In 2016, a Houston barbershop owner asked Exotic Pop founder Charleston Wilson to bring back some sodas only available in Louisiana, where Wilson attended college.
The sodas were in demand thanks to the Screwed Up Click, a Houston hip-hop collective, and the barber could easily sell them at a markup.
But one day…
… Wilson returned, his ‘99 Camry crammed with soda, and the barber didn’t want them. So, Wilson made an Instagram account — @ExoticPop — to offload them. Eventually, it exploded on social media.
- Rappers Paul Wall and Drake tagged the brand
- In 2019, a vending machine collab with Travis Scott went viral
“At first it was a slow start. People didn’t want to pay $3-$6 for a 99-cent soda,” Wilson told The Hustle. “But as soon as it became a status [symbol] and was bounced off these major influencers, it was an American love story.”
… Exotic Pop sells dozens of sodas, including collabs with musicians like Soulja Boy, DJ Screw, and Too Short. They sell for $5-$50, online and in retailers nationwide, and are considered exclusive collectibles. In 2021, Exotic Pop claimed $6m in profits.
For Wilson, it’s crucial to reinvest that money in his business and community.
So far, that’s included a covid rental relief program, free swimming lessons for kids, and life skills workshops in Houston. Next up, Exotic Pop will build a bottle facility in Texas and expand its line of original flavors.
BTW: It’s not just soda — people will pay a premium for rare cereals, like WWE’s Booty O’s.
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