During games, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will aid his play by chewing supplement gummies. That led him to get connected with a company paving the way in the industry. Now he owns part of the company.
Through a mutual connection, Kelce and the owners of Hilo Nutrition found common ground and Kelce bought into the company. Rather than becoming a spokesperson, Kelce continues to find himself in equity deals, as are a growing number of professional athletes as they look to build their brands beyond their playing days.
“As a veteran, I also want to make sure I am doing things that enable me to be an ambassador for the game,” Kelce said. “Being an owner in this company lets me stretch myself and learn new things. I’m already involved in some aspects of the business that were totally foreign before and it’s giving me a chance to expand my horizons.
“The fact is players can have a big impact outside of being a spokesperson and I’m getting the chance to put some of my other skills to use,” he said.
Hilo Co-Founder and CEO Andy Sauer realizes the benefits of having a professional athlete as an equity partner and knows there’s plenty more in store for Kelce as his football career continues and eventually ends. Kelce also recently launched a clothing line, TruKolors.
“It’s a really cool component for our business that a pro athlete is delving into this world and speaks to who he is that he’s willing to take a bet on a couple of guys from Ohio who think they have a cool idea,” Sauer said. “It’s certainly not his first or last foray into entrepreneurial life. It’s a nice start to what will be a long journey for him. He’s a guy to watch.”
Hilo was founded by Sauer and Eric Togerson in January when they left their former employer and realized they had struck gold with an idea and successful early iterations of the gummies.
“Walk into a GNC and it’s walls of powders. We’ve started to see all sorts of weird behaviors, like one of our coworkers would dump powder in mouth and head to her workout,” Sauer said. “We just said ‘Let’s see if we can make a gummy work.’ Powders aren’t a good solution for most people and we felt it could be a thing we solve.”
Sauer feels Hilo is simplifying nutrition supplements by putting them in gummy form, avoiding the need to mix powders with liquids. The line started with a pre-workout supplement, but now includes Nitro Pump, Muscle Builder, Sleep Recovery and Gametime, for energy and focus. Recently, the products hit national distribution through Vitamin Shoppe and the company is working to find other national retailers that work well.
Kelce seems to agree with his investment and involvement in the development process.
“Being able to work with the team to create products that are perfect for me is pretty exciting,” he said. “With Hilo, the sky’s the limit. We have created the most convenient supplement brand in the world and people are loving it. I want to help grow it into a brand that is a household name.”
Hilo leadership knows just because they’re one of the first to market with gummy supplements doesn’t mean they’ll be the last, but they hope having an NFL All-Pro as a co-owner will help provide them a solid base to continue to build – both from a product and consumer standpoint.
“He brings an insight to the products we should be making, a knowledge of what his teammates want and he’s a big voice and personality and it links to the brand consumer we want to build,” Sauer said. “Travis makes playing football fun. When he takes the field, you see that he loves it, the joy on his face. His vibe and mantra of enjoying and loving it is how we want people to view working out.
“Gym class was the best hour of the day, so why do so many people dread workouts? The more fun you have, the better the results,” Sauer said.