Matthew “Motu” Nu’uvali is a self-taught salesman, entrepreneur and business leader with a remarkable journey that has led him to where he is today. From a challenging start, he has risen to become a VP and Partner at Drip Drop Distro, a dynamic company in the counterculture distribution industry.
Motu’s journey began with adversity when he found himself incarcerated at the young age of 19. However, upon his release at 24, he made a firm commitment to focus on himself.
His pivotal career move came when he joined forces with his cousin and her husband, who had acquired the formula for a product that would soon become known as Rhino Rush in 2011. Motu played a crucial role in branding the product and successfully introducing it into the competitive market of energy shots, initially focusing on smoke shops.
Rhino Rush’s uniqueness lay in its formula, featuring Ephedra Viridis, which resonated with a demographic of consumers familiar with its effects from the late ’90s and early 2000s. Under Motu’s leadership, the brand navigated its way from smoke shops to convenience stores and grocery chains, even securing a significant deal with Albertsons, in part due to steadfast determination and “fake it until you make it” mentality – and with some connections he made through his grandfather.
Motu’s journey at Rhino Rush was not without its challenges, though. Despite initially disliking most of the factors of working in sales, he was able to find a new approach with the guidance of a sales coach, eventually landing impressive deals and overseeing the brand’s presence in major retail chains across the United States such as Kroger, Circle K and 7 Eleven. Energy shots were a tough category, though, with major competitors like 5 Hour Energy. Motu had to again get creative. The key was to win on the shelf. Instead of pouring money into traditional, national marketing and advertising, Motu decided to put it all in store – with in-store advertising, shelf clings, and attention-grabbing displays.
However, in 2019, Rhino Rush faced a significant setback, losing a substantial portion of its distribution. Nevertheless, Motu’s career took a new turn when he joined Drip Drop Distro in 2020 at the invitation of now partners Douglas Campbell and Troy Palmer.
At Drip Drop Distro, Motu focuses on expanding the company’s presence from its roots in independent and cash-and-carry markets into the mainstream. He plays a pivotal role in diversifying Drip Drop Distro’s product portfolio, including the acquisition of Rhino Rush in 2021. With his dedication and strategic thinking, he has led Drip Drop Distro to remarkable growth and profitability, propelling the company to new heights.
Motu’s vision for Drip Drop Distro involves closing the gap between counterculture and the mainstream while capitalizing on the evolving legal landscape, particularly in the cannabis industry. He envisions the company becoming a billion-dollar powerhouse within the next five to six years. To achieve this, the company is heavily investing in technological innovation, streamlining ordering processes, and implementing AI solutions to optimize product assortments for retailers across the country. Above all, though, Motu looks to continue to lead the company toward a future of unprecedented growth, built on a foundation of innovation and unparalleled customer support.
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
I guess it depends on the morning; most of the time I’m awake at around 6:00. The day typically starts with a work out in the gym or I take my dogs on a walk. When I’m home, I take my daughter to school. I try to make it a goal to take her to school as much as possible. I miss too much of her life already traveling as much as I do. I head to the office between 8:00 and 8:30 and am ready to hit the ground running. Mondays are meetings all day. My career really started off in Sales, and then as the business grew I started moving into ops. I love every piece of operations, but I’m really good at sales. So when I’m not in a meeting, then usually grinding away and calling customers trying to make sales.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a fan of thinking outside of the box and looking for solutions to problems that most people wouldn’t think of. Most of the time my solutions or my ideas are more retail focused. It’s the evolution of retail that really interests me, as retail has evolved from what it was 40, 50 years ago to where it is today. And I’m super interested in where it’s going to go. How do you be at the forefront with ideas to transition the consumer buying experience? Many of my ideas are how I would want to experience going into a store as well as how I would want to experience being able to buy said products. What details of a certain aisle or area help me enjoy that buying experience? Technology also plays into this, especially as it relates to the thought process and how consumer buying habits happen.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I think the greatest trend that I’m enjoying is the counterculture bridge. We are starting to see Kratom and Kratom accessories moving into the mainstream, which is good for us because that’s the industry we come from and that’s the industry that we do well in – we even have an upcoming podcast episode about it! It’s good to see that crossover and to see us being at the forefront of it.
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
When I got out of prison, I had no high school education. I don’t have a college degree. So when I got out of prison, I told myself that I was going to figure out a way to use my brain to make money. I knew that I had to become a sponge and I had to be able to retain all of it. I don’t have anything special that I do that keeps me productive. I’m just productive. I just get in here and I just know that I have a CRM full of people that I’m supposed to call. And I call them and then I’m able to mix in other operational projects throughout the day.
To better answer your question, I have nothing. I have no assistant. I have no color coding of my emails. I just get in here and do it. And a lot of times I feel like I don’t get enough done. But I do. I get a lot done. And sometimes I amaze myself at the fact that I have like no system that keeps me on task. I’ve tried, including productive dice, which is a pair of dice that has different times – one hour, ten minutes, etc. And you roll it and you decide what each side means. So if you land on the two hour, that means you’re going to do two hours of email follow ups. Then you roll it again, and it’s one hour, which I’ve equated to one hour of calling customers. I tried and I couldn’t do it. I’ll be in the middle of completing a bunch of emails and I’ll remember that I have to call a customer. But at the end of the day, I’ve found my own way to balance and prioritize projects, even if it’s not a perfect system that works for everyone. But I happen to get it all done, somehow, someway.
What advice would you give your younger self?
My advice to my younger self would be that everything that’s about to happen is supposed to happen and to enjoy the journey. I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t be who I am and I wouldn’t have been hungry, or spurned, or grown, or loved, and appreciated all the blessings I have now if I didn’t go through every minute of what I’ve been through. And so, I wouldn’t want my younger self to experience anything different than what I already experienced to get me to where I am today. I would tell myself to enjoy the ride, bro, cause it’s fun once we get there. We’re not even there yet.
Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.
I’m a huge believer in experience trumping education. Once upon a time, not a lot of people believed that. And I think more and more, COVID taught a lot of people that to have the paper is meaningless. They have to go find other jobs. I think there’s a lot more people now that realize that experience can trump education. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes from hands-on experience.
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
Be grateful, for every day is a blessing. We only have today to work hard. We only have today to put all the effort in. We don’t know what tomorrow brings. So that’s my motto. It’s what I live by, and faith is everything to me. So when we do things as a team, when we’re doing trade shows or we’re doing events, prayer is everything. We pray for the blessings and for everything that’s going to come our way. We’ll be grateful for what it is and sometimes it isn’t what we want it to be, but it is what we’re going to get if we accept it.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
I tell myself: “Stop complaining.” I need to remember my purpose and the reason why I’m doing something. My purpose used to be because I had to prove all the critics wrong. That a three time felon with no education could do it. And now I do it because I have a wife and a daughter that I have to bless every day. I have a girl. Having a young girl in this world is a struggle. And so whenever I have mental blocks, or I feel like I can’t do it, I remember that she’s watching. I’m going to be the biggest advocate in her life, reminding her that you can’t quit, you can’t give up, can’t let it ever pull you down. At the end of the day, you’re going to have to figure out how to push through it anyways. So push through.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
Early on in my career, I never understood the mental blocks or roadblocks that you put up as a salesperson. To give you an example, a customer would tell me, “You can’t do it this way because that’s not how we do it.” Or, “You can’t sell it to us this way because that’s not how we receive it.” And every time I would get told I couldn’t do it that way, I would create this mental block. And I would go to sell to the customers in a confined way that seemed to have no escape. But before that when I had no blocks, I just did it. I’m a fan of what you don’t know, you don’t know. If you don’t know it, you just go for it. You sell and you sell whether you’re supposed to or not supposed to. I have been reminding myself that there’s no amount of blocks I can put up. Just go. Get it done.
What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?
I’ve made the mistake of selling to the wrong customers, to where I’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I come from a very different background than most people. So, if you steal from me, I grew up thinking that there would be a different set of consequences. I had to learn that I’m going to have to accept losses without taking justice into my own hands. I now never put myself in a situation where I’m going to allow a customer to take a product from me without paying. And, along the way, I’ve developed the mantra that sometimes I’ll find myself in crummy situations because of a risk I took. But as long as I step up to the plate and I just keep selling, sales solves all problems. Revenue solves all problems (at least in this business). As long as I’m willing to sell myself off from whatever problem I put myself into, I’ll be just fine.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The transition of gas stations. As electric cars keep growing and evolving, people are going to have to stop and charge their cars for 15, 30, 40 minutes. So, if you’re willing to spend time changing the inside experience at market stores, gas stations, and convenience locations where someone is going to potentially spend 30-40 minutes, there’s a lot of revenue potential at the end of that.
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Google Calendar. We’re a G Suite company, so I use Google for everything. Google Home is everywhere in my home. And my phone is Android. This allows me to stay synced across the board from phone, emails, home, etc. Otherwise, I rely on my brain to keep me productive – no other software. But I don’t know how long that one’s gonna last.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
The first thing that comes to mind would be something I spent on my kid. But as far as money not spent on my family, it would be for a block party for nonprofits. It was to support a company called Veterans Entrepreneurs Alliance, which assists veterans to become entrepreneurs. While I spent more than a hundred dollars, it was the best money I spent recently because 90 percent of the funds went to supporting the nonprofit.
Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?
In the five years I spent in prison, all I did was read. So I don’t read as much anymore, even though I like to. A book that I would read today would be the Bible; I would tell anyone to read the Bible. There are amazing life lessons and great stories of incredible people that have done amazing things, and of the Savior that loves us and blesses us daily.
What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?
I’m currently into SWAT. Lincoln Lawyer is also really good. The plot’s amazing, the story’s amazing, but I love watching TV shows because it allows me to disconnect. That’s my only way to disconnect from the multitude of projects that I’m supposed to think about or remember in a day. So, I veg out on TV shows on Netflix or Paramount Plus to help me relax.
- Life is a blessing. Enjoy the ride.
- Hard work will always pay off in the end, as long as you’re willing to put in the effort and stay grounded.
- Your brain is more powerful than you really think. You don’t need all the gadgets. Your ability to utilize your brain to its full capacities is stronger than it ever used to be. It doesn’t always work out, but it has for me so far.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.