CLEAN Cause Founder Wes Hurt on Sobriety, Coronavirus and Giving Back
The founder and CEO built a brand with purpose and it prepared him for a pandemic
By Aaron Parsley
Photographs courtesy of Wes Hurt
The coronavirus pandemic, the anxiety it causes and the isolation and social distancing prescribed to fight it are particularly dangerous to people struggling to stay sober. However, many in the addiction recovery community find they’re well equipped to handle the loss of control that comes with a global pandemic, in part because they’ve come to terms with powerlessness.
“In theory we couldn’t be more prepared because it’s familiar,” says Wes Hurt, founder and CEO of CLEAN Cause. “We couldn’t control alcohol. We couldn’t control drugs. We can’t control corona.”
Hurt, one of the seven unsung heroes profiled in Tribeza’s Summer Issue, started the energy drink brand in 2015 after achieving long-term sobriety following his own fight with addiction. “We reverse engineered it,” he says of founding the company. “We didn’t start with the product. We started with the purpose, then the model and then the product.”
That purpose is to “create a sustainable source of funding to combat addiction,” Hurt says. The model is a giveback program that uses 50 percent of profits to fund sober living scholarships. More than 1,200 addicts in early recovery have been given an opportunity to cross what Hurt calls the “bridge from rehab to reintegration.” Whether someone is coming out of a treatment facility, jail or off the streets and new to sobriety, there is a need to close the gap in the continuum of care.
“It gives you a period of grace in a safe environment to keep the momentum that you had just gained in that new renewed spirit of hope and inspiration that we all often have when we walk out of those places,” Hurt says of the benefits of sober living.
That brings us to the product: CLEAN Cause introduced zero-sugar, zero-calorie cans on April 1, adding Cherry Lime, Orange Ginger and Berry Mint flavors to its lineup of certified organic and non-GMO, Yerba Mate-caffeinated energy drinks that already included Blackberry, Peach, Raspberry and Lemon Lime.
Launching products amid a global pandemic was never part of Hurt’s plan. But addicts in recovery ask to accept the things they cannot change and for the courage to accept the things they can. So, Hurt did what he could to sell his products to fund his purpose to fulfill his mission.
He also found ways to support Austin during the period of isolation. Signs with hopeful messages like “This Too Shall Pass” and “Never Give Up” that encouraged people in need to email firstname.lastname@example.org popped up around town at the height of the pandemic crisis. It’s a low-tech version of Hurt’s usual efforts to create connections for a community that depends on it.
“If anyone out there is struggling with suicidal thoughts or addiction or wants to relapse,” Hurt says, “hit me up now.”