By Eric Peterson | Aug 26, 2014
Over the counter medication packets
CEO Jordan Eisenberg had started two companies before turning 30 when he founded UrgentRX in 2010. But it took three years and a big pivot before the company took off in a big way. "Last year was really our launch year," he says.
UrgentRX makes packs of flavored, powdered medications shaped like credit cards for ease of use. "It's a better solution [than a pill]," says Eisenberg. "It works better and it doesn't require water."
The brand's evolution started as "an aspirin brand for heart attacks," Eisenberg explains. "Now we're a fast and loose brand for younger people who are in pain."
The idea was born of Eisenberg's food allergies. "I was carrying Benadryl wrapped in cellophane in my wallet," he says. "And I needed liquid -- when I had to chew them, it was disgusting."
He hit on the concept of "portable medication” after seeing some of his father's Baby Boomer pals doing the same thing with aspirin in case of a heart attack.
UrgentRX piloted its single-dose, lemon-lime aspirin for heart attacks -- and customers used it to great effect -- before the younger market surfaced as the target.
"It really fits with the general emergence of on-the-go solutions," says Eisenberg, putting 5-hour Energy and the iPhone in the same broad category. Younger consumers "really have everything at their fingertips."
And UrgentRX focuses on that demographic with social media (the brand has over 100,000 likes on Facebook) and such offbeat marketing campaigns as a truck cruising the streets of Manhattan wrapped in slogans like "This is New York -- even the headaches have headaches."
But where the true UrgentRX genius lies is in checkout merchandising, with the New York Times pegging Eisenberg as something of a merchandising prodigy in a 2013 story on the company.
To wit, UrgentRX has gone way outside of the box by taking advantage of "all of this dead space at the front checkout," says Eisenberg. Their displays sit atop partitions, hang off magazine racks, and other nooks and crannies near the cash register -- without paying the high fees normally associated with such coveted shelf space.
Eisenberg says the key is that "we're incremental to the retailer...not cannibalistic."
Not everybody gets it -- yet. "It's been fantastic, but a lot of retailers we've talked to stare at us like deer in the headlights," says Eisenberg. "Nine times out of 10, they say, ’We don't have unutilized space.’ We just laugh."
Now UrgentRX has six products in its portfolio -- Headache, Heartburn, Allergy Attack, Ache & Pain, and Upset Stomach Relief To-Go and the original, Critical Care Aspirin To-Go -- manufactured at FDA-certified contract manufacturers in upstate New York and Ogden, Utah.
The products are now available at at over 20,000 retail locations -- including CVS and Walgreens nationwide -- up from 1,000 stores in 2013. Eisenberg wants to double the retail footprint by the end of 2015.
The investment community obviously likes what it sees. UrgentRX closed on a $17.5 million Series C round in July, making for a cumulative total of about $25 million.
Challenges: "It's really difficult for a new consumer brand to break into the big retailers," says Eisenberg. "They may say they are open to new brands, but it's very different when you're sitting there with the buyer and they just want to work with a conglomerate, because that's what they do."
He says he combats the staid mindset with "grit” and "energy," adding, "I exude excitement because I love what I'm doing -- and they don't get that from the big companies."
Opportunities: There's plenty of room to grow in the $7 billion over-the-counter (OTC) drug category. "We are really the only innovative OTC brand that's hit the market in the last 25 years," touts Eisenberg. A big catalyst: "We're targeting a consumer that's been largely ignored."
It follows that UrgentRX is looking at moving into gas stations, convenience stores, and other markers with single doses, and is now introducing 10-packs in the retail aisles to complement the presence at the checkout stands. "We've had so many people say, 'I love your products and I'd love to buy more than one at a time,'" says Eisenberg. "The strategy of front-end single packs really supports that strategy."
Needs: "Building a great team and making sure the team is happy and motivated," says Eisenberg. "It's a fine balance. Any entrepreneur can appreciate that." He says he brought in "adult supervision" in the form of board members Ron Fugate and Michael Valentino, respectively the former CEOs of Emergen-C and Adams Respiratory Therapeutics, manufacturer of Mucinex.