Two intrepid young Northern Virginians are making a splash with a big win: The mineral water brand they created has been picked up for distribution by Giant — 14 years after one of them worked for the grocery chain as a teen.
It was Susosu Water co-founder Nadia Lizarazu’s first job.
“As a child, I never really would have imagined that my journey would take me to where it is now,” Lizarazu says ahead of the June 1 launch of Susosu at Giant. “It’s particularly meaningful to me because Giant was the first job that I ever had, at 16.”
Lizarazu, now 30, worked at the Giant in Springfield Plaza.
“Everything is coming full circle because they were the first experience that I had working in the food and beverage industry, and just learning the industry through that,” she says.
Lizarazu migrated to the U.S. when she was a child. She says her family had some financial difficulties when she was growing up, which led to needing to find different ways to eat healthy foods.
“I did gain a passion for learning about nutrition and health,” Lizarazu says. “And that’s how we started Susosu Water. We saw a gap in the industry, where they were selling a lot of purified and distilled waters, which have no nutrients and minerals.”
In contrast, she says Susosu Water is all-natural mineral water piped up from 400 feet underground and infused with extra hydrogen. The hydrogen makes the water “better for hydration, going deep into your cells and reducing the free radicals in your body. So it acts as a potent antioxidant.”
Lizarazu credits co-founder Jheen Oh, 29, for coming up with the idea as well. The two went to John R. Lewis High School — then-Robert E. Lee High School — together.
Oh was born and raised in Fairfax County. His father, who is South Korean, brought the water back with him to the U.S. and introduced it to the budding entrepreneurs.
“We started doing research on the water,” Lizarazu says. “And then from there, we realized how important drinking the right water is.”
They started their Susosu (which translates to “hydrogen” in Korean) endeavor in 2018 and just celebrated the brand’s five-year anniversary in March. Before Giant, they were focused on e-commerce through their website and Amazon, though they did strategically partner with DC’s Union Kitchen.
Oh says they didn’t expect to get into Giant this early. The vice president of a local food and beverage accelerator shot them an email one morning explaining that Giant was reviewing waters. Did they want to be considered?
“It was just one random morning, and we’re just like, ‘Sure, why not,'” Oh says.
“We never really thought we were going to get into Giant, to be honest, because it’s a big box retailer and … at the time, we only had about 50 independent accounts, like smaller markets,” Oh says.
Even after Giant accepted them, Oh says they thought they were only going to be in maybe five locations — a small test run. So he emailed the buyer at Giant to ask where.
“And it turns out that we’re going to be in basically all the locations,” Oh says.
They went from preparing 15 boxes of the aluminum water pouches to over 100.
“It was amazing news,” he says.
The Giant launch will kick off at Lizarazu’s old stomping grounds in Springfield Plaza.
“I still go back and shop there all the time and see my old coworkers there,” she says. “They’ve seen me grow up throughout the years, going off to college, coming back. So it’s just very humbling and I’m very grateful for that.”
Lizarazu is also eager to represent her heritage.
“I am extremely proud to be a Latina,” she says. “And in the U.S., there’s about 6.5 (percent) of all businesses that are Latino-owned, an even half of that are owned by Latinas. So I’m very proud to represent that community as well.”
Susosu Water hits store shelves June 1.
Featured photo courtesy Nadia Lizarazu/Susosu Water
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