Surrounded by a ton of weightlifting equipment and stacks of boxes of supplements labeled “Strawberry Splash” and “Pineapple Express,” the president of a hot startup talks about the future.
Chris Waldrum, self-taught and schooled not by college professors but by working experts, envisions his 18-month-old company extending beyond supplements and apparel. He talks about creating new ways to work out based on medieval fighting.But Waldrum’s also grounded – a good thing in a county where plenty of nutrition companies already are based. He says he is committed to a business model that combines mind, body and integrity. This 30-year-old Huntington Beach man named his company Inspired Nutraceuticals, partly because he likes “in” as in, “Are you in?” But mostly because he hopes to do just that. Inspire.
Of his learning curve, Waldrum offers, “Where I’m at right now shows that you can attain a level of success without some kind of certificate.”
If all this sounds like a bunch of malarkey about a guy who makes his living in the controversial and often misunderstood world of supplements, let me share how I met Waldrum.
But first a disclaimer. If you choose to use supplements, consult your doctor. This is a column, not a recommendation.
It is February, and I’ve recently switched gyms. A guy asks what kind of steroids I’m on. None. He shakes his head in disbelief.
His questions may reveal what an intense nutball I can be working out. But they also reveal a common lack of knowledge about today’s world of supplements.
Anabolic steroids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, are dangerous synthetic forms of hormones, specifically testosterone. Legally, you can’t buy them. Just ask Sammy Sosa.
I explain I drink a powder mix that is something like an energy drink. He frowns. “Energy drink?”
“Monster, Rock Star?” Blank stare. Still, the guy’s confusion is understandable.
The outrage and worries over creatine, for example, were huge in the 1990s. But in today’s world that’s so last century. The Mayo Clinic reports that in small amounts, creatine, a chemical found mostly in muscles, is OK.
What I guzzle happens to have no creatine and is something called a preworkout drink, made mostly of amino acids. Gym rats call it a “pump,” as in you get a better pump when lifting.
I stumbled across Waldrum’s company by chance. In the winter, I was leaving a grocery store and happened to spot a nutrition shop. An online shopper, I wandered into such a store for the first time and found the display intimidating. So was the build of the guy who worked there.
I reached for my old standby, something I’d bought online. “Would you put low-octane gas in a Lamborghini?” the big dude asked. I am not a car guy. But I suspected not. The stranger suggested DVST8, something I’d never heard of.
Later, I talked to several supplement store owners. They applauded that particular line of products for specifying the amount of milligrams for each amino acid. They also said the president of the company that makes it, Waldrum, was the real deal, and I discovered he was an Orange County guy.
Here was a young man who never went to college, figured out how to launch what is a relatively complex and competitive business and, by all indications, decided on transparency. He seemed worth meeting.
SCHOOL OF COLLEAGUES
Waldrum was partly raised in Orange County. Early on, his mother moved to McFarland, a city of about 12,000 north of Bakersfield. In high school and asthmatic, Waldrum gravitated toward art and music.
After high school, Waldrum wound up in construction. Then the 2008 recession hit. He took a job at a Bakersfield nutrition store manning the counter. But he wasn’t content just running the cash register. He studied products, learned the retail end.
After three years, he was hired by Dymatize, a nutrition company with a global reach. Soon, Waldrum was account manager for Washington, Oregon, California. Little by little, the idea for launching his own company bloomed.
“I never really thought a guy like me,” he says, “would somehow make this happen.”
Waldrum spent nights researching the business online. And he spent days paying attention, asking colleagues questions.
“They were teaching me the business on a completely different scale,” Waldrum recalls. “I could meet and talk to the people like I wanted to become. They showed me a different level of professionalism. That was my college.”
Waldrum ticks off the subjects he studied from a street-view perspective: raw material brokering, manufacturing, international trade, FDA regulations. That was the easy stuff.
“The supplemental sciences are one side,” Waldrum says. “But marketing, now that’s very difficult.”
He shares his strategy for labels, his company look. “I wanted to appeal to both men and women. You want the illos to look clean, not overly aggressive. I wanted a very artistic, crisp, pharmaceutical look.”
Distribution? Waldrum grins and acknowledges that being in the industry helped. Online sales are critical, as is the appearance and navigation on the company’s website. Waldrum’s preferred social media marketing tool is Instagram.
OK, so put all the mind-body-inspire stuff aside. How did Waldrum jump from being a guy with ideas to actual execution – a giant leap many dreamers never make?
“Everybody has the want,” Waldrum says, smiling. “But how much and do you really want it? I wanted to test myself. I wanted this more than anything.”
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