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Joy Marie Photography
An employee is a “natural” salesman. Marketing teams claim “organic” growth on social media.
But when it comes to actually running the business – and living the entrepreneurial lifestyle – how often does the concepts of natural and organic prevail?
For Clayton Thomas, these terms are, well, all-natural.
He’s found his way from collegiate track and field to running a multi-million dollar company by being his true self. He’s grown a customer base into the hundreds-of-thousands without artificial influence.
And he’s become a self-made man thanks to his focus on wellness, not wealth.
Clayton Thomas was halfway to the finish line when he fell flat on his face.
On national television.
The ROOT Brands® founder competed in the athletic arena long before he laced up his entrepreneurial shoes for a race to business success.
“I blew up 60 percent of my hamstring on TV,” he said. He tweaked it in practice multiple times, knew he shouldn’t race, though readied himself at the starting line as one of Washington State University’s PAC 10 sprinters.
He was 50 meters in and his body felt a gunshot-like impact in his leg, took a few more steps and crumbled to the ground. And, as painful as the injury was, the physical sensation was nothing compared to the emotional toll.
“I remembered getting back on my feet and hearing the most painful sound I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Worse, it happened twice.
“I limped my way to the end of the track to finish the race and collapsed. The training rooms were at the other end of the track so I hobbled all the way back down the 100 meters to another painful courtesy clap from the audience.”
Many say that failure is often the greatest teacher, and while pain certainly taught Thomas a few lessons, his success 20 years later stems from an education in healing.
Born to parents who owned a veterinarian clinic, Thomas grew up studying animal physiology and understanding how critical mineral supplementation was to a healthy diet. At WSU, he majored in Humanities, dividing his study time between business, communications, and kinesiology.
“After college, I was introduced to the philosophy of systemic detoxification,” he said. It was the first time in my life that God tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘follow this’.”
That was where ROOT initially took root, but perhaps more importantly, following his faith led to a phone call with Dr. Christina Rahm.
“That was the second time God tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘follow her’,” Thomas said. “She became my partner, in business and in life.”
Thomas sings her praises as a biotech savant, and together, they created the Rootiverse in 2020 just as the pandemic spread.
“Our company was a COVID baby; all we could do was put our products out there that we loved and let them behave.”
Within 30 days of launch, The ROOT Brands® wellness products were being shipped to 27 countries. Within 36 months, they’ve grown to 70 countries and aim to hit $100m in this annual revenue alone in 2023. They’ve achieved a 160k customer base in 3 years and have an 88 percent return customer purchase rate.
“Our stickiness rate is off the charts. People don’t return our products, not only because they’re amazing, but because they’re buying them via referrals. Their neighbor uses our product and gets results, which encourages them to learn about it and try it themselves. That community-first approach is what creates the stickiness and why it’s so important to us that we let this brand grow naturally.”
The parallels between all-natural supplements and organic marketing are obvious. Thomas acknowledges that while artificial creations can lead to desired outcomes, the long lasting results often come from simple, stripped-down solutions.
“Algorithms say spend X amount of money on key terms and you’re going to get a rate of return of Y online,” he said. “Those types of customers will buy a product once, not repetitively. But if you’re patient and create something they’ll want, you may not get rich overnight, but you will tap into their needs. Their behavior will do the marketing for you, cheaper.”
Thomas suggests that word of mouth is still one of the best marketing tools to foster customer loyalty.
He notes the concept of behavior metastasization: their organic interactions with your product will build brand strength and more consistent buying habits.
“I have loads of friends and even bankers in town that told us that ROOT would never work this way,” he said. “They told my wife that we were never going to do more than $300,000 in revenue.”
“A company’s real value is created by their customers because if you take care of your customers, they’ll create more customers for you.”
Thomas will be the first to admit that his end goal for The ROOT Brands® is “total global domination” but he’s never felt the need to force his products into the marketplace. Although the company does incentivize customers to simply maintain their buying behaviors through programs like subscription services, Thomas keeps a strong focus on the quality of his products, not the quantity sold.
“We know that we can expand and add products, but we’re more focused on how we can add value,” he said. “We’re releasing ROOT coffee, but not because there’s a market for it. We’re sourcing organic beans from specific farms in Guatemala, roasting them in Cyprus, and detoxifying them – all so we can offer a cup of coffee, free of unnatural ingredients, that actually tastes great.”
That same focus on value over volume applies to his four children: instead of insisting that they follow their parents into the family business, Thomas would rather they find their own natural path to fulfillment.
“We want to create opportunities for them to grow, even if it’s outside of ROOT,” he said. “We want each of them to find their path; we teach them what we can about the business, but if they don’t want to be here one day, great. We hope they can learn some principles from us that they can take with them.”
To say that success comes natural to Clayton Thomas is almost an insult. He’ll always be the loudest voice in the room championing his wife’s medical, clinical, and research achievements and he’ll always be the first to admit that The ROOT Brands® would be nonexistent without the dedicated community of customers in the ROOTiverse.
But that’s not to say his success was manufactured.
Thomas arrived at the same destination as many self-made men do; he just did it in a way that other entrepreneurs haven’t considered.
By building a social sharing community platform and following his faith, Thomas took a seed of an idea and grew it into a flourishing business despite the inhospitable soil of the pandemic.
So the next time you believe that a successful business requires a relentless hustle and a forever hands-on approach, look to Clayton Thomas and remember that sometimes you need to let go of your control to let your business grow.
When you look at intention, you will attract what you project. If you function on a fear basis, you're actually going to attract a lot of the fear, the fear based mindsets, and that's where the chaos ensues. By maintaining our authenticity, we've really created the environment where our community understands our focus. It’s like raising a child with certain principles: if you create the right environment, that environment continues to perpetrate. And it is not our inherent nature to be bad or be disruptive. That's usually from some semblance of toxicity, which is foundationally. Some who aren’t a fit will leave, or they’ll change. I think it all comes down to the environment that you create and what your intentions are.
There's a point where you have to let go of the reins. I've been able to equate that a lot to what I learned from growing up in a veterinary practice and being around animals. The story of Secretariat, the one loss that horse had in his first race, was because the jockey was holding on too tight and trying to control him. The point of greatest growth is being able to understand where you're weak, and where you're strong, and you should find people that are better at doing the things that you're weak at. So you don't have to worry about them. But knowing that you have to let go, that you have to give people an opportunity. The biggest failure in that is actually finding the right or wrong people. You have to let them do their job, you have to let them fail. And that can be frustrating, but they have to do that in order to learn to become successful.
One thing that gives athletes an advantage in business is that we know how to train through challenges. I tore my hamstring not because of the race, but because of the overtraining I did in practice. That weakness from practice caused the failure in competition. Entrepreneurs want to put everything into their business to succeed but the important thing to understand is that sometimes you need to go slow. Our health – physical and from a business standpoint – isn’t what we do in the day. It’s through rest. No amount of ice baths or biohacking can replace deep REM sleep. You can’t continue to grind. You need to step back and give your body and mind a chance to recover.
For more information on Clayton Thomas and The ROOT Brands, visit www.therootbrands.com/swagger.
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