Last week iON Performance Care, the startup brand founded by athletes to care for athletes, made its debut at the Natural Products Expo East. Hosted by the New Hope Network, Expo East is one of the premier industry trade shows for manufacturers, retailers and suppliers of naturally made products. Since it's first show with 5K participants in 1985, it has grown to over 1,500 brands and nearly 30,000 attendees.
Anthony Davis, Founder of iON Performance led the brand's initiatives in participating in the show.
" Attending Expo East was a major goal and milestone for our brand. It definitely was one of those leaps of faith for us as a startup, but our athletic spirit led us with the resolve that if we want to be champions we have to be in the game."
What were your goals for the show and did you reach them?
As a new brand, one of the major challenges you face is credibility. This applies to potential investors, buyers and consumers alike. Even before the show, mentioning "We'll be at Expo East" actually opened up several doors for us as it spoke to how committed we were to being a serious brand. Our additional goals were to gain key insights and develop relationships that could help us hone our plan to accelerate our market entry. We reached out to many of the contacts who had expressed interest in our brand via our profile on RangeMe and Linked-In to invite them to visit with us at the show. This worked really well and was a great example of the value of live "real world" contact with people. Receptions that may have been luke-warm via email, became close connections once they met us and felt the energy and spirit of our brand team at the show.
Attending shows like this are a major investment. Was it worth it?
It definitely was a significant expense indeed. To be certain though, it was a necessary risk for the goals we have of growing our brand. We approached it with the mindset that key industry contacts and opportunities that would take us years to develop could be realized much sooner at the show, thus accelerating our potential for revenue and improving our NPV. We made not just contacts but personal connections with buyers, brokers and influencers that might have otherwise taken months and several attempts to reach...and we also struck a few PO's as icing on the cake!
"Showcasing brand milestones such as our feature in Women's Health Magazine was also key to making an impactful brand impression at the booth" ~ A.D.
How did you attempt to stand out at a show with over 1,700 brands?
First off we wanted to make sure we represented our brand well, not as a "fly by night" but as the aspiring, polished brand we are. We partnered closely with our agency partners, The Artistry Group, Get Shot by a Girl Video and AUPR to create an awesome brand impression.
We strayed from using temporary "brand ambassadors". It's important to us to speak to the authentic connection we have with our consumers, so we invited a few of the elite and professional athletes that believe in our brand and asked them to come and share their own perspective on iON's products and spirit. This resonated really well with booth attendees who got a kick out of meeting high level athletes.
Wow, that's pretty neat. Did the Athletes appreciate the experience?
They really did! They brought a really different style of energy to the show. I emphasized to them that their role wasn't to "sell products" or even "sell our brand" but to share their own stories and lifestyles and let the fact that they are there with us speak for itself.
"You never really know what goes into a business until you start one for yourself or have the opportunity to be alongside and entrepreneur as i was with Anthony. As a consumer or being an athlete affiliated with a brand, you see the glitz and glamour but there is so much underlying leg work that needs to be done to make sure the product lives up to its promise and the company is able to sustain itself to deliver." thoughts on the show from Asha Ruth, Professional Sprinter
Any other key takeaways from the show...and what's next?
Wow, yes the entire show was a great learning experience. In my corporate days, I would have a $200k+ budget, several NYC agencies and a cross-functional staff to help accomplish this. It's empowering to see what we could do with a sniper team on a startup budget, but I definitely look forward to expanding our team next year. We would like to bring more of our various athletes, ensure we have bandwidth to close deals at the show itself as well as benefit from the myriad of valuable workshops and other networking activities. In coming years, we hope to bring some of our experts in physiology and athletic care to share some of their great insights with participants and really showcase the great things about our brand and pipeline.