hours; it was the most exciting and terrifying days of my life,” said Driscoll, looking skyward in a prayerful manner. “A lot of people told us we couldn’t do this – and we’re going to prove them wrong. We’re not only going to make this work, we’re going to be successful and hopefully serve as an inspiration for other high school kids who have been told they can’t do something.”
Masters, Driscoll and Co., who work out of an office in the Independence School District headquarters at 201 North Forest Ave., not only believe in the American Dream, they are the American Dream.
“I’ll never forget seeing the first bottle of Atomic Fizz,” Driscoll said. “That was great. But seeing the first bottles come off the assembly line at Polly’s Pop was one of the most amazing moments of my life.”
Now, they are looking for ways to promote their brand, get Atomic Fizz in more area restaurants like Brewers, Sebella’s Fire: Wood Fired Pizza and Ambrosi Bros. Cutlery, and get Ellen DeGeneres to invite them to her television talk show.
“We believe in the American Dream,” Driscoll said, “so why not dream big? We have the product, we have the ambition and we’ve already proved we’re willing to work hard. We were here past midnight the other night, just working on things, ideas. . .
“We all believe in this and we’re going to make it bigger and better than anyone could have ever dreamed of.”