"We believe a better you creates a better world." - Kyle Fitzgerald
Life Equals co-founders Kyle Fitzgerald and Chris Thowe are working to make the world a better place. They are unique among SparkLabKC graduate companies in their dedication to the "one-for-one" business model, in which for every product their customers purchase, an equivalent product is made available to a person in need. This model, which has proven successful for companies such as TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker eyeglasses, allows these Millennial innovators to provide a high quality product to consumers while also doing good around the world.
The Life Equals Story
Life Equals was founded in 2011 with one initial product, Focus & Energy, a supplement designed to provide a caffeine-free alternative to energy drinks without the sugar or added calories. Life Equals founders worked with several medical professionals to develop the formula, which includes herbs, amino acids, and a b-vitamin complex. They developed the branding and packaging themselves, and Life Equals was born.
From the beginning, the Life Equals founders wanted to develop a product that would provide a social good. They came across compelling evidence that malnutrition in children was not only a global issue, but also the "most financially addressable problem" facing the world today. This inspired them to partner with Vitamin Angels and embrace the one-for-one business model, which means that for every product a customer buys they provide a children's multivitamin to an undernourished child in one of 44 countries worldwide or 33 states domestically.
One of Life Equals major successes has been getting their product on the shelves at Whole Foods, a major force in organic specialty products. Kyle and Chris went through an intensive, two year long vetting process with the Whole Foods regional office before becoming the only local vitamin brand sold in Kansas City-area Whole Foods stores. As an industry leader, Whole Foods endorsement is a hugely valuable validation of the Life Equals product and brand, and sales through the retail giant have been very strong. Their sights are set on expanding their distribution to the twenty Whole Foods locations in Colorado.
The SparkLabKC Difference
Kyle and Chris decided to apply for SparkLabKC's Class of 2014 just as the deal with Whole Foods was being finalized. Their acceptance into the program provided a great boost at a vital time in their development. The initial investment from SparkLabKC allowed Chris to start working full-time on Life Equals. Speaking of their time in the accelerator, Chris says highlights included:
"Getting to be around an awesome group of entrepreneurs and getting to 'gel' into a network of advisors in Kansas City was really powerful for me. I was able to start on a different trajectory and my life and my career will never be the same."
As we discuss the strengths of the SparkLabKC program, Kyle adds that:
"The structure of the program was great - having different pieces of business strategy explained and receiving expert advice. Also, being able to communicate about our business and encapsulate it into a 5 to 10 minute spiel, and gaining the confidence to get up in front of a whole room of important people and make a strong pitch."
The Future of Life Equals
Since graduating from SparkLabKC last spring, Life Equals has been working on refining their business strategy for investment and expansion. They have a brand that is well established and a strong product line that is already a hit with buyers both online and in local stores such as Hy-Vee and Whole Foods. There’s still a lot of room to grow and they are looking for a strategic partner to aid in that growth.
From the beginning, Chris and Kyle knew they wanted to target Millennials (those born from the 1980s through the early 2000s) and become their vitamin of choice. Now the largest demographic in the country, Millennials are known for their response to brands that have a social good component. Life Equals resonates with Millennial consumers both as a natural health product and as a way to do good in the world.
Another target demographic is the yoga community. As Chris says,
"They love giving back, they love the quality of our products, and they love being a part of something bigger than themselves. [Yoga] is all about who you are in the universe, and so our products align extremely well with what they believe and how they go about their daily lives."
Advice for SparkLabKC 2015
To those who are hoping to participate in SparkLabKC's Class of 2015, or other accelerator programs, Kyle offers this advice:
"You get out of SparkLab what you put into it. The companies that really grew put a lot into it, focused and honed down on certain things and saw a lot of growth."
"It’s a great experience. Take chances, make yourself available, show up, be present, and work your ass off, because it’s going to take a lot of work. It’s not a silver platter. [SparkLabKC] will get you in front of the right people, but you have to do the work."
To learn more about Life Equals, check out their website. To make a meaningful contribution to your health and provide vitamins to malnourished children, place an order!