148: Josh Sprague: Founder of Orange Mud talks about the challenges of work, play & life after starting a successful startup and what it takes to succeed!

April 24, 2020

Josh Sprague

Like most every brilliant business idea, there is an initial spark, a pain point that needs to be soothed. For Josh Sprague, it wasn’t just the typical focus on making money. He explains that it was the value that he placed on his time and his wife’s time. “We started Orange Mud about 8 years ago. It was actually on an adversity note. It was after we had our first boy, and he was 3 months old at the time. I had just finished an Ironman, and I basically wanted a way that, forgetting Orange Mud or anything else, I wanted a way that my wife or I both didn’t have to work mad hours. She was a corporate lawyer and I was a vice president of a medical device company.”

On this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, we talk with Josh Sprague, Founder and CEO of Orange Mud who gets into the nuts and bolts of his business. “Life is a special thing and you don’t want to screw it up by just never being around. It really kind of forced me to kick off an idea that I had set back in my head for a really long time which was a bottle-based hydration pack that would allow me to carry my fluids, my cash for the Beer Garden after a race, some electrolyte gels and maybe other back-up nutrition, and my car keys so when I train or race I had just the bare essentials.”

What You Will Learn:

How long has Orange Mud been a reality for Josh Sprague? “I thought that would be a cool little product to at least have as a side hobby. I thought at least it would keep my wife busy or myself busy. Whoever quit their day job? Then 8 years later as of January 2012, is when we started, as of January of this year we have been in business 8 years and man, we’ve got over 100 SKUs on the market, and we have two kids now, and no more for sure. It has been a wild ride, designing packs for runners and cyclists all around the world.”

Orange Mud clearly has the mind of an active athlete begin it. What do Josh Sprague’s own athletic interests consist of? “My background was adventure racing, it was kind of the core of what one of my favorite sports is. I love to trail run. I love to mountain bike. But, adventure racing combines them both, plus navigation and rope work and all kinds of fun stuff.

Why did Josh Sprague decide to design the hydration packs for Orange Mud to be worn over the shoulders as opposed to around the waist? “The really cool part of all of that as a designer, even when I wasn’t a designer, is that I stared at my teammates’ backs. You’re racing with a team, always, in adventure racing. You are only as fast as your weakest link, and that is just the way it is in adventure racing. I spent just tons of time behind my teammates running because I was usually one of the weaker runners, and paying attention to how the pack moved and where it moved. Something that I consistently noticed is that your upper torso just doesn’t move very much. It is basically just a slight up and down movement, and I always hated waist packs, like despised waist packs.”

Josh Sprague digs into the practical and health benefits of not utilizing a waist pack. “I cut a waist pack with water bottle holders apart. I took a ratchet strap from the back of my truck and I took a hotel sewing kit from one of my travels, and I sewed together this crude little concoction that was in my form that I wanted and mounted the bottle high up on my back. I believe that fluid should be stored on your back because that is where we carry weight. It doesn’t make sense to carry weight on your chest. It is pulling your neck down. It is pulling your spine down.”

If you are wondering how much money it cost Jeff to get started with Orange Mud, he has the answer. “It took $54,000, if I remember right, that first year, of investment between just trademarks and patents and design and all that stuff. But, we got our product launched. It took 10 months. We launched our first pack in October of 2012. In the end of 2012 at the Somo

Going Full-Time with Orange Mud

Josh worked his day job for the first three years of launching Orange Mud and his wife worked the first year and a half of the company being started. What was the conversion like for Jeff when he doubled down on Orange Mud and made it his full-time effort? “When I quit, I budgeted $100,000, and I had it just sitting. I’m like, you know what, we burn through this, there is a Plan B. Not sure what the Plan B was going to be. I would probably be going back to work. I wasn’t going to burn more than that. But, I knew if I could actually work 100 hours a week on Orange Mud as opposed to 80 at one company and 60 and nights and never sleep, I thought, surely I can actually make this more profitable.”

Market Growth

During this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, Josh Sprague also talks about the ways in which Orange Mud has grown exponentially.  “We are distributed in about 40 countries now. I haven’t done the latest count. But, somewhere in that range. Mostly internationally it’s all packs, which is awesome, and then in the U.S. it’s mostly towels and packs of course, and the whole product line. So, the Running World article was a turning point for us, and again, managing that cash flow and staying on it like a hawk. It’s not that we don’t gambles. But, we are cautious as we grow.”

Links to Additional Resources: