Isaac Hamlin is the Founder of Better Blend, a wellness-focused company with a mission to “cultivate a healthier and happier world one blend, bowl, and community at a time.” It was during Isaac’s time as an SEC All-American rugby player for the University of Kentucky that he found the inspiration for Better Blend. Wanting to replace the team’s heavy pregame meals, he developed more nutritious — yet delicious — smoothies that could travel well.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Isaac Hamlin explains his inspiration for Better Blend
- How does Better Blend stand out in the meal replacement market?
- How Isaac’s friends played an intricate role in the success of Better Blend
- The challenges of opening new locations
- The future of Better Blend
In this episode…
Meal replacement smoothies became popular in the early 1990s, targeting those looking for a quick weight-loss option. The issue with many of these products is that they can be low in nutritional value and calories, leaving consumers hungry and sluggish.
Wellness entrepreneur Isaac Hamlin experienced a similar dilemma as an elite collegiate athlete. Instead of feeling hungry, the traditional pregame meals left him feeling heavy and lethargic. So Isaac began making pregame smoothies when searching for a quick alternative with all the benefits of a nutritional meal. The result turned into a new smoothie bar concept.
Join Chad Franzen, host of the Top Business Leaders Show, in this episode of the SpotOn Series. Chad interviews Isaac Hamlin, the Founder of Better Blends, to discuss the inspiration for starting his company, why his smoothie bar concept differs from the others, and what the future holds.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Isaac Hamlin on LinkedIn
- Better Blend
- Better Blend on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
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Chad Franzen 0:20
Chad Franzen here, co-host of the show where we feature top restaurant tours investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called spot on restaurant, where they combined marketing software and payments all in one. They serve everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and Subway to small mom-and-pop restaurants. To learn more, go to SpotOn.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referrals, partners, and thought leaders in your space, there’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to Rise25Media.com or email us at [email protected] Isaac Hamlin is an American business professional and the Founder of Better Blend. Before entrepreneurship, he played collegiate rugby at the University of Kentucky, where he consumed what are now called blends for optimal performance on the rugby field. Since being established in 2018, the company now operates in multiple states and has served hundreds and hundreds of 1000s of people and their healthy lifestyles. Hey, Isaac, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
Isaac Hamlin 1:29
Yeah, thanks for having me on.
Chad Franzen 1:31
Hey, so tell me a little bit more about better blend. I know you have locations to in Ohio and one in Kentucky? What can a customer expect when he or she goes to one of those locations?
Isaac Hamlin 1:41
Yeah. So usually when I get asked this question, or somebody comes in for the first time, and they’re kind of looking around, they’re like, What is this like to get back to the origin story that you kind of touched on a little bit where, yeah, I played collegiate rugby at the University of Kentucky, I was making these meal replacements for myself, and they were really just something that would get me all of the benefits of a good meal in a cup, something that was quick, something that was easy. And something that didn’t weigh on me, you know, when you have a big meal, you want to take a nap after. Sometimes that’s great. And I’m a fan of that too. But sometimes you really can’t have that in before a game is one of those times. And we will have our pregame meals of spaghetti and meatballs and pork chops mashed potatoes and it worked for some people. But for me, I needed something that gave me all my protein gave me those carbs that I needed this calories that I needed to but didn’t weigh on me. So I ended up graduating from UK and realize that there’s a real market for this kind of thing that I think the world is kind of going in a direction where they care about how they look what they really care about how they feel. So we could create something that gets you that quick. And we can make it tastes like your favorite dessert. So we’ve got we’ve got flavors like brownie batter, peanut butter, pie, stuff like that. So if we can cultivate both of those things, that we could really do something great for people that are trying to eat healthy, and better one was born.
Chad Franzen 2:55
Yeah, so people, so So what’s it like when you go in there and so you just kind of order your, your, your preferred flavor.
Isaac Hamlin 3:03
It’s kind of like a quick, fast casual kind of setup. So it’s gonna be like a Starbucks or Chipotle, you’ll go in, we’ll have the menus on on the wall, and they’ll have the recipes with predetermined flavors. So you’ve got like, like I said, the brownie batter, we got like a banana caramel cheesecake, we’ve got our traditional basic smoothies as well like strawberry, banana, and different stuff that has all those great veggies and fruits in there. And then we also have bowls, which are very, very popular that kind of our site bowls or smoothie bowls, we keep it very simple, very basic, just keeping, keeping everybody coming in to get basically what you would need in a really good meal. We just make it very quick and easy and refreshing.
Chad Franzen 3:43
So when you were playing rugby, your your teammates would be eating a pretty hearty, a pretty hearty type meal, and then you would have a blend, but you would not feel fully feel satisfied yet. You’d feel like you could go out and play a rugby game.
Isaac Hamlin 3:57
Exactly, exactly. And we know that the world’s getting busier. One of the big things that people struggle with is that 2pm crash and a lot of that comes down to your nutrition, even somebody who wants to start their their health and wellness and their fitness journey or whatever it might be when you start that process when it’s your first day of doing that. And you’re like okay, I’m gonna lose 20 pounds, or I’m going to put on lean muscle. Those cravings, those old cravings of Reese’s cups and whatever it might be, those are real. And if you could have something that that curbs that craving, and gives you all the good stuff, it makes it really easy for people to go on that journey. And we want to be that welcoming environment where people come in, and we can serve that need.
Chad Franzen 4:38
So you you kind of had the idea when you were in college. That’s right. Yeah. What gave you the confidence to start your own business right out of college?
Isaac Hamlin 4:47
Um, well from a from a like ground point. I have a really, really supportive family. And they helped me a lot and when it first started it was I really didn’t expect it to be the the hit that it was And I always joked when when people would come in, they’d be like, Oh, who’s the owner? And it was his me. And they’re like, Oh, really? You’re 22. And I was like, yeah, he was used to say, if you’re gonna go bankrupt, might as well do when you’re 22. Right. So they just put it all in. We risked it all out, and it paid off. And we’ve been trucking along ever since.
Chad Franzen 5:18
Wow, that’s amazing. So tell me a little bit about your first kind of your first brick and mortar location and how that went for you. It’s kind of a first timer. Yeah, absolutely.
Isaac Hamlin 5:27
So I moved back home after after college, I figured that was the best market to do something somewhere I grew up. And we started building our first location after we found this little location in a strip mall that everyone had forgotten about. And we didn’t have any money to have contractors come in and do it. So me and my dad, my sister, and my mom, built this first location, my dad’s kind of a master carpenter, and we helped a lot. So I would do that during the day. And then I would go work at Amazon at night, just to get extra money in the door, just so we could pay for this thing. And I don’t recommend this to young entrepreneurs that are starting for the first time, but I had really good credit. So I just maxed out as many credit cards as I could take. And I don’t recommend this course. But that’s how we funded this thing. Because we didn’t have a loan and a family money, stuff like that. So we launched and we had to make it work we just had to and there’s something about that kind of if you’re going to take the island burn the boats kind of mentality where you have to make it work that they get you there. And that’s what we did. And ever since we’ve been rocking and rolling.
Chad Franzen 6:33
Wow, that that is amazing. So what went into the building process, you had to build like a like a back room front counter, like your typical kind of fast casual restaurant.
Isaac Hamlin 6:44
Yep, clean slate, it was a blank room, had to build the counters, how to build the back wall, had to build like the half walls to get people to walk. Put the floors down. Luckily, and open a better blend. It’s not super labor intent, like, we don’t have to put like food hoods and stuff like that. So the cost is minimal, which is fantastic. And it helped us launch. And then another thing that we did, just to get the word out, is I made these shirts, and I’m wearing one now. And they were just plain shirts with the logo, cheap to make. And I would go to my friends, one of my friends and I was like, Hey, can you guys just wear these, like when you go work out? Where are these around? And I’ll give them to you for free. And they’re like, oh, no, like, we’ll pay for them. So I sold them at cost. And then a week later, I got an order for 20 more. And then a week later, it was 40 more. And then a week later, I had 150 people. And then it was like 300 people walking around with these shirts on because they were so cheap and good material. And when we launched with so many people looking at the shirt that like what’s Better Blend, and you see that webpage come up with coming soon to Florence bah blah, and they got excited it built that hype. So when we launched we launched with thunder and and that’s really what kind of was off the ground?
Chad Franzen 7:52
That’s awesome. When did you have kind of a vision for what you wanted? When you as you were building the place? Like I want this, you know, you had obviously had a vision for plans. But did you have a vision for kind of like the place the vibe, whatever?
Isaac Hamlin 8:04
Yeah, we wanted something super welcoming. When it’s something bright and optimistic, we knew that our concept was different. So it would take a little bit of education to, to, to tell a customer like hey, we know you’ve never heard of something like this before. But like, bear with us, like, let’s explain what we’ve got. So the colors, the brightness of the store, they all reflect that kind of optimism and health and happiness. And that’s the other thing. Like I said, when when people were starting their health and wellness journey for the first time, it’s intimidating. So we want something that’s very welcoming, very inclusive, to bring them in, help share their story that with us, so we can help them be accountable and go on that journey with them. So yeah, it all came together like that.
Chad Franzen 8:44
So you said when you launched your launch with thunder, what were kind of the early days, like maybe your first you know, month or two.
Isaac Hamlin 8:51
So the first month or two we launched in June. And we’re getting a lot of new people in and it was a lot of because we’re different. Like when you open a coffee shop, everyone knows you’re gonna sell coffee. But when you open what we opened, it took a level of explaining so we were doing a lot of talking. I was there from from open to closed basically had a few employees. And some of our recipes were really really bad candidly, like everyone starts off and they evolve and they improve. But our stuff was bad and we always joke about it now. Just some of the recipes that didn’t make it. So we’re always improving even now. We’re always improving what we got and what we put into our blends and eventually we had bowls, and then and then different variations of that like next we’re going to do coffee, kind of iced smoothies stuff like that. So we’re always evolving, always changing.
Chad Franzen 9:48
So yeah, I was looking at some of your your blends you they come in a lot of different flavors you already mentioned some of them blueberry cake donut, banana, caramel cream, cheese cake, coconut cream pie, peanut butter Oreo and hurdle crunch? How did you come up with all those flavors? What were those? You’re like brain children?
Isaac Hamlin 10:06
Yeah, a little bit. And it was also a team effort. So we basically looked around at what are the most indulgent flavors in the world? Like, what do people like when you look at ice creams and you look at milkshakes. And you look at other smoothies that aren’t as healthy, like aren’t healthy notoriously, can we take those flavors and make them healthy? And there’s a lot that we can like, we get requests for a lot of stuff. We’re like, listen, we just we can’t figure that one out. The ingredients don’t exist. But we wanted to see how many of those indulgences that we could create and make healthy. And that’s kind of the brand of what we are, it’s called better blend. We take these, we take these food items, and we make them better make them healthier while maintaining that taste. And we’re able to do something really special with it.
Chad Franzen 10:52
Well, can you give me an example of one that didn’t work out?
Isaac Hamlin 10:56
Oh, yeah. So we had an apple pie one. And we’ve had a peach cobbler, the peach cobbler, the problem is we use real fruits. And at first we use frozen fruits, because food costs are is very important to us. Not just for an economic sense, but also for the environment sense. And so we use a lot of frozen fruits, and frozen peaches don’t have a lot of flavor. They just like don’t like peaches notoriously, unless they’re soaked in syrup or whatever, which we don’t do any of that stuff either. You’re just not getting a lot of peach taste. So that one people spit out. But we’ve had flavors that definitely needed refined,
Chad Franzen 11:36
You know, how do you how do you kind of convince people? Or how can you make people aware that these aren’t just dessert? You know, a lot of those a lot of those flavors that I mentioned, you might think that would be a good a good dessert after I have lunch? How do you kind of conveyed the information that this has actually, this could be lunch?
Isaac Hamlin 11:51
Yeah, so a lot of marketing, a lot of educational, our team is very versed on this kind of stuff. So when you think Better Blend, especially in our area, you think like this is going to be a healthy meal, I can replace my meal with this, because I’m getting all my calories, carbs, I’m getting the protein that I need the vitamins and minerals that I need. I’m getting all of that stuff in there. And you don’t see that through a treat, right. So like, if you and I were to go get ice cream, or or a lot of smoothies that are on the market today, that’s going to quench our thirst, and it’s going to taste good. It’s be refreshing. But what’s the ROI of the thing you just put in your body? Is it going to give you energy? Did it give you the protein that you need to give you the vitamins and minerals that you need? And we want to check as many boxes as we can on that side. So we make it as beneficial as at the end of the day. Someone could be proud that they had a blend that day.
Chad Franzen 12:39
What was their kind of in terms of running the business? During your first location? Was there kind of a big surprise or maybe like something that you learned? I’m sure you learn new stuff on the job all the time, but maybe like a something you learned on the job where you’re like, Okay, this is kind of an eye opener.
Isaac Hamlin 12:53
Hmm, um, that’s good question. So, like, operational wise, or just Yeah,
Chad Franzen 13:00
yeah. Like, you know, like running a stick around the staff, or maybe the revenue or expenses in revenue, you know, anything from maybe a business perspective?
Isaac Hamlin 13:09
Um, yeah, I mean, one of the things when we went from state to state and this is this is a testament to any entrepreneur that changes states, the regulations for opening are way different state to state. And you’ll, you’ll put this point, you will put this model together and try to move it into a new market, and it just doesn’t work, or the municipalities are slower, or whatever it might be. But it just takes you by surprise, so much so that some areas are so laxed, not even laxed but like there’s certain hoops, you have to jump through in certain cities that you don’t have to jump through otherwise. And nobody can teach you that you just have to like basically be thrown into fire on that and figure that out. That and then just figuring out and learning about our customer learning about what the people want. We’ve learned a lot from how to empower our employees, and that kind of stuff and kind of turning into a place where people can come and feel a part of something bigger than themselves, and cultivating that environment where people can come and they can be vulnerable, and they can be safe, and they can feel like they’re part of the family aspect. That kind of stuff takes time. That kind of stuff takes a lot of listening and empathy. So yeah, that’s definitely stuff we learned very early on.
Chad Franzen 14:22
When did you when did you know it was time to expand from one location to more?
Isaac Hamlin 14:27
Oh, first location started picking up a lot and we’ve always had the dream of man we want to see instead of a taco bell on every corner, we would like to see something like a better blend. If not a better blend than something like a better blend something that’s healthier, fast, easy, and get you all that like we want to see the world have happier and healthier. So we knew we were gonna go big we knew we were always gonna grow. And about a year and a half a year into our first year. We started looking at new spots and we were ready to expand about a year later. We just couldn’t find a good spot couldn’t find a good spot couldn’t find a good spot. I finally we did right before the pandemic, excuse me, we signed a lease in our second location and signed it pandemic hit, lease, like rent started to come in here and we’re like, we got to do something, we’ve got to we’ve got to do something, we got to build this thing out. And we’ve got to open it. And we were the second location is a downtown location. And as you can imagine, nobody is downtown, any downtown during a pandemic, because they’re all either locked inside, or they moved away, and they’re not coming down for work. Actually, next week, May 1, the first time that most of the majority of the office, people are coming back to Cincinnati. So we’re not we haven’t even seen the full cast yet. Which is really cool. But yeah, about a year is when we’re like, Alright, let’s do this. Again. We can do this.
Chad Franzen 15:47
All right. Hey, better blood has a great story. I appreciate you sharing it with us. What are some of your goals moving forward?
Isaac Hamlin 15:55
So we our next step is we’re franchising, which is a huge endeavor, we took this endeavor on about nine months ago, signed on a company out of Los Angeles for DCB, they do great work, I can’t share the details of exactly what that will look like, of course, because we haven’t signed all of our paperwork, the FTD and haven’t submitted all that kind of stuff. But once once we get approved by the FTC, we will start our nationwide franchising journey, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun. That’s what we’re looking forward to.
Chad Franzen 16:27
What do you think maybe this is too early, but what do you think makes Better Blend a good franchise opportunity for somebody who would be looking into that kind of line of business?
Isaac Hamlin 16:38
So we’re definitely very forward facing. And we don’t think that health food is going to be a fad. And we’ve realized that we fish we position ourselves in someone who can get it out faster than anybody more convenient than anybody the cost of entry for a better blend, of course, like I alluded to earlier, there’s not a ton that goes into that. And we’re part of something a Ford mission company to where we want to do something better for the world. And we’re always evolving, and we have a great leadership group in place to kind of launch that with them. It’s just gonna be a lot of fun to see what kind of growth this company could do in the next five years.
Chad Franzen 17:15
Okay, hey, how can people find out more information?
Isaac Hamlin 17:18
So you got our website at www.BetterBlend.com. And you can find all in for there. You can follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, any of those places, but yeah…
Chad Franzen 17:30
If you were going to if you were to go in as a customer, what would be your go to item?
Isaac Hamlin 17:35
My favorite blend is an oatmeal raisin cookie with a banana. Got a little banana in there.
Chad Franzen 17:41
Alright, sounds good. Hey, I appreciate your time. I was like, thank you so much for coming on.
Isaac Hamlin 17:45
Yeah! Thank you, Chad. It’s been a pleasure.
Chad Franzen 17:47
So long, everybody.
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