How An Active Duty Soldier Built $6M/Year Bare Performance Nutrition
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Nick Bare and I own Bare Performance Nutrition. We are a sports nutrition and health supplement company based out of central Texas, just about 20 minutes north of Austin.
Other than being an entrepreneur, I also create social media content for hundreds of thousands of people, spent 4 years in the US Army as an active duty Infantry Officer and am a soon to be published author of my book titled, 25 Hours A Day. I started my company in 2012 making around $15,000 in the first year of business and today we are on track to do $6 Million in revenue for the year.
I built the brand while working as an active duty Soldier, sleeping very little and working very much. Bare Performance Nutrition has always specialized in sports performance (pre-workout, pump enhancers, whey protein, BCAAs) but is now adding to the line of health supplements (greens superfoods, red superfoods, multi-vitamin, joint support) due to the increased demand and popularity from the current customers. The flight is our flagship product (pre-workout) which launched the brand in 2012 and has been one of our fastest moving products to date.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
In 2012 I was a junior in college studying Nutrition at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I was also in the ROTC program there so I knew that upon graduating college I would be commissioning into the US Army as an officer.
My friends and I were your typical broke college students and we loved weight training. Because we couldn’t continue to buy our own pre-workout supplements due to personal funds, or lack thereof, we decided to all go in together and purchase bulk ingredients to make our own pre-workout supplements.
Many of these college students, and friends of mine, took out this $25K loan to buy new cars, take vacations, get engaged and married, but I decided that this would be my funding to launch my company.
We purchased caffeine, beta-alanine, citrulline malate, tyrosine, etc. We would mix them up in my dorm room, throw them back and hit the gym every day. We didn’t know how to flavor them properly and didn’t have the correct scales to measure anything less than a gram so who knows how much caffeine we were consuming! My friends loved it and I would even have kids from other dorms stopping by to try my “homemade” pre-workout. As this became a huge interest to me I decided to pursue it further but knew that if I wanted to create a business I would have to work with an FDA regulated manufacturing facility.
After returning from a 30-day training exercise at Fort Lewis, WA I decided to go all-in and work to launch Bare Performance Nutrition. Sports performance and especially dietary supplements had always been a massive passion and interest to me. At the time, the military associated bank, USAA, was offering a loan of up to $25,000 for ROTC cadets about to graduate. Many of these college students and friends of mine took out this loan to buy new cars, take vacations, get engaged and married, but I decided that this would be my funding to launch my company.
I worked with a US-based manufacturer to formulate, produce and test my first two products, which were Flight (pre-workout) and Intra-Flight (BCAAs). Other than my burning desire and passion for sports performance, I had absolutely zero experience building, operating or scaling a brand. To this day I will always remember telling my dad about the plan to launch Bare Performance Nutrition and how successful it was going to be in the first year of business. I vividly remember him saying, “if it were that easy then everyone would do it” - and he was right.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I found my first contact manufacturer online through some deep google researching. Over the years we have worked with a few different manufacturers until we found the perfect ones. Today, we work with two contract manufacturers (one is in Texas and the other is in California).
In the beginning, when we were just getting started and moving very little volume, there was never a relationship established between myself and the manufacturers. We were a small fish in a large pond. Today we talk with our manufacturers on a daily basis, and usually multiple times a day.
I personally formulated our first two products that entered the market. I worked with the contract manufacturer lab team and R&D department to bring it to life, but the majority of the input came from my research. Even though I was studying Nutrition in college, we never covered sports performance and especially dietary supplement research, so I would spend hours in the evening researching ingredients and their effectiveness. I initially put together a formula, sent it over to the manufacturer to price and received the quote - over $30 per bottle! At the price point, I would have to sell this pre-workout for it would be shunned in the market! Over the next couple of weeks, I went back and forth with the manufacturer to create the best product possible at the most reasonable price too. We removed some ingredients and added others, changing the dosage of some and ended up getting our price point to exactly where it needed to be. It ended up taking about 12 weeks to approve a formula, finalize the flavoring profile and put everything into production (which was another 12 weeks).
After locking in the product with the manufacturer it was time to set up my logistics/ warehousing space - AKA my bedroom. At the time I was living in a small college apartment, on Philadelphia Street at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, with 5 other guys. My room itself was about 100 square feet at the most. I set up a packing station, filled the room with boxes and packing supplies, and prepared for the big launch. Because I didn’t have enough room for all the inventory in my apartment I had to store some of it at my parent's house, which was 3 hours away! Prepared? Probably not, but I was like a kid on Christmas morning ready to go!
That first launch, while was extremely exciting, didn’t play out as I quite imagined. The loan that I took out just about only covered the cost of the inventory, so I had no money left over for label design, graphic work, marketing agencies or business advisors. I became the swiss army pocket knife for Bare Performance Nutrition.
I had a friend design our labels in exchange for some free pre-workout (once it launched), another buddy designed our website and I dieted down for a photo shoot to create some marketing material for the product launch. Even the photographer was a friend who helped for free.
The Evolution Of Our Labels:
Describe the process of launching the business.
I thought my launch strategy was going to kill it. I linked up with some fairly successful fitness YouTubers and negotiated some free products for a shout out/review on their social media platforms.
I decided that I was going to spend every waking moment building my brand. I listened to podcasts, read books, taught myself videography and photography, social media marketing and even how to code our website.
In 2012, the fitness industry wasn’t nearly as saturated as it is now and large fitness YouTube channels weren’t one in a dozen. I sent the YouTubers their product a few weeks before launch, gave them enough time to test it out and then waited for their reviews. About half of the YouTubers talked about the product and the other half I never heard from, but it wasn’t necessarily the hype I was expecting.
Launch day was here. I had the website built, marketing material and information displayed, and ready to make it live! I pressed “GO” and ...nothing….
A few sales trickled in from friends and family over the next couple of days but not the buzz I was expecting. I thought that at least a few thousand people that heard about it from the YouTube mentions would stop by the site, all of my friends and family would have supported my new project and at the very least I would sell out of half the inventory - I was wrong. I quickly learned that this was going to be harder than I ever imagined and launching a successful business wasn’t this fairy tale dream.
Year 1 = $15,000 in revenue.
I continued to work on building the brand over the next 12 months or so in my free time but I was also preparing to enter the US Army. In May of 2013, I was commissioned as an Infantry Officer and was shipped to Fort Benning, GA to complete the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Ranger School, and Airborne School. After spending a year in Georgia I was sent to Fort Hood, TX for my first duty assignment.
When I arrived in Texas in early 2014 I decided to start my own social media platforms. Initially, I started by sharing workout and nutrition advice on YouTube but over time I started adding some military topics and behind the scenes of building Bare Performance Nutrition. The intent, in the beginning, was not to drive sales to BPN but I knew I had to create an online community around my personal brand and eventually the company. I quickly realized the power of providing value to the online fitness space, creating that online community I was looking for and eventually the time to sell would come. This wasn’t necessarily a strategic plan but after a few years of very little sales, I was willing to try something new. Getting comfortable talking to a camera, editing the footage and turning it into a story was definitely not one of my strengths (in the beginning) as you can see by one of my first videos here:
Year 3 was doing about $20,000 in revenue.
After being in business for 4 years and in the Army for 2, my unit was sent to South Korea for a 9-month rotation. At this point, my YouTube channel was sitting at around 30,000 subscribers and we were generating between $2,000 and $3,000 a month in revenue. I decided when I arrived in South Korea that I was going to spend every waking moment, that wasn’t spent doing my Army job, building my business. My duties and responsibilities as an Infantry Platoon Leader always came first, but when I was in my barracks off work - I was building my brand. I listened to podcasts, read books, taught myself videography and photography, social media marketing and even how to code our website.
After 9 months in South Korea, I was able to grow my YouTube channel to over 100,000 subscribers, generate over $10,000 a month in revenue and build out a new website for Bare Performance Nutrition. We finally hit the six-figure mark as a business and the following year hit seven-figures.
As my social media platforms grew, so did Bare Performance Nutrition’s revenue. With more exposure to my story, the brand and my work ethic, we had people from all across the world showing up to our site, purchasing products and supporting our vision. This is when I finally realized that there had to be a strategic plan that grew the social media platforms and ultimately our business.
In the first year of producing YouTube content, I was able to grow my channel to 20,000 subscribers. I had no clue what I was doing but just kept throwing darts at a dartboard hoping one would stick - and one did. In the fall of 2016, I uploaded a YouTube video while stationed in South Korea called, “The Day In The Life Of An Infantry Platoon Leader” and it took off. It grew my channel about 50,000 subscribers in a month and the video reached over 1,000,000 people. I then realized that there was a recipe for creating good YouTube content.
For starters, there has to be some type of value that is offered in your videos and content. In my case, it’s educating people in fitness and nutrition to improve their health and help them reach their fitness goals. I also share my life and how hard we’ve worked to build our company over the past 7 years. There are education, motivation, and personality behind the video series. We add comedy, humor, and context to what we are talking about through story-telling and real-life experiences. As the creator, you have to find out what problem it is you are trying to solve in your online community and add your own personal touch behind it.
YouTube Video (Day In The Life Of An Infantry Platoon Leader)
YouTube Video (Field Training In Korea)
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
As a brand, we have always focused on the consumer, the community and driving engagement through education, motivation, and storytelling.
We leveraged our social media following to create interactive, relatable and valuable content over the years. After starting a YouTube channel in 2014 I realized the power it had to create a community. Bare Performance Nutrition is not a product - it is a brand. A brand has a voice, a vision, values, and a story.
I came to realize while building Bare Performance Nutrition, that one of our competitive advantages was transparency. We took the consumer and audience behind the scenes of everything. We documented the process of moving into new warehouses, products being created at our manufacturing facilities, packing and shipping orders all over the world and handling customer service 24/7.
Here are some examples of how we’ve done that:
How We Make Our Supplements
Making changes to our old warehouse
Current Warehouse Tour
Up until 2017, we had grown Bare Performance Nutrition 100% organically with no paid advertising. We were able to generate 7-figures with zero facebook ads, email marketing or planned campaigns. All of the team's efforts to grow the brand and drive sales were focused on social media. We launched 2 YouTube videos a week, stayed active on Instagram and Snapchat and posted regularly on Facebook.
We were able to generate over $120,000 in 24 hours on a 20% site-wide sale - our biggest up until that point. We spent a total of $10,000 in ad-spend leading up to and on the day of that sale which generated $120,000.
After 2017, I decided to take a more deliberate and proactive approach to scale the brand, and it paid off. We focused efforts on paid Facebook ads (both prospecting and remarketing), started placing emphasis on building our email list and began utilizing social media influencers to share the Bare Performance Nutrition brand with their followers.
In 2017, with a planned execution of facebook/Instagram ads, email marketing, and organic social media posting (with paid influencers as well) we were able to generate over $120,000 in 24 hours on a 20% site-wide sale - our biggest up until that point. We spent a total of $10,000 in ad-spend leading up to and on the day of that sale which generated $120,000.
To this day - I am a very strong believer in the way we have built our brand and will continue to build the brand. Like I said earlier, we are not a product. You will not find us on a late-night infomercial selling a product for 3 easy payments of $9.99. We are a brand. Our focus is on the consumer and how we can help them. We use social media content (that is generated daily) to educate, motivate and inspire our audience to take action on their lives and push past physical and mental barriers they place on themselves. Our job is to help people reach their goals.
After we create content that is valuable, informative and useful we will then place it into a marketing sequence. We run Facebook/Instagram ads split between prospecting and remarketing, send out 2-3 emails to our email list each week and work with an outsourced SEO company to optimize our content and back-end network.
There isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t receive an email, DM, phone call or social media comment that says, “I can’t believe how fast you guys shipped out my order!”. That is our goal and our mission. Create the best products on the market, educate and inspire our audience and take care of our customers as quickly and correctly as possible.
Our Black Friday Instagram Promotional Video
An Instagram promotion we did for our whey protein product
An Instagram video we did to show customers how much we care about fast shipping
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our current headquarters is located just north of Austin, TX in a 10,000 sq. ft. warehouse. My brother, Preston, moved down to Texas in 2016 to help grow the business while I was still stationed in South Korea and today he leads operations and purchasing for Bare Performance Nutrition. We have two full-time employees packing, shipping and receiving every day.
On an average day, we will send out between 200-250 orders. Big sales or new product releases usually result in about 3,500-5,000 orders (over 48 hours).
Our revenue is about 80% direct to consumer, 15% amazon and 5% wholesale accounts. We pride ourselves on not being a huge discount brand and only run two sales each year - Black Friday and 4th of July (each being 20% off site-wide). We use the Shopify Plus platform and our current analytics are listed below:
- Monthly Average Visitors: 110,000
- Average Order Value: $84.00
- Customer Return Rate: 60%
- Conversion Rate: 4.92%
- Email Subscribers: 73,000
- YouTube Subscribers: 292,000
- BPN Instagram Followers: 62.8K
- Nick’s Instagram Followers: 151K
Bare Performance Nutrition’s focus for the next 12 months is very heavy. We are positioning the brand to scale. As mentioned earlier, we have a full line of performance supplements but are now breaking into the health and wellness category even more. Right now we have a reds superfood supplement, multi-vitamin, joint health product and nutrition bars in production. We are also working on a sleep aid and collagen powder supplement for future release and launch. We recently released phase 1 of our app (available for iPhone and Android) and will be launching phase 2 in the middle of 2020, which will be a customized training platform run by our newest employee joining the team this spring.
For the past three years, we have doubled revenue year-over-year. We expect to do the same moving into 2020 with annual revenue to reach over $10 million. Our long term goals are aligned with the company's vision and mission. We have recently hired a full-time videographer/photographer which will allow the team to create more content, for more platforms and reach/educate/inspire even more people. The focus behind the majority of our content right now is to provide the education, resources, and motivation to facilitate changes to improve our customer's lives.
While doubling revenue year-over-year seems very bold moving forward into the future - it is always the goal. However, a projection is just a wish without a plan of action. With a whole new line of supplements (health line - called the Strong series) added to Bare Performance Nutrition line-up, we have the opportunity to generate more revenue from our current customers and to also reach a new market. In the next week, we are also launching our first nutrition bar called the Field Bar, which has been a work in progress over the last 12 months. The team has outlined a plan to align content through podcasts, Youtube videos, and collaborations, influencer marketing and my new future book launch, 25 Hours A Day, to drive more traffic and sales to our website.
Our Book titled, 25 Hours A Day, launching early 2020. 25 Hours A Day is about my story of building Bare Performance Nutrition while serving as an Active Duty Infantry Officer, stationed in South Korea. Lessons I’ve learned in the military, stories from Ranger School and the power to “GO ONE MORE”.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Over the past 7 years of scaling Bare Performance Nutrition I have learned endless amounts of lessons, made countless mistakes and wasted tons of money, but all for a good purpose. Learning through experience has been the most rewarding and beneficial aspect of being a growing entrepreneur. Looking back to our first year in business I realize I did just about everything wrong. I think my biggest mistake is that I didn’t personally have a vision for the company. Yes, I wanted to obviously grow it as large and as fast as possible, but I somehow missed the valuable lesson of supply and demand. I had the supply. I had a couple of hundred bottles of pre-workout and amino acids but I had zero demand. I was trying to sell to everyone and everything, with no target market, no niche branding, and no voice. Nothing made us stand out.
A few years after our initial launch in 2012 I completely rebranded the company. This meant new labels, new logos, a new website and a fresh new look to Bare Performance Nutrition. I attacked this rebranding opportunity to give a voice and vision for the company. Not only for my personal vision, but also for everyone who came across BPN, bought from BPN and worked for BPN. This rebrand, new look, and new target resulted in a 750% increase in revenue in just one year!
If you haven’t picked up on it by now I love building Bare Performance Nutrition to help people reach their goals, improve their lives and grow a massive community. As stated before, we are a BRAND and not just a PRODUCT. We pride ourselves in the content we create via YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Podcasts. With that being said, all of the content we have created also amplifies our paid advertising efforts. Whether we are running Facebook and Instagram ads (prospecting/remarketing) or sending out email campaigns, we have endless content online to back it up and support our brand. Social proof is a powerful tool and helps provide the context of where we are heading next! The vision of Bare Performance Nutrition is now clear as day and I can firmly say that it is understood through the consumer, the team and anyone else who comes across our social media platforms. We are here to be the best supplement company ever by educating, motivating and building a family through BPN.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
There are a million and one third party apps and solutions out there to help run your business, but many of them don’t deliver! We have tested what feels like hundreds of them, but are now set in a schedule with a few that really do drive results.
Shopify - As I’ve stated earlier, we do use Shopify Plus. I can’t say enough great things about this platform and everything that it offers. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to create an online eCommerce store.
Email Marketing - We started using FAM (Fully Automated Marketing) for our email marketing a few months ago and have seen some pretty great results! We were not harnessing the power of email marketing to our full potential over the past couple of years but FAM has helped us re-engage that audience. We recently ran a 60-day contest on social media that offered a FREE home gym giveaway ($5,000 value). Through the efforts of organic social media and paid advertising ($5,000 ad spend), we grew our email list by 25,000 and Instagram followers by 20,000!
Yotpo - We use Yotpo (powerhouse plan) to ask for and receive reviews on our products. This has been a great source of verified social proof and helps increase conversions for not only returning but more importantly new customers! We are now approaching 10,000 verified reviews on our site with the majority of them being 5 out of 5-star ratings.
Shogun Page Builder - Shopify’s page templates are fairly generic and hard to customize without some complex coding. We have found a third-party app called Shogun Page Builder to really help transform our product pages resulting in greater conversions!
Product Page Example on this link.
Final Cut Pro - We produce A LOT of video content each week. Final Cut Pro (for apple) is great and easy to use tool for video editing and producing.
Photoshop/Lightroom - In addition to video editing, we produce about 10x as many photos and graphics as we do videos for social media. Photoshop and Lightroom (adobe products) are great tools to create banners, graphics, ads and to clean up photos in post-production.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Google is a powerful tool. Every question you have, every example you need and every problem you are experiencing has answers online. It’s how I learned everything. I vividly remember sitting in my barracks room while stationed in South Korea spending 4-5 hours a night learning how to build a business. The result was transforming a $15,000 brand into multiple 6-figure brands in less than 9 months. It’s 2019 - there is no excuse for not being smart enough, for not having the resources and for not having the knowledge.
Much of my influence has been driven by life experiences and putting myself out there - something I recommend to everyone. With that being said, I’ll leave part of my upcoming book below as context:
Conventional wisdom tells you to live as if you have fewer hours in a day. They say to cram everything in as if you only had 23 hours in which to get it done. This never made sense to me. It gave you less actual time and often results in rushing to failure.
I’ll never forget the moment I learned to stop rushing toward failure. I was a student in the Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, working with some Captains from the hard-core 75th Ranger Regiment.
I asked one of them for advice on how to be the best leader possible when I arrived at my platoon at Fort Hood, Texas. He pointed to another Captain across the room.
“You see that guy right there? When the shit hits the fan, when chaos strikes, that guy stays as cool as the other side of the pillow. He doesn’t rush to failure but takes the time to assess the situation, develop a plan quickly, and executes it on demand. That is the guy you want to be.”
I realized that the goal isn’t to rush but to slow things down as much as possible, even time itself. We all have 24 hours in a day, but it’s how you choose to live those 24 hours that makes the difference. When I started my business, I sacrificed sleep in order to find extra time. The bottom line, I was in control of the day. I controlled my time, and in the end, I controlled what it was I was about to create.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I’ll give 2 pieces of advice to entrepreneurs who want to get started and believe it is their passion because your business must be that - 100% passion. Your business is a living, breathing model of yourself as the owner.
First - you MUST go all in. There is no dabbling as an entrepreneur in the beginning. You may find exceptions to the rule or experienced entrepreneurs who have systems in place to delegate brand building, but in the beginning, you MUST go all in. It wasn’t until I dedicated every waking moment to building Bare Performance Nutrition, spending every ounce of energy and focus after working a full-time job, that I saw results and growth. Going all-in also doesn’t come with a timeline. You may see results in 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years but if you have a vision and a solid brand/product then it is working through the wins and learning from the losses that direct you to where you want and need to be.
Second - many don’t take action due to paralysis by analysis. This was something I never feared or had a problem with. It is probably why I started Bare Performance Nutrition from the start, took out a loan as a broke college student, had zero experience or knowledge on how to build a brand or held any skills required to make it work. I ran off pure passion from the beginning but was never stopped by over-analyzing every step along the way. It is something I see and hear from new entrepreneurs every day. They question every move they think about making, they wait for the perfect time and in the end, they never end up moving forward at all. Why? Their ability to over-analyze everything keeps them in the same place - stagnant. Don’t be this person. Mitigate risk, weigh your options and make educated decisions but don’t be paralyzed by analysis.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
At the moment we are looking to bring someone in house to take over all paid advertising. A highly motivated individual who wants to be part of a fast-paced team and has the skills required to run Facebook/Instagram ads, google ads and optimize our content through SEO.
I personally do not like hiring remote employees. We have done a great job at building an amazing culture at Bare Performance Nutrition and much of that comes down to the entire team seeing and believing in the vision. Being a team player and bringing positive energy to work is a requirement to be part of the Bare Performance Nutrition staff.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Bare Performance Nutrition has provided an update on their business!
Over 1 year ago, we followed up with Bare Performance Nutrition to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
2 months ago, we followed up with Bare Performance Nutrition to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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