Hi, who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Dylan Jawahir, founder, and CEO of Battle Balm, “The Pain Reliever with Knockout Power!” We create clean, natural health & performance products utilizing the latest in plant technology.
Our brand’s flagship product is our premium 100% plant-based all-natural and organic topical pain relief balm. Battle Balm is the highest quality topical analgesic on the market today. Battle Balm also offers a few niche skin care products as well as a caffeine-free herbal energy boost supplement. We’ve also just launched a sister website for our CBD infused line of Battle Balm products.
I launched Battle Balm in 2013, after almost 2 years of research and development. I wanted a high-quality topical analgesic for my own use and I was betting that consumers did, too.
We have doubled business year over year since we began and are now being courted by private investment firms.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been interested in performance, health, and healing for quite some time.
In my teens, I was always pushing myself to improve in sports, but I was regularly succumbing to some sort of minor injury. The time off from ankle sprains, muscle strains, etc., left me to figure out how to get back to my martial arts, soccer, and basketball, quickly and safely.
That was when I began studying a bit of medicine, both Eastern & Western, at the local library. I also tested some of the textbook techniques on myself whenever possible. That was back when there was no internet at my fingertips, so access to information was limited. I was just dabbling in the healing arts then, and I continued to do so well into higher education.
Entrepreneurs should possess all the qualities of the dreamer and all the qualities of the doer. Because in the beginning, you will probably be a one-person operation.
Right after graduating from university with an electrical engineering degree, I took a tech job in California and worked a few years until the dot-com boom went bust. Not wanting to sit around the house wallowing in my self-pity, I signed up for an interesting class on acupressure points at the local college of oriental medicine. Little did I know, it would be the catalyst that helped me leave my engineering career and pursue a masters in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
My family was not very pleased with my decision to go back to school. But, I followed my heart and after four years of Chinese medical school, I received my Master's degree and acupuncture license.
I opened a private alternative medicine practice in 2010. I treated everything under the sun until one month I got a slew of pain patients; i.e. car accident, post-surgery, sports injury, etc. I was able to successfully treat many of them and word began to spread. Seeing people getting their lives back was rewarding for me and subsequently, I shifted toward a specialization in pain management.
My pain clinic was a combination of acupuncture, manual therapy, and herbal topical formulas. The more I treated patients, the more familiar I became with the products available in the industry. I honestly saw a lot of mediocrity and I wanted something better for my patients. I knew I could make something vastly higher in quality and potency. I just didn’t know where to start. So, I dug into my TCM herb textbooks and started handcrafting what would, through many iterations, become Battle Balm.
What started out as a topical formula just for clinical use, became a bright idea once my patients began asking to take some of it home. The brand name came about from the long lineage of herbal medicinals used in martial arts to speed recovery and heal injuries from training and combat. My formula was based on these powerful ancient recipes, and I decided to pay respect to that rich history. Battle Balm was born.
We’ve gone through some small iterations and evolution of the product, but the unwavering intent to this day is still to “deliver the best all-natural pain, injury, and trauma herbals to the world.”
Describe the process of launching the business.
I walked into this business with an idea for a product, but I had no idea about how to sell or promote it online.
I knew I needed a website and a way for people to pay for products online. The quickest setup was to buy a domain name, host it on a server, and learn HTML. And that’s what I did. Lucky for me, I did a lot of computer programming at university. I was able to code up a basic website with a few pages and integrate an easy online payment solution into it, PayPal.
I wish I could say that building an online presence was easy, but it wasn’t, even for me. I was spending a lot of time on the computer and I didn’t really have a seamless website. There were errors in my code and every modification to the site took tremendous effort. That was around the time that my brother-in-law mentioned Shopify as a possible solution for my webstore woes. He was right. I latched on to Shopify platform and never looked back.
Along with the website design, I needed a brand logo, one that referenced the history of herbal medicine used for pain relief. I also wanted a logo that nodded towards the martial arts, where we did a significant amount of product testing and refinement.
Lucky for me, my brother is a graphic design expert. I told him what I wanted and he delivered our first logo and product label. I got the family pricing if you know what I mean. I believe Battle Balm was one of his first few brand logos at the time. These days, he designs logos for companies all over the world.
I later hired a friend to clean up the website, optimize it, and make it pop. It was one of the first outsourced things I did and it was well worth it. He is now the COO of the company and continues to allow us to implement new technology. With his expertise and design aesthetic, I feel our website perfectly represents the face of the Battle Balm brand.
Of course, an online store is never completely built. There’s always some way to improve our web presence. These days, we are tackling SEO, advertising, and the behemoth of social media marketing. Bringing value to our fanbase is key and we’re always looking for ways to connect with customers.
Since launch, what has worked to attract new customers?
So much of our advertising has been word of mouth. Our fanbase loves the fact that Battle Balm is all-natural and organic, sustainable, eco-friendly, washes out of activewear, and flat out works better than anything else on the market. We know that our product isn’t for everyone, so we focus on the people that care about what goes on their skin.
Pro athletes are our core audience, but interest and sales trickle over onto weekend warriors who can afford the best, the elderly on multiple medications who want a safer pain reliever, and people who are allergic to artificial chemicals and ingredients in other over-the-counter analgesics. We also get our share of opioid addicts interested in alternative and non-addictive forms of pain management. Now that the opioid epidemic has reached a breaking point, Battle Balm is a great natural product that can help pain sufferers with their detoxification plan.
The best way we have attracted new customers has been to let them try it. We’ve done trade shows and events where potential customers apply the product and see how well it works. It’s been our most valuable method of winning over customers and it makes sense because we sell a physical product with tangible results.
To balance our physical presence, we also sell our products in various online shops. Outside of our website, Amazon is one of the major retailers where we have made a significant impact. Amazon offers a few ways that sellers can enter their marketplace. In the beginning, we fulfilled every order ourselves. Once we got to a certain point, we transitioned to their FBA, or fulfilled by Amazon option.
It allowed us to focus on product development and marketing strategy. Over a year ago, we made the decision to onboard a number of Amazon resellers to continue working with Amazon so that we could focus on wholesale and B2B. This strategy has paid off for us as we now ship high quantity to our distributors and let them do the rest. We’ve run our company pretty lean this way and it’s allowed us to focus on what we do best.
Our online presence is still growing and we’re working with ads and social media to build awareness of our product lines. We think that this will be a great complement to our trade show events and allow new and existing fans to stay connected to us in the future.
The online marketing space is always changing. I think that right now, every brand is figuratively shouting at consumers “Hey, look at me!”. I’m trying to find a way for the Battle Balm to be heard but without being obnoxious. We know we have a message to convey and I’ve been interested in understanding how best to navigate the social media ad space so that we reach customers that reflect our core values. Luckily, there’s a ton of data metrics that can be accessed. It’s just a matter of crunching those numbers to see what ads are working and what isn’t.
We’ve run ads on Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and Google thus far. We are still working out the demographic subtleties between all of these platforms and how best to market towards each. For example, we know that the Instagram crowd tends to be younger and more tech savvy than say, our FB fans. An advertisement that would be more appealing to IG users may not have the same effect on our FB users. Our strategy is to continue to do A/B testing on each platform and replicate positive return on ad spend (ROAS). The good news is that as we’re nowhere near our peak and as we evolve our marketing and ad team, we will be able to more accurately target customers and speak directly to them.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The Battle Balm brand is growing every year. We’ve got a loyal fan base that really cares about us and believe in what we are doing. Our repeat customer purchase percentage is extremely high and we think it’s because we offer a product that surpasses expectation.
Right now, we’re working on expanding our sales channels internationally and grow our brand in places like Canada, United Kingdom, Norway, and Australia. We see tons of opportunity for growth in these markets and we’re setting the right foundation to match Battle Balm with reliable, high engagement distributors that align with our desire for unmatched customer service.
We’ve also just launched a CBD infused Battle Balm product. We source CO2 supercritically extracted cannabidiol and organic terpenes to create a synergistic pain fighting compound that allows us to target pain receptors in the body. Our CBD line will grow in 2019 with some other products, but those are under wraps for now!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’ve been in this game for less than 10 years, so I’m probably still in my entrepreneurial rookie season. There are a lot of really valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way, so here are a few.
Do Your Diligence
I spent almost 2 years researching my field and testing the Battle Balm products before launching to the public. I saw an unfilled niche in the industry and needed to create something new for the over-the-counter topical pain relief industry. Understanding the competition helped me to refine and create an initial product that was well above the standard offerings and release a product that reflected the quality and excellence I wanted our brand to be known for. This not only elevated our brand, but immediately differentiated us from the rest of the field.
Battle Balm is a brand that genuinely cares about people. It spawned out of my private pain management practice. It is an extension of what I am passionate about, and that is finding natural ways for people to mitigate pain. There was no boardroom full of investors trying to figure out how to enter this established multi-billion dollar industry with a cheap, instantly profitable marketing gimmick. The Battle Balm brand was created organically by listening to my patient base to understand their literal pain points. This is just who we are. I feel like our authenticity clarifies our direction and resonates with our customers. Plus, we like the feeling of being true to ourselves!
I think that giving a company a purpose really adds a depth of meaning and value to it. Whereas authenticity is who we are, purpose is what we are doing. Purpose breathes life into a brand and personifies it. For Battle Balm, our purpose is to bring the cleanest, safest, most naturally effective and eco-friendly pain relief product to the people. People deserve better pain relief products! This is why I get out of bed every morning passionate about my contribution towards improving people’s lives!
Enjoy the Journey
Most of us choose to be entrepreneurs for a reason. The sheer workload that we put on ourselves can be stressful. Personally, I’ve had times when I would get so upset about things that didn’t go my way, or mistakes that have caused me to lose thousands of dollars. I’m also constantly worrying about the use of my time. When tasks pile up, I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and remember why I started this business in the first place. Doing this allows me to regain my perspective and enjoy my journey again.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We are on the Shopify platform for our website. This provides us many feature-rich apps that we can seamlessly plug into, with little to no modifications of code.
MailChimp is our email marketing app. It’s easy to use, gets the job done and connects easily to our Shopify platform.
We organize our team and goals online with Notion.so and we’re getting our feet wet with Slack. Our CRM is managed by Pipedrive, which may be familiar to most folks and our customer service is through ZenDesk, another popular app which probably needs no introduction.
We advertise through Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, and Google Ads.
What has been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
When it comes to business and success, I’m buried in podcasts. It’s easy for me to consume throughout the day and is always in my pocket when I’ve got some spare time.
Advice for other ‘treps?
I had a hard time figuring out that I was an entrepreneur.
I knew I didn’t fit the mold of a regular employee. I struggled to exist within the confines of my corporate work cubicle and had to do some real soul searching to figure out what I wanted from this life. I felt as though I couldn’t punch a time card every day and be satisfied with not being able to control my own career trajectory.
The first piece of advice would be to figure out whether you are an entrepreneur or not. There are lots of dreamers out there with great ideas and no initiative nor direction to execute. There are lots of doers out there with plenty of direction but they lack the creativity to think outside the box, the willingness to learn, and power to adapt. Entrepreneurs should possess all the qualities of the dreamer and all the qualities of the doer. Because in the beginning, you will probably be a one-person operation.
Entrepreneurship is not easy. It is the path less traveled because so much of it is uphill. You will be tested. You will need to learn, adapt, and be willing to make uncomfortable decisions without having all the data. You will need to understand that mistakes are opportunities to grow. But, you will also need resilience. Every day, people will tell you “No”. Every day, friends and family will dissuade you from your dream, not because they want you to fail, but because they want to protect you from the unknown.
If I could sum up some key advice for ‘treps, it would be a shortlist of corny quotes I’ve heard time and again. What’s funny is that they mean more to me every day I continue along this entrepreneurial path.
- Remember why you started the journey.
- Be the hardest working person in the room. If you are, find another room.
- You have to put in the effort to reap the rewards. There are no shortcuts.
- The only thing that replaces hard work is luck and a sure way to improve your luck is to work hard.
- Excuses have never solved problems.
- If the passion for the dream is gone, then it’s time to move on.
There are a host of other entrepreneurial quotes that I love, but these are the ones I repeat to myself most often.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We have a strong core team in place and are not currently looking for full-time positions. But, we are interested in social media experts to promote our brand in fun, unique ways.
Where can we go to learn more?
Personal Instagram: @eatsleepbattle
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business.
By sharing these stories, we want to help others get started.
If you liked this story, join our mailing list for new interviews every Tuesday.
- Pat Walls, Founder of Starter Story