While he may wear a lot of hats, Dr. Doug Strobel considers himself a problem solver above all else – a skill he says he learned while serving in the military.
A Marine and Navy veteran, the Carmel resident works as a neurologist by day at Community Hospital East. In his free time, however, the lifelong athlete also enjoys taking part in rigorous outdoor adventures like those put on by The Endurance Society.
Through taking part in some of these races, Strobel found himself in search of a remedy to the skin-care problems he and his athlete friends were having while out on the trails. Rather than being satisfied with the current products on the market, the self-described “mad scientist” got to work on concocting his own.
“I was using everything that was out there,” he says. “I think they’re all great products, but I wanted something that was a one-stop shop, where I could control the goals I was trying to achieve.”
In search of his own solution, Strobel began experimenting with ingredients to try and make his own skin care product.
“I was making it in my kitchen,” he says. “I even made it in my hotel room with a flipped-over iron, melting it and trying to get it to the right texture.”
After finding the perfect formula, he started bringing his homegrown remedy out to races, sharing it with racing friends who gave the product its Miracle Balm name.
“They wanted to know where I bought it,” Strobel says. “Well, I didn’t buy it – I made it. I started making it for my crew.”
After personally experiencing the Miracle Balm’s success in preventing blisters, Natalie Gardner brought up the topic of starting a homegrown balm business with Strobel while the two were getting dinner at Capri Italian Restaurant.
“Natalie said, ‘I know how to do business development. Let’s run this as a business,’” Strobel says. “I said, ‘Do you really know how to do that?’ Because they don’t teach you that in medical school.”
Now a co-founder of Dr. Doug’s Balms, Gardner gets full credit from Strobel for the growth of the business in recent years.
“My common comment is, ‘I’m Dr. Doug, but she’s Dr. Doug’s,’” Strobel says. “It would just be something I made in my kitchen if it wasn’t for her guidance and leadership. It’s the best of both worlds because I don’t know anything she knows, and she doesn’t know much of what I know. We complement each other well. That’s how we got to where we are.”
Currently, there is a variety of Dr. Doug’s Balms products available for purchase, both on the website and in various retail locations. Since starting out with their Original Miracle Balm, the team has expanded its offerings, with balms that are made for athletic needs, family needs, nature lovers and more. As the product line has expanded, the customer base has too.
“We didn’t really meet a lot of our [initial] customers face to face because I was giving it to all the people who I met,” Strobel says. “Then it spread via word of mouth, and bit by bit we got out there. One becomes two, two becomes four and four becomes eight. We’ve grown every year over the past five years. Some of our best customers and strongest advocates we’ve never met, which is a new experience for us. We’ve sold it in Greece. We’ve sold it all over the U.S.”
Although Dr. Doug’s Balms has become an international brand, the team still makes sure to outsource locally when possible.
“We want to really keep it local, so we’ve even tried to procure our containers and our labels,” Strobel says. “We get our labels from Greenfield, and they’re world-class labels. We’ve tried to be very supportive of the Village, Carmel, Hamilton County and the state of Indiana because we’re locally grown, and we want to keep it that way. There are some things we have to farm out for, but people are loyal to us, and we want to be loyal to the local populace in the city.”
In looking back on his growth through the years, Strobel has a greater appreciation for the athletic coaches and teachers who pushed him growing up, but ultimately he believes the military is the reason for his entrepreneurial success today.
“It really took my military service to gain the maturity and the recognition, and then be turned loose on my own to let it flourish,” he says.