Jessika Jake runs Rist Wellness in San Diego California. I was intrigued by her work initially because I have been using a traditional foam roller on my back for years (and swear by it). Jessika popped up to say hello in our marketing mastermind group and I knew immediately that I wanted to featured her due to her experience with manufacturing a product –something that seems so difficult and complicated to those of us who have never done it.
Ludell Jones: Tell us about your business and what you do.
Jessika Jake: Our business is Rist Wellness, and our product is the patent pending mini foam roller, RistRoller®. Our products and services are designed to help people feel awesome, so they can do awesome. Just like traditional foam rollers, ours help massage out tight spots, especially in the wrist, hand, and forearm.
LJ: What inspired you to pursue entrepreneurship?
JJ: My daughter Jade’s love of traditional foam rollers sparked this idea. While traveling (part of) the world with Semester at Sea, she was elated to announce to me that she made a friend with a foam roller. All the news she was delivering to me was incredible: regularly teaching yoga to a class of 80 students on the deck of the ship, running a half marathon in Ireland on a whim, sleeping in the desert, riding a camel.. and then, “Mom, I have the best news!!” (This said in a voice that would make someone proclaiming “I just one a million dollars” sound calm.) “I made a friend with a foam roller!!!” She hadn’t packed one for her 3.5 month journey and being able to use one made her life. This made a light go on in my head, thinking, “foam rollers must be magical.” With aching wrists, I decided I needed one too.
LJ: What is one of the toughest challenges you’ve faced while building a business?
JJ: Time. I had a full-time job and was freelancing as well. There came a point where I had to say no to all of the freelancing. I am still working full-time at an awesome agency, but I still wish I had more time to devote to RistRoller®.
LJ: How did you learn how to manufacture a product and what’s your general take on it?
JJ: In deciding to go for it and manufacture our product, we did a lot of research and received a ton of foam samples from manufacturers in the US and overseas. Sites like ThomasNet were very helpful, as was simply Googling, and also, if a manufacturer was not a match for what we needed, asking if there was another company we should contact helped us get even more referrals.
We learned more about foam than you would think is possible. We learned more about the process as well (molds vs. extrusion). We also did a lot of testing and got a lot of feedback. In creating a product within the world of health and wellness (where we naturally find ourselves), we were so fortunate to have so many testers at our disposal.
My favorite story involves two testers who told me their foam rollers exploded — albeit, not in a dangerous way, it was an air bubble that made the foam pop (something I would never think to look out for)– but there we had it: exploding foam rollers.
For apparel companies, there is an excellent resource called the Higg Index, where pre-competitive research is collected and guidelines are set in the way of sustainability. For us, having a safe product, causing the least environmental harm, fair labor, and quality were all key. We live in California, where we have Prop 65 to abide by, so I always ask about those standards when vetting manufacturers. I always ask for safety reports and about fair labor. I have received TUV SUD, SGS and other certifications in the way of safety reporting.
The factory safety and fair labor inquiries have come back with different types of documentation, as well photos. On-site visits are always an option, and we have been toying with that. I have always been a consumer who avoids products that are tested on animals, and who tries her best to buy products that are made under fair conditions. Also, items that are not bad for the environment.
I was naturally concerned about these things when creating our product. At the same time we were starting up RistRoller, I purchased a yoga mat and was surprised to see a warning on it that it contained chemicals known in the state of California to cause cancer. A lot of our partners also make children’s toys (and thus have strict standards), but this little warning got Prop 65 on my radar as well.
We also strategically have 3 manufacturers — one in the US and two overseas. We would not want to be in a position where if our manufacturer ceased to exist, RistRoller would cease to exist. I have learned that sometimes you try out a new manufacturer who sends you gorgeous samples and weeks later thousands of unusable foam rollers could arrive at your door.
I have learned that you could work through quality issues with the right partner. I have learned that some partners “just get it” off the bat. Though our manufacturers say we can send back defective rollers for replacements, we have found this wasteful (never took anyone up on this) and instead have what we call the “Island of Misfit RistRollers” which get donated to medical/health groups. For those that have really minor issues, we use them as samples or give them away at events.
Find a list of Jessika’s recommended resources for manufacturing a product at the end of this post.
LJ: What advice would you give to your younger self if you knew then what you know now?
JJ: I’d have so much advice to give myself.
- Go to the dentist 3x a year. Prevention is key. You know those fillings and crowns you get? Well they give out in a couple decades… and then? You need a bigger filling, and if it is too big, you get a crown.
- Watch your sugar. All those things that are packaged to look healthy really aren’t.
- There is a “crest of youth” that we ride until our 30’s, maybe 40’s… and beyond that, if you are not taking care of yourself, the data shows that it will be a steady decline over the next decades. BUT, if you do take care of yourself you can actually compress morbidity (illness, aka “suck”), so that instead of having a slow decline, you can compress all that suck into one steep sendoff… probably a decade or so after the average lifespan. You can live young ’til an old, old age. (Of course I find this out when I am 45.)
- You are worthy. You are just hanging onto notions of a child that are incorrect. Go hang out with a dog, and then just see what you think of human judgements.
- Bone mass peaks at 30 for women. [Of course I find this out when I am 35.]
- Connect with your values and purpose. Let these guide you. You really don’t need to sell out. Once you sell out, it is hard to un-sellout.
- Stress and overwork are really, really bad for humans… worse that you think. Go Google that, and calm down, and stop working so much.
- Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s most certainly wrong.
LJ: What other entrepreneurs or companies do you admire and why?
JJ: I really like following the story of Puravida. This company also freely shares eCommerce strategies with up-and-comers. They go out to Shopify events, and speak at colleges. I see parallels in their story and ours and greatly appreciate all of their help.
I also loved Blake Mycoskie’s book Start Something that Matters. It is about TOM’s shoes. Btw, TOM stands for tomorrow, and not someone’s name. Anyway, I think this book should be made into a movie. His story is inspiring, comical, and impactful.
Find out more about Jessika’s company at https://ristroller.com.
Jessika’s manufacturing resources: