Did you know that nearly a hundred million adults in the United States live with chronic pain?
It sounds crazy, but the reality is that many people struggle with their pain every day. And many are desperate to find an effective solution, which can be pretty challenging.
💡 But there might be one.
Today’s guest on The Physical Product Movement podcast is Ryan Gresh, Founder & CEO of The Feel Good Lab, a leading brand of pain relief products made from all-natural ingredients.
Ryan shares his motivational story of starting the company and talks about the advantages and disadvantages of sourcing products and ingredients from domestic suppliers.
He also explains why you should not only negotiate on price but also on terms and how that can impact your cash flow.
By far the most impressive thing about Ryan’s mindset is his passion for his customers’ problems and his determination to solve them.
There are so many valuable lessons and entrepreneurial tips Ryan shared with us.
Discover them for yourself by listening to the podcast episode.
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 Ojuka.
Ken: In this episode of the physical product movement podcast, I spoke with Ryan Gresh, what an awesome conversation we had about his journey building the Feel Good Lab, a leading line of pain relief products made from all natural ingredients. Ryan talks about how a dinner conversation with his dad and brother who run a functional medicine
Ken: pharmacy convinced him to leave his career as an engineer in the aerospace industry to launch his brand. He talks about the advantages and disadvantages of sourcing products and ingredients from domestic suppliers instead of international, he also talks about how this has changed in the wake of COVID and the current supply chain slow down.
Ken: He talks about why you should not only negotiate on price, but also on terms and how that can impact your cashflow. But what I love most about my conversation with Ryan is that he is passionate about his customers and the problems they have. It was a fantastic interview with a lot of great advice for CPG brands.
Ken: Yeah. Hey Ryan, how are you doing? Thanks for jumping on the podcast today.
Ryan: Yeah, Ken, great to meet ya and happy to be here. It’s a beautiful Friday, so I’m looking forward to the weekend.
Ken: Yeah, yeah. Looking forward to, talking about the Feel Good Lab and everything that you guys have been up to. But why don’t we just kick it right off.
Ken: We usually like to start with a quote, is there anything impactful or quote that you like to live by that you can share with the audience?
Ryan: I find myself saying quotes multiple times a day, it’s like one of my passions and I actually have two of them for you. The first one I’m going to give you really summarizes what I think the entrepreneurial journey is. And actually both of these quotes I got from Naval, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Naval Ravikant but—
Ken: Yeah, I love him, I follow him.
Ryan: Okay, so you might’ve heard these before. So the first one is, success and failure, both lead to the same place, dissatisfaction. It’s just the lessons learned along the way that differ.
Ryan: And what that means to me is, starting a business, especially CPG is really hard. And Elon Musk even talks about this. He’s like starting a business is like eating glass and staring into the abyss. And what he means is that your job is to deal with the hardest problems, and as you scale and grow, those problems get bigger and bigger. And that’s not a bad thing. What this quote, like when I heard it framed up from Naval with such an optimistic tone, when he said it was, that’s what we look forward to, is those challenges, is those failures, because that’s when we learn our lessons. I look back on some of the successes we’ve had and I feel like I could tell people advice on why
Ryan: we made it and what they could do to follow in our footsteps, and I’ve since learned that, that’s actually usually not the case, lightning might’ve struck and there might be some lessons in there, but I promise you when I go through some of the failures and I’m sure we’ll talk about them on the podcast, when I talk about mistakes we made, that’s where the true lessons lie, right? Like things I will never do again. And I just think that looking at failure as an opportunity, and being optimistic around failure is just a superpower you have to have when you get into entrepreneurship.
Ken: Yeah. That’s absolutely great.
Ken: Yeah, awesome. So you mentioned you might have to—Ryan?
Ryan: Yeah. So the other one is a quote that we live our business by. The Feel Good Lab, just for a little bit of context. We make healthy pain relievers for people that are fed up with side effects and the challenges that come from really dealing with chronic pain, and this quote that Naval says, I believe it came from Confucius is. A rich person wants 10,000 things, but a sick person only wants one and it just puts into perspective who our customer is and what they’re dealing with. I’m such a fortunate person, mostly because when it comes to my health, I’m going to be 35 years old in May, healthy. Not that I don’t have my own problems, but relatively healthy.
Ryan: And when I heard that quote and just this morning, I was on the phone with a customer. And I put myself in their shoes and I realized that their entire world revolves around the sickness that they have. And so it’s our job to really help them get out of that because we believe that feeling good is just the start.
Ryan: It’s not the end goal of life, but it allows them to have those 10,000 things. And so, that’s really our mission at the company, and I probably say this quote, we have our own podcast and I know I say it every podcast, that we’re on and it just comes up organically because it’s something that we really live by here at the feel good lab.
Ken: Yeah, no that’s fantastic. Just for those that are interested, do you mind plugging your podcast? Where can you find it? What do you search for?
Ryan: Yeah, so it’s called the good lab podcast. It’s on YouTube, apple podcasts, all the major channels and you could find it on our website or if you just Google it.
Ryan: And so we’re about 10 episodes in. It’s been really fun and, you know, what’s more fun though, Ken? I think you can appreciate this, being on somebody else’s podcast.
Ken: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. I get it. And what kind of stuff do you guys like to cover on your podcast?
Ryan: We talk about health and wellness, so we really try to give people actionable advice and things that they can do, small wins they can make to improve their overall wellness. We bring in experts from my dad, who’s been a pharmacist and functional medicine practitioner for 40 years, to different doctors, and chiropractors, and just wellness gurus that we have in our lives or that we meet.
Ryan: And we bring them on to just try to share some of their knowledge and make it actionable. A lot of times some of the stuff you can learn about when it comes to improving your health and wellness feels out of reach, and so we try to take that and make it digestible so that they can make a change right now, today that can start to improve their life.
Ken: Okay, cool. All right, we definitely want to make sure to cover the Feel Good Lab and the story behind the company, and all that. Just wanna take a second and learn a little bit more about you. I was interested to hear that you were actually in the aerospace industry and you were an engineer, is that what you studied in school?
Ryan: Yeah. So I went to the university of Connecticut and studied mechanical engineering, and then in Connecticut, a lot of people probably don’t know, we’ve got some amazing aerospace manufacturing companies, so we have Pratt and Whitney, it’s one of the leading military jet engine manufacturer, as well as commercial and then their entire supply chain was really built out of their headquarters being here, so we have all sorts of different manufacturers. And then we also have Sikorsky aircraft that make helicopters, so I actually started my career at Pratt. Then I moved to Sikorsky, and then I actually realized that I’m not a typical engineer, I had the skill set and I really love solving problems. I love being technical, but I just love people too much. I can’t work like that. On my first day at Sikorsky, I thought that I was going to be working on designing helicopters, I was a design engineer. I was literally designing a single bolt for six months.
Ryan: That was the kind of stuff. And I quickly learned that this wasn’t for me, so I started my own company in the aerospace industry where I became basically a manufacturer’s rep, where I was combining my engineering capabilities with the more business development customer aspect to it, and then I would represent different manufacturers that did business with Sikorsky, and Pratt and Whitney. And what I found in that kind of B2B environment, especially in the technical field of aerospace engineering, the engineering side was so much more important than any sort of sales skills that you would have, at the end of the day pricing, lead time, supply chain are very important, but when it comes to an airplane, or an aircraft, or a helicopter that flies, quality and engineering and the actual efficacy of the parts that you work on, it just trumps everything. So I really had a nice little niche there.
Ryan: It was great. I did that for about a decade.
Ken: That’s interesting. Yeah, I could see that that lesson leading into other areas of entrepreneurship and obviously into what you do now, right? All the sales and marketing can be great, but at the end of the day, your product needs to work.
Ryan: And you bring up a great point, right?
Ryan: Pain relief, snake oil is a real thing, and it was probably the first ever product that was starting to get shilled on people because, think about a pain point, we have no more of a clear pain point in what we do, then chronic pain or even acute pain. And when somebody is in pain, if that product doesn’t work, it’s table stakes. If you don’t have a product that works, have fun trying to sell it right? Then from there, it’s about differentiation and all of the other things that we bring to the table, but product efficacy is about 10 fold higher than any other attribute that the business brings to the table.
Ken: Yeah. Interesting. Okay, so I’m always interested in the transitions, right? So you’re in the aerospace industry. What— how did you transition into starting and founding the Feel Good Lab and running that?
Ryan: For me, it was really— it was a moment in time, I’ll never forget it. I’m at home eating dinner with my family. So my dad is, like I had mentioned a pharmacist and functional medicine practitioner here in Connecticut, and my brother is also a pharmacist. In fact, most of my family, my grandpa was a pharmacist, my aunts and uncles are all pharmacists, my brother, my sister is studying the health field, and I was the black sheep.
Ryan: And really I’ll tell you a quick story before I tell you the pivotal moment that changed it for me. But when I grew up, my dad owned a conventional pharmacy and one of the challenges was, that was in the eighties and nineties when CVS Walgreens we’re taking over and a small local pharmacy went from, a very successful business to not being able to operate because the margins got so lean that if you didn’t have the type of infrastructure at a CVS and Walgreens, you couldn’t compete.
Ryan: So he ended up having to be the only pharmacist, which is open seven days a week, early in the morning, till late at night and running the business. So the only time I saw him was when I would go to work with him for like 10 years, and I learned a lot, oh my goodness, I learned so much.
Ryan: And I saw what it takes to run a business. Now, I didn’t know that it was easier in the first few years and it got hard. I just thought it was hard from day one. But when I went, when it came time for me to decide what I want to do with my life, as you can imagine I ran, I said, I want nothing to do with this.
Ryan: There’s so much stress, you’re working as a pharmacist all day, and then you have to run the business, and all the different things that come with that, I want nothing to do with that. Shortly after I graduated high school, my dad didn’t want much more to do with that either, and he also found that he wasn’t really helping people.
Ryan: The current medical model is the greatest in the world, specifically in the United States. Really though when it comes to acute care. So if you have a condition, you can get a pharmaceutical and you can get something that can help you with that acute problem. But when your problem is chronic, which means it doesn’t go away for more than six months, oftentimes the conventional medical model gives you a pharmaceutical that typically masks the symptoms, and if that condition is chronic, and not going away, we don’t address the underlying root cause. You can see a lot of issues that arise from taking a powerful pharmaceutical for a lot of these conditions every single day for many years, if not decades and not addressing that underlying root cause. So my dad saw this, we saw firsthand specifically in the opioid epidemic, right? In the nineties, like people in our local community coming in refilling prescriptions, and we are seeing them get sick month after month. We’re not helping them. And so my dad closed down the pharmacy and opened up the nation’s first combined functional medicine practice with compounding pharmacy. And I’ll explain what each of those are, because they’re both unique in their own right? But when combined, now I’ll tell you the reason why I’m in the family business, because it’s absolutely amazing and I think it’s the future, but functional medicine is the whole study of understanding the root cause. Looking at your genetics, your gut microbiome. Your lifestyle, maybe most importantly, what you eat, how you sleep, your mental health, your relationships, and figuring out what is causing the chronic disease.
Ryan: An analogy is if you have foot pain, and you go the conventional route, you might get a pain reliever for that foot pain. The functional medicine route might uncover that you have a rock in your shoe. Now it’s never that simple, but the analogy is oh yeah, If there’s a rock in your shoe and you just take a pain reliever, you’re always going to have to take the pain reliever.
Ryan: We should really be looking at both. We need to relieve the pain, allow people to get back to their daily lives. But if we don’t uncover what the root cause is, we’re going to be trapped in the rat race for a long time, maybe forever. And then the second piece of the puzzle was the compounding pharmacy.
Ryan: Imagine what a pharmacy looked like a hundred years ago, right? It wasn’t what it is today, which is, counting pills and then telling patients how to take them and what the potential side effects are. It was really making drugs at the site for individual people. And this meant you could customize the dosage, customize the delivery, customize the ingredients that could potentially give it synergistic effects and allow it to work better.
Ryan: And so by combining those two practices, my dad learned that he was able to really help people on another level you can address the underlying root cause, sometimes with pharmaceuticals, sometimes without them, oftentimes with a combination and then you would be able to manufacture right in the lab, exactly what that patient needed down to the exact milligram of dose of each prescription or non-prescription now you have to work for the doctor, it’s not like he’s able to work with a patient and all of a sudden, go concoct this crazy drug in the back right? You have to go to the doctor, but the reason I tell that story is because I saw a massive shift in my dad’s ability to help people, and really what I saw is the future of health and wellness. Now, I was a mechanical engineer really far away from it, but I grew up in this.
Ryan: I grew up in my grandpa’s pharmacy, my dad’s pharmacy. So I always had a passion and one day I’m at dinner and my dad and brother are sharing a story about an all natural pain reliever that they had put together for a specific group of patients that they were having no success with, with the pharmaceuticals.
Ryan: They really began specializing in topical pain relief because they found that it would significantly reduce the side effects. So when you could deliver a drug through the skin, right to the site, like in chronic pain, say you have chronic elbow pain, you don’t have to take a pill which exposes the entire body to the potent medicine.
Ryan: You could deliver that same potent medicine right through the skin to affect the site, maybe it’s anti-inflammatory or pain, relieving properties, or improving the blood flow, and so they had a demographic of patients that were having no success with. And so they put together this topical all-natural product.
Ryan: They gave out some samples, and my dad shared a story about one of the patients who had spent thousands of dollars on the pharmaceutical side. She called back in tears, when she found out they had no more of this prototype because it was the first thing in her entire life that had worked for her chronic pain.
Ryan: It was anecdotal. This didn’t mean that the product worked. It didn’t mean anything. But when I heard that you could make that kind of an impact on a single individual’s life, I’m like dad, we have to create a brand around this. And so, that was the day the Feel Food Lab was born. I remember the early days when you have so much excitement and passion behind what you’re doing, and it was really out of that single story of knowing that we could make this huge, huge impact.
Ken: Yeah, yeah. It’s interesting. Yeah. One thing that keeps coming to mind is that okay, you grew up in it, you obviously were working with your dad for years. And then, going away, I wonder if that distance, and removing yourself from being directly involved actually gave you the space to say, Hey, wait a minute.
Ken: This is actually a big deal. Whereas somebody that’s in it all the time, they just think, this is just what we do. Do you think there is anything to do with that?
Ryan: I think there’s even, I think that’s exactly correct, but I think there’s one thing on top of that, and I actually still mentor some entrepreneurial students at the University of Connecticut still and I always give them advice.
Ryan: There’s only one student that was so brilliant I didn’t give this advice to, the best thing that ever happened to me was going into the aerospace industry and learning what I don’t want to do, because the grass is not always greener, and by learning what I didn’t want to do, and then having the opportunity to come back, guess what?
Ryan: I’ll never go back. And there’s a reason why I’ve been so motivated and so passionate and so excited about this business yet I haven’t paid myself in five years, and it’s because I’m not going anywhere. I know what it’s like, where the grass is quote and unquote greener. It’s just not, and yeah. You can make a lot of money and it was so cool and I could help people, but it wasn’t where I was at my best, and I know that today, this is where I’m at my best. So you’re exactly right. Having that distance and being on the outside and being in a different industry was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.
Ken: Yeah, interesting. All right, so you mentioned that they started having some success with a couple of their patients or a particular demographic, were there any commonalities in this demographic or, I’m also interested in what you did, once you had this idea, what were the first steps after that?
Ryan: Yeah, so the commonalities are that all of these patients sought out my father because nothing worked for many years. And so it was like a last resort.
Ryan: That was the commonality, they’ve tried everything actually, one of the things that I hear from customers every day, I’ve tried everything, and our demographic, this is the scary part about what we do, and chronic pain is not killing people the same way that heart disease and all these other things are.
Ryan: But when you hear this statistic, you realize it actually is killing people. Unfortunately, a hundred million adults in the United States have chronic pain. That means pain that has not gone away for six months plus most people up to decades. It’s scary. Two thirds of those people. So 66 million adults, don’t think that anything will ever work ever! And I used to be really offended by the placebo effect when people would call out what we do, because we are an FDA over the counter registered drug to make claims and we can get into some of that, and actually it’ll be part of the answer to the next question you just have. But the placebo effect I’ve since learned is one of the most repeatable tools in all of science.
Ryan: Almost every clinical study that’s ever existed has a placebo component to it. And I believe that there’s a piece of us that whether you believe you can, or you can’t oftentimes you’re right, that the mind, and it holds you back subconsciously, or it allows you to have the opportunity for that growth in those areas.
Ryan: When you look at that, right? When two thirds of our customers are saying nothing’s ever going to work, and they’ve got their arm crossed and huh! They’re angry. And I don’t blame them one bit because nothing has worked and they feel hopeless. Our number one job as a company is to give them hope whether or not our product works for them.
Ryan: And we have multiple products now, and not everything is going to work for every person. So we know that it’s not just one thing, it’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my dad’s practice. We have an incredible natural pain cream, we have some other products that I can explain in a little bit that we’ve launched on the back of what he’s learned in his pharmacy, but that’s not going to work for everybody.
Ryan: There is still hope, even though our products may not work, we’ve seen it. And that’s the biggest, most important thing that we need to deliver to this demographic. I see a future one day where the Feel Good Lab, maybe isn’t really even a product company. Maybe we are more of a media company, that’s helping to educate people and give them hope and teach them about ways that they can continue to fight to make sure that they don’t just give in because once they give in, that’s where it gets really scary, right? When they believe that nothing’s ever going to work and they wake up every day with this chronic pain and their mental state, their mindset is in this really dark place. And that’s where I talk to patients every single day.
Ryan: Unfortunately, that is where this demographic is right now. And so it’s our job to really help them.
Ken: Yeah, yeah. And in a lot of ways, it’s understandable like you said, if somebody has tried everything, and they’ve been dealing with this for decades, you can understand why they would be skeptical of any new product. Yeah, and something that impresses me In our conversation so far today, you brought up customers and the sort of the mind of the customer, the emotions of the customer, where they are right? In their lives many, many times. And it just convinces me that you really are committed to these customers, and I’m really just not about okay, selling your product to them, but about their lives and about their success and even things like the hope that they have, that they can have a better life. Where do you think that comes from? You did mention that you have an interest in people and love for people, where do you think this sort of curiosity and just caring about this customer? Where does that come from?
Ryan: My mom .And my dad has a lot of it too, but I it’s funny cause you grow up and you get mad at your parents and all those stuff, and now I look back and I’m the most blessed human being ever because I look at both of my parents and, I’m kind of list this combination of the two of them.
Ryan: My dad is the businessman and he’s a little more stoic and my mom has never met somebody she doesn’t love and wants to help ever. And so, I’m just blessed from that standpoint. And I think that was the perfect storm that created me and gave me this purpose to really take on the responsibility and create the Feel Good Lab because let me tell you, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and we’ll talk about it cause I still have to answer your last question about what the next steps were, but if I knew how hard this would be, I never would have done it. I’m so thankful that I did, but like, we compete in one of the hardest categories in the world.
Ryan: For reasons I just told you, but in the most competitive categories in the world, pain relief is like, it’s pretty much as competitive as it gets. And most of the companies we compete against have very deep pockets, if not billions, right? Some of them are the biggest companies in the whole world. So I just think that, some of this stuff you can’t learn and not everybody, like there’s a downside to it.
Ryan: Like one of my mentors is telling me how much I need to get better at selling because I just want to help people. And so I’ll be out of sales calls and I’ll end up giving them free products because I feel so bad. There’s a balance, like I’m running a business, I have investors, I can’t, I need to get a little bit better at that side.
Ryan: And so, I’m not saying oh, I’m blessed. I’m better than other people because I care. No, everybody cares about certain things at a certain level. I think what’s really important is that you find what your superpower is, and instead of trying to hold it back, you try to build attributes around it that make it stronger.
Ryan: So for me, as always I’m gonna care, now I’m just trying to build that more business-minded salesmanship and figuring out how to combine them, to make me better at this. Right?
Ken: Right. And then ultimately, as you continue to scale to surround yourself with people that sort of supplement, some of the areas maybe you’re not the strongest in, so that you can continue to just do your superpower.
Ken: So that you can just maximize that. Yeah, just one more follow up on that. Okay. So you mentioned some of the downsides of being this way, but business wise, what are some of the upsides, what do you think it helps you to do? And I’d imagine, first of all, and imagine it makes you a better salesperson actually.
Ken: Yeah, And that people feel your commitment and they feel your sincerity.
Ryan: One of the things like this morning, I had a customer call and was all angry, because she ordered a subscription and save on Amazon, and she didn’t want it anymore. And we deal with a lot of older demographics.
Ryan: And so first of all, it had nothing to do with me cause she ordered it on Amazon. So I helped walk her through. But what’s so funny is, sometimes you get those negative kind of calls, and the ability to diffuse them is like one of my superpowers. And I love it because, at first I’d get really anxious about these negativity, negative calls and whatnot, and I’m just there to help them.
Ryan: And once they realize oh, I’m a human just like them and I really care. It totally diffuses the situation. And oftentimes, I had one woman the other day she was trying to cancel and she decided not to, after our conversation. And so I think it really helps, but the ultimate skill that I think it gives me is perseverance.
Ryan: I listened to your podcast with my great friend Juan from Waku in preparation for this. And he talks a lot about similar things, leading with the customer, understanding the customer, and all these things. And it’s just that perseverance, and caring, and starting with the customer first. It’s the main reason that I’m not going anywhere, right?
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. I always think of the story of Steve jobs, and one of the things about Steve jobs that I think manifests itself in a bunch of different ways is that he really did care about the problems that he was solving. This was not just a, like just trying to sell something.
Ken: This was like a crusade for him, this is a mission, to bring computing to the world, to make this stuff easier and more accessible to more people. And I just can always admire that type of passion. And I think it does help you persevere through the hard parts, I think it helps you to actually come up with a better product because you’re paying attention, you’re listening, you actually care.
Ryan: You said something really important there. If you don’t mind, if I add. That it’s caring about the problem, not the solution. So I got a funny little story. So when I was in engineering school Yukon launched this new program, it was called the entrepreneurship senior design. They took engineers, they had us take four MBA classes.
Ryan: And then we would basically try to, instead of creating a senior design project where you’re, say, working on a new blade design for a helicopter, with Sikorsky and doing flow analysis all year, you basically got to take a technology and try to commercialize it. So we went into this with this mindset of an engineer, and I’ll never forget the teacher Rich Dino, who’s been a mentor of mine for the past decade. He’s, on the first day of class, he had all these engineers in there and he was poking fun at us about we just want to create these incredible mechanical solutions, almost like these crazy ideas we have. He goes, you need to understand that if you don’t really get the problem and what the consumer’s thinking, you’re never going to create the right solution and you need to start from the problem.
Ryan: And so with our business, we had this solution that was presented to myself in our natural pain cream when my dad explained this, you know what was going on, but if you look at where we are today as a business, we have a whole suite of products because we’re really all about solving the problem.
Ryan: We’re not committed to our products. We’re committed to solving the problem. And it’s very important because if you’re just committed to your product, you’re going to go, you’re going to get taken by the market real quick. As things change and develop.
Ken: Yeah, no, that’s a good point. There’s a guy named Ashmore, he’s like an entrepreneur’s coach, and he always talks about that, love the problem, not the solution. And I think that you also touched on this a little bit earlier when saying, you could envision a day when the Feel Good Lab doesn’t just sell products, right? Like you’re some sort of media company that teaches people and helps them to be able to overcome some of these problems and I think that’s just more double-clicking on that same point.
Ryan: Really, it started with, okay, we’ve got this incredible formula. How do we protect it and bring it out to the market? And so we immediately filed a patent which we’ve since been granted. And we also went and looked at how we would basically get our formula FDA approved so that we can market it and sell it on the same aisle as icy hot, and Biofreeze, and Aspercreme and all these other topical products that are sold in the pharmacies. What we learned is we didn’t actually have to get it FDA approved, which takes years and years and millions of dollars in clinical trials.
Ryan: What we actually had to do was get it FDA registered. It’s still a process, it costs money, it takes time, but it doesn’t require the double blind placebo controlled studies. What it requires is looking at your ingredients profile and making sure it’s safe and efficacious based on the ingredients that have been studied for many, many years.
Ryan: And so there’s an FDA monograph that we’re able to use that allows us to make claims around arthritis, pain, back pain, muscle, and joint pain, sprains, strains, and bruises. And we can make those claims in our marketing, which is huge because there’s many products in, especially in the CBD space. Now, a lot of them are making these claims and they’re going to be in for a world of hurt when the FDA starts cracking down on it, because CBD is not approved to make these claims.
Ryan: But we’re legally through the FDA allowed to have a drug facts on our packaging and talk about the benefits for specific elements like arthritis and back pain. And so those were two really critical steps. Probably the most important one though, including those, is finding a manufacturer and figuring out how to safely make the product, getting the shelf life, building out the supply chain, all of those little pieces.
Ryan: And that’s where I really looked at my experience in the aerospace world, because as a consultant, I really got heavily involved in all aspects of the supply chain from sourcing the material, to the lead time for running it through the shop, to selling it, all those sorts of pieces. So I went to work immediately and built out the supply chain and the packaging and the tubes, and the design and all the pieces that went into it, and it was probably a good six month journey from ideation to finding the manufacturer. One of the stories that we tell is, the formula we created in our lab was not the exact same formula that the manufacturers were able to put together that had the shelf life and the FDA efficacy.
Ryan: It was just as clean, which meant it didn’t have a lot of these really bad ingredients that we were removing from the aisle. But it had to be slightly different in the way it was put together, then what we were able to do just right in our lab. So we had to then take in those prototypes and retest them, because never did we think we were actually really scared for those two months like, oh no, we can’t make the product that we developed now, it wasn’t that different. It was probably about 10% different, right? But it was different enough that we felt, ok, let’s make sure, let’s get in the prototypes, let’s make sure we retest them with the same demographic. Also, we had some extra, so we got to, like a bigger test, probably got it to about a hundred people.
Ryan: And what was crazy, is it actually, we believe it actually worked better than the original we came out with. Again, anecdotal, it was only about a hundred pieces of feedback but we believe that it came out even more efficacious. And like I said, in our category, that was the most important thing because once we got product in hand, product market fit, how do we start selling and get real customer feedback and see if this is working.
Ryan: And the greatest opportunity I believe for consumer packaged goods for product market fit is amazon.com. It’s much more competitive now than it was six years ago when we launched on it. But man, are you able to get a lot of sales, and a lot of reviews fast? And that was really helpful for us, and that’s when we realized, oh my goodness, we definitely have something that works here.
Ken: So I wanted to double click on just a couple of those points. So one of the things that you see a lot of people struggle with is this whole process of building out your supply chain, finding a good manufacturer, formulating the products, it seems like the formulation part, you had a huge advantage in because you had your dad and his experience to lean on, but Just to talk a little bit about that process of building out your supply chain, and maybe give us just a couple tips or just any pieces of advice about other entrepreneurs that may be, in that process or thinking about that. What are some things that you learned while doing that?
Ryan: Yeah. And I’ll give it through the lens of like, six years ago, it was a lot different than it is today. COVID, China, et cetera. So what I did six years ago when we kicked this off was, Alibaba was huge. We did our box manufacturing there, we did our tube manufacturing there, so basically I immediately went on Alibaba.
Ryan: I found tube and box manufacturers, and I just started quoting them, and I got as many quotes as I could, and I set up as many follow-ups as I could, and I would come have them compete against each other. I would send one set of pricing, I’d block out their name, I’d send it to the other ones. And then as somebody came in lower, I’d send it to all the rest of them, and really try to drive down the price.
Ryan: And then I would get the next step from there was getting samples sent in and then getting those samples to my manufacturer, cause I had to make sure that I had certain requirements from a quality standpoint. Tube diameter, certain things that had to fit as well as the plastic makeup, making sure it was safe for the menthol to go in there, which is in our product at a very low amount, but, menthol can react with different plastics.
Ryan: So there was a whole bit of quality that went into it as well. Really got to lean on my engineering, specifically in the box manufacturing, we came up with some pretty savvy box designs, which were a little overkill, but we’ve always been really keen on customer experience. So you know that, and that’s one of the things I love, it’s one of my passions, it’s customer user experience. So those were the first steps. And then we placed our first big PO and we got stuff shipped. I ship most of it from, for air because we didn’t want to wait two months to ship a VSC, but now anything we do internationally, what we’ll ship VSC, although with the container prices where they are.
Ryan: We’re trying to move away from international. And so now when I put that lens back into post COVID, we’ve actually moved our two manufacturing here to the United States. We’ve moved our packaging, manufacturing to the United States and Mexico. We have a co-manufacturer that has plants in both.
Ryan: So they do some in the US, some in Mexico, right over the border, but we don’t have that crazy container shipment issue now anymore. And then with the tube manufacturing, we’re also going a little more eco-friendly. So we’re able to find a manufacturer that uses a process of recycled plastic, as well as bioplastics.
Ryan: So it’s grown. It’s grown, versus petroleum-based. And so, it allows us to just be a little bit more eco-conscious as well as manufacture everything in the United States. But our manufacturer has always been US-based because we’re a pharmaceutical, technically we’re registered with the FDA.
Ryan: We have certain quality requirements. So we always did our manufacturing here in the States. But we’ve now, we’re now sourced pretty much everything from North America.
Ken: Interesting, interesting. So a couple of things, from the way you described it, I think that your experience in the supply chain for the aerospace industry definitely came in,
Ken: and one thing is just, in your attitude and taking these quotes, comparing them, trying to really drive down your costs, and the attitude that I’m leaning on is that a lot of first time entrepreneurs who are getting their first product out the door, a lot of them go in with the attitude of like, oh, I just hope these guys will actually do this for me, or, almost.
Ken: Apologetic, not realizing that they’re actually the ones in control and like, they drive that conversation and they need to know what they want. And then, it’s okay to negotiate and really try to bring your costs down because that’s going to determine the success of your business. So is there anything that you could add to that in terms of you know, how you thought about it as you’re actually, negotiating with these different clients? These different suppliers, what’s your state of mind to that, and how do you approach it?
Ryan: Yeah, there’s three aspects. Number one, relationship building. I always start there. And once you build a relationship, these people will become your friends. I still have one of my suppliers from China, send me birthday gifts. She sent me this gorgeous tea set last year, and I haven’t bought from her in a long time.
Ryan: Building that relationship and making them want to help you is very critical, to getting them to understand the vision and the passion and the excitement really makes them focus a little bit more on it. And then with that comes, you don’t want to lie, but you want to really lay out what this could look like if it takes off and what the quantities, I’d tell you what, in this type of supply chain, tubes, and boxes, quantity talks. I find myself now ordering in the magnitude of like 20 to 50,000 units for a lot of this stuff. One, because it allows us to buy long so that my manufacturer just has to spool up and make the product and fill it. And so that’s a huge piece of our supply chain, but there’s costs associated with that, in your first batch, not only are you not going to want to run 20,000 units of tubes, you shouldn’t, there’s quality issues. I’ll tell you a few mistakes we made. No, we had our caps. We never told them to screw, to make the design so the cap’s screwed on straight, so that the tip of the cap was facing you. They’d all be screwed on to different angles.
Ryan: And it just looked janky, little things like that. We had an issue with the printing and we had an issue with the colors, over the years. And so, when you buy too long, you get stuck with all the inventory, but you want to dangle the carrot of love. Hey guys, we want to do this first order, but following behind, it’s going to be a 20,000 unit order and that’s going to make them prioritize your business a little bit more and really use that to drive the pricing down.
Ken: Yeah, yeah. And it’s interesting to realize that also anybody that’s in this business, in the supply chain, they’re used to negotiating, and this is something I learned from negotiating with people overseas. It’s expected, it’s like part of, sort of the dance right?
Ken: And negotiating and coming up with a price going back and forth. And so I think maybe it’s a Western thing where it’s like, where we’re a little bit reluctant to do that. We can maybe feel a little bit bad or something asking for a lower price. You know what I mean?
Ryan: Not only to your point is, do they expect it, if you don’t. I’ve seen people get gouged and I’ve probably gotten gouged myself and I just don’t know it. Somebody feels like they can take an advanced advantage and they quote two, three, X high and you end up taking the price and they’re just making a killing on you. So it works both ways, especially when you’re on Alibaba shooting out quotes all over the place and you might find someone that you think is perfect. But unless you’re bouncing it and really getting a competitive quote, it’s hard to tell. And so you need to make sure that you’re doing your diligence cause you absolutely can get taken advantage of.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah, and I think you owe it to, think about it. You owe it to your customers. If you’ve got the resources, and if you can hold onto some of those resources, I think you can ultimately make a better product and invest more in what you talked about before, which is the overall customer experience. Because you’ve actually got the margins in your products in order to then be able to provide that.
Ken: I think you owe it to yourself and just the work that you put into your business, and that you deserve to make a profit. And then also I think that you owe it to your investors, whoever invested in you that you’re at least negotiating you’re doing the best that you are, that you can, and you’re being a good steward of those funds that you have.
Ryan: Yeah, and one little last example, COVID caused prices to go up, so we just got a couple of quotes back in, everything’s going up. It really hurts. One of the things I’m working on now is okay, maybe my price is going to go up 20%, but what I’m trying to negotiate with my manufacturer that I spend the most money with, is payment terms.
Ryan: So if I can get better payment terms, if I pay more money, but I get better payment terms. It can actually be really helpful, the biggest challenge in CPG. And that’s why when I found your podcast, I was really excited because entrepreneurship is hard to begin with, CPG entrepreneurship in my opinion is one of the hardest, because it takes cash to scale.
Ryan: Once you get everything ready to go and you start to grow and grow and grow, it takes more and more and more cash, because you need more inventory, you need to pay for marketing, there’s so many different aspects of it. And so if we don’t get ahead of that, it is a very big challenge. And you start, you basically, for us, I’ll give you an example.
Ryan: We pay 50% upfront and we used to pay 50% in order to get the product shipped to us. And it’s a 12 week lead time. So we have to put out all this cash, product goes into manufacturing, 12 weeks later, you put in another 50%, then you get the product shipped to you and I still have to go sell it. So I don’t get paid on the money that I invest into that product for sometimes up to 12 months.
Ryan: And that’s a very hard business to scale when cash is king. So if I can say, get now, what I have is a 60 day payment terms on that last payment, and I’m working on getting the first payment to get pushed to the 12 weeks, which is going to really alleviate the cash and allow me to not have to have all this cash sitting there in order to make my next purchase order, especially as we’re hopefully going to be on QVC.
Ryan: And the next few weeks, I’m waiting on a PO that may come in today, knock on wood. And if we do, I need to go and buy $30,000 worth of inventory. And I got to go pull the cash together and possibly finance some of it and figure that out because of the way the payment terms are set up right now. So it’s not always just about the price of. It’s also about the payment terms equally as important.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. Good point. Good point. I know that we’re getting to the end of our time, but I wanted to just double click on one of the things that you talked about, which is moving away from international and that some of the effects, COVID, and how COVID may be motivated that a little bit more. Do you mind just explaining some of your motivations for saying that and for trying to do that with your business.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s really twofold. The first is COVID was driving a lot of the decisions because you couldn’t even get product for awhile from China, and from other places But then there’s a second piece of like, I started to realize specifically with China, but other places international, sometimes the price was so cheap that it didn’t make sense to me, like cheaper, so cheap that I’m like, how is anybody making any money? Anywhere. And what I realized is, there’s almost like a monopoly slowly happening, or at least it was. I see it starting to move back the other way, where we aren’t making much of anything in the United States. And I felt compelled to help be a part of the solution, and, maybe you pay a little bit of a premium, but when you look at the lack of lead time, shipping charges and all of this, it actually gets pretty close to break-even. And I just felt like it was the right thing to do, to just have a business that’s more built here, like I just think that it’s important that we have manufacturing capabilities here in the United States, and that we’re self-sufficient, we don’t need to be reliant. There’s certain things that only can be made in other places, or can only be made to a certain quality and other places totally get that. But packaging and tubes are not one of them.
Ryan: And there’s plenty of amazing manufacturers right here locally that you can work with, that when you do the whole business analysis, and some of them are right in my backyard so now I’ve got personal relationships with, and you talk about negotiating better terms and things like that.
Ryan: There’s no better way to do it than when you actually build a physical relationship with some of these people.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. That’s interesting. And especially in the early days, you guys are a little past this, but the very early days when you’re still iterating so much on your part, just proximity can just be a huge advantage to getting through that, finding product market fit just getting to the right product quicker.
Ken: In fact, that’s one aspect that we’ve seen as we’ve done more and more of this podcast and in the fiddle business that we run, is that we talked to a lot of people who’ve, we’re actually manufacturing in-house for that particular reason, is if you could do it in-house, pretty close to the same cost.
Ken: There are some huge advantages, in order to be able to just move faster to get to the right product. And that’s not always doable for all businesses but the proximity point that you just made, I think is a huge one.
Ryan: Yeah. I look forward to the day where we can do all of our manufacture in-house, like maybe not boxes and tubes, but are most of the value, most of the costs in our product manufacturing is in the product itself. And I’d love to have our own manufacturing plant and because you can control the quality, one little quick example is we are going to get into the CBD space, we’re taking it slow. We want the bottom to fall out a little bit, there’s so much competition and people don’t know where to look, but what we did on our first batch of product we made, as we grew it ourselves, we wanted to really understand the process, so not just the manufacturing, but all the way down to growing the individual ingredient, and I think that that’s important because one, it can be part of your story, and two, when you can control that detail of the process all the way through, I think that ultimately, it makes for a much better product at the end of the day.
Ken: Yeah, good point. Yeah, I’ve kept you long enough. Want to start wrapping this up a little bit before we head over to the quickfire round. I just want to ask you about, what’s coming up for the rest of 2022, what are you excited about? Do you guys have any big plans for the rest of this year?
Ryan: Yeah. We are, we’ve just launched a whole new suite of products that I’m super excited about. And what we call it is first of all, everything we do comes from my dad and my brother at the pharmacy and functional medicine practice. So we’re not sitting here necessarily looking at market dynamics and saying, oh, this is a good way to move, not that that’s bad. That’s just not how we do it. What we look at, is my dad and brother on the frontline, working with patients in chronic pain every day. And they’re not only giving them our natural pain cream, they’re looking at every possible way that they can help them, and implementing it and getting real feedback.
Ryan: So what we did is, we looked at what was working, and we came up with this tagline, we call it fighting pain with wellness. What it means is taking a proactive approach to pain when you have our great OTC natural pain relievers that are FDA registered, you can make the claims against pain. But on top of that, we launched a line of supplements that can help people to support healthy inflammation response, with our curcumin supplement, a really high quality fish oil, which is very important to the body. Being able to perform its optimal functions, which inevitably go to its ability to recover from chronic injury and chronic pain. We launched the hydration product because we found that a lot of patients, whether they’re in pain or not,
Ryan: are not properly hydrating and then a vitamin D. So those four supplements are now live on our website and we’re basically building out the campaigns to start to get them sold and get them worked in, and we’re having a lot of success, it’s only been a few weeks. But we think that adding more ways that people can, like we talked about earlier, right? It’s not just about our solution, it’s about the problem. So more ways that we can support people on this journey to fighting pain with wellness. And then the last thing that we just launched, this is the thing I’m the most excited about.
Ryan: It’s a, we talked about earlier. Lifestyle might be the most important root cause of what’s causing our chronic disease, specifically chronic pain. And what my dad has found is that diet is really the leading cause of inflammation in our gut, but throughout the rest of our body. So if we can help people improve their diet and reduce the inflammatory burden that the diets put on them, we can reduce the inflammation at the site of their arthritis or the site of their knee pain.
Ryan: And so he had a product that he was using for many years that we’ve partnered with. It’s a food inflammation test. So it’s an at-home finger prick. You mail it into the lab and within 10 days, From them receiving it. We get a spreadsheet back of all of the foods in your individual body that are actually causing inflammation.
Ryan: And so what’s really special about that, is it’s different from a food sensitivity test; food sensitivity tests like a company called every well have been really blowing up the past couple of years. One of the challenges with those, is you can get a lot of false positives. They only measure the IGG response, which is called immunoglobulin G. I’m not going to get into all the details, but our test measures that same IGG with a complementary protein.
Ryan: So because we have two signals, the efficacy or the accuracy goes up to 95%, it means you get less false positives, but more important when you have the complement protein, it means that there’s a 10 to a thousand fold inflammatory increase in the body. So those foods that are causing both the IGG and the complement protein response are really the ones that you want to focus on.
Ryan: And what we found after testing hundreds of people with this test, almost every single person has a healthy food that would be considered a healthy, bananas as an example, not often does bananas show up, but sometimes healthy foods can show up in your individual body cam, that are causing inflammation for you, and if you can reduce that inflammatory burden by cutting that food out, you can make a huge impact on your overall health and your ability to fight pain.
Ken: Huh. And so, the product that you guys are launching is that test, and the ability for customers to be able to buy that test from you and actually find out what’s causing the inflammation.
Ryan: Exactly. Yep. So we’ve got the line of supplements now, as well as the food inflammation test and something I’m working on right now is, it’s a quiz build out on the website to allow people to go through and understand which products, what kind of get bundled together to best serve them based on what conditions they’re dealing with and where they are in their life.
Ken: Yeah, anecdotally I definitely believe in that food inflammation idea and just in the, I experience it all the time. I’m usually low carb, but we just had Easter and I allowed myself to be an adult a little bit. And it’s as soon as I start eating more sugar, it’s like all of my old soccer injuries and soccer, pains from like my hips and my knees, they start hurting again, and it’s just something that I’ve just noticed over the years that if I can keep lower carb, I generally have less joint pain.
Ryan: I totally relate to that. I have the same thing.
Ken: Yeah, yeah. Let’s jump into the quickfire round and then we’ll wrap this up.
Ken: So Ryan what’s one tool or resource that has helped you the most in your current position?
Ryan: Probably my business coach. Who’s like, he acts as more than a business coach, but it’s just a place, a safe place to go to really get things off my chest and talk about things so important.
Ryan: It’s a lonely journey. It really is. And having people that you can trust, that you can rely on, to just be able to talk about things, is so important.
Ken: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. What is one book that you could recommend to the audience?
Ryan: James Clear, atomic habits are awesome.
Ryan: It’s awesome, for making changes in your own life, but even more important for us is we’re trying to help our customers improve their daily wellness habits. So I’ve taken a lot of learnings from that book and tried to implement them into the way we talk to our customers and the way we help guide them on how they can improve their overall wellness.
Ken: And what’s one piece of advice that you’d give to your 21 year old self?
Ryan: Oh, 21 year old self. Don’t worry and fail fast. One of my big challenges is I really hate failure and it holds me back from trying things. And I think that is the worst skill you can have as an entrepreneur. To me, the ultimate entrepreneurs are people that dive right in, they’re willing to fail and look silly, and then they learn that lesson quickly and they pivot and move, and I am getting better at it, but it’s something I still need to work on.
Ken: And who’s one person in your field of work, maybe it’s another entrepreneur, or another product, a brand that you watch, that you’d love to take to lunch? Like another founder, there you go.
Ryan: I just listened to his podcast and every single sentence gets downloaded and I find myself repeating it. I literally repeat 10 quotes from him daily and he just, he really inspires me and I love it because he says things so eloquently with fewer words.
Ryan: There’s this famous quote by Mark Twain. I’m sorry that this letter is so long, I didn’t have enough time. And Naval has got a beautiful way of Summarizing these crazy complex ideas into one sentence that just mic drops on you, right?
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s a huge skill, right? Yeah, he’s awesome.
Ken: Okay. That’s great. Any parting words for other entrepreneurs that are out there, that are in the grind right now trying to get their physical product off the ground or trying to get more distribution or, just any words that you could leave them with.
Ryan: I would say, keep going, once you get over the fear of failure, it becomes so much more fun. And the bumps in the road come with the territory, it’s what we signed up for. And so I almost look forward to them now. And, I just think having a good support system is really helpful. I’m happy to talk with anybody. If you have questions, if you’re dealing with something, not that I’m an expert in it.
Ryan: But I’m happy to be here and bounce ideas off of, so if you want to reach out to me personally, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’d be happy to talk with you.
Ken: Okay. Awesome. Thank you, Ryan. We look forward to talking to you more and congratulations on all the success.
Ryan: Thanks so much, Ken. All right, see you.
Ken: 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. Visit fiddle.io, and then make sure to search for Physical Product Movement in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts, or anywhere else podcasts are found. Make sure to click subscribe. So you don’t miss any future episodes on behalf of the team here at fiddle. Thanks for listening.