Wellness Disruptor Max Dresse On Launching A Brand During A Global Pandemic

We see untold numbers of new brand launches here at TCM. We can usually sniff out those who have “bottled magic” from that very first unboxing or glossy pitch email. Bellway is one of those brands, thanks to first-time founder, Max Dresse who has left a glittering trail of innovation in his wake with well-known brands like ALOHA and HelloFresh.

Two glaring facts inspired Dresse to launch Bellway at the top of 2020. First was the finding that over 95% of Americans don’t get enough daily fiber. Second, was a review of the fiber products currently available,  most of which you’d find only in your grandmother’s medicine cabinet.

We were immediately impressed when we received Bellway’s product line, a simple and fitting solution that brought the chronic fiber deficiency issue to light and served up a delicious solution: great tasting powders in countertop worthy packaging.

And then, March 2020 hit. And what no one could have anticipated happened: the entire American population stayed home, over-snacked, under-exercised and watched the Tiger King. People needed a fiber supplement to course-correct their health like never before.

Bellway saw an unprecedented 314% month over month increase, selling out of top products, and scrambling to import organic psyllium husk from India during trade embargoes and tariffs.
In March, the brand closed their first seed round of $2M, all while re-organizing their team from the Rockefeller Center WeWork to homes across the country.
We invited Max to share all he’s learned, from his career in wellness to his rapid fire experience with Bellway this year, in our series, What I’ve Learned So Far. Here’s Dresse…

What I’ve Learned So Far: Bellway’s Max Dresse

What I’ve learned about myself…

I’m a millennial — FOMO (“fear of missing out”) is part of my DNA. Before the pandemic, I was constantly striving to experience new things while still starting Bellway.

A lockdown during a global pandemic is a FOMO nightmare. I was worried I’d struggle not being able to be out and about. But I experienced a whole new side of myself, being able to calm down and hyper-focus on my business. For me, that was a whole new aspect of mental health.

What I’ve learned about business…

Starting a business is a rollercoaster. You think you’ve prepared yourself all these years, but you’re constantly thrown into situations that nobody taught you about. For example, how do you launch a brand during a global pandemic?

What I’ve learned is to move fast and keep testing, testing, testing. When you see promising results in one test, go deeper and keep testing. At the same time, don’t over-test and make sure you scale on time.

What I’ve learned about people…

I thought that in starting Bellway we’d have to be very careful how we approach this taboo topic of pooping. I thought people would not be ready to talk about it and we’d have to go very general with language like “being regular”. But data showed that times have changed. People want to be real, and don’t have time for any b*shit. Literally! The more directly we talk about these problems, the better. Because in the end, don’t we all go to the bathroom?

What I’ve learned about this industry…

The vast majority of this country doesn’t realize that they don’t get enough fiber, but fiber can be integral to disease prevention (studies link a lack of fiber with some cancers, heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity and more).

Studies show that 95% of us don’t get enough fiber daily. Eating a salad a day is not enough — the average salad only has 3g of fiber, while we need 30g a day. We would have to eat 10 salads a day to get to our daily recommended fiber.

There’s a lot of education that needs to happen, in order to start this fiber ‘movement’ and convince the remaining 312 million Americans to get 30g of fiber a day. That’s why we started Bellway – it’s never been easier to get your fiber!

What I’ve learned about wellness…

Different areas of this country still have very different ideas about what tastes good and what’s healthy. But it’s great to see that across the board people are looking for healthier options, less sugar and no chemicals. While it might not be mainstream everywhere, it’s clear these better-for-you products will win long-term.

What I’ve learned about self-care…

There are so many ways to take care of yourself. What I’ve learned on this Bellway journey is that gut health is essential to mental health. In reading the emerging scientific studies coming out, I can see what we’re learning about the gut-brain connection in my own experience. If my gut health is off it can send the wrong signals to my brain and I might have a bad day. I’m beginning to recognize those patterns in my own lifestyle and to think of gut health as self care — it can be so simple!

What I’ve learned about adaptability and resilience during 2020…

2020 has been a year like no other. We’ve seen the global economy shifting, industries on pause, and longstanding businesses shutting down.

Here in New York City we were in one of the epicenters of the health crisis, and just a few days prior to the markets plummeting I had raised my seed round of $2M, which meant giving investors my word I would create value for them in this company.

Having worked at start-ups before, I’m used to taking on great feats, and pivoting on a dime, but it was surreal feeling the entire world do it at the same time. 

I hope we’ll come out of this year tackling all sorts of issues that we’ve neglected for too long, such as climate change or even the state of our own health. While this year I’m definitely grateful for what we have, it shows that just gratitude is not enough: we have to keep working to not only keep things the way they are, but make them better. 

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