If your parents ever tell you video games are a waste of time, fill them in on the story of entrepreneurs Aaron Rasmussen and Elijah Szasz. The self-proclaimed gaming geeks are the owners and founders of successful energy drink company, Harcos Laboratories. Since the company’s launch in 2008, Aaron and Elijah have been producing colorful energy drinks that deliciously blur the line between reality and fantasy. With a video game-inspired product line, you can purchase some Zombie Blood, Mana Energy Potion, or Nuclear Energy Powder next time you need a pick-me-up. And you won’t miss Aaron and Elijah’s potions in a store – each product’s unique packaging is half the fun. The Nuclear Energy Powder comes in test tubes, of course. And there’s no better way to sip Zombie Blood than out of a medical IV bag, right?
So why do video games and energy drinks go together so well?
Aaron: Inside these actual video games there are things called Mana Potions that are small, blue potions. You drink one and it refills your magical energy, your Mana. Eli and I we were actually both from robotics. We were out in the field trying to get this robot to work before a trade show, working 20-hour days, slopping down all the regular energy drinks. It was just not working after awhile. So we started drinking the energy shots, which were way more effective. And we’re geeks so we started calling them Mana. After we dried out from that whole crazy experience, we realized that’s a great idea for an energy drink.
Elijah: And also, back when video games started, the most badass kid in the arcade could put a quarter in and get a couple hours of game play. And now, if you go get a console game, you can play all night and the next night, and the next night. Some of these online games, people are playing 40 or 50 hours a week. Energy drinks and video games seem like a perfect fit just so people can keep playing.
When you two were first starting the company, what were some of the most challenging moments?
Elijah: We make a physical product. Starting off, we had problems getting our formula right, getting the bottles right – getting them so they didn’t leak, getting the labels right. Overcoming this challenging of making this physical product, and having it come out like it’s supposed to be.
Aaron: We also picked out this formula that needed to be blue. Well, the problem is it’s very hard to have anything stay blue for a long period of time. It’s doable, we can do it now, but the original formula turned green in like two weeks.
Elijah: And then black. [laughs]
Aaron: It was totally safe to drink, but everything about Mana is that it’s blue. And suddenly we’ve got 35,000 green potions. I literally had to go through the website and hue shift all of our bottles to green.
Elijah: Even problems dealing with contract manufacturers. You start with one and you get a quote and they get halfway into the job and say, well, you know what, we’re actually going to have to charge you this much. Or they tell you that they can make something in a given amount of time and then they blow you off for months because you’re a small startup .
So was all of this surprising? Did you have any idea it would be so frustrating to just produce the physical product?
Elijah: Not even close. We’d been working with industrial automation, programming robots, and doing crazy things in the manufacturing world, and we thought this would be the most simple thing in the world – take a little bottle, fill it with liquid and put it in a box and ship it to somebody.
When you were first getting the company off the ground, was there any business advice that really stuck with you and you’d like to share with readers?
Elijah: Aaron and I both have a handful of favorite books that we read. One of my favorite books was Before You Quit Your Job, by Robert Kiyosaki. There was also Guy Kawasaki who wrote, The Art of the Start.
Aaron: This is actually my second business. The one thing I had to learn the really hard way going through my first business is that you’ve got to let go of the roller coaster. This stuff just goes up and down and if you’re holding tight and living every second of those ups and downs, it will break you.
Now that you’ve moved past those challenges and you’re seeing your products succeed, what is the most rewarding part of owning Harcos Laboratories?
Elijah: Personally, I love hearing these anecdotal stories of people seeing our product on shelves and thinking how cool it is, or how much they identify with it. To me it’s so cool to be able to bring these parts of somebody’s virtual world, or what they like in pop culture, and have it be on shelves.
Aaron: I was on a plane recently, and the woman next to me actually had a blood bag in her purse. It’s just really fascinating to see that this thing that you created from concept into a real product is actually affecting real strangers.
Whose idea was the IV bag for the Blood Energy Potion and the Zombie Blood?
Aaron: It just seemed so natural to us. I don’t know if that’s natural to anybody else.
Elijah: It seemed like if you’re going to buy blood, that’s the package it should come in.
Are you two planning to release any new potions or bloods in the near future?
Both: Yes, definitely.
Aaron: We have a few more potions on the way in the next quarter. Our products idea list – we have about 70 products on it.
What are some of the ways that readers can help support you and the success of Harcos Laboratories?
Aaron: I’d say the biggest thing they can do to help us is spread the word. Show their friends these products, show them the marketing. The more people know about it, the more people we’re confident will buy it.
Elijah: If any of your readers ever goes to a store where they think they should be seeing our product and they’re not there, ask, “Why is Blood not here?” There’s still a lot of places that we’d love to be selling that we think we’d be a perfect fit.
For a full list of where you can buy Harcos Laboratories energy potions, check out http://www.harcoslabs.com/where.php