Russ: Hi I’m Russ Capper and this is The BusinessMakers Show. Coming to you today from WorkFlourish and I’m very pleased to have as my guest Shawn Ullman, the Co-founder and CEO of Feel Rich; Shawn welcome to the show.
Shawn: Thank you for having us Russ, I’m super excited to be here.
Russ: All right, tell us about Feel Rich.
Shawn: We are an urban health and wellness media and entertainment company. I co-founded it with my business partner Quincy Jones and his son Quincy Jones III and we use hip hop artists to promote health is the new wealth to the multi-cultural community.
Russ: Health is the new wealth.
Shawn: Health is the new wealth. So we leverage our relationships with celebrities and hip hop artists and we create our own content. We have a documentary out right now that’s the number one independent health documentary in the country; it’s a best seller on iTunes. So we leverage hip hop artists to tell how health can make you rich.
Russ: That almost seems like an oxymoron to me.
Shawn: It does.
Russ: When I first heard the story the guys that introduced you to me I thought wow. So you’re bound to have a pretty big market share then.
Shawn: We do. So we are the market leader right now. There’s about 60 million African American and Latinos out there and there’s really not a brand around health and wellness that’s speaking to them in a relatable and authentic way and so we are filling that void in the marketplace.
Russ: And from what I’ve seen you’ve been on lots of shows over the past several months.
Shawn: Yeah, the past 3 months; it’s been very exciting so 2017 has been a really big year for us. We started off we had a partnership with the NFL and the Super Bowl herein Houston at Discovery Green. We put on the first ever fitness concert, we had over 5,000 people working out on the same stage while Solange Knowles, Shakey Graves, Leon Bridges, all these people are singing. We had fitness instructors.
Russ: That was here right?
Shawn: That was here in Houston, Texas at Discovery Green. So that was a huge event for us and then just last month we launched the documentary that has Quincy, Russell Simmons, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Common, Bun B; everyone in the hip hop game talking about how health has contributed to their success.
Russ: My goodness, and several TV shows here lately right?
Shawn: Yeah, we were on the Today Show, we were on ABC News, we were on the cover of Fast Company, cover of Billboard, cover of Forbes.com. So we’re getting a lot of attention because this is definitely a new idea using hip hop to make health sexy and relatable to this community.
Russ: Kind of take us back, what triggered that to say hey, we ought to do this.
Shawn: I was your stereotypical white Jewish kid who was obsessed with hip hop, grew up in Houston, Texas. My parents put me into therapy because I listened to too much hip hop but I just identified with the culture. And then I got out to L.A. and started working with Quincy Jones. I started first at the William Morris agency, a big talent agency, where I kind of got my feet wet in the entertainment business, it was a lot of fun.
But I got to meet Quincy Jones there and from there I started working with him so it’s been a lot of fun. So I worked for big Q with his son and we started producing a lot of movies and putting their digital content on the web. And while I was there I saw that a lot of hip hop artists were actually living a healthy lifestyle and there wasn’t a brand or a platform that really spoke to that.
Russ: Did that surprise you?
Shawn: It did because I grew up in a very healthy family and so to see 50 Cent treating his entourage actually like a boot camp and getting them up at 4:30 in the morning after a 2:00 show, to see that wow, this is something that not just the community but everyone needs to see. Because these guys kind of run their businesses like a CEO and they realize that if they want to stay on top they need to keep their body in shape and their mind in shape.
So a lot of the stuff that you see in music videos is just for entertainment, it’s really about keeping your mind sharp and your body sharp. And so I went to the Jones and I said there’s something here, we need to create a company or a brand or a platform or something that really makes health sexy and inspirational and aspirational and engaging to the community. So we came up with the idea Fell Rich, it’s named after my parents Phyllis and Richard.
Russ: Wow, so now they probably love it.
Shawn: Yeah, now they love it; now after all the therapy paid off right, paid homage to them with that. And so we launched this company and it’s about teaching the community to feel rich inside and that true wealth lies within. And all the bling bling and all that stuff is going to go away eventually but your health is the most important thing.
Russ: Well you mentioned 50 Cent but are there others that you discovered were doing the same thing?
Shawn: Yeah, pretty much everyone. So Russell Simmons just opened up a yoga studio, there’s a gentleman by the name of Styles P who just opened up a juice bar in the Bronx. And here in Houston, Texas you have Slim Thug who has a fitness club called Hustle Fit and Paul Wall and Crystal Wall own a studio right outside of the Heights where it’s absolutely amazing what’s going on up there. It’s called Mix Fit Studios and they’re having these large African American women who’ve never stepped into a Gold’s Gym, who’ve never gone to a Zumba class, come to this studio and work out and make major transformations in their life.
Russ: Wow that is so interesting. So some of this might be taking place because these guys are getting up, they’re no longer 20 and 30, and they’re discovering wow.
Shawn: I think you eventually realize that for you to keep your stamina and to keep your swagger about yourself you’ve got to start hitting the gym. And really Feel Rich is that essence when you walk out of that gym that high that you have. Or you finish running Memorial Park or you’re leaving that yoga studio where everything is clear, everything is right and you just feel rich. That’s the essence that we’re trying to capture and so I think a lot of these hip hop artists started to realize that as they got into their 40s to keep their mind sharp and to stay up with the youngins they had to hit the gym and start living healthier. And so the timing is really good for a branding and for our brand.
Russ: Well the tagline health is the new wealth, that really is what the hook was for me that I said I want to interview that guy. That was really cool.
Shawn: Getting that health money.
Russ: Absolutely. So you’ve mentioned workout in the gym, you’ve mentioned yoga, is there more? Are some of them into meditation?
Shawn: So Russell Simmons is really big into TM – Transcendental Meditation – and Stickman is really big into meditation. And these guys – hip hop is always about being cool and I think what meditation really helps, not just hip hop artists but your listeners and business people, is you’re able to keep your cool. You’re the guy that when everyone is kind of losing their mind and things are going south, the guy that’s staying calm in the eye of the storm is the cool guy and meditation can help with that.
Russ: Really, really interesting. So as you know this is a business show so you have documentaries and you have this production capability, but how do you make money?
Shawn: There are multiple ways that we are making money. The production company is one, the documentary – Netflix acquired the documentary so we’re making money off of that. But we’re really trying to build a lifestyle brand, very similar to Beach Body or to Zumba or to Lululemon, we are trying to be that for the multicultural community so we are going to in the next month be launching our own products. So we’re launching our own supplement line, Feel Rich Supplements, it has a multivitamin, it has a pre-workout, a post workout and for $1 a month you’re going to be able to have all of this shipped to your house.
So our vitamins are proprietary blends that we’ve chosen that is specific for our community, it’s very high in vitamin D because most African American women are vitamin D deficient. And then we’re going to be launching our own water line, an alkaline water that’s a 9.5+ alkaline and so that’s going to be carried in supermarkets and other local retailers. We’re also creating our own fitness program; so very similar to Zumba but our own style, so I’m very excited about that. And so what we want to do is we want to create a new way for the community not only to get healthy but to also become instructors and teachers in the community.
So the Feel Rich fitness instructor program is going to allow people in the community to become an instructor and then get the community healthy. So not only are they going to be able to help their community get healthy but they’re also going to be able to earn money as a teacher getting healthy.
Russ: Sounds like you guys have a business plan in intimate detail, real interesting. So another thing that’s cool about you with this health kick you got on the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association.
Shawn: I’m on the national board of the American Heart Association so I help them really authentically connect with the multicultural community. So my job on that is to be a sounding board of is this going to be relatable to the community; is this going to be something that is actually going to garner attention and get people to take action? Because health has been around forever and we all know what we’re supposed to do and it’s really hard but in the multicultural community no one has really been able to figure out connect with that demographic in a relatable and authentic way for them to take massive action. And so not only are we doing that at Feel Rich, I’m helping other brands like nonprofits to help that way.
Russ: Really neat. So I can’t help but say this when you keep saying multicultural, Houston has this reputation as being the most diverse city maybe in the world right now, you’ve mentioned African American and stuff, but are there plans also for Hispanic and Asian communities? In this city you have a big audience.
Shawn: So my girlfriend is Latina so if I don’t go after the Latino community I’ll be in big trouble, but that’s definitely a major part of it. We focused on the African American community because that’s what we knew first really, really well and so we wanted to get the sounding board and get the blueprint figured out there before we start reaching out to everybody else. But we definitely want to go after the Latin community and then Asian American community as well.
Russ: Before I let you go I’ve got to connect the dots here. So you grew up in Houston.
Shawn: H-town, Bellaire High School.
Russ: Bellaire High School, went to UT – how do you connect the dots from there to Quincy Jones? That’s a pretty big leap.
Shawn: Yeah, so I worked for Mike Judge who is the creator of Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill and now Silicone Valley while I was in school and then he got me into the William Morris mailroom.
Russ: In the mailroom.
Shawn: Yeah, mailroom pushing the mail cart, that’s where you have to start off. That’s where like Barry Diller and Michael Horowitz and Michael Eisner, they all started there. And then from there you work your way up, I learned about the business, got working with an agent. And then from there I met Quincy and then Quincy – big Q – asked me to come run his company and I told him that I was too young, he needed a Harvard MBA to go do this and he was like a Harvard MBA is just going to tell me what to do, you’re going to be so scared you’re going to have to figure it out.
So we just kept talking and the timing was right so then I stared working with him and helping him. It was about 2004/2005 so helping him put his content on cell phones and digital and things like that and that’s when I really got the behind the scenes of what was happening in hip hop. Like we say in the documentary this is the biggest secret of hip hop, everybody’s getting healthy.
Russ: That’s great. So there was also, to connect the dots a little further – a little circuitous route back to Austin, through a company that we’ve worked with a lot Chaotic Moon Studios because the Morris Agency invested in Chaotic Moon.
Shawn: Yeah, so Ben’s an investor in Feel Rich, he’s been very integral in helping push things along. So I worked for a brief stint with Michael Hall and Ben at Chaotic.
Russ: John Fremont too.
Shawn: Yeah, Fremont’s an investor.
Russ: And Will Womble.
Shawn: I love Womble, Womble is the one who introduced us. This is all Chaotic family you know. So yeah, Fremont and Ben are investors and I worked with Michael. I was mostly just helping them in the health and wellness space, bringing them deals.
Russ: Cool, cool.
Shawn: I was a terrible technology salesperson; we learned that really, really fast that I needed to stay in the music and entertainment space.
Russ: And it seems like you’re doing pretty well.
Shawn: We’re doing good, I’m super excited to be here and I want everyone to check out the documentary Feel Rich, health is the new wealth and check out the supplements as soon as possible
Russ: Shawn I really appreciate you spending some time with us.
Shawn: Thank you so much for having me.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Shawn Ullman, Co-founder and CEO of Feel Rich. And this is The BuisnessMakers Show.
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