What got you interested in running?
I was visiting my brother and his family in California and they had signed up for a 10K run. I was not a runner, but I decided to join my brother for the race. I did OK, but I could not get out of bed the next morning—every muscle hurt!
What’s the inspiration behind CHERRiSH?
As I started to run more, I participated in a lot of various organized runs and noticed that a lot of the hard-core runners were drinking pure Montmorency cherry juice. I learned that these tart cherries have plenty of anti-inflammatories and can prevent muscle soreness after a heavy work-out. I tried it myself and found it had amazing results... but it tasted terrible. I love to ski, run, fish, and keep an active lifestyle and wanted to create a product that tasted good and contained the health benefits athletes need to strengthen and recover.
You created the formula for CHERRiSH! What was that process like?
As mentioned, the big hurdle at the beginning was the taste. Montmorency cherries alone are way too sour. At the same time, we did not want to change the healthy properties by adding sugar or other unnatural flavors to our recipe. We experimented with a few solutions and ultimately decided to combine the tart cherries with the sweet Bing cherry. The taste was fabulous. Plus, contrary to expectations, the blend ended up improving the anti-inflammatory properties and the other health benefits. The blend improved everything about the juice—it was a great surprise!
What about your past experience at IBM has influenced your approach to CHERRiSH?
IBM was absolutely fabulous at training people on how to sell, be authentic and competitive. They taught me that believing in your product makes selling fun. All of the salespeople were young and extremely ambitious; if you did not want to do the job, there were hundreds in starched white shirts and wingtips behind you who did. That was a good lesson I learned—if you do not work hard, you are not indispensable.
How do you handle risk and competition?
Risk is always part of a new business, and you try to minimize it as best you can. Competition can be what takes you to the next level. If you can learn from both mistakes and successes, you have a leg up on most competitors. One great asset about CHERRiSH is that there really is nothing exactly like it out there. The only other leading cherry juice has additives, and is not pure cherry juice. As time goes on, we are learning more and more about the benefits of cherries—from anti-inflammatory effects to helping with sleep and gout pain.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
Startups always have to learn and adapt, and we've leaned a lot over the past few years. For example, we started producing our product in a can, but quickly changed to a bottle. We have changed the design of the logo and the bottles to look cleaner and more modern. At one time, there was a shortage of cherries because of an early freeze in Michigan, but we were able to find a great source in Washington.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
I am really lucky to have a great team. It’s been important to allow them to take the reins and do what they do best, which is to sell and promote the product. Everyone has a clear understanding of their role and we don’t take “no” for an answer. Just like our recipe, we are constantly finding solutions to any roadblocks or challenges. I know the team believes in the product as much as I do, which is always great.
What's the story behind TEAM CHERRiSH?
We've been working with Vanguard Sports on getting our product into the hands of some of today's biggest athletes. We are rapidly growing and aim to be the leading health juice in the market. We are excited to raise on Republic as it gives us an opportunity to invite people to learn about the product and to be a part of TEAM CHERRiSH by making a personal investment in the company.
What is your superpower?
The ability to find good people and to get rid of bad apples. I think I have a pretty good nose for identifying the type of person who will help us get to where we want to be.
What’s your kryptonite?
People who are bullies and intimidators. I also have no time for braggarts and people who are not humble. The smartest, kindest people I know don’t have to tell you.
Do you have any unusual habits or routines?
I read three newspapers every night. I have had the same car since 1968 and just had it refurbished. I can’t sit still through a movie, and my wife of 53 years is a huge movie buff!
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
I love boating and fishing. My sons and I go on a salmon fishing trip in Canada every summer, although it has been canceled this year due to COVID-19. We hope to get back up there soon.
I am also an avid snow skier. We also joined a golf club a couple of years ago. This has been a great asset to get out there during the pandemic.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Don’t use beverage brokers, create your own Salesforce.
Do you have a(ny) mentor(s)? If so, what have they taught you?
I had one particular boss at IBM who really did believe in me and gave me the most important ingredient in my life I could hope for—confidence.