(This article was originally published in the Feb-Apr 2016 issue of the The Brass Herald. In Part 2, ChopSaver Lip Care inventor Dan Gosling discusses how he prepared his company for expansion and in Part 3 Dan describes the day he found out ChopSaver was going into 7,400 CVS/pharmacy stores nationwide!)
Over a decade ago, I had an idea and that idea quickly turned into a product. That product, Gosling’s Original ChopSaver® Lip Care (100% Natural and with SPF 15), is now sold in thousands of retailers around the world. Last fall, the product made the enormous leap from niche, specialty distribution (music stores and online) into CVS/pharmacy®, one the largest mass retailers in the USA with over 7,400 stores. Here is a brief summary of that incredible journey so far.
The idea for ChopSaver came about quite randomly. In the spring of 2004, one of my former students, Wesley Bullock, happened to be visiting. I was still licking my wounds having just recently lost an audition to extend my three-year tenure with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra into full-time status. I had landed the gig on a temporary basis, knowing full well the audition would come one day. (Interesting side note: The job was awarded to Thomas Hooten, who is now Principal Trumpet of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.)
Wes told me how he once suffered a lip injury in a marching band accident and successfully treated it with an herbal remedy called Arnica Montana. I had never heard of arnica, but I was so struck by his story that I quickly became obsessed with the idea of creating a better “chapstick” or lip balm by incorporating arnica in the formula. It turns out arnica has some remarkable healing qualities because it acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Like a mad scientist, I took over our kitchen (my wife thought it was “post-audition stress syndrome” or mid-life crisis – or BOTH!) and over the next two months, through trial and error, I carefully worked out a formula that was dramatically different than anything else on the market.
Quite the claim, I realize, but I knew it to be true because my musical colleagues (brass and woodwind players) all raved about the formula I had created. It was like nothing they had ever tried before. Some of the key ingredients in ChopSaver include shea butter, mango butter, aloe, vitamin E, avocado oil, grapeseed oil and five other herbs known for their healing qualities. But in retrospect, making the formula was the easy part. The list of things one must begin to master in order to bring a product to life – attending trade shows, buying ads, cold calling customers, keeping the books, maintaining a website, filling orders – becomes daunting rather quickly. Creating a product, a brand, a company and learning the art of marketing and selling was to become my new life’s work. With no real business background to speak of, I have had to figure out a lot of things on the fly. Early on, I was fortunate to get some well-known players in our industry to try the product. That was huge, of course, and I am forever grateful for people like Arturo Sandoval, Wayne Bergeron, David Hickman, Jay Friedman, David Bilger, Charles Geyer, Vince DiMartino, Chris Martin and even Sir James Galway for trying, using and endorsing the product. (I’m sure I’m leaving many off the list of early adopters – please forgive me!)
I realized I couldn’t expect a major retail chain to take me seriously right out of the gate, so I started calling on music stores to sell the product, in addition to selling it through our website. The process of getting into music stores was fairly simple, but not easy. Unlike a huge corporation like Walgreens® or CVS®, most music stores are relatively small businesses with decision makers an email or phone call away. I also attended The NAMM® Show, the international music products trade show held in Anaheim, California every January. It was at that show that we developed many of our music store contacts and set up our initial distribution, including some overseas. As more and more musicians began looking for the product, more stores began to call to place their orders.
(In Part 2, Dan discusses how he prepared his company for expansion)