Innovator Spotlight- Dr. Cliff Han and AllerPops
By: Cady Gallagher
Dr. Shunsheng (Cliff) Han is the developer of AllerPops, a New Mexico based company that produces an all-natural prebiotic supplement to alleviate allergies. AllerPops are lollipops that contain ingredients to promote probiotics in the airway and support a balanced immune system around the respiratory tract. They are intended for kids and adults and can be used to combat allergies such as pollen, dust, and pet dander.
Dr. Han received his Ph.D. from Fudan University in Shanghai, China. He was trained as a medical doctor and worked in a hospital for four years. After working in the hospital, he became a biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. As his next professional challenge, he is transitioning into the role of an entrepreneur. His experience as a medical doctor, a biologist, and a father all played an important part in the development of AllerPops.
Allergies are incredibly common and, according to AllerPops, impact between 10% and 30% of the human population worldwide. To date, there are no known cures, only products that can provide temporary relief. After experiencing the impacts of allergies firsthand, as well as within his family, Dr. Han became motivated to create a product that resulted in lasting impacts with minimal side effects. AllerPops was born after several years of research and development. You can learn more about the science behind AllerPops here.
AllerPops as a company is committed to providing long-term relief for the millions of allergy sufferers worldwide. The company’s stated vision is to grow to make AllerPops the preferred choice for allergy relief worldwide. Integrity and service are two values that are important to the company. They maintain integrity through honesty and accountability, and they are dedicated to serving not only their customers but their partners, community, and each other as well.
AllerPops has made impressive strides in the last few years. The company has protected their product and marketing with intellectual property, won awards, and expanded into new markets. We had the opportunity to connect with founder Dr. Cliff Han to discuss AllerPops’ journey thus far, as well as what is yet to come.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us! What was the inspiration for the creation of AllerPops?
My son began having allergies in the spring at around age one or two and watching him suffer every spring was not easy. I really felt how bad allergies could be when I began to get them myself in 2014. That painful experience was the final push and was a blessing because it created the opportunity to embark on the journey of developing AllerPops.
What was your experience with research and data collection, and how did that translate into creating a tangible product?
My research included a longitudinal study of myself to find out what caused my allergies, a cross-sectional study of my family to verify the findings, and a translational study to test the causal connection between oral probiotics and common allergies. The original AllerPops product worked so well for me and my son that I concluded we had found the key to common allergies, and that it would work for many others as well. I then modified the recipe numerous times to fit the process of potential manufacturers. Eventually, we decided to make it like a lollipop. The product got its name “AllerPops” later with help from my SCORE advising team.
Once you had a product, what was one of your most notable challenges in bringing it to the market?
I had been a researcher for most of my life before starting the business, so the first challenge was (and still is) to make myself an entrepreneur. This transformation has been a multi-dimensional one. For example, as a researcher I like to learn new things and want to try things myself. In the first year, I did almost everything alone. Now, I force myself to use more professional services to shorten our learning curve and to create better customer experiences.
Earlier this year, you were honored with the “Star Business of the Year” award from the Small Business Development Center at UNM-LA. What was that experience like?
I was very excited and grateful. It was very important for our work to be recognized by the SBDC networks in New Mexico. The award encourages us to serve more people in need. Also, we owe so much to so many for their support. SBDC and SCORE have been my two advising teams, and the business cannot survive without their advice.
What do you consider one of your biggest accomplishments during your journey with AllerPops so far?
One of the biggest accomplishments is that we have served our customers well. Last year, we did a survey to see how well AllerPops work for our customers. The results have shown that more than 90% of our customers are satisfied with AllerPops.
And your biggest hurdle?
One of the biggest hurdles for me is to separate myself from the business. Before I even started the business, an elderly brother at the Southern Baptist Church Convention told me to set up a different bank account and get a separate credit card, so I did just that. Currently, I have had to start separating my preference from the business’s preference. For example, a personal view might not benefit the business and should be kept at a personal level.
Share a project of AllerPops, either past, present, or future, that you are especially proud of.
I am proud of forming a partnership with ZAP Marketing earlier this year. I expect that their experience in marketing will help us to serve even more customers, with even better products and services.
What role do you feel intellectual property has played in the success of AllerPops?
IP protection is essential for our business to grow, both in domestic and international markets. Patents give our customers confidence and attract potential investors.
What is a lesson you have learned from working with IP attorneys?
Spending some time in person with any potential attorney is still the best way to establish a relationship built on trust. I found my first attorney online and ended up looking for another one before that patent was submitted.
It has been a pleasure to watch the company grow! One final question: what is next for AllerPops?
With the support of our new marketing partner, we are going to strengthen online marketing and expand into the national market. We have previously been focused more locally in New Mexico, using traditional media such as TV.