Entrepreneurial Energy Boost: Oxygen Plus wants to breathe new life into your busy day

Entrepreneurial Energy Boost: Oxygen Plus wants to breathe new life into your busy day

What started as an idea to help people with lung disease carry their portable oxygen more discretely has turned into portable oxygen marketed to athletes, travelers and people who need a caffeine-free pick-me-up.

Oxygen Plus is the brainchild of Christine Warren and a team of creative thinkers who started pondering new methods of delivering oxygen in 2004 and introduced their product two years later. Oxygen Plus comes in slender canisters and subtle scents of peppermint and pink grapefruit. It contains 90 percent pure oxygen, which it delivers in puffs squirted into the mouth. The energy boost lasts about 20 minutes with no post-caffeine-like crash afterward.

“It’s good after a hard exercise session,” Warren says. “You get yourself back and you’re ready to go.”

Oxygen Plus represents a different sort of venture for Warren, who has spent most of her working life as a marriage and family therapist and family business consultant. Once she shared the oxygen idea with some of the people she met in those two professions, they began building a team with expertise in business, product design, engineering and marketing to brainstorm how to deliver oxygen in non-medical ways.

One friend provided $800,000 in seed money. Another used marketing expertise developed at branding and communications company Fallon, whose clients include Sony and Budweiser. An engineer who had worked with NASA contributed to the product design.

“We have an incredible team. Not one person has left since we started. The character and competency are phenomenal,” says Warren. “They had the opportunity to design the brand and make it happen. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”

The product comes in two sizes of aluminum canisters and is manufactured in the U.S., with some components from Europe and Canada. The plastic dispenser for the 50-oz. canister is refillable. Prices start at $4.99 for a mini-canister to $29.99 for a dispenser with two 5-oz. canisters. A six-pack of refills is $47.50.

Once they decided to market Oxygen Plus to recreational rather than medical users, the team focused its efforts on spas and hotels, including Canyon Ranch, the W Hotels and the Ritz Carlton chain.

“We had the pink grapefruit on one of the hotel’s breakfast menus,” Warren says.

The product has since made its way to more than 800 retail outlets, including ski, bicycle and other sporting goods shops in 35 states, Washington, D.C., a Canadian province and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Local retailer URBAN Traveler is selling the product at its Uptown and St. Paul stores. Owner Willy van Dooijeweert says Oxygen Plus has been popular with his customers, especially those traveling to high-altitude and polluted destinations. “We always like to have the latest and the newest, and this is really cutting edge,” says Dooijeweert. “The stuff started selling almost instantly. It’s my number-one selling travel accessory in the store since mid-December.”

Van Dooijeweert says Oxygen Plus is popular among customers who use it to restore oxygen to their systems after long flights. He’s also used it after working 10-hour days and has felt refreshed. “It gets you back to your regular level,” he says. “The effect is there for a while.”

The Oxygen Plus team has continued to raise money and has other projects on the drawing board. “At some point in the future, especially as we see the market is responding so well, we will be looking for more investments,” says Warren. “We really like running this. We’re trusting the process and figuring that out.”

Minnesota Business Magazine

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