By Chris Meehan | Jun 01, 2018
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Sports nutrition
"Jeff, my husband, was riding the Leadville 100 mountain bike race every year," says Jennifer. "He was always running into problems. He was having stomach problems and it's always hard for him to track his calories and electrolyte and water intake."
She says that led to the development of Tailwind's first products. "He's a problem solver and did a lot of research and developed the drink for himself. He had a lot of success with it and local riders in Durango noticed he was riding with it." They asked to try it and started carrying Baggies of it on their rides. "He was meeting these people in the parking lot with bags of white powder," Jennifer laughs.
The Vierlings launched the company and introduced the initial product in 2012 at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in Durango. For the company's first six years, it focused on several varieties of its Endurance Fuel for athletes. Tailwind has now entered into recovery with its Rebuild drink mix, which Jennifer anticipates will help the company maintain its winning growth spree.
Tailwind's approach to endurance fuels and recovery aren't like other sports nutrition companies, which offer a bevy of goos, chews, drinks, and energy bars. "You don't need calories from other substances," asserts Jennifer. "You can literally run with Tailwind and we have had people who have run on only it for 24 hours. Tailwind is designed as a complete deal. So we have all the calories and electrolytes and hydration."
Two of the top markets are cyclists and runners, and backpackers and hikers are also Tailwind targets. "When we started we gained a lot traction with ultra-runners because they have a lot of stomach issues," Jennifer explains. "Generally anyone going out for two-plus hours is using our product."
Tailwind has experienced rapid growth ever since it launched, catalyzed mostly by word of mouth. "It's really based on customer demand," says Jennifer. "The bulk of our online sales are now coming primarily through Amazon because it's a beast. Retail is also a significant part of our business as well."
The company also sells direct to consumers and through some specialty online retailers like Running Warehouse. She estimates that half the company's business is online and half from retail.
She adds, "We are in stores internationally as well. Our model internationally is very different from typical companies. We had some international customers who pushed us and asked us and really wanted to introduce it to their countries. At the time we thought great, incremental revenue."
But several of these customers have started companies to help sell and distribute the product internationally. "It's been a tremendous business model for us," Jennifer says. "These individuals who are starting companies for us are entrepreneurial by nature and they already have a built-in infrastructure in terms of people they'd hang out with. They're all athletes."
The authenticity has helped the company grow rapidly, she notes. "We've basically been doubling our revenue every year. Last year , we grew about 50 percent. This year, with the launch of Rebuild, we hope to double our revenue again."
And the growth has led to a lot of moving. Tailwind started in a small commercial kitchen and has since moved numerous times into larger spaces. "We now have about 10,000 square feet between our production facility and our shipping," Jennifer says. "The shipping and fulfillment is one space and the production is in the other."
To help ease its growing pains, the company turned to the state. "I want to give a shout out to Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade," says Jennifer, also citing Manufacturer's Edge for its support. "We just did some analysis with Manufacturer's Edge and we have a 4X capacity of what we're doing right now," she says. "It's very comforting to know that we'll have at least two years in our existing facility."
Challenges: "Finding adequate space in Durango and Bayfield is really challenging," says Jennifer. "Finding warehouse space at an affordable price is very challenging. We made a very conscious decision when we started Tailwind that we would do everything locally."
She adds, "The other challenge is moving from being a startup to a second-stage company. We're introducing systems and processes and it's a challenge. From a financial perspective, it's hard because you're growing faster and you have to make a lot of investments up front for the back-end business to grow. Growing up is hard."
Opportunities: "I would say growing internationally is an opportunity," Jennifer says. "Because we just released the recovery drink it's a huge area of opportunity that's huge for us."
Needs: Employees. "Finding the right employees with the right skill set," says Jennifer. "HR is always a challenge. Making sure they fit with the culture of the company."