‘We want to be the sunscreen for alcohol’
Brooks Powell is a recent Kingwood Park High School grad who got an idea in his head that just he just couldn’t shake: “Take a pill any time you consume alcohol and relieve your hangover.”
That one thought – really an inspiration – changed the entire course of this young man’s life and career.
And it all began with a hangover – his hangover.
“One day I got mildly hungover and, since I was taking a neuroscience class, I started to research hangovers and alcohol withdrawal,” Powell said.
He got lucky. The Princeton sophomore came across an article in the “Journal of Neuroscience” that discussed an experiment with rats using DHM – dihydromyricetin.
“The study showed that DHM could sober up a rat immediately and rid the rat of any hangover symptoms,” Powell said. “The science behind that study was compelling and I just knew I had to be the one to bring it to the world.”
Powell graduated from Kingwood Park High School in 2012 and entered Princeton as a religion major knowing that he wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Powell created Thrive+ thanks to a lot of excellent mentoring – a fellow Princeton student, his neuroscience professor, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, and a patent-law professor.
“We’ve really taken off through some good planning and excellent execution,” Powell said. “And we’ve made really good decisions along the way. We’ve operated quickly to grow Thrive+ from $50,000 a year while I was a full-time student at Princeton to nearly $10 million just a year after I graduated.”
Starting Thrive+, or any business for that matter, is not quick. It can be very painful and all consuming, Powell admits, and the weak get weeded out quickly.
That’s why Brooks admires Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
“That man has been working hard, smart and long for two decades now, and has inspired a team to do it with him,” Powell said. “I’ve seen him in person at a Princeton event. He’s short and introverted but, through sheer will and wit, he’s become one of the most powerful and influential men in the world. He’s the ultimate hero. He had a vision for what Amazon would become from the very beginning. He just started with books because any more ambitious of a vision would have seemed ludicrous to investors.”
Powell is quick to praise his own Thrive+ team as well.
“My team breaks their backs,” he said, “and I couldn’t be more thankful to have people stay in the office and warehouse with me until 8 p.m. nearly six days a week.”
Creating a business is stressful, but Powell said having a great team can relieve much of the worry.
“If you have great personnel, then everything is gravy,” he said. “We're in this weird spot where we’ve built an incredible team that takes so much stress off me because I know everything is covered, but we’ve grown so fast that my team is half the size it needs to be.”
The stress for Powell now is finding the key hires that Thrive+ needs and the investors to help pay for them.
He credits his parents with instilling in him that can-do attitude that entrepreneurs require to be successful.
“I’m an only child with two incredible parents,” he said. “They let me do a lot while I was a kid – surf trips, rock climbing, building forts in the woods, riding my bike around late at night. This really gave me a sense of adventure and that can-do attitude.”
Powell lives in the Memorial area with Shelby, his high school sweetheart and wife of two years. His parents still live in the Bear Branch home where he grew up and Powell returns to Kingwood Park’s annual swim team reunion every Christmas.
“You can still see all my pool records there if you visit during a summer league swim meet,” he said.
For Powell, the most rewarding and worthwhile part of starting his own business is the opportunity to change the way people drink alcohol.
“I want to create a culture of happier and healthier alcohol consumption,” he said. “I get really excited about the idea that we’re affecting one of the oldest traditions in human history and making the experience of sharing drinks with friends and family better.”
Powell loves what he’s doing and hopes to be building Thrive+ bigger and bigger over the next five years.
“People always think that if an idea is good, then someone would have already done it,” he said, “but that’s only a partial truth. Lots of things sound good only in hindsight.”
“A hundred years ago,” Powell said, “inventing an invisible lotion to rub on your skin to not get sunburned would have sounded insane, but now everyone uses sunscreen.”
“When I came across DHM, I realized that people would balk in the short term but, eventually, taking a pill anytime you consume alcohol could become a common practice,” he said.
Powell’s hope is that when someone consumes alcohol, they'll take Thrive+.
“We want to be the sunscreen of alcohol,” he said. “It sounds weird, but you’ll see. In a few years, you’ll be weird for not taking it.”
To learn more about Powell’s unique product – and why Thrive+ is thriving, go his website at decidethrive.com.