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Best friends launch recovery beverage startup

Growing up in St. Petersburg, Reggie Reed and Michael Morrison often dreamed of starting a business that would allow them to travel and enjoy life together.

After graduating from Lakewood High in 2008, the two went their separate ways but remained close. Morrison went on to play college basketball for George Mason University, and then professionally overseas. Reed started a successful roofing company, Reggie Reed Roofing, and served as director of recruitment for St. Petersburg College. In 2020, the Tampa Bay Business Journal named Reed as one of its 40 people under 40.

On June 24, Reed and Morrison’s childhood dream will become a reality as they launch LIV 21, a recovery drink crafted to replenish and rehydrate the body after a day or night of indulging in alcoholic beverages.

“We are specifically targeting those that like to drink,” said Reed. “We just want to make sure our consumers understand there is a product out there that they can take to make them bounce back the next day.”

According to the cofounders, LIV 21 provides more electrolytes than sports drinks in addition to a proprietary blend of DHM, milk thistle and taurine.

The concept for LIV 21 came to the pair in May 2019 as they traveled to Miami for their annual summer vacation. They stopped at a CVS to stock up on supplies for the trip when Morrison reminded Reed they needed Pedialyte to help them recover.

While Pedialyte was originally intended as an electrolyte-packed drink for children, it’s been a longstanding open secret that hungover adults have found the product beneficial. In recent years, the company has embraced the reputation with products marketed for that purpose.

Morrison said Reed came up with the idea to make their own drink solely to help consumers live up to their motto of “work hard, play hard.”

The two were confident in their concept and believed it would resonate with professionals that also like to have a good time, but soon realized they had a steep learning curve ahead of them when it came to formulating the beverage.

“Me and Michael, we’re like, ‘how do we make a drink?’” said Reed with a laugh. “Do we go to Publix and buy some ingredients?”

The co-founders began their research and enlisted manufacturers to help them create the drink. Reed said they spent about six months perfecting the formula, chock full of electrolytes and vitamins and infused with coconut water for rehydration.

LIV 21’s signature “culture blend” includes dihydromyricetin (DHM), an herbal, over-the-counter hangover remedy. A 2020 study by the University of Southern California found that DHM, sourced from the Japanese raisin tree, not only helps the body metabolize alcohol faster and eases headaches but also benefits the liver.

“We found it activates a cascade of mechanisms that erase alcohol from the body very quickly,” said Jin Liang, a research professor of clinical pharmacy and the study’s author.

Morrison noted that companies sell a powdered version of DHM that consumers then mix with water.

“We have more DMH than those companies also,” said Morrison. “That, on top of the electrolytes – it’s pretty hard for the product not to work.”

After graduating from Lakewood High School, Morrison played college basketball at George Mason University and professionally overseas.

LIV 21 also contains milk thistle, an antioxidant used to reduce inflammation and calm the stomach, and Taurine, an amino acid and energy booster found in drinks like Red Bull.

“We wanted to obviously make the product work – that was the number one priority,” said Reed. “And second, making sure it tastes better than anything else that’s on the market.”

Reed added that LIV 21 offers more electrolytes per serving than Pedialyte or Gatorade, and the coconut water provides potassium. Morrison noted that lemon berry is the first flavor available for the June 24 launch but said there are plans to create new flavors and products that he could not disclose yet.

The distinctive bottles, said Reed, are 14.5 ounces or 400 milliliters. The drinks will retail for $7.99, comparable to the price of Pedialyte at a local drugstore.

Reed explained that the pair chose to name their drink Liv 21 because it represents a significant age in everyone’s life. When someone is becoming an adult, they typically yearn for the day they are old enough to go out and drink with friends. Once their 21st birthday is a distant memory, most adults reflect wistfully on the fun they used to have and their ability to shrug off the aftereffects.

“My grandmother still likes to have her vodka, and she’s in her 80s,” said Reed. “So, it’s for everyone who likes to drink and wants to make sure they don’t lose the next day to recovery.”

Reed owns a successful roofing company, Reggie Reed Roofing, and also served as the director of recruitment for St. Petersburg College.

The co-founders bootstrapped the business for the last two and a half years, and Reed said that by the grace of God, he and Morrison had successful careers that enabled them to invest in their dream.

Reed said they brought in one partner to help from a financial standpoint, but the majority of LIV 21’s funding came from their savings accounts. The St. Petersburg Distillery is the sponsor for the official launch party (June 24, at LIT Cigar & Martini Lounge). The event, which is open to the public, begins at 8 p.m. at 908 N. Franklin St. in Tampa.

The duo has 10,000 units of LIV 21 on hand for both the launch party and sales through their website. Morrison noted they are also launching a Kickstarter campaign June 24.

“We have been funding it this far, but we want the support to kind of take us to the next level,” added Morrison.

Morrison explained that the business partners began as a couple of “not-so-cool kids.” He playfully recalled Reed not getting picked for pickup basketball after moving to St. Pete from New York and said he had to save him “from a life of loneliness.”

Reed credited Morrison for showing him the Floridian culture, which he called a blessing, but said he made his counterpart “a little bit cooler in the process.”

For any best friends also dreaming of starting a business together, Morrison said the brotherhood must always come first.

“If LIV 21 went away right now, me and Reggie would be fine,” said Morrison. “We did the business for the friendship, not the other way around.”

For more information on LIV 21, visit the website here.

 

 

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