Ron Sosenko, a co-founder of a botanical blend originally called Koppla, first launched his product in the early 1990s. This was before the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, and dietary supplements, let alone functional beverages, were a thing of mystery to most mass US consumers and big food and beverage corporations alike.
“We went on a long course of talking to beverage companies and realized they weren’t ready for us,” Sosenko told us.
Sosenko, his Swedish brother in-law, and a master herbalist named Eigil Jenssen, also from Sweden, had formulated a botanical blend of lemon balm, oat plant flower, linden flower, and more, to create a product that can calm the user.
The resulting blend was pleasant to the palate, so the team wanted to market it as a beverage instead of a capsule. Decked out with Papyrus font and a picture of a sunset, this first iteration featured dated albeit common typologies for natural channel products at the time.
It was distributed in health stores in the Northeast, its biggest account being two regions of Whole Foods Market (the Northeast and North California). All of this was accomplished using what Sosenko called guerrilla marketing—no big budgets, no PR firm, VC-funded capital, no sales force.
Relaunching as Kalm & On
Having bootstrapped operations for the nearly two decades Koppla was on sale, Sosenko said he made some poor management decisions and followed some advice that, in retrospect, was the wrong advice, though he wouldn’t specify further.
This resulted in a production hiatus three years ago when he ran out of product. “But I kept getting a teady stream of calls from customers, and it was always the two same things: ‘When are you going to come back to market,’ and then they’ll tell me unsolicited testimonials of how the product helped them,” he said.
Now with the same formula but new name (Kalm & On), packaging, website, distribution strategy, and management, Sosenko, who still sits on board as brand founder, is ready to bring his product to the 21st century after a three-year production hiatus. It now also comes in a tea bag format in addition to the 2.5 fl oz liquid one.
He kept track of all the people that have been calling him during the hiatus to make sure that they’re the first ones to receive product when it finally comes back.
To raise capital and generate publicity, the company started a Kickstarter campaign today, aiming to raise $50,000.
“When you’re off the market for an extended period, you’re worried that you’re forgotten, but I’m greatly energized that so many people are telling me ‘you’re not forgotten, and we’re excited that you’re coming back.’”