For those that don’t know me, I’m John deBary, the creator of Proteau. I am also the company’s CEO, owner, and (currently) sole employee. I’m writing today to share some news: I will be suspending the company’s operations at the end of the year and will stop taking orders on December 1, 2022.
The reason for this is simple: I’m about to run out of inventory and I lack the resources needed to produce more. Beverage companies are enormously expensive to get off the ground (and keep running) and our current revenue is insufficient to sustain the company’s ongoing operation.
The story of Proteau began in 2017 when I applied to a beverage accelerator program pitching a liquid that would one day become Rivington Spritz. With the help of the team there I developed the brand into a product line that included Ludlow Red (and plans for additional flavors), and —most crucially—secured venture capital funding from a strategic investor. With this help I was able to take recipes developed through months of tinkering in my kitchen and transform them into Proteau, one of the earliest entries in the high-end non-alcoholic drinks industry.
Proteau officially launched at a small gathering on a Lower East Side rooftop in September 2019. Due to technical difficulties with Rivington Spritz’s carbonation, only Ludlow Red was commercially available at the time. Following this initial launch my team and I went to work designing a custom bottle, sourcing bespoke botanical extractions and finalizing label designs ahead of a full-scale national launch in mid-2020.
In March of 2020, two days before Covid shut down New York City (and much of the country), my investor suddenly and without warning withdrew their support for the company. At that point the company had already paid for tens of thousands of bottles to be produced, so I decided to forge ahead undeterred. I was fortunate enough to have some trusted advisors and colleagues lend a hand, helping me to keep the company moving forward towards a launch while seeking additional funding.
I don’t know how many of you have tried to fundraise for a startup, but it is fucking hard. (Well, it was hard for me at least.) Cold calling, networking, even a crowdfunding campaign—I tried it all, but it wasn’t enough. Fortunately, our sales were good enough to keep the lights on for a few years, but our production runs are large and expensive, and the simple math of it is that I don’t have the cash (right now) to finance an additional production run.
Perhaps that will change in the near (or not-so-near) future, but for now, I need to say goodbye to Proteau. I’m extremely proud of what I was able to accomplish given extremely difficult circumstances. Tomorrow is my 40th birthday and I am considering this a gift to myself; I will be freeing myself to pursue the many other endeavors that have been keeping me busy these past few years. This includes a monthly drink series for Food52; a forthcoming cocktail book, Saved by the Bellini (& Other 90s-Inspired Cocktails); freelance writing; consulting; and serving as the Board President of Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, a nonprofit that I co-founded in 2018 that endeavors to improve the lives of hospitality workers across the country. You can find a lot of information about what I’m up to on my website johndebary.com, that I actually keep very up to date.
For now, I want to thank everyone for supporting the brand in whatever way you have. Our site, drinkproteau.com will continue to take orders until December 1, 2022, and after that, please find Proteau at our retail partners, the full list of you can see at drinkproteau.com.
Lots of love,