Editor’s Note: Jan Roos is a former McGill Dobson Cup finalist and serial entrepreneur. After successfully developing the prize-winning consumer products company Vitality Sciences LLC and successfully penetrating into the fitness and survival markets, he turned his attention to starting service businesses.
He currently runs the Manhattan-based legal marketing company, Expert Engines, as well as projects in the Amazon marketing and synthetic biology spaces. Jan also authored The Legal Marketing Fastlane, which is a roadmap to generating real leads in 72 hours or less, even if your business is small.
On judging, and pitching, at the McGill Dobson Cup
It’s my 3rd year judging, and it’s always a good time. I also pitched back when I was a student, and we were finalists.
My original pitch was for a hangover cure, and we had adapted it from there. People were responding to the fact that we were using medically sourced amino acids in our formulation. We were going to be one of the first supplements that would go through rigorous testing, because the market is fairly unregulated and most supplement companies have just been pulling the wool over our eyes – we wanted to change that. My dad had an educational background in the sciences so I had asked him what he thought about my idea. Once we had gotten some prize money from the cup, he committed to helping our mission.
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty for a second because I know the entrepreneurs out there will love this.
All our competitors in the supplement industry were cutting costs and basically had a mediocre product. There have been many reports of tests showing that as little as 10% of the mass of some whey protein brands was actual whey protein; the rest was filler.
We decided to go against the grain by using high quality ingredients without cutting corners, and that means that we need to create a premium product and charge premium prices. We had first targeted athletes that participate in triathlons because they spend an ungodly amount of money on supplements to boost their performance. We eventually changed our focus to also include Crossfitters, and backpackers because our formulation was a complete source of protein.
Breaking Bad, and how Amazon can change the way you do business
In terms of my role at the company, it was kind of like Walt and Jesse in Breaking Bad. My dad was in charge of the sourcing side because he was able to get high-quality hookups, and it was on me to move it – everything related to marketing and sales.
I noticed that techniques that worked in the health and fitness market, wouldn’t work at all in the survival industry: it’s really important to know your customer and realize that each market has different needs and that you have to test and adjust your approach to serve them best.
After trying different models, we eventually we moved everything to Amazon, which over the course of 6 months skyrocketed our business. The best part was, it was LESS work – it was on autopilot.
— McGill Dobson Centre (@DobsonCentre) February 17, 2017
Where novice entrepreneurs waste the most time: “Real G’s move in silence”
Getting in front of customers. There’s a lot of ivory tower thinking in the entrepreneurial world. Doing a survey and concluding that people want your product because they SAY they’ll pay is not enough. What would it take to get them to pay now?
It’s scary at first, but once you develop that muscle, everything gets easier – it’s just a no-brainer. In the 1st quarter of 2015, I took multiple business ideas off the ground. I found the ones that would work, and the ones that wouldn’t, extremely quickly. I could’ve just sat around and talked to my friends about my ideas…for years, and gotten nowhere – and many people do. But because I started making moves right away, I was able to iterate fast.
Real G’s move in silence, like lasagna.
Be careful: people get energy from discussing their ideas in the same way that they get energy from actually executing them. I have friends who have been talking about getting a business off the ground for a while. In that time frame, I’ve literally launched 3 businesses, yet they’re still just talking! Same thing with my book. I literally just locked myself in my room for 2 weeks and wrote the damn thing. People were asking me “When did this happen? When did you write this? I didn’t even know you were doing this.” Real G’s move in silence, like lasagna.
What he’s up to now, and the advantage of service businesses
The thing about service businesses is that you can ramp them up extremely quickly. Will this become a 9-figure business? Probably not. But this will help me invest in my next venture, which might be something related to synthetic biology.