Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Duane Gilbert, Founder, and CEO of VitaPLUR LLC., located in Santa Clara, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
VitaPLUR Supplement Gum is an online supplement company specializing in harm reduction and extreme sports nutrition based in California. Founded in 2018 by DJ Gilbert (engineer) and May Fu (DR in residence at Tufts Medical Center). VitaPLUR's emphasis on the most direct delivery of high-quality ingredients for use during extreme events or exercise has helped our customers stay safer and transform their minds and bodies. Our customers are passionate about an active lifestyle, including music festivals, exercise, and gaming.
Tell us about yourself
A mechanical engineer by training, with the majority of my experience coming in the robotics industry. Most known for my work with iRobot, as I have several dozen patents on Roomba alone. In a stark departure from my experience in 2018, launched VitaPLUR Supplement Gum The gum came about as an "aha" moment about the best way to solve TMJ. TMJ can be best described as jaw clenching. Adderall and similar medications can cause this issue, but many suffer from this condition systemically. We theorized that chewing gum that delivers magnesium through the buccal membranes while you chew could solve this issue. After dozens of iterations, we eventually arrived at our current solution.
Over time we have perfected our magnesium delivery system to the point that we now feel we offer the most bio-available delivery of magnesium on the market. Our latest offering builds on this to also boost nitric oxide production, which has a number of useful applications. We are motivated each day to keep producing first-of-kind products that solve real issues in the healthiest way possible.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Our latest offering represents the world's first chewing gum capable of being a pre-workout supplement by being clinically shown to increase nitric oxide production by more than 3X.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
What is most difficult for me personally is changing from being an engineer to being a small business owner. My whole career has been spent making a "better mouse trap." All of my patents have pushed products into new or better solutions. The problem with being a business owner is not coming up with better solutions, as currently, all of our products are the best in their respective classes. The problem is how to best communicate that to as many people who could benefit from them as possible. Still have a tremendous amount to learn in all things related to business development.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Leverage "free" options to get your product out there. In our case posting on various subreddits offered the best way to get our product off the ground without taking on excessive debt.
- Blue ocean vs. red ocean. We entered the rave market initially as there was no direct competition for functional chewing gum in that market. This blue ocean approach gave us an immediate way to establish the brand.
- Be careful with FB ads. It's easy to get banned on FB from running ads, and once on the outside looking in, there are no easy solutions to being able to market again. This has been our biggest obstacle to date.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
We launched our company as a side business/passion project. Our goal was simply to help keep people safer by providing a harm-reduction product that makes a real difference in people's lives. Our traction was gained organically for the right reasons. If your focus is just money, you will have a harder time pushing past the obstacles. Ideally, you are doing something you love or feel very strongly about.
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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