Jack McNamara is a former pro athlete turned sports drink entrepreneur and the founder of DrinkTru, the company behind the clean energy shot known as TruEnergy. McNamara left his career as a professional hockey player to live and work out of his bedroom, a hovel tucked away in the back of a CrossFit gym, while he builds his energy drink startup. McNamara’s journey so far has seen a number of start-up accelerators invest in his company, and he’s had appearances on the TV Show Entrepreneur’s Elevator Pitch. There’s a lot of buzz around McNamara’s rise in the highly competitive sports beverage sector, mostly because he’s humble, unabashedly honest, and someone you just can’t help but root for. His story reads a bit like the film Rocky, had Stallone’s character decided to hang up the gloves and pursue starting a business, it’s no surprise then that the tale of McNamara’s fight to survive and thrive in the world of startups has been written about in media outlets from Forbes and Fortune magazine through to BuzzFeed.
The seeds of McNamara’s idea to start a “clean energy” alternative to the artificial stimulant laced sports drinks consumed by many to boost their performance, began to sprout when as a college student he noticed his teammates chugging pre-workout drinks filled with sugars, sweeteners, and chemicals even though many were eating “clean.” Later on, he would decide to combine his love of entrepreneurship, sports, fitness, nutrition and biohacking, and create a clean energy-shot for everyone from competitive athletes through to those that simply want to get more out of their day with natural ingredients.
While McNamara has certainly made a novel entry into the sports drink market, he has rejected the lone wolf mentality advocated by many entrepreneurs, instead preferring to view himself as the GM of a sports team built with the support of a cadre of friends and family, as well as a number of investors, advisors, and mentors, relationships he has cultivated by taking the cold calling approach of a master networker. “I network my ass off and that’s how I learned the most … meeting with CEOs of some amazing companies that really had no business meeting with me, but would talk to me over a coffee or a lunch and help me along, and then a lot of those guys ended up investing in the business three years later – I was truly amazed at the amount of people that were willing to support me while asking for nothing in return.”
Diving into the energy drink space, an industry dominated by numerous billion-dollar brands may seem like an underdog, uphill battle, but McNamara has thrown caution to the wind and taken big swings in pursuit of a dream before, having left a great university, Colgate, his scholarship and friends, to pursue a shot at playing professional ice hockey with an against-the-odds tryout for a team in Scandinavia. “So I essentially traded off a scholarship for a one week trial in Denmark where I paid my own way. So I get there and I actually don’t make the team, and all I have is a hockey bag and a bag of clothes. And here I am thinking I was bound for the NHL and I can’t even make this team in Europe. So then I find a way through my dad who was essentially my Jerry Maguire acting as my agent, he found me a three-day tryout, and the coach right off the bat was like, honestly, we don’t really have any spots, but you’re welcome to come. I didn’t make that team either! So now I’m on the phone, my parents are saying, hey, this isn’t looking good, but I can’t go back to playing college hockey, because I burned my eligibility doing these tryouts. So finally, I get a last option, and make a last-ditch effort, and just played my game. I didn’t worry about anything other than just working hard and doing the right things. And I made the team and I scored in the first game that I ever played professionally.”
Mcnamara tells that story as a metaphor for his entrepreneurial journey, and although being the founder of a trending, up and coming energy drink start-up sounds sexy, the reality is that he has fought back from the brink over and over again “this business almost crumbled, as many times as my professional hockey career almost crumbled,” He recounts numerous experiences where he has hit the wall over and over again, having come up against a seemingly insurmountable deadline, becoming wracked with anxiety sometimes to the point where he feels he’s on the brink of either losing his mind or having a heart attack, yet he’s always been able to find his resolve, dig deep and by working his ass off, finding a way to make it all work. “My mindset is like, I’ve gotten here by pure effort, but the guy that works the hardest isn’t the one who’s going to make a billion dollars. It’s the guy who works the smartest.”