If you’re reading this you’ve probably read my articles about starting a supplement business and found them useful.
I enjoy writing them because I think the natural products industry is a great one to be in. It’s growing, has lots of room for differentiation, and the core of the business is timeless: giving people satisfying, healthy products that make them feel better.
It’s also easy to qualify for: you don’t need a license to get started, and by and large people don’t care what academic credentials you have next to your name when you’re talking to them about your product, as long as you can explain why it’ll benefit them.
What you do need is a product people will pay money for, a process for making it, and a sustainable business model that’ll allow you to do steps 1. and 2. over and over again.
A simple concept, but not one that’s very well taught. I don’t know of a single online course, degree, or book you could read that would give you actionable advice on how to do it.
So that’s where I come in.
I like to help as many people as I can, but I’m limited in how much attention I can devote to any one person for all sorts of reasons.
So if you have questions you want to ask me that can’t be answered from my blog we’ll have to set something up.
But before we do that, let me take a few minutes to describe how I work and what I’m good at.
A Person, Not An Agency
The first thing you should understand is that I’m not an agency. I’m not really a consultant either. If you have either of those titles that means your primary activity throughout the day is trying to drum up as much billable hours for people as you can.
Instead, you should think of me as a business partner that you can rent out.
I only want to do exactly what you need of me to help you get off the ground. If that means dedicated attention on an-going basis then that’s fine. If all you need is a 15 minute conversation then that works too.
My first priority is running my own business. If you decide to partner with me, my second will be making sure you can run yours.
What I’m Good At
When it comes to getting people started in the industry these are my specialties:
1). Getting you on the growth curve. Business success does not require large sales volume or huge profits at first. It doesn’t even really require a lot of long term planning. What it really requires for the entrepreneur is an entry point that’s suitable for your circumstances that’ll allow you to sell units at some profit in a way that’s repeatable. If you can get that down a lot of the complicated stuff has a way of taking care of itself. I can give you a hand to help you get some lift.
Getting on the growth curve can mean using internet marketing to gain traffic, canvassing your area for local grocers and distributors to pick up your product, or possibly going on the road in search of big fish. I’ve done all three and am happy to assist you in choosing the right avenue for you
2). Sorting out the supply chain maze. Your uncle Lenny is probably good for stock tips, but he’s probably not much help if you need an organically certified vitamin manufacturer with a minimum order of 500 bottles. The truth is there’s just not a lot of public information out there about the service providers in the supplement industry. I know this from experience, and have spent the better part of 4 years carefully poring over what’s out there, and am probably the most useful person you’re going to find to help you figure out who you ought to use for your business endeavor.
3). Figuring out your business model. If you’re lucky you already have a pipeline of customers you can sell to and enough working capital to do whatever you want. For the other 95% of you that are reading this, take comfort that I started with no industry contacts, $5,000 in seed money, and a huge gap between what I was capable of and what I ultimately wanted to do.
4). Figuring out if the industry is right for you. I wouldn’t have thought this two years ago, but about half the questions I get are from people who want to know if going into business for themselves is the right choice for them, and what their expectations should be. If you’re curious about throwing your name into the supplement-industry hat and thirsting for some honest feedback then we ought to have a talk.
Health Kismet is still a work in progress, but I’ve been able to bootstrap myself into two additional products (with another in development), two distribution deals, and have doubled my sales and profits 4 years running.
The right business model is a unique combination that should incorporate what product you want to make, how much you have in the bank, what sorts of customer acquisition channels you already have, and where you see yourself ending up should you be successful. It’s a snowflake that can be hard to discern from the sidelines without knowing a whole lot about how things work.
What You Shouldn’t Talk to Me About
While my ego likes to tell itself that I’m an infallible bastion of truth in all things natural products related, my better self knows that I have weaknesses of my own that make me inadequately qualified to charge money in order to give advice about.
In my opinion these are the reasons you should avoid me:
1). You’re looking for someone to give you inside connections with fundraising. Sorry folks, chasing other people’s money isn’t something I have experience with and if you’re thirsting for an investor with a BIG FAT CHECK to place in your hands to get you started then I’m not the person for you.
Never done it, and probably won’t in the foreseeable future. No need in wasting your time contacting me.
2). You only want advice from someone who’s achieved fame or public notoriety. I’ve never been on Dr. Oz, I don’t have any infomercials, have never won an olympic medal, and to be frank – I’m not independently wealthy. (If I was I wouldn’t even bother with this endeavor!).
Some people (perhaps understandably) only feel comfortable getting advice from someone who has the aura of a rockstar. If that’s you then move along.
My value is that I’m the exact opposite of a rockstar. I started with very ordinary starting conditions (little money, no industry connections, vague idea of what I wanted to accomplish) and gradually pieced together a successful business.
The good thing about this is that when your starting conditions are meager there’s no room for luck, so you can only get by on merit.
For example, if you have $100,000 dollars to spend and are looking to place an order of 25,000 bottles of something it’s not difficult to find a manufacturer. They’ll probably jump over themselves to get their hands on you. When you have $4,000 and have a somewhat complicated formula it’s much more difficult. You have to pore over the landscape with a fine comb in order to get what you want.
How I Work
Okay, so you’ve made it this far and you’re thinking “You know, this Jonathan guy seems pretty legit. I think I’d like to have a word with him.”
Here’s the key information you need to know about me:
1). My rates are flexible. They depend on the scope of your project, the amount of time you have to devote to it, and how much time I have available at the moment.
2). I bill in 15 minute increments. If you think you need little more than a brief conversation about a few points then we can chunk things appropriately. I usually give discounts for hourly blocks of work.
3). I work by phone, skype and e-mail. Whichever one you think is best for you. If there are other side-tasks you’d like me to help you with then that’ll go into your bill.
4). I’m very selective in the clients I take in. Like I said before, my primary activity is running Health Kismet, so I can only afford to take in a few people at a time. In general I’ll do three hours/week max and I take people on accordingly.
5). I always try and get as much background info as possible. Our time together is very valuable so it’s important it gets done as efficiently as possible. Squeezing time out of you is not my priority.
You should also understand that the amount of money someone has isn’t the only criteria I use to screen someone. If I think you’re cool, have unique ideas, or are the type of person that could really do big things with a little bit of direction then I’m happy to put you at the head of the line.
What to do Next
If you’ve made it this far and you still want to continue, fill out the form below.
Here’s some advice:
Tell me a little story to help me get an idea of what your situation is like and what sorts of obstacles you’re facing. It’s usually good to be as detailed as possible so I can pinpoint how I can help you.
Don’t strike yourself out! Like I said, I’m happy to talk to the college kid who thinks he’s got a good idea he can sell to his university cafeteria. The amount of money you have isn’t the only screen I use. Just present yourself well and give me a good picture of what you look to be doing.
I’ll get back to you to let you know if we’re a good fit (sometimes we won’t be), any additional questions I have, and whether or not I have time to take you in.
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