Slak­ing his thirst for a sales ca­reer

Dino Sarti built store bev­er­age dis­plays for Coca-Cola be­fore found­ing L.A. well­ness drink firm Aloe Gloe.

Los Angeles Times - - WORK LIFE - By Makeda Easter makeda.easter @la­times.com

The gig: Dino Sarti is the founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Aloe Gloe, a well­ness drink com­pany based in Los An­ge­les. Aloe Gloe is avail­able at re­tail­ers na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing Wal-Mart, 7-Eleven and Ama­zon.com. With 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the bev­er­age in­dus­try, the 43-year-old man­ages 19 em­ploy­ees and works out of a con­verted ware­house in the Arts Dis­trict. A rocky start: Nei­ther Sarti nor his fam­ily ex­pected him to end up where he is to­day. Raised in La Cres­centa, Sarti strug­gled after his par­ents di­vorced, fail­ing classes in eighth grade and find­ing him­self grouped with the “at-risk” stu­dents in high school.

“I got out of high school by the skin of my teeth,” he said.

After two years of com­mu­nity col­lege, Sarti was still un­sure of his ca­reer as­pi­ra­tions, so his fa­ther, an ER doc­tor, sug­gested that he quit school and go to work. For a year, Sarti worked as an or­derly mov­ing peo­ple (both alive and de­ceased) around the hos­pi­tal. See­ing the strat­i­fi­ca­tion of hos­pi­tal em­ploy­ees helped him un­der­stand the value of a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion and en­cour­aged him to ap­ply to USC.

“It still blows me away that I got into USC and grad­u­ated from USC and have a mas­ter’s de­gree,” Sarti said. “No­body saw that in the fu­ture for me when I was 17.” Find­ing a calling: He started off as a his­tory ma­jor, then switched to ac­count­ing, but Sarti didn’t find his calling un­til he trans­ferred into the busi­ness school to study mar­ket­ing. There, he met a men­tor, Jim El­lis, now dean of USC’s busi­ness school, who helped per­suade him to pur­sue a ca­reer in sales.

“I’m out­go­ing, em­pa­thetic, en­joy speak­ing, en­joy set­ting goals and achiev­ing them,” Sarti said. “I’ve got the tem­per­a­ment for a sales pro­fes­sion, and I never looked back.” A chance in­tern­ship: Armed with 20 re­sumes, Sarti at­tended a Fri­day job fair the sum­mer be­fore he grad­u­ated from col­lege. Like most stu­dents, he of­fered his re­sume to any com­pany he rec­og­nized.

“The one rea­son I’m in the bev­er­age busi­ness right now is be­cause Coke called me back first,” he said.

Sarti was im­me­di­ately put to work as a mer­chan­diser, work­ing to fill shelves with Coca-Cola bev­er­ages and build store dis­plays in East L.A. The work was man­ual — Sarti dressed in steel-toe boots, wore a work belt and car­ried a box cut­ter — and he of­ten left work cov­ered in soda.

“It was hon­est work, easy to un­der­stand and I felt like when I’d walked out of the store, I had done some­thing to im­prove it.” Blue col­lar/white col­lar: After his in­tern­ship, Co­caCola hired Sarti as a sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive. With his own Coca-Cola van, Sarti was re­spon­si­ble for 200 ac­counts, mainly con­ve­nience and liquor stores in West L.A.

Ev­ery day he drove a route, aim­ing to stop at more than 20 stores to net­work with shop own­ers and build bev­er­age dis­plays that en­ticed con­sumers. Sarti says some of his col­lege friends with jobs at con­sult­ing firms laughed at the na­ture of his work, but he moved quickly up the lad­der.

His next route had only 20 gro­cery stores and he man­aged sev­eral em­ploy­ees. “I was mak­ing $32,000 but I felt like I was mak­ing more,” he said. “If I have a blue-col­lar work ethic and a white-col­lar ed­u­ca­tion, I thought I could go places.” On-the-job haz­ards: Work­ing around stacks and stacks of heavy bev­er­ages comes with some risks. In an ef­fort to get pro­moted, Sarti re­calls try­ing to go above and be­yond to spruce up a Coca-Cola dis­play in a store that his su­per­vi­sor planned to visit.

While at­tempt­ing to move a huge stack of bev­er­ages, he took a spill — one that cost him four front teeth. He rushed to the emer­gency room be­fore he could fin­ish the dis­play and to this day is un­sure whether his su­per­vi­sor even vis­ited the store.

Sarti also fondly re­counts an­other mishap that left him cov­ered head to toe in dirt and soda on the same day he bought an en­gage­ment ring for his high school sweet­heart — and now wife of 18 years. Mov­ing on up: With more than eight years at Co­caCola un­der his belt, Sarti was ready to move on. “I would’ve been happy there un­til I re­tired had I not felt this burn­ing need to keep go­ing, and I had am­bi­tion,” he said.

He re­ceived an MBA from Pep­per­dine Univer­sity and be­gan work­ing for bev­er­age brands in­clud­ing Ice­landic Glacial, Zico co­conut wa­ter and Illy. En­trepreneurs in­clud­ing the cre­ators of Hon­est Tea, Fuze and Vi­ta­min Wa­ter in­spired him to ven­ture out on his own. Why well­ness: Sarti’s own jour­ney to health in­spired the cre­ation of Aloe Gloe. With a ca­reer in sales, Sarti be­gan to look the part. “I was the guy who showed up with a few ex­tra pounds, I knew my way around happy hour and a golf course,” he said.

In 2009, Sarti made a life change, de­vot­ing him­self to health­ful eat­ing and fit­ness, even­tu­ally los­ing 80 pounds. He has also com­pleted sev­eral triathlons.

When it came time to build his own brand, Sarti knew well­ness would play an im­por­tant role in the prod­uct’s cre­ation. He was in­ter­ested in aloe vera but no­ticed that many com­peti­tors loaded their prod­ucts with sugar, es­sen­tially eras­ing many of the health ben­e­fits of the plant.

As some­one who paid close at­ten­tion to prod­uct la­bels, Sarti set out to make a low-calo­rie drink, which he branded as wa­ter-based in­stead of a juice bev­er­age. Distribut­ing the prod­uct: Sarti be­gan work­ing on the Aloe Gloe con­cept in 2011 in­side his Sierra Madre garage, where he and busi­ness part­ner Danny Step­per worked next to a dryer.

When he first started, Sarti had to stock shelves with Aloe Gloe. Now he’s in awe of the na­tion­wide dis­tri­bu­tion process and all of the peo­ple in­volved along the way — the drink is shipped to a ware­house in down­town L.A., then to a ware­house in Downey, and from there to nu­mer­ous fa­cil­i­ties from which it’s de­liv­ered to stores.

“I get re­ally ex­cited when I walk into a store and I see it there,” Sarti said. “It’s got to be like hear­ing your own song on the ra­dio.” Ad­vice for oth­ers: Sud­denly, Sarti says, cliches are start­ing to res­onate. “The big­gest thing I would say to other peo­ple is don’t give up, keep show­ing up.”

Peo­ple make their own luck, he said. “If you don’t show up, you’ll never be able to have that lucky mo­ment .... You have to work hard to make your own op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Glenn Koenig Los An­ge­les Times

DINO SARTI man­ages 19 em­ploy­ees, work­ing out of a con­verted ware­house in L.A.’s Arts Dis­trict. Aloe Gloe is sold at stores na­tion­wide.

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