On Starting A Business That Manufactures And Packages Dietary Supplements
I am Robert De Lima, founder, and CEO of Private Label Express (PLE). PLE manufactures and packages dietary supplements for brands selling their products on e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, Amazon & Walmart.com.
E-commerce brands have specific needs and traditional manufacturers are not set up to cater to these needs. We recognized this and spent the last several years developing our infrastructure and systems to effectively maximize e-commerce brands. By doing this we replaced the old school method of manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of products, with our proprietary, next-generation system, which allows our customers to pay for their orders, design their labels, have their finished product ready to ship in a fraction of the time while offering amazing customer experience and without sacrificing quality.
Speeding up this process allows brands to sell more, reorder faster and more efficiently than ever before, which increases their annual revenue, accelerates their growth, maximizes their marketing spend, increases profits, elevates their ranking, allows for increased positive reviews, and eliminates disruption or delays in supply.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Originally I was born in Trinidad and I decided to immigrate to South Florida at 20 years old. My entrepreneurial journey actually started in my teens and working 14 hours/ 7 days a week became the norm. I learned what it takes to start a business from nothing and grow it into something that adds value and I also know what it feels like to lose a business after investing all that you have into it.
I have built businesses in retail, wholesale, service, pharmacy, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceuticals (vitamins & supplements). In the early 2000s I founded a company in the pharmacy and pharmaceutical industry, while doing this I also created a brand of vitamins to supply to businesses in my customer portfolio and it was during this time that I witnessed the inefficiencies, unprofessionalism, lack of compliance, poor business ethics, lack of care, dishonesty, and the monopolization of underperforming manufacturers that I had no choice but to work with.
Having a poor relationship with your supplier or having an underperforming vendor can limit your ability to grow, restrict you from building a strong reputation, increase your chances of failure and end up wasting your precious time as well as resources by fighting a losing battle. Experiencing this through no fault of your own while witnessing the demise of your dream is crushing and to many entrepreneurs, this may cause them to give up on their dream of owning a business entirely.
After personally experiencing this I decided to build, not just “a company” needed to solve these problems, but the absolute best company in this industry. Not only was I extremely upset and disgusted from my own experiences but I truly believed that entrepreneurs and brand owners deserved more.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Our first product was sourced from a manufacturer that had excess inventory and we purchased it at a large discount. We labeled, packaged, and sold the product to several customers. This process was repeated for several months as we built our customer base and added more products to our offering. Through negotiation, product sourcing, sales, and customer experience, we started to grow quickly.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Once we decided to launch, we identified who our first customers were and what product(s) were needed. We then created a business and conservative financial plan that would make this possible. We started small, a few thousand dollars, a two-person office & my garage.
Just like past businesses that I have founded, PLE was built from the ground up. I put in a limited amount of starting capital and the rest was sweat equity. This is necessary to learn all aspects of the business while controlling the growth. I worked 7 days a week and usually until midnight doing anything from dealing with vendors, customers, shipping, packaging, financials, marketing, and so on.
In the beginning, we called all of the contacts that we had in the business and started selling 6 months before we even built a website. Once we built our website, we spent our resources on online marketing, posting on free sites, making phone calls, and making large purchases with vendors to cut product costs. In addition, we initially kept our margins very low to be competitive.
The principles and guidelines that we use today were thought out and created in the first weeks of inception and became our company’s foundation. Things like, treat customers with respect, do not cut corners, do not chase money, chasing perfection, do not settle for mediocrity, do not taking money out of the company until that luxury can be truly afforded. Aside from that we just did simple things that other companies were not doing like follow-ups after products shipped, triple-checking orders, being kind, and actually caring about our customers’ business. These are things we still practice today on a much larger scale.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our success at PLE is due to having amazing customer experience, clean financials, forging strong partnerships with the right vendors, creating systems, a strong foundation, and processes to facilitate our customers’ needs. Working with us back then was like having a personal assistant, a consultant, a friend, and a supplier in one.
Do not chase money, instead chase performance.
Customers were not used to this treatment but truly loved it and saw that we genuinely cared about their success. Our goal was to reduce their stress and increase their chances of success.
We benefited from word of mouth as many happy customers shared their experiences. In addition, PPC and email marketing campaigns helped with growth.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today our company is stronger than ever, we are growing and improving every day. This month we moved into our ultra-modern, world headquarters, featuring offices, a production facility, and a distribution center.
We have built an amazing team of highly educated, super smart, driven professionals with a variety of business backgrounds who all have an entrepreneurial spirit. I am more involved and energized than ever (my job is a bit different now as CEO).
PLE is still a zero debt, privately-owned company, with strong cash flow, lots of experience and we continue to invest heavily in our future.
We offer approximately 70 different products and our growth has been steady and deliberately controlled at 50% -60% YOY for the last several years. In 2020 we doubled in size and our growth rate has been accelerating since.
Our company works with many of the largest brands in the industry with tremendous order volumes and they are just as happy today as the small customers were when we first started so many years ago.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Know your customers, listen to them, accommodate them, work to exceed their expectations, always try to increase your available capital whether you need it or not, think far ahead of today and plan now for that future, invest in great people, and treat them well because you cannot go it alone. Strengthen your infrastructure 6 months ahead of business growth.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We are a B2B company and even though we are a private label nutraceutical manufacturer, we operate via an e-commerce format just as most companies today. In the beginning, we had a small marketing budget and today it is a lot more extensive as we have become a major player in our industry however many of the tools that we use are available to everyone. Some of these include social media, PPC, press, email campaigns, and sponsorships.
Having said that the most bang for your buck will come from building and retaining your existing customer pipeline.
Investing in software systems for forecasting, data management, task management, CRM and other similar tools are necessary for effective business operation. Many different companies offer these (and we have tried all) however you will need to do the research, contact each one, and be sure that they are the right fit for your business.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
All of my resources to do with business come from my personality, mindset, way of thinking, my nature, commonsense, and experience. I do draw from my family, my small circle of friends (most of whom are CEOs), and my team.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I have been building businesses for 25 years and the secret to success has not changed much. You can either start your own company or join a company that has amazing energy, great culture, strong leadership, is at the top of its game, and has strong growth potential.
My advice can bring success to a career or a business:
- Prepare to sacrifice.
- Be a person of your word.
- You are your only competition.
- Outwork everyone around you.
- Success takes decades not years.
- Be better today than you were yesterday.
- Do not chase money, instead chase performance.
- Be valuable, bring value to your customers and/or your job.
- Put in the time and effort, 8 hour days will not get you anywhere.
- Be willing to do any job large or small but be the best at what you do.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
This is your opportunity to join Private Label Express, one of the most exciting and highly regarded companies in the nutraceutical, technology, and e-commerce industry. Join our innovative, fast-growing,, and tech-savvy company with an amazing culture, a highly productive environment, where organization, execution, communication, and productivity are key.
Start here!! And earn your way into Business development, marketing, operations, production, and compliance divisions. So many opportunities at our company!
Our all-new, state-of-the-art, ultra-modern, Florida Headquarters, is a fantastic place to build your career, learn from the brightest minds, evolve, become the best version of yourself, contribute to our growth and earn your success.
Getting in the door is the start, how far you will grow at our company is up to you!
- Strong researcher.
- Strong follow-up skills.
- Strong ability to multitask.
- Fluent in English (professional).
- Strong communication (verbal & written).
- Creating reports & documents.
- Internal & external communication.
- Presentations, proposals & briefings.
- Researching project-related information.
- Working independently and/or on a team.
- Assisting department managers on projects.
- Bachelor's degree.
- 5 years of experience.
- Proficient in Microsoft Office, Google, Zoom, Skype, CRM, LinkedIn & Apple.
- Spanish fluency.
- Master's degree in business, marketing, psychology.
This is an in-house and full-time position for an experienced individual with the above qualifications and capabilities.
All positions are in-house (Coral Springs, FL) and full-time. Individuals must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to apply.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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