Erik Elfstrum said he often was exhausted in his previous career as a district business manager at Pfizer.
“I remember sitting in SoHo, tired from the day, but I didn’t feel like drinking coffee and I couldn’t stand the taste of (energy drinks),” Elfstrum said. “That’s when I thought, wouldn’t it be great to bring something to market that could provide energy without any synthetic ingredients or harsh taste?”
Elfstrum, now the CEO of pureLYFT in Fanwood, did just that with an all-natural, zero-calorie alternative to the often artificial and sugary caffeinated beverages.
“PureLYFT is an energy stir stick — free of preservatives and GMOs — derived from unroasted green coffee beans and vitamins A and B complex, that can be stirred or mixed into any beverage or food item to provide the same amount of caffeine that a tall cup of coffee can,” Elfstrum said.
The best part? Every part of his clean caffeine dream is manufactured in New Jersey.
PureLYFT began, Elfstrum said, when he raised the capital to not only formulate the correct ingredients, but also patent and trademark the deliverable design of the energy stir stick.
“We then teamed up with a packaging manufacturer in Hillside and a powder producer in Edison after learning about them at national beverage shows,” Elfstrum said.
Executive: Erik Elfstrum, CEO
Revenue: Undisclosed. Expects to sell more than 1 million energy sticks this year at $2.99 a pop with 40 percent profit margins.
Employees: Three core; eight contracted salespeople
One More Thing: Erik Elfstrum said his career with Pfizer played a key role in helping him to start his own successful business. “From a sales and marketing perspective, our brand so far has hit all of the marks in order to be a disrupter on the shelves using core principles that I learned at Pfizer when launching multibillion-dollar pharmaceuticals,” he said. “The toughest part, for me, has simply been leaving a stable corporate job to become a budding entrepreneur.”
PureLYFT began market testing in 2010 with the tagline, “Energize Anything,” in restaurants and in lounges. However, the company hit its stride in 2013 when it began targeting the health and fitness industry and selling directly to college students.
“I initially was nervous about marketing to college students, who I believed were still (energy drink) enthusiasts,” Elfstrum said. “But, instead, there has been this movement over the last few years to focus on healthier options.
“The response was therefore outstanding, landing us a nationwide (contract) with Barnes & Noble College bookstores.”
Today, pureLYFT is sold at more than 1,000 college campuses nationwide, with more than 100 brand ambassadors in colleges across the country.
“We feel we are a progressive brand that college students have simply gravitated toward,” Elfstrum said. “We have been able to heavily amplify our message via these students.”
The company also has a team of eight contracted salespeople to assist its core team of three employees.
“Our co-founder is an investor in Florida, but my day-to-day business partner is my next door neighbor, Bill Fleming, vice president of operations,” Elfstrum said. “We also recently hired a college graduate to head up sales and marketing.”
Increased hiring will soon become necessary, Elfstrum said, as the company expects to sell well over a million sticks this year at $2.99 a pop.
Not only has pureLYFT seen triple-digit month-over-month growth from orders on pureLYFT.com and Amazon.com, but it also has begun to create further partnerships with food service companies and convenience stores on various college campuses.
“We also launched new flavors in January, which has brought us to a whole other level,” Elfstrum said. “PureLYFT was originally designed to be flavorless, but now we have lemon-lime, orange and mixed berry to mix in water, lemonade, iced tea, you name it.
“The response has been off the charts. We’ve been partnering with local juice houses, for example, and we’ve been selling through cases in a week.”
The fact that pureLYFT is a non-refrigerated category disrupter certainly helps the company in its next plans, Elfstrum said.
“We are not a beverage, so we don’t have the fight for product placement that traditional energy drinks and sodas have,” he said. “And we feel like we are trailblazers in the beverage enhancement category.”
Within a year, Elfstrum said he expects pureLYFT to sell at the Top 3 grocery chains in the country.
“It was a big deal for me to quit my job with Pfizer a year ago,” Elfstrum said. “While I enjoyed my time with the company, I’ve just gotten too busy with pureLYFT.”
Erik Elfstrum, CEO of pureLYFT, pitched his product on a recent episode of “MVP” on the American streaming service go90. The show, much like ABC Network’s “Shark Tank,” gives small business owners the chance to convince a panel of all-star athletes to endorse their product.
Elfstrum pitched pureLYFT energy stir sticks to Rob Gronkowski, tight end for the New England Patriots of the National Football League; Rudy Gay, small forward for the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association; and Marshall Faulk, a Pro Football Hall of Fame running back.
After an offer of between 3 and 7 percent equity in the company and possible online revenue share to be donated to a charity of choice, both Faulk and Gay stated that they would be interested in an endorsement deal with pureLYFT.