The Smiths are brothers in life and brothers in business. Both are former hockey players who played at Gilmour then took to the rink again in college (Miami University for Brandon, Brown University for Jarred) and the minor leagues.
As hockey players, Brandon ’05 and Jarred ’06 routinely slammed back energy drinks during practice and games. But Jarred was turned off early by the sugar and calories in them, and the brothers set out to create a healthy alternative.
The result is NOOMA, a low-sugar, low-calorie, no-acid, electrolyte drink (short for “no more acid”) that hit Cleveland stores in early 2014. It is sold online, in Cleveland-area Heinen’s, Whole Foods and Giant Eagle stores, and at local yoga and spin studios. The Smiths are broadening their market to Columbus, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.
“We wanted to develop the first healthy sports drink, a much cleaner, more natural way to hydrate,” Jarred says. “NOOMA is organic, with no added sugar and 20 calories.”
While developing the product, the Smiths turned to Kristin Franco Kirkpatrick ’94 for help. The registered dietician and fellow Gilmour grad consulted on NOOMA’s ingredients and served as a valuable sounding board for the Smiths, who studied entrepreneurship and finance in college but lacked nutritional expertise.
NOOMA is sold in four flavors – blueberry peach, cherry lime, chocolate mint and mango. But the Smiths see NOOMA as more than a healthy electrolyte drink. To them, it’s a lifestyle, and they want it to be the same for consumers. To personify that goal, they hired fellow Gilmour grad Leigh Richards ’10 to head up digital marketing. The company’s website features relevant content for millennials about diet, exercise and goal setting.
“We tried to build a company that is more than a healthy drink,” Brandon says. “Our goal is to provide actionable content related to healthy living. We want to attract users, and everyone loves to hear from a brand that’s helping them out rather than shouting at them.”
Brandon, what’s your favorite part of running the business?
It’s challenging, interesting and unique. With startups, you just don’t have the staff, so you become well versed in many different things. It’s like paddling a boat. When a hole develops in the boat, it’s up to you to patch it.
Jarred, what’s gratifying for you?
That we’re able to do it with a team and in an industry that we both really love. Running this business is 100 percent hard work, and it’s something that we’re passionate about individually and as a team. It makes those long hours worth it.
Brandon, how has hockey helped your business skills?
Jarred and I exclusively speak in hockey analogies because it consumed our lives for 20-plus years. In the minors nothing was guaranteed. You could be cut and traded. You had to prove yourself and work on a team to get something done. The mental hurdles of having to compete day in, day out, those skills translated really clearly from the ice to our business right away.
Jarred, what is your greatest hope for NOOMA?
Being a national brand, we both have goals in terms of sales. But this has been an amazing experience, mostly because it’s shown us how being healthy impacts people’s lives. I would love to see our brand be a catalyst for healthier living across the country.
What’s your favorite hockey term to use in the office?
Grinder. It’s a type of player that has to work really hard to stay on the team, not necessarily the most skilled. They grind their way to success.