It was September 1993, shortly after my 20th birthday, I asked my mom to help me tie a tie because I wanted to learn about business. I was motivated because my Dad was a bus driver, he hated his job and we could never get ahead. She came up to me and looked really in pain. I asked her what was wrong and she said she was experiencing an excruciating headache. Dad was at work so I asked her if I should stay behind and she said no, she was going to go to sleep, and hopefully it’d be over.
I went to the business meeting and discovered that eventually that is what I wanted to do and was really excited. I remember coming into the door and Dad was at home? He looked concerned and he told me that Mom went to the hospital and he was going to spend the night at the hospital.
He came home around lunch the next day and told me and my sister that they took her away to do a series of tests. A saw Dad pacing the floor, drinking coffee, puttering around trying to make the best of it. Around 2pm the phone rang and he picked up the phone and was listening really quietly. He then started to cry (and I never saw my dad cry before) he hung up the phone, his eyes full of water and he couldn’t talk. It was obvious the news wasn’t going to be good and I was already crying at the sight of my dad crying and he told me they found a tumor the size of a golf ball inside Mom’s brain, it didn’t look good and she was immediately going into the operating room.
We drove to the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, BC to wait in the waiting rooms you see on TV. They had to open Mom’s head and they were going to try and remove the tumor. In the waiting room, my Aunt and Uncle showed up, family friends were there. We were there all day and it went into late at night. It was so late, I decided to try and fall asleep on the couch. Of course, I couldn’t fall asleep but wanted to numb the pain by closing my eyes.
I heard the doctor come out. I pretended I was still asleep. I didn’t want to see what I was about to hear. He told my family the tumor was on both sides of the brain and that removing it would make her a vegetable. They took as much as they could out to relieve the pain short term, but she was going to die. Again, the crying and tears happened but this time it was my whole family and I just lay there pretending to sleep. I didn’t see it, but I heard it and the pain was very intense.
My Dad didn’t want my mom to die in the hospital, so he insisted that a hospital bed be delivered to our house and we converted our living room to Mom’s hospital room. Mom came home in November and we all took care of her with the help of the local Hospice Society until she passed away at 10am on December 29th, 1993.
I knew she was going to die that day, her lungs were filling up with fluids and her breaths were short. I went into my room to listen to music and when she left I felt a back rub like she touched me on her way out. I knew that was the moment she left and 2 minutes later Dad came into the room to tell me it was over. I was of course very hurt, but I knew it was inevitable and came to terms with the situation. One thing that was the bright light was that I felt her presence when she left her body to the unknown destination. This event gave me an inner peace I still have today that this life here is not the final destination. It also gave me a realization and fights that this stop in life is temporary but to do our best to enjoy it to the best of our ability.
Fast forward to 2001 and I was living in Lake Cowichan, BC on Vancouver Island, and I was a partner in a Shake and Shingle operation. It was a good business but I hated the job and I always had a desire to make a switch. By then my Dad had passed away as well. After Mom left, he moved to Clearwater, BC to be with his family, but instead of turning to the bottle, he turned to binge eating, smoking again, and drinking copious amounts of soda pop. He gained a tonne of weight. I went to go visit him in September 1998 to play golf with him and he was looking very yellow and he was breathing heavy. I remember calling my sister and saying Dad was looking like trash and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wouldn’t last too much longer. In November, just a couple months later, Dad was supposed to visit for a couple days because he was going to go to Reno, Nevada for his annual gambling trips. He never showed. The secretary of the mill in Maple Ridge, BC, I was working in came to say I had a visitor (which was odd) and I was informed that Dad had a stroke in Clearwater and died instantly. I was in shock, and not long after that, I left my hometown to start a new journey on Vancouver Island. Hence the fact I was in Lake Cowichan cutting shingles there as a partner.
In 2003, before we had phones and instant access to everything, I drove to Duncan, BC where the mill was located like any other workday. Ready to grind it out. I turned the corner on the highway and the mill was burned to the ground. Someone was doing some welding and didn’t use water on the worksite. My business literally died that day. I decided then and there this was my pivot point and I was going to do something that I liked and money wouldn’t be my #1 motivating factor.
I ended up partnering with a friend from high school and we started a bottled water brand called Drinka. We actually trademarked the original Drinka Water….lol. Being into music and art, I felt that creating was a hidden passion. I loved drawing and working with designers and I also noticed that I really liked people and was excited to meet new people and loved selling my ideas and trying to build win-win relationships.
We partnered with an Alaskan Bottled Water company that had amazing water, but no branding. Some guy from Juneau saw the marketing and asked if we could be their marketing partner. On September 11th, 2002, I found myself crossing the border into the US which became a 4-year journey of traveling the US by car and talking to distributors and grocery chain stores. I found out that I was pretty good at it and met some amazing people.
One effect that happened during my driving days in the US, is my diet became very compromised. I was sitting in the car all day and eating gas station food. I found myself needing bigger clothes and bigger clothes. I also had low energy, and health issues started to creep up. I was tired all the time and I was living with acute pain and migraine headaches. By this time I had kids to feed so slowing down was not an option.
By March 2004.I had a national US network of distributors and found myself in Anaheim California at a Trade Show called Natural Products Expo West. We were in many health food stores by then and I was a bit ashamed I was selling a “healthy bottled water” but was now over 50lbs overweight. I noticed a lot of people with stress are overweight, I believe the stress shuts down digestion and makes you crave bad food as a soother.
While I was at Expo West I met two gentlemen from Nanaimo, BC. Since I was now living in Duncan, BC which was only 50km away I went to say hi as a fellow Vancouver Islander. The two men there were Tom Harper and Ed Millerstrom and they showed me a petri dish of Marine Phytoplankton. I had no idea what it was and they tried to tell me but it went over my head. They didn’t do a good job of explaining it and I was ready to leave when Ed asked me what I did and I told him about the distribution I built and he eagerly wanted my business card. We exchanged business cards after about 15 minutes and I left the booth not thinking too much of it.
So this was March 2004, and fast forward to July 2005. So one year and 4 months later. By that time we had a bunch of investors and I just landed a deal with a regional Pepsi bottler in Bellingham, Washington, and this deal required a great deal of new capital which we didn’t have. It was decided by the investor group my days of Drinka were over and they wanted to put in a different guy to run it. I was in shock but felt that many people made the decision and business is business so I didn’t fight it (I was honestly super tired, mostly because of my health situation) and I walked to my desk to pack my stuff up, shaking a little bit from the shock.
As I was packing my desk up the phone rang. I was thinking…what’s the point, but then I felt that “what the hell, I’ll take my last phone call”. “Drinkawater, Dave speaking” “Hey Dave, It’s Ed Millerstrom, the Phytoplankton guy. Remember I said I needed a guy like you….something came up, you want to come by. We want to pick your brain”. “At that moment I thought of my mom and laughed a bit and said, the timing is actually really interesting and yes I am available I can be there tomorrow morning…9am work?”. Ed was excited and the next day I was at the Phytoplankton farm talking to Tom and Ed in Tom’s office overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Tom proceeded to tell me that he ate the Phytoplankton and had an unusual recovery from a rare lung cancer called Mesothelioma and his blood sugar was normal for the first time in decades and that a local Doctor named Dr. Bob Rowe was really excited and thought that Phytoplankton was the perfect food for the Mitochondria which is the engine of the human cells.” Again this was a bit over my head but his cancer story got my undivided attention.
They both said they want my help building US distribution. Of course, this was right up my alley and found myself free to do it, so I eagerly took the position with no idea about Phytoplankton, health supplements, mitochondria, human health, or anything of the sort. He gave me some Phytoplankton to try and said here you go take this and see what you think. I took two capsules there and then with zero expectations and took another 2 after supper excited to share my new job with my wife and young family. I was joking I would have to learn to spell Phytoplankton.
The next morning, I woke up like every other day. A cup of coffee and reading the newspaper, with the exception I took another two Phytoplankton pills. Excited to start my new job. After my coffee, I felt a rumbling in my stomach and had to run to the washroom. I am not writing this to gross you out (but bear with me). I proceeded to have the largest bowel movement I ever felt possible. Then after I was finished I proceeded to have another bowel movement even bigger than the first, and quite honestly it felt better than an ejaculation. I came out of that experience feeling amazing….and I was now cutting it close to being on time for my first day of work.
Of course like every other Canadian, I couldn’t make a 50km drive without my Double-Double and Boston Cream. I picked up my coffee and donut and started to drive to Nanaimo. I was sipping the coffee and almost spit it out. It felt like they made it a quadruple, quadruple….I thought they made a mistake. I was disappointed because I needed my coffee fix and then I bit into the donut and couldn’t stand it….I thought someone poured a 5kg bag of sugar into the one donut. I didn’t even eat it. The taste of sugar was not appealing to me; which believe me was really weird. I had enough Rice Krispy Squares in the US to be a major shareholder.
Later in the day, in the afternoon, I felt this weird sense of mental clarity I wasn’t used to. I had this energy I wasn’t used to. This couldn’t be the Phytoplankton I thought….vitamins don’t work like this. Tom’s story was starting to make sense.
The next day I woke up with the same routine, taking another couple of Phytoplankton pills, and then the rumbling happened again and I had another record-breaking bowel movement. It felt so good I was kind of hoping this wouldn’t end. Another thing I noticed the taste of sugar in the coffee was also too strong and I decided to back off to one sugar and naturally skipped the donut.
I found out later that sometimes people have up to 15lbs or crud in our colon at all times. I can attest that this is most likely true. I think my body didn’t have the means or nutritional tools to get rid of my years of eating at US gas stations. Now that I gave my body the tools it needed, it went to work for me right away. Was this really happening?
During my new job, I had the pleasure of being mentored by Dr. Bob Rowe. Not only was he an amazing person, but he really cared about people. My mom was a nurse and I felt attracted to this energy and passion. I was explaining to Dr. Rowe what happened to me in the washroom and he wasn’t too surprised and started to download me why he is so excited about Marine Phytoplankton. He told me that we are a bunch of cells and cells need nutrition. This is where energy and vitality come from. Phytoplankton is the size of a blood cell and is full of all-natural nutrition. This is probably why whales who are the size of a school bus can live to be over 120 and you never hear of whales getting sick. This was a concept that was foreign to me. I wasn’t quite sure what to make out of it, but I was enjoying my newfound energy and mental clarity.
On my third day, I walked into the office with Ed Millerstrom running at me…..Dave Dave!!!! The phones are blowing up and you need to handle some phone calls right now!!! I was a bit confused….”Ed, I don’t know what you are talking about, what kind of phone calls are these, what do you need?” Ed began to tell me that Tom’s cancer recovery made the front page of the Nanaimo Daily News and the fourth page of the Vancouver Province and people are calling looking for Phytoplankton.” “Ok Ed, where’s the phone…let’s go!”
I took phone calls from people all over BC and Washington State. People were willing to take the ferry to Vancouver Island and pick up Phytoplankton. Tom was willing to give it away. I met people from all over and heard their stories of suffering from empathy. I felt like my Mom was listening to these stories with me and my heartstrings were being pulled big time.
This wave of people lasted about a week and I talked to countless people who were looking for anything to relieve their suffering. After this was over I kept hanging out with Dr. Bob Rowe and I was completely enthralled with his excitement about nutrition and how this could change everything. Also, it’s important to note that by this time I was noticing that my long-term issue with nasal drip went away….and…..I had not had a migraine headache in over two weeks! This was a big deal because I started having migraines since I was about 12. I would get one at least once a week and had to go to a “darkroom” at school and later in life just had to suffer through it. Anyone who suffers from migraines understands that migraines suck!!!. I was happy to live life without it (Note, I am writing this in 2021 and still haven’t had one since).
Dr. Rowe told me that I had to look at the reason I was getting the headaches to begin with. When I shared with him my childhood diet, he said it was obvious. No water, soda pop, popcorn for breakfast, boxed and canned food, microwave food, no veggies….no brainer Dave!!” I was dumbfounded….I had seen all these specialists and not once did anyone ask me about my diet. They put me on a plethora of meds that gave me side effects and when they didn’t work they just tried other drugs. Dr. Rowe’s first question was “tell me about your childhood and adult diet”. What a concept?
I learned that you just simply can’t eat out of cans, boxes, microwaves, gas stations and not live a life without issues. Layer on some stress and suffering is inevitable. “Why is this not in the government programs and medical system I asked? I will leave it up to your imagination what his response was.
Where things got real for me is a month after the newspaper’s release. People were calling back. “I NEED MORE!!!!” I would ask why and I was bombarded with stories of healings that I learned as a child were impossible, but after hanging out with Dr. Rowe I was becoming a bit more comfortable with this new perspective. The biggest reason why is I was witnessing this with my own eyes and ears. I heard their tone and the excitement. I was so excited for them and loved hearing these stories. I know 100% believed a large percentage of all this suffering was simple. It was malnourishment and Phytoplankton literally IS nutrition. I had this overwhelming feeling that I was put into this situation and my calling, purpose, and life was to give people Phytoplankton! I don’t know the day, but I know the exact moment I decided this and dedicated my life to this purpose no matter the obstacles!!!
My first gut reaction was to start calling the politicians. Surely if they were exposed to this discovery, it would considerably lighten the burden to the failing Health Care System I keep hearing about. I told Tom I was going to reach out to the Minister Of Health and let them know about this. He literally yelled at me…”Hell, You Are NOT!!!!” I was a bit taken back and asked why he had that opinion. I told him, this discovery deserved to be ascended to the Prime Minister!!!. He laughed and his exact quote was “KID….you are so F****** NAIVE!!!”. He said that in his opinion they don’t want to solve this issue, there’s no money in solutions. The government was a business and a big boy’s club and we aren’t in it.” They’ll put me in jail because we don’t have the science.
“JAIL????!!! For unleashing a miraculous nutrient that heals???? That’s affordable and nutritious?????’ Let’s get the science then!!! “Yeah, 20 million and 15 years later kid!!!”
“Why would it cost so much? We literally have hundreds of people say the same thing?? We could prove this in a year!!!!” “They could fast-track it if they saw this happen so fast. It’s just nutrition!!!”
“Kid, you are in a world for hurt and disappointment if you do anything with the government.”
“Well I’m going to do something, this discovery needs to be given to the people!!!”
“If you are going to deal with the government you are leaving me out of it!!!!”
I was a bit deflated and I trusted Tom and talked to a few people and found out there was a lot of truth to Tom’s position. This wasn’t going to be easy. I remember watching the show Medicine Man with Shawn Connery when he was going into a jungle to find the cure for cancer and it was positioned that if they found some simple activity in some cell lines it would be in distribution right away….lol. I always joke that if there was a sequel to that movie it would be him spending 20 years doing paperwork and going broke over it.
Not long after this discussion, I found out that Tom sold the company. I was actually really happy for him because he was getting on in age and I know he worked really hard to get where he was. I would take an exit too but left me with the challenge of where to get Phytoplankton.
I spent countless hours online where I found a University in Rotterdam Holland that studied Phytoplankton. From my brief time with Tom, I knew about a strain that showed amazing nutritional potential. It was called Nannochloropsis Gaditana. I talked to someone in Holland who could grow it and I was on an airplane literally two days later. I landed there but they weren’t ready so he directed me to Southern Spain where I met Fitoplancton Marino, who was #1 growing Nannochloropsis Gaditana but also had it available!!!.
I bought some right away and had it sent to my house in Coquitlam, BC (After I left Tom I went back close to my home base). I received the Phytoplankton and gave it to 3 people who had long-term suffering. Let’s just say their experiences….gave me an over-the-top level of dedication that I was going to do this no matter what. I was going to find a way!!
Pure Phytoplankton For Everyone? Major Road Block #1 – Guess Who?
I am now living in Coquitlam, BC, and have pure Phytoplankton at my disposal with an exclusive contract. I am giving it to hundreds of people and hearing amazing stories. I team up with other vitamin companies and health food stores. Everyone can’t believe the potential…things are going great and bomb #1 drops from the government. The start of a natural product police force called the NHPD (Natural Health Products Directorate).
I was just new to this field and I didn’t participate in this club, but apparently, natural health product producers were developing products and making unsubstantiated claims. Stephen Harper didn’t like this and set up this new arm of government. This move put the whole industry in turmoil.
I thought…oh well. It’s just a bunch of paperwork and fees. It’s a racket and maybe Big Pharma paid someone off to slow down the amazing growth of the natural space (my trust for the government at this point was evaporating fast). I will just pay a consultant to do this paperwork and pay their fees and I am off to the races. Just a cost of doing business.
I wish it was that easy because it didn’t work out that way. Apparently, there was no historical evidence of anyone eating Nannochloropsis Gaditana over a long period of time and if I wanted to legally sell it, I would have to pioneer this data. Ok, so what does this mean? It means a mountain of paperwork and basically risking going broke over it because it’s going to take all my money and money I don’t have yet to finance it……sigh. Somehow not surprised.
On the event of this news, I knew I couldn’t live in the Vancouver area with a young family and pull this off. I was estimating this was going to take around 3-4 years. I decided I was going to move to New Brunswick. An amazing undiscovered place (like Phytoplankton) full of potential but hadn’t hit the radar yet. I could lower my cost of living by 70% and focus on getting over this hurdle.
On October 24th, 2008, I sold pretty much all my stuff, said goodbye to my amazing friends and family. My wife Gabi had to say goodbye to her amazing friend group and we headed east for 12 days driving a classic 1978 Chrysler Newport and towing a homemade trailer my German friend Christian put together for me. I remember crossing the Port Mann Bridge for my last time as a resident. A place where I stuck in traffic countless times saying goodbye to this chapter of my life. The trailer was so big that I could only see the front of the trailer. I didn’t want to look at the wood in the rearview so I put a photo/painting of my mom, dad, aunt, and uncle my cousin painted so when I looked back I would see them. There was no turning back.
A funny thing happened the first night of the trip. We left late in the afternoon so we stopped at a motel in Salmon Arm, BC. We pulled in and there were a couple of guys there who greeted us and said they liked my car. I thanked them and proceeded to get my kids into the room. There was a pool there and we said we’d let them go into the pool. I left the room to get the rest of our things and when I went to the car there was a $20 bill attached to my windshield. I looked up and the two guys were on the second-floor ledge and gave me a nod and thumbs up and went into their room. I was really asking the question in my head, why would they think that I needed the $20? As I stood there being thankful a voice came into my head that said….you are going to need it in the future.” I was hoping I didn’t hear that, but I did, and that prophecy came true.
I made it to our new farmhouse in Sackville, New Brunswick on November 5th. I was just renting it from a couple who lived in Montreal. They disclosed to me that the house was for sale. We literally just ended our 12-day journey and not within 3 minutes of arriving the realtor arrived to say there was a showing tomorrow morning. The house didn’t sell but it was an interesting welcome.
I knew I had a mountain of paperwork to do, but my wife and I had to figure out a way to buffer the bills while I was spending decades of future earnings on paperwork and tests just to be allowed to sell Phytoplankton.
My wife had an idea to start a European Deli. Once landing in New Brunswick we realized there were no delis and sandwich places that we enjoyed in Vancouver. We leased a former subway on 6 Bridge Street in Sackville and called the restaurant Pickles. After taking a loan out and building the deli we quickly discovered New Brunswickers were not ready never mind waiting of a deli. If we did $300 a day we were lucky. Anyone in business knows this is downhill fast. Not exactly part of the plan.
My brother-in-law visited from Austria. He is an executive chef and came to visit the store and was watching our thousands of dollars of meat starting to go bad. He had an idea to use his amazing chef skills and created these amazing sandwiches that were beyond words. He is truly an amazing food artist.
So we started to introduce sandwiches and we did a small ad to attract the students at the local university and almost instantly we were the hottest place in town. This was pretty cool and we were super busy. With this win came other challenges. We were now a restaurant and when you are a restaurant you have to work all day every day. It consumes you. 14 hours a day was considered part-time. The other challenge is I wasn’t working on my Phytoplankton project and even though the restaurant was busy, the students seemed to have a one-week break every month which meant only 3 weeks of revenue a week and slow summers. Money was going backward and my wife and I were collectively working 7 days a week 14 hours a day minimum and balancing a young family.
Since money was getting tighter and I hadn’t even started to invest in testing and consultants I had to start a night shift and hosted a jam night to get people in. I hired a guy named Chris who agreed to work for food and a percentage of sales and we hosted a jam night that was pretty slow. We did however get a bit of the drunk crown at 2am but now I am staying up to 3:30am and having to wake up early to either watch the kids while my wife went to work or to go there and do it all over again.
After a couple weeks Chris asked if instead of jam night if he can bring his band in to play. I was excited about this idea and on the Thursday he brought in his band and the place was packed!!! We also sold a lot of food and the word got out we were open late. Sales at night picked up past the daytime sales and the next week his band played again and he brought a band in from Moncton called the Swift Kicks.
They also brought a crowd and sales went up again. Before we knew it, Pickles was the hottest place around and we were consistently ranked #1 for food and no one could touch us with our Thursday night concerts and late nights. I consistently got in trouble from by-law for noise and pushing the capacity limits. Good problem to have. Let’s say I knew the by-law officer on a first-name basis.
This newfound success and financial oxygen gave me time now to buckle down on my true purpose which was the Phytoplankton. The break was actually refreshing but now I was ready to dig in. One thing about me is I hate paperwork!!! I wasn’t the best in school so this made it even harder. I remember in my business training, my mentor Brian Tracy said to tackle a large project into little pieces and to eat an elephant “one bite at a time”. I took this advice and resolved to myself to literally tackle this mountain of paperwork…..one sheet at a time. Every day I would take a sheet off…no matter what. I had to wake up early, even if I was up to 3am and in between lunch and supper, I would make calls and quarterback lab work with consultants and the scientists at Fitoplancton Marino.
During this journey, I made meetings with government entities such as the NRC (National Research Council) and told them about the miraculous healings and I was trying to get this approved as a medicine. I remember she said to me “If this is so great Mr. Hunter why isn’t a biotech company buying this for a billion?” “I laughed and said if you can get me a billion, then I would gladly take it.” I continued “I know this is worth a billion but the roadblocks in front of me are not protecting the people, they prevent them from knowing about these discoveries!” I told her about my Medicine Man sequel theory and told her to bring those billion-dollar tech companies my way. I never heard from them again.
I did some lab work at the university with a professor who researches cancer cell lines. Even though these results were not published let’s just say there was some activity that was never seen before from an organic compound. The breast cancer cells died within 72 hours. 100% cell death. The researcher said she had never seen this ever with an organic compound. There was of course a lot more to substantiate this but the results aligned with the anecdotes we were hearing. I showed these tests to the Terry Fox Foundation alongside some testaments from people who took the Phytoplankton. I told them that I was not looking for money but rather just wanted to help people. Their response?? “ Sorry Mr. Hunter, we do not consider natural products.” Just thought if you are reading this you might want to know this. I don’t know how many amazing contenders they get every year, but I haven’t seen any big breakthrough coming from all this money they receive over the decades.
Discouragement was setting in again. I wasn’t giving up but I was developing a deep resentment to our country. I grew up singing the national anthem with pride. Now I just wanted to close my ears and hold back the feeling of nausea. I was thinking of all the people suffering and how we are fed foods with ingredients we can’t pronounce with no oversight but a healing plant was so heavily scrutinized. I digress. Let’s keep pushing.
I was having a discussion with the local entrepreneur banker at the restaurant and told him my frustrations. He told me to stop trying to make it a medicine. Just make it a health supplement and let the product do the talking if it worked so well. Those two sentences were like a light bulb went off in my head. Of course!!!
I started to make calls and looked into the minimal tests and claims I could get to prove its safety and efficacy as a Natural Health Supplement. Two years later I flew back to where it all started Anaheim, California in 2014. Literally 8 years later after my first meeting with Tom and Ed. What was more special. The owner of Fitoplancton Marino, Carlos Unamunzaga from El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain was also part of this journey. He was a key part of helping me get this far and we knew each other since 2006 and never met in person!!!! We did all of this together over the phone and by email.
I tried to fly out of Moncton to the John Wayne Airport in Anaheim, but the plane wouldn’t start because it was too cold. I missed my first connection and the airline redid my itinerary which consisted of 4 connections and got me into John Wayne at midnight Pacific Time. Considering I was at the Moncton Airport at 3:30 AM Atlantic Time (4 hours ahead) let’s just say it was a long one.
What more than made up for it is when I got to the hotel Carlos was there waiting for me and I met him face to face for the first time. 8 years working together never seeing each other. I can tell you it creates a pretty deep bond. While we were there we formulated a plan to go a bit deeper and join forces. Both of our success was heavily reliant on the other so in 2015 with our Health Canada License in hand we formed Blugenics Innovations Inc and I named the Nannochloropsis Gaditana, Karen, after my mom who was my original inspiration.
Now that we had a license and a brand idea, Carlos was able to acquire financial backing, I was excited to finally work at this full time again and we closed down Pickles. We broke a lot of hearts and stomachs that day, but who knows. It might come back one day. J
I was able to rent the basement of Pickles to start. It was a place to build the logo, website, packaging concepts, etc. One thing I was very aware of is you need sales and didn’t know where to start. The start of the sales journey ironically started at a comedy event at Joey’s Pasta in Sackville. I walked in there and the local pharmacist Charles Beaver was there. My light switch popped and I knew this was an opportunity. I sold him a lot of sandwiches over the years. He was briefed on my Phytoplankton discovery and agreed to meet with me.
I followed up and remember walking across the street to meet with him thinking this was the new start. I told him about the plant. How it was the origin of life, food, and nutrition and showed him the nutritional profile. Being a pharmacist I thought I was going to be hit with skepticism but was pleasantly surprised he was very open to nutrition. He told me, in the spirit of being a natural Doubting Thomas he was going to take it himself before we would sell it and he bought a bag of Phytoplankton off of me.
A week later as I was working on my website. He called me and gave me a big order for all his stores!! He told me he had suffered from acid reflux for years and was on medication. He went to a Super Bowl party with wings, chips, beer, and more and didn’t have a flare-up. He was really surprised but was excited.
Now that I had this customer how was I going to advertise this? Someone suggested a Facebook page. This is funny today, but in 2015, this was a bit foreign to me. I had to figure out how to use it and create an account. Well. I did figure it out, and I put it online and he sold out really quick. I then took my business model to other stores in Moncton and Amherst, NS, and did the same thing and sales flew in. What was more exciting is people were calling telling me about their amazing experiences that I was so happy to hear again after this much time.
I now had what I needed to move out of the basement. I remember I did an interview with the French CBC in the basement and she bluntly asked me if this product was so great, why am I running the company out of this basement. This was live on the radio and I just chuckled and said that I felt that I was being a good steward with the money keeping my expenses low. I didn’t need to spend money at this juncture to show off, it was about the people, not a $20,000 board room table. My plan was to invest in a great team.
I did eventually move out of the basement to the place we are still in today. We are located at 23C York Street in Sackville, NB and I feel we have a nice bright and cheerful office. You are always welcome to stop by and see our facility. Our warehouse and storage facility is spotless and I made it a priority to fill the team up with people who really care. We have been complimented countless times that we have the best customer service and that we have really good energy in our office. If we are all going to work together to change health care we might as well have fun doing it. I am also really proud that my younger sister Kelly has been on the front lines now since 2015 helping thousands of people across Canada and the USA discover Phytoplankton.
THE CHALLENGE OF GROWING TOO FAST & SOCIAL MEDIA
It’s 2016 and we are advertising on social media and getting a lot of attention from the big chains such as Shoppers Drug Mart & Rexall. I was hesitant because I have always heard that growing too fast can sometimes be the biggest curse a company can encounter. When you have big orders in front of you it’s hard to turn down, and you naturally assume people will just naturally pick your product up. This wasn’t the case. The people before me were right, it’s a curse unless it’s a natural demand.
The other thing that was happening at the same time is everyone was discovering about advertising on social media (I was lucky to be an early adopter). After this happened two big things started to unfold. #1 – Our message started to get watered down and #2 – Social media slowly became very toxic. It’s similar to fast food for the brain. People are fighting on the platform, there is a tonne of misinformation. I have a hard time supporting this and have been looking for alternatives.
While we were having meetings trying to solve all the issues of more expenses and fewer profits that came with the growth we got a call from Costco. This was very timely because the side effect of our issues was investor doubt of our project. I had a lot of sleepless nights confused about how this life-changing product was having such problems. Part of me was laughing because of the irony, but the other half was scared because of all the effort to get this back into the market, and not only my financial future was jeopardized so were the livelihoods I created through employment. Also what about the people who already take this not having it available? Failure wasn’t an option, and sometimes you just have to let it go to the Universe. I did that, and while we were literally having austerity talks about the upcoming Board meeting, Costco called. 3 weeks later I was at their head office and they loved the concept and said they were going to give it a try. What added more high fives is that Costco was my Mom’s favorite store and this new breath of life was what I needed to energize the project.
As expected the Costco project was going to take a while. Costco is a great company to work with but they are a big machine and like any big enterprise it takes a long time to onboard something new. We had to develop a new package, new packaging, and materials which took a long time. After we got all this done the category manager we were dealing with changed departments. They needed time to find a replacement and I had to bring the new category manager up to speed on the ambiguous ocean algae.
We were working away through the transition and everything was about to get rolling…..then Covid hit. We all know about the lockdowns, store limits, and uncertainty. This put the brakes on our rollout. We like many other businesses were entering uncertain times. Was this Costco project going to happen? Our other retailers were not getting any traffic and sales dropped off the map. We were holding our breath preparing for the worst when out of nowhere we noticed a strong uptick in online orders. It seems all the thousands of people who were buying at the pharmacies started to buy directly from us!! What was nice about this is we were now getting to know who our customers were and could communicate with them directly, and even though there are credit card fees, we got the money the next day which helped with cash flow. Another disaster averted. By this time, my confidence was growing that something or someone bigger than me wanted this to survive. Every time we are faced with possible death, a door opens up.
Now that I had oxygen again and all our customers were coming out of the woodwork, (telling us amazing stories of healing that we never get tired of) I had to figure out a way to take advantage of the Costco delay and find a new pathway to get the word out.
On the Christmas break, I had an epiphany that I should use the power of radio. I have been told many times if you are true to yourself and what you love, it’ll come across. One of my biggest passions is classic rock music and I felt if I talked to that audience how I wanted to be talked to, the message would resonate.
The big issue we have had from the beginning is that we are not allowed to talk about all the attributes of the product because we didn’t spend millions and millions on the science. The good news is that the reviews on social media are not from us and people still have the right to express their experiences on Karen Phytoplankton and I am proud that in a world of chronic negativity we still have an impeccable track record. Also, most people know the name “Karen” became pop culture for all the wrong reasons. On a side note, the Karen meme shows the power of negativity. There is data that negative messages travel more than 8 times faster than positive ones. In this case, it seems more like 8 million because the Karen name seemed to be branded in a year, and hear I was trying to spread an amazing message but faced with financially doing this against a tornado force wind.
When faced with obstacles, even though the natural knee jerk is to complain about how things are against me, I shake it off and take the approach that I am not in the right vein and I have to pivot my messages. They aren’t resonating and once I put my message on the right highway and deliver it to the right people the garden will grow the way it is supposed to.
So I decided to create fun, tongue in cheek, radio ads on a local Moncton rock station. The results were above my expectations and when it did finally enter Costco the sales were so impressive I ended up getting a call from Assistant Vice President wondering what we were doing and what is this product anyway?
He instructed the category manager to keep a close eye on our product and gave them instructions to give us more stores. This actually got delayed because the success of the Moncton campaign and online sales sold us out. Of course with Covid in full swing, we were part of the supply chain issues and it took longer than normal to get our product into inventory.
In September 2021 we got this resolved and then started an aggressive campaign in our new stores. We decided to try different radio formats with the same campaign and we hit a brick wall. Not only were the sales almost zero, but the stations were complaining our messages were too edgy and not for their crowd. There were two big lessons here. #1 – If it ain’t broke don’t fix it and #2 – Just be true to yourself. The ads were designed for a rock station. They were designed for a particular sense of humor. I am excited that in Vancouver I am going to start advertising on Rock 101 which is a station I grew up on.
The other thing that I was told many times was to write my story. I have always been cautious about this because I didn’t want to be the center of attention. This isn’t about me, but I have been encouraged many times that people will enjoy the story and since I can’t say too much about the product, they can get to know the person behind it and the challenges of trying to get the message out about a health product that is very disruptive. I have been told that once the masses know about Karen Phytoplankton and take it for a month and experience what it feels like, our company will be responsible for the biggest pivot possibly since the beginning of the Internet. So here I am at the beginning of December 2021 writing my story 5518 km away from where I grew up in Maple Ridge, BC.
I have the product sitting in the vitamin section of Costco, Shoppers Drug Mart, Rexall, and online for you to try. I know times are tight so if you don’t like it I will give you your money back but ask if you do try it and feel it to please tell as many people as possible. I am tired of this country going backward, and all the unnecessary pain and suffering so many people are experiencing. Though not 100%, the majority are finding the solution they are looking for with Karen Phytoplankton. The solution is by giving yourself all the nutrition you need, you will have the power and energy to take some control back on your health. Whether it’s less pain, more energy, or quality of life improvement….you will find out soon enough after you try it because your body lets you know when it’s happy. We are finding out pretty fast we can’t rely on the government and that the best way to deal with this incompetence is to do whatever possible to not need their services. This will hopefully bring things in balance for not only you but our future generations.
Thank you for reading my story. I hope it brings value to your life. If you decide to take Karen Phytoplankton and have a story of your journey to share please reach out. We want to meet as many of you as possible. This story has been building since 2005 and you are hearing about it now, but hopefully for you, and many others….we will all look back at this as the beginning.
Moncton, NB Dec 11th 2021