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A Business Idea for the Big Game -- And Beyond

A Business Idea for the Big Game -- And Beyond
Curtis and Cason Thorsby founded Party Armor in 2010 to
stomp out hangovers.

What’s worse than missing the festivities of Super Bowl Sunday? Not missing the festivities of Super Bowl Sunday.

The day after -- Monday morning, in particular -- can often be the pits for football fans and revelers who perhaps had one too many during the big game.

Fortunately, for these hangover-plagued adults there’s a cure. Enter: Party Armor, a two-ounce shot aimed to replenish vitamins the body loses after a night of drinking. Like so many business ideas, the concept for Party Armor arose out of personal necessity.

As is true for many college students, Curtis Thorsby regularly woke up with hangovers. But rather than dwell on his self-inflicted pain, the 22-year-old sophomore at Central Michigan University decided to do something about it. He wanted to concoct the ultimate hangover cure.

“While enjoying the typical ‘social habits’ of most college students, my brother and I would often drink half as much as our friends, and wake up feeling twice as bad the next morning,” says Curtis. “We felt that was unfair -- being punished for enjoying life -- and made it our goal to invent the worlds greatest hangover preventative.”

Curtis tapped his older brother Cason -- a business school student, also at CMU -- and set out to formulate a recipe. Cason, now 26, had earned around $30,000 from the sale of one of his companies, Elite Tent Rental, a rental equipment company in 2009, which he put toward the new project.

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Though the brothers started out with an assortment of pills and powders they eventually consulted with nutritionists and medical professionals and came up with a liquid formula. And then, by 2010, they were in business.

A Business Idea for the Big Game -- And Beyond
Party Armor founders often drive their “Gnar-V” around to drum up attention for the hangover cure. Here, the van is parked outside of a stadium where the Detroit Tigers played the 2012 World Series.

Of course coming up with an idea for a recovery drink is a lot easier than selling it. Not only is the U.S. beverage market thick with competition, it’s also hard to register on consumers’ busy minds when your marketing budget is nil. Plus, since the downfall of Four Loco and other high-profile investigations into energy drinks, consumers are newly leery about what they take in.

“The consumer often assumes that our product is ‘too good to be true’ or it’s ‘snake oil,’” Cason says.

But that nut, once cracked, is huge.  So-called hangover remedies like Party Armor fall under the umbrella of “functional beverages,” which according to research firm Datamonitor is a nearly $50 billion industry worldwide.

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The global functional drinks market -- which includes energy and sports drinks, as well as functional beverages that use natural ingredients -- grew by 3 percent in 2010 to reach a value of $48.2 billion, according to Datamonitor’s “Functional Drinks: Global Industry Guide for 2011,” which is the most recent version of the report. In 2015, that market is expected to jolt another 29 percent from 2010 to more than $62.1 billion.

With wide eyes, the Thorsbys have persisted. “It’s all about educating our customers, letting them know how and why Party Armor is an effective way of treating hangovers.”

In explaining how Party Armor works, the young entrepreneurs focus on the elements that appeal to their target demographic of college students and young professionals. For instance, touting the fact that Party Armor is composed of all-natural ingredients has proven an effective way of assuaging health-conscious customers, understandably wary of putting chemicals into their body.

Yet they also know how to have fun -- another element that tends to appeal to their much coveted market. They’ll often promote their product on college campuses by way of their “Gnar-V,” an RV equipped with a killer sound system, partying paraphernalia and of course plenty of Party Armor. Upon arriving at a party or club, the Thorsby brothers invite attendees aboard to party and try out free samples of their product.

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With that combination of grassroots marketing and social networking, the Thorsby brothers have already seen some significant success. Party Armor is currently offered at major retailers including Walgreens, Meijer, and 7/11 and closed out the 2012 with more than $150,000 in revenue. The company anticipates that a new joint venture deal in Europe, as well as recently landing distribution in Australia and New Zealand will help them surpass $500,000 in sales in 2013.

Still, the road ahead is long, Cason concedes. “We look at it like this: Deodorant first hit the market in the 1960s, and really never became popular until the 1970s. People didn’t think it really worked,” he says. “Now, they wouldn’t dare go out without deodorant, and we feel the same thing will be true for our product.”

Eric Shapiro is a freelance writer in New York.

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