We had the opportunity to meet a lot of small business people at this year's AADE conference, in addition to those from the mega-huge Pharma companies. One company we spotted was GlucoBrands, a Florida-based outfit that's been making the conference rounds this summer with its GlucoPouch, a new fruity glucose gel. I had a chance to try my sample on the plane back from Vegas when I hit 63 mg/dl right after take-off. Although I was a little suspicious that I wouldn't be able to get the non-perforated pouch open, it was easier to tear than it looks and it didn't taste too shabby either. My days of lugging a juice box around might be over...
Here's what Ethan Lewis, a type 1 PWD himself, has to say about his new venture:
DM) Let's start off with your personal D-story...
EL) I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12. It was a few weeks before school began when I started getting the typical signs of T1. The thirst and flu-like symptoms luckily raised a red flag for my mom. She took me to my doctor and sure enough, I walked out of the office a new man. Well, a diabetes man. The highlight of that day was a stop on the way to the ER to buy a 1-liter bottle of Diet Snapple to "re-hydrate."
What inspired you to start your own business?
I was 23 (am now 24) when I started GlucoBrands. At the time, I had a full-time job, and had a stretch of three weeks where I was going low repeatedly and using glucose gel to treat. What struck me was that I couldn't afford to replace the gel the next day because they were so expensive! At that point, I realized there was an opportunity to create a branded, value-based business making products for people with diabetes. The GlucoPouch concept stemmed from my commitment to making a glucose gel that was: low-cost, tasty, easy to open, and easy to carry. I knew that if I could hit all of these marks, the product would be successful; and luckily it has been.
Wow. You started your business pretty young! How did you get started? Any advice for aspiring D-entrepreneurs?
This is actually the second business I've started. I started my first business at age 16, manufacturing flavored snack crackers marketed in the Northeast. My best advice for fellow entrepreneurs is do your homework (on the business of interest), know it like the back of your hand, surround yourself with smart advisers and start young. There's no question you can gain certain advantages as an ultra-young entrepreneur simply thanks to your age. Most people I come across are interested in helping a young entrepreneur vs. making things difficult for them. Last, I attribute my business success to my diabetes. It has given me more drive than many people to become successful at a young age.
The other gels have been around for a while and are OK. What makes the GlucoPouch different (and better) is that the packaging is strong, easy to carry and use (due to the flexible package), it tastes good and at 3 pouches for $5.95, it's the lowest cost available. To me, living with diabetes is tough enough, that's why I created the GlucoPouch — to make treating low blood sugars easier.
Did you do any market research prior to your launch?
My market research consisted of talking to friends, family and other people with diabetes. Everyone played an important role in guiding the final product when it came to flavor, packaging and price. I took several months to do the R/D, but at the end of the day, the GlucoPouch has been a hit!
There are three of you that comprise GlucoBrands, two who have type 1 diabetes and one with a t1 best friend. Was it important to you to hire people who intimately understand diabetes, or did it just work out this way?
Frankly, it's a little of both. There's no question that having people on our team who understand diabetes is important, but I'm confident that the right people are capable of learning anything, including diabetes. As long as there is an understanding and respect of what people go through who have T1 and T2, they are welcome to join our team.
Any plans to produce flavors other than orange?
We are always looking at new flavor ideas. However, we did a lot of flavor testing and our Mandarin Orange flavor was rated the best! Most people say it tastes like an orange freeze pop or Sunkist!
What's the best way to get GlucoPouch? Off your website?
These days, buying the GlucoPouch off our site is the best way. Not only do the orders arrive within 3-4 business days to your door, but a portion of the profits are donated back to a diabetes charity of your choice when purchased online! (ADA, JDRF or the Diabetes Research Foundation) It's our way of giving back to the D-Community!
Any plans to expand GlucoBrands offerings?
Yes, we are currently working on a product that is sure to knock your socks off. It is a...
Oh! Looks like we'll just have to wait to find out. Until then, you can use discount code DiabetesMine to get 15% off your order of GlucoPouch. Thanks and best of luck, Ethan!