Chase Hobby, WG’20, and Evan Seale, WG’20, are the co-founders of VRB Labs, a health and wellness brand that aims to enhance daily performance and quality of life by using the latest technology to cultivate and distribute natural supplements backed by proven clinical data. The duo, who met while pursuing their MBAs at the Wharton School, recall how their time in the armed services played a pivotal role in their desire to pursue entrepreneurship.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Chase: I was born in Baltimore, MD and raised in Clearwater, FL. I was lucky to earn an appointment to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD and again when I earned a spot in flight school. I ultimately qualified as a Naval Flight Officer with an assignment to operate the weapons systems in jets flying from the aircraft carrier. The 10 years I spent in the Navy were incredibly fulfilling and provided me with a lifetime’s worth of experiences and friendships that I will carry with me forever. Following my time in the service, I decided to pursue an MBA with the ultimate goal of starting a purpose-driven business.
Evan: I’m originally from Sugar Land, TX and got involved in sports as soon as I could walk. I was eventually recruited by a few colleges to play D1 soccer and selected West Point. I played all four years in college and eventually captained the team senior year. Post-college, I served in the Field Artillery branch and went into Special Operations early in my career to serve with the 75th Ranger Regiment. Throughout my 5 years in service, I conducted 3 combat deployments to Afghanistan. When I reached the five-year mark (my obligation for service) I decided to get out with the hope to pursue entrepreneurship.
What drew you to Wharton?
Evan: Shoot for the stars, right? Wharton has always been known for being one of the top institutions in the world so that was where I set the bar. When I compared programs, the Wharton Veteran’s community is what stood out to me.
Chase: Three things that drew me to Wharton were the incredible breadth of course offerings, the people, and the Wharton Veteran’s Club. Coming from a career in the military, it was important to familiarize myself with everything from finance to operations strategy. Wharton was the clear choice for me on that front.
What was your experience with the entrepreneurship ecosystem?
Chase: Incredibly supportive. From the Venture Lab faculty, our entrepreneurship and marketing professors, to our classmates we have received so much support it’s hard to overstate. Wharton is chock full of entrepreneurial-minded people that bend over backwards to help one another.
Evan: Small but close-knit. Wharton is known as a finance powerhouse, so I don’t think a ton of students are coming to Wharton to be entrepreneurs. Having said that, it’s clear that Wharton is making moves to change that.
You recently launched VRB Labs. Can you tell us about the experience?
Evan: This has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. The feeling of being on your own and betting on yourself is liberating. We’re chasing the American dream; this is what it’s all about — going out and building something instead of trading time for money. I have no clue where this road is headed but I guarantee I will never regret this decision to go all in and run after my dream.
How did you validate the opportunity? What was your source of advantage?
Chase: We ran a pilot and sold out of our inventory within 3 weeks with compelling qualitative feedback from our initial customer cohort. In terms of our advantage, we felt that our R&D process was unique, and driven by science and boots-on-the-ground experience. We were driven to create these products because of the opaque nature of the existing products on the market. We were thoughtful in our process and steadfast in making sure we were building clean and effective products that would set a new market standard.
How’s the business going so far?
Evan: I am obviously biased, but I think it’s going great! We are cash-flow positive and working on some cool initiatives with plenty of room to grow.
Chase: We’re really enjoying the learning and growing process. I couldn’t be happier with the choice I made to go all-in on it!
What advice would you have to give to aspiring student entrepreneurs?
Chase: Your timing will never be perfect and there will always be good excuses not to pursue your dream. Don’t listen to that voice. Get out there and build the venture and life you’ve imagined.
Evan: If you’re saying things like, “Yeah, I think it might work” or “I don’t know, we will see how it goes,” then you’re already setting yourself up for failure. This is your mind planting safety nets to protect you from complete failure. This type of talk allows you to point back and say things like, “See, it just wasn’t in the cards.” Commit and believe in yourself.
VRB Labs (@vrb_labs) is part of Venture Lab’s Venture Initiation Program, a co-curricular incubator for students and alumni interested in turning their ideas into full-fledged ventures. The incubator accepts students from across the University of Pennsylvania and admission into the incubator is on a rolling basis. Find more information about the program here. For more information about VRB Labs, visit their website at vrblabs.com.
— Taylor Durham
Posted: November 10, 2020