Eosera Inc. took another step forward on May 15 as Rite Aid joined Amazon, Target and CVS in carrying the Fort Worth company’s ear care products.
After the initial years of being stranded on the innovation stage, the Fort Worth-based ear care company is now entering yet another period of hypergrowth.
Boosting the growth, national drugstore chain Rite Aid has become the latest major retailer to sell Eosera products in stores across the nation.
Rite Aid joins retail giants Amazon, Target and CVS that sells Eosera's line of ear care products.
Consumers can find the products in the ear care aisle of about 2,500 Rite Aid stores in 19 states from mid-May.
Eosera has experienced explosive growth since it was founded in 2015.
The company's year-over-year sales increased by 100% in 2018. Compared to 2018, total sales doubled again in 2019.
Earwax MD, Eosera's flagship product, was deemed effective in the removal of impacted human cerumen by The National Institutes of Health, who conducted a clinical study on it in 2017.
NIH also found that about 12 million people seek medical attention for cerumen-related problems.
The market for earwax removal category has increased by 7.8% in a recent year, according to Nielsen Corporation, a global marketing research firm.
While the market for Earwax MD increased by 166% over the same period of time.
And, that's music to the ears for Eosera cofounders Elyse Dickerson and Joe Griffin, who both believe the company will soon become a global brand and serve international markets.
"What we found is there was no big manufacturer for ear care," Dickerson said. "There was no big Alcon, they're focused on eye care. There was just no one focused on ear care, over the counter. So, it left it wide-open for us."
Fort Worth Business Press sat down with Dickerson and Griffin to learn how the co-founders are managing the rapid growth at Eosera.
What does getting into Rite Aid mean for the company?
Dickerson: People that shop at drugstores typically are very loyal to their drugstores. If you are a CVS shopper, you tend to always go to your CVS. So, it opens up a whole new population of patients for us that we haven't been able to reach. The ear care shelf within the store is very small because there's not a lot of competing product. So if you're a shopper and you go to Rite Aid, you're gonna see our product. It's not like detergents, where there are hundreds.
How difficult was it to conceptualize a brand-new product and then start a business with it?
Griffin: The start of the company was an exciting challenge, just completely different. It was exciting, it was new. It was "let's go tackle this" and "how can we do it?" You go out there and try to solve problems along the way with excitement and a little bit of fear.
Is it any different now that the business is up and running?
Dickerson: There's less fear now, but a little bit more stress. Because there are more tight deadlines. You know, you have to meet the demands of each retailer. So, production demands and sale goals. It's a different kind of stress. There's not that fear of failure anymore, which we had in the beginning.
What kind of growth is Eosera experiencing?
Dickerson: In stores that are carrying our products, they are seeing a 30% growth rate in the category, year-over-year, which is driven by our products. So, that's pretty staggering growth considering ear care has been a category that's been flat to declining in the last 10 years. To take a category that is flat and now it's growing at 30% — people are watching, mainly the competitive retailers are watching.
Are you afraid the fast-paced growth might prevent you to react quick enough to certain market changes?
Dickerson: We are on a plan of controlled growth. We are methodically taking on retailers, sort of step by step. We didn't launch in all retailers at one time and we didn't launch all products at one time. We're continually evaluating our production capacity and what we can handle with our current resources. One of my fears is that you run out of cash to run your business. So, yes, sales can look great, but I have a daily look at how is cash flowing in and out of this business. At the end of the day, that's what makes a company succeed or not.
Initially, Eosera had a third-party manufacturer but since last year the company manufactures products at its own facility. Why was that operational step significant?
Griffin: The challenges with contract manufacturing are primarily: control of quality, timing and price. Multiples of those we wanted to have control over. One of the main ones was the timing of when we need products. Some contract manufacturers needed two months of lead time. We needed to give them two-months’ time and they'd get us on the queue. For a growing business, understanding what two months from now looks like is almost impossible. It'll be a miracle that somebody could accurately forecast when you're starting up, or probably any time.
The cost was another main driver. We were able to evaluate the spend for manufacturing equipment and realized that within just a short amount of time, the return on investment would be there for the capital equipment and then we could control the timing. The timing is so easy for us to control right now that if we had an order come across the computer today and we don't have the product, we can satisfy the order with a retailer by the two-week lead time that they need.
Is there any reason for the relatively expensive prices for Eosera products?
Dickerson: From the current products in the ear wax removal category, we came in and doubled the price. Because, we were the first, new innovation in decades. We had something that was clinically proven and showed the efficacy of the product. Because it works quickly and works really well, we knew that we could set ourselves apart on price.
Are there any challenges in healthcare retailing?
Griffin: One of the approaches we take is how best can we change behaviors in the marketplace. And healthcare is something that we didn't have anything to do with it; that's a phenomenon of the healthcare system that we have. But, we can take advantage of it. Still, our main focus, to the degree we can, is to inform the medical community about our products and the positive impact our products can have. So that if a patient does end up with a healthcare provider, the healthcare provider would be aware of our products. And if we've done our jobs well, they know that our products are different or better in some way and that doctor can make a recommendation to that patient.