Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with President and Co-Founder of FlexPower Inc. ($FLXP) Rasheen Smith, to speak about how his entrepreneurial endeavor came to be a product recommended amongst players in professional locker rooms.
FlexPower’s pre- and post- workout recovery products first made their way into production through fundraising and have finally found their way into the hands and everyday use by professional athletes and active individuals. FlexPower has continued to create and maintain an extensive network in the athletic communities across the country, with an impressive number of famous professional athlete brand ambassadors such as Jason Kidd and Manu Ginobili. FlexPower believes in supporting the dreams of athletes in every sport by assisting them through their tireless training, dedication, soreness and injury.
Brewer: FlexPower has flourished since its inception. How did you discover the need for a new topical cream/sports cream for pain relief. What made you so keen to create one without a scent?
Smith: Competing as high school and collegiate athletes we knew the range of pain relief options available, but we found that all the creams in the locker room either smelled bad, were greasy, or were just marginally effective. We were also concerned about the side effects from taking oral painkillers. Our friends playing in professional sports were even more concerned because they found themselves popping pills like candy just to stay competitive, and they certainly didn’t like the idea of taking so many pills on a daily basis.
We recognized the need for a pain reliever that would not have to be taken orally and was more effective than other creams available. We developed a revolutionary product to penetrate the skin, delivering heat and relief to key joints and muscles without the greasiness and terrible smell. To achieve this we rejected using the same menthol ingredients as everyone else and turned to more modern ingredients that can rub on easily through a fresh, clean-scented, lotion-based cream.
Brewer: You found prescription and over-the-counter pain relief pills to be a leery option for relieving the pain of sports injuries. How does that fit into your values and vision for FlexPower?
Smith: Most people will do whatever it takes to live pain free and athletes are faced with increased pressure to perform at a high, competitive level, We wanted to create a product that would help people feel and perform their best, but was also safe and easy to use.
Health and wellness are important to us and we are dedicated to helping elite athletes, weekend warriors, and active people feel and perform their best using modern solutions that are relevant and easy to use. And with the millions of active consumers experiencing muscle aches and pain everyday, we know what we do is important and useful!
Brewer: FlexPower began after raising $250,000 from family and friends. How were you able to accomplish this and what were the struggles that the company faced in that time?
Smith: At first we used what we had in our savings to create some initial samples which we then sent out to some of our professional athlete friends like Jason Kidd and Jeremy Newberry to further the development of the product. We also sought out and worked with other elite athletes for feedback to both develop our product and our nest egg. It was a team effort and these guys helped to form the foundation of what we have today.
One of the initial struggles to overcome for any new company is product development, which can sometimes take a great deal of time. Also the trial and error that often goes hand-in-hand with the process can be exhausting. For several years we constantly tweaked the product until we had something we felt confident was ready for market. The next challenge was getting it to the pro teams, whom I can tell you are not easy to crack.
Brewer: How were you able to get your product into the hands of professional coaches, athletes, and training departments? Why do you believe some of the greatest athletes in sports choose to use FlexPower?
Smith: It took several years to gain true credibility. It’s pretty much impossible to call a pro team and get your product in the door so we worked hard to establish strong relationships with athletic trainers and medical staff who began to embrace the product as more of their athletes requested it. We were fortunate to know some athletes, trainers, and coaches early on who also became ambassadors for us. We took a grassroots approach by giving samples to players or staff we knew to test out. Once they tried the creams, they were hooked and helped us spread the word. We are lucky to have a product that has that “it works” benefit and we have been able to build a loyal customer base by creating such a solid product.
Brewer: How have you seen the benefits of selling the product in The Vitamin Shoppe stores?
Smith: The Vitamin Shoppe has been great. When we first started, we sent samples out to store managers and staff to try and they became our main national retail partner. It’s been great seeing the support of such an important company. They are very knowledgeable about all our products and we often hear our customers say that someone at the store level recommended FlexPower to them.
Brewer: What are the next steps for continuing the company’s growth in 2015?
Smith: I think we are uniquely positioned for impressive growth in the upcoming year. We have spent the time to research and identify the best markets for our products and the best channels through which to sell and/or sample them. We will continue our work with Vitamin Shoppe Inc. ($VSI) stores as well as other retailers and distributors to provide samples in key markets, and also participate in classic print ads and other promotions that they offer to their partners. We will be active with sampling at grassroots events and we will initiate an aggressive online marketing campaign to build our brand and convert consumers. In addition, we will be adding new retailers and distributors during this process and introducing new products into the marketplace.
What really helps us effectively execute our marketing plan is our amazing team of highly influential and credible brand ambassadors - and we have fresh faces joining us all the time! These ambassadors will be the face of the brand in these ads and promotions and we will leverage their likeness and social networks to create more awareness and generate trial of our products. The goal is to brand FlexPower as that “cool" workout accessory. The one that you are not ashamed to have fall out of your gym bag.
Brewer: How has FlexPower handled and/or pushed through the recall of Vioxx and products alike from locker rooms? Was there a benefit seen or were there more products like FlexPower Pain Relief Cream entering the industry?
Smith: As I mentioned before, it was products like Vioxx that motivated us to create our clean scented over-the-counter creams for pain relief. My co-founder and I just saw a unique opportunity here. When a product doing $2B per year in sales like this is pulled from the market, it opens the door to competing products because the folks who were buying Vioxx start seeking alternatives.
We have seen new products come and go in the topical pain relief category, and of course some of the older household brands like Bengay have stuck around and are not going anywhere anytime soon. We know that the more awareness we can create for our products, the more people we will convert. It is a numbers game. As a smaller company, we have to be creative and tough it out because we don’t have the same marketing dollars as some of our larger competitors. But, we are super excited about the rebranding of our product line and new product launches and we are gaining great traction. The FlexPower brand is something we are so excited about and feel that our time is now.
DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer