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Founder Spotlight: What It Takes To Launch A Brand

It takes a special eye, entrepreneurial spirit, and a whole lotta guts to launch your own brand. And then, it takes grit, determination, and passion for that brand to become a success.

The Vitamin Shoppe partners with countless innovative wellness brands that started off as an idea, but have evolved into fan favorites. They each have their own unique story and purpose-driven mission, which we’re highlighting in our Founder Spotlight series (check out our Instagram and LinkedIn for ongoing installments).

Here, we’ve gathered some of our favorite success stories.

Katy Hearn and Haydn Schneider: Alani Nu Co-Founders

In college, healthy living was the last thing on Katy Hearn’s mind. But eventually she grew tired of feeling slugging and not liking how her clothes fit—so she decided to make a change.

Katy gradually began making healthier choices, and educated herself on fitness. She created an Instagram account in 2021 to document her progress.

Katy and now-husband Haydn Schneider, a former Health Enthusiast at The Vitamin Shoppe, started hosting fitness challenges, and later created a 10,000 square foot gym facility for personal training. In 2018, they launched their signature supplement brand, Alani Nu.

Alani Nu’s mission is to establish trust based on high-quality products with amazing, unique flavors. Katy and Haydn aim to create products that address health concerns so many of their followers and clients have shared with them. In fact, Alani Nu’s best-selling Balance originated from Katy’s personal struggle with hormone imbalances, as well as stories from her clients.

Katy says, “Showing up as your best self doesn’t come from a secret diet or magic plan. You have to choose your health and happiness each and every day, and Alani Nu exists to make people excited to do exactly that. You have to be the driving force in your journey to success. Haydn and I hope Alani Nu will help make that journey easier and more fun.”

Watch The Vitamin Shoppe CEO Sharon Leite’s interview with Katy and Haydn:

Psyche Terry: Urban Hydration Founder

Starting as a solution for Psyche’s family, who all struggle with sensitive and dry skin, UI Global Brand’s Urban Hydration was born.

Psyche’s a Zumba fitness instructor, mom of three, and leads a global partnership with WATERisLIFE, which helps areas around the world that are stricken with water scarcity. She is the first-ever woman to design a G-cup bra and is a leader in developing bras in different shades of brown for women of color. She has also endowed a $50,000 college scholarship for students majoring in business at her alma mater, Western Michigan University

Watch The Vitamin Shoppe CEO Sharon Leite’s interview with Psyche:

Kris Gethin: Kaged Muscle Founder

Long before founding Kaged Muscle, Wales native Kris Gethin competed as a lifetime natural pro bodybuilder, earning as high as second place in the Natural World Championship.

Kris eventually became a personal trainer, attracting clients that included Bollywood celebrities, billionaire businessmen, and champion athletes. He shared his extensive fitness knowledge through books, newsletters, videos, podcasts, and more.

Kris found himself with a dedicated following—but without any sports supplements he felt good about recommending. He decided to create his own formulas using patented, organic, and fermented ingredients, and built his own supplement empire with products that are tested for purity and packaging with transparent labels.

Today, Kris is active in IRONMAN competitions and ultra-marathons, and serves as a member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. He is widely known across the health and fitness space as one of the leading body transformation specialists, and continues to develop new and innovative sports nutrition products for Kaged Muscle as its CEO.

Watch The Vitamin Shoppe CEO Sharon Leite’s interview with Kris:

Will, Erica, Sebastian, and Ronald: Ora Organic Founders

Ora Organic was created out of a love for quality plant-based nutrition, ethical sourcing, and helping others be well

Ora comes from the New Zealand Maori greeting, “Kia Ora,” which translates to “be well.”

Ora Organic was formed by friends and family—Californians Will and Ron were friends since they were teenagers, Kiwis Erica and Sebastian are siblings, and Will and Erica tied the team together when they crossed the Pacific to become husband and wife.

The crew felt they were living pretty healthy lives—eating organic, plant-based foods—but they were frustrated with the options in the supplements space that didn’t meet their high-quality standards. So, they set out to create conscious products, and Chef Ron used his culinary skills to create delicious flavors.

Jess Mulligan: Winged CBD Founder

Winged CBD’s mission is to empower women to be the best versions of themselves with products formulated specifically for her body and her needs.

In 2017, Jess turned to CBD in search of a more balanced well-being. With some research, she discovered CBD is beneficial to women in particular.

Jess wanted to share the relief she felt from CBD with other women, and set out to design a product formulated for women that focused on stress, mood support, sleep quality, and hormonal imbalance.

Winged CBD includes woman-focused ingredients, like evening primrose oil, which is known to support female hormonal production, ease the symptoms of hormonal swings, and support skin radiance.

Ted and Paige Parker: Vibrant Health Owners

Vibrant Health was founded in 1992 by nutritional scientist Mark Timon, who aimed to make a strong, plant-based general nutrition product that would “get you right” on the inside.

Mark met current co-presidents and owners Ted and Paige parker at the 2002 Natural Products Expo, and was immediately impressed by their knowledge of the brand. Ted and Paige were already huge fans of Vibrant Health; Paige had been selling the brand’s products in her own natural store and Ted had been using the popular Green Vibrance powder to support his own health during a long bout with burnout, sleep issues, lactose intolerance, and more.

When Mark recognized Ted’s genuine enthusiasm for Vibrant Health and learned about his previous sales experience, he offered him the opportunity to join the Vibrant Health team as director of sales.

In 2007, Ted and Paige decided they wanted to focus more on the formulation of products. They purchased Vibrant Health, seeing the company as a perfect reflection of their shared passion for helping people achieve their health and wellness goals.

Vibrant Health ranks 81 on the Black Enterprise list of the nation’s largest Black-owned businesses, and was recently featured in Forbes as a Black-owned business to support.

Jocko, Pete, and Brian: Origin Labs & Jocko Fuel Founders

In 2017, ORIGIN teamed up with retired U.S. Navy SEAL and host of the top-rated Jocko Podcast, Jocko Willink, to develop Jocko Fuel, a line of nutritional supplements committed to helping people train smarter, perform better, and fuel their life.

Pete Roberts founded ORIGIN in 2011 when, as a black belt competitor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he innovated a martial arts uniform that had remained unchanged for hundreds of years. He erected a timber frame factory on his property in the woods in Maine to grow the company, determined to revive the industry and jobs, which were usually outsourced overseas. ORIGIN later began making apparel, boots, and fitness gear.

Later, Brian Littlefield, learned of ORIGIN through training Brazilian jiu-jitsu with Pete, and quickly jumped on board to spearhead the nutritional division. With years of experience in the supplement business, Brian focused on clean ingredients and formulas that work naturally with the human body.

Jocko later reached out to join the company as a co-founder of JOCKO FUEL and the partnership was sealed with a steak dinner and a handshake.

Cristie Besu: Eat Me Guilt Free Founder

Eat Me Guilt Free is committed to creating functional, portable, protein-packed foods that provide better-for-you snack solutions for health-conscious people.

Founder and CEO Cristie Besu is a first generation Cuban-American raised in Miami, single mother of three, registered nurse, and certified nutritionist.

Cristie created Eat Me Guilt Free as a response to her nutrition clients’ struggles with late-night sweets cravings. She starting baking high-protein, low-carb treats in her own kitchen with the mission to help people end the choice between healthy and delicious.

The business quickly took off via word-of-mouth and Instagram, and has expanded to include multiple brownie flavors, bread, and other foods made to contain appropriate protein, carb, and fat ratios for different wellness goals.

David Johnson and Max Spielberg: Genexa Founders

David and Max are two dads who found that when their kids would get sick, the medicine aisle was full of products they didn’t feel good about. They wanted to demand more from what they gave their kids.

The two aimed to find a cleaner, healthier medicine that was certified organic, non-GMO verified, vegan certified, and didn’t have synthetic ingredients. They cut dyes, lactose, talc, and more to create a product they could feel good about and was suitable for those with certain allergies

Genexa is a business dedicated to giving back. They donate portions of their sales to the Thirst Project to help bring clean water to villages in areas of the world that go without. Their ultimate mission is to make medicine healthier, while making clean, healthy products that are accessible and affordable to all.

Olowo-n’djo Tchala: Alaffia Founder

“Alaffia” (ah-la-fee-uh) is a common greeting or valediction originating from West Africa’s central Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. It refers to a state of peace, health, and well-being.

Founder and CEO of Alaffia, Olowo-n’djo Tchala, was born and raised in the village of Kaboli, Togo. He grew up sharing a 8×10 foot room with his mother and seven siblings. In the sixth grade, he dropped out of school to support his family on their farm.

In 1996, when Olowo-n’djo Tchala was a teenager, he met and fell in love with Peace Corps volunteer Prairie Rose Hyde while she was serving in Kaboli. Together, they traveled to the United States in 1998, where Olowo-n’djo  worked his way through school, eventually graduating from the University of California, Davis.

Olowo-n’djo and Prairie Rose felt compelled to combat the injustices that existed in West Africa, and established female-led cooperatives in Togo, where women handcraft indigenous ingredients. From there, they were inspired to create Alaffia, a brand that focuses on handcrafted, clean, and fair-trade beauty and grooming care. By using fair trade of indigenous African resources like unrefined Shea butter, African black soap, coconut oil, and neem extract, and providing fair wages for these ingredients, they are able to help advance gender equality and alleviate poverty in the region.

Every purchase of an Alaffia product funds the Empowerment Projects, organized efforts to ensure maternal care for healthy births, job creation, education, reforestation, and regenerative agriculture to help empower West African communities to share their knowledge with the world and rise out of poverty.

Tammie Umbel: Shea Terra Founder

Tammie Umbel launched Shea Terra Organics in 1999 with the goal to create women’s skin- and hair-care products using imported ingredients from Africa.

Tammie was raised by a Christian single mother in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. but left home at 15 after discovering the teachings of Islam.

At age 28, married and a mother to eight children, she began to worry that if something happened to her husband, she’d have no way to support her family. At the Islamic center in Washington D.C., she’d been learning about the women’s unique beauty regimens, and decided to share their wisdom with the world through her own beauty business. She connected with her first supplier to start selling Shea butter and black seed oil online.

In 2001, demand for Shea butter exploded in the U.S. and the company took off. Tammie spent time reading books on chemistry and botany, and experimenting with new ingredients so she could quickly expand her line of products. She learned marketing from roaming the aisles at The Vitamin Shoppe, noticing what successful retail sales demanded.

Tammie made her first million in 2010, and now regularly travels to Africa with her children to explore new ingredients. She aims to partner with vendors who support those in need or work to protect communities and habitats in Africa. She continues to grow her business while homeschooling the grade-school aged kids of her 14 children.

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