Introduce yourself and tell us about ATAQ Fuel?
Hello, my name is Tammo Walter and I am the CEO and Co-Founder of ATAQ Fuel. Before creating ATAQ Fuel I worked for the Philadelphia-based branding agency 160over90. I’ve always been an athlete when I move to California, I got into cycling and hired a coach and nutritionist.
I was encouraged to prepare my own plant-based sports nutrition and get off any synthetic food products. I liked the idea, tried it for about six weeks, and got really frustrated. It was too complex to just whip out simple dishes that would actually have an effect on my performance. It’s important to understand the biochemical processes in your body. Also, the right times to take nutrients for your workout cycle to do things right.
It also required a tremendous amount of preparation and clean-up time, which was not sustainable with my training schedule, my demanding job, and my busy family life. So I tried to find really clean, plant-based nutrition products that were particularly formulated for athletes but couldn’t find what I was looking for. Given my background, own experience, and some initial market and trend research, I felt like there was an opportunity to develop a brand and products that I was looking for myself. What better way to create all of that, than with the lens of being a customer for your own products?
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
My responsibility is to lead, manage, drive strategy, handle operations at an overarching level. Also, oversee different company divisions to ensure that the business moves successfully forward.
I am also involved in branding, marketing, and advertising. In a start-up as small and nimble as ours, everyone has to wear multiple hats. At this point we can not afford for any function, including mine, to focus only on strategic aspects and overarching elements.
What sacrifices have you made to become an entrepreneur?
Starting and running a business means you have to go all-in if you want it to be successful. In the case of our company and for me specifically, it meant financial and timing constraints that ultimately take a toll on your personal life. Which includes things you love to do outside of the job by yourself (e.g. hobbies), or anything family and friends related.
If you do it right starting a business and being an entrepreneur means you make an investment and commit to making it a success (not quite but almost at all cost). The biggest sacrifice I have made is not having been able to spend as much time as I would’ve loved to with my kids. That hurts and gets hard at times. With every sacrifice you make you increase the responsibility and pressure for your plans to turn out successful, otherwise, you lose on multiple fronts.
How are you marketing ATAQ Fuel?
Because of the business, we are in–athletics and nutrition–we are all about the experience. What experience do people have when they try our products, when they need to perform as athletes, when they interact with us or our athletes at events or how do we make them feel when they watch one of our videos.
Connecting directly with our audience, at athletic events, through athletes and social media as well as at the point of sale (e.g. in-store product samplings) is crucial. While we are building brand and product awareness, being in the field is key.
We do that with our staff but also spend a good chunk of the marketing budget on meaningful athlete partnerships and on attending and organizing events. For our current phase has shown to have the biggest impact and ROI.
What have been your most satisfying moments in business?
One of my most satisfying moments was holding our first real product in my hands. Before we had a professionally manufactured product the business was just a concept on paper. When you finally hold in your hands a final product that’s a pretty amazing moment. It makes everything you worked on for so long real in an instant. Observing that silently from the sidelines is quite satisfying as well.
Tell us about a time where you had to take a risk in your business?
I can’t tell you about a day I didn’t take risks. It’s one of the elements that make running a business equally exciting and scary. Every young business is vulnerable. My business partner and I made decisions that had long-lasting consequences if not even cost the livelihood of our company. I am in an environment and job where I have to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. The biggest risk I took was starting this company.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I have two pieces of advice, trust in yourself and do not be afraid to go all-in on your idea. If you know you can improve a specific market, then bring that product or service to life the only thing standing in your way is you.
Second, remember that in this age of technology online sales & perception is crucial to making it big in business. For this reason, I suggest taking the time to understand SEO strategies, social media analytics, and your target consumer base through their online behaviors. Much of the world is going digital so be sure you know how to properly conduct your own business online.
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