Calloway Cook

Founder of Illuminate Labs

Calloway Cook founded the herbal supplements company Illuminate Labs to solve the transparency issues in the dietary supplements market. He is a serial entrepreneur who raised an angel investment round in early 2019 for this venture. Calloway was taking dietary supplements when he came up with the idea for the company. He saw a gap in the market because consumers were willing to pay higher prices for tested and safe supplements, but no manufacturer was filling that need.

Where did the idea for Illuminate Labs come from?

The idea for Illuminate Labs came from my frustration as a consumer in the dietary supplements market. I was looking for supplements that were tested and safe, but not a single supplement company I reached out to was willing to send me a test result of their product. I was willing to pay top-dollar for a product that was guaranteed clean, but was left without a good option. After seeing many people voicing the same concerns about the U.S. supplement market online, I ended up founding my company to solve this transparency and safety problem. We test every single batch of finished product at a third-party, non-profit partner laboratory and publish the test results right on each product page for consumers to see themselves.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My tasks are different every day, which is what I love about being an entrepreneur. I don’t really have a “typical day”. I wake up early naturally and then attend to whatever the most pressing business issue is — this may be dealing with suppliers, starting a new marketing campaign, doing a social campaign, or many other things. I have a Google Pages document with all the tasks I need to accomplish and I knock them off one-by-one.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’m relentless about execution. I take actionable steps to see whether my business ideas are feasible, and then act on them.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Consumers in the supplement space are becoming more knowledgeable due to free resources like PubMed. They’re learning how to analyze new research themselves, and make informed decisions about the health products they’re taking.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I meditate daily. This sounds unrelated to business but it is instrumental to maintaining mental discipline. I don’t have issues with distraction — when I sit down to work, I work in an extremely efficient manner.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Health should always be a priority over money.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Gene editing technology is a good thing and will make humanity happier and less burdened by disease in our lifetime.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Have a list of goals and business tasks to accomplish. If you are just floating by day-to-day without a set of actionable problems to tackle you won’t be nearly as efficient as someone who has a set plan.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Leveraging my network to raise angel investment. If I had bootstrapped my company with my own money I wouldn’t have been able to scale as fast as I am with the capital I raised.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My first business that I launched in college failed. I learned a lot from it and that experience has helped guide and inform decisions I’ve made while running Illuminate Labs, which is my second business.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

An uncensorable social media platform based on blockchain technology is coming. There will be pros and cons to this sort of technology, but it’s inevitably coming and whoever does it first will be financially rewarded.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I spent $100 on a gift to myself after achieving a business milestone. I think this sort of thing is important, as giving yourself little incentives can be immensely rewarding since at the start of your business you’re not making that much money. Almost all of my business profits get reinvested back into the business.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

TaxJar is incredibly useful since we’re an eCommerce business. It’s a tool that automates sales tax reporting. Since eCommerce businesses need to track and pay sales tax in all 50 states based on various economic thresholds, this is a process you want to automate as much as possible as it could be very time-consuming to do manually.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’m sure this has been stated by other entrepreneurs, but The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is the most influential business book I’ve ever read. I always inherently abided by the “lean” startup methodology, but the author puts the principles into words better than I could have expressed.

What is your favorite quote?

“I’m skeptical of any mission that has advertisers as its centerpiece” — Jeff Bezos

Key Learnings:

  • Take at least one full day off work a week. Don’t check business email at all. Sunday is good since it’s the day where your business partners are least likely to need to contact you. This is essential for mental health.
  • Oftentimes cutting costs on suppliers looks good on paper and bad in practice. Margins might be slightly increased on paper, but you’re going to end up with suppliers that are cutting costs themselves and producing poorer-quality product.
  • Every business communication should be totally professional until the other party establishes a casual tone. Let the other party set the tone of the conversation. You never lose anything by being too professional at the outset of a business relationship, but you can definitely lose something by being too casual.


Instagram: @illuminatelabs