Sometimes its all in the packaging. Just ask Boises Wayne Forrey.
He found a catchy way to dress the humble stick of lip balm that had for years frustrated him. It was more than a packaging design exercise. Forreys new lip balm product was a chance to re-invent himself professionally, launch a business that would provide local manufacturing jobs, and solve a messy problem brought on by the consequences of cancer.
Forrey, 59, a former urban planner and consultant to real estate developers, was director of development for Kastera Homes, a homebuilder that closed after its parent company, DBSI of Meridian, filed for bankruptcy and was later accused of defrauding investors. Forrey started handling assignments for bankruptcy courts.
I was at a point in my career I had a long, successful career where I did not see my career moving forward into the future, he says. The real estate market was on its heels here. I had offers to help real estate developers in Florida and an offer to help a developer in Hawaii. I saw myself traveling, chasing projects, and I did not want to do that. I wanted to stay based in Idaho.
And I had this idea to develop a manufacturing company. So thats when I said, All right, Im gonna do it.
He created Balmshot, packaged in an authentic but nonlethal 20-gauge shotgun shell loaded with lip balm, not buckshot, as the package claims. Users smear the balm on their lips in the usual way. The main selling points for this $3.99 product are the look and the applicator mechanism. Forrey says it will not ooze in your pocket.
Today, Forrey is pumping out lip balm from his home factory. He has commissioned a property manager to find an industrial space by the end of the year.
Q: Had you previously envisioned yourself as a manufacturer and product marketer?
A: No, it was simply economic necessity.
Q: Why lip balm?
A: In the mid-80s I had lip cancer. I never smoked, but Im very fair-skinned. I have red hair, and Ive never gotten a suntan. I dont tan, I burn. But I love being outdoors. I went to the doctor and found that I had a fast-growing lip cancer. He said, Man, we have got to remove that lip; this could spread. Within days I was in the hospital and had my lip surgically removed and a new lip rebuilt. In the reconstruction of my lip, I lost my moisture glands. I constantly needed lip balm.
I went through a tube a week, it seemed. I got completely tired and frustrated with standard lip-balm tubes, because the bottom has a knurled, twist-base a disc at the bottom, and it turns really easy. When you mow the lawn, you hunt, you fish, hike, walk, move your body the knob would twist, the balm would worm its way up into the cap, and it would create a gooey mess. I got absolutely tired of having a mess in my pants pocket. Everyone I talked to said, Yeah, thats happened to me, too. So I said, Ive got to invent a better lip-balm dispenser.
Q: What were the origins of your original Balmshot prototype?
A: My wife and I were in McCall on business, and we were having breakfast at the Pancake House. I pulled out and used my prototype, and a gentleman about 10 feet away at a different table saw it. He came up to me and said, What is that in your hand? I told him. He asked, Where did you get that? So I told him, Well, Ill make you one. Im a lip-balm user. And he said, Me too. I said I was tired of traditional lip balms making a mess in my pants. And he said, Yeah, I hate that when it happens. That was in about 2007.
Q: So the idea of creating a better dispenser came before the recession?
A: I knew other people had the issue, and I knew it would work. So I said to my wife, Im going to start a manufacturing company. My wife said, I will support you. And that was huge. Thats why I call her an under-pinner. She was the underpinning that said Yes, you can spend our savings, invest our savings. You can spend money, honey. You can chase that dream of yours.
Q: Where did the inspiration for the shotgun-shell form come from?
A: My garage. I needed a smooth base. The regular Chapstick has a knurled twist base; those little ridges in the plastic disc, thats what catches in your pants pocket and turns as you move. I wanted a metallic base for durability. And I wanted it more manly, more masculine.
Q: Are men your primary target audience?
A: It started out that way, but I found that bad girls really like Balmshot, so I would say that 60 percent of our market is women. They like that bad-girl concept of carrying something different. Do you know who my biggest customer is right now? Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Q: Tell us about the actual lip balm inside the shell.
A: I wanted a sunscreen in our lip balm. When I contacted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they said it would take me two years to get the permits to make the balm here in Boise. They said, Or you can go to an FDA-approved lab. I looked high and low there is no FDA-approved lab in Idaho for sunscreen in lip balm. So I searched nationwide and located a laboratory in Denver that makes it to our specifications.
Q: That lab also makes other products?
A: They do. They make breath mints, deodorants they make lip balm for Walgreens, Rite Aid, Blistex, CVS Pharmacy, Fred Meyer, Kroger and Balmshot.
Q: Whats in the recipe?
A: Beeswax, sunflower seed oil, castor seed oil, lanolin, coconut oil, corn oil and vitamin E acetate, which is a preservative. My wife, Karen, and I experimented with different recipes. My wife corresponded with a physicist and a chemist in Denver, and they came up with the recipe.
Q: Where does the sun protection come from?
A: Two sunscreens, octinoxate and oxybenzone. Those are the FDA-approved suncreens. Its SPF 15.
Q: Is your formula similar to other store brands?
A: Its pretty similar I would compare it to Burts Bees. Ours is a little more firm and more manly. Its not oily, so it lasts a long time.
Q: Have you ever gotten any negative feedback from police officers who see the Balmshot product and think an individual is carrying live ammunition?
A: Ive gotten some feedback from school resource officers. Kids at school will have it, and they get immediately concerned. And then they turn the base and the balm comes out. But now I get emails from kids who say, I was a little worried, but my SRO said he had seen it before, and its A-OK.
Q: You distribute across the U.S. and Canada?
A: Yes. Were preparing to get into Mexico next year.
Q: Can you share your production numbers?
A: Our production is 3,000 units per day. We are in production two days a week. Our sales are going up.
Q: How much of your success do you attribute to the shotgun-shell packaging?
A: It is unique. We have a patent-pending protection. I think that (the packaging) is probably 80 percent. The other is, once you try it, you really like the lip balm. But what gets people to initially buy our product is the better dispenser.
Lennon S. Reid: firstname.lastname@example.org