An Axiom: Only GOD
Nip the Grip is more than a name and more than a product. It is a true story of hope that began with an addiction.
The origin of NiP can be traced back to a hot summer day in August 2006 on a spring fed lake located on beautiful Amelia Island, Florida. Our founder, Lee Lewis was enjoying an afternoon of fishing off the dock with his two young daughters when the proverbial lightning bolt struck him through the words of his firstborn child. At the time, Lee was enjoying his favorite 28 carcinogenic cocktail dip of Copenhagen when it happened. The it was a moment in time that he will remember the rest of his life. It was a simple, yet piercing statement made by his seven year daughter, Sarah Katherine that would radically change the focus and purpose of his life. Sarah Katherine looked straight into his eyes and said these nine words, Daddy, dip is disgusting! I wish you would quit.
Later that same night, through a vision, the NiP story was brought to life. Lee dreamed in this vision that he was on the Oprah Winfrey Show explaining to Oprah (and her worldwide audience) that he had developed an all-natural solution to help smokeless tobacco users. Lee vividly recalls sitting on Tom Cruises infamous couch and passionatelyexplaining to Oprah that from the deer woods to the ball fields to the executive board rooms, dip doesnt discriminate.
NiP is ultimately a story about God givingHis37 year oldson an answer to his prayer. Lee became inspired to find his true purpose after reading A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. For months, he had been praying for God to reveal His true purpose for his life. Lee was tired and disappointed with making a pay check to just pay his bills. Lee wanted more and hoped for more out of the rest of his life. He truly wanted to use his awesome, God given talents and skills to help people andleave a legacy for his precious daughters, Sarah Katherine and Caroline.
Nip the Grip weaves a succession of divine appointments over the next 3 years that only God could orchestrate. There are no such things as coincidences in Lees life, and he will be the first to tell you that he did not invent NiP, God inspired it!
April 2006 Prelude to the Vision
It was late April 2006 when Lee and his girlfriend (now wife) Meredith were returning from visiting Lees sister (Virginia) and her husband (Rusty) in Phoenix. Due to a healthy combination of lack of pre-flight planning and an overbooked airbus, Lee and Meredith had to sit apart for their cross country return flight home to Jacksonville, Florida. It really does not matter who Lee dosed off next to on the 4 hour flight, but the individual that Meredith sat next to changed all of our lives for the better. This is where a guy named Don Mitchell enters the Nip story by entering Stage Left (more like right out of left field).
You see, Meredith Lewis is the most kind, compassionate and friendliest lady that Southwest Airlines will ever have on board. She has never met a stranger, and on this day, Don Mitchell was no exception! Once Meredith realized that Don was a sports agent based in Scottsdale, Arizona her little mind began to race. She knew that Lee was discouraged and unsatisfied in the banking/mortgage business and that he was seeking to find his purpose in life. She knew that he wanted to help people and to make a positive difference in peoples lives. So, knowing Lees passion for people and the game of baseball, she thought this chance encounter with Don Mitchell, a professional sports agent, may just be the perfect opportunity to sow a seed for him. The two enjoyed a nice visit while Lee slept 3 rows behind them (minding his own business). Later that afternoon, upon arriving in JAX, Meredith and Don exchanged business cards, Lee was briefly introduced as he exited the plane, and life moved forward for all three of them. In her usual professional way, Meredith (unbeknownst to Lee) emailed Don Mitchell the next day to follow up on the seed she had planted for Lee. Her intent was for Don to hire Lee as the Jerry Maguire sports agent of baseball. No response back from Don Mitchell answering her sales pitch for Lee was No real big surprise for Meredith. But God had planted the perfect seed for NiP! And His timing is always perfect!
September 2006- Divine Appointment is No Mistake
Fast forward five (5) months later and Merediths cell phone rings. Hello Meredith, this Don Mitchell. I am calling today because I just got your email. Well, after Meredith politely paused long enough to remember who in the heck Don Mitchell was, itdawned on her andthe fuse was lit (of course it didnt hurt that he reminded her of being his seatmate on a Southwest flight back from Phoenix back in April). Meredith was blown away when Don explained that the only reason he called today was because his computer hard drive had crashed back in April and he had lost hundreds of emails. So, when he mysteriously received only 3 emails from that day back in April, some five months later, he felt truly convicted to call her back and explain his situation.
Meredith quickly dismissed the original purpose and intent of her missive tomake an appeal forDonto hire Lee as a sports agent in Florida.Instead, sheexplained to Don about an unusualvision thatLee had experienced a month earlier. Whateverwassaid apparently appealed to him because later that same day Don accepted Lees call and a two hour conversation ensued. Lee vividly recalls passionately explaining to Don his God given vision to help people stop using tobacco. The vision and passion resonated with Don onboth a personal and professional level. From this initial conversation in September 2006, Don Mitchell has been on board with NiP and ourjourney together began! Indeed, God had made a divine appointment in advance of the dream that He had planted in Lee's heart!
August 2007 - A meeting in Scottsdale with the Anti-Smokeless Ambassador, Joe Garagiola
One of the many positive attributes that our partner, Don Mitchell brings to the NiP team is his amazing rolodex of personal relationships that he has established in and around Major League Baseball over the past 30 years. Don has been involved in professional baseball since he was signed by the Cincinnati Reds out of University of Tennessee-Martin in 1977. One of his career highlights was being selected by Jerry Colangelo (CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks) as the new organizations first baseball hire as the Director of Scouting. This front office experience took Don Mitchell to the pinnacle of the scouting profession and afforded him a network of Major League experiences and connections that money cant buy for a product like NiP. Ironically, the Diamondbacks GM and Dons boss was none other than Joe Garagiola, Jr.
Flash forward to the summer of 2007 and momentum is gaining for NiP. On a hot July day inside the CVS Pharmacy on Amelia Island, Lee experienced his epiphany with the natural sea sponge. While simply cruising the aisles, he took notice of a cool looking, natural sea sponge tied on a rope. That is when it clicked. Lee immediately plucked off a pinch of the sponge and placed it in his mouth like a dip. Immediately, Lee knew this was "it" for NiP and hepointed up to Godto give Him thanks for this awesome discovery! (And yes,he didbuy the plucked sponge). After months and months of praying, researching and looking for the perfect delivery system for NiP, the quest was over. In a CVS store on Sadler Road in Amelia Island, the needle in a haystack was found and our lives were forever changed. You see, after 25 years of using smokeless tobacco products, I consider myself a true connoisoir. Dippers will always demand and crave oral satisfaction. And the all-natural sea sponge perfectly and uniquely delivers both the oral gratification and the delivery system components necessary to provide users with better and healthier buzz of herbal energy and flavor..much better than the 28 cancer causing carcinogens and addictive nicotinecontained insmokeless tobacco!
Meredith andLee left for Phoenix, Arizona on July 31, 2007.They really were traveling out to Arizona on total faith because Don Mitchell still had yet to receive confirmation that Mr. Garagiola would be able to meet with us about NiP. The trip started great and ended even better. The first good news is that shortly upon arriving in Phoenix, we received word that our provisional patent for NiP had successfully been filed by our Cincinnati based attorney, Greg Lunn (who was divinely referred to us by Mike Bowling, the founder and inventor of Pound Puppies who also resides in Amelia Island). The second day in town, we received another phone call that gave us God bumps. While having lunch with Don, his wife, Michelle and the three beautiful Mitchell daughters (Jennifer, Julie, and Jamie), Don received a call from Joe Garagiola, Sr. confirming his desire to meet with his friends from Florida who have some new anti-smokeless tobacco invention. This phone call and moment shared together with all of the Mitchell family will always becherished because once again, on faith, God delivered on His promise to provide the people and resources necessary for the development of NiP.
What Joe did NOT say to Don in their conversation when planning our meeting on Thursday, August 2nd at 4pm in the lobby of the Hilton hotel in downtown Scottsdale, Arizona (Joes hometown) was that he would be coming to us immediately following his annual physical at the Mayo Clinic. See, Joe is 81 years old and is as active as any man half his age, however, I am not ashamed to tell you that my flaming hot, entrepreneurial spirit tooka bigtime kidney punch when he showed up and quickly told us that he was totally exhausted and that he could only give us about 10 minutes of his time. Well, as you can imagine, it was like stepping to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning with 2 outs, team is down by a run, and there is a full count! Talk about some pressure. But, as usual, God took control of the conversation and led the four of us down an incredible path for over two hours. It was apparent to each of us right away that even after being poked and prodded all day long at his annual physical, Joe Garagiolas passion and spirit against Big Tobacco is alive and well (even after fighting against them for 24 years!). Did you know that Joe actually coined the famous phrase, Smokeless does not mean harmless when he testified before Congress in 1994.
I will never forget his closing line to me that day in August when he stated, Lee, I have fought the good fight for over 20 years without a product. I think you have both the passion and the product! What a man. And what an inspiration those words and his belief in NiP (at such an early stage of development) will forever mean to me!
Hands down, bar none, this August meeting with the legendary Joe Garagiola in Scottsdale, Arizona will go down in the NiP archives as the perfect blessing and way to celebrate the one year anniversary of the vision. Go God!!!
To Be Continued...