Frau Fowler’s "tough love" oral care products took home the grand prize at the last month’s Naturally Boulder Pitch Slam competition, an opportunity for natural products entrepreneurs to pitch their young company to a panel of recognized experts. The company’s founder, Perry Fields, began creating a line of tooth powders after recovering from years of dealing with Lyme disease, a systemic illness. She wrote a medical nonfiction book, The Tick Slayer, to chronicle her journey in hopes of helping others. Here, Fields explains that journey in depth.
Walk us through the path of life as a track and field athlete to living with chronic illness.
Perry Fields: I was training for the Olympics in 2003. I didn’t know I had been bitten by a tick a month prior to training. I went to the Olympic trials and did quite well. In 2005, I was under a lot of stress and started having some health issues, and I wasn't sure what it was. I chalked it up to training too hard. I went from running the U.S. Track and Field Championships one weekend, to the next weekend being bedridden for the next five years.
I went to a Lyme disease specialist and was given a bunch of antibiotics but had to stop the treatment after two weeks because I was getting so sick from it. I knew it had to be something other than just the tick bite, so I really had to be my own advocate and start researching everything. I had my wisdom teeth routinely cut out when I was 19, so I went to a biological dentist and they checked the cavitations, which is the pocket that the tooth used to sit in. All this stuff was just festering in these pockets. I had gangrene, herpes, Epstein-Barr virus in there… toxic soup. The tick bite literally became the ultimate stresser to the focal infection.
I went back to training in 2008 but knew that something was still wrong. I also had lupus, which can be triggered by focal infection. I went to another a biological dentist and he did a massive, aggressive surgery, and slowly over the course of that year, I got better and better. But it wasn’t in time to make it to the Olympics.
How do you feel your illness inspired you to help others?
PF: For the past 10 years I’ve been working with people who are chronically ill and disease challenged. I really hate to see people sick. If you don’t have health, you don’t have anything. You can’t function. And everybody knows somebody who’s sick these days. With all the chemicals we’re ingesting, it’s a real situation. It’s your toothpaste, your deodorant—everything.
I’m here for a reason. Everybody asks if I’m sad that I missed that whole window. And I am sad about it, but I was meant for better things. I’ve got a lot of gifts to share instead of something self-serving like being an athlete.
Do you make the product yourself?
PF: My husband has a background with heavy equipment. He’s a real gold miner. So his understanding of machines is the reason we make it ourselves because he can fix everything. And with my packaging degree, I can design everything. So it works perfectly.
What has been the most challenging part of launching this business?
PF: I’m really good at making and designing products, but my skills are not necessarily in distribution. The challenge is to learn everything I possible can about retail. I don’t want to be in the dark about this stuff.
Where did the name Frau Fowler come from?
PF: My grandmother is Scottish and German. My grandma was hardcore. She’s like tough love. Frau means woman in German and is a really strong name. Frau is kind of like saying missus, and Fowler is my husband’s last name. So, I technically am Frau Fowler. It’s like tipping my hat to the whole ancestry thing.
The actual emblem is a take on Artemis. Artemis was my obsession in fifth grade. She’s like the steward of the land.
What’s something you wish everyone knew about oral health?
PF: The ramifications of dental surgeries. And knowing what your options are before you go to see a dentist so that you know personally what’s going to happen.
What do you see as next steps after winning the pitch slam?
PF: The next step is having a banging Expo West. I am meeting with a broker to help me with getting into natural stores in Colorado. We’re going to have three new flavors available online in February.