Alumna Develops Hangover Cure

At some point in the process of developing a start-up, every small business owner has to dedicate themselves to their new trade. For Brenna S. Haysom ’00, that meant four to five hangovers a week for months as she attempted to hone in on the perfect flavor for her new drug.

Finally, that work has paid off, and Blowfish, a hangover cure, is now being offered online and is already being sold in some stores in New York.

“I was a real guinea pig,” Haysom said. “Hopefully the rest of humanity will reap the benefits of that.”

Haysom left Harvard and took a familiar path into finance but soon decided that she wanted to run her own business. Haysom returned to Cambridge to attend Harvard Business School, graduating in 2006. During her second stint at Harvard, she began researching potential hangover cures.

“I was a lot more social when I was in business school than as an undergrad,” Haysom said. “[Hangovers were] something I started doing a lot of research around, just in my own personal habits. I started trying a whole bunch of the other hangover so-called cures and didn’t find any of them to do anything. I did more research and came up with the idea that you need a painkiller, caffeine, and something to settle your stomach. Just from more trial-and-error, we came up with that formulation. I left business school but I really wanted to run my own business and I came up with the idea to do this.”

Haysom left her firm, Apollo Global Management in 2010 to found Rally Labs and pursue a hangover cure full-time.

“Everyone over age 45 thought I was crazy,” Haysom said. “My parents thought I was crazy. When I told people I was leaving my firm, I think they thought I was crazy. The people who knew more about it and what I was trying to do, which is make this really reliable ... hangover product were all super-encouraging and they believed in the product from the beginning, which was great.”

The final product created by Rally Labs includes caffeine and aspirin to give the consumer energy and relieve pain and antacids to help the stomach recover from the alcohol. The product comes in the form of an effervescent tablet.

With the product created, the young business is turning to address questions of marketing and distribution.

“Right now our big challenge is national distribution,” said Erin M. Anderson, Haysom’s assistant. “Right now we are getting tons of interest from our website and our e-commerce platform, but we need to be in stores, bottom line. We are in talks with a lot of different stores. The major national retailers plan for years in advance, so it’s a little bit slow going.”

Anderson has been with the company since the summer after she graduated from Yale University in 2011.

“At first I was skeptical,” Anderson said of her first days at the company. “I was thinking, ‘Hangover cure? Really?’ But [Haysom] explained why there is a market for it and why this particular formulation is going to be successful. She addressed a lot of my concerns. It’s clear that she has thought all of it through.”

Since then, Anderson has become a believer.

“I’ve definitely put it to good use since I’ve got here,” she said. “It really does work. It’s great to come into work on a rough morning and have an unlimited supply of Blowfish here.”

—Staff writer Jacob D.H. Feldman can be reached at jacobfeldman@college.harvard.edu.

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