Marc Washington: Founder & CEO of Supergut

Episode 421

Marc Washington, is the Founder and CEO of Supergut. He believes that every person deserves to have great energy, a clear mind, good sleep, and a metabolism that doesn't fall off a cliff but most don’t know how to achieve all of this. That is where Supergut comes in and I can’t wait for you to hear more about this company, the products and the journey! You will love hearing this very inspirational interview that is sure to have you impressed and thinking about your own gut health! On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. It’s Kara Goldin. And welcome back to the Kara Goldin show today, we’re joined by Marc Washington, who is the founder and CEO of Supergut. And if you have not heard of Supergut, you have to pay attention, especially pay attention not only to the fact that Superman is a great product, but also the founder, Marc Washington is just this incredible, incredible founder and also an executive who has scaled many other companies. So lots of lessons I’m sure that we’re going to chat about. But every person deserves to have great energy, a clear mind, good sleep and a metabolism that doesn’t fall off a cliff. But most don’t know how to achieve all of this. So if that is you definitely listen up to this episode. That is where Supergut comes in. And like I said, Marc is going to share all of his wisdom with us and take us on his journey and tell us a lot more about Super guests. So welcome, Marc.

Marc Washington 1:43
Thanks so much. Thanks for having me, Kara. Appreciate that.

Kara Goldin 1:46
Absolutely. So let’s jump right in. How would you describe Supergut?

Marc Washington 1:51
Yeah, so we are all about gut health, nutrition. But doing it in a way that’s truly functional, I just had this real passion about functional foods, like in food is medicine and taking natural ways to live healthier, but I felt like there was a better way to do it, like with products that are really steeped in science that are truly functional. And for us, the focus is on you know, improving health of the gut. So that’s one side. But at the same time, I’d love to, and I think for for it to be a habit, it has to be enjoyable, right? It has to be accessible and convenient. And, and dare I say craveable. Right. So that’s what we are super good. We’re trying to combine the best of both those, like truly functional food that truly works, improves your gut, which we could talk about just how important that is for health, and all the benefits that come with it. But at the same time, we put it into really tasty foods and the shakes into ours, like food that you actually would would love to have, even if they weren’t so functional. That’s kind of the bar that we set. So that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s super good is that the best of both worlds? I’m such

Kara Goldin 2:55
a big believer and everything that you’re talking about my father in law. He’s retired now, but he’s a gastroenterologist. And so he’s always ever since I met my husband many years ago, he was always talking to me about gut health and how important you

Marc Washington 3:14
were at the forefront. You are at the Trinity now. But this sounds like you’re pretty familiar before it became a became more popular amongst the broader consumer set.

Kara Goldin 3:23
Totally. And I, then that’s why I loved your story, too, and why you decided to do what you’re doing. I’ve heard you talk about probiotics and prebiotics. But I’d love for you to kind of share a little bit more about that.

Marc Washington 3:40
Yeah, absolutely. We’re usually start is just sitting at the ground floor, just the fact that gut health right, the digestive system inside your body is literally like your foundation for health. That is you know, the science has shown that it is so impactful, not just on digestion, right the way that you process food and reduce waste, it is that but it is so much more like having a healthy gut is so key to overall total body health. So metabolism, like the way you hold weight to manage weight and cravings, your blood sugar control, heart health, frankly, we found that mental health is incredibly directly connected to the health of your gut, right? So that’s sort of step number one, it’s like your gut is super important for health. And now what do you do about that? And the first thing that people’s mind go to when you talk about gut health is probiotics, right? And that’s the traditional approach. The idea of a probiotic is to try to add more live bacteria into your gut, right? Your gut already has literally trillions of live microbes in it that are responsible for keeping you healthy or frankly holding you down and feeding the wrong ones. So the idea of a probiotic is trying to add more to the system. The problem is, you know, I just speak, speak the truth is, I know no other way. Most of the time. probiotics that you’re gonna find in, you know, over the counter supplements or what have you are really proven to do a whole lot for your health, right? There are definitely some good sites about specific strains and specific formats, most of them that you’re going to find that are silly, how are many CF use, etc. They’re not really doing a whole lot for you, where people need to spend a lot more time and attention is on the prebiotic side, right. So what is a prebiotic think of a prebiotic as the food for the good books in your gut, right? So by definition, when you consume foods, or if prebiotics and mostly founded foods, right, and mostly high fiber foods, so when you consume high fiber foods that have that are higher prebiotics, those prebiotics bypass digestion, and they actually make it into your gut, into your large intestine. And that’s where they feed the beneficial bugs in your gut that are responsible for keeping you healthy, right. So they improve your digestion, they improve your weight control and improve kind of your insulin response and blood sugar control. So that’s where we focus at Super gut is more on the prebiotic side. So how do you nourish? Not just you know, yourself as a whole? Literally, how do you nourish those bugs in your gut that are responsible for keeping you healthy? And that’s what we focus on it at Super gut.

Kara Goldin 6:12
That’s so so so interesting. So how did this all come about for you personally, you had spent years in, you know, working at incredible companies, or when naturals Beachbody the wonderful company, and then you decide to hang a shingle and start your own

Marc Washington 6:32
and make this crazy leap and entrepreneurship.

Kara Goldin 6:36
I love it. I love it. But how did it come about? Was there a story that you have about it?

Marc Washington 6:45
There was there was, as I’m sure kind of you’ve experienced and come across, there was definitely a story. And for me, it was very personal. Like I think, first of all, I love this space, right? It’s what I live for, is helping other people to live healthier lives. And I love finding natural ways to do it through food, beverages, supplements, fitness, etc, right? I mean, it’s just what I know and love. And so I’ve been at a space throughout my career, I did feel like there was another way, right? Because despite all the advancements in food, technology, and supplements, and even medicine, were sicker than ever, right. So something is wrong. And, and for me, it came to a head and why I decided to do this, as an entrepreneur and starting a company was actually a personal story. It’s my sister, Monica, who struggled with their health, like so many others, right? I mean, so she showed her weight, with blood sugar, she lifted diabetes, heart health issues as well. She tragically passed away far too young, during a high risk pregnancy kind of caught up in her health issues. And that shook me to my core, as you can imagine that that something like that could happen in this day and age. But also the fact that there are so many others who struggled with their health and have have had difficulty finding ways to really regain control of their health. And that’s what inspired me to start this when I was thinking of there’s got to be a better way. If not me, then who if not now, then when and when I started having this concept about, you know, taking functional food to another level, it was actually my wife that helped connect the dots. She’s like, you know, that this is Monica, speaking to you, right, as a way to help other people and empower other people have better control of their health. And that’s like, you know, you’re absolutely right. So that’s why I decided to take this crazy leap into entrepreneurship at this call at this later stage in my career, and to try to do it fundamentally differently. Like I said, more science based approach, doing it through the gut, but with functional foods that people actually love to eat things that I believe Monica would have loved. And, you know, and frankly, could have potentially changed her trajectory. So that’s the spirit and the ethos behind Supergut and why I decided to start this company a couple of years ago.

Kara Goldin 8:57
I love that story. For sure. So why is Supergut so unique? I mean, you touched on this a bit there’s definitely people are they know what a probiotic is? Or they think they know what a probiotic. Right How How is super got really comparing it to the others are not comparable at all, combining Korean probiotic. But how do you differentiate for the consumer and get that message out? There too?

Marc Washington 9:25
Yeah. So it’s, so it’s a couple of things. First is just the fundamental, call it the technology behind what it is that we’re doing. So we touched on, you know, there’s the probiotic side that we know that the bigger issue, what more people need to be focused on is the prebiotic side. So what are you feeding and nourishing your gut. And so we create our own unique blend of prebiotic fibers and actually feature a unique type called resistant starch, which is found at small amounts in starchy plant foods, but we literally don’t get it in our diets. So we created a concentrated blend of prebiotics, including resistance stores, and then we put it into delicious foods, right? And so we’re like, how did we kind of get this into a daily habit. So we put our blended shakes, we put it into tasty bars, and then we even saw our blood as a powdered. So you can just add to anything to turn it into a gut health superfood, right. So that’s the first day is just a fundamental technology is getting this really high dosage really effective forms of prebiotics into your diet on a regular basis, I’d say another level of which we’re doing it differently is, you know, we really are investing in science. And so we’re not just doing a little bit of research and being and doing just to make a claim, we’re actually taking it to another level actually find a pet more akin DC, a biotech tech companies that are really going through the rigorous clinical evidence. And so not only do we use a lot of clinical evidence at formulating the product, we actually come out and validated in a gold standard clinical study, which literally don’t see done in food and beverages. And so we’ve done a randomized, double blind placebo controlled study to show just how effective and functional the supercut can be, again, not just on digestion, but on these other markers of health, so on healthier weight management, which you could sustain over time on a significant improvement in blood sugar control, which is really, really important for your health as well. And then another other factors as well, like I mean, we talked about gut health, how it’s tied to mental health is sleep and energy and mood, we saw positive movement and all of these directions in our clinical studies. So that’s another area that we’re, you know, just fundamentally trying to do it differently relative to so many other products out there. It’s functional, but we actually want to bring some political evidence data to prove just how effective that these products could be on your on your Hill.

Kara Goldin 11:45
So one of the things that I know, all founders stress about in the beginning, is product market fit or they should they should understand exactly what that is so key to any brand, but especially a new startup. Why do you think it’s so critical to ultimately the success? Like if you don’t get that right in the beginning, right, sort of how do you message that? I mean, what have you seen, I guess in in launching Supergut, but you’ve worked in on some other incredible brands to like, what any advice, any thoughts on that?

Marc Washington 12:23
Yeah, like for us, it really started. And we’ve gone through some evolutions of our brand and our messaging and approach as well. But it really comes down to this fundamental question like, What is the problem that you are solving right out in the world? Like, What is your reason for existing? And is that problem that really matters to people? Like it was start ago, I had this going around this concept, I thought there were, you know, I want to have a big broad impact on public health, right? How do we make products? And how do we make this relevant for people, like I just had this fundamental belief, and I imagined some of this shared with you, I felt like, you know, we’re getting way too much sugar in our diets. We know all the issues that that is that is causing. And we’re not getting nearly enough fiber, which has the prebiotics, right? So there’s this broad concept, how do we put that into a product that’s going to hit on both those function? And and how do we do it in an accessible way. And that’s where, for us the product market fit has really come into come into effect is how do we, we knew we had products that works. I mean, we studied ourselves before we ever did a clinical trial. But just having an effective product is what I would say is a necessary but not sufficient condition, right, you actually have to make sure you’re solving a problem, and that you’re able to communicate it in a way that can break through. And I think we’ve made some progress, we still have a ways to go fully get there right to raise the overall collective awareness. A big part of it for us is how can we make it more common knowledge to people, just how big of a deal that these things are just how important gut health is, right on your total health, right. So a lot of our focus is on communications content. And so we don’t just put out ads like we actually are quite active in social media, we’re accurate podcasts, we’re active, and getting the word out there to hopefully raise that collective awareness around this broad topic of gut health, alright, and prebiotics and their role in this process, so that we actually can help people understand kind of how this can fit into their overall regiment, their routine, and then we bring the product not only does it work when they actually enjoy it, that’s where the light happens, right? That’s where product market fit shines, where they like, see and feel better. And they actually like that they love the product as well. Like when we can get people to actually try the product experiences, you know, see some health results that actually enjoy the product. That’s where things come together. So we’re like, how do we do that again, how do we do that next, you know, how do we get the word out there so we can have more people trying this product? We know this they try it. We know that will get them a great result in the passenger that really really enjoyed us.

Kara Goldin 14:55
Yeah, and I think trial in those early days is so key because they’re great. You can get consumers. I mean, I always laugh because when we were launching hint, I, I had come from a big tech experience where we had money to actually go and do focus groups. And I was like, I don’t want the focus groups, let me just product and see what they say. And what we realized is that the feedback actually, if we would give people a little cup, like a sample cup that people would get in a store. We couldn’t control what they had right before. So if they had a bunch of sugar, and then they were trying hint, they wouldn’t be able to taste it. Yeah, yeah. So they say, oh, there’s nothing, nothing there. That’s a different experience, entire bottles filled, which was kind of against what stores wanted us to do, because they felt like they were losing the sale. So we, we had to actually do trial, outside of stores. And because if we could give people a bottle, whether it was in a parking lot, some stores didn’t mind that others were like, No, you can’t do that, because that’s away from us being able to sell but otherwise we’d, you know, get into fun runs, or some sort of events where we would get people trying the product that they would be able to experience it. And people were like, oh, no, I never get a whole bottle of product. And that was the way for us to really recognize what people really thought of the product. And it was like, almost overnight, we could see people really being able to taste what we were trying to do. So I totally miss Yeah,

Marc Washington 16:41
that’s such a great story. Yeah,

Kara Goldin 16:43
yeah. And it’s, it’s really true, because it’s like, I think so many people start to sample things, just because that’s the way sampling is done, like in

Marc Washington 16:52
little tiny, kind of not really representing the actual experience. You’re just getting a taste, but not the full experience. I actually I really liked there’s some insights in there that I’m taking notes on.

Kara Goldin 17:06
Yeah, and you know, as I always said to it’s it’s kind of a new just spoke to this, it’s it’s imagining your the consumer and getting them thinking like the consumer and hearing them say, why do I care? Why do I care about this product? Well, here’s why. It’s so

Marc Washington 17:25
funny. Yeah, right, when we started, right, so a quick story. So I a PhD food scientist was my first hire. Right, he had worked for me at Beachbody. And, you know, he was so excited about this deeper commitment to science and evidence and a truly functional product. And so we had a working prototype was in really a month or so, because we had done the research we do and we test it ourselves. We knew it would work. And so he was like, so we’re done, right? Like we’re ready to launch. And I was like, no, no, no, not even close. Like, we have to make this delicious. So that when people do try it, that it’s shots like it is, you know, it’s like a categorical upgrade, right, we have to set ourselves the bar is this high in the functional side, the bar is just as high on the tastes and on the sensory side. And so we literally spent the next year iterating tweaking refining, consumer panels, tastes, etc, to get you know, a product that, you know, we thought was delicious, that, you know, externally, objectively, consumers thought was delicious as well, again, that the functional side was necessary, but not sufficient for us to actually launch our product out there.

Kara Goldin 18:31
Yeah, and it has to be I mean, that’s like the, that’s the that is the entry point.

Marc Washington 18:38
Just like table stakes, right? Yeah. It’s just,

Kara Goldin 18:41
yeah, I always joke if anybody’s from Red Bull listening to this, I always say Gone are the days that you can launch a product that tasted like Red Bull, because nobody ever like, you know, it’s an incredible product and super successful. But nobody ever thought that Red Bull tasted great. They didn’t. Right and right people who drink it today, I always ask them, Do you like the taste? No, not really. But it gives me wings are optional. Right? Yeah, no one has done that since where it’s been a super successful product. That doesn’t taste Excellent. You must and so

Marc Washington 19:18
that’s it. Yeah, it’s table stakes right now. I completely agree.

Kara Goldin 19:22
Yeah. 100%. And Supergut is amazing. I mean, it tastes great. And you’ve done an excellent job at it. So how are you educating people you touched on social media? What what seems to be really be working for people to get your message out there, you know, trial, obviously. But what how do you like that message is getting out there?

Marc Washington 19:43
Yeah, that’s what we’ve done. And I’d say where we continue to invest in its content, right, and all its forms. So long form is really good, right? Because there’s a lot to what it is that we’re doing and not everyone is automatically keen or aware of God help and let alone for prebiotics, right? And so when we can have forums where we can raise that collective awareness that is beneficial for the consumer, right for the industry, and we think for us as well, right? So long form content, like podcast is one of the ears for getting the word out there. But we’re very active on social as well. Right. So we take a bit of a unique approach, because we want our social to do a couple of different things. It’s not just a branding channel, right to make our brand look beautiful and aware. It’s not just a sales channel, right? It’s also an education channel, it’s also you know, an entertaining channel as well. So we’re like asking, you know, our social media or content do a lot of heavy lifting for us. So we’re pretty active. In putting content out there, some of which, you know, is more on the educational side, some of it is more on the entertainment side, but all of it is meant to raise this whole collective awareness around what it is that we’re doing, and how Supergrip might fit into someone’s health and lifestyle. So that’s the primary things that we’ve been doing. We are we have, you know, experimented with more those with influence, you know, as well as content creators as well, so that it’s not just us as a brand, that speaking about our own products, and how great they are. But we found that, you know, social proof really does help. And when others see that, you know, people that they know or trust, or that they’re actually buying, entertaining, or engaging, or using the product and having great results that also we’ve seen can spark activation. And in consideration for our products, we had done some testing, we’re going to be leaning into even more, right as we get more and more content out there is how can we lean into those who are you know, creators, or influencers, using the product, having great experiences to be out and putting out content on on our behalf as well?

Kara Goldin 21:42
That’s awesome. Very cool. So being an entrepreneur is brutal, you’ve actually large or huge. How much different is this growing brand from the start? I always I talk about this a lot on the podcast, but I love the video of Steve Jobs. He’s sort of goes off on this tangent about how no one ever told them that he had to like make sure that the coffeemaker was working yet he had the right brought beans and everything and get the right and health insurance on Oh, you don’t have dental insurance, you know, all these things. And you’re like, Wait, I thought I was starting a company that was focused on gut health. Right.

Marc Washington 22:31
Right. Right, exactly. And then what do you know, I’m up, you know, drilling holes in the drywall at night and painting paintings and picking out, you know, cabinetry, etc. So no, it’s so fascinating because I had a unique perspective, right, I worked for larger companies. But one thing about all the companies I’ve recruited, they’re all privately held, and all essentially entrepreneurially let, but just at a different scale, right. But I had got an insider seat, I was essentially the right hand to the entrepreneurs, I felt like, you know, I kind of got this, I see how this is, but I’ve seen it after a certain scale, right? It is totally different, entirely different ballgame. Starting a business from scratch as the entrepreneur, the one in the driver’s seat, and there’s amazing aspects of that as well. Like, I’ve never been more fulfilled in my life. But there’s also stuff that I did not anticipate. It’s like the mundane stuff. And, and frankly, there’s, there’s the tactical stuff, the mundane, the tours in a coffee machine in the driveway. But then there’s like some of the emotional like aspects of it as well being entrepreneur. And the one thing that I wasn’t fully prepared for is just how Percy, you take it right and just how much each thing that happens with your business was truly is your baby, right? In many ways of how that affects you on a personal and emotional level. Like I tell people, if they’re thinking of getting into this day, just be prepared, make sure that you have a pretty steely resolve, because you will never do anything else in your life that is going to pump you up and knock you down multiple times. And that’s just in the course of one day that you got to get up the next day and go through it again, like the emotional highs and lows of entrepreneurship is unlike anything that I have experienced before. So you definitely have to have a pretty steely resolve and resilience kind of built into your character. Yes, entrepreneurship is something that you you want to get out.

Kara Goldin 24:28
And that is so true. I had a phone call this weekend from friends who started the company and and she was saying that, you know, she had a first person on her team that quit. And you know, it’s and I was like I remember that day, right I mean years ago and you know, you’re you’re trying to pretend that you’ve got it all like but there’s a lot of figured out right you’re flying the plane right So it’s it’s, uh, you know, as I, as a friend once gave me the advice, it’s like the best you can do is, you know, appreciate what they were able to add during that time that they were there. But but you know, people are going to come and go, yeah, it’s probably come back, right? We’ve had that happen, as well. But when it’s your own company and your own baby,

Marc Washington 25:27
it’s different, right? It just absolutely, it’s different. And the closest comparison is like to think of, you know, being your baby, right is having kids it takes on this life of its own, and it just yet it’s different. It’s more personal. Again, both the highs feel even better, and lows feel worse.

Kara Goldin 25:47
It’s so so true. So best advice you’ve ever gotten, you’ve obviously been an incredible leader and growing companies. And I think that is really helpful and going in starting a company, you’re humble. I can tell you’re, you’re passionate about this idea. All of that is absolutely critical. But if you had to wrap it up and and say, what was the best advice that on those challenging days, you are, you think back on it, like I can get back up again, right? And this is why I say,

Marc Washington 26:24
yeah, yeah, no, I’m one of those for me is actually pretty early on, even before I was was an entrepreneur, it was just around impact, and having this impact orientation, but at the way to break through, and to have impact happen. I had this mentality, I was always, you know, an overachiever, I tried to do the best. And you know, she’s getting in and getting things done. Those early on in my career, as I was making transition started to lead teams, that a great early manager, educate me, it’s like, listen, you’re doing fantastic work across the board. But I’m gonna give you some feedback in this area that you need to be thinking about, and it was really about to really get impact, especially at scale, it becomes more of a measure as to how you can get things done, or others that what you individually as a, as an individual, bring to the table and get done yourself. When you just think about it. It was like so natural, so inherent, I was like, I love team. I’ve always been at that mindset, I played sports all my life. But that’s so true, right? I mean, it really is, how do you collect, pull together people, you know, motivate, incentivize, and inspire right people to do this great work and to do it together. And your ability to do that, as a manager, as a leader, especially as an entrepreneur, you’re gonna have so much greater potential impact that you being a coder, you being a product developer, up to being kind of everything, clearly, you are bringing your best to the table as well. But what you can do either a group of individuals that are capable, that are like minded, that you can aspire, like that’s the way to have impact. So I’d say that’s one of the early lessons that was really, you know, ingrained in me is getting things done through others. And I think that’s kind of contributed to a bit more of a collaborative and empowering leadership style, right. And so, yes, I love making decisions. But you know, what I love even more is when my team makes the decisions. And it’s a much more collaborative process. And there’s ownership in the process. And so we’re doing it together versus we’re doing stuff that because marks it to go in that direction. So yeah, that’s one of the best insights that I think has been ingrained it to me.

Kara Goldin 28:37
I love that. Well. And I think also when you have, like a brand new company, and you’re starting an idea to it’s, those people are critical, right? They’re investing and yeah, for sure. In you and they’re believing. Right. And you have to continue to leap of faith, right? Yeah, no, I, it’s it’s absolutely critical. So well, this is this is so incredible. I’m so honored that you came on to share all of your lessons with us, Marc, and everybody needs to check out super got. I’ll have all the info in the show notes as well, but and it’s available online. It’s also in stores, too. And so we’ll have

Marc Washington 29:19
you’re coming up in stores very, very soon. So yes, currently, it’s just our site super got that calm. But yeah, we are absolutely out there having conversation with some really fantastic retailers about bringing Supergut into additional distribution channel. So phase one retail very soon.

Kara Goldin 29:35
Awesome. Okay, great. Well, thank you again, and have a great rest of the week mark. Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin And if you want to hear more about my journey I hope you will have a listen. Or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week, and 2023 and good bye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening