We’re facing the biggest early-season flu outbreak in over a decade. Already 15,000 cases of flu have been diagnosed in 41 states, including every state in the Southeast, sending 2,000 patients to the hospital with severe cases. If you’re looking to preemptively fight the flu, you’ve got more than just the flu vaccine in your arsenal; you’ve also got a new product, Halo oral antiseptic.
Afif Ghannoum is one of the people behind Halo; he’s also a former high school classmate of mine. Although his educational background is in law (he’s an attorney by trade), he left his law practice in 2008 to join forces with his father – Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, who also serves as director for the Center of Medical Mycology at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio – to create and market the first oral antiseptic clinically proven to kill airborne germs breathed in for up to six hours. Recently, I caught up with Afif, who operates the legal and marketing sides of the business, to talk about his experience as an entrepreneur and business owner.
Me: How did Halo come about?
Afif: We [he and his father] had worked together on another venture that someone else had started, but this was where we said “we should do this for ourselves” and went looking to start our own venture… We found a product line for sale called Oasis Dry Mouth, which was a line of products for people with dry mouth. So we bought that line, and after that developed Halo and other products.
Me: Were you already looking to do something in this field when you found Oasis, or was this acting on a spur-of-the-moment?
Afif: I was already doing biotechnology legal work, so I was already in the space, and so it was definitely a change of course, but when opportunities present themselves, sometimes you just have to take a step off and see what happens!
Me: Tell me a little bit about how you structured your company.
Afif: The company is a virtual company, meaning that we have four employees [president, vice-president, finance manager, and customer service manager] and outsource everything to be efficient and lean.
Me: What does “virtual company” mean?
Afif: That allows us to have world class manufacturing, clinical and scientific testing, distribution centers and relationships with the major retailers, without taking on all that expense as a small company and build through bringing on people with tremendous experience and expertise. It also allowed us to bring all our manufacturing from Mexico and Pennsylvania back to Northeast Ohio [where Halo is based].
Me: Now, moving on to talk about the products. Your PR company sent me samples of Halo, one for kids and one for adults. Are there any other products in your line?
Afif: There are the two adult products (Berry and Citrus) and the children’s product.
Me: And how are sales going? Any growth projections you can share?
Afif: Sales are going extremely well, I can’t share specifics, but every week our sales grow dramatically as more and more people learn about Halo and understand how it works.
**A quick but important note here, on exactly how Halo does work. Just three sprays kill germs and bacteria spread through the air for up to six hours by killing them and preventing them from multiplying once they’re breathed in through your mouth. A clinical trial by Case Western Medical Center proved 99.9% of these germs and bacteria were killed with Halo. This makes Halo a preventative tool when you know you’ll be in an environment where germs are often spread, like an airplane or crowded theater.**
Me: What’s the next step for you, and for the company?
Afif: The next step is continuing to grow the Halo brand through introducing new innovative products that keep your family protected from germs. For me, I’m happy where I’m at, because I get to work with my dad and build something from a concept on paper to real products on the shelves of the biggest retailers in the world!
Here’s the question I always ask when it comes to a product like this: will it work for my family? I figure I’m the perfect test case, because I didn’t get a flu shot this year (I know, bad Elizabeth). I took the sample of Halo Afif sent to me to review to my family’s Christmas gathering. Despite all the talking, eating, and drinking, there was also a lot of coughing, sneezing, and sniffling. I administered three sprays of Halo (the berry flavor), and went about the party as usual. Although two of my cousins came down with mystery illnesses (both tested negative for the flu), I felt just fine; I’m going to credit that to Halo.
Reader, do you ever dream of going into business for yourself? What’s your biggest obstacle to fulfilling that goal?