Ryan and Kent were looking for something that would give them clean, focused energy to help them get more done. When they couldn’t find a product to meet their needs, they developed their own solution: NeuroGum.
SO HOW'D YOU GET STARTED?
Kent Yoshimura: During college, I was training seriously in martial arts, flying to Thailand to fight Muay Thai and going to Japan to train Judo with their Olympic team. To balance school and training, I was researching and mixing my own supplements to maintain energy in a clean and effective way. Despite their effectiveness, we realized it looked really weird to take pills in public. That’s how the idea of “gum” was born.
Ryan Chen: I would go to Kent’s apartment and it’d be like a Scarface scene. It was all these white powers, and he’d be like, “that’s caffeine, that’s l-theanine, but don’t mix those!” They all looked exactly the same, and that was essentially version zero of NeuroGum. We were just trying to figure out a more convenient and accessible format.
LESSONS LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?
"As I get older and things become more streamlined, the thought of reaching my full potential seems to have shifted from accomplishing as many things as possible to feeling fulfilled as a person."
KY: No one tells you how hard it is to actually start a business. There's so many factors that come into play, many of which are unpredictable. It’s not just incorporating and getting money in the bank, it’s persevering and constantly adapting.
RC: Just thinking back to our first shipment on NeuroGum, we had it shipped to Kent’s condo in downtown LA. It was literally 4,500 pounds of gum. Luckily he had really tall ceilings, so we were able to stack the pallets up. But it’s all these things that no one can prepare you for. I mean there isn’t a class that would prepare you for shipping and handling, USPS, or customer service.
BIGGEST AHA MOMENT?
KY: When we launched our business on Indiegogo, we ended up raising our goal in three days. This validation made us realize we created a product that people actually wanted. It was amazing to enter into a business with uncertainty and find ourselves fulfilling a need for thousands of people.
ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU'RE MOST PROUD OF?
RC: Taking that leap when we first got the R&D samples. It wasn't the best tasting thing at all. In fact, it tasted terrible, but we were running out of money and needed to see if it was viable. And the decision to just go for it was one of our proudest moments as a company. We could’ve tinkered with it and if we had unlimited capital, we could have tried to perfect it, but nothing’s going to be perfect when you launch it.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
KY: I would define success as fulfillment.
RC: I would define success by just putting yourself out there and not being afraid of failing.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
RC: The people in my life inspire me. I went through a really tragic event. When I was 19, I was snowboarding and landed straight on my spine doing a double back flip. I shattered my back and I was instantly paralyzed from the waist down. And to go from that moment at 19 — when I was already kind of fragile and didn’t really know who I was — to having that additional sense of loss of identity, having friends and family around to support was all the inspiration I needed for the rest of my life. They helped me get through the tough times. And from rock bottom, to be able to go back to school, graduate school, to work my first job at Hulu, which was an amazing experience, to then start a company with one of my best friends. There’s not much more I can ask for.
HOW DO YOU REACH YOUR FULL POTENTIAL EVERY DAY?
KY: As I get older and things become more streamlined, the thought of reaching my full potential seems to have shifted from accomplishing as many things as possible to feeling fulfilled as a person. You start to break down what’s important to you, and once I was able to understand that, this subjective idea of “potential” became a lot more achievable.
GO-TO PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
RC: Taking five minutes out of the day to go outside and take a few breaths. No meetings or nothing scheduled. In a way it’s mindful meditation.
ULTIMATE LIFE HACK?
KY: My ultimate life hack is good organization — just Marie Kondo your life. I am extremely disorganized, but once I started compartmentalizing everything, handling life became much easier.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE NOT WORKING?
KY: Art is an essential part of my life. I love painting. I love creating. I feel fortunate that my life, inside and outside Neuro, revolves around that.
RC: I like traveling, experiencing new cultures, trying new foods. I think traveling is the best form of education. A lot of ways I’ve learned from traveling, so it’s something I’ll continuously want to do.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE WELLNESS?
KY: Wellness starts with the mind. Physical wellness helps with getting your mind in the right place. It ultimately comes down to how you perceive the world and how you approach it.
RC: I would define wellness with being content with yourself. Often times, we’re our own worst enemy and we’re very critical. Being able to compliment yourself and look back and appreciate what you have is the definition of wellness.
FAVORITE WAY TO LET LOOSE?
KY: I do like drinking. I also just like being outdoors. If there’s a moment I have free, I try to go rock climbing and get out into the wild. Oh, and also playing Super Smash Brothers ‘til dawn.
RC: I love music and live events. So going to music festivals with friends is definitely my favorite way to let loose.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?
RC: We just rebranded from NeuroGum into Neuro. It all starts with the mind. So we want to create a functional gum and mint not just to energize you, but to relax and calm you down, and then a daily vitamin gum and mint. So really just encompassing everything you need to accomplish your day.
"I would go to Kent’s apartment and it’d be like a Scarface scene. It was all these white powers, and he’d be like, “that’s caffeine, that’s l-theanine, but don’t mix those!”