My Son & I Started A $840K/Year Supplements Brand

$70K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
4
Employees
product
Dioxyme
from Fort Myers, FL
started January 2016
$70,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
4
Employees
833K
alexa rank
21.7K
followers
122
followers
market size
$20.7B
starting costs
$17.2K
gross margin
40%
time to build
7 months
growth channels
Word of mouth
business model
E-Commerce
best tools
, Instagram, Privy
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
35 Pros & Cons
tips
4 Tips
Discover what tools Marc reccommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Marc reccommends to grow your business!
Start A Nutrition Supplements Business

Hello! Who are you, and what business did you start?

Hi guys, we are Marc and Bennett Schneider, father and son co-founders of Dioxyme (btw it is pronounced Dye-Oh-Zyme) and we manufacture and distribute DTC and B2B, small-batch, craft, nutritional supplements.

The Dioxyme story began with a son’s dream to play pro hockey, and his father’s unrelenting desire to help make that dream a reality. Bennett began each day knowing he had to work harder than the next guy. He understood he was not gifted with innate special talents other than hard work and a dream. He worked day in and day out on his speed, size, strength, and skills.

All the while, Marc watched, motivated, and helped. He learned about the game, sports training, nutrition, and how to make his son the best athlete possible.

Bennett left home to further his dream, working his way up the ranks from prep school to junior hockey. He was always looking for a leg up on the competition.

To help, Marc usually had something up his sleeve. New training techniques, better nutrition, different workouts. Everything would lead to improvements… except for supplements. Somehow, supplements never made any difference in his son’s training or game.

Marc, a surgeon, patent holder, and somewhat of a mad scientist, could not understand why, so he dug into it. Scientific studies proved many ingredients could help his son. Unfortunately, most supplement companies didn’t use those ingredients in their products, and if they did, it was at the wrong dose. “Snake oil.”

So, the mad scientist bought raw ingredients and began mixing and trying his own formulations. And...MPO - Muscle Performance Optimizer was born. They were stunned. The homemade concoction made a real difference in the gym and on the ice.

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Thinking that maybe they were overly enthusiastic about the new formula, they sent it out to several top NHL and NFL trainers who were willing to try it. Their results were equally impressive: real strength, power, and endurance gain every time they used it.

They did comment, however, about the taste… Now truth be told, Marc and Bennett had never been known for a discerning palate. And frankly, Marc thought it tasted fine. However, comments about MPO tasting sort of like burnt tires were a concern and so after multiple renditions, and Marc’s daughter Madison, graduating from the French Baking School and lending an educated palate, a delicious version finally arrived.

When Bennett hung up the skates after several years of pro hockey, the two decided to start Dioxyme to provide the most effective products on the market… one’s that actually work.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea of Dioxyme?

It really started with the recognition that any supplements that we used seemed to have no effect. We were always charting Bennett’s and my progress in training. We bought all the local nutrition store had to offer and we never saw any appreciable difference.

I started to do research on nutraceuticals and the evidence was abundant that certain ingredients should work. It was also clear that there were a plethora of well-known ingredients used in supplements that had no clear benefit.

I was able to sit down with several, well-known manufacturers to pick their brains and I was surprised at their candid responses to my questions. Yes, it was well known that certain ingredients work and others do not. However, if they used only the correct ingredients and dosages, their product offerings and margins would be severely limited.

Armed with that knowledge, and the disappointment of trying several supplements that claimed they would increase my strength, I set about researching legal ingredients designed to increase strength.

I came across several with indisputable evidence of efficacy and safety and began experimenting with them. I ended up combining 5 ingredients and suddenly I was breaking through plateaus in the gym that I had been stuck at.

What was actually more amazing than breaking through plateaus was the realization that combining the ingredients produced an effect far greater than the summation of the effects of the individual ingredients. Scientists call this the synergy of ingredients. In fact, what we actually saw was that something I designed to slowly improve strength had immediate effects on strength, power, and endurance. Thus, MPO was born.

To validate our findings, I contacted several coaches known for training pro athletes in the NHL and NFL and they were willing to try the formula. Not only did the formula work on me, an untrained average Joe, but it also worked extremely well on the trainers and their pros.

However, there was this little issue of the taste.

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Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first formula.

We had the workings of the formula in hand and the next step was finding a co-packer who has the skills and integrity to produce the product. My goal was to produce something that any professional athlete could use, which meant that the product would have to meet WADA and USADA-banned substance standards. I was promised the world by several co-packers. They could come up with the flavoring and the product would pass testing.

This required our first real expenditure as minimum volumes were necessary. One thing that my medical background taught me was to test and verify and though this would be expensive, I was not going to put my medical reputation on the line without it.

We went through several co-packers who ended up either using; “the dirty secret of the supplement industry, underdosing or eliminating ingredients, or they couldn’t flavor the product adequately.

Finally, we took the entire development process in-house and took advantage of my daughter’s skills as a French Bakery School trained chef. With the formulation in hand, we were able to find a small, NSF-certified co-packer who agreed to let us source all the ingredients, and test and verify the finished product.

Our costs to this point were fairly straightforward and consisted of product, packaging, warehousing, and shipping. What we produced we sold and then we reordered.

Describe the process of launching the business.

We thought the hard part was done; creating a great product that didn’t exist in the marketplace. The rest should be easy. Unfortunately, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Bennett initially created a label fashioned to stand out on a shelf. Bright orange on a black jar with a distinctive bull logo that we designed. In addition, I formulated an experiential nootropic (brain enhancing) product and unique whey protein formulation that my daughter made taste amazing.

Simultaneously, Bennett created a Shopify eCommerce site with a Wordpress blog page. We were lucky to know some traditional store owners who purchased the product routinely. At this point, he was playing professional hockey and our goal was to have the company grow further through pro-athlete use of the product and viral discovery.

However, after a couple of years of 15% growth and a monthly income of $20,000, we realized that this approach to building a company was not going to work. Especially as eCommerce was beginning to take off and brick-and-mortar retailers were starting to wane.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

The strength of Dioxyme was that from the get-go, we had enormous customer satisfaction, no returns, and a very healthy 45% repurchase rate. Our goal has always been to provide an experiential product that fulfills a unique niche. Customers have recognized this and have been very loyal.

We are also committed to catering to our customer feedback and because we create small batches, it has allowed us to tweak and improve the products. For example, we have eliminated artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners and moved to more ecologically friendly packaging while minimizing the use of plastics.

However, it became clear that the number of site visitors we had was not going to produce growth (100-200 a day). Bennett was tasked with creating a plan to drive the numbers.

Thankfully, one thing he learned during his hockey career was to utilize his downtime to learn from the amazing resources available online. He learned to code from scratch, SEO, email marketing, content creation, branding, and marketing. Bennett also recognized when we lacked sufficient knowledge in an area and how to bring in experts to help.

We began our advertising journey with google search and we brought in an expert who handled several $100k/month advertisers in our space. Though our click rates exceeded industry averages, our conversion metrics were awful. We made numerous attempts to explore web design, pricing, checkout experience, email follow-up, etc. Nothing we did moved the needle and we were left wondering whether it was the appearance of the brand.

Bennett then studied our buyers and found that our demographics looked more like a Whole Foods customer rather than a young nutrition store buyer. We also attended a tradeshow and had the opportunity to hear a Whole Foods representative speak. At the conclusion, Bennett was convinced the only stone unturned was a rebrand. We had created a site that was gaining significant traction, our domain authority was increasing tremendously, our email list was building, but sales were not going where we wanted.

Bennett and my daughter Madison, who besides flavoring our products, also has a Masters in Architecture, set about creating a rebrand. Again, the resources for this came from exhaustive online learning. This took several months to design before being produced. Finding the right manufacturer for the new packaging along with correct prototypes and final product, as everyone in manufacturing knows, was difficult.

While this was happening we started interviewing companies capable of display advertising and search. As soon as our new packaging was produced, we began Facebook advertising and Bennett’s hunch was immediately validated with significant month-over-month growth.

my-son-i-started-a-840k-year-supplements-brand

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We always approach our marketing cautiously and with an eye towards proof of concept before scaling. As alluded earlier, we found a great partner for our Facebook advertising and since Q1 we have experienced 70% sales growth, month over month. Facebook changed its attribution model recently and where we were previously using ROAS as a vital KPI, we have had to switch to monitoring sales directly.

We have not been able to find the secret sauce to make search advertising successful. Similarly, we have used several retargeting platforms with a modicum of success. That said, we are currently actively exploring other retargeting options as well as building a YouTube presence via video production and advertising.

As we have grown, we have been able to tap into new groups who find benefit from our unique products. In this regard, two weight loss products we developed have further enhanced sales. This is a new audience and we have had to grow our customer support offerings to satisfy their needs. In addition, we are about to release a unique probiotic that also provides support to the mucosal lining of the gut and hence helps with gut integrity and health.

Never be dismayed by one step forward, one step back. It happens continuously. You get something figured out that starts to hum and there is always a hiccup that occurs.

From a logistics standpoint, we have run the gamut of handling shipping ourselves, outsourcing this with several different 3PL companies, and then finally taking this back in-house. We have found that having complete control over managing the delivery of our product is essential for customer satisfaction.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Our learning experience has been extensive as well as expensive. Creating a company from scratch without any previous experience in the business is fraught with untold hazards and errors.

The greatest lesson we have learned time and time again is to be fastidious in the details and demand your standards from every one of your supporting vendors. Then, test and verify. Creating exacting standards for us was easy. As a 30-year practicing Plastic Surgeon, everything I do is detailed. For my partner's children, though their little Ivy educations did not teach them anything practical for building a supplement company, it did emphasize exacting attention to detail in everything they do. This is critical.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We initially started on a blended platform of Shopify with Wordpress for our blog. We then switched to Woocommerce. As we have grown, we have come to recognize that Shopify offers more app advantages and we are in the process of migrating back. I would love to be able to say that we will now only stay on Shopify but technology changes so fast, you have to be willing to move.

You have to be resilient, you have to be creative, and you have to be fastidious.

Our shipping is done with Shipstation and their platform has helped us tremendously. We have used a variety of different apps in several categories to help our growth. This has been done incrementally as we have grown. Currently, we use Klaivyo for email, Chatra for customer chat support, Attentive for SMS marketing, slack for communication, and judge.me for verified reviews.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Udemy has been extraordinarily helpful in learning basic and mid-level skills from coding to google ads and photography. However, culling through a multitude of company blogs, establishing relationships with some, and never being afraid to ask a stupid question has been the most useful resource.

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Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

I love the companies that smack home runs with their first at-bat. Unfortunately, that has not been our experience and in speaking with most successful companies, overnight success usually takes years to accomplish.

Never be dismayed by one step forward, one step back. It happens continuously. You get something figured out that starts to hum and there is always a hiccup that occurs. For example the recent changes in Facebook advertising that has messed with many companies.

You have to be resilient, you have to be creative, and you have to be fastidious. A great hockey skills coach, Sean Skinner, who had an enormous effect on my children’s athletic and mental development, always preached one thing: improvise, adapt, overcome. It is critical for business.

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Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are not looking for any full-time employees but we are always looking for GREAT content creators: both written and video.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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