I recently interviewed Heather Vanderbergh, CEO of Flexpower, one of my go-to products to keep my body feeling good before and after a workout. I love everything this company stands for and wanted to give our community a little insight into this killer product.
What is Flexpower?
Flexpower is a health and wellness company dedicated to helping everyone feel good every day. Our products are all naturally sourced with botanical ingredients designed to help you feel your best, including our well-known scent-free pain relief lotions in Warm and Soothe and our relaxing, moisturizing, and healing bath salts.
How do you use it?
Flexpower Warm gets very warm - for athletes, it is a superior pre-workout lotion to warm up. For everyone, it relieves soreness and is a pain reliever after injury. Flexpower Soothe has a tingly, cool sensation and works for all-day relief from aches and pains and targeted pain relief. Both go on scent-free, so they can easily be worn all day.
How does it aid in recovery?
Our core ingredients are blended together to penetrate deeper than most other topical pain relief products, and use proven, natural healers to achieve long lasting pain relief, including Arnica, echinacea, rosemary, turmeric - all in a unique blend.
Flexpower Warm uniquely re-warms throughout your workout to provide relief when the injured area needs it most.
How did you and Rasheen meet?
Rasheen and I met through my boyfriend, who first gave me Flexpower to try when I had a debilitating back injury. Nothing worked on my pain - I tried OTC products, my doctor sold me a $180 CBD lotion that did nothing, I was taking Percocet just to get through the day.
My boyfriend had some Flexpower laying around that Rasheen had given him for his own back pain, and when he put it on my back it was like a miracle. I could move my shoulder and back again and finally get out of bed and live my life without pain. After I tried the product I insisted on meeting Rasheen to tell him how great I thought it was.
The product was originally developed for Pro Athletes- how did that bring you to at-home use?
Flexpower was first designed for pro athletes, to help them prepare for a workout and recover afterwards. The product was created to be non-toxic and scent-free, two things that did not exist when it debuted in 2000. In 2019 we upgraded the product to use all botanical ingredients, in sustainable and locally made packaging, and started selling direct to consumers and in select retail and hospitality locations.I certainly do not miss the smell of more mainstream recovery balms!
Can you tell me a little more about what Flexpower does with regards to sustainability?
All of our ingredients originate from botanicals, and are sourced from ethically-run factories here in the US, with all Flexpower products being produced in California. Our packaging is sustainably produced also here in the US, everything from our recyclable tubes to our FSC-grade cartons.
As a company, what do you do to foster community?
We have a small, very close knit team and everyone here is dedicated to helping others - whether that means working for a company whose goal is to help everyone feel good, to supporting our main charity partner Eat. Learn. Play (hyperlink) which helps underprivileged kids reach their full potential. We do a lot together as a team, from our weekly lunches in our office "backyard", to volunteering together, to our Flexpower Thursday classes at our neighbors Pilates Smith downstairs from our office.
You mention Eat. Learn. Play. The company is also focused on giving back- why is that important and can you tell me a little more about that?
Our founder Rasheen Smith grew up in South Central LA, and benefitted from the people and organizations in his community who helped him find his way to UC Berkeley and become an inventor and business founder. For myself, giving back is core to my own beliefs as a responsible executive, and as a mother of two I am especially touched by issues that affect children. So when Rasheen and I talked about how and where to give back we knew that it had to mean something to us both. We selected Eat. Learn. Play. because they are dedicated to the very things that helped Rasheen find his own success : bringing meals, supplies and after school activities to youth in the Oakland area, which is also where our main factory is located. We are proud to support the work being done by Steph and Ayesha Curry to support that community.
You have a lot of surf themes on your site- what are your ties to surfers?
I grew up by the beach in Southern California and have always loved watching surfers - to me they embody the freedom and vitality of the California lifestyle. And because our products are water-resistant and reef-safe, we thought the image of surfers and the surf lifestyle would communicate both our brand ethos and product story.
And the Duke basketball team? (I am a hard core Blue Devil)
Duke has been a long term supporter of Flexpower and their basketball team has used the product for years -- even back to the original Flexpower before we made it all-botanical. We like to think it gives them an edge on the competition :)
Who are a few of your favorite athletes?
Personally, my hero is Serena Williams. I got to know her years ago when I worked at Louis Vuitton and have been amazed and impressed at the champion she has become both on and off the court. As a working mom myself, I melt when she talks about her daughter and balancing her commitment to her family and to the sport. She is smart, fierce, stylish, strong, generous -- a true leader for the next generation.
I am just now starting to learn about basketball and am a huge Warriors fan -- Draymond Green's passion and Klay Thompson's dedication are nothing if not totally inspiring.
Talk to me about being a female CEO and a start-up CEO? Wins? Lessons learned?
Being a female CEO doesn't feel any different than just being a CEO, because I get to set the tone of our business culture and our community, of our brand and how we engage with the outside world. I found the "female" distinction much more challenging when I was a CMO and had to constantly fight to be heard and appreciated in nearly all-male executive teams.
My biggest win so far has been learning to do every single job that makes this business run. This will make me a better manager and leader going forward.
My biggest lesson is that mistakes are ok, just so they aren't dumb mistakes. I have made some major mistakes along the way in the areas I was still learning about when we started (like production, and web development) but they were honest mistakes and happily not very expensive ones.
Any funny stories about other ways you can put Flexpower to work?
I was on a trip with some friends this summer and you would've thought I scripted it, because everyone had something go wrong every single day and needed Flexpower Soothe. Day one, one of the women burned her neck with a curling iron (turns out Soothe makes burn pain go away, and removes the burn in a day) ; the next day one of the guys was stung by a jellyfish (yes, Soothe solves that pain too, and made the sting disappear in 3 days instead of the usual 2 weeks). Someone tore their calf muscle, someone threw out his back on a jet ski, and we all had mosquito bites nightly (amazing, Soothe stops the itch and burn of mosquito bites and also makes them go away by the next day). I came back from vacation and told my team, we need to do a series on Surprising Uses of Soothe!
Salt or Snow?
SALT, always salt. I’m a beach girl from Southern California! We even anchored our HQ a block from the beach in Santa Monica.
What is your favorite life adventure so far?
The most challenging and rewarding adventure I have engaged in was traveling alone with a one and a three year old cross country for a 3 week vacation.
What is on your bucket list (one or many)?
I want to go to Australia, learn to drive a race car, and stand up on a surfboard someday.