The concept for Better Blend Nutrition came to its founder and CEO, Isaac Hamlin, after joining the University of Kentucky’s rugby program. The Florence native knew he was fast and strong enough to be a good player, but also that he should be able to reach another level.

“I was good, but I knew I should be better,” Hamlin says. He noticed that the heavy team meals of pork chops or pasta made him feel more sluggish than energized for game day. “The part of it that was lacking was the nutrition side.”

So, Hamlin created meal replacement recipes that were rich in nutrients while being light on calories, carbohydrates, sugars and fats. After he honed his new diet, Hamlin went on to be named first-team SEC All-American at the end of the season. But beyond achieving on the rugby pitch, Hamlin discovered a path to post-graduation success as well.

Since graduating in 2017, Hamlin has run Better Blend Nutrition from its first store at 8181 Mall Road in Florence. Better Blend’s selection of protein-rich smoothies, blends and superfood bowls has spurred the business’ steady growth since opening in June 2018. Now, the company is ready to open a new location the weekend of Oct. 2 in downtown Cincinnati—at 345 W. Fourth Street—with another to follow in January 2021 on McMillan Street in Clifton.

Hamlin bootstrapped his way to founding Better Blend Nutrition, eschewing outside funding for maxing out credit cards to cover initial expenses while working a side job at night—something he doesn’t recommend to future entrepreneurs. With the help of his family—particularly his mother, sister and father, a master carpenter—Hamlin built the Florence location and his company the way he wanted to.

“Me and [my father] would start working at 8 a.m. and quit working at 7 p.m.,” Hamlin recalls, “then I would go to Amazon to work at a factory to make some extra money. We did that for three or four months before we finally opened in June.”

Through grassroots marketing efforts—selling T-shirts at cost and a quality social media presence—the word spread about Better Blend Nutrition. But once customers became acquainted with the nutritious offerings, Better Blend’s products did the rest of the work.

“You leave feeling better than when you came in,” says Hamlin, recalling an adage that guides his company’s mission: “You never regret eating healthy today.”

Demand for healthy eating options is rising and Better Blend’s recipes make nutritious food that tastes like it’s bad for you, Hamlin explains, making it a great entry point for people starting their journey to healthy eating and living.

“We want to change the way that people look at fast food,” he says, “because we can pump these meal replacements out as fast as somebody can do at a Wendy’s drive-thru.”

The company is also looking to ship its meal replacements in the near future, so customers can recreate the recipes with just water, ice and a blender.

“The reason we do what we do is for those letters and messages and emails that say, ‘Hey, I’ve lost 25 pounds, I’ve been drinking Better Blend for the last two months, thank you so much,’” Hamlin says. “That’s the kind of stuff that we’re here for and that’s the kind of stuff we want to bring to new communities.”