Entrepreneurs amaze me. The ability to conceive an idea into a product, service, and then turn that offering into a company is impressive. (You can probably tell I like to focus on them from these past posts – iLean, ClipCleany, Cornhole).
So when I was approached with the opportunity to interview one of the founders of Sleepyhead, (Facebook, Twitter) a Chicago based nighttime relaxation drink manufacturer, I found it hard to say no. But allow me to get into a little bit of background, before I got an email (how to contact me) from Sleepyhead’s public relations staff. Back in early August my brother, a Chicago resident, came to visit for a weekend, and brought a surprise. A can of Sleepyhead. Side Note: My brother enjoys beverages, and in fact he bought me a case of Water Joe (caffeinated water) for my birthday – I still have some left if anyone is interested. Anyone interested in a giveaway – leave me something witty and insightful in the comments and I will send you a bottle of Water Joe if shipping is not too expensive. So I was quite intrigued by this can of Sleepyhead, and then my brother throws this in. He knows one of the co-founders of Sleepyhead, and mentioned how they just up and left their desk jobs. My jaw hit the floor. So I took that can of Sleepyhead and put it in my cupboard. See I rarely have a problem falling asleep, in fact my wife tells me I am a pro at it.
Alright back to the story. Sleepyhead PR guy emailed me and mentioned that Sleepyhead is expanding into Michigan and wanted to find out if I would be interested in speaking with one of the co-founders. I mentioned my familiarity with the product, and eventually I had a conversation with one of the co-founders Chuck Hammon. Here are a couple of interesting things that came up during the conversation:
- Chuck and his partner Eli developed this idea after meeting after work at each others residences for a period time
- Eventually they hammered out the idea for Sleepyhead and decided they wanted to start a company. So they both quit their jobs in corporate America and became beverage entrepreneurs
- They got some guidance from their local SCORE chapter (I can’t say enough good things about SCORE – Grand Rapids especially has a great chapter – personal experience with them) on some things they didn’t think of or needed to develop better.
- Per Chuck now in this down economy is the best time to start a company, because banks, vendors, suppliers, retailers who would have never down business with you in the past are all more cooperative, willing to negotiate, and eager to work with any new business (This one surprised me, because I could see both sides of it, but thought most people would be conservative)
- They learned more in the months of working in bringing Sleepyhead to market than they ever learned in school or at their corporate jobs
Now a little more about the drink, Sleepyhead was developed by Chuck and Eli as a product that they would use and wanted to use. Their target market is young professionals 22 to 35, men and women, who have a lot going on their lives, and have difficulty falling asleep. They developed the product to help people unwind and relax, and help get them to bed and get them to sleep. The product was originally launched in Chicago, and is now available at 7-11 stores, and numerous other convenience type stores or local grocers. They decided to enter into the Michigan market because they have some local friends in the area who put them in touch with a beverage distributor called Galaxy Wine Distributors in Livonia. Apparently they were a good match and the timing seemed right so now Galaxy is helping promote Sleepyhead launch in Detroit, Lansing, and Grand Rapids. I was hoping that there would be some cool promotions, launch events, or creative publicity for Sleepyhead but it seems like it will be pretty low-key. Chuck and Eli have set up a schedule with Galaxy to go out and visit accounts carrying their products to learn more about how to support the retailers and what some of their challenges might be.
Well seeing that Sleepyhead is taking a low key approach to launching in Michigan, I thought I would help them out with some ideas…. Enjoy
– Reach out to the Mommy Bloggers in the area, there are a bunch and many of them do product reviews, and no doubt many live busy lives between, children, family, and blogging, and might be interested in something that may help them relax and get to bed.
– Our local start up community for entrepreneurs seems like it always has something going, perhaps work with them or speak at an event or provide a nice product placement of Sleepyhead for participants. Perhaps Sleepyhead can talk at one of these upcoming events, and support these fellow entrepreneurs. I am sure they all have their thoughts racing at the end of the day thinking about what to do next and how to do it. Seems like a logical fit, and a welcoming group. Here is the list:
- Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition
- Startup Weekend
- TEDx events in Holland, Grand Rapids, GVSU
- Startup West Michigan
- Pitch Night
I would like to say congrats to all the entrepreneurs out there, for taking an idea and making it happen.
Have you tried Sleepyhead, thoughts? What do you think of the whole slow down and relax beverage segment?