VRB Labs is a wellness company for the modern health-conscious consumer, offering a suite of CBD-based products and content focused on physical fitness, mental health, and personal growth. The company launched in Fall of 2020 and is rapidly growing in the wellness space. I had the chance to catch up with Chase Hobby, a recent Wharton MBA graduate (’20) and the co-founder of VRB Labs.
THE INSPIRATION – Pursuit of Optimal Living
Co-founders Chase Hobby & Evan Seale (’20) met at Wharton while pursuing their MBAs and quickly bonded over their passion for wellness & healthy living. With shared backgrounds as US military members, service academy graduates (Annapolis and West Point), and college athletes, the two became fast friends.
In their search for natural solutions to the health issues that affected them most – stress, sleep, and inflammation - they discovered cannabidiol (CBD) as a compound of particular interest. They began to sample different products infused with CBD and found that existing options varied wildly in quality and effectiveness. In fact, the top 10 brands in the CBD wellness space control less than 25% of the market – this fragmentation left both Chase & Evan feeling disconnected and wary of many of the products they tried, as many products were confusing
in usage instructions and opaque in the ingredients listed.
Consequently, the two immediately saw an opportunity to build meaningfully differentiated products for folks like them – CBD newcomers seeking natural, transparent, and effective health solutions. With the rapid decriminalization of cannabis (and related products) coupled with the high growth of the industry (the global cannabidiol market size is valued at USD 3.5 billion and expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21.2% from 2021 to 2028), both Chase & Evan felt like now was the right time to enter the market. Excited by this opportunity, the two set to work establishing VRB Labs.
“We believe that a fulfilling life is achieved by pursuing success across physical fitness, mental wellbeing, and personal growth. We’re building natural solutions to enable that journey from the moment you wake to the second you lay your head down to sleep.”
THE PLATFORM – Wellness for the Modern Consumer
VRB Labs currently has three products in market: the “Work” blend designed to improve productivity and manage stress, the “Rest” blend designed to improve sleep, and the “Recover” blend designed to provide rapid & targeted pain relief. All three products are ingestible and use a certified and science-backed ingredient blend that includes CBD extracts along with other proven compounds such as valerian root, rhodiola rosea, ginseng, and GABA. Products can be purchased either ad hoc or via a subscription service, which offers customers a 15% discount on any platform products.
In building out the product roadmap, VRB Labs works closely with a scientific R&D team in California to experiment with different ingredient blends based on health research and customer feedback. The company’s roadmap today is deep but narrowly focused on the categories plaguing the modern wellness consumer: stress, sleep, and pain, a simplistic departure from competing brands that have up to 20 overlapping SKUs in market today.
“At VRB, we’ve formulated each product to target specific issues that limit human potential – issues like managing stress, fighting inflammation, and trouble winding down from the day. We don’t use additives, chemical flavorings or anything else that could fuel a jet engine.”
Beyond their products, VRB Labs has an expanding content platform that offers advice on wellness and fitness practices. The company also has a CBD Guide to help break down the science behind CBD usage in fitness. As the platform grows, VRB Labs plans to start sourcing content from their user base (i.e. best practices, wellness tips, etc.) and build a digital community focused on optimal living.
Finally, VRB Labs is an active participant in the adaptive athlete community and has pledged to give 10% of company profits to Operation Rebound and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
THE FUTURE – Next Moves for VRB Labs
VRB Labs is focused on continuing to connect with wellness communities and grow its user base. The company currently has a growing D2C business (you can buy directly from their website here) with retention rates of over 50% and a pipeline of promising retail distributors, including a recently inked deal with Huckberry, a multi-million wellness eCommerce marketplace. The company plans to expand further into boutique fitness studios and other retail formats with concentrated wellness enthusiasts.
In terms of funding, VRB Labs is completely bootstrapped to-date, but has plans to raise a proper pre-seed round in 2021 to fuel growth and attack brand awareness within their target segment. The company was also recently selected to participate in the Penfed Foundation Masters Program – a veteran focused start-up accelerator and investment program.
The CBD market is primed for high sustained growth as more consumers shift their focus to wellness products and the stigmatization of CBD continues to rollback. While DTC can be a challenging path for any new business, new brands like VRB Labs have incredible opportunities to capture significant mindshare of wellness-oriented consumers.
We look forward to watching VRB Labs progress in their mission to make total wellness more accessible for all! You can visit the website and join their newsletter ("The Drop") here.