The company formerly known as Benefitbrainstorm was Reid Rasmussen’s response in 2009 to the coming Affordable Care Act. No matter what the government comes up with, the Canadian-born entrepreneur knew, there will always be gaps. He struggled with the concept for two years. Then his wife, Heidi, came on board. She helped him redefine his market and convinced him to ditch the old name. Freshbenies, anyone?
- As told to David Whitford
I’m an American citizen now but I was born in Canada. Seven years ago, as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was ramping up, I saw what was coming. Even when everybody has health insurance, like in Canada, there will always be out-of-pocket costs, and the system is always going to be a hassle to navigate. Canadian companies responded by creating bundles of small, modular services to help fill those gaps. Those supplementary bundles were big sellers. I thought, Why not here?
At the time I was working for an employee benefits company in Dallas. I brought them my idea. They said no, twice. But my wife, Heidi, who at the time was a marketing exec at JCPenney, was more receptive.
“Do you believe the numbers?” she asked me. I said I did. “What if the ACA doesn’t pass?” I said it doesn’t make any difference, the out-of-pocket gap isn’t going away. So then she said, “Why don’t you do it?” That conversation took place on Friday of Labor Day Weekend in 2009. By Sunday night I was drafting my letter of resignation.
It took me a while to figure out who my real customers were. Not the big insurance companies; I tried selling to them first and they weren’t interested. It’s small- and mid-size companies, or more accurately, their insured employees. With our card you can consult a specialist online; get help figuring out your bill; obtain discounts on prescription drugs; and talk to an actual doctor, by phone or video, without having to go to a doctor’s office, and without copays or deductibles. In many cases our doctors can even write you a prescription. (Although not for medical marijuana, sorry, or Viagra. If you want Viagra, you need to get your heart checked first.)
Two years in, we only had $100,000 in sales. Three years later, we broke $3 million, and this year we’re on track to reach $8 million. The difference? Heidi. After 27 years she lost her job at JCPenney and started working with me fulltime. She ran a lot of focus groups with consumers to better understand what kind of services they were looking for. And she argued convincingly for changing our name, from Benefitbrainstorm to Freshbenies.
The focus groups didn’t like freshbenies very much but Heidi trusted her gut. She thought it was kitschy and fun. It helps us tell our story. Not Freshbeanies, we don’t make hats. Not Freshberries, we don’t sell fruit. We’re Freshbenies, a fresh approach to benefits. Ten percent of the customers we survey still say they don’t like the name, but that’s okay. As long as 100 percent remember who we are.