In this episode, we’re joined by Jeff Vierling, Co-Founder and CEO of Tailwind Nutrition.
Jeff’s an endurance biker who competes in races all over the country, as a result of his experiences Jeff was intimately familiar with the challenges of keeping his body fueled while competing.
Unfortunately Jeff couldn’t find any products that contained the nutrition he needed to compete in endurance events, so he decided to create one.
Jeff also talks about how he scaled his business by effectively marketing using events and competitions, digital marketing, and strategically going after targeted wholesale accounts worldwide.
Jeff talks about why they chose to manufacture in-house and why they continue to do so and how he keeps this production operationally simple.
Listen on Apple Podcasts here or Spotify here.
Ken: Welcome to the Physical Product Movement, a podcast by Fiddle, we share stories of the world’s most ambitious and exciting physical product brands to help you capitalize on the monumental change in how, why and where consumers buy. I’m your host, Ken Otsuka.
In this episode, I speak with Jeff Vierling, Founder and CEO of Tailwind Nutrition. A nutrition company focused on fueling endurance athletes. Jeff’s an endurance biker competing in races all over the country. Jeff was intimately familiar with the challenges of keeping his body fueled while competing.
When he couldn’t find any good products already on the market, he decided to create one. Jeff tells the story of how he then scaled his business by effectively marketing, using events and competitions, digital marketing, and strategically going after targeted wholesale accounts worldwide. Jeff talks about why they chose to manufacture in house and why they continue to do so and how he keeps this production operationally simple.
This was a fun interview with a lot of great lessons for entrepreneurs. I think you’ll like it. Yeah. Hey Jeff. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for jumping on.
Jeff: Hey, Ken, how are you today?
Ken: Hey, doing good. Doing good. You aren’t calling us from, uh, Colorado. Is that right?
Jeff: Yep. Durango, Colorado. We always wake up and say it’s another beautiful day in Durango.
Ken: Yeah, no kidding. I’ve been on your website and I’ve just seen some of the pictures are just absolutely breathtaking.
Jeff: Wow. It’s a pretty special place. Uh, we kind of have access to the mountains and the desert and all the recreational opportunities that, that offers. We’ve got a river running through town. It’s a, it’s a really nice place.
Ken: Nice, nice. Well, we’d like to kick off these, uh, these interviews with a quote or, or something that’s, uh, that’s impactful to you. Do you have one in mind that you could share with us?
Jeff: Sure. Uh, this is, um, by, uh, Rosalia de Castro who was, uh, a deletion poet in the 1800s.
And she wrote, I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads, not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. That’s beautiful. So, so I guess what does that mean to you?
Jeff: So I think it means a couple of things, you know, just on the surface level. A lot of our customers and our whole company, all the people that work on Tailwind really love being in the outdoors.
And we’re inspired by that. It’s where our best ideas come from. So we kind of has that literal, literal meaning of that. I think we can all relate to of just those, those really great days when you’re outdoors and you’re, and you’re just wondering what’s around the corner, the peace and tranquility that can come with that.
And then kind of also on a metaphorical level. I like it because it’s. I think it hits a lot of what starting a new venture or being an entrepreneur feels like where you have an idea, you kind of know where you want to go, but you have no idea how you’re going to, to get there or, or where, what turns you might take along the way and just being okay with that.
And that that’s actually part of the exciting, yeah,
Ken: no, absolutely true. Absolutely true. Well for people who don’t know you, uh, do you mind just telling us a little bit about yourself, maybe your, your background.
Jeff: Sure. Uh, so I’m the CEO and co-founder of tailwind nutrition. And, uh, that’s along with my wife, Jenny, that’s my co-founder.
And my background is actually, um, uh, gosh, in the tech industry and, um, software design and project management. And I’ve always been a mountain biker and, um, and that would’ve been kinda my application. Um, but then I, um, As I was racing, that’s what ended up leading me down this path of trying to find some nutrition solutions.
And lo and behold, I ended up kind of starting a nutrition company. So definitely have taken a little bit of a twisty path of that, but I’ve enjoyed it and kind of come to the realization that that’s really, what I like to do is start and build things.
Ken: Yeah. Um, and so you said you had a tech background, is that right?
Jeff: It’s like software design, project management. Um, so I did that. Um, I did that with Microsoft as a program manager for awhile back in the actually kind of interesting times, which were by the purse of the internet. And it’s kind of like, you know, go, go, go, go growth days in tech, in the tech world. Um, and then I’ve been involved in a number of startups as well.
Kind of doing some of those same things and designing software and building teams.
Ken: Yeah. So let’s, uh, let’s jump into tailwind nutrition. So you mentioned just a little bit of, you know, the inspiration for it, but, uh, I’d love to hear the story. Uh, and, uh, were you a programmer at the time when you were, uh, doing this race?
What was it? The lead bill 100.
Jeff: Uh, the Lego 100. Um, so yeah, so I was, um, I was working on a, um, as a. A software program manager, project manager, you know, and I think a lot of people, like I was not a professional cyclist and I don’t, can’t devote all of my time to that. And also, you know, we have, we have two wonderful daughters, so the time I could put forward, you know, put, put toward it, I trained really hard and I really wanted to do well at this race and the Leadville races, uh, up in Leadville, Colorado.
And, you know, that’s. 10,200 feet is the elevation of the town. And you don’t really go. Very far down, he got a little bit down, but most of it’s climbing from there. So since all high elevation and, you know, I trained, I trained really well for it. Um, I first raised my legs felt okay, but my stomach was just, just a brick all day long.
And when I crossed the finish line and there’s actually a video of this on our website because, uh, cause my wife, Jenny was kind of videoing it and um, she wanted me to kind of move in for a hug and I was like, Nope. And headed right over to the trash can. And I just cooked up breakfast from 13 hours earlier.
It literally, it was muesli. It was awful. And it had just literally been sitting in my stomach all day and. Nothing was getting through and I’m just kind of, I was pretty grateful to finish it all up and not just bundling way. So it’s not as really frustrating for me. And I tried, I tried really all the products in the market and I just couldn’t really find something that.
It sat well for that kind of duration intensity and that I could get enough calories in and, um, you know, feel like I could just, you know, go as far and as fast as I wanted to give him the training
Ken: and you, and you’re not really, you’re not talking about just any old race. I mean, this is a hundred miles, is that correct?
Jeff: Yeah, it’s a a hundred mile mountain bike race. Right. And it’s all high. So it’s pretty, you know, it’s, it’s a good stress test on your body. Right.
Ken: And for those not familiar, you know, with, with racing or running, um, at a high elevation, what’s, uh, what’s the significance of that? Like, like, uh, you know, I’m sure it makes it more difficult.
Jeff: Yeah. Well, you’re working with less oxygen, so, um, so that just makes it more difficult by itself. It’s also dry. Um, you know, even though the temperature might not be as hot, you, you end up losing a lot of, a lot of moisture and you have to replenish that. So staying hydrated is always a challenge. And I think just being up there, you know, you’re kind of above 10,000 feet, you know, the whole day.
So it’s, it’s pretty taxing on your body for sure.
Ken: Okay. Understood. All right. Yeah. So continue. I didn’t mean to interrupt.
Jeff: No, not at all. So after kind of having tried everything I could, and I continued doing the Leadville race. I just wanted to understand why my, why was appealing. Good. What what’s going on with my body.
And my aim was just to, to be more. Purposeful about, you know, which products I was trying to use for nutrition, um, to kind of match them up with how my body fueled. But as I dug into the, the medical literature and the studies on this, um, I found that most of the products I was trying to contain ingredients that were challenging to digest, and that didn’t make a lot of sense in the context of, um, Hey, running, running a calorie deficit, um, because you you’re expending more calories than you can really your, your small intestine cannabis org and be like your, your blood is diverted away from your digestive track when you’re exercising.
So it’s going to your muscles and it’s going to your capillaries to help cool you down. So, um, So, so for most people, as I found out that, um, their ability to digest foods and processed foods actually goes down with exercise. So, um, so it just didn’t make a lot of sense to me that I was ingesting these, these, um, these foods and drinks that were actually kind of taxing on the system.
So that’s what led me to decide to try and make my own. And, um, and I modeled it after, after how our body absorbs fuel. And then some of the other aspects of that I knew kind of just from my own experiences were important. Things like taste and mouth feel like keeping it really light, keeping it clean, not, not overly strong or sticky or sweet.
And then, um, also just the ease of use. I mean, it was kind of, I was juggling like a drink and gels and actually pills. When you’re out there for like six hours or more, your, your brain kind of gets a little foggy, trying to keep track of what you just did five minutes ago. It can be pretty taxing too. So, um, so it just made sense to me to try and roll all that into, in with what you’re drinking, because, um, because you have to drink anyway to stay hydrated.
Um, so that kind of also simplified, it made it, made it easier to manage. And, um, and I think that just relieves a lot of stress also. So that was kind of what I set out to do. Um, but I was just doing it for myself and it took a little while to kind of dial it in. But, um, but I was really happy with how it worked for me.
Ken: So what form, what form was this? You know, are you, are you mixing, you know, like powders in your kitchen? Like what, what does this look like? Um,
Jeff: that’s exactly right. Yeah. So powders, uh, dry powders. And then, um, I was mixing it. My, my wife had saw the kitchen aid from like the 1930s from her grandmother. So using that, and I’m like coding the whole kitchen and, you know, find us to white powder.
She wasn’t thrilled about that. Um, so that’s, you know, literally what I was doing and, you know, a little micro-scale and working with little tiny amounts of powders. So, um, I ended up sharing that with some people that I’d met through Louisville and also then with. With friends around the Durango area.
And there are a lot of really great athletes here. So, so that ended up being a really, really good test bed. Um, and they just, they kept on coming back to me and just saying, Hey, this is, this is the best stuff I’ve ever used. Um, can I get some more kind of cranking away on that, on the, uh, the kitchen aid and putting it in a Ziploc baggies and.
Mean people in parking lots and handing off baggies of white powder.
Ken: And so were you thinking of this as a business at all? Were you charging them at this time or you just, were you just kind of doing it?
Jeff: I was just doing it. It was just sort of, my secret weapon didn’t have a name, you know, I just just was doing it, but it was starting to build a little bit and, um, And then, uh, there was one woman that I gave some to, um, that I’d met through Leadville and she had dropped out of 700 mile races that she trained hard for and all, because she just could never get the nutrition part of it.
Right. And her stomach was, we gave her enough problems that she couldn’t finish. So I just gave her some of this. And, um, and then a couple months later she emailed me and she said, she’d finished the Shenandoah 100. Uh, which is another a hundred mile bike race in Shenandoah. And she said, she, she felt great the whole time.
Like her stomach felt, felt really good. And, um, and she just broke down in tears as she was crossing the finish line because it had been a real life goal for her for 10 years, but she’d been working towards, I had a lot of frustration from just not being able to pull it off. And that was kind of when, um, my wife and I. Look at each other. And we’re like, you know, maybe this has, isn’t just sort of a better, um, you know, a better fuel or a better nutrition for, for athletes, but can actually like make a real, real difference in people’s lives and help them achieve their goals. Yeah. And, um, and that was pretty cool. So, so that’s actually, when we started thinking about it as a business.
Ken: Okay. And, and so you’ve, you, you have several, you know, great testimonials, you know, you’ve been given this to people. They seem to really like it. I assume you want to stop mixing this in your kitchen. You know, what, what were the first steps that you took, um, in order to productize this.
Jeff: Yeah, this is the summer of 2012.
Um, there’s a race here in Durango that goes from Durango to Silverton. It’s a road race it’s actually coming up this weekend. Uh, I’m not going to do it this weekend. My daughter’s in talent and we’re going to spend some time with her, her boyfriend, but I thought it, but I was doing it back then. And it was kind of part of my training too.
And so the, the shop that, that helps to put that on, um, mountain bike specialists, they, they said, Hey, well, you know, you guys could come in and sample this in our shop. And, um, you know, be part of our base and. Um, so, so I was kind of summer 2012, so we kind of kicked it off on that, that weekend and we put up a website and, um, just wanted to see if people would try it and then really kind of importantly, like, would they.
Would they buy it again? Um, and so that was our, we kind of Kyle cut our big beta tests the summer of 2012. And there was some, you know, in order to do that, like, uh, we had a little space in a shop behind our house. And so I bought, uh, a tumbling drum kind of mixer that could do like a hundred pounds at a time.
And. The motor on that was 800 bucks. So I went with a hand-crank model, probably picture it, but I mean, I do like 50 cranks and then shake it out and do another 50 cranks. And for the powders, I wanted to make sure I could get any clumps out of it. So it’s like hooked up, uh, The guts of a random orbit sander onto a big sifter and put that over a bucket. And that’s kind of how I was able to screen screen material and make sure there weren’t any clumps.
And, um, so it was very rudimentary.
Ken: I love it. Okay. And then you, did you, um, did you put them, like, what kind of container was, was this. Was it a little, little bags or we still wouldn’t have been safe. Was it black bags or in that area?
Jeff: The first attempt was with some canisters. Kinda tall, slender, canisters. And, um, you know, we kind of quickly learned like, um, these things take up a lot.
Yeah, yeah. And, uh, putting stickers on them. And, um, that was fair amount of work, but, um, but that was the first attempt. And after that, after that, we moved on to some kind of bags that were made for coffee. Um, kind of the coffee industry and, um, and then got some pre printed stickers. And then we did sticker in those bags.
They’re kind of stand up pouches, zipper top. We could seal with a hand sealer. So, so those were our first, first attempts at packaging.
So it actually went great. Um, people really liked it and, um, they, they bought a bunch of it. And, uh, not that store, um, you know, they ended up, they placed a $400 order before we had packaging. Um, it was just, you know, just because they were local and they just want to support starting a business, starting up and, you know, they totally didn’t have to do that, but they, but they did.
And that was really, really heartening because we ended up selling through basically all of that. And, um, and then they reordered the two to say, they’re still one of our, um, our best. Um, you know, best customers, individual stores that we work with some pretty cool. And that’s kind of one of the things about Durango.
I love to know everybody helps each other out. So, um, that was, that was, that was really helpful. And, um, and then, you know, the website did, did well. We really encouraged, you know, as we, we were kind of reached out and contacting every customer and talking with them, see what their experience was like. And really, it was very positive.
So that kinda kind of gave us the confidence to really go for it in 2013.
Ken: Um, you know, on your website. Sorry, are you, was this the entrance fuel? Is that the, the initial product?
Jeff: It was, yep.
Ken: Okay. Um, and, um, and then also, you know, just flavor wise, um, what was your first flavor and then how did you think about, you know, adding additional flavors later?
Jeff: So a Mandarin orange was the first flavor, because my favorite that was back when it wasn’t a business, it just was just for me. And it was a hobby. So, so yeah, it was making it making for myself. And that’s what I, I really liked. We heard pretty quickly from people that, Hey, there are people that, uh, we kind of think of it. Like there’s more citrus people in there, more bury people.
And so Barry was. Was a big request. So that was our second flavor. And, uh, and then, you know, it’s kind of gone on from there. I think one thing that I’ve learned is that people’s taste buds are really all over the map and they don’t necessarily overlap. Like somebody may really love one or two flavors and really hate, you know, another two.
So, and that’s okay. And so that’s kind of, what’s led us to, um, to offer enough flavors that we’re kind of hitting, hitting all the different. Conferences that people have for sure.
Ken: Yeah. Um, just a question about that. I mean, I look on your, your website and you’ve got, uh, you know, you’ve got to get the Mandarin orange, you’ve got lemon Berry, and then you have the naked flavor, the unflavored one.
Um, you know, and I’m curious about how, how you think about that. I mean, you’ve been at this what eight, nine years is that right? But you’ve been running this business, you know, um, you could have continued to add flavors, right? You could have, you know, 20, 25 different flavors for people to choose from, but, you know, you’ve made it, made the choice to limit it to four.
I believe that’s four flavors. Um, yeah. How, how are you thinking about that? What, what’s the rationale behind that?
Jeff: So we actually had the four flavors that you mentioned, and then we also have four caffeinated flavors and, uh, caffeine was something we added on. A few years down the road. Um, and that was because we just heard from a lot of our customers that, that they were regular consumers of caffeine.
And, you know, some of our customers are doing really big, big things, like a hundred mile runs or a hundred mile bike races or, or even longer. And so they didn’t want to be going through their day without their normal caffeine intake. And so that was, that was something that, um, we took a hard look at it too, because.
Because caffeine is actually the only supplement that has a, has a really substantial amount of science behind it, in terms of there being some endurance benefit, ergogenic ergogenic benefit to it, as well as that sort of central nervous system lifted that you get with like a cup of coffee. So, you know, very deliberately the it’s important that when you’re fueling during exercise, that that had not really.
Um, cause your stomach to, you know, any problems, right? Like you really want to. Really want your nutrition, not to be the main focus of what you’re thinking about. Um, and so, so we’re very deliberate in not introducing ingredients that, that aren’t proven to both be very easy to handle and to, um, to your performance.
So that’s kind of a philosophy, you know, keeping it very simple as a guiding philosophy. And we, we still to this day manufacture all of our products. So there’s, there’s kind of a practical side to it, which is that. It’s it’s really, um, you know, just to be a lot of skews and handle. If you’re trying to manufacturer say 25 different flavors, and then also there’s some good food science behind, you know, flavor quadrants.
We kind of think about it as like, Bright Berry, dark Berry, uh, citrus. And then there’s called like a brown quadrant, which could be teased or Cola’s or those sorts of things. And most people end up liking something within at least one of those quadrants. We feel like if we can hit those quadrants, then we’re going to at least have one, one flavor that, that appeals to just about everybody.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. And then the reason I, you know, I, I dig into that question a little bit is because I think that introducing those flavors has broad implications to your, you know, your inventory, the cost to produce these products or supply chain, what that looks like. Um, and even just managing the cashflow of the business.
And so, you know, especially in the beginning, but I think as long as possible, you know, it’s always recommended that you keep the number of flavors of the number of choices down as much as you can, you know? Um,
Jeff: absolutely true.
Ken: Every once in a while you see these entrepreneurs that come in with, with, you know, Hey, I want to launch with 10 different flavors, you know, and that’s always a little bit of a red flag, like, Hey, do you,
Jeff: yeah, you might want to, might want to scale up scale that idea back a little bit, right?
Yeah. No, I you’re. You’re a hundred percent right about that operationally. It’s almost, you can almost think of it as exponential. And as you add new flavors, it increases your complexity. Um, and like you said, also your cost structure and, um, you know, and you don’t want to, you don’t want to be offering so many different skews that, which you’re not really making enough of any one of them to reach, reach efficiencies scale.
[00:23:48] So those are definitely factors for sure.
Ken: So you did mention, um, that you, you guys manufacturer, um, yourselves, um, how do you guys think about that? Why haven’t you this out to the co-packer or manufacturer that could do this for you?
Jeff: One of the things you said, I’ll kind of go back to really early days now at that beta test.
And we had a chance to meet with one of the founders of backcountry.com. And at the time, it almost seemed, it seemed very premature since we just didn’t even know, like, if we had something that was worth pursuing or not, but he was like, you know, What is success? What’s success gonna feel like to you in five years?
And I’m really pushing to think about it, not just in the monetary terms, but in terms of what your, what your business represents and how people would think about it and how it you’d experience it. And, and thinking about that a lot, um, you know, we, we thought, you know, Hey, this is something that we could do in Southwest Colorado.
And could create good year-round jobs, well paying jobs that are, um, that can enable people to buy houses and raise families here. And that’s just, it’s a challenging thing in our community. I mean, You know, you, and you tell, you kind of have some of the same dynamics too. And some of the more resorted resort type areas where it’s really expensive to live, and they’re not, not a lot of great jobs.
And we saw that opportunity to try and create a creative, build a community asset. And the other part of it was that, Hey, as we’re getting started, you know, we’re such low. We had such low volumes that if we were to go, go and come in, it we’d really be subject to, um, you know, frankly just getting bumped or higher priority projects.
Um, we couldn’t control the, the costs or the, or the timing of getting our product to, so it just made a lot of sense for us to try and do it. Do it ourselves. And I think that that’s also had some real, real side benefits that we didn’t anticipate at the time. Um, we have been able to create jobs here, which has been great.
Um, but you know, I think people are, people are rightly concerned about what’s going into their food and what they eat. Um, we have a hundred percent control of that. We’re not risking. Um, cross-contamination because we don’t, we don’t manufacture other stuff on our machines. And then we also, um, know, you know, all the, all the suppliers that we work with and we’re able to ensure that.
That we’re getting exactly what, where you put some packages. Exactly what we say it is. So, so kind of from a quality standpoint, that’s something we can really control. Um, but also because, um, because we’re not paying that overhead, um, and we’re not paying up that profit margin for another company we’ve been able to offer, um, to our international partners, a pricing level that.
That allows them to be able to do sales and marketing with their territories. And as a result of that, where we’re now like in 32 different countries where we sell our products, um, and those are all kind of, they’re all made in Bayfield, which is a little town right outside of Durango. And, um, and so it kind of in a very real way, we’re also important the dollars into our community and those are going right into, you know, paychecks.
Um, also, you know, organizations that we support. So it’s just been a really nice, it’s been a really nice model, but because our cost structure is low enough in the production side, we’re able to do that. That’s more challenging for, for other companies. Right. Right.
Ken: Have you ever been tempted to kick this up to the manufacturer?
Jeff: Yeah. I mean, you know, to be, to be perfectly honest about it, there’s real challenges with space for, for light commercial. Um, in our area and, um, we are running out of it.
And so it’s something that, you know, when you think about all the time, like how can we, how can we make this space, the space that we have worked better for us. And is it, does it make sense to try and work with partner on, on, uh, manufacturing, either some, some product lines or some components of the products?
I mean, we are, so, you know, we’re, we’re evaluated now as we go. Um, it’s definitely, definitely top of mind right now because, um, because we haven’t been able to find the space that we need to expand.
Ken: Yeah, it’s always, it’s always interesting. The, the, you know, it always looks appealing, you know, to, to use a co-packer or manufacturer, but, you know, I think, I don’t know that there’s any.
You know, right. Reason, you know, I think it’s just, it’s trade-offs, you know, and, and you’ve got to weigh them, um, you know, what’s best for your business. What’s best for your product, you know, for your customers. Uh, and also for your employees, like you guys are obviously very cognizant about. So
Jeff: yeah, I don’t know that there’s a right answer either.
I mean, in our industry, most of the companies do come in. They don’t, they don’t make some make it themselves. But we also have heard, you know, there’s another company that we, we know in the space who went six months without getting without product, because he was kind of too small to forget his commands attention.
And that’s just not a problem we’ve had to face growing now, as we scale. You know, there are real questions about whether we can keep on doing that. And that’s what we’re trying to sort through.
Ken: And one of the, one of the major advantages, I think a lot of people don’t, uh, don’t consider is, um, just how nimble you can be when you do it in house.
You know, for instance, you want to launch a new, a new flavor, or you want to try a slightly different formula. Um, you want to try a new product line? Um, all those things can be done very quickly when, when you do them in house, um, then you, you lose a little bit of that with a Coleman.
Jeff: Yeah. And every time you’re doing a new product, it’s essentially like, like being back in the startup days where you just don’t, you don’t have the volume yet, and you don’t know how customers will respond to it either.
So, so you’re trying to weigh that. Like how much do you invest and commit? Versus seeing how it goes in the market. And so we, that’s something that’s been really cool for us. It’s like, um, we, uh, we did a, a seasonal flavor last fall of our, um, rebuild recovery and, uh, it was a salty caramel flavor. And, um, and so we did a, we did a small manufacturing run the bat and, um, and then.
We sold out of that. So in a day and a half, I expected it to be something that was going to be available for all of October. And then we, you know, we kind of quickly did another round. We actually, the only thing that really held us up is we had to get another. Another set of prints done for the film. So as soon as we got that in, we, um, we did another round and, um, and then we sold out that even faster.
So that was a pretty good indication. And then we heard it out of the reviews from people that like, Hey, we, they would really like to see this be part of our permanent collection. And so having that flexibility to be able to do, um, you know, things like that, like a seasonal flavor, or you can test the waters or something.
Wow, man, that is a great, a great capability to have as you’re growing. And as you’re trying to build your brand,
Ken: one of the business models that we’ve seen, I actually do pretty well on, especially when leveraging social media is a, it’s something that I, I just call it the FOMO business model, but it’s the idea of releasing these limited runs, right?
So you have your classic flavors, but then you have these limited runs of. You know, like a seasonal flavor or just a, you know, an exotic or different type of flavor, um, that you would, you know, just, just have for a little while until you, until, until it runs out. But it does really well on Instagram, um, because it’s, Hey, you know, this, this flavor is only around until, until it’s all gone.
Um, and so you end up getting a lot of purchases that way. Um, and I just don’t know how you would do that. If you weren’t doing it in house, it just seems way too complicated. Um, if, if you had to go to a coal man for that,
Jeff: Yeah, I don’t think you could do it. I, I, you know, you might be able to do like an, a command of your main lines and then have some, you know, smaller scale production in house.
Maybe there’s a blend like that. That were exploded. Boy, if we can figure out how to do it, I would definitely keep manufacturing. Right. That’s our, that’s our goal.
Ken: And I’ll be honest with you. I, um, I kinda love manufacturing, you know, I love the whole space and, and, uh, you know, I’ve got a 12 year old boy.
One of our favorite things to do is watch that show, uh, how it’s made, you know, and I’m always just fascinated with how stuff is manufactured.
Jeff: Yeah. Right there, right there with you. I love that stature.
Ken: Yeah. It’s pretty cool to see, you know, the products coming together and what goes into it. Um, I wanted to just switch gears a little bit, Jeff.
Um, I want to talk about, um, Your your marketing, right. And how you guys have been able to gain traction and, and, um, you know, gain distribution, like you said, worldwide, um, and get into all these stores. Um, it looks like, you know, and probably this is true from your first, um, beta test. Um, you guys have really kind of, um, had a lot of success with events and marketing through these events.
Um, has that been your primary, your primary channel and your, your primary distribution method?
Jeff: Certainly in the early days, um, that was a really. Important way and it’s still, they still are. And I say, the reason I’m hesitant and that is because we obviously, you’ve just gone through a period of time when there weren’t any of us.
And so we had to kind of change, change our approach in the last 18 months or so, but, um, but events have been a great way for people to experience our product and just have it on a course. And then, um, it’s just something that you can, you can actually try. And, um, and then the word of mouth that spreads between people that are at events has been huge for us.
And we would just see that in our, we would see that in our web sales that, you know, after a weekend, um, starting kind of on Sunday and rolling into Monday would always be our biggest sales day on the website. And I was because of those events. Um, we also, um, you know, in the early days we also, um, really just approached.
Anybody like any, any blogger or, um, or magazine or, um, you know, web magazine kind of format that would be willing to just test our products, um, and write about it. So that, that really helped a lot with awareness, but also with, uh, with SEO and the back links into our website. And the digital marketing side of that.
And then, um, you know, social media of course has also been a big part of it since the beginning as well. And, um, and it’s a great way for us to engage with our customers and highlight what they’re doing and, and their successes just is something. I think that carries a lot of weight with other people that are looking at it too, versus we don’t really use it so much as a format to try and pump ourselves.
We’re trying to. We try and talk about, you know, what our customers are doing, which is always kind of really interesting.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Maybe you can expand on that a little bit. So you focus on what your customers are doing, and of course this ends up featuring your product in some way, but could you maybe give us an example of, of that, you know, the success that comes from from that approach?
Jeff: Well, I, you know, I think one of the most popular things that usually the most popular reports or posts are like ratio reports, And then somebody kind of go into depth about their, about their race. And, you know, there’s some part of that that we’ll have to do in nutrition. They, you know, they have their they’re using tailwind, but they, they may be using it exclusively or they may be using it with other products.
And we don’t please any of that, but people really like to just hear real stories and the real challenges, because there’s so much out there that is just the elite. Uh, athlete with their, you know, their arms up crossing the finish line. Like that’s, I feel like that’s, that’s what a lot of our competitors do is their marketing is just showing these kind of sponsored athletes to do that.
And we just try and feature people like real people and mid Packers back Packers. Um, you know, we’re not just focused on podium finishers and just sharing their personal stories. And that’s, those are the posts that get us that have the most engagement. And, um, and interaction and follow-up questions. Um, I think they’re the ones that stick in people’s minds as well.
Ken: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good point. Um, and just, uh, talking about events a little bit, is there any particular way you guys approach events, you know, to make sure that it’s a successful event? Um, and do you always, uh, you know, like get booth space or, you know, what, what’s the general playbook, um, when we’re looking at doing an event.
Jeff: So there’s kind of two ways that we, that we work with events and there are some events that we will go and have a physical presence at, um, you know, with a booze and it may be. It may be an expo, like say Marine Corps marathon, and have an expo. And we have a lot of customers that go and do that event. So they’ll come up and say hi and chat and introduce their friends to it.
Um, and those are kind of sampling opportunities, but, you know, that’s both costly and difficult from a logistics standpoint and just people, people power, right? Like, uh, I mean, we can’t be everywhere. Um, so it can’t be events all over the country all simultaneously. Um, so, so we have to be pretty, pretty deliberate with that and limited in the events that we actually can attend in person and how that presence.
And, um, and we’ve done some, you know, some events series have worked out pretty well for us partnerships so that we can, um, you know, have a have say, Um, one partner that we’re working with, but they have events in multiple locations. And so we’ll staff those, or they, or sometimes it’s a combination of their staff and our staff, but then we also just open it up to race directors.
And typically we like to, um, we like, we want, we want to send a race director or some product for them to try out personally first because we want them to understand. How tailwind works and what the attributes are, and actually to really like it and to be enthusiastic about it before we agree to, to work with them on their race.
Um, and so we have a lot more of those kinds of races that we, um, we will send them product and they’ll actually have it on their course. And, um, and we’ll work with them on some, um, you know, materials like how to. How to use nutrition and your training and how to use it at the event and things like that, but we’re not physically at the event.
And so, so like, uh, 2019, which was kind of the last year we had, um, you know, a lot of events, I think we were on over 600 courses. In the summer of 2019. And there’s just no way to physically, we can actually add all those events. Right. But by working with the res race directors were able to kind of extend that reach.
Ken: Okay. Got it. Got it. And, um, and then you mentioned, you know, COVID. Change things a little bit. There, weren’t a lot of events this, this last, this last little while. Um, how are you guys thinking about it going forward? Um, I assume that there’s some events that are going to happen in person and getting announced and, um, you know, that that’s, that’s ramping back up.
Are you guys going to jump right back in and, and kind of run the same playbook?
Jeff: You know, uh, we are, we are, we are supporting, um, a number of belts that are, that are coming back. There still are fewer and fewer of them at this point. And we are, you know, we kind of have one person who on our team. Um, who runs our events and also our trailblazer program, which is our ambassador program and in our works with our sponsor athletes as well.
So, so we just don’t have, you know, we’re, we’re just limited in what we can do. So we’ve kind of focused on a few key partnerships and then events that are within driving distance, kind of a regional, you know, regional events that we can reach. And we also try and focus on events where there’s an opportunity to really sample our products more so than just say, have, have like a single serve pack in a bag, for instance, which, you know, a lot of times just wines have never been opened or, or looked out again.
Right. So we try and focus on things like, um, like say the outer bike, um, events like they have in Moab. That’s where people are checking out different, um, you know, different bikes from. All the bike manufacturers, and then they can just come by and fill up their packs or fill up their water bottles and then head out and then use it.
So those kinds of things work best for us where it’s experiential. So we’re really focused on those as the events that we go to physically. Um, you know, we’ve put a lot more of our budget into digital marketing in the, in the past year and a half. And, um, and so we’re going to continue to do that. And there is the same, it is the same marketing bucket bucket.
Right. So, um, so I don’t think we’ll go back to quite being quite as heavy on events as we have been in the past. But, um, but we’re still gonna work with some key partners on that.
Ken: Okay. Got it. Well, I’m Jeff, I think me and you could talk for forever. Um, I wondered I wanted to start wrapping this up just a little bit.
Um, when we switch over to the quickfire round, I’ve just got four questions for you. Um, and just let me know the first thing that comes to mind. Um, what’s a one tool or resource that you use on a regular basis. That’s, that’s invaluable to you.
Jeff: Uh, well, we have a NetSuite as our ERP and that’s because we’re a manufacturer, uh, you know, being able to track our inventory and look at all of our data in one place. It’s pretty much essential.
Ken: Uh, what is one book that has helped you the most in your career?
Jeff: Um, okay, so I’m not, I’m not like actually super big on, um, a bunch of business books.
No magical idea. That’s a miracle cure for everything. But, um, I actually got this, you know, I, I was actually listening to the four hour workweek clinic. Um, but I was thinking about starting turning this into a business. Of course, it’s, it’s totally the only person who actually works for hours.
But I don’t even think he does, but in theory, maybe he could have ended up. So the whole four hour part is complete BS, but, but I actually really liked the idea of the, the ideas of starting lean testing, your ideas, iterating, um, innovating like those kind of core things. Pretty important.
Ken: Yeah. Great book.
Uh, it’s inspired me as well. Um, with those same caveats, actually. Um, what is, what is the one piece of advice that you would give your 21 year old self?
Jeff: Oh boy, my 21 year old self. Um, I think I would, uh, I think I would tell myself to worry less about the, the consequences of things of choices and, and just to, you know, kind of go ahead and make some choices without worrying about where they might, how they might play out.
Um, because in the end I ended up being unpredictable anyways and taking chances on the things that you enjoy or, or ideas or people that you’d be, um, could just lead you to extraordinary discoveries.
Ken: That’s great. Um, who is one person, um, that inspires you or motivates you? Somebody that you would love to take to lunch?
Jeff: Well, let’s see. I guess I haven’t really, if there’s actually a bunch of people that I think I would would like to do, do that with, uh, I, I think I’ve always been fascinated and it says nothing to do with nutrition, but I I’ve always been interested in, um, in the cosmos and space and free-thinking. And so like I loved as a kid, I just loved reading, like the Carl Sagan.
He’s not around anymore, but I think he’d be a super interesting person to have a conversation with.
Ken: Oh, no doubt. Yeah. Um, all right. Well, I, I think we can just wrap this up. Um, I wanted to give you just an opportunity here. Um, if you have any parting words for other other entrepreneurs who are in the world of physical products that are currently in the grind or thinking about getting in into it, do you have any, uh, any last advice that you’d give somebody in that space?
[00:45:30] Jeff: [00:45:30] Um, I guess two thoughts on it. One, you know, relates to. One of those questions is just that, Hey, just go for it. Don’t let the uncertainties hold you back because they’re always uncertainties. But, but if you kind of go for it and you, you find, you find the things that your customers value, then that’s going to guide you on your path.
[00:45:53] Um, so don’t let, don’t let perfection or having it all, play it out, get in the way. Okay, go ahead. We didn’t get a chance to talk about, but actually something that we did we’ve done since the beginning, um, is, uh, you know, we, we started out like writing handwritten notes, um, that went into all of our packages and we have a space that are our large bags that we, we write the name of the customer, ordered it.
And, um, just this personalization touches, I think. That’s kind of a long ways in helping people to feel like they’re part of our journey and, um, helping us to, to develop relationships with our customers. And, um, I would really recommend thinking about that strongly. Like how do you, how do you keep your, how do you, how do you make your experience with your customers personal.
Ken: Yeah, that’s awesome. Hey, Jeff, I think that this has been a great interview. Um, I, I think that, uh, I love how you just kind of kept it, kept it real and just told us the story. I love how authentic you are and just what you guys are doing and how you’re going about it. So I wish you the best of luck. I appreciate you taking the time to join us today.
Jeff: Thanks so much. And I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.
Ken: All right. Awesome. The Physical Product Movement podcast is brought to you by Fiddle. To find out more about Fiddle and how our industry leading inventory ops platform is giving modern brands and manufacturers full visibility into their inventory and operations.
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