Doctors told Jono James’s parents that he wouldn’t live past 10. He not only proved them wrong, but turned his passion for health into a multimillion-dollar business.
Jono James is more aware of life’s ticking clock than most.
Born with cystic fibrosis, a terminal diagnosis, Jono’s parents were told he wouldn’t live long past 10 and “won’t get too attached.”
“Fortunately, they pretty much ignored everything the doctors told them about my life expectancy,” said the 34-year-old. Body + Soul† “Mom actually made it her full-time job to find anything that could help me, and in turn I took that attitude very early on. I have always tried to find things that can take care of my health.”
This commitment to optimizing its Health led Jono to explore a range of complementary therapies in addition to traditional options, including a sauna that he picked up over the weekend through an online auction site and installed directly in his home.
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As the health benefits of ice baths have been widely publicized in recent years thanks to proponents such as Wim Hof, Jono began exploring the idea of expanding his sauna regimen to include an ice bath fighter.
“At the time, there were really only two options,” says Jono. “One is to spend at least $10,000 and import something from the US that isn’t particularly attractive. And the other is to convert a chest freezer. I had no intention of putting a freezer next to my sauna, so I went to see how I could make one myself.”
Jono’s mission was to create a sleek, functional and aesthetically pleasing product that plugs directly into the wall to keep water cool and clean.
“I really like the aesthetics of cedar hot tubs,” explains Jono, a nutritionist by trade who has always loved working with his hands. “So I basically just went ahead and duplicated that look. We also have a metal insert that allows it to cool down and make it more durable.”
Once satisfied with his ice bath, Jono decided to gauge commercial interest in it.
The entrepreneur posted a photo of his ice bath in a Facebook group for people who made homemade ice baths in the freezer.
“I wasn’t sure it would be the right fit,” he says. “I mean, it’s a group full of people who like to make things for themselves, so I didn’t know if they’d be interested.”
He couldn’t have been more wrong. Within 24 hours, Jono’s post was the most popular post ever in the group. It attracted hundreds of comments and likes, as well as mailing list signups and questions about pre-orders. Odin Plunge, was born.
“It just exploded from there,” says Jono, admitting that the company has outgrown many workplaces in the past six months due to demand.
“I moved from my mom’s one-car garage to my girlfriend’s two-car garage,” he says. “About three weeks later, I moved into a warehouse. And about a month after that I moved to a bigger warehouse and probably two months after that I moved to a third, bigger warehouse because each time I just ran out of space for all the orders.”
In its first six months of operation, Jono has received hundreds of orders for its ice baths — and is expected to generate $3 million in revenue by the end of the year.
“It’s been very tiring,” he says. “My partner Shelby joined the company full time and recently we started at 6am. We were done by 4:30am the next morning, then we drove eight hours to the Hunter Valley to drop off two baths. ‘
Still, it’s the kind of exhaustion that comes with putting in your full effort — and with plans to expand the business into the US and Europe, Jono is going all in, an approach that’s sort of a life philosophy for him.
Today, Jono is in much better physical health than the doctors ever thought possible. But with an average life expectancy of 37 years for someone with cystic fibrosis, the concept of making every moment matter is never far from the Gold Coast resident’s mind.
“Psychologically, I’ve always had in mind that this could be my last five years on Earth. There’s a small but significant chance that this is the case, and as a result, that kind of pushed me to do something with my life. I don’t want to be one of those people who reach the end of my life, whenever that may be, and regret all that I could have done.”
“I’m much more afraid of not doing something than of failing.”
Bek Day is a freelance journalist
This story originally appeared in Body + Soul and is reproduced with permission
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