Chad Willis is the founder and CEO of Plus Brand Industries Inc., the corporate parent of Agua Plus and All-Scratch! Technology.
Chad Willis lives in a world beyond the normal; what most fantasize about, he visualizes and makes a reality, believing nothing is beyond him.
This dynamic of Plus Brand founder and CEO Chad Willis is reflected across every facet of his life, each day. With an unmeasurable ability to create, organize, multi-task, delegate, and actualize strategies to turn obstacles into opportunities.
A lifelong entrepreneur, Chad Willis’ career began in the financial services space, where he founded and developed a portfolio lending marketing firm later acquired by Wells Fargo. All throughout his career, Chad Willis nurtured a passion for fitness and wellness, both professionally by starting a gym, and personally, as he began to formulate the concept behind Plus Brand Industries’ marquee products.
Plus Brand initially started in sports nutrition and had a successful online sales presence. Chad Willis saw that demand for bottled water was continuing in certain contexts and identified opportunities to improve upon what was currently available on the market. Plus Brand pivoted to water in 2019 with the creation of Agua Plus. Soon after, All-Scratch! was created. All Scratch! boasts proprietary technology that makes it as useful as it is easy to use, through much trial and error across countless potential vendors over the years. Plus Brand is bringing to market a first-of-its-kind water brand that aims to reduce waste through proprietary technology that allows consumers to differentiate their Agua Plus bottle from another among a group.
Chad Willis is a family man whose love for his fiance and two daughters drives him to create a family legacy that will ripple through the generations of the family name. The family dedicates time each day to balance work, family, fitness, and health; all of which share equal importance. The balance between these four cornerstones of personal life shines through in the holistic approach Chad Willis takes to everything he creates.
Where did the idea for Plus Brand Industries come from?
All-Scratch! and Agua Plus became brands separately. Plus Brand is the umbrella company for both brands. When we originally started, we were doing sports nutrition. Before there was ever water, we were killing it in online sales with supplements, including a top-selling fat-burning product. Everybody was buying it. But it was really difficult for us to get it into stores and expand beyond e-commerce. Contrary to popular belief, there’s significant regulation over supplements that purport to burn fat. So I started to think about my next idea. I said, “Okay, I’m going to get something that’s really easy for stores to want. And what’s a new hot trend?” This is back at the end of 2018, the beginning of 2019.
That was why we created Agua Plus. Then All-Scratch! came shortly after. I hosted our annual family reunion, with dozens of relatives coming out for it. I rented a huge house on the ocean, and I shipped down several pallets of Agua Plus. I had full coolers all over the place. The morning after the first day of the reunion, I woke up to find bottles lying around all over the place, most of them more than half full, just thrown away and going to waste I was super frustrated. I started yelling at everybody saying, “Look at the waste that we’re causing.”
Later on, my brother and I started having a couple of drinks by the beach that night. While we were chatting, he said, “There’s got to be a way to solve the waste you always see when you gather a big group and everyone is drinking from their individual bottles.” I started digging into it. When I realized there wasn’t a patent for any sort of scratch-based technology to set bottles apart from one another, I got super excited.
But the regular scratch technology wouldn’t cut it. It erases easily, smudges, and feels uncomfortable to the touch. I knew I had my work cut out for me. That’s when I hired a couple of big firms. We hired the biggest printing and ink technology companies in the world to come together to identify the proper scratch technology because it would be central to the success of the water itself.
After more than two years of reiteration, they all gave up. “This is the best we can do,” they said. “There’s nothing more we can try. We’re never going to get exactly what you want. This is just how ink is.” When I heard that, I started talking to film companies and ink companies that do different types of printing, and they started combining their knowledge. It took a lot of effort, but we did it. We found something that works perfectly.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
We bring a new meaning to the 5 a.m. club in our home. Our day starts around 4 a.m. with tea, exercise at 5 a.m. with a mix of strength and conditioning. Then my fiance gets the kids up and off to school. For me, it’s straight to Plus Brand. I love my company, so working long hours is not an issue for me. I am usually plugged in, with a few breaks, for the entire day until about 7 p.m. To stay productive while managing a company and family, I’ve had to master time management and task completion.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When you feel an idea– I mean really feel it – the determination and passion for it drives you to completion. You never stop. It’s like, internally, you just won’t allow yourself to quit until you’ve reached your goal. The final product may not always be exactly as you originally envisioned, but you push through until the vision comes to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The availability and easy access to trustworthy information on health and wellness principles and practices is an all-around good thing for the world and has led to tremendous, rapid growth for a sector that’s been around for more than four decades. For Plus Brand, the excitement and ubiquity of wellness is creating opportunities to connect with people through products that meet that growing demand for cleaner, more convenient, and more synergistic lifestyle options.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I don’t know if it’s really a habit or an involuntary drive, but I am great at identifying a solution for every problem, as long as I genuinely believe it needs to be solved, and that there is a realistic expectation that, somehow, it can be accomplished.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Not everyone will understand you. That is fine. The only one who needs to understand you is you. And always be kind.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I try to teach this to my children, or anyone for that matter, in certain situations. The one thing that is guaranteed in this life is if you are having a really bad time, I can guarantee something really good is coming, and if you are having a really good time I can guarantee something bad is coming. This is life.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Resist the urge to doubt yourself. Do whatever that requires for yourself. Do not allow outside forces to make you question your ability to create something amazing. This comes through always creating little, controllable wins, daily. Those wins reinforce your ability to resist doubt. It comes in things like a workout: get it in and celebrate the fact that you did it, even if everything else is going wrong that day. Make a good food choice. Your body feels better even if the day has gone sideways. Create and celebrate little wins so you can maintain confidence in your ability to create the big ones.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Determination and perseverance. Full stop. Others fail because they don’t continue pushing when it gets hard. You don’t have to be the smartest or the most creative to have success. You simply need to have a drive that will not allow you to stop.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In my early days as an entrepreneur, one of the most important endeavors of my life was blocked by an organization much larger than mine due to creative differences. The challenge of overcoming that obstacle pushed me far out of my comfort zone. Once I stood up and dusted myself off, I knew where my failure was, and I found that comfort zone again. I learned from the experience. It’s crucial to have certain key pieces in place before going out into the world with an idea and a business around that idea. Being an entrepreneur means facing failure frequently. But that failure either discourages you and breaks you down or builds you up, through the realization that you just added an experience that made you wiser. It’s a personal choice that determines which happens.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I am showing it to the world now. It can be applied to just about any circumstance of single-serving items. Other businesses can, and will, be created leveraging Plus Brand’s technology, and we will excitedly partner with other entrepreneurs to help bring their ideas to life with a more sustainable approach.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A perfectly chilled bottle of Spanish Vega Sicilia Valbuena wine. I think the “why” is in the “what.”
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Rich Dad Poor Dad.” Understanding money and mentalities around money puts the control in your hands. Just floating by and viewing it as a necessary evil that you often wish you had more of gives it control over you.
What is your favorite quote?
In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: “It goes on.”
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.