In a crowded world of sports nutrition supplements, Propello Life is making its way through the noise with a niche set of products unlike much of what’s on the market.
Propello Life takes the best in class in sports nutrition and offers an alternative in the form of a clean, minimally processed product that still delivers the same performance benefits, explains CEO & Co-Founder Duke Armstrong.
“We wanted a line of supplements that would compliment someone who is eating organically and naturally,” he says.
Armstrong has spent enough time in the industry to have a firm grip on the market and the gap that Propello fills. His first stop after college was Abbott Nutrition where he made his way to the EAS and Zone Perfect teams. Although he was an athlete in college, it was really his first foray into sports nutrition.
“This was a great way that blended my love for athletics with an actual career,” Armstrong says.
He spent five years with the Abbot product lines before a drive to pursue something more entrepreneurial bubbled to the surface. He wasn’t quite ready to do his own thing, so instead opted to move into consulting. Armstrong gained experience with true startups to medium-sized companies spanning raw foods to another sports nutrition brand.
The consulting still wasn’t satisfying his entrepreneurial curiosity, so he made a plan. He would spend three more years working for sports nutrition companies then launch his own brand. And in July of 2016, that’s exactly what Armstrong and his brother and co-founder Todd did.
Armstrong leveraged his understanding of the market to develop four distinct products for Propello Life: a pre-workout formula, rejuvenating aminos, vegan protein and whey protein.
Whey is generally the gold standard of protein, but as Armstrong analogizes, ranges in quality across a seven-point scale from “Taco Bell meat to kobe beef steak.” While most of what exists sits on the lower end, Propello aims for the creme de la creme.
“It’s super simple, there’s no proprietary blends, no sugar alcohols,” Armstrong says. “And sometimes simple is best.”
A vegan protein powder appeals to the animal-free, vegetarian and lactose intolerant crowds with just the right mix of four organic proteins to develop as close a profile to whey as possible. He’s also worked out the mouthfeel and flavor problems that plague other vegan proteins on the market.
The amino product calls on a vegan, plant-based source of amino acids versus the unappetizing typical sources – hair and/or feathers. Armstrong says the pre-workout formulation has the most science behind it. Propello’s blend provides the benefits of its ingredients without the side effects, like enough caffeine to aid in focus without getting jittery.
Propello is available through a trio of outlets: the company’s website, Amazon and local gyms and retailers.
“If you want my product, I’m going to make it as easy and as accessible wherever you are shopping,” Armstrong says.
He’s targeting gyms because that’s where people sweat; it’s where they ask their trainer about the types of products they should be using. Armstrong says that by the time a consumer gets to a store, they already know what they plan to purchase, making in-store conversions challenging. He’s taken a boots on the ground approach to total up the over 20 locations that carry Propello Life products.
“I want to shake hands and give out samples and have people taste my product and ask me questions,” Armstrong says.
As the Propello brand continues to grow, production will shift from Canada to the U.S. Initially, Armstrong says he had a hard time finding U.S. manufacturers with the quality standards to do an affordable production run for a startup. Similar facilities in Canada met the same standards, but offered the lower volume runs Propello could handle. Now, Propello is gaining the orders to fulfill larger production runs.
Not that it hasn’t been without its hiccups, but Armstrong says he’s avoided any major challenges he didn’t expect through meticulous planning. An idea many years in the making, he’d been having those conversations with mentors, and got to live some of those different issues and struggles that startups face during his consulting time.
Armstrong says it has been every bit as difficult as he thought it would be, and has required planned sacrifices like not paying himself for the first 18 – 24 months. But, it’s a plan he made sure his family was on board with before starting – something he recommends all entrepreneurs do.
“It’s got to be a family decision because the company will be so much work,” Armstrong says.
He has his sights set on growing the business in the Great Lakes region over the next five years.
“I want to have a great local company,” Armstrong says. “I want to have a great work-life balance, and I want to have a company that’s really tied in with the local fitness community.”
For more information, visit propellolife.com.