Entrepreneur: Brian Pitzer

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Brian Pitzer's watching the people of Columbus.

How - or if - they embrace his caffeinated water, Avitae, will determine his marketing strategy when he takes the drink nationwide. Right now, things are looking good.

"It's selling so hard and so fast that we could put it anywhere in the country we wanted to," Pitzer said. "Some of the biggest retailers and distributors in the country [are asking for it], and we're having to say, 'Hang on, be patient with us, we want to do this right.'"

The bottled water, sold in four-packs at Kroger and other local convenience stores since June, contains the amount of caffeine you'd find in a cup of coffee or a diet soda but tastes no different than plain water.

Why here? Pitzer moved to Columbus 11 years ago to study at Ohio State, later settling down in the Marysville area and working in marketing.

Then, an everyday habit sparked an idea.

Pitzer doesn't like coffee, so he used to dissolve caffeine pills into Gatorade to get an energy boost. But drinking all that sugar went straight to his waist, and mixing the caffeine pills in water was just plain gross.

So Pitzer started asking: is it possible to add caffeine to water, and nothing else? No extra sugar, or flavors or colors?

"I would get a lot of resistance, a lot of, 'If it could have been done, someone would have done it,'" he said.

After he found a willing (and able) producer, Pitzer assembled a team that now works out of a Plain City office building with a giant man-made pond out front. He takes frequent breaks to relax and feed oyster crackers to the fish, but thinks it won't be too long before Avitae needs to relocate to larger quarters.

"I would imagine by the end of the summer, there should be another good half-dozen very large markets. And hopefully by the end of the year, we'll have a majority of the country canvassed," he said.

Pitzer never thought twice about launching his brand at the start of a recession, and is pumped he's been able to expand his staff. He cites Steve Jobs and Alexander Graham Bell - really, anyone who has an idea and keeps at it - among his role models.

"I like to think that we epitomize what the recovery should be about," Pitzer said.