Perhaps an odd place to start, but it was at this point, with my head in a trash can, that I began the company’s journey.
…NOT the celebratory moment I was after.
Yet, finishing my first Leadville 100 with my head in a trash can barfing up Muesli was actually a pivotal moment. Unbeknownst to me, it was Tailwind’s humble beginnings. And the point in which I became my own guinea pig.
I was fed up with fueling issues hijacking the blood, sweat and tears of my training. I wanted to find an endurance product that spared my gut, was easy to use and with a taste and texture that would propel me to the finish line - minus the run-in with my breakfast, a second-time around.
Tweak, test, tweak, test…
I did a lot of guinea pig testing on myself and friends.
I started devouring everything I could get my hands on about sports nutrition and how the body processes fuel (you can read more about the science behind Tailwind here). Then, I looked at the ingredients of endurance products that I’d been trying and a couple of light bulbs went off. I started making batch after batch of powder, tweaking, testing, tweaking, testing with an eye towards developing something that was easy on the stomach, maintained consistent energy levels and was as close to water as possible with just enough flavor so I wouldn’t get the “gag reflex” and stop drinking.
A 1960s era KitchenAid of Jenny’s grandmother served as our first mixer.
Test, test, test
I filled up my Osprey and began climbing Durango’s trails noting the taste two hours into the ride, then six, ten and twelve. Friends from the local Thursday Bike n’ Beer group noticed and wanted to test it out too. They liked it, and, they wanted more. Before long, I found myself in our kitchen with a KitchenAid among clouds of powder, filling up ziplock baggies, and meeting people in parking lots to hand them out. It looked a bit suspicious!
Suspicious looking baggies exchanged in the parking lot.
Who wants to test this out? We offered the powder mix up on the Leadville 100 community forum, and about 50 were game. They too started asking for more. We made an initial run of 500 canisters with a co-packer, threw up a website, and folks reordered! Before we knew it, Jenny and I were making the powder ourselves, applying labels, filling bags, fulfilling everything out of the back of our truck and carrying inventory with us to all our races.
A handwritten note to one of our customers
We got hooked on our customers for their “why”
We also started including a handwritten note of thanks and writing the customer’s name on the Tailwind bag just to let our customers know how much they meant to us. It’s a part of our DNA and every employee at Tailwind now takes a turn in shipping and fulfillment (and some never want to leave)!
A few months after posting on the Leadville 100 forum for testers, an email arrived that would crystalize, for us, why we were “in.” Lisa wrote that she had dropped out of every ultra-mountain bike race she had done in the last decade, usually around mile 70, because of stomach issues. She had just finished the Shenandoah Mountain 100 on Tailwind, with no issues. She broke down crying at the finish line, realizing what she had achieved, and no longer fearing that it could never be done.
We didn’t even have a name for Tailwind at that point, but that email pushed us over the edge to start our company. What made it so meaningful for Lisa, made it meaningful for us. To help people achieve goals that meant so much to them, cranked the “commitment” dial up for us. And honestly, that’s the best part of starting Tailwind. We look forward to Sundays and Mondays because we hear about all the amazing journeys our customers have had. We wouldn’t be here without you, and we remind ourselves of that everyday. In fact, at our weekly company meeting we start off with a note or picture from one of our customers.
So that’s the story behind Tailwind! We really haven’t changed much since our first year. We still make the product ourselves right here in our community, write the notes and personalize every bag that goes out the door to our customers, and believe in the power of our community to do incredible things. Thanks for making our journey an amazing one!
Jeff and Jenny
Jeff and Jenny, Founders of Tailwind Nutrition