Wes Hurt Comes Clean
New premium water promotes sobriety
Hey Cupcake! founder Wes Hurt will be the first guy to admit he's an entrepreneurial ideas man who prefers the excitement of start-ups to the day-to-day operation of a business. That's one of the main reasons he turned over the running of one of Austin's most recognizable trailer food brands to investment fund manager Frank Drew in 2013, later selling Drew 78% of the prosperous company in the summer of 2014. The more pressing reason was that by that time, Hurt's longtime indulgence in alcohol, pot, and prescription drugs had blossomed into full-blown addiction, taking over his life. "I knew Frank Drew was the perfect guy to take the business to another level of success, and I was in no shape to run anything at that point," Hurt admits ruefully. That moment of clarity saved his business, but things had to get much worse before he saved himself.
Looking back over his personal road to hell, Hurt describes himself as the guy who always elevated the party, drinking and smoking pot since his teens. For years he somehow always managed to dodge the bullet, getting out of a DWI and blowing through six stints in rehab without ever getting well. Having a ready supply of cash from the successful cupcake trailers made it easier to finance the move from hard partying to more serious indulgences. When things were at their worst last year, Hurt recalls, "Everyone had cut me off. My wife Sheila didn't want me at home. I was staying in the office of a crummy industrial warehouse in Northeast Austin where I went from taking two to three Vicodin a day to 35 a day, in addition to smoking crack. I'd always prided myself on not doing heroin, but that was the next stop. Then one day I felt my heart beating differently, and it finally dawned on me I was killing myself."
Nine months ago, Hurt began the arduous process of getting sober, working a 12-step program, rebuilding his relationships, and embarking on a new career. His new enterprise is Clean Cause, a company that sells premium purified still water and sparkling mineral water, while providing jobs for people in recovery, and donating 50% of its profits to support drug and alcohol addiction recovery programs. "I'd been searching for a purpose, so some kind of good could come of my recovery. When I came up with the name Clean Cause, I knew I wanted it to be a healthy lifestyle brand, but we needed a product as our entrée into the market," Hurt says. Turns out water is a natural fit for promoting sobriety.
The premium purified water in the Clean Cause bottles comes from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer outside Elgin, and it debuted in Central Markets last week. Getting the sparkling mineral water just right has turned out to be a bit more of a challenge. "Topo Chico is the top sparkling water in this market, so that's the quality I'm shooting for, but the process takes a certain kind of machinery. We launched a Kickstarter campaign on April 20 to raise money for the equipment," Hurt reports. The "Kickstart a Clean Start" campaign video shares more information about Clean Cause, and Hurt is hopeful it will attract some investment, but also start some conversations about recovery. "I'm not trying to create the impression that I've got all the answers or some kind of solution," Hurt admits. "I'm just hoping this company and this product will get people talking about sobriety."