Tom Sega has a Zoom conversation with Donny Pearson, the General Manager and Co-Founder of Boomerang Energy, Inc., an energy drink company that is focused on real good energy, on this week’s episode of Leader of the Pack, a podcast by Duluth Pack. In this podcast episode, Donny talks us through growing up in an entrepreneurial family to create Boomerang Energy and growing it from the ground up. While Tom and Donny are just getting to know each other, Tom mentions that he worked with Donny’s father during Tom’s first job (in high school) and learned a great wealth of knowledge from him about accountability – which is something that Donny can relate to well.
Background on Donny Pearson
Donny’s family is from Duluth, Minnesota and his dad began his career in the area as an engineer, but Donny’s father’s work led them to move often in his early years. Donny was born in Granada, Mississippi, and moved to several states including, Maine, Alabama, Ohio, Atlanta, and South Carolina, before returning to the Duluth area. When they returned to Duluth, Donny’s father became an entrepreneur in the healthcare information technology space. Donny discusses his father’s passion for being an entrepreneur and how that desire instilled a lot of drive in him to be an entrepreneur. For college, Donny attended school for Computer Information Systems and graduated at the young and impressive age of 19. Upon graduating, Donny was looking for what his future would hold and considered a variety of pursuits, including the military, where he was a candidate for West Point Academy and the FBI. Donny met his wife in Duluth and began his first position working for his father’s company and would later find his entrepreneurial pursuit.
Entering The Workforce
While working for his father’s company, Donny held several positions, including IT and Outside Sales. Tom and Donny discuss how Donny grew up seeing the company grow from the start and how exciting it was to see it through all of the growing pains – struggles and successes. Donny recalls the beginning years of the company and when his father was not able to pay himself, even with a family of 4 children to support. “The path is hard, and I got to see that from an early age, but my dad always encouraged us to make our own pie, don’t ask for a slice of someone else’s pie, make your own.” During his time working for his father’s company, which would later be acquired twice to become Striker, Donny began to build his own business. Donny’s coworker helped formulate a powder that allowed them to enter the supplement market. This product was the beginning of what would later become the energy beverage we know and love today, Boomerang Energy.
The Start of Boomerang Energy
Tom and Donny connect over talking about Donny starting his family and hearing he would need to learn to like coffee to handle the lack of sleep he would endure with a newborn. Tom explained that he was in the same boat as Donny when he had young children, but now drinks a cup a day. This thought of needing an energy boost led Donny to look for a healthy alternative compared to the unhealthy and sugary energy drinks that were currently on the market. Seeing the need for clean alternative energy, Donny left the supplement side of things and began to create Boomerang Energy. Tom inquires, “How did you bring this to market?” Donny explained that initially, they pursued the gaming community, but needed to pivot because that community was based solely on flavor and not necessarily health focused. This pivot led them to pursue younger professionals invested in their wellness. Boomerang Energy was created in 2016, leading Donny to separate from the supplement industry to focus solely on Boomerang Energy. Boomerang Energy’s health focused energy drinks come with the tagline “Real. Good. Energy.” Real means the ingredients they use are 100% natural. Good stands for all the ingredients are healthy for you and can be processed naturally by the body. Energy is just that, a natural result of feeling energized without the crashes. Pearson says that Boomerang Energy gets you better energy that will last longer and is perfect for people looking for a healthier alternative. When beginning Boomerang Energy Donny focused on creating a balance of natural ingredients to find the best combination for the body and for taste. That is why Boomerang Energy uses three amino ingredients that are native to the body and three herbal ingredients that have been around for thousands of years. During the early years, Donny bootstrapped his company by working a full-time position to support his family and working on Boomerang Energy outside of his typical 9-5 grind.
Tom and Donny talk about advice for young entrepreneurs, and he speaks of how he learned some great lessons from his father. Donny states that one of the great lessons he learned was, “When you are with your family, be present and focused on them during that time.” This advice led Donny to make a career change and leave his position for Striker. When Striker acquired the company, Donny’s position shifted to become travel heavy and was not conducive to the family life Donny wanted and craved. This shift made Donny join two of his brothers and buy Budget Blinds, a business franchise in Duluth, MN. This move allowed Donny to maintain his family lifestyle and continue to support Boomerang Energy. Donny and Tom go on to talk about the entrepreneurial spirit and Donny’s desire to help other entrepreneurs get started and support his community. Donny explains that being able to give back is important to him and being philanthropic has always been a goal of Boomerang Energy. Since the company began, Boomerang Energy has provided scholarships for those pursuing entrepreneurship and other local and global causes!
Challenges During COVID-19
Tom and Donny talk about the challenges that Boomerang Energy faced through the pandemic. In March of 2020, Donny shifted Boomerang Energy from a powder form to a ready-to-drink canned beverage and was about to begin a public launch right when COVID-19 hit. This forced the brand to shift its strategy around marketing. Tom and Donny discuss supply chain issues for Boomerang Energy, thankfully the simplicity of the ingredients in Boomerang Energy drinks helped with supply chain issues, but the aluminum shortage did affect them. During the Pandemic, Boomerang Energy also had an exciting deal come through that placed them in over 140 Life Time Athletic Club Cafes, a huge feat for the startup, especially during unprecedented times. Now as Boomerang Energy comes out of COVID-19, they have a strong marketing strategy and are excited to begin doing in-person tastings and events again.
Tom and Donny discuss several challenges that one faces as an entrepreneur along with the perseverance it takes to have an idea and bring it to fruition. One of the big takeaways from this week’s episode is that entrepreneurship is a long game that takes a lot of time and a lot of work. Donny has put in that time with Boomerang Energy, and you can now find them online and in select stores in Duluth, MN, like the Whole Foods Co-op, Duluth’s Best Bread, and Corktown Deli. To learn more about Donny and Boomerang Energy, you can head to boomerangenergy.com or learn more on our swapped stories blog post about Boomerang Energy! Thank you, Donny, for joining us on this week’s episode of Leader of the Pack and sharing the triumphs and struggles of starting your own business.