, makers of Liquid Hope, the first and only whole food, all-organic feeding tube meal, announced a $1.6 million investment raise, secured only two days after opening the funding round. In the past year, CEO and founder Robin Gentry McGee has seen production double, warehouse space triple and her employees grow from one to six. To trace the rapid success of her company means to go back almost a decade.
In 2005, after a career as a chef and restaurant owner, Gentry McGee was searching for something new when her father suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was left in a coma for a several weeks and started to develop infections while in the hospital. Gentry McGee had been studying the concept of food as medicine for some time and noticed that the nutrition her father was getting via his feeding tube was severely lacking in important nutrients.
“I was appalled,” Gentry McGee says. “It had a lot of corn syrup solids, some other sugars, whey, a lot of chemical, synthetic vitamins. I realized that he wasn’t getting adequate nutrition, and I started looking around for a healthier formula; I looked all over the world and couldn’t find one.”
This led to the initial creation of what has come to be called “Liquid Hope” in 2006, her own recipe of whole foods combined together to serve as a nutritionally dense meal replacement feeding tube formula. Since then, she has spent years working with a dietician on a version of the formula that could be produced on a commercial level and still retain its profile as an all-organic recipe.
“We had to find a very specific blend,” Gentry McGee says. “It took us almost eight years to perfect.”
In 2011, she entered Functional Formularies into the second class of Cincinnati’s Bad Girl Ventures
(BGV), an educational and micro-financing organization for female entrepreneurs.
“I would never have been able to take the business this far without help from BGV,” she says. “I’m like an artist—numbers are not what I’m compelled to understand. But when I walked out of there, I had a business plan in hand and a $25,000 loan to keep everything moving.”
The recipe was completed around the end of 2012, and the first test shipments of the product were sent in the first quarter of 2013. Both of the first two full production runs sold out before any of the product actually made it to the warehouse.
“Since then, we just recently ran the numbers and our sales are up 459 percent since this time last year,” Gentry McGee says. “We’re on track to do about $1 million with no marketing. People have found us through word of mouth. Our customers have been using our product consistently and they’re doing very well, and the doctors are starting to pay attention, we’re getting referrals and dieticians.”
Now, Functional Formularies is in the process of creating another version of the product for children who are on feeding tubes. In the end, Gentry McGee hopes not only to grow her company, but more important, to continue to educate the public and the medical world as well on the concept of food as medicine and the importance of knowing what we choose to put in our bodies.