The viral age of video was just blossoming. "Selfie" officially made it into the dictionary. Snowden's name spread across households in the United States. The year was 2013 and in that same year, by fate, two pharmacists crossed paths. The telling of the NormaLyte story wouldn't be complete without an introduction to Sam and Manoj, the creators.
Manoj graduated from pharmacy school in the early 1990s in India, his home country. His father had been a doctor there, his mother a nurse, and from a young age it seemed the medical field was a natural choice. It was at the suggestion of Manoj's father that he became a pharmacist. The rest, as they say, is history.
In India the standard of living remains largely poor in comparison to the States. Manoj, having been a pharmacists there for a number of years, saw an opportunity to improve his standard of living. "Pharmacy as a profession is very advanced in this country," and he goes on to elaborate that in India its more industrial based while in the U.S. it's more clinical. After immigrating here, Manoj eventually took a job at a large grocery retail business where he met Sam.
Inspired by his older brother, who is also a pharmacist, Sam graduated in the early 2000's. Regarding his fascination with pharmacy he said, "I love how chemistry meshes with biology to treat a disease." Initially Sam had intended to live in the larger Indianapolis, IN area, but had a calling to go back to his home town of Louisville to live closer to his parents.
Sam is a first-generation immigrant, his parents came here from Korea before he was born. He grew up hearing stories from his parents of how hard it was to get on their feet.
Sam, Meet Manoj
Sam talks about the first time he met Manoj, "The first time I remember seeing him I said to myself 'Who the heck is this guy?' Our mutual boss had put him at my store to train with me." One day, Manoj needed a ride home. He usually walked to work, but that day it was raining. Sam stepped up.
Sam talks about what a humbling experience it was to drive him home. "They didn’t have mattresses. They were living day to day. So, I got him some supplies and we became good friends. He was even in my wedding! He’s one of my best friends - we’ve known each other for so long. 15 years maybe? It’s been a long time."
NormaLyte is Born
It comes as no surprise that these two have the same entrepreneurial spirit bursting out of them. They were always talking business, and often found themselves daydreaming together about different ventures they could take up. Weight loss supplements? Oral hydration?
This is where the stories differ slightly.
Manoj says he first was interested in oral rehydration products during a discussion with a friend about the amount of deaths there had been due to heat exposure in the U.S. During this discussion he had a flashback to India, "In countries like India we have this cholera situation where lot of people get dehydrated and get infections. I’ve seen dads lifting their sons dead bodies walking into the hospital where my dad used to work."
Sam's inspiration for NormaLyte came from his son. As a toddler, he developed a severe case of Rotovirus, a serious viral illness that causes diarrhea and vomiting. He tried PediaLyte, but his son wouldn't drink it. Sam realized that there were no good alternatives on the market with scientific evidence of it working, "the pharmacist mind made me wonder what more I could do."
The two put their heads together, and from that NormaLyte was born.
Bumps in the Road
Starting a business is never easy. There were bumps.
Sam says, "we had the idea and then it comes down to a slap in the face because we thought we were smart and we had a product. But we didn’t know how to sell it." Manoj elaborates further by saying, "our first focus was on retail. So we attended retail conferences but we didn’t get much of a reception."
They took more business classes. They presented their product to large retailers like Walmart. They found that the business was becoming a drain on their time and money. And then in early 2014, the ebola virus struck. A news agency picked up a story about NormaLyte donating their product to Project Hope that made it to the AP. It was a small win as sales on Amazon picked up.
During that time, the company was still getting its feet wet. Still formulating a plan for how, when, and where to sell NormaLyte. A woman from Washington state reached out to the owners to thank them. After drinking NormaLyte, it was the first time in three months she had been able to vacuum her living room.
Sam recalls his reaction, "these guys are suffering, misunderstood, and frustrated. We said 'we are going to be a POTS company!' We are pharmacists, we need to help people. I don’t care if we make a lot of money because this is worth more than anything we could make."
Manoj agrees saying, "We are seeing how many lives it affects. It makes you work even more diligently and hard because there are some lives that depend on it now."
The men found Dysautonomia International that year. In those days, it was still a small organization. It was founded by a lawyer who suffered from dysautonomia with the purpose of spreading awareness and advocacy for POTS. Since 2014, NormaLyte has been a financial supporter of the organization, and we will continue to support them in the coming years.
Anything Else, Guys?
Sam says, "we are real pharmacists trying to help real patients, we aren’t using anybody to make more sales. We are really trying to help these communities. We aren’t a gimmick - we have real community driven purposes. We aren’t donating so we get more sales. We just want to help people, but we need money and resources to help people. I lived poor - I can be poor again. I just want to make sure I’m a good dad to my kids, a good husband to my wife, be a good christian, and help people around me if I can. I’m most proud that between two guys, we created a product that changed peoples lives legitimately."
Manoj followed with, "Although I’m not a very emotional person, NormaLyte means a lot because it’s my first venture in the U.S. and it is a successful venture. We somehow managed it. What it means now is when people say how this is changing their lives and how appreciative they are."