When Sean Lake first tried collagen, it was to prove his wife wrong.
“I didn’t believe in it. I was a total skeptic,” he said. His wife, Heather, had brought it home for him to try. “I did everything she told me to do. I took it religiously, not because I believed her, but because I wanted to prove her wrong.”
“Within a few months, I felt amazing. I was jumping, sprinting, lifting good weights again, I could get to a full squat. I thought that I had finally landed in the age of diminishing returns, so to have found something that worked, I became a believer,” he admitted.
But there was one thing he already believed in: his business partner TJ Ferrara.
“Truth is, we have very complementary skill sets. We knew we could work together. We knew each other for a really long time. We ate together, we pretty much dated,” Lake told me on a phone call.
“Yup. We dated,” TJ said.
A kid at a computer.
For more than a decade, Lake and Ferrara had been running in the same groups. The two have worked in the fitness and sports industry for twenty years; from snowboarding to shoes, supplements to recovery tools.
One day Lake came to work and saw a new person sitting at a desk, working on building an eCommerce platform for the company he was working for at the time. “I didn’t know him closely at the time, he was just some kid sitting at a computer. So I gave him the amount of attention and respect he seemingly deserved - zero,” Sean laughed. “You’ll notice that there was a remarkable lack of courtesy there, which is an area I excelled in.”
“I play the long game,” TJ said. “I remember everything. That first little bit of, ‘Hey i’m Sean Lake, go fuck yourself’. I’ve been waiting damn near fifteen years to ruin his life via a business partnership. And I finally got my time,” TJ said.
“He lured me in good,” Lake said.
But they don’t just work in the fitness industry. They do the fitness, too.
Extra attention at camp.
Lake was working as an instructor at theSEALFit Kokorocamp in Encinitas, CA. TJ came through it as a participant. And Sean made sure to give him extra attention that weekend. Right from the get go, Sean was on top of TJ, and he stayed there the whole time. But there was a brotherhood born between them that weekend. The two enjoyed the character each revealed, and the fact that neither one of them backed down from their task. No one quit.
Early in 2017, following SEALFIT and a few other shared industry experiences, TJ and Sean decided they wanted to do something together. They started pitching various projects in the fitness space, organizing them on a whiteboard at TJ’s house.
Nothing was sticking. At one point, the pair had 30 separate pitches up on their board.
“We were doing everything that would normally land us a client, and for whatever reason nothing was working,” TJ said.
TJ came over to meet with Lake and saw thecollagen on the counter. He casually asked Sean if he took that stuff. And Lake told him,“It is the only supplement I’ve ever encountered that does exactly what it advertised. No bullshit.”
“Cool. Whatever bro.” TJ wasn’t fazed. But then, it hit him. “Wait. Why not collagen?”
The rest is history.
Five minutes later, that whiteboard of pitches became a brainstorm of collagen business ideas. “We sat down and said, okay well what does it look like? We both said, at the same time, it has to do something cool for charity. Opening line, first statement, on what the brand had to be, was charitable,” they told me.
“It has to be Glen’s charity that we donate to. AndGlen’s call sign in the Navywas BUB. And that’s where we got BUBS as a tribute to Glen, and 10% of everything we sell will go back to Glen’s foundation,” Lake remembered.
If any of those 30 pitches had stuck, BUBS never would have come about. “It was so weird, but in the end it had to happen the way that it did because that adversity bred invention,” Lake said. “We joke about how BUBS came together in the moment, at my house, having coffee, but really it was the years and years before that moment that did it. It couldn’t have been any other person, it couldn’t have been any other combination that would have yielded that kind of immediate trust to jump into the world of the unknown.”