Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health supplements but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jeff Vierling, Co-Founder of Tailwind Nutrition, located in Durango, CO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Tailwind Nutrition makes nutrition products for outdoor enthusiasts, helping our customers surprise themselves with what they can do - those moments when hard work and pure joy come together in a "Heck yeah!"
Tailwind offers three product lines: Active Hydration for hydrating and shorter workouts, Endurance Fuel for sustained energy for endurance workouts, and Recovery Mix to get you back out there quickly. We test and manufacture our products in Durango, CO and ship to customers via website, Amazon, and in run, bike, and outdoor stores nationwide and 37 countries.
Tell us about yourself
There's a video on our site of me throwing up in the trashcan at the finish line of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. That got me started down the path to finding better nutrition. As I dove into the medical literature on how our bodies fuel, I realized most products contained ingredients that are challenging to digest. That didn't make sense at a time when you need all the energy you can get, and blood flow is diverted away from the digestive tract.
I started making my own drink mix with a fuel matching what the body absorbs so it wouldn't challenge the digestive tract. It was just my secret weapon for a while, but I shared it with athletes around Durango and from the Leadville community. Pretty soon, I found myself meeting people in parking lots and handing off baggies of white powder!
What turned it into a business was a woman I met at Leadville who had dropped out of seven 100-mile races due to nutrition problems. I gave her my mix, and she emailed a couple of months later to say she had finished the Shenandoah 100. She felt great the entire way and broke down in tears as she crossed the finish line, finally reaching a life goal after nearly a decade of trying. That's when my wife Jenny and I thought maybe we could help more people achieve their goals. To this day, helping our customers achieve their goals and hearing their stories of what they've been able to accomplish motivates the entire Tailwind team and me.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
It's hard to pick a singular one, but I'm proud of the way our team came together during Covid, continuing to operate with no Covid cases and no layoffs while finding a meaningful way to contribute. We launched a Hospital support program, which, together with customers who donated, gave away more than 60,000 servings of Endurance Fuel and Recovery Mix to 130 hospitals, helping doctors, nurses, and staff stay fueled and hydrated while working long shifts in hot PPE.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
As a business owner, the hardest thing for me is balancing the urgent with the important. It's a real challenge to take care of the ever-increasing tasks required of a growing business while prioritizing the work that moves Tailwind forward.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Think about what success looks and feels like to you five years down the road. What do you want out of starting a business? Getting that clear will help you set a strategy and make decisions.
- Focus on the minimum needed to bring your product or service to market. It's great to research your space and understand customer needs, but you'll learn more in the first three months of having your product or service available than in a year of planning. Get it out there.
- Start small and manageable, but set it up for scale. What I mean by that is planning pricing, distribution, and how you engage and communicate with your customers at scale, even if you don't reach all your markets with your initial offering.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Go for it! Starting and running a business is a lot like setting and achieving an athletic goal. It's a lot of hard work, and the outcome is uncertain, so enjoy the ride, solve the actual (not possible) problems in front of you, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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