POSTED ON JANUARY 16, 2008:
Birth of a Raging Salesman
Creator of hangover remedy takes business trips to a new level in this brave new world
Moderation Urged. Cooley suggests that society just accepts that we are not responsible. He has no intention of standing as a spokesman for heavey drinking, nor is he the moral police.
He's outspoken. There's no doubt about that. His nonchalant, yet energetic personality conveys the impression that he's always been a little too cool for school. Clay Cooley is a natural-born entrepreneur from Tulsa who could sell you your own shoes off your feet. He's the kind of guy who, in high school, you either loved or hated.
Whether or not this is his real name or a marketing strategy is a viable question. Quite the comic and incredibly sociable, he is the ultimate schmoozer, and these God-given talents have made him the president of Fix Strips. He's the purveyor of product that, according to him, might just change lives (for the better or for the worse is to be determined by the consumer).
The idea that led to Fix Strips began almost 12 years ago when Cooley, a third generation Okie, was literally sick and tired of feeling the morning-after effects of a night of excessive drinking. Munching saltines, pounding Gatorade and slamming headache meds just couldn't overcome the aftermath of a great night he'd never remember. So, instead of trimming back his rock star lifestyle, Cooley set out to create a hangover remedy that could be taken the next morning and bring immediate relief.
With a shrewd understanding of his product's demographics, Cooley embarked on a 10-year odyssey to master the magic drug's recipe, serving as the guinea pig himself. He took his fascination with science and merged it with a burning curiosity; combined with his keen business skills, he was bound to make things happen.
"I decided--for the sake of science, I would live my crazy ass lifestyle, pimp myself out and create this product... out of necessity," Cooley said, sporting a Fix Strips ball cap two sizes too small for his head.
His hard work of partying night after night and enduring numerous clinical trials paid off.
"So then, a little over a year ago, some investment bankers call me up and said they loved the idea of hangover remedy strips. We go up and down and up and down trying to get this thing rolling," Cooley explained, his voice loudening, his posture straightening. "And all of a sudden, I am in fantasy land."
He relishes that he holds 100 percent creative control of the company, now called Cooley Nutraceuticals.
And it's a good thing he does. Today, what began as a foul-tasting drink that would make kneeling by the toilet seem like a better option, has become the latest in strip technology. And, while the manufacturing plant is in California, Fix Strips calls Tulsa home.
"I'm all about keeping this in Tulsa," he assured. "I make sure all the money comes right back here. I travel a lot, yet I always love coming back here. I'm proud of that."
Down to a Science
Fix Strips work like Listerine's breath freshener strips that sit in your mouth and resemble a glob of toothpaste; however, the strips taste more like dietary supplements.
"They definitely aren't going to win any culinary awards, but I will take the reward over the flavor," Cooley says. "The taste is part of the perception. I don't want them to taste like candy."
They contain the nutrients and antioxidants the body loses after a night of moderate drinking. According to Cooley, each strip contains electrolytes, caffeine, vitamin C and a variety of B vitamins. This mixture rebalances body fluids, heals dilated blood vessels, strengthens the immune system, metabolizes energy, rebuilds nutrients and reproduces blood cells.
This all helps if a good, hearty breakfast doesn't seem all that appealing.
The instructions call for placing four strips between cheek and gum and allowing the strips to dissolve, and then drinking plenty of water. The key ingredients in Fix Strips enter the system through the cellular lining of the cheek--a route much faster than normal digestion, which means instantaneous results. This may lead someone to wonder why all pills aren't ingested in strip form. Cooley cracks a sly grin and suggests we "stay tuned."
According to him, the effect is much smoother than taking a bunch of pills or chugging a Red Bull. There are no harmful side effects, unless a young child consumes roughly 1,800 strips in one hour, and that is a whole other issue.
The end result? A relieved hangover.
Cooley understands that there could be some resistance to using the strips. However, after countless years of getting "ripped, roaring lit up," he has become a firm believer in the effectiveness of Fix Strips and encourages skeptics to simply try them.
"I rarely hear anyone say they don't work," Cooley said. "At least assuming they drank moderately the night before and followed the directions.
"There are more than 400 million hangovers every month. That is more than our population. I think it is safe to say there is a built-in market for these," Cooley continued. "Hangovers potentially cost society more than $100 billion in lost wages when we call into work sick due to a hangover."
You got that right.
Referring to drinkers age 21 to 35, Cooley suggests that society just accepts that we are not responsible people. He has no intention of standing as a spokesman for heavy drinking, but also refuses to act as the moral police. In fact, the taglines across the Fix Strip web site read: "Remember, Fix alleviates hangovers, not stupidity" and "Drink responsibly." Cooley is in the process of initiating a program that refunds cab ride receipts for whoozy bar patrons who turn over their keys. The strips are not intended for heavy drinkers and offer no cure for alcoholics. So, if you went out last night and downed a fifth of Bacardi, Cooley says you are on your own.
Successful Stripping Career
More than 25 states sell Fix Strips, a successful undertaking considering the product launched last October. Cooley Nutraceuticals benefits from its mother company HealthSport, Inc., which also produces energy strips for athletes.
Cooley beamed as he hinted at the developments to come. Cruiselines, colleges, nationwide restaurant chains and casinos are gearing up to sell Fix Strips. Elaborating on his pending contracts with casinos, Cooley turned into the sly businessman he is, the dollar signs beaming from his animated brown eyes.
"Consider this: as the manager of a casino, what kind of business do you lose if just one person mopes around their hotel room the next morning for 30 minutes or an hour because of a hangover?"
Many Tulsa bars already sell Fix Strips in their vending machines. The strips are strategically sold in the size of a cigarette pack. Joel Bein, manager of Empire Bar, 15th & Peoria, says Fix Strips have been selling "really well" with "people asking about them all the time," for nontraditional reasons too.
"We had a college kid come in and ask for them. It was finals week and he had apparently used them before because he wanted them as an energy supplement while he studied," Bein says. "It was funny because our machine was actually sold out and so I had to give him some of mine."
Many drug stores and convenient stores sell them as well. A box of 12 strips (3 doses) costs between $3 and $6. Given the beauty of Oklahoma liquor laws, liquor stores can't sell anything that doesn't have alcohol in it, thus, Fix Strips are not available.
In 2008, Cooley Nutraceuticals looks to boosts yearly revenue from $250,000 to $7 million. Cooley's marketing strategy is to "underpromise and overdeliver."
Wearing a white t-shirt with his first name faded across the chest, Cooley delivers his mantra as he looks forward to the New Year, "Take the water, throw it on the project, turn it into steam and forge on... or something like that."
Maybe he's been drinking, or maybe he is so persuasive he can make even senseless material sound inspirational. Cooley's young at heart, but, despite the party animal inside him, his grasp on the business proves he knows exactly what he is doing and exactly where he is going. And he doesn't mind losing a brain cell or two to get there.
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