This is a follow up story for VADE Nutrition. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 4 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Joe Johnson. My wife Megan and I founded VADE Nutrition in 2016, right after I graduated college at Michigan State University. We created the world's first Dissolvable Packs of powdered supplements - pre-measured servings of Protein, Pre-workout, and Vegan Meal Replacement powders wrapped entirely in a dissolvable, edible food-grade film. Our goal? To create the most convenient, portable, and hassle-free powdered beverages on the market for those who have an on-the-go lifestyle, without compromising the quality or taste. The dissolvable film itself is completely tasteless and colorless and made up of food binders that are found in common foods and vitamins. This film dissolves entirely in any liquid of choice, so it allows our customers to simply just take a pack, toss it in their bottle, shake and go! Eliminating all of the mess and hassle that comes with scooping protein powder, especially when on-the-go.
Our signature 100% Whey Isolate Protein was our flagship product, which we pitched on Shark Tank back in 2018, where we landed a deal with Mark Cuban and Alex Rodriguez. Due to the overwhelming success of our Whey Isolate, we have expanded our product line to feature multiple whey isolate flavors (and more coming!), as well as pre-workout and plant-based meal replacement packs. We take great care in formulating the best tasting, creamiest products that are sourced from the highest quality ingredients on the market, to ensure that every product we launch is exactly what our customers are looking for.
When we started VADE we were only selling through our e-commerce website, but now you can also find us in major online retailers including bodybuilding.com, Amazon Prime, and GNC.com. You can also currently shop for VADE nationwide in GNC locations! Keep an eye out for us in grocery stores too as we expand this year.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Our business has seen tremendous growth overall in the last year. We have expanded in retail stores around the country, launched new products and flavors, grown our loyal customer base via subscription, increased monthly sales, and expanded our internal team. With the expansion of our product line and retail presence, we have had to grow our team strategically and quickly. We have learned to be specific when hiring; knowing exactly what we’re looking for when interviewing potential talent and team members. Hiring the right team has been really challenging, and probably the hardest but one of the most important parts of growing our business.
When the pandemic in 2020 hit, we had to get creative. We had just launched into specialty retail roughly two weeks before all retail stores shut down to the public. This meant that our planned retail marketing efforts were gone, and as a new brand in big stores, this could be catastrophic to our business. So, we had to pivot and figure out how to grow our business quickly and effectively. We decided that growing our online marketing efforts and our e-commerce customer loyalty was key. We emphasize social media advertising while also heavily focusing on building an Auto-Ship Subscription Program. This allowed us to grow our customer base, increase sales and maintain faithful customers who want their products automatically delivered whenever they want them. This auto-ship program has been a huge win for us for a few reasons- it is the best way we can ensure our customers are happy, satisfied and feel valued by our company, while also growing our sales in big ways month over month.
In terms of marketing expansion, we have taken a big initiative on SEO and additional advertising on other platforms and in-person efforts. We have also been utilizing our email and SMS platforms, each month, to keep our audience up-to-date on product launches, company announcements, valuable resources, and recipes.
We have quite a few products launches lined up in the near future, and we will also be launching new flavors for our current products, which we are really excited about! We always see an increase in our customer excitement, and sales overall, when we expand our product line. We always take into account our customer’s feedback, suggestions, and desires when we are developing new products- while also aligning with the industry and where it’s going.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
In the past year, there has been a lot of change and “unknown”. As a Company and team, we learned how important it is to stay true to our mission within the industry. We have learned to adapt, change, and be flexible during the trying times which we all experienced, in different ways in 2020. We’ve also learned the importance of acting quickly and focussing on implementing systems that produce growth, expansion, and an overall increase in brand awareness.
JOE: The biggest lesson we’ve learned as a company has been to be able to pivot quickly and strike when the iron is hot. In 2020 we were expecting a majority of our revenue to come from retail, and we had to change our strategy entirely when we realized that retail wasn’t going to pan out that year. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned personally as a CEO has been learning that building the right team is the most important and hardest part of running a business. When times get tough you realize who you can count on to help you push to become better and stronger as a whole! Without my amazing team, we wouldn’t have gotten through the trials we have been through.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We are on a mission to become the leading nutrition company in the industry within the next 5 years- providing convenient, portable, and high-quality nutrition and supplements. With our objective made clear, we are driving our company with result-oriented projects focused on expansion and growth, both internally and externally. JOE: Our long-term goal is to continue to grow and expand in eCommerce and retail, and become the go-to supplement company for convenient nutrition. We want to have a full line of VADE products so we can have all the core supplements in the industry available on shelves and online, for our customers!
Get a good team behind you, no matter how long it takes for you to find the right people - it’s worth it to have the right people who are willing to put in all the hard work right alongside you, who can push you and the business to be the best it can be.
In the upcoming year, we plan to bring more products and flavors to our customers and to grow our subscription program on our own website as well as expand our products nationwide in retail. Our overall short-term goal is to boost in-person efforts through sampling programs, kiosks, and expos. This means growing our sales team so be able get in front of people to boost sales face to face!
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I’m a big fan of podcasts and audiobooks. Let's be honest, not all of us get to enjoy the glory of sitting down and reading a book, especially with two kids at home!
Some of my top (audio) books have been “Start with Why” and “Power of Moments”. And some of my top podcasts are “How I built this” specifically the Ring episode and Spanx episode. It really reiterates that for those who continue to put in the work and believe in their vision their mission will come true, while also being a good reminder that a lot of other entrepreneurs face the same struggles that we face- which motivates me to keep going!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I always like to remember that what everyone sees is the success of others whether it’s their business or personal endeavors. But you don’t see all of the hard work, discipline, long days and nights, and trials that they went through to get there. Push through and don’t give up. Get a good team behind you, no matter how long it takes for you to find the right people - it’s worth it to have the right people who are willing to put in all the hard work right alongside you, who can push you and the business to be the best it can be.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
At this moment we are looking to expand our sales, marketing, and advertising teams. We do foresee an expansion overall within our company in the next year.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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