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Patrick Firlik, BBA ’14: Promoting Wellness Through Start-Up Innovation

Patrick Firlik smiles in front of a backhround of water, displayed alongside the logo for his company, Well Traveled

Wellness has always been a passion for Patrick Firlik, BBA ’14. After years of feeling burnt out by travel and long hours at his consulting job, he decided to put his passion to the test and build a solution.

Firlik loved his job as a consultant. He landed the position shortly after graduating from the Ross School of Business with his BBA in 2014. Firlik stayed at the firm for seven years, even after he earned his MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

The job was fulfilling — but could be tiring. Firlik was often on the road, as his role required a decent amount of travel. He found himself leaning on immune-boosting supplement products such as Emergen-C and Airborne to avoid getting sick during these periods when he was sleeping less, working more, and visiting new places, but was disappointed to find that the products didn’t work the way he wanted them to.

“I'd come home and feel sick for a variety of reasons, whether it was from lack of sleep or stress. When you travel, your body is definitely vulnerable. I tried taking conventional immunity products, but I really didn't like them; they're very sugary and artificial, and they didn't seem to do a whole lot,” Firlik said. “I always wished there was a better alternative. So, then I just decided, why not create it?”

A hand pours Well Traveled's Immune Activator into a glass of water placed on a wood board, with lemons in the backroundFrom consultant to start-up founder

Firlik began working on his mission to create a healthier, more effective immune-boosting supplement product in January of 2022.

“I always wanted to try my hand at entrepreneurship and start my own business. It took a while to kind of think of the right idea,” Firlik said. “This one had always been kind of hanging out in my head while I was a consultant for seven years, especially when I was on the road, and I was always just feeling a little more run-down than usual.”

Firlik founded Well Traveled as the solution to his problem and developed a drink mix intended to serve as a healthy alternative to products like Emergen-C. Well Traveled’s flagship product, called Immune Activator, is made with clean and clinically-proven ingredients like the BeniCaros® prebiotic, IMMUSE™ postbiotic, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc, and has no added sugar.

Firlik says his experience so far as CEO of Well Traveled has been learning to wear many hats — and he loves it.

“I love the freedom and flexibility. It is truly fun to get up and be able to dictate what I’m working on and do my own thing, so I love that aspect,” Firlik said. “As much as I loved consulting, you're kind of at the mercy of your project leader and the client. It’s refreshing and exciting to experience all these areas that you don't really touch in a normal corporate job. Everything from sales, marketing, advertising, social media, supply chain, coordinating with investors, and more. I've had to learn a lot on the job.”

My education from Ross has given me such a solid foundation for what I did in consulting and what I do at Well Traveled, now. The basics of business, whether it's preparing a pitch deck for investors or thinking about profitability and go-to-market strategy, are all things I use every day. I’m very fortunate to have that educational foundation.

A large group of people pose on a sandy trail in front of a large body of water

A passion for wellness

While Well Traveled is Firlik’s first business, it’s not the first organization he’s built from the ground up. Before diving into start-up life, he also created a nonprofit organization called Limitless Adventures.

Firlik created Limitless Adventures in 2020 to provide outdoor recreational experiences for people with disabilities in the greater San Diego area. The group organizes various events, from hiking to sailing, that can be enjoyed by anyone in the community. Limitless Adventures offers accommodations such as GRIT Freedom Chairs, which are a combination of a manual wheelchair and a mountain bike, to help everyone enjoy time outdoors.

“To see the smiles on people's faces, to get out there and go somewhere that they haven't been before, has been really rewarding,” Firlik said. “It was a lot of work in the beginning. I always say it was kind of like a test run for whether I could run my own business. Limitless Adventures is something that I want to continue to do alongside Well Traveled. We are growing in terms of attendance and people and continue to offer new events.”

Lessons from Ross

Firlik says his success in building a business and organization he’s proud of and passionate about could not have happened without the business background he first acquired at Michigan Ross.

“There's no question that the Michigan Ross name and coursework experience allowed me to be very successful in consulting,” he said. “One of my concentrations at Ross was in finance and strategy, and a lot of the stuff I learned has also translated very well to what I’m doing now at Well Traveled.”

The greatest lessons, in Firlik’s opinion, are learned through action.

“At the end of the day, I feel like until you actually start a business and go through it, you can only prepare for so much,” he said. “I've taken entrepreneurship courses, but I feel when you really step into those shoes and take on that responsibility, it's where you learn the best.”

Advice for other entrepreneurs

To other entrepreneurs looking to start their own companies, Firlik offered this advice based on his experience so far:

“My advice to other entrepreneurs looking to launch a business is to hold on as long as you can to a nice job that gives you financial support while you’re working on starting a business on the side,” Firlik said. “It’s a lot of work, and you’ll be spending nights and weekends advancing your business, but I think that is a good route to start.”

I think the risks and downsides are almost always over-imagined in people's heads when
it comes to starting a business. And if it truly doesn't work, you have a degree from Ross. We're pretty marketable people; we'll be able to find a job. So go for it — it’s not as insurmountable as you might think.