Shane Heath is a great example of today’s modern entrepreneur- he possesses a good mix of character, skill and heart.
Easily one of the most relaxed people you’ll come across, his outlook and perspectives on life are that of a well traveled, gut following and seasoned creative. Ungoverned by society’s career expectations, he crossed the globe on an art program and lived in India. He was yet to discover that those 6 months spent in Goa sipping traditional chai daily would be the start [and a part] of a unique wellness formula he would create for himself. He kicked his coffee habit and after some home based research and experiments, he discovered a way in which he would bring together a few powerful plant based ingredients and convert them into mud\wtr, a unique drink that not only improved focus but also helped with inflammation.
Before Mudwtr, Shane was a brand and app designer after graduating from design and art school. Given his background and holistic inspired life, his journey to the world of inventory management [post creation of product] has been smooth. We speak to him about the process of it all and how he’s come to where he is now.
What is mud\wtr?
MUD\WTR is a coffee alternative consisting of masala chai, cacao, turmeric, cinnamon, a little sea salt and four mushrooms: chaga, reishi, lion’s mane and cordyceps. With 1/7th the caffeine of coffee mud leans on ayurvedic herbs, medicinal mushrooms and cacao to provide energy, focus and immunity without the jitters and crash. It’s 100% organic, no sugar or additives and all you have to do is add a tablespoon of it to hot water and stir.
How did you develop the formula and concept?
I’ve been working as a designer in the tech space for 8 years. Around 5 years in, I fell into the belief that coffee would allow me to do more and do it faster. It was in everyone’s mug and on every street corner, I never questioned the premise of whether the promise was true.
I was living a demanding physical life outside of the office, training jiu jitsu and climbing and soon I was drinking more and more of the coffee. As this progressed, I started to notice that I had an increasing amount of anxiety, my immune system seemed to be more taxed and my sleep quality was decaying… Often times leading me to believe I needed more coffee.
It wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t want to be reliant on coffee to wake up the same way I didn’t want to rely on a sleeping pill to fall asleep. So I quit coffee. Around the same time I was invited to do an artist in residence in Goa India. So, I quit my job too.
While in India I fell in love with Chai. With a dynamic flavor profile and a rich culture built around it, I felt I had the perfect replacement to my previously highly caffeinated morning ritual. When I got back to the states, I began experimenting with some other ingredients that I felt either complimented the flavor of chai or added functional benefit. I felt that if I was to drink something every morning before trying to perform at my best, it should be more than just a vessel for caffeine. I wanted something that optimized my mind, body and ritual.
Using chai as a base I added turmeric for anti-inflammation, cinnamon to help with intermittent fasting and cacao to round out the flavor profile. I then discovered medicinal mushrooms and added lion’s mane for cognitive function, cordyceps for physical performance and chaga and reishi for immune and stress response.
Soon I had friends and co-workers asking me “What the F is in your mug?”
I would say, “it’s mud.”
After witnessing friends and family try it, like it and often times quit or reduce coffee intake significantly, I realized I needed to see if the product had legs. I leveraged my design background and had a site up over a weekend, some ingredients and packaging on the way and began selling product the following week in May of 2018.
Nootropics and wellness are huge at the moment. Is mud\wtr is a response to what Americans need or a trend?
There is this movement where food, drinks and practices traditionally used or practiced by sub-cultures commonly labelled spiritual, yogi or hippies are now being adopted by Western science, peak performers and thought leaders. It makes sense because, we aren’t working in factories anymore. 8 hours of work no longer equals 8 hours of output. Peak performance is more than just work and elbow grease, it is now tied to our ability to be creative, to recover, to solve problems under stress.
People are realizing that drinking pots of coffee, smashing cheese burgers and just playing ball doesn’t cut it. The people at the top of their game are meticulously crafting what they eat and drink to reduce inflammation and increase sustained energy. They are meditating and visualizing to reduce stress and harness the true capacity of their mind. They are stretching and breathing to reduce risk of injury and maximize their physical performance.
We are finding that our mind, body and spirit all need to work together to really be at our best and thus these compounds and wellness practices are being quickly adopted as they fit harmoniously with the demands of modern life.Shane Heath
What made you decide to move into large scale production?
I didn’t have any experience in the conusmer packaged goods space. In fact, outside of making this muddy concoction (before it was MUD\WTR) I hardly spent time in the kitchen. But, having co-founded two companies previously, I knew how to be scrappy. I knew that sometimes the beginners mindset can be an advantage, so I jumped off the cliff and started building the plane on the way down.
I knew that sometimes the beginners mindset can be an advantage, so I jumped off the cliff and started building the plane on the way down.
Soon, I was making the product at a commercial kitchen and my art studio would transform into a fulfillment center every day. Eventually, we moved into a larger space and scaled from hundreds of units a month to hundreds of units per day. But, even so, mixing this type of product is no small task. Managing the demands of inventory and supply chain while trying to work on marketing, retention, customer experience quickly became overwhelming and inefficient.
In Winter of 2019 after exceeding 6 figures in monthly recurring revenue we began to onboard a co-packer who could manage our supply chain and manufacturing for us. It’s a turnkey solution where we know our product is manufactured in a state-of-the-art facility by experienced pros and it’s been a great decision for us. Now, instead of dreading those late night mud covered runs to the kitchen, I can focus on making the best experience for our customers all the time.
What was the most challenging part?
Time management and learning how to unplug is both the most important and most challenging part. I get really excited and have very little patience, a combination that makes it tough to know when to say stop. In the early stages of building a company there’s a constant feeling of just trying to keep the wheels from falling off. You feel like there’s an infinite amount of good ideas or things to fix and it can really overwhelm you if it is not managed. I use project management tool called Asana to keep track of projects. There’s something immensely relieving about just writing it down and letting go of it.
To be the best at what you do, you have to be able to sift through the noise and accomplish the most important task to the best of your ability so being able to prioritize amidst chaosShane Heath
Disruption: Why are people more open to smaller brands instead of larger heritage brands?
I don’t think it’s about people preferring smaller brands vs. big brands. We are social creatures and if given the choice, we would rather buy products from companies and missions that we connect with.
Previously, we had no choice. The only way you could get in front of customers was by competing for shelf space. So, our choices where filled with soulless enterprises with no personality, no stance and nothing to connect with. Now, with ecommerce and social media, founders can tell their story and sell their products without the middle man. They don’t have to play by the same rules as the old gate keepers, and thus the consumer gets to pick who wins – not the big box stores. That’s why you see these (once small) companies like Allbirds, RXbar, and Method dance around these old businesses because they can cultivate brand and build a tribe. Those are things you can’t buy.
What was the transition like from design, creative work to running production?
When I first started, I was doing it all. I had a great advisor at the time, Paul DeJoe whom I recently brought on as co-founder and COO. Early on, I explored getting a co-packer and fulfillment partner. I essentially wanted to outsource anything I didn’t know how to do yet. He told me something I think about almost weekly, “feel the burn.”
It’s important to find out what you don’t know, and in this case I needed to understand what I was making, I needed to learn more about what needed to change on the packaging, recipe, and customer experience before we put the fuel on the fire. It’s a mentality we’ve both applied to everything from marketing to retail. We need to understand how it works before we manage someone else to do it for us.
That said, managing inventory with high growth was very demanding. There were times where I would use my lunch breaks to bring a van load of orders to the post office, work 15 hour days before heading to the commercial kitchen to mix until 3am multiple times a week. As exhausting as it was, I feel that I have a really strong understanding and appreciation for what goes into making the product which helps when forming a long term partnership with a team to take that on.
What do you spend your time mostly on, as an entrepreneur of an fmcg.
Paul (co-founder) and I constantly talk about working on firing myself from everything that is not creative. I’d say I spend about 60% of my time working on improving the experience for our customers. This spans web design and development, packaging design and our digital communication with our customers. I spend another 25% on marketing. I manage our social media content and fb ads but this also includes pr opportunities and outreach to new partners. The remaining 15% is spent on keeping big projects moving along, signing docs, answering emails, analyzing data and course correcting. In this space, there’s lots of moving parts that each have their own timelines. For example, launching a new product like our soon to be released creamer has required us to wait on certifications which can take 4 weeks, then we can place the order for packaging which can take another 4 weeks, meanwhile we need to make sure the ingredients will arrive on time so our manufacturer can batch test and fulfill our PO in time for the launch of the new website. This requires a lot of check ins, follow ups and zen like patience.
Other than drinking mudwtr, what else do you integrate in your life to feel and function your best?
For me everything starts with sleep. I try to reduce caffeine intake 6 hours before bed. I sleep with my phone on airplane mode for around 8 hours every night and try to rise and crash at roughly the same time. Once awake, I have a pretty extensive (and enjoyable) morning ritual that involves drinking lots of water, meditating, and working out. I intermittent fast most days of the week and on Wednesdays go so far as doing a full 24 hour fast from food, my phone and meetings. These rituals have proven to allow me to recover and manage stress while keeping my body fit and healthy. Being that our company is all about creating products and experiences to optimize one’s mind, body and rituals – I live and breathe that ethos wholeheartedly inside and outside the office.
Quote you live by?
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”
– Mark Twain
Wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs
It’s very rewarding and sometimes essential to challenge your comfort zone. To question your habits, your relationships, and your beliefs to ensure that you are acting from truth instead of blindly following others. MUD\WTR started by me questioning my relationship to coffee, despite the normality built around it. From there, I’ve experienced and witnessed transformational benefits from making that shift. We don’t hide from our intuition and are committed to challenging taboos and cultural norms in order to find truth and to live better lives.
Product photography by the talented Enas Siddiqi.