The first time Chris Verhoeven saw people lining up for his craft-brewed sodas was at the Sidney Night Market last summer.
“That was actually the first time I got really giddy,” he says. “Laura and I were just working away, serving soda, and I looked up and there was a line that J-ed around from our booth,” he says, shaping the line with his hands. “I looked at Laura and said, ‘Oh my God, we have a LINE RIGHT NOW!’”
The idea for Victoria Soda Works all started on a warm summer day when Chris found himself wishing there was a local soda-pop maker right here in Victoria. So he and his wife, Laura, started brewing small batches of soda pop for friends in their condo, then got serious, wrote a business plan and moved operations to a shared commercial kitchen. Nine months ago they moved into their own 1,000-square-foot space in Rock Bay, where they now produce handcrafted and bottled soda pop and seltzer for restaurants, food stores and, yes, the Sidney Night Market.
And business is hopping. Chris has already had calls from Vancouver restaurants who are ready to partner with the company, and is primed in 2017 to roll out the sodas across a broader geographic range with the backing of their new brewing and filling machines.
“This truly is the year to watch us,” he grins.
Q&A with Chris Verhoeven of Victoria Soda Works
What’s the biggest challenge you faced in starting your business?
In the last couple years, the biggest challenge we’ve had is keeping up with the demand. When we say handcrafted soda, every bottle is crafted by hand. It’s just keeping supply up to the demand — taking on new clients and knowing we can service them. We’re at the point now where we can take new clients and service them with our new soda machines.
What are you most proud of?
We didn’t have a budget to hire someone to do our logo and branding and design a bottle for us. We did it ourselves. I would watch YouTube videos for hours to learn how to do something I wanted to do, because I’m not a designer. At the end of all that work, all those things that we did ourselves, we came up with a product that looks great on the shelves, and people enjoy it.
Type of business: Maker of handcrafted, small-batch soda pop in 16 different flavours sweetened with cane sugar, plus a line of sugar-free seltzers.
Year founded: 2014
Owners/principals: Chris and Laura Verhoeven
What sets you apart? “All of our sodas are bottled in custom-made, reusable glass bottles. Victoria Soda Works bottles are shipped here once — and they stay here. They can be used upwards of 16 times before being recycled.”
This article is from the April/May 2017 issue of Douglas.