'Go' to guy: Attorney spearheads energy drink company

 By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News
What do William Shakespeare, Batman and Robin, and Uncle Sam all have in common?
Apparently they are all fans of On Go Energy shots, if tongue-in-cheek images on the company’s Facebook page are to be believed—as are the farmer and daughter from the iconic American Gothic painting, depicted with On Go Energy bottles on their pitchfork tines.
While the Bard spent long hours writing, so did On Go Energy CEO Derrick George, an attorney and entrepreneur who earned his law degree at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.
“Caffeine was my study buddy in law school,” George says. “I’d consume large amounts of caffeine to stay alert and be able to study for hours on end. That’s what inspired me to start On Go Energy. You can drink two ounces of liquid and achieve the same results, with only five calories, no sugars, no carbs—a healthier alternative.”
George got an early entrepreneurial start in life, helping out on school holidays and weekends at his father’s grocery store in Detroit, and in his grandfather’s store in Southfield. While he learned how a product turns, and the finer issues of price points, marketing, and displays, as well as what does—and does not—make consumers buy, he also quickly learned about impulse items placed at the check out.
“I remember an appetite meal replacement placed by the register, a high cost for a front counter impulse buy—but we sold a ton of it, it had a following,” George says. “You create the best responses at the front counter, better than any other part of the store, and that’s where you want to be.”
In 2006, George—who already enjoyed deal making through his legal niche of real estate and mergers/acquisitions—took the plunge into the energy drinks market. Attending the Natural Products Expo West trade conference in Las Vegas, he met with representatives from Custom Nutrition Laboratories (CNL), manufacturer of a line of two-ounce, sugar-free energy drinks.
“I was looking at bringing a better product to market, and discovered this opportunity—I felt this was the right product to market through my distribution channels and contacts,” explains George, who launched On Go Energy in April 2007.
At one time, George was running the Law Offices of Derrick E. George PC, as well as a real estate and merger/acquisitions company, and his fledgling energy drink business—all out of one office. His focus now is solely on the energy drink company—and his products help to keep him going, he says with a smile.
“I multi-task, sleep very little, and drink On Go Energy, it keeps me going for hours—that’s the truth! I deal with the operations of the company and managing company legal issues, and our exports to other countries. I’m fortunate to have a really good team of people.”
George relishes the entrepreneurial world. 
“I enjoy it, and I love what I do. I love giving consumers options, I believe in that. Work is fun—we’re always finding ways to create better products, looking to improve flavors and packaging designs, always looking at ways to improve a product and bring value to our customers and to the end consumer. With over 6 years in the business, we wouldn’t be around if the end consumers weren’t purchasing our products. We were fortunate to be in at the right time, and to have a good lifestyle brand.”
On Go Energy—offered in six flavors and in singles and 12-packs—recently launched On Go Extra Strength. According to George, his business is on pace to sell one million units a month, and the product will be available in 10,000 outlets by year’s end, double the number of outlets from last year. The product was recently picked up by Kmart, and is also carried in select Walgreens, 7-11s, and many convenience stores.
A new innovation is the On Go Energy Fitness Tracker app—available at the App Store, the company website, or apple.com—to help people track their daily walking and workout habits. The tracker counts the number of steps taken, workout/walk session time, and estimated calorie burn. Participants can save their sessions and aim to improve their scores every day, and top users have the chance to win free On Go Energy shots.
While his law career has taken a back seat to the energy drink business, George says his legal expertise is a boon in his day-to-day operations.
“It helps me in everything—making sure all our marketing copy is correct, making sure we have trademarks, that all the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed.”
His legal background was also a huge benefit when Innovation Ventures LLC, a Farmington Hills-based distributor for 5-Hour Energy drink, sued George’s company in 2008 claiming theft of trade secrets through a former executive. The civil lawsuit was dismissed the following May in Oakland County Circuit Court, but Innovation Ventures recently revived it, alleging misappropriation of trade secrets, copyright infringement, unfair competition, and trademark infringement, among other issues.
“We’re currently in discovery and that’s where the case stands now,” George explains. “The lawsuit goes both ways—they sued me and my company and I then counter claimed. I was surprised they filed a suit. I believe justice will prevail and I believe in our judicial system. Because I’m an attorney, and understand the legal system and its nuances, it gives me hope the right decision will be made.”
The oldest of four siblings, George is engaged to be married in October. In his leisure time, he enjoys all types of music, with a particular passion for jazz. He also enjoys outdoor sports such as skiing and cycling, although his work leaves little time for these pursuits.
“I’m working on getting that life-work balance,” he says.
He gives back to the community by volunteering at Detroit-area soup kitchens at Thanksgiving and Christmas; and by volunteering at—and donating to—various cancer charities, a cause particularly close to his heart after his father died from lung cancer in 2005 at the age of 51.
A native of Farmington Hills, George currently calls Birmingham home.
“I like the fact that I live and work in a walking community—after living in New York City and Denver, I really appreciate the fact I can go out the front door and have shops, restaurants, and more all within walking distance.”

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