Dan Gosling, ChopSaver
When and how did the initial idea of creating your own company come about?
One day I was talking to a student, a trumpet player like myself, who had incurred a lip injury during marching band. He told me how he was treating it with the arnica herb, which aided healing of the bruising and swelling. This intrigued me. I became obsessed with the idea of developing a chap stick that was specifically designed for musicians who use their lips extensively every day.
So I became like a mad scientist in my kitchen at home. I got suggestions from others, researched on the internet, spoke with a herbalist. My wife thought I was going through my midlife crisis. Two months from my conversation with my student, I had a formula. It was a soft creamy goo. So then I just needed people to try it out – I sought out professional musicians who played a range of instruments from the flute, to the trumpet to the tuba. Everyone loved it. It was exactly what I wanted to hear.
I did not have a business degree, nor was I your typical entrepreneur. I needed to get comfortable in this newly discovered role so I took the time to study and follow others who had been successful with a great idea, Henry Ford, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to name a few.
What was the greatest hurdle to overcome?
Hurdles are a daily occurrence. Early on it was extremely challenging to convince music retailers that this was a product that they needed to carry. After that it was getting the non-music retailers interested such as Kroger and CVS. I leaned heavily on anyone who was a musician. It took over two years to get into CVS, but it was very well worth it.
Has the Venture Club helped you out in any other ways?
My experience has been fortuitous. I first met with John Hancock who had an appreciation for consumer products. Through the PU virtual client program, we put together a sophisticated business plan. Then I met someone at the Venture Club who knew of a sales company in Chicago that specialized in producing oddball products. From there it was a sequence of events that landed ChopSaver in CVS. You just never know when something might happen or when you might meet someone who can help you get to that next step. It truly was an amazing sequence of events. The Venture Club has been a huge resource to me and has lead me to make so many valuable connections.
What advice would you give to others who are considering pitching to the Venture Club.
Look at pitching as a performance, practice your pitch over and over. A minute goes by real fast. Rehearse, do it in front of others. Don’t assume you’ll be fine, it’s different when you are up there, with the lights on, the clock ticking and all eyes on you.
It is always good practice to get in front of people who are going to look at you and your business with the harshest lens. Being able to trim your pitch down to a minute is very difficult, but absolutely necessary.
Closing thoughts on entrepreneurship:
If you feel like something is a stretch and gets you out of your comfort zone, you should probably take the leap of faith and do it. I was very comfortable in my little niche in the music world. I walked into meetings knowing no one, and these experiences stretched me to reach the success I have today. Next time you are at CVS pick up a tube, $4 in the cough and cold aisle – it’s not just for musicians, a great product for everyone!