Alumni Spotlight: How Skratch Labs’ Sports Drinks are the Key to Success Not Only for Athletes but for Founder Allen Lim
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Allen Lim didn’t grow up with the dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Through coaching CU Boulder cycling, USA Cycling, and multiple Pro Cycling Tour teams, he was surrounded by athletes throughout his life. One thing that was always a concern, the sugary sports drinks they consumed. These drinks “hurt their guts”, but there seemed to be no other option for high-performance athletes. Skratch Labs was born out of this need for healthier options and has further expanded its product line to include energy bars, energy chews, post-workout recovery drinks, and even a cookbook series by Chef Biju Thomas to help athletes better their nutrition. Through Allen’s love for cycling and sport, he was able to “follow one’s personal ‘bliss’” while creating a healthy food empire.
About Allen Lim
“Made in the Philippines with parts from China and programmed in America” is how Allen describes his life.
While Allen’s family is from China, he was born in the Philippines and spent some of his childhood there before his family moved to Los Angeles, California, United States. Experiencing a variety of different cultures throughout his childhood helped pave the way for expanding his education. After high school, Allen studied exercise science at the University of California, Davis, and received his Bachelor of Science in Physical Education in 1994. During his undergraduate degree, he fell in love with cycling and continued to pursue it as a passion and career before relocating to Boulder, Colorado to work with Dr. William C. Byrnes and earn his Ph.D. in Integrative Physiology at the Applied Exercise Science Laboratory in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder. He never saw himself becoming an entrepreneur, but notes that he learned the importance of having “autonomy in one’s research”. Celestial Seasonings and the Saris Cycling Group believed in the work he was doing and granted him this opportunity by supporting his research. Allen mentions that
“My experience with Celestial and Saris did plant a seed of possibility – that one day I might be able to be part of a team that could benefit others like those companies benefited me.”
Cycling Towards Opportunity
Cycling has always been a driving force in Allen’s life. In order for Allen to succeed in his coaching career, he had to be a problem solver. One of the problems he had to solve with his athletes was about the food they were eating.
“Athletes complained about dry energy bars and syrupy sports drinks. So, I began making many of the food and drinks the athletes used from scratch, avoiding the pre-packaged products that made them sick.”
Allen Lim’s main goal is to help others be better, and through Skratch Labs, he was able to commercialize these good-for-you foods. He hired professional chefs to help these athletes change their diet from sick-making food to healthier options and mobilized this mission by building food trucks to take out to the races. One thing he knew for sure was that his athletes were now performing better with the food fuel he supplied them. With support from CEO Ian MacGregor and Co-Founder Aaron Foster, Skratch Labs is able to thrive, and accomplish milestones such as twice being named as one of the top 50 companies to work for in America by Outsider Magazine.
“Together, we all play a role in taking care of the business. And each person on the team is vastly more talented at what they do than I could ever be. It’s humbling and I continue to be proud and inspired by the work they do and the care they give to our customers, community, and one another.”
Turning Challenges Into Advantages
Some of Skratch Labs’ hardest challenges have turned into their most unique opportunities. For example, Skratch Labs bootstrapped their way to success, relying on little capital and resources they could afford while utilizing their creativity to compete in the market. To overcome this challenge, the team at Skratch Labs took a food trailer to field marketing events, which created outstanding positive attention for the company. The team also made a lot of mistakes at the beginning on the business side and vowed to keep a lifetime commitment to education to keep the company growing. Whenever there is a challenge, they vow to
“lean into our mission, values, process, team, and history of creativity to figure it out one day at a time.”
Part of Allen’s life mission is to help people, inspire passion, and care for the community. He provides the following advice for students, aspiring entrepreneurs, and everyone in between:
“Make sure that you love what you’re doing. It’s the only way that you’ll persist through the challenges and difficulties that inevitably come from any business. Because, it’s not the success that brings us happiness. It’s the happiness – the joy and the engagement we bring to the table that creates the necessary environment and mindset for success.”
Looking Ahead- Skratch Labs Café
To further their creative endeavors, Skratch Labs opened Skratch Labs Café in December 2022. This is a “brick and mortar manifestation” of the food trailer they used to serve athletes. Not only does Allen bring joy and engagement to the table, but delicious food from scratch.
At Skratch Labs Café, they hope to provide nourishment, connection, and hospitality. They are located in the heart of Boulder, at 1600 Pearl Street operating from 7 am to 3 pm every day.