Landenberg Business: From a life of pain to a new business
09/13/2016 11:59AM ● Published by Richard Gaw
At his lowest point, Bill Larson wasn't just suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia and degenerative disc disease. He was caught in a downward spiral of prescription painkillers that only made his agony worse. Life did not seem worth living.
That's when he decided to stop being an obedient patient and take his treatment into his own hands. Today, Larson is operating a new company based in West Grove that manufactures and sells the only treatment that managed to alleviate his pain. But it has been a long road.
“I didn't really take care of myself when I was younger,” Larson said. “I did a lot of construction work, so I'd be in pain, but I'd keep going.”
In 2007, he suffered a migraine that lasted some 44 days. Doctors told him he probably had Multiple Sclerosis, but they weren't positive. For the next six years, Larson was in and out of treatment as doctors tried to find a combination of drugs that would help him.
“All three conditions are completely unrelated,” Larson said with a slight smile. “I'm just the unluckiest person I know. As far as I can tell, they just happened. My mother has Fibromyalgia, so I don't know if that's part of it.”
With his wife supporting him, and a young son who didn't understand why dad couldn't get down on the floor to play, Larson worked his way through steroid infusions, injections of Copaxone, Gabapentin (16 pills per day), Tylenol-3, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone (at one point, he was taking six a day), Naproxen, aspirin and ultimately methadone. The methadone, given as a last resort by pain specialists, would cause him to nod off to sleep mid-sentence, and still suffer from nausea and pain. And there were other drugs as well, meant to counteract the nausea, fatigue and depression that plagued Larson.
“I never took all of these at once, but I was always taking more than one, so I don't really know which drugs were giving me which side effects,” he said.
Larson stops short of blaming his doctors, but said, “as a culture, we have too much reliance on medicine. I mean, doctors are very good at what they do, but there's just so much to know about the human body. It's a lot to put on someone to assume that they're going to know the exact best thing for what your body needs. All of us need to be more informed about what's going on with our bodies. We can make a lot of our own decisions, and let the doctors specialize in the areas they're great at.”
Ultimately, after the methadone, Larson decided that taking control of his treatment had to be better than the path he'd been on. “After that, I never went back to the pain management doctors,” he said. “I thought I could do better myself. But at that time, I was still on other prescriptions that other doctors had given me. I stayed with those, but stopped adding new ones.”
At about that time, Larson had met Dennis Sauer, who lives near New London. Sauer recommended a path of natural remedies, and Larson found new reason to live.
“That's what got me started in my research,” Larson said. “When I started to wean off the other medications, I was also using natural remedies like essential oils, and finding more relief from them than I was from the medications.
“As I was researching and learning more and helping myself, and as I was developing the pain lotion, it was really rewarding to find that I was able to help other people with pain,” Larson said. “Not only could I help myself get better, but I could help other people get through the same kind of situation.”
For two years, and through about 10 different versions, Larson persevered with pain-relieving lotion formulations until he found one that worked the best. Today, his company, I Want Natural, makes and sells All Natural Pain Relieving Lotion online. The ingredients are all homeopathic or naturally occurring substances.
“It's made in a lab we constructed,” Larson said. “Everything's in-house. That gives us quality control by using good manufacturing practices. The equipment is these big tanks that are almost like a reverse water heater. The outside is filled with water that you can heat up, and the inside is hollow, where you can produce the product.”
Larson smiled and admitted that marketing a “miracle cure” strikes skeptical people as a scam. And he acknowledges that at first he didn't know if the relief he was feeling was simply due to the fact that he wanted the product to work.
“We gave it to friends and family and people we knew with different medical conditions, and it was unanimous across the board – everyone was finding success with it,” he said. “At that point, I realized it wasn't just me. This stuff works.
“We have two things going for us to convince people,” he continued. “The first one is, try it. And my story, too. This isn't some product that we threw out there because we wanted to make money. This started as me trying to treat myself, and it just evolved into what it is now.”
The key ingredients – among them aloe, leaf and bark extracts, several essential oils and chamomile – give the product a fresh smell, like a cup of mint tea. It is non-greasy and works when rubbed into the skin.
“The ingredients are the same ingredients that cultures from around the world have used for thousands of years,” Larson said. “We're just kind of bringing them together into one product.”
The lotion is FDA compliant, he said, which means that there's nothing harmful in it, and it has met some strict regulations. To submit a product for full FDA approval costs millions of dollars and plenty of lawyers, putting it well out of the reach of the people behind the I Want Natural company – all eight of them.
Sauer and Larson are co-founders of the company, and together they bankrolled the product up to this point. “It turned out to be more expensive than we thought originally,” he admitted. “As much as we've seen of other companies, no one's doing what we are, as far as researching, developing, producing and selling, all in-house.”
Scotti Ward, who is working as a marketing person for the product, started out as friends with Dennis Sauer and his wife, Becky. “He started working with Bill on this about three years ago, and I heard their story, and all it took was one conversation with Bill, and it turned me around,” she said. “It got me going toward an all natural way of life. I felt so much better once I went organic with food, and getting rid of chemicals in my life. It all made sense.”
There are plans to produce other products under the I Want Natural brand, possibly in the next few months, Larson said. “I got involved with the face lotion and face cleanser, and the lip balm. Now I can't use anything else,” Ward said.
Selling the product online, and maintaining a Facebook presence with updates and testimonials, is the extent of the marketing at this point, Ward said. There is a push toward contacting independent health food and natural product businesses in the area about carrying the lotion. That will mean a lot of knocking on doors, but Larson said he's ready.
“I still have good days and bad days,” he said of his ongoing health problems. “But the difference is that, on bad days, I put on some pain lotion and go about my life. Before, when I had a bad day, I wouldn't get off the couch. It wasn't possible. That really helps my confidence level – knowing that something might come up, but I can handle whatever it is. It's fantastic.”
For more information, visit www.iwantnatural.com.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.