“If it had Glen’s name on the can, it had to be the best”; How Bubs Naturals Came to Be, Part 2
about 2 years ago
BUBS Was Born of Adversity and Invention
After months of striking out with business venture ideas, BUBS Naturals Founders Sean Lake and TJ Ferrara hit a home run with collagen. The two had made so many pitches over the months, and none of them stuck. In retrospect, this is the best thing that could have happened to them.
“It was so weird, but in the end it had to happen the way that it did because that adversity bred invention,” Lake said. “We joke about how BUBS came together in the moment, at my house, having coffee, but really it was the years and years before that moment that did it.”
Off and Running
Once the two had decided that collagen was what they needed to pursue, and that the main goal of the company was to be charitable, the next step was finding a product that could match the legacy of Glen’s name. The two got right down to it.
Ferrara remembers, “Getting into the product and the manufacturing was as rudimentary as it gets. We were literally going into stores and buying every type of collagen on the shelf and studying it. Asking, how does this perform? What is our favorite from this batch?”
Ferrara and Lake took every single batch home and studied it themselves. Every nuance, undertone and aspect was scrutinized. How did it taste? How did it smell? How did it dissolve? Where did it come from? Who made it? How did it perform?
“That’s how our standard was formed. What is the best on the shelf? And then how do we beat it?”
We Beat It
“Perfecting the formula was a massive amount of trial and error. I mean you’ve got two idiots who didn’t know anything about collagen, which seems like it would be a weakness but it actually turned out to be a strength,” Ferrara said. “When there are people out there in business that don’t know exactly what they’re doing, they disrupt the space.”
But then BUBS Naturals needed a supplier. So, Ferrara and Lake copied their research protocol from earlier. Much like going on field trips to try every collagen product on the shelf, they found a way to try every distributor in the collagen industry.
“We went to Las Vegas and attended a trade show called Supply Side,” Lake said. They did their homework, investigating every single supplier that would be present. It couldn’t just be that they made a good product, they had to be a good company too. “We did a google search and we mapped out all the vendors we wanted to meet. We walked the floors all day. Two guys wearing skate shoes and black t-shirts. We did not fit in. We did not match anyone there. And we learned a lot that day. It was like drinking through a fire hose,” Lake remembered.
Overwhelmed, and with a head spinning full of all things collagen, the two decided to head out and head on home. As they were walking towards the exit of the convention center, heading back to the airport, Lake literally got distracted by something shiny. (Squirrel!)
“Right as we are walking out the door, literally heading to the airport, Lake sees something shiny and bright on the back of a vendor booth,” TJ told me. “And he says to me, ‘I want to go talk to those people.’ Of course he does,” TJ said.
TJ was tired. It was a long day. He mumbled, “Why? Why do you want to go talk to those people?”
But he did. Sean Lake walks right up to the sales lady, puts out his hand and says “Hi, I’m Sean Lake.”
The Happiest of Accidents
Turns out, the company had a factory near Sean’s hometown, where he and Glen had grown up together. The two started chatting about the town, and Sean, not knowing what this company even makes, tells this total stranger of a woman everything: Why they’re there, what they’re doing, how they’ve just launched a company named after his best friend, and that they were there trying to figure out where the best place to make and distribute their collagen is.
“We make collagen,” she said.
They all laughed. There’s no way. “If you want to earn the business of the smallest client you will ever have,” Sean told her, “you just gotta answer me one question. Does your collagen taste as good as brand X?”
And she smiled.
So Lake told her, “We’re here to start a company that makes the absolute best collagen out there, and we’re going to support charity with it.”
And she said, “Well god damn, you guys are crazy. But I like you.”
Then we hired her.
Much like how we do all things here, we strung together what we had and bootstrapped it. That company from that convention really did like BUBS Naturals. “She initially sold our product to us in teeny tiny almost scrap quantities, but with industry pricing, so that we could get started. We didn’t even know this at the time, she just did it for us. And we cobbled the company together,” Lake remembered.
“Our first goal was to sell 1,000 jars. We reinvested and then sold 2,000. Then we reinvested and sold 4,000. And that's how we did it. And along the way, we just kept telling our story. And we know we have the best collagen on the planet, named after a true American hero. And that was it,” Lake said.
The Name of the Game
“We didn’t want to put Glen’s name on the jar and come out with some low grade dog food,” Lake told me. “If we’re going to put Glen’s name on it, we were going to do nothing but put out top shelf quality the whole time. That was our M.O. then and it's still our M.O. now: to be a top shelf experience, without charging more than our competitors, while delivering a better experience, all while. That’s not arrogance. That’s our commitment.”
We wouldn’t put Glen’s name on that jar otherwise.