Thriving business keeps Powells busy


Photo contributed by Shelby Powell

Brooks and Shelby Powell, who both graduated from Kingwood Park in 2012, stand outside of their new office building that is almost done being built.

Crosslin Silcott, Staff Writer

Brooks Powell found success early. He was a three-time state champion swimmer at Kingwood Park, National Honor Society president and homecoming king. He then went on to become the first in his family to attend an Ivy League school.

His success didn’t end there. A little over a year ago, Powell was featured on the popular show Shark Tank for the business he started called Cheers.

Cheers is a substance users can consume while drinking alcohol. Powell said the product reduces alcohol’s negative effects such as hangovers, and increases happiness and next-day productivity.

Brooks was a sophomore at Princeton doing an independent project in a neuroscience class when he came across an article titled “Dihydromyricetin as a Novel Anti-Intoxication Medication,” published in The Journal of Neuroscience. In this article, it was shown that Dihydromyricetin (or DHM for short) was the chemical extract of the Hovenia Dulcis plant and had a number of interesting properties. Rats given DHM showed reduced signs of hangovers, a decrease in alcohol addiction and reduced liver damage from alcohol. With the help of his professor, he began his research to see if the drug had an equal effect on humans.

“Within about two months of first reading about DHM, I was hooked,” Powell said. “When my grandfather passed away he gave me $20,000. I used that money to file the legal paperwork and form the company.”

Originally called Thrive+, Cheers became the first company in the United States to begin importing and selling purified DHM.

“It definitely hasn’t been a walk in the park all the time, but if owning a business were easy everyone would do it,” said Brooks’ wife, Shelby Powell.

His dedication is what got his business a spot on Shark Tank. Brooks wrote the producers a 12-page paper stating line-by-line what he would say to the sharks, how they would respond to him, and then how he’d reply to them. The producers later told him that in nine seasons of filming Shark Tank, no one had ever done that.

“There’s no rules in life,” Brooks said. “No textbook. Sometimes you have to get over your pride and just do crazy things to try and make things happen.”

Most people apply for Shark Tank three or four times before they even get considered for a spot on the show. Cheers was accepted on its first try. About 30,000-50,000 companies apply each year and less than 200 actually make it onto the TV show.

“If you do the math, it’s about 25 times harder to get onto Shark Tank than it is to get into Princeton,” Brooks Powell said.

Both of Brooks’ parents, Beth and Gene Powell, and his wife, Shelby Powell, all now work for Cheers. Beth and Gene Powell manage fulfillment for the company while Shelby Powell manages the company’s advertising and design.

“We are both so lucky to be able to work together everyday and build/grow a company together,” said Shelby, whose maiden name is Ogletree. “Not many couples have the ability to do that!”

Shelby and Brooks first connected in their fourth period freshman English class at Kingwood Park. They were crowned Homecoming king and queen their senior year and finally got married after seven years of dating.

“We just recently celebrated our three-year wedding anniversary and our 10-year anniversary from when we became a couple,” said Brooks Powell. “So yes… sometimes high school sweethearts do blossom into marriage!”

Brooks’ father said his son has become a great businessperson since high school. Brooks is very appreciative of the support of his wife and parents throughout his business journey. He credits much of his success to his former teachers and coaches at Kingwood Park.

“Teachers should really be seen like soldiers,” Brooks said. “They’re volunteering their life to the betterment of the nation and the next generation. They’re critical to the future of the nation.”

Not only did Brooks win the 50 free state swimming title three years in a row while at Kingwood Park, he also finished ranked No. 11 in his class of 425. He said he would have been valedictorian if his freshman year could have been dropped from his GPA.

His grades helped him get into Princeton, and he said his swimming skills were the “icing on the cake.”

He credits Kingwood Park swim coach Greg McLain for much of that success and said McLain is one of the most successful people he has ever met.

“My sophomore year we actually won the state championship by so much that we could have left the meet halfway through and still won,” Brooks said. “We had sealed the championship before even half the events were finished.”

Brooks went on to swim for two years on Princeton’s varsity swim team. In a relay his freshman year, he broke the elusive 20 second mark in the 50-yard freestyle.

Considering Brooks’ devout passion for swimming, most would now be surprised to hear that he has found a new love for golf.

“Other than the company, Brooks lives and breathes golf,” Shelby said. “So if he isn’t thinking about the company and the next big steps to take… he is probably thinking about how he can improve his golf swing.”

Whether in the classroom, in the pool, at the office or even at the golf club, Brooks Powell has always been extremely passionate and driven about the things he takes on. For the future, he plans to continue growing and building his business. Specifically, he’d love to be a $100 million-plus revenue business within the next few years. That’s an achievement less than 1 out of about 1,000 companies ever achieve, Brooks said.

‘“I wouldn’t say that I’m ‘successful’ yet,” Brooks Powell said. “To use a golf analogy… I’d say I’ve hit a few great shots, but I haven’t sunk the putt yet. I’m still a long ways off.”