Office Hours: Poppi Co-Founder Allison Ellsworth on Creating a Healthy Soda Alternative

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 75 companies and is incubating several more.

On today's episode of "Office Hours." we talk with Allison Ellsworth, co-founder of Poppi, a soda alternative that promotes gut health. Her company picked up distribution from Whole Foods and made a splash on ABC's “Shark Tank."

Ellsworth grew up in a family of entrepreneurs — her father worked in oil and started his own company; her grandparents and sister were entrepreneurs as well. She was familiar with risk, opportunity and the need to be tenacious in growing her business. She’d also seen her family members fail at one venture -- and get back on their feet.

"It's interesting to see those things where you see someone [who is] really, really successful fail – and then be successful again, and it gives a lot of hope,” Ellsworth told Office Hours host Spencer Rascoff. “You know, success can be scary -- but it doesn't have to be."

She added that both she and her husband left behind their jobs in the oil and gas industry to make a bet on their idea: a health-based soda alternative they initially intended to brand as Mother Beverage. This was Ellsworth’s brainchild; she suffers from a sensitive stomach and had been looking for a beverage that was good for her gut health.

She discovered apple cider vinegar, a 400-year-old tonic that helps with gut health, but Ellsworth felt it tasted awful. She started experimenting with new flavors, while staying focused on creating something healthy. FInally, with the help of friends and family, she landed on the right formula.

“It tasted amazing. And so we really feel like we cracked the code,” she said.

The real vote of confidence came when, after just three weeks testing out their idea at a booth in a farmer’s market, the two were approached by Whole Foods.

“[They] said, ‘this is fantastic. You guys have to be in Whole Foods’,” Ellsworth said.

The couple sought the help of friends and family to take their business to the next level.

"Mind you, we just bought a house. I was three months pregnant. I was convincing him: ‘Let's quit our job. This is how much I really believed in this’," said Ellsworth.

Two years later, their company had expanded into multiple grocery stores, and Ellsworth realized they needed additional investor funding to grow. The duo pitched their idea to investors on “Shark Tank” and landed a deal with marketing veteran and former Coca-Cola executive Rohan Oza.

With the help of Oza, the company renamed itself Poppi.

Launching right as the pandemic took hold, Poppi found success by creating a new category of healthy soda alternatives. Ellsworth added that if the company didn’t find its roots in Dallas, Texas, it might not be where it is today.

She added, "I've always said this and truly believe it: If we would have started anywhere else, I don't know if we'd be so successful because Texans love Texas products, and they rally and they get behind and they love local.”

Want to hear more episodes? Subscribe to Office Hours on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.


‘Completely Unacceptable’: Latino Founders Only Accounted for 2% of All Venture Funding Last Year

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Samson is also a proud member of the Transgender Journalists Association. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him

Image courtesy of Shutterstock
A coalition of Latino venture capitalists have hit out in response to new data indicating that Latino-founded startups continue to face difficulties raising money, and have called for investors to “commit to meaningfully moving the needle” to address inequities.
Read more Show less

As It Ramps Up in LA, Superpedestrian’s LINK Looks to Chart a Different Path for E-Scooters

Zac Estrada

Zac Estrada is a reporter covering transportation, technology and policy. A former reporter for The Verge and Jalopnik, his work has also appeared in Automobile Magazine, Autoweek, Pacific Standard, and BLAC Detroit. A native of Southern California, he is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston. You can find him on Twitter at @zacestrada.

Image courtesy of Superpedestrian

While the electric scooter market might appear flooded based on how many of the vehicles are scattered along sidewalks in major U.S. cities, there is yet another company on the block trying to make the case for alternative mobility solutions across the country, including here in Los Angeles.

Founded in Cambridge, Mass., in 2013, transportation robotics startup Superpedestrian launched its LINK e-scooter network in its hometown (which is also home to Harvard and MIT) in early 2020—just as the coronavirus pandemic put the brakes on demand for shared services like ride-sharing, bike-sharing and, of course, e-scooters.

Read more Show less

Snapchat Rolls Out Updates to Its AR Shopping Feature For Both Consumers and Brands

Molly Wright
Molly Wright is an intern for dot.LA. She previously edited the London School of Economics’ student newspaper in the United Kingdom, interned for The Hollywood Reporter and was the blogging editor for UCLA’s Daily Bruin.
Image from Shutterstock

Snap is upping its game when it comes to both augmented reality and ecommerce.

The Santa Monica-based social media giant has launched a series of updates to its Snapchat app’s AR shopping experience, including easier-to-use features for consumers and real-time analytics for brands and retail partners, as reported by Techcrunch and Adweek.

Read more Show less