When life handed Doug Toledo lemons, he made lemonade…Doug’s Lemonade that is.
After an injury sidelined him from playing division one soccer at Stony Brook, Doug parlayed advice from Stony Brook’s Small Business Development Center and developed an innovative three-ingredient recipe to open his business, Doug’s Lemonade.
Toledo’s business, however, is not the only thing he has on his plate. On top of his work creating Doug’s Lemonade, the School of Nursing alumnus works as an RN in the operating room of Stony Brook University Hospital.
Today, Doug’s Lemonade is available in 30 retailers across Long Island, including Whole Foods Market and Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I spent my whole life playing soccer. From 4 years old until I was 18, I traveled the country, competing in many tournaments, leagues, and eventually winning a national championship with Smithtown soccer club. I ended up getting a full scholarship to Stony Brook University to play men’s soccer but unfortunately I broke my foot in my freshman year and was forced to leave the sport in my sophomore year.
Once I finally had some free time, I started working for a photo booth company through a family friend who owned the business. I developed a huge interest in business when I realized how amazing it is to be your own boss and to make additional income for yourself on top of your primary job. In this case, the owner of this photo booth company was also a high school teacher. I thought to myself, why isn’t everyone doing this? Our economy is set up to allow small businesses, so why not start my own and make as much money as I want with the amount of work I put in? Technically, there is no cap on your salary when you have your own business so that spiked my interest the most.
So, why lemonade?
I chose to launch a bottled lemonade brand since many of the big companies that currently sell lemonade compromise their ingredients and add unnecessary flavors preservatives and additives. I wanted to create the simplest lemonade available, so I came up with Doug’s Lemonade and put it in a bottle. It’s made with only three ingredients: just lemon, blue agave, and water. I will be launching my sugar-free line next week, which will be made with lemon, Stevia, and water and will be 0 calories.
How did you navigate opening your own small business?
I basically used the Internet as a resource to discover all the information needed to start my own business. I reached out to several incubator kitchens who directed me to specific companies for packaging and labels. I searched online to find the best distributors for my ingredients that I currently buy in bulk as well.
The most important resource utilized during the growth of my company was the Small Business Development Center at Stony Brook. I teamed up with an advisor, Ree Wacket. She has been exceptional in answering any questions I have pertaining to my business and scaling it.
In addition to your work with Doug’s Lemonade, you’ve just started a new position in the Operating Room of Stony Brook University Hospital. How’s it going so far?
It’s going very well. I just assisted in four orthopedic surgeries: two total knee replacements and two hip replacements. What a great day!
At times it can be overwhelming trying to learn the names of all the equipment and instruments, but I love the challenge and I love working with the technology in the operating room. I think it is the most unique type of nursing and it fits my personality the best. I enjoy caring and advocating for patients in this highly-specialized environment.
How do you balance your career as a nurse with your business?
I work Monday through Friday from 7 pm to 3 pm, so in the evening hours during the week I make phone calls, send emails, and manage my company. On the weekends I try to find rest when I can! I’m in the process of hiring employees for various jobs to help offset some of the major labor involved with my company, which includes production and deliveries.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Wednesday is the busiest day of the week for me. I’ll wake up at about 5:30 am. I’ll get to the OR at Stony Brook Hospital around 6:30 am. I’ll work in several different surgeries throughout the day and get out at about 3 pm. Next I will go to the gym for an hour. Finally, I will go to the Stony Brook Incubator Kitchen in Calverton for a production run of lemonade from 5 pm to 11 pm. I make lemonade about one or two times per week.
So, what’s next for you?
I will continue growing as an RN in the operating room. As for my business, I plan to scale my company across Long Island and get into new supermarkets and stores. I also plan to find a distributor in the future that will carry my product and distribute my product to stores out of reach and off Long Island.
What advice would you give to a student looking to follow in your footsteps?
Sometimes it’s worth taking a risk and taking chances, especially while you are young. If you’re able to save up some money, try starting your own business if you have a great idea or passion. If you take this risk, make sure you have a backup plan.
Learn more about Doug’s Lemonade: