Temple alumni raise awareness of health, wellness

Two alumni recently started producing protein fuel bars as a part of their health-focused company.

Gorilla Power founders Rian Watkins (left) and Leroy Mapp (right) stand near the Schuylkill River on Sep. 2. | ERIK COOMBS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Rian Watkins, a 2015 advertising alumnus, used to be a creative director for his friend’s health and fitness company. 

Then, he tried Leroy Mapp’s prototype of a protein fuel bar. 

“I knew it was a big opportunity because if it could appeal to me, then it could appeal to a much larger base of people than just fitness enthusiasts,” Watkins said.

Watkins then decided to join Mapp, a 2017 construction alumnus, in creating Gorilla Power, a health, fitness, and nutrition company that aims to educate and help people live a healthy life. 

This year, they officially got approved to package and sell their plant-based, protein bars by the Philadelphia Department of Agriculture.

When Mapp was a student at Temple, he constantly worked out in the IBC Student Recreation Center and a boxing studio, where he met people of color like himself who were vegan.  

“That’s when I really got to understand things more,” Mapp said. “They would tell me the pros of being vegan and from those conversations, that sparked the interest in me wanting to change my diet.” 

This idea was new to him and because of it, he wanted to create a business based in nutrition to educate people.

The dairy and GMO-free bar comes in two flavors, chocolate chunk, and peanut butter crisp. The prices are $3.33 for a bar, $20 for 6 or $40 for 12. 

The duo wanted to create awareness about fitness and nutrition to people who may be oblivious to it and hope to target their products to people of color. 

“We just wanted to change the narrative of what it means to be plant-based, it doesn’t have to be all these expensive and unrealistic ingredients,” Watkins said. “We can incorporate being healthy and living a balanced lifestyle with who we are, being hip-hop enthusiasts and being from the inner city, just kind of merging those worlds together.”

They spent their first year marketing the brand. Throughout 2018, they focused on being a resource for fitness information by creating and posting workout videos and healthy meal recipes on their website. They also organized fitness events and boot camps, where they started marketing the bars. 

As a certified personal trainer, Mapp stars in some of the workout videos on their website. He took the certification course with his friend Jelani Knight, a 2017 kinesiology alumnus. Knight thinks that the vegan bar makes the business inclusive for a wide range of people and he eats one almost every day. 

“I really loved the idea of it,” Knight said. “As a fitness professional, having a general resource center that you can go to, to access just about anything you need to start up your fitness journey.”

CORRECTION: A previous cutline misspelled “Erik” in the photo credit.

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