Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, my name is Justin Rapoport, I’m 25 and I am the founder of AmmoniaSport.
AmmoniaSport specializes in athletic smelling salts targeting athletes of all ages and skill levels. Our smelling salts will make sure you reach peak performance.
These days smelling salts are used by athletes in a multitude of sports, both young and old, professional and amateur.
We often see players in the NFL, the NHL and NBA sniff smelling salts on tv. After a single sniff, an athlete feels a sudden surge of adrenaline giving them a competitive edge. To date, we are doing $90,000 monthly in revenue.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My brother Jordan and I belong to the Carmel Valley Bay Club - a gym filled with an “older/lazier” demographic who use the gym as more of a social club… which suits me perfectly.
Out of high school, my goal was simple: become an investment banker and make a lot of money. I am not cut out for that life. After a few networking events and two suits later I said “Fuck this.” I hate waking up early and I hate ties.
My brother, on the other hand, is a serious gymnast who performs feats of strength you would not believe were possible. One day Jordan had 60 pounds wrapped around his waist as he was about to do perform his one arm muscle up (look that up if you don’t know what it is) and just before he did it, I saw him sniffing something.
He was getting PUMPED! I had no idea what he was sniffing and neither did the old ladies around me, it was strange for sure. I went up to Jordan after he finished and asked him what he was doing as people are staring. He told me they were smelling salts and how they are used in sports. I looked at the packaging which was a pretty boring medicine container covered in medical writing… lightbulb.
We went home that night and did some research on the history of smelling salts and started searching for current athletes using them. Sure enough, Peyton Manning, Ronnie Coleman and Patrick Kane were some of many professional athletes I found using them so I decided to start my business. The business would be creating smelling salts specially designed for athletes to reach peak performance.
Flashback a few years ago, I went to school at Indiana University of Bloomington as a finance major. Out of high school, my goal was simple: become an investment banker and make a lot of money. I am not cut out for that life. After a few networking events and two suits later I said “Fuck this.” I hate waking up early and I hate ties. At the time, my passion was music and I was producing EDM in my dorm room. After a year and a half at Indiana, I told my parents that I really wanted to give music a shot.
I dropped out of school and flew back home to San Diego. I produced music as a full time job for nearly 8 months when I realized it was time to quit. Music is an incredibly difficult industry to break into and my goal was simple: Radio or Bust. I met some cool people, made some dope songs, learned a lot about myself and quitting music was incredibly difficult. For the first time in my life, I really wanted something and couldn’t have it.
I finished school on time at the University of San Diego (finance major) and during that time, I started screenwriting. Similar story to music but screen writing too was a failed start-up. A couple months later is when my AmmoniaSport business began. I had no experience, little money and two failed start-ups under my belt.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
My first step was to create an LLC. I went to LegalZoom, said no to all the extra paid options and created it myself. I then went to upwork.com (best website to hire a freelancer) and hired a chemist. I interviewed about 5 people and picked the chemist with the best reviews and seemingly most experience… I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing and I didn’t really know what to ask but I felt comfortable paying through UpWork because if there were any issues, it’s easy to get your money back so I felt the only risk was my time. I was fortunate enough to pick someone who happened to know what I was looking for better than I did.
And you know what? I was happy. I convinced someone in the world to buy my product, it was a good feeling. I think this is a good time to say that my friends thought I was spending everyday playing with myself in my room.
Once we finally got some formulas down, I started calling manufacturers to see who could produce these athletic smelling salts for me. This process SUCKED. For some reason no medical companies wanted to touch smelling salts. They did not have the proper permits and machinery in place to pull off what we wanted to do. It made no sense to me and even less sense to my chemist. We spent literally months blindly calling manufacturers all over the world.
Once I finally got ahold of some smelling salts, I started to package them. Long story short but my manufacturer was unable to package the salts for me. My friend’s advice was “Cheap cheap cheap.” I remember ordering 3000 pouches, 2000 ampules, 5000 aluminum stand up pouch bags and more stickers than I care to admit.
I would sticker both sides of the bag, shove 25 ampules into it, zip it up, use my mom’s flat iron to heat seal it and one unit was done. For the pouches, I had to put an extra sticker on the cover to show my brand. My uncle Dave once sent me a quote from Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn, “If you aren't embarrassed by the first version of your product , you shipped too late.” I was embarrassed as shit… Guess I was on the right track.
Now it was time to sell. I had a website created and made an Amazon seller account. My plan initially was to use my website as a portal and just drive sales to Amazon so they could warehouse, pick, pack and ship orders. I remember my first day I got one sale.
And you know what? I was happy. I convinced someone in the world to buy my product, it was a good feeling. I think this is a good time to say that my friends thought I was spending every day playing with myself in my room.
Nearly everyone told me to just get an accounting job. I knew what I was doing though. I was building something, and fortunately, my dad understood that too.
Describe the process of launching the business.
At the time I did not have much money but I was fortunate enough to get some financial help from my dad to get started. I also received a lot of help from my amazing mom who literally packed 200 bottles by hand for me every single day so I could work on growing the business. AmmoniaSport would not have been possible without my family.
I spent a lot of time on Amazon, learning the ins and outs (advertising, reports, search terms, programs etc). I wasted a lot of time and money on things that I now feel very experienced in. In fact, once things picked up people I didn’t even know were reaching out to me for Amazon advice.
After some consulting, I started a new business where I manage other peoples amazon accounts. My clients are able to focus on the manufacturing, branding, marketing etc while they leave all the Amazon responsibilities to me. My goal is to create passive income for both of us.
A word of advice for those who are trying to get into the Amazon game: pick niche products. In my experience, the more specific, the better the success. If you are thinking about selling iphone cases or computer adapters you are wasting your time.
Back to AmmoniaSport… I never really “launched”. I never really “marketed”. Once I figured out how to drive more sales through Amazon, AmmoniaSport kind of just took off. I went from 5 sales to 20 to 50 to sometimes 300. I spent time researching how to get into Amazon United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Mexico. Once my listings were established in every country I decided to slowly market and sell off my website too.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I think I am in a different position then most people.
I already had a customer base before starting. A better question is how do I acquire new customers and how do I educate people about smelling salts. The best thing that ever happens to AmmoniaSport is when a famous athlete is seen smelling a smelling salt on TV. That is the education they need, that is the best way for someone new to try it. Why listen to me when Ezekiel Elliot is using smelling salts on the sideline.
Recently I came out with a commercial featuring the one and only -- badass -- Mia Khalifa. My goal was not necessarily to drive a ton of sales. My goal was to get as many people on the planet to watch an AmmoniaSport video. Everyone asks how I got her in the commercial. Well firstly, I saw her trending on a hockey article one morning which gave me the idea (she is a sports fanatic). I contacted a publicist who put me in touch with her agent. After some negotiating we had a deal and I knew this was going to be an epic adventure.
This commercial was a huge undertaking, I had no idea how much work it would be. Thank god for my boys Eden Stelmach and Jake Katofsky for directing, producing and really running the entire show. When I showed up the day of the shoot, there was a 25 person crew. My job was to make sure I wasn’t in anyone's way and offer people water.
As far as social ads and PPC goes I’d say my best success is on instagram. I find it cheaper to reach a bigger audience then Facebook or twitter. I tried google ads and did not have much luck. I even hired an expert and was not getting the conversions I was looking for. A few months ago, I finally hired an SEO team and have slowly but surely been seeing results.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are currently developing modern products which will be marketed to new audiences. It is a very exciting time for me and I really feel like AmmoniaSport is just getting started. The commercial continues to grow organically, my website and social media are receiving more and more traffic and I am seeing a lot of sales growth.
I am not looking to hire anyone currently. All my workers work for me part time:
- Graphic artist/designer
- SEO Team
- 5-8 Packers
- Dropship warehouse
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Important things I have learned:
- Timing is everything
- Some things are out of your control
- The more you think, the more you are likely to not do something
- Believe in yourself - cliche, but crucial. Have courage. Be different. Fucking do it!
- You will learn the most when things go bad. Adapting to different situations is something that I don’t think you or a mentor can prepare for. It is something that just happens.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I think the best thing I started doing in my spare time was listening to “How I Built This” an NPR podcast which features founders of the biggest companies in the world.
Every story in its own way is unique, challenging and inspiring and gives me fuel to the fire. With all that being said, I listen to this WHILE working on my business, otherwise, I personally think it would be a time waster.
I also strongly believe that you should try to surround yourself with people who motivate you. This does not mean hang out with rich people. It means to hang out with people who are in the process of busting their ass to do something that they believe in.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Don’t think, about it. Be a Phil Knight (founder of Nike) and “Just Do IT”. Anyone can come up with a great idea, but not everyone has the guts to make something happen.
There is something to be said about a person who takes an idea and brings it to life. Whether it is a good idea or not, whether he or she fails or succeeds, it is impressive and that is the kind of person I want to surround myself with.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out and if you are starting a new Amazon business… we may make a great team!
My email: [email protected]
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help you get started.
Interested in starting your own business? Join Starter Story Premium to get the greatest companion to starting and growing your business:
- Connect + get advice from successful entrepreneurs
- Step by step guides on how to start and grow
- Exclusive and early access to the best case studies on the web
- And much more!
Are you ready to boost your revenue?
Using Klaviyo will open up a massive, untapped sales channel and bring you closer to your customers!
Level up your email marketing with Klaviyo!