Life Equals co-founders Kyle Fitzgerald and Chris Thowe started their venture as a vitamin company. But after participating in Spark!Lab — a hands-on invention program in Kansas City developed by the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation — they switched gears.
“We wouldn’t be here without them,” Fitzgerald said of the Spark!Lab. “We worked on creating a pitch deck, scalable idea and how to talk to investors.”
Both men were graphic designers before forming their company. When they each had families, they both realized that maintaining healthy eating habits had become their biggest challenge.
“It was a health awakening for us two personally, and as well as for our families. It has been really cool tying our passion to our business,” Thowe said.
“With graphic design backgrounds, we had an understanding of packaging and branding and stuff like that, which has been a really nice way to get into business,” he added. “Since we didn’t have a health background, we came about this idea organically, and that’s paid off in the long run.”
A mentor gave them advice that would lead to their most successful product: the Balance the Superfood Shot.
“He said, ‘It’s not the vitamins. You have to find a really big problem and solve it with a medical solution.’” Fitzgerald said.
When the entrepreneurial pair began speaking with doctors, a theme emerged: averting preventable diseases. Doctors told them prevention was a food problem, first and foremost, and asked them to figure out how to make fruits and veggies easy for patients to consume.
Three years later, Balance the Superfood Shot was born. Now a nationally known brand, the two-ounce shots contain the equivalent of half of a person’s daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. The shots are available in three blends available: the foundation (the company’s most popular product), the immunity and the turmeric blend. They retail for about $3.75 for a two-ounce bottle.
Fitzgerald and Thowe have raised around $4 million in investments to date, including a seed round that pulled in $2.2 million. They currently see about 70 percent of their sales online and 30 percent in stores. They’ve established a partnership with Whole Foods, and their two-year goal is to expand into other parts of the Midwest, the Rocky Mountain region and the Pacific Northwest.
“You have to be extremely tenacious because no one cares about your business but you,” Fitzgerald said. “For a product company, it’s even more specific because no one is going to sell the product for you.”
Added Thowe: “Rather than chasing the good feedback, chase down the “No” and understand why they aren’t buying. [It’s] just as important.”
Life Equals has seen a surge in sales since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. Fitzgerald and Thowe said they believe that’s because the shots offer a safe way to obtain nutrients that support a healthy lifestyle.
Thowe said he welcomes entrepreneurs looking for advice to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My Biggest Mistake
“I think if you’re going to be reliant on investors, you have to know it’s a numbers game and you have to contact an unbelievable amount of people, so don’t make the mistake of linearly sourcing your investors or customers. You need to be thinking about it in a nonlinear way. What you need to do is talk to ABCDEFG at the same time and be really multi-pronged with your sourcing and customers. You can’t wait 30 days to find out someone didn’t write a check.”
— Kyle Fitzgerald