Dr. Yinka Davis discusses the importance of having a propriety product, joint ventures, building sales, working with professional athletes, and how she manages to practice medicine full-time while building her company. Here’s a story why a doctor becomes a CEO to start a company to fill a void. Dr. Yinka Davies talks about her experience as a gastroenterologist and her "lightbulb moment," realizing the importance of gut health balance and probiotics.
- Focussing on Wellness Vs Illness
- Sharing Some Learnings
- Partnering With Consumers
- Managing the Finances
- Learning New Ways is Fun
Mimi : My interview is with Dr. Yinka Davies. Nearly 20 years ago as a newly trained gastroenterologist, Dr. Davies treated her first patient with dire clinical symptoms due to an unbalanced gut. After using multiple probiotics it wasn't until using the De Simone Formulation that the clinical symptoms resolved and they had lab documented change towards a healthy and balanced gut. Through this experience and countless more throughout her career, Yinka realized that a balanced gut is critical for health and wellness.
LYVECAP, her company is intent on equipping individuals with the necessary tools and knowledge to live well. And to end unwellness shifting the paradigm from treating disease to preventing disease. Dr. Davies is also a mother and a full-time doctor.
Dr. Davies, thank you so much for coming on today. I really appreciate it. I'm excited to learn about how you juggle it all from being a full-time doctor and a mom, and then all of a sudden you have this idea to start a company as well as if you didn't have enough on your plate. So I would love for you to just talk about, why you decided to add more to your plate and what that is.
Focussing on Wellness Vs Illness
Yinka: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. So I started practicing obviously about 20 years ago, pediatric GI and just saw the rise of autoimmune disease and intolerances. I say to people all the time when we think back 20 plus years, we didn't have all these alternative milks and different products and people were really able to tolerate more. And so what I decided is just seeing this rise of illness and intolerances I wanted to be part of the change of keeping people well. I think what we do in medicine is what I say a lot, we treat disease pretty well.
I think what we need to get better at is keeping you well and keeping you out of the offices. So I've used a probiotic for quite some time. I actually had a very sick kid when I was in training at Stanford. I couldn't get her gut flora under control and I had the opportunity at that time to work with the State Lab and sent off the stool samples to them and they call back and they said, "Look, she's wiped out all of her gut flora. She doesn't have much there." And that was correlating to a child who had significant gas and discomfort.
I tried everything over the counter that was available at that time and nothing was changing her gut flora, meaning I would get a call from the State Lab to say, "Okay, I don't see a change. I'm not seeing her populate." And these were probiotics that were on the market.
I went to Stanford at that time and tried to give her a fecal transplant, but that wasn't embraced very well at that time. And then I found a probiotic in Italy and had contacted Claudio De Simone is a world renowned expert in micro flora. He had sent me a probiotic to try and the family was desperate. They were going to do anything at that time because she had profound diarrhea, profound gas and we had clinical evidence to show that her gut microbiome was not stable. I gave her the probiotic and got a call from the State Lab. And she said, "Okay, I'm not sure what you're doing, but she's starting to populate."
At that point, I realized why the white probiotics become extremely important when you're picking the probiotic to actually change the game and the gut flora, like you need the right strains to show that they're actually going to populate. So I use that probiotic in my practice and I take care of many patients with inflammatory bowel disease, IBS, Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, and many of my patients have incorporated into part of their regimen and done well. What I did find difficult is people remembering to take their probiotic daily.
So I met with Claudio at one point and said, "Look, I love the probiotic, but it's very difficult for them to take every day." And thought it'd be great to put it on a water bottle where they remember to grab their cap, put it on the water bottle and go. And that's how LYVECAP started is really integrating daily wellness into somebody and having them take it on a daily basis.
Mimi : Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's great. And so yours is different, so you decided to partner with him to do this, or did you kind of just start your own thing as a propriety product?
No. I partnered with Claudio De Simone. I use basis off of the De Simone Formulation. And the thing about probiotics that I think many people don't realize is, it's in everything. You walk down the aisle with two paces, it's a motion. Like you look around and the general masses believe that I just take a probiotic and I see it with my patients, oh, I picked up a probiotic. And what people don't realize is, there's no FDA regulation. So we don't know if there's any effective bacteria within that probiotic sample and we don't know if those strains are actually the right strains that change the game immunologically.
So you have to bring the right strains together to actually change things in the gut to make a positive response. And that takes research and there's not a lot of probiotics out there. Very, very, very few with the research behind them, because it takes a lot of money to do research. It takes a lot of time and therefore it wasn't advantageous for me to go off and join the masses of these probiotics that have no efficacy, but really align myself with the research and the data that's there and so that's what I did.
Mimi : That's great. So you decided to do this, now it's United States based or is it still in Italy?
Yinka: Well, it's made in Italy shipped cold to the US and sold in the US.
Mimi : Okay. And do you have to keep it cold?
Yinka: You do. It can be out of the refrigerator for up to seven days and not lose efficacy.
Mimi : Oh wow. That's amazing. That's good except if you're traveling because usually you can't. You have to keep them refrigerated.
Mimi : Okay. So you have this idea, you decided. Where do you squeeze the time in? Are you doing it after work? Did you have somebody else do it for you? Like you had this idea and so you have somebody else you pass the ball, how are you managing it all?
Yinka: Well, you manage it when you can. I'm up at four o'clock in the morning. I'm up late at night on the computer researching, and it was a completely different world for me. I practice medicine. I go in and there are patients. I've been trained as a physician. I have the unbelievable benefit of having great mentors. So you're good at what you do because you've been trained well. This is a whole different avenue. Learning business, learning the word, the lingo, I did a lot of that at night. My kids would go down and I would read about it and understand, ask a lot of questions, reach out to people that did it before me, and that really helped. Granted, you learn on the way and there are a ton of mistakes that you want to do overs for, but that was also part of the learning. Right?
Mimi : Right.
Yinka: I think that I look back and I think, wow, I wish I hadn't done that, but it does guide me better now.
Sharing Some Learnings
Mimi : What would you say is the one thing you wish you knew before you started that you could have avoided mistakes of time, money, whatever the mistake is?
Yinka: I think I wished I'd researched some of the companies that I joined with a little bit better. I think when you're out there and you're starting people realize you're new, they know you're agreeing to this. Unfortunately, I think people take advantage of that. I think my advice to someone starting out go with someone who's someone else's gone with and comes as a recommendation, but these Google searches of trying to find somebody-
Mimi : To get to the referral that's a great idea. Now, how are you distributing it? Are you doing it through doctors or are you doing it through stores and pharmacies?
Yinka: So it's direct to consumer.
Mimi : Oh well. Okay, great.
Partnering With Consumers
Yinka: So our first product that came out is STRONG, which is a product targeted towards athletes. It's 200 billion bacteria that has been shown to clinically decrease lactic acid and increase cognitive ability and it's just been a game changer in athletes. And I've been fortunate enough and that's what I do at night, reach out to athletes on their Instagram, through their email, through their management team, and really try to find athletes that are willing to partner with us and give us a shot. Every athlete that has tried it, I have to tell you what they say to me is, "Okay, what's going on? I feel so much better. Don't let me run out of this. I need to stay on."
We've been fortunate to work with some great athletes. We have an athlete in Olympics in Japan who swam in Olympic Trials, who did really well on the product, who remains on the product going through Olympics.
Mimi : That's great.
Yinka: We've had athletes, runners, cyclists. It's been great, and that's a whole different world for me. I come from chronic disease in pediatrics and now working with these athletes on changing the game and helping them feel better. I think part of it is what I see on the market. I have two boys that are avid tennis players and swimmers, and the choices of these drinks that are out there that have no efficacy, pure sugar, multiple colors of the rainbow. I say to my kids all the time. Okay, you got to think about it. There's nothing in that blue drink that's going to help you feel all right.
Mimi : It's going to die or it's a fake electrolytes or whatever.
Yinka: Yeah. And I want to be part of that. This is the real deal. This is where recovery happens in the gut.
Mimi : I would never think to do athletes right off the bat as your first target. Why did you do athletes versus going after children in the medical community?
Yinka: I get asked this question quite a bit and really athletes know their bodies so well. They're so in tune to the minute changes that they were a great audience to start with and they could tell me, you know what?I do notice this. At two weeks, am I sleeping better? Is this right? Am I feeling this? And they were able to guide us on just really the true efficacy on the product and starting off with WHOOP that is so focused on their wellness and their recovery really I think would give us true credibility coming on the market where these athletes initially.
So our next product will be to the masses. There'll be a general probiotic for everybody, but I thought it was important to work with the athletes first and true credible athletes. We don't pay our athletes to be on product.
Mimi : Well, that's what I was going to ask you because for anybody who's listening, who has a company and wants to have like affiliates, are you giving them anything? Are you just giving them product? Are you giving them affiliate links if they do post about it and they get sales or anything like that? Like there's no return for them?
Yinka: The return to the athlete of the product is I find an athlete who wants product, who wants to feel better, who's willing to try it and go from there. Learning this, I would see on Instagram and many platforms where people would post on multiple things, and what I would see is that there were some conflicts on some of the products. Like you're touting two products that really do the same thing and it just didn't seem so credible to me that I thought, "Okay, I know this is going to be a much steeper hill." I know it's going to, and it has been in the athletes turn around to me that I reach out to and say, okay, what are you paying? What are you paying to do, before even trying the product?
Mimi : Well, that is what they're expected to now. They're expecting that.
Yinka: But I just needed to stay along that authentic line starting off, I'm not one of these big companies that could even afford to pay some of these athletes what they're worth, but I needed to start off with true credible elite athletes that I could provide my propriety product and work with them.
Mimi : And are they posting online? Are they posting them online or are they…
Yinka: The athletes post and they will promote at their will. So not me saying you've got to post three times a week, but them just posting or reposting our posts on onto their Instagram. I think it says a lot about the athletes for number one, that they are aligned with this product that they truly believe in. There's no monetary value. They're not getting a kickback on it. They are getting a product, but they truly do believe in the product and that's who we wanted to come out at least initially to work with.
Mimi : And has that been enough publicity to get sales to bring in other sales of other non-professional athletes?
Yinka: It's been a start. My hope is to get a bigger athlete, a bigger platform, somebody who lives the life of wellness that it's really authentic and lines with this organically. It's just part of who they are that people feel like, "Wow, that athlete lives this." And they believe in this and therefore, it brings again credibility to the product. There's quite a lot of noise out there on products, especially in the endurance platform and pathways and I want to break through that with true data, true science. One of the biggest probiotics on the market right now being sold has zero research behind it.
But the wool gets pulled over consumers eyes, because if you look at their platform it looks phenomenal. And what happens is they buy a strain that has been studied and then they put these strains together. But when they put these together there's no data showing that those strains together change the game and that's how probiotics work. They work in synergy that you have to show that the strains you've brought together actually do work as a partnership changing the game immunologically. And that it has been done by very few products out there.
Managing the Finances
Mimi : Right. Now, have you been self-funding this or have you had to go to financing to launch your company?
Yinka: So I've self-funded. I've had a couple athletes that came in that wanted to have a seat at the table and that was great because we've worked through their contacts to bring obviously, some awareness back to LYVECAP, but I've self-funded it. I've done this over four years, so I patented the cap. I tested within the cap for a year to make sure there was no die-off of the bacteria in the cap, went through all the trademarks, went through all the testing of the CFOs to make sure what we brought to market was sustainable within the packaging.
Mimi : That's great. So you just have a website right now. So was that hard to do the whole online e-commerce component?
Yinka: Definitely. There was a lot to learn. I converted one of my employees from my clinic, who's artistic; and it's been great to really help me do a lot of the paperwork and all the working with everybody and setting everything up. I did have a vision of what I wanted. I still think it's the most difficult part I think of the website, is it doesn't… This is such an educational aspect if I could sit down with every athlete and go through and say, "Okay, recovery really happens in the gut if you had that ability to do that." And I think that's the toughest part about websites as someone's flipping through and you've got to capture them to educate them on that, those few seconds that they're on your site.
Learning New Ways is Fun
So it's been good. It's been fun doing it. I actually have enjoyed it. I did the bottle design, the cap design and the name and really all of it has been a journey of learning, but I've been fortunate to have some good people around me that I've learned from on the way.
Mimi : That's great. And so you have to worry about making sure you keep it refrigerated and the how travel pack and all that. Right?
Yinka: Well, we ship cold. So obviously we did the testing on the packaging shipping to the east coast initially in the summer to see, okay was the filler enough and did it hold in the packaging well? So there was all of that prototype testing initially right next to my office is where we distribute. There's a building next door and we have a walk-in refrigerator and that's where it's distributed. It's actually made in Italy, shipped to LA, packaged in LA and sent to us. And I thought that was important. I don't think I can sustain that but I think it's important in the first year to control what was going out.
You realize you weren't going to have a lot of sales in the beginning. You could control it at that point. You could also reach out to the people purchasing and get their feedback and see what'd you like? What did you not like? Did it arrive okay? The feedback has been phenomenal from picking up every day.
Mimi : Now, as you roll out to the normal consumer, are you going to go into the pharmacy route or are you going to try to go after the doctors?
Yinka: Yeah. I think I'm going to stay e-commerce and really try to educate through doing lectures on talk and gut microbiome and why it really makes a difference and really try to bring people back to the website once you rate them on why. And I think people now, especially coming out of a pandemic, people are much more aware of immunity. They understand that, wow. Okay. Two people had the virus, their response was drastically different. Your immune system is extremely important. I think people are definitely more keen to that and understand it. And so I hope to really jump on that and do some more education and really try to educate people on staying well, the microbiome and how that relates to our wellness overall.
Mimi : So for anybody who's listening who wants to be an entrepreneur and try to juggle it all, is there any tips that you would give like last minute advice before we wrap up?
Yinka: I would definitely say do it. It's a lot to have two boys that I manage and they're pretty active in their sports, but I think staying organized and staying on task is really important. Reaching out and asking questions and getting educated from people that have done it before you. I definitely think that I wouldn't discourage anyone from doing it. I think absolutely it's a lot of work and I definitely have only hit the bottom of the hill and I'm still climbing up and learning quite a bit, but I'm going to embrace this journey all the way.
Mimi : This is great. Thank you so much for your time. This is amazing and I wish you the best of luck.
Yinka: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
Mimi : Thank you for joining us on the Badass CEO. To get your copy of the top 10 tips, every entrepreneur should know, go to thebadassceo.com/tips. Also, please leave a review as it helps others find us. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them. So email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you next week and thank you for listening.