Small Business

Lip balm receiving high praise from music industry pros

January 31, 2005

Dan Gosling's failure to nail a position with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra may have been a blessing in disguise; for if he had, he would not have had time to create his ChopSaver lip balm he's marketing to musicians.

"It was disappointing to say the least," Gosling said, harboring no bitterness about his tryout in May in which he advanced all the way to the final round. He had played trumpet for ISO in a full-time, temporary capacity the previous three years and still fills in when necessary.

But two weeks after the audition, the slender, 42-year-old Elkhart native had the proverbial light bulb go off in his head while talking with a former student. After earning a master's degree in music performance from Northwestern University in 1985, Gosling moved to Indianapolis and gave music lessons for a time.

His idea to develop an all-natural lip moisturizer began in his kitchen eight months ago and is drawing a standing ovation from fellow musicians and music store owners who are stocking the product in their shops.

"I really do believe it is the best lip balm I have ever tried," said Bob Wood, who has played trumpet for ISO for 12 years. "It really does have the properties that reduce swelling we experience as brass players."

Locally, ChopSaver is available so far at Meridian Music Co., 9401 N. Meridian St., and Paige's Music, 5282 E. 65th St. It's also on the shelves of Pro Winds Inc. in Bloomington and iBowTie Brass in Newburgh, and at stores in Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

Gosling is confident he can get Chop-Saver into 50 stores by summer, including those of the New York-based Sam Ash Music Corp. chain, which has a shop in Castleton. The long-term target is to be in 200 stores within the next two to three years, which could boost annual revenue to the $500,000 range.

Paige's Music began stocking the lemony-scented stick that retails for $4.95 last month. The shop already has sold nearly 300 of them and will be placing a second order soon, said Tim Dawson, director of sales for Paige's Music.

"You want to care for the muscles that you use," Dawson said. "A musician would care just like an athlete would."

Chapped or irritated lips can hamper the performance of musicians who play brass or woodwind instruments. Dawson, a trombone player, prefers Chop-Saver to similar products on the market because it moisturizes without the waxy buildup, he said.

Ingredients include the herbs calendula for inflammation, comfrey for treating wounds, arnica for bruising, and white willow, often referred to as an "herbal aspirin." Mix in a little aloe, vitamin E, shea and mango butters, and the oils of citrus fruits and you have the patented ChopSaver recipe.

Concocting the balm was hardly that simple, though. Gosling's former student, who was touring with the "Blast!" musical at the time of the visit, had incurred a lip injury when he was bumped while playing. He told Gosling he was applying arnica to help heal the wound.

Gosling began researching the herb and discovered Europeans had been using it for centuries to reduce bruising and swelling. Unaware of a lip ointment containing arnica, he began visiting health-food stores in search of the foundations for his own balm.

"Some of the first things I came up with were pretty awful," he said. "I couldn't get anything to hold together."

A colleague at the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, for which Gosling serves as personnel manager, recommended he try shea butter, whose main ingredient is extracted from a type of tree in West Africa. It became the base for the balm.

After mixing about a dozen different combinations, Gosling began to think he might have something. He then started blending citrus oils and launched a search for a manufacturer. Meanwhile, one of his wife's cousins, who is a graphic artist in Atlanta, began working on a logo and packaging designs. Potential names were also batted around.

He found Accupack Midwest Inc., a Cincinnati-based manufacturer and packager of tube and bottled products, which converted the blend to stick form. The process took two months to perfect.

Last summer, after an ISO concert, Gosling handed fellow trumpet player Wood a small jar and said, "Here, try this." Every few weeks afterward, Gosling would provide Wood with his latest version.

"I was kind of a guinea pig, actually," Wood said.

By November, Gosling had a few hundred samples to hand out at the Grand National Championships hosted by the locally based Bands of America. The three-day event attracts nearly 100 high school marching bands from across the nation.

He and business partner Rhea Newman, a close friend who has a sales-andmarketing background, picked up 10,000 units in early December and began canvassing music stores.

Craig Gigax, president of Meridian Music and a director of the Chamber Orchestra, let Gosling set up a display rack in his store in December. The company also has a music school that has an enrollment of 1,300 students. Gigax has given ChopSaver to his brass-instrument instructors, who have made pupils aware of the product.

"As a brass player, I just sort of made do with what was out there," Gigax said. "The most interesting thing about this is, here's a professional musician who was not pleased with the other products on the market. Dan came up with a better mousetrap."

Gosling since has formed his own company, Good for the Goose Products LLC.

The entrepreneurial experience so far has been fun for Gosling, who in the process has reconnected with old friends and colleagues. It's also placed him in the same circles as prominent trumpet players Wayne Bergeron and Manuel Laureano, who are using ChopSaver, Gosling said.

He recently attended the National Association of Musical Merchandisers trade show in Anaheim, Calif., and has been contacted by a company in England that is interested in becoming a Chop-Saver distributor.

Gosling invested about $20,000 of his own money to bring the ointment to market. There is a similar product called Chops TIC that is manufactured by a company in New Jersey. It retails for $5.95, according to the company's Web site.

Gosling didn't discover the competitor until he was well into development, but he doesn't think its product is marketed very well because it's available only on the site.

On that note, the trumpet player who grew up in Elkhart, once informally known as the "Band Instrument Capital of the World," because of the manufacturers there, thinks he can make his own mark on the industry.

"Musicians are always looking for an edge to play better," he said. "I just knew this was an idea whose time was right."

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