When Brian Underwood saw how his high school basketball coach utilized his platform to create a second stream of income as a distributor for a direct selling company that was many times his coaching salary, that was it; he was hooked.
Headquarters: Melissa, Texas
Top Executive: Brian Underwood, Founder and CEO
Products: Health and Wellness
At the age of 20 he became a distributor himself and has been part of the channel ever since. “There are a lot of similarities to athletics and business, and knowing that my coach could be successful in this industry I knew I could, too,” Underwood says.
Fast-forward 25 years, and Underwood, the founder and CEO of Prüvit, has now had the opportunity to play every role in the channel. And like every entrepreneur, he has had his share of ups, downs and defining moments that helped him realize the direct selling channel can represent a lot more than creating product transactions and financial success.
Prior to founding Prüvit in 2015, Underwood says he spent the previous 10 years on a quest to create an inspiring brand where people wouldn’t have a negative association based on past experience. And the only way to do that, he says, was to innovate.
Biohacking and Ketones
When Underwood looked at the supplement industry, he saw a lot of the same products vying for the same customers. For him to get behind and endorse a consumable product, it had to be different. For his own health, Underwood started looking into some new innovations like biohacking, the process of hacking into your own biochemistry to help it become more efficient and optimized.
With each search he conducted on biohacking, Underwood noticed the word ketones coming up. He started seeking out podcasts and blogs to learn more about ketones, not from a ketogenic diet or ketosis weight-loss perspective, but regarding their overall effect on the body. What he found got him excited.
If you can educate people and make them aware of technology that can have a positive effect on their health, you don’t have to sell them anything.
—Brian Underwood, Founder and CEO, PRÜVIT
Scientists and health care experts have previously recognized nutrients derived from carbohydrates, proteins and fats as the body’s source of energy. They also have discovered the body can produce its own super-efficient energy source—and that powerful source is called ketones. When carbs are not available, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketones, which can be used as energy. This is the process of ketosis. “Pioneering researchers are now taking this knowledge to the next level, exploring ways to increase ketone levels to turn the body into a high-energy, fat-burning machine,” Underwood says. And that’s the conversation he wanted to explore.
“Prüvit was formed out of the ideology of creating something that can transcend the norm,” Underwood says, explaining why the company jumped at the chance to introduce the relatively unknown ketone technology to the marketplace. “We wanted to take a completely different path. Our focus was to create a transcending brand.”
The goal says Underwood wasn’t about selling diet or health products or to change the health industry. It has always been to create lasting change that would make the world a better place. “The whole vision and mission of the company is to challenge the status quo and to inspire people to be the best version of themselves,” Underwood says. “One of the ways we do it is we set our goals and then we go forward accomplishing them with inspired action.”
Prüvit references the term community-based marketing, which inspires the company’s distributors, called Prüvers, to achieve great things. The first priority within the framework of community-based marketing is about bringing value, and that value starts with education. Rather than promoting products, Prüvers focus on educating others about how the body works, and how to optimize both the metabolism and mental function through the process of ketosis. This opens the door to deeper conversations about the results they have achieved with Prüvit products, like KETO//OS® drink mix, which the company says delivers ketones directly into the bloodstream to trigger ketosis in less than 60 minutes.
Over the past two years, Prüvit has seen incredible growth, posting 400 percent year-over-year growth since inception. It also has expanded into asia, Canada and Australia.
“If you can educate people and make them aware of technology that can have a positive effect on their health, you don’t have to sell them anything,” Underwood says of the company’s approach to reaching a wider consumer audience. “Education has become our core philosophy.”
Staying Nimble in the Cloud
Prüvit is a cloud-based company with its marketing team located in Louisville, Kentucky, and its manufacturing and core operational support in Melissa, Texas. From the beginning, Underwood didn’t see the need for a 300,000-square-foot campus, opting to redirect those profits back into research and development and philanthropic endeavors. He says he feels this decision has served his team well over the two years they have been in business, because it has helped them stay nimble in an unpredictable marketplace. “The more nimble we can be, the better we can anticipate and adapt to the changing patterns in the marketplace and stay in the blue oceans of opportunity.”
Over the past two years, Prüvit has seen incredible growth, posting 400 percent year-over-year growth since inception. It also has expanded into Asia, Canada and Australia, and the company has plans to enter other markets when executives feel the infrastructure is there to support it.
“Prüvit was formed out of the ideology of creating something that can transcend the norm. We wanted to take a completely different path. Our focus was to create a transcending brand.”
When asked what has been responsible for Prüvit’s impressive start, Underwood says it hasn’t been any one thing, but the company’s focus on education has been an integral part of its growth strategy. “The seed of all innovation is education. We lead with education and provide support through relationships and through community,” he says. “Secondly, we are a customer-centric company, and we average 10 customers per Prüver.”
Underwood’s belief has always been that if you bring enough value to enough people you’re going to get rewarded directly or indirectly. “When you focus on value first, and in our case that value has come in the form of education, it creates an ecosystem of support that pays dividends,” he says.
Events and Learning for Everyone
Those at Prüvit understand every person has a different modality when it comes to learning. For this reason, the company has what executives call a layered learning program, which allows Prüvers different environments and events from which to choose, depending on their knowledge and comfort level.
For the company’s KETOKADEMY® event, they bring in thought leaders and researchers from leading universities—individuals who don’t endorse any of their products—who come to the event solely to add to the ketone conversation. “To me, that’s the most valuable type of education, because it’s a non-biased approach to helping people understand this conversation is much bigger than just selling our products,” Underwood says. “With this comes a great responsibility as an organization, of being respectful stewards to the tens of millions of dollars of research and time that has gone into ketone science.”
Prüvit has other events focused on personal growth and development. “If you can become more, you can do more and can contribute more,” Underwood says. These events focus not only on tactical skill sets of learning, but also mindset—really diving into what Prüvit calls the three-pillar foundation that constantly must be reinforced: the company, the industry (the channel), and yourself. “If you’re not constantly reinforcing and building those pillars up, they will fall,” he says.
For those who qualify, the company also provides experiential trips that are all about creating magical life moments, such as Prüvit’s peer group trip called Fly Experience. Recently, the company took a group to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where Prüvers played camel polo, sky dived and even tried their hand at sandboarding down sand dunes. The company also flew in Michael Schwartz, one of the top financial minds in the world to talk with attendees. “This kind of event gave our people an opportunity not only to enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but to also stretch their financial brain as well. We really focus on a lot of different environments for our field to experience.”
Acts of Kindness, Funding Research
The company has a program called Prüvit Forward where they are constantly looking for stories of inspiration or acts of kindness, whether it is helping contribute to families in need within the Prüvit family and outside, or funding research with major universities like Ohio State University and the University of South Florida, as well as other major institutions such as the Charlie Foundation for Ketogenic Therapies.
From a growth perspective, Underwood says Prüvit will stay focused on keeping the main thing the main thing. “We want to keep focused on developing our community and optimizing our technology,” he says. “We don’t want to stop or be satisfied with where our technology is at the moment. We want to push the boundaries of its effectiveness first and foremost, even before sales.”
Looking for More Blue Oceans
Prüvit executives are not worried about finding the next big “aha” product. It’s about building its technology and science, which will allow the company to stay in the “blue ocean of opportunity” (a term based on the book Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne). “The blue ocean is all about going where people haven’t gone yet, continuing to inspire people to become the best versions of themselves.”
Underwood cautions that the direct selling channel should stay clear of “red ocean” thinking, where everyone is bloodying up the waters by thinking they are in competition with one another. “We don’t have to compete with each other. Instead, let’s all innovate in ways that are important to all of us and let’s do it with inspired action and make it happen.”
What’s in a Name: Prüvit
A lot of people talk a good game, but very few actually prove it. Brian Underwood, founder and CEO of Prüvit, says the name for the company came naturally by challenging others to back up their words. “You say you want to be a good dad. Well, prove it,” says Underwood. “You want to run a marathon? Great, prove it. You say you want to lose 20 pounds? Great, prove it.”
Given his competitive athletic background, the name resonated with him and stuck. “Everyone has an ‘it,’ ” he says. “The “it” could represent your goal, dream or desire. If you break down the word prove, it means “to give demonstration by action.”