The perfect blend, of medicinal mushrooms and a hearty breakfast.
Article written by Claudia Lee, Founder and CEO of NEXUS. Speaking with Parker Olson, Founder of FORIJ.
I met with Parker Olson, a couple of weeks back. He’s the founder of Forij, an award-winning granola that creates additional benefits for brain health and cognitive balance.
He shared his story of how he got into the world of functional mushrooms and nutrition and used that knowledge to build what is now a fast-growing granola empire.
His Journey With Health: The Mushroom Answer
His journey began when he decided to try going vegan for 30 days and noticed significant changes in how he felt after just two weeks. He explains:
“I repeated this process of 30-day increments for 18 months and tried various nutritional regiments, including supplementing with functional mushrooms.”
As a neuroscience graduate, he was fascinated by the effects of mushrooms on the brain and began diving into research on the subject.
He found that incorporating functional mushrooms, such as Lion's Mane, Chaga, and Cordyceps, into his diet made him feel his best. This sparked his interest in the benefits of mushrooms for health and led him to explore the low-hanging fruit that mushrooms could offer.
He explained, he felt that the concept of functional mushrooms was starting to gain momentum in the market and that it wasn't just a passing trend. Parker believed that it would become a household concept in the same way it has in Asian cultures, where it has been a valuable asset in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
He began incorporating these mushrooms into his oatmeal specifically, building other concepts too, sharing them with coworkers and friends, and building momentum.
When speaking to Parker about how this all got started, he said found himself at a startup conference, where he pitched his idea to the leader of the conference. He described to me how impressed this man was, by the idea, and asked for his pitch deck.
This was the beginning of Forij.
“I moved into a tent and into my backyard with my roommates and got rid of my bed. We used like offices, like our headquarters area, where you can store product and package and whatnot.”
Despite the initial struggles and learning curves, Forij eventually found its footing and began to experience significant growth. Parker mentioned, one of the key factors contributing to this growth was a successful ad creative.
The Marketing Angle
For startups, entering the world of paid media can be a daunting task, especially if they have limited experience in the digital advertising space. It's something even I have seen some success with and some, to be transparent, I haven't.
It’s a very difficult road to walk when you haven't got full trust, creative experience on either side or even full backing on the side of the client, and all pressure is on you.
For Parker, he found the obscure approach seemed to be the best place to begin.
One example he gave was an ad that featured the founder sleeping in a tent outside, showcasing the company's dedication to producing high-quality, handmade granola.
Making something of a creative, ‘pattern interrupt’, he knew he would leave a lasting impression in people's minds.
“…especially during COVID, sales calls went blank.I was just constantly figuring out how to cut through the noise in any channel, right?"
“…I think that's something that we've done really well and how we think about current product offerings. We just went through a rebrand and how we're thinking about branding is like, no matter what we do, like it better be unique and memorable.”
In my opinion, it's essential to start small and test campaigns before scaling up to minimize risks and optimize results.
Yes, marketing can be predictive, but I would in no way say, always predictable.
Parker continued to talk about his next creative idea.
“So right now we've just built this concept where our kind of branding is somewhat defined by these like blob-like creatures, we call them foragers. And we built capability where customers can build their own…
…And so I was thinking about ways of how can you really like, uniquely engage with the customer and like really build some loyalty that way?”
The Blocks Within Marketing
I was intrigued after speaking with Will Nitze of IQBAR, who’d seen great success with Amazon if Parker had found the same.
FORIJ has continued to explore different sales channels, talking about Meta ads, as well as Amazon, and running into issues with flagging, due to the mushroom element to the product.
And, this isn't an uncommon issue.
It's also not uncommon, to experience issues when you market products like this too. This instability can be so completely frustrating for advertisers, when all they're trying to do, is market a genuine product.
I've wondered for some time if Amazon could somehow stop this just by building an algorithm to increase the validation products, to limit this.
He explained, they at FORIJ started with direct-to-consumer sales but also participated in wholesale to expand their reach, also.
About Parker, And His Entrepreneurship
I asked Parker in what way he feels different from others, or what seems to separate entrepreneurs from others.
“It's I think part of the blind faith is also what people see and draws are some attraction. So I think I think like there definitely is a consumer intrigue in the entrepreneur.”
He continued to say how valuable it is to be head over heels, in that drive for success and self-achievement:
“I would say I oscillate between, like, shear confidence and like ultimate fear.
But it's funny, you know, and I'll say this like and I say this all the time, but if I knew what I knew now I probably would have never started the business.
You know, in a lot of ways like a lot of ways my naivety or my kind of foolishness has been just been a valuable asset.
I've definitely had blind faith and I'm definitely a person where I just trust the process and like the trust that things will work out pretty much all the time. And that is, I think somewhat delusional.
I think I have somewhat of a delusional characteristic to me.”
The Future of FORIJ
To me, Parker’s background in business and neuroscience likely helped with developing the company's brand and packaging, but they also had to learn on the job and adapt to new challenges as they arose.
This is a common experience for many entrepreneurs, who must be willing to take risks, make mistakes, and learn quickly in order to succeed. A level of healthy delusion, I find often gets you where you want to get.
The dedicated team at FORIJ, have such a strong foundation in Parker, and I can’t wait to see how they thrive in the years to come.
Will be keeping my eye out for sure. Thank you, Parker, for finding the time to speak with me.