Connor Saeli Dishes On The Bachelor Franchise & His Business Waterboy - Exclusive Interview

So many of us have watched reality dating shows and have thought to ourselves, "I should really do something like that." Of course, no TV franchise has quite a hold on reality TV fans' hearts than "The Bachelor."

Connor Saeli was one such viewer who looked at the franchise and thought it could be a fruitful venture. His older sister of four years was a fan of the show dating way back to its early days, and after watching Ben Higgins' season of "The Bachelor," Connor thought it might be worth a shot. Debuting on "The Bachelorette" during Hannah Brown's season, Connor quickly grabbed fans' attention with his lovable charm and dashing looks. A stint on "Bachelor in Paradise" later, Connor is opening up about his time on the show, where he thinks the franchise is headed, and his new business Waterboy. Here's everything he said during an exclusive interview with The List.

Connor Saeli dishes about his new business

So you mentioned a little bit your company. It's called Waterboy. I know you're in what seems like a transitional point. So tell me a little bit about that.

Yes. So I met my friend Mike a little over a year ago and he lived in Austin, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next with my life. And I knew I loved doing entrepreneurial business stuff. And Mike had this idea for essentially a hangover hydration product. And really, it evolved from that working on it initially as just a general hydration product to more of a hangover product. And essentially when you look at like Liquid I.V. which are the really popular brands right now, they're loaded with sugar. And so I think a lot of people don't realize when you buy Liquid I.V., essentially 70% of what you're buying is just straight sugar and you really don't need that for hydration. Obviously it can help with taste great, but you don't need it.

And so we took a different approach, essentially — no sugar, more electrolytes than any other product on the market, a bunch of really good ingredients for hangovers or just general life issues. But we took that approach and we started marketing it on TikTok before we even had a product on a business account with no followers or anything. I wasn't even in any of the [videos] as this was all Mike. And a bunch of the videos just started going viral and we ended up doing a presale at the end of May, and we sold out all the inventory that we were going to make in about 30 minutes.

Oh my God.

So it was super exciting before we even had products to know that there was a lot of interest in it and it proved it out a little bit. And since then, we officially shipped stuff out in June, and this whole time we've just been working in coffee shops and stuff. So it is just funny how this brand has just evolved into how it's getting fairly big, which is exciting. But it evolved from just working in a coffee shop to what it is now. And then in August, we relaunched because it took us a month to make more and then there was still tons of excitement, had some more videos go viral. And it's just kind of grown since then and now we have two more flavors.

In two weeks, we'll probably have two additional products as well. So that's pretty exciting. And we went out to LA for a little bit to see if maybe that would be a good spot for us to set up shop. There's a lot of good people to come connect out there in terms of the business consumer packaged goods industry, a lot of influencers, social media people that we'd want to work with, and we enjoyed it. But I think what we realized is a lot of what we want to do is just create our own content, and we can really do that anywhere. And Austin seemed to be a really good spot to be. Mike has lived here for a while, I lived here for a little bit and so we're used to it.

And so now, like you said, we're getting into that transitional phase of getting an office, going to start building out more of a team of people to help us with it. And so it's exciting. It's something I'd always dreamed of starting a business and hopefully turning it into a successful thing. And I feel like when I was younger, had all these like business ideas, tried to start some of them or whatever. None of them really ever worked out, but it's cool to actually, like, do it. And it's finally, like, working. So it's crazy how it's come full circle and that dream is starting to finally be realized.

Where do things stand with his business now?

Definitely. And it seems like you had a very from-the-ground-up experience with this and [you were] very much coming into like this new [professional venture] in a pandemic. What was that like? Was it daunting? Were you guys at all anxious? ... What was that like?

Yes. I think there's always a little bit of concern, especially with the pandemic and everything and what is going to happen when you launch this. And so I did have a gummy vitamin business that I launched right after I was on "The Bachelorette." And we officially launched, it was March 3, 2020, which was like –


 – literally the day before COVID started. And so I remember I was super pumped to launch that thing and we launched and then the pandemic happened, and I think for a month or so people were very cautious of spending. There was a lot of fear and everything. And so, we were all locked in and didn't want to spend any money. And then as people started learning more about health and were becoming more health-conscious, I think a lot of people wanted to invest in their health and it ended up actually working out fairly well for me. And people started buying. It was cool to be able to provide products for people that really helped during that time too.

So I think having had that experience of starting that, having it work out, it just made me realize a lot of the health and wellness supplements, it's something that people are always going to want to have, regardless of what the time is. And so we just knew there was so much interest in all these other hydration products in particular. And there was a big gap in the market with sugar free, maybe better-for-you products versus what already exists. And I think there's really only one brand that really had taken over the sugar-free part of it. And so we felt that there was a lot of space in it to maybe educate customers and just show them that there were other options and also make more functional targeted products versus just a product that's great for hydration for every situation.

Right. You're narrowing in on a specific area.

So like right now we're zeroing in on the hangover side, but then we're also coming out with more of an athletic-focused one, so if you're working out or running, whatever that is. And then we have some other different areas we want to target as well. And so I think having that approach, knowing that we wanted to target specific things, health and wellness stuff always does well. I think with some other things too, we knew that we had a really good opportunity and product. It was just marketing [in] the right way.

This is how Connor's company is connecting with customers

Yes, especially right now because, like you said, TikTok has taken everything into a new area, it seems like. Like musicians are taking over on TikTok, products are taking over on TikTok. It's such a direct-to-consumer way of doing things, which is ... Even Instagram can't even really do that in the same capacity, it seems like.

Yes. I feel like Instagram used to be really good at that stuff, I feel like when it first started. But now it's just so flooded with influencers posting stuff. And I'm one of those people myself. I hate myself for doing that to be honest, but I think TikTok, to me, just seems more relatable to a lot of people and –

Yes, it seems it's far more organic.

Yes. And I think that's why it does so well for businesses. And I don't want to give away too much of our strategy because I don't want any of these other brands stealing it from us. But I think what a lot of brands struggle with is they take the Instagram aesthetic and everything and try and put that on TikTok, and I don't think that does well. And I think what we've done a really good job at is I think our brand essentially is like a person. And so we want people to view us as like, "Oh, that's a cool person. I'd love to get a drink with them at a bar" type of thing. We're friendly, we're approachable. And in all of our videos, it's super low production. It's just us making a video with the camera, and we're not taking these incredible videos or anything. Yeah. And I think people just like that and they relate to it more. And I think that shines through when it comes to actually purchasing products and supporting the business.

Definitely. I feel like the pandemic has just changed everything. I feel like people are craving that feeling of more of an authentic connection to what it is that they're purchasing or just engaging with on a daily basis. And I know for myself, I've really missed that one-on-one kind of interaction with people. And also I know a lot of people [who are] really mindful, it seems like, of where they're purchasing products from now.

For sure. And I think too, people are more inclined to support a small business versus –


 – a giant corporation. And what we've tried to do is show the behind the scenes, the business, shipping out orders, the process of making the product, everything, and our thoughts and putting together these products, how we made them. And I think when people see that, they just feel more connected to it. It feels more of like a small business, even though it's growing into hopefully a big one. But I think if we keep doing what we're doing now, it'll always have that feel of a small business, which I think people just appreciate and are more inclined to support and get behind the mission.

Connor's ambitions have allowed him to give back

Definitely. And I know that the product is made in the United States. Were there any other more ethical sides of the business that you were like, we want to include this in our business model [and] our practices?

So I think in terms of stuff we want to support, that's always been something that's very important to me in terms of having a component of giving back. And that's something I did with my last business. We gave a portion to, I think it was, No Kid Hungry. And then also the children's hospital in Dallas.


So I love doing that. I think we're trying to find what causes we want to support in terms of that side, but all of our ingredients and everything, we put a lot of thought and effort into sourcing them from good sources and everything. And they're all non-GMO and all that good stuff. I feel like nowadays, almost to compete, you need to have good ingredients, a clean label and every thing. But I will say that the first, we've put a lot of effort into making our label as clean as possible just in terms of the ingredient profile. And our first product that we launched in June that we shipped out that had like an artificial sweetener, but we were using it mostly to help the salt and electrolytes mix because it helps with that. It helps it dissolve into the water.

And what we realized is that we really didn't need it. And so in our version two that we launched in August, we ended up removing that. And so, essentially it's a very clean label, which we love, I love. And it's one of those things like I wouldn't want to sell a product too, that I wouldn't put in my own body. And if you ask a lot of my friends, I'm the annoying guy that looks at every label and I'm asking the waiters and waitresses at restaurants for whatever things. And so I'm really conscious about that stuff myself and I take this product every morning, so it's definitely a good one.

Yes. And that only makes you a better at our business owner as well, because you can authentically talk about your product

For sure. And that's been my thing since the beginning, just with starting businesses. And this is why I love the gummy business that I did in the beginning is just because I was solving a problem in my own life. I think that's where the best ideas come from is look at your own life. What problems do you have? How can you solve them? What can help? And more than likely, either something exists for it or it doesn't, and that's a great business opportunity.

Yes, I have the same approach with my work as well, as an editor. I think, well, what stories do I want to read? When I think about, in that sense of, well, what am I wanting to consume on a media basis?

Yes, for sure.

It makes it seems like a far more authentic way of going about it.

Yes, absolutely. And then I think it makes it more fun when you are able to get those stories and stuff too.

Why Connor finds The Bachelorette a little 'traumatic' to watch

Okay. I've got to talk to you about "The Bachelor" because –

Let's do it.

 – I want to pick your brain about it. I'm going to talk to a couple of "Bachelor" people. I'm trying to think. The last person I talked to was Abigail [Heringer] from Matt [James]' season, who's –

Oh yes, yes.

So I've watched every season for literally ever, all the way back to like, I think the first season I ever watched of "The Bachelor" was JoJo [Fletcher]'s season. So that was a while ago. But it seems in the last year, so much has happened, the whole Chris Harrison drama, Matt's season, just wild.

I know; it's been crazy. And I feel like there's been so many seasons too.

I know.

Well, I feel like last year were there four?

Well, there was just so much switch because it was Clare [Crawley] and then she quit halfway through and got engaged to Dale [Moss] and then they brought in Tayshia [Adams] and ... And then there was ... Oh gosh, there was Katie [Thurston] and then Michelle [Young]. There's been so –

And ... it was "Paradise" in between that too?

"Paradise" was in between that. Just crazy. So let's go all the way back. So Matt's season, the Chris Harrison drama, where do you fall on how all that went down?

Yes. So interestingly enough, there's a weird thing when you go on the show, maybe this is just me, but I almost find it traumatic to watch it.

I was going to ask, what's it like? Have you watch yourself on TV?

So I had to watch it alone sitting in my bed because I couldn't bear to watch it with anybody else. And so even now it's one of those things where I don't even like to watch it, I guess, even with other people. And if I do watch it, I just want to be alone.

Like secondhand embarrassment.

Yes. And my parents love it now. And so when I was home for Christmas, they were trying to watch it. And I think I just went to the other room.

Oh my God. No.

Yes. The Chris Harrison stuff, that's tough. I didn't follow it too closely because I ... So I didn't watch it basically after Peter [Weber]'s season. I think I watched one episode of Clare when her and Dale got engaged, which was fascinating. And then I just started watching this season. So I've seen the two episodes for this season. But besides here or there maybe a couple little snippets and stuff and obviously being in the whole "Bachelor" world, you'll see on Instagram different things that are happening. But I will say, I do think just from watching the last two episodes, I do think Jesse [Palmer's] a pretty good host. I feel like he has a good presence and everything.

What does Connor Saeli think about The Bachelor's host drama?

I think [Jesse Palmer] going through the process himself, I'm sure only helps.

Yes. I just feel like he's got a good hosting voice and everything. I feel like if he is the permanent host, I think he will do a pretty good job. I didn't really see Kaitlyn [Bristowe] and Tayshia host. I know some people liked them, some people didn't, but I do like Jesse. Do you like Jesse?

I do. And I really liked Kaitlyn and Tayshia. I thought they did a really good job, especially in the realm of "The Bachelorette," because obviously they've both gone through that process as well, which I feel like only adds a layer of relatability –

For sure.

 – to it. And I'm sure with the lead as well, they can chat and bounce ideas off of each other. It seems like it's just such a unique experience to go through.

So question for you do you think that ... So obviously it's probably a sore subject for Tayshia, but it didn't necessarily work out with her and Zach [Clark]. I think for Jesse, it didn't work out for him. I think he's with a different ... He's married to someone else. And then it did work out with Kaitlyn, but not with the person that she chose. So do you think maybe there's more value in having the host be someone like a Sean Lowe or someone who it actually worked out for them?

Yes. As far as "The Bachelor' goes, Sean's the only person who's married to the person he proposed to in the finale, which is wild. And I'm thinking on "The Bachelorette." So JoJo and Jordan [Rodgers] are together, Rachel [Lindsay] and Bryan [Abasolo] are together still. I'm trying to think now. I'm recalling who ... Because Zach and Tayshia are no longer together. Kaitlyn got engaged to Shawn [Booth]. They were together for a long time. They were together for like three years and I think everyone thought they were going to make it and they didn't. Gosh, who else?

I want to say, is Desiree [Hartsock] ... That was a while ago.

Oh, that was a while ago.

I think he might be. Yes, I guess it's a small pool to choose from.

It's a small pool. In my personal opinion, I think that "Bachelor in Paradise" has a better track record of bringing people together who could potentially be more compatible because there's a lot of options. And I think on a success level, "Bachelor in Paradise" has seen a number of couples that have gotten together and stayed together. So I don't know. I think that there's a lot of opportunity for the "Bachelor" franchise to redefine itself, especially after everything with Chris Harrison and Matt's season went down the way that it did. So I think we're in that new realm of seeing where they're going to go.

Yes. It seems like they're in a bit of a limbo.

A little bit, yes.

Like trying to find their identity a little bit. But yes, I don't know. I do think it would be cool to almost have a couple host the show. I think it creates a cool dynamic of like, if you had a Sean-and-Catherine-type situation.

How did Connor come to star on The Bachelorette?

Rachel and Bryan would be good.

Yes, Rachel and Bryan, where you could have like Sean could talk to the Bachelor and then Catherine could hang out with the girls [and] talk. I think that would create a really cool dynamic where you could get their perspectives from their relationship and things to look for and stuff. So I would like that. One thing I will say on "Paradise" is I did not like that they had all these random guest hosts.

In the last season? Yes.

Yes. I feel like it almost made it more of a comedy show or just ... I don't know, no offense to any of those hosts, but I don't know ... Why is Lil Jon [a] host in the "Bachelor in Paradise"? And I feel like they didn't even do anything too. They ... just appeared.

Wells was definitely steering the ship.

Yes, which just confuses me. It's like, why not just make him the host. But I feel like it took away from what the show's actually about. And I feel like that's where they're struggling a little bit now. I was talking to some people about this the other day, but I feel like I used to ... My sister she's four years older than me. And so when I was younger, she loved the show. She would watch it and I would watch it with her. I remember watching Ben Higgins' season and JoJo's season. And I was like, "Wow, this seems like such a fairy tale. It just seems so like real to me." But now when I watch it, maybe part of it is because I've been on it.

You've seen it from the other side.

Yes. So there's a different perspective now, but I feel like when I watch it, it's like I just don't believe in the story anymore. And I don't know what the reason for that is, but I feel like you can see that's why a lot of viewership has gone down a lot over the last couple of years. And I think it's just ... I don't know what the reason is, but it seems like very predictable sometimes, like what's going to happen. There's always the person, there's always –

The villain.

There's the virgin, the villain, the ... Everyone talks about how they don't get enough time the first night. It's just the same stuff. I don't know what it is. It's tough to find different things to do.

Connor has some thoughts about the franchise's direction

Well, and it's interesting as well, because I've been watching the seasons forever and I watched Matt's season and then, of course, was scrolling through TikTok as everyone does. And some of Matt's TikToks started coming up, and he had a whole series where he put charcuterie boards together –

Oh yes, I saw that.

But they were like uncrustable, peanut butter [and] jelly [sandwiches] and Dino nuggets. And I was scrolling through comments and people were like, well, where was this personality on screen? And it seems like there's definitely some disconnect happening.

And I think the tough thing too ... I know when the show first started, they would pick random people to be the Bachelor. It would just be a totally unknown person. And I think maybe there was more of like — because social media wasn't really around. So I think people were maybe more curious to tune in and see who that person was. But I feel like now obviously, like some people knew who Matt was because of Tyler [Cameron]. And then even with Clayton [Echard], no one really saw him on Michelle's season that much. I don't know anything about the guy. And then other people too that have become the lead lately, I feel like people don't know much about them. And I feel like it's just hard because the show is less about who the lead is and more about the contestants.

Like that's where all the excitement and drama comes from and everything. And I think with people not knowing the lead that well, I think it's just confusing because you don't really understand the love story as much. And I think they've tried to take a different approach in terms of just having more drama and everything versus focusing on the love story. And I think you can do that every once in a while the season, but having that season after season, I just don't think it works. And so I think they need to get back to focusing on the love story and everything and actually also, like, listening to viewers on who they want to be the lead. I feel like they've literally have not done that over the last few years. And I feel like when they have done it, they're making up for a mistake.

I feel like a lot of people wanted it to be Tayshia originally. And then it was like Clare, and no offense to Clare, but she had been on the show a long time ago. It would just seem like a weird, out-of-left-field choice. I think people wanted Michelle and it seemed like they picked Katie, and then almost Michelle was making good to everyone because everyone wanted her. So it was just a little weird. I don't know. There's ways they can make it better and more engaging. But I think there's a few things just like listening to viewers and everything that would help a lot. Yeah.

Would Connor ever return to the franchise?

You have answered this in a weird, sideways way, but would you ever have any desire to go back to the franchise at any point?

I've been asked that a lot over the years. I feel like it's changed. Right now, probably not. I don't know. I think it was a really fun thing to do at the time. And I definitely believed in the love story. Not that I don't believe in the love story now, but I just think in my life right now, I'm just focused on a lot of different things and so happy with where I'm at with everything now. So [I] don't necessarily need to. But I don't know.

I think it's interesting like, so for Michelle's season ... Or no, it was actually Katie's season. I had a friend in Austin and he was actually selected to be on the show and he was going to go and he decided not to, but I was like all for him going. I was like, "Dude, you got to do it. It'd be so fun. So cool." And I think it'd be selfishly fun for me to watch him go on there. But he ended up not going. And I think at the time I was all about recommending people to go on. Now I don't know if I would. It's like you have to really be prepared for, like, the life changes that come with it. And if you're happy where you're at in life and all of that, it's a very big life change. And I don't think a lot of people really know what you're getting into when you go on it.

And I think it's easy when we see these people on reality TV ... [to] judge them sometimes. I watched the show the other night. You sit there like, "Ah, why'd you do that?" Or whatever. And you almost take the human out of this person, just turn them into a character. But I think a lot of people just don't realize, I guess your life just becomes an open book to everybody and I'm by no means –

Your biggest takeaway from being on the show. Just that it's so like life-altering.

Yes. Well, I do think it's what you make it, a little bit. But I think a lot of people just don't realize you do become an open book and I will say I'm by no means a celebrity or anything. I'm just a normal dude that was trying to find love when I was 24, happened to be on these two TV shows. And that was just a really crazy time in my life. And I think when we see these people on TV, we think — and I'm sure there are some people that are just trying to get famous and get Instagram followers or whatever. But I would say that most are really good people. And at some points in their life maybe [they] have made some mistakes or done some dumb things, but I don't think it reflects on who they are as individuals. And some of them maybe, but I would say the collective whole, we're all just humans. We all make mistakes. We all do stupid things. And it's tough because you get put into this spotlight and those mistakes and things come up and are really highlighted. And I think would ask the broader public of people watching the show, just to put yourself in that person's shoes. And maybe think about your own life too. Because I would say a lot of people have probably made mistakes.

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