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How and Why We're Entering the (Potentially) $43B Powdered Food Market

Interview
Interview

Our story roots itself in my childhood, where I grew up an obese kid. I quickly learned that kids are mean. My name wasn’t Cody to them, but instead “fat boy” or “fatty”. The treatment from my peers made me hyperaware of physique early on. I remember the teasing being so bad from one student that the principal of my school had to sit down with both of us and explain the importance of respecting people different from ourselves.

I consider myself lucky. My parents saw my pain and made it their job, as parents, to put nutrition at the forefront of my childhood. I remember at age seven, I read nutrition and ingredients labels to understand the products I put into my body. Keeping this mindset throughout my life, I found comfort in weight training. While weight training I began to meal prep, planning out all my meals throughout the day.

However, once I decided to start law school, I found that I no longer had the time to prepare my meals. As a result, my diet--something I spent my entire life focused on— suffered. I thought to myself that there had to be an easier way. After my first semester of school, with an entire month off, I decided to explore an idea to create a single powder with all of my nutrition.

So, I created this powder. After drinking it at lunch for several days, I quickly found my fellow law school students looking for something similar. Then, something I never even considered had happened, I student asked if he could buy some. Next thing I knew, I was regularly selling to a number of law students and even a couple of professors. I remember routinely carrying 50lb bags of corn up to my apartment only to run back down to carry up another 50lbs of protein powder. I did this all while maintaining a strict studying schedule to make solid grades in law school.

From there, I received a peculiar invite from a law professor I sold ilixer to. The professor forwarded me an invite to a pitch practice event. I thought “why not?” and went to create my first deck. Fast forward to the event, I got my first taste of the entrepreneurial journey, and I was hooked. From there, someone really resonated with my pitch and connected me with The Brandery accelerator. I spoke with The Brandery and participated in their summer, local companies only, gBETA Cincinnati preaccelerator program— cohosted by gener8tor and The Brandery.

After participating in gBETA I applied to The Brandery’s full-time accelerator program, a nationally-ranked accelerator that leverages the expertise of the Cincinnati region, namely branding, marketing, and design. The Brandery pairs startups with world-class creative agencies. The Brandery runs its 12-week accelerator program once a year for five companies. All five selected startups receive $100K, a year of free office space, and over $200K in additional benefits. At the time of my acceptance to The Brandery, I knew ilixer needed a Co-Founder. To fill this position I tapped into my undergraduate resources and brought on a friend of mine with an impressive career trajectory post-college, Joshua Schuman.

Joshua spent the last 3 years with Amazon as a Site Leader and Subject Matter Expert in Operations and Logistics. Joshua led the creation and establishment of standard operating procedures for Outbound Docks and Delivery Estimation Accuracy across the Amazon Robotics Network. Joshua led process improvement and execution efforts in sites ranging from 900,000 to 1.2 million square feet, with volumes eclipsing 300,000 Units fulfilled in 10-hour timeframes. As a Site Leader in Amazon Logistics Joshua assumed full ownership of the largest site in the DC Metro area and achieved record-breaking internal logistics fulfillment volume of 85,000 shipments per day.

So far we’ve raised $100k through the program and recently opened our Seed round at $750k with a significant portion of the $750k verbally committed.‍

Wha is your target demographic?‍

We’re targeting the busy professional that’s looking to maintain a healthy diet on a hectic schedule. We take all the guesswork out of meal prepping or grabbing a quick meal by creating nutritionally-complete, powdered meals, providing an optimal ratio of macronutrients and micronutrients. ilixer combines organic, plant-based ingredients, fruits, vegetables, and other ‘superfoods’, to create a nutritionally complete powdered food. Simply put, it’s one powder someone can drink on a busy day and receive all their nutrition from actual foods.

We estimate the average consumer will consume 260 meals (one meal each workday) of ilixer per year at approximately $5.10 per meal. There are 33,040,000 professional occupation employees in our target age groups, resulting in 8,590,400,000 meals served annually. This results in an initial Total Addressable Market of $43B - $51B.‍

How did you fund the idea in the early stages?‍

Initially, I funded ilixer myself, bootstrapping the business 100%. It was only since September that we’ve been able to operate off of the investment.

My co-founder and I met in an undergraduate at The George Washington University.

For finding a first employee my route was a little biased since I tapped into my undergraduate friend group. However, it worked out well for ilixer so I’d say to definitely see what college friends are up to and if there’s one with a particularly impressive career trajectory.‍

What were your family and friends first thoughts on your company?

My family and friends were at first confused about the product. They considered it a protein powder or meal replacement, an extremely crowded area and something that ilixer is not. It took some educating to show the difference between a powdered food, such as ilixer, and from protein powders or meal replacements.

What motivates you when things go wrong?

When things go wrong, I find it important to reflect on the journey of ilixer thus far. I think about all the different steps along the way and the challenges I faced on that road. If I combine them all together, whatever went wrong pales in comparison to what I’ve already accomplished— this mindset pushes me forwards.

Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?

For anyone starting out on their own entrepreneurial journey, I can give a couple of pieces of advice. First, set up your legal entity and bank account properly (including your 83(b) tax election for the IRS). You’ll spend a ton of money on the backend if you don’t get this stuff set up first. Second, for those in the ideation stage, just start! This doesn’t mean quit your job and commit 100% to this idea, but do some work on it. Feel out the idea and gather feedback from friends and peers. If you’re uncomfortable tapping your own social network, go online to Reddit or a forum, but always seek feedback.

Do you have any trademarks/IP/patents?

The name ilixer is trademarked. It’s fairly simple for entrepreneurs to do it themselves on the USPTO’s website.

What apps could your business not run without?

We could not run without Shopify (our ecommerce platform), Recharge (provides subscriptions for Shopify), Google Enterprise Drive (provides our file storage in their high-speed cloud that also links to our email and the rest of the Google Suite), and Segments (used for syncing all of our data to the right places so that we can make informed decisions).

What are you working on at the moment?

Forthcoming we have an improved formulation of our original recipe. This new formulation improves the consistency and delivers a more well-rounded sweetness profile, without using any added sugars. We’re also developing a Complete Meal Bar and a Complete Waffle that could be sold in retail.

In five years I see ilixer becoming a staple brand in the nutrition space. Whether someone wants a waffle, shake, oatmeal, or even chili, if they buy ilixer, they know that food will be nutritionally-complete.

Company Name: ilixer
Founders: Cody Blatt & Joshua Schuman
InterviewEcommerce