This is a written interview with Anthony Adams of www.drinkTHC.com. Anthony has a truly interesting entrepreneurial story that I thought you’d all enjoy, his views on escaping the 9 to 5 by becoming an entrepreneur are really extraordinary.
So Anthony, for those in the audience who don’t know you please let me know who you are and what you’ve done to escape the 9 to 5 for good?
Hi Maren, thanks for having me. I graduated from college in 2006 and worked for a very large technology company selling software here in Dallas. It was a wake up call for sure and I couldn’t see myself working for other people the rest of my life, it’s just not how I am wired. So while the job was fine, it was just that; a job. My heart wasn’t in it.
I was laid off in early 2009 and, instead of moving laterally in my career and finding another similar desk job doing phone work, I decided to create my own dietary supplement company selling a product called The Hangover Cure, which is an all natural drink mix that, you guessed it, helps with hangover symptoms. We’ve grown the brand with virtually no funding or outside resources using word-of-mouth and other low-cost marketing plans to have customers on six continents, including Africa, in a little over a year of existence.
So what is your business model? Tell us a little more about your unusual product and how this business came to be?
We are an online business, which is great. We ship direct to the end user and have independent distributors worldwide. We aren’t trying to be the biggest supplement company in the world or anything like that, I’m much more interested in a niche business with happy, repeat customers who tell their friends about us. Word of mouth is great.
The idea for The Hangover Cure actually started when I was in college. To say I saw a need for it would be an understatement. It just occurred to me that there wasn’t anything out there that was marketed correctly to the college crowd. Every hangover remedy on the market was geared towards a health-conscious consumer and sold at places like GNC and Whole Foods. I don’t know too many people who get hangovers after taking shots of wheat grass all night.
I created the formula shortly after college in my kitchen, with the assistance of my Mom, who is a nutritionist, and my friends and I spent about the next three years road testing it until we found something we felt really helped out. As far as the branding goes, we just wanted to keep it as simple as possible. Calling something “The Hangover Cure” gets the point across pretty quickly and I admire brands like vitaminwater and 5 Hour Energy a lot for that very reason.
What kind of success have you have in your business, numbers, metrics or amount of product sold would be great.
I don’t have the numbers off hand in terms of vials sold, and it fluctuates month-to-month, but we consistently have top independent distributors buying thousands of vials a month at a discount, combined with direct orders to the end user. So I’m very happy with our growth. So while I am not a millionaire or anything like that, I’m happy and I don’t have to do things I don’t like doing.
What have you found are the pros and cons of entrepreneurship vs. following the corporate path?
Most of the pros to working for yourself are pretty obvious. I mean you have more free time if you manage your business right, you make your own schedule, you get to do something you (hopefully) enjoy doing and you control your own destiny. My nightmare is, when I have kids, having to move my family around every two years because my job makes me. I think there is entirely too much opportunity out there if you look for it to be stuck in a situation like that. Half the office jobs out there could be done from home if you really think about it.
But it’s a much more fulfilling existence in my opinion and everyone should try it, even as a side project starting out. I just find it very disturbing that shows like The Office and Office Space are as popular as they are because everyone identifies with them; that’s not a good thing and all the more reason to get out now.
The cons are more mental than anything.
You have to keep in mind that in starting a new business, you are going to run into people who want you to fail, and will offer nothing in the way of support because you are challenging the status quo and that makes them uncomfortable. So you have to be thick-skinned and keep at it. Even in failing at something, you will have learned so much more about the real world than working for someone else, which is why I highly doubt I will ever have to get another job. I’ve failed more times than I can count in the past year, but I’ve learned so much along the way.
In our pre-interview you had mentioned the importance of search engine optimization for online business, can you elaborate on that and explain to someone who is a newbie at internet entrepreneurship what the main keys they should know are?
I got lucky with this starting out and didn’t even realize it. Think about what I call “search engine branding” which is naming your business/product/service something that’s search engine friendly. I could have called my product “Awesome Party Juice” or something like that, but guess what? No one is going into Google, which is a pretty popular site last I checked, and searching for “Awesome Party Juice”.
No one knows what that is. So calling my product “The Hangover Cure” instantly gives me organic traffic in search engines for logical terms that people would search if they didn’t know about your business, which no one will when you start out, like ‘hangover cure’ and ‘cure a hangover’ and so on. You’ll also find that having this mindset forces you to keep your product simple and easy to understand, which is good.
At the very least, if you are starting an online business, learn the basics of search engine optimization. People are out there searching for what you are selling and if your site isn’t showing up, what’s the point in having one? This will also help you not get ripped off if you decide to go with an SEO firm because you will have a basic understanding of the work involved with whatever they are proposing. Every online business needs to be optimized though.
Do you think it is a piece of cake or more difficult to start an online business? What are some of the best tips you’ve learned over your career to help those who are wanting to reach your level of success?
I think it’s easier than a brick and mortar operation for sure. But nothing worth doing is easy. There is no magic button to make anyone care about what you are doing. I have two tips. One is a concept, one is a quote. Seth Godin always talks about shipping, about getting your product/idea out the door on time. And that’s the trick. Do it and fix it as you go. Nothing is perfect starting out, but if you sit around nitpicking about what’s wrong with something while it’s still in development, it never gets shipped and it’s meaningless.
I’m sure thousands of people had the “idea” for the Snuggie, but didn’t act on it because it was silly and looked like a backwards bathrobe and no one would ever buy something so dumb and everyone would laugh at their idea. They talked themselves out of it instead of trying it. But then someone actually took the chance and it worked out pretty well for them.
And a quote by Paul Arden, which should get anyone going: “Most people are looking for a solution, a way to become good. There is no instant solution, the only way to learn is through experience and mistakes. You will become whoever you want to be.”
If you’d like to leave questions or comments for Anthony (or lil’ ole me!) we’ll answer them below…