“When the company was launching, [founders] Kent and Don Petersen did things the unconventional way,” says Lakota Executive Vice President, Reinhardt Haukenfers. “They did things that everybody said wouldn’t work.”
When you’re a fledgling natural wellness company based in the small northern British Columbian city of Dawson Creek, you have to get creative to get noticed. Lakota, a now nationally distributed brand for whom Great Little Box Company manufactures cartons and corrugated shippers, was that company in the early 2000s.
Their products—a line of pain-relieving solutions that incorporated traditional Indigenous medicine with modern natural ingredients like glucosamine—worked incredibly well. But would customers get the chance to find out for themselves? Kent and Don believed strongly in their brand and they were willing to pull out all the stops to promote it.
Reinhardt describes a strategy that was audacious—and ultimately attention-getting.
Lakota emerged with a robust advertising campaign, but early on, they found most health and wellness retailers slow to carry their products. The solution? They sent out packages of three products to these stores for free, just so they would be on the shelves when consumers came searching for them after seeing the ads.
“Kent and Don believed people just needed a chance to try the products,” explains Reinhardt. “They thought once customers experienced how well they worked; they’d want to buy more.”
The Petersen’s also turned down limited circulation magazine advertisement opportunities in favour of something decidedly bolder. They distributed their own nationwide flyer by creating an insert focused on the products that would fit into newspapers across Canada. An expensive initiative, until you consider the fact that “it was cheaper per person than other advertising opportunities. It just reached so many people, and when they tried the product, it worked, and they became customers.”
Finally, Kent and Don even produced their own television ad, starring Floyd Westerman. They rented cameras and purchased “cheap, leftover” tv spots.
Fortunately, it all paid off. Nowadays, Lakota is found in countless pharmacies across Canada. The passion the Petersen’s felt for their brand ultimately translated to a national audience.
The confidence that Lakota’s founders felt in their solutions was, of course, based on personal experience. The father and son, originally farmers, started the company in a bid to find a solution for Kent’s chronic pain. He had suffered a snowmobile accident and couldn’t find any effective natural products to soothe his acute discomfort.
Kent and Don sourced a small team of researchers and scientists, including one Metis individual. His influence proved powerful. The traditional Indigenous medicines that made their way into the formula, including white willow bark, yucca root, devil’s claw, and Boswellia, worked exceptionally well. The team created something that relieved even intense pain like Kent’s, without resorting to lab-created pharmaceutical ingredients.
In particular, the pepper extracts the formula uses was an ingenious addition. Reinhardt explains that the extract “blocks pain at the source by absorbing it into the nerve and depleting something called substance P, which is basically a pain signal.”
Along the way to growing a tremendously successful brand, Lakota began a relationship with GLBC “so long ago that I don’t remember how it first started,” laughs Reinhardt. “All I do know is that we never ask for quotes from other suppliers. We consider this more of a partnership than a supplier relationship.”
That’s because in the health and wellness industry, an agile supplier is all-important. “GLBC is more flexible and has a quicker turnaround than others—and we depend on that. It’s often hard to predict our scale of production or what our inventory will be, and GLBC can always roll with that.”
In the future, Reinhardt says Lakota plans to expand globally, connecting pain sufferers across the planet with their natural solutions. We look forward to joining them on the adventure.