FLY’s chemist isn’t the only experienced advisor to have thrown their weight behind the bold, young company. In fact, if the mouthwash business doesn’t work out, Bracciale and Telford could make a mint traveling the country and selling out seminars on how to build all-star teams.
First to join was Tracey Priest, Owner of Strategic Marketing Partners and 25-year veteran of the consumer product goods industry. Priest was recruited after he walked, unsuspecting, onto FSU’s campus and gave a guest lecture to an entrepreneurship class. Telford received a text from a friend in the class: “You need to get over here right now, this guy would be a perfect fit for FLY.” Telford ran across campus, breathing hard but arriving with a homemade bottle sample in hand. Priest would later become FLY’s Chief Marketing Officer.
Over the summer, the team landed their first investor, Stuart Lasher. Lasher, the Tampa-based Founder, Chairman & CEO of Quantum Capital Partners, Inc. is a fellow FSU-alum and College of Business Hall of Fame Inductee. His $100,000 seed investment gave FLY the ability to manufacture an initial order of 7,000 bottles in Ohio, build a new website, run clinical trials, and invest in marketing their product launch. The team had been in contact with Lasher for more than a year, sometimes without a response, working to prove the value of their idea.
“We are grateful that Stuart believed in us. It wasn’t easy to convince him either...We lost a lot of sleep, but it was all worth it. I’ve never learned more about business strategy, detailed planning and myself over those four months,” Telford said. “It came to a point where we weren’t even chasing the money anymore, it was more about the partnership we wanted with Stuart. Working with him was way more valuable than any dollar figure we could receive.”
Last fall, FLY dove into Get Started, Domi Station’s incubator program for early-stage entrepreneurs. They attended weekly cohort classes, interviewed customers, and even earned a $1,000 pitch prize courtesy of Tallahassee’s Chamber of Commerce. Having recently completed the second half of Get Started, the team is now preparing for a November soft launch (they’ve recruited a brand ambassador force to distribute and sell across FSU) and an official rollout in January 2018, when they will begin fulfilling orders direct to consumers through both their website and Amazon. The goal now--bottomline--is to sell bottles, and with the help of the Tallahassee community, FLY hopes to gain enough traction to get into big box retail by the summer of 2018.
“FSU’s College of Business and Jim Moran Institute were great launch pads, and Domi Station was really the gasoline that ignited the fire,” said Telford. “Without it, we wouldn’t be able to see or speak to people who have been through the journey, people who have failed, who have succeeded and who are always willing to help.”
For Dominick Ard’is, Domi’s Director of Incubation Programs and facilitator through the Get Started process, the most inspiring thing has been FLY’s commitment to their vision. “Nick and Mike were told no so many times,” he said.
Care for an example? Telford was an early-adopter of Cyber Dust, a messaging app that debuted in 2014 with support from Mark Cuban, billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Through the app, Telford connected with Cuban, wasting no time to pitch the Shark himself on FLY’s vision for concentrated, on-the-go mouthwash. Cuban told him, frankly, “I would rather use gum or mints.”
Undeterred, Telford fired back, “Well, you can try it on the shelves someday.”