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A Prime moment – and the kid who nailed it

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The story of Prime, an international range of sports drinks initially selling for upwards of R800, began in South Africa with King David High School Linksfield pupil and successful “kidpreneur”, Daniel Krawitz, now 15.

This week, the launch of Prime Hydration for R39.99 at selected Checkers stores was a viral sensation, dominating social media feeds on 1 May, with people queuing for hours to buy a couple of bottles.

Yet, long before the Checkers deal came about, one teenager recognised the brand’s money-making potential. Forming part of Prime’s core target market, Krawitz, then 14, used his already considerable entrepreneurial prowess to investigate ways to bring Prime into South Africa last year. Immersed in a world where stars are born on YouTube and largely fuelled by their tween and teen followers, Krawitz was determined to tap into the opportunities their frequent brand-extensions offer.

Prime, launched by former boxing rivals and YouTube megastars, America’s Logan Paul and England’s KSI (Olajide Olayinka Williams “JJ” Olatunji) in early 2022, is the embodiment of this trend. A range of sports and energy drinks “where great taste meets function”, Prime has captured the hearts and minds of millions of children – and the wallets of their parents. By offering limited stock and tapping into the pair’s combined reach of more than 40 million YouTube subscribers and 100 million social media followers, Prime has become a hot commodity around the world.

“When Logan Paul and KSI launched Prime in January 2022, I just knew that if it was here, it would do amazingly well,” says Krawitz, a young entrepreneur who has been investing in the stock market since he was 12. “All my friends and people everywhere were talking about it.”

After months of research, Krawitz found an international supplier, and received his first order of just 12 bottles in September, which he swiftly sold to his friends at R150 a pop. “Initially, I used my Barmitzvah money to order, and then I reinvested my profits,” he says. “Everyone went crazy for it.” Ordering progressively larger batches of stock, he was soon supplying the likes of Spar, Tasko Sweets, and Takealot, and exporting to sweet shops in Mozambique and Zambia.

Attracting customers through TikTok, Instagram, and designing his own website, something he does professionally in another of his multiple businesses, Krawitz bought an additional phone specifically for Prime-related work. “I didn’t approach anyone, they all approached me,” he says. “People were messaging me constantly; I would have to put my phone in aeroplane mode so I could sleep.”

Krawitz knew that customers might initially not take him seriously. “I had to get my dad to answer the phone when these companies called me as I don’t sound like a successful businessman,” he says. “Then, when I’d meet them, I’d explain that it was my project. Most people were shocked but impressed.” When other suppliers entered the market charging excessive amounts, Krawitz also upped his rates, but remained below their price points, adding to his market appeal.

As the Checkers Prime Hydration deal loomed, Krawitz was contacted by KSI and Logan Paul’s lawyers and began to prepare for the inevitable. “I knew that I should just push it out as much as I could before it officially launched here,” he says. He’s now sold all his stock and is keeping just two bottles as a reminder of his journey. He has saved and invested his profits, and is now focusing on procuring what he anticipates will be the next YouTube product craze – chocolates called Feastables from YouTube phenomenon MrBeast (sic).

“I think Hashem plays a huge part in my success,” Krawitz says. “I also make my own opportunities. I don’t want to work a nine-to-five job, I want to build my own empire. I don’t think you have to wait until after school to start a business.”

Prime itself has given rise to multiple kidpreneurs, with kids from various demographics selling sips and even empty bottles at high prices. But now that Checkers has made the product more affordable, they may not be as successful. As the Prime craze swept Checkers stores across the country on Worker’s Day, with queues amassing outside from the early hours, even SA Jewish Report Chairperson Howard Sackstein was rendered powerless. “I have no idea what this is or why it’s so ridiculously expensive, but the little kid at #checkers told me I had to buy bottles,” he posted on Facebook.

Yet compared to initial price points, Checkers is bringing Prime Hydration in at what it calls “supermarket prices”. An eight-bottle limit per customer and gradual store rollout add to its skilled marketing strategy. “It’s strategic of Checkers as it’s using Prime as a way to get the younger market,” says Lori Weiner. The founder of agency Brand Influence, Weiner was charged with successfully creating a countrywide-social media buzz around the Checkers launch through the reach of 150 nano influencers – each with about 1 000 followers – who have Generation Z kids.

You’d be hard pressed to find a Gen Z parent who hasn’t been subject to months of what Cape Town-based tween mom Jenna Bloch calls “pester power”. Though she refused to give in to her 11-year-old son’s pleas when bottles cost hundreds of rands, she decided the Checkers launch was the ideal way for him and her less enthused daughter to finally be part of the hype.

“For me, it’s more a case of kids enjoying the experience of something amazing coming from overseas, like how we used to get excited about an upcoming music concert, standing in line to get tickets,” she says. “It’s the modern-day version of that, trying to get in to order on the Checkers Sixty60 app, and just being part of the hype.” Yet, Prime itself was an anti-climax, she says, and after one day, no single bottle in her home was finished.

Renowned investigative journalist and 702 talk-show host Mandy Wiener also hasn’t been immune to her nine-year-old son’s begging, admitting that she almost lost her resolve not to drop hundreds on the drink. “I had a moment of sanity, though, thanks to my husband,” she says. “As parents, we get torn between wanting to make our children happy and indulging them, and teaching them about values.”

Happily purchasing Prime after the price drop, she decided to make it a teachable moment about marketing. “I made a point of explaining to my son that the only reason he wants it is because of supply and demand. I’m not sure if he had a blind tasting, he’d like it more than any other drink. Checkers was very clever about seeing a gap in the market and making it accessible. Hopefully, he learns that if he’s clever about marketing, in the future he can also make money from it.”

Prime, however, has sparked health concerns. In contrast to Prime Energy, which has 200mg of caffeine per can and isn’t recommended for pregnant women or kids under the age of 18, Prime Hydration is caffeine free and available to all. Yet, it too has created waves because it contains artificial sweeteners and branched-chain amino acids that promote muscle growth but haven’t been adequately tested for children and pregnant women. Yet the craze continues, with legions of consumers clearly undeterred.

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