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Starting a Supplement Brand From Zero - BowTiedBroseidon
Level 2 - Value Investor
Welcome Avatar! First and foremost, I want to thank BTB for the opportunity and everything they’ve done directly and indirectly for me over the last year - what you’re about to read wouldn’t have been possible without their existence.
For those that don’t know me, I go by Broseidon. By day I sling software and by night I’m an anonymous(and sometimes unhinged) Twitter/X personality & supplement brand owner.
I recently launched Ramp Health’s (my supplement brand) flagship product, B4, and was able to recoup ~60%+ of my initial investment within the first 100 days via preselling and influencer marketing. And while I have 2 more synergistic products coming down the pipe, we’re taking BTB and other’s advice and only focusing on a few SKUs while we scale. (Link)
What I’ve attempted to do below is lay out a foundation for anyone looking to launch a supplement brand (or any eCom for that matter) but from the perspective of someone:
That is not rich
Has never done this before
Is not an “expert”
Is a solopreneur
And has a family, job, responsibilities, etc…
Let’s jump in….
Phase 1: Ideation & Starting
So, for those that don’t follow my account, my content on twitter mostly revolves around interacting with others - friendship, relationships, social skills, resolving conflict, etc…
I started tweeting around 8/1/22 and by the end of September ‘22 I had already gotten a few thousand followers and started thinking about monetization.
Taking BTB’s advice again - I started asking questions. Via tweets, DMs, in person, etc… I started asking people what they were struggling with. Turns out A LOT of people get socially anxious whether they admit it or not.
It also just so happens that while this was going on I had been diving head first into utilizing nootropics to self-medicate ADHD. I’m no Ox but I’m relatively jacked and have been into fitness, biohacking and supplementation for the last 16+ years so I had enough baseline knowledge to decipher between the BS, read some studies, and experiment on myself.
Eventually I came to the combination of L-theanine (400-600mg) + Sabroxy (500mg) and I was able to get 4ish hours of focus on demand. There was an unexpected additional benefit though… I felt GREAT. It put me in an awesome, focused mood.
Enter the idea
I started asking myself “could I use these to help my audience with social anxiety and prime people’s state before going out?”
Thus Ramp Health was born.
From there I knew I needed a few things to make this happen:
A unique delivery mechanism
A proper, safe, and researched formulation
Business infrastructure (we’ll touch more on this later)
And to test the idea
And lastly, I developed a few ideals that would drive the core principles of the company:
Amazing customer service & Money back guarantee
Basically, the anti-snake oil salesman.
Unique delivery mechanism
This was a big one. For a target audience I looked to my wife and her friends and said “would they take an 8 pill serving in the uber before a wedding?”
The answer is absolutely not
But what about a flavored drinking powder in a trusty Poland spring bottle? Now we’re onto something
I mentioned above that I have a decent amount of experience with supplements and self experimentation but being the self-aware, extremely intelligent stud that I am I quickly realized that it would be irresponsible for me to formulate this myself.
So, I found an accomplished biohacker and paid for a 1.5 hr consult where we went over what I was trying to accomplish and by the end of the call I had the out line for my product.
This is where I made my first mistake (if you were hoping for the POV of an infallible guru I’m sorry to tell you that you will not find that here) and spent the next 2-3 months spinning my wheels speaking to upwards of 50 US-based manufacturers until early January 2023 when I had the genius idea to look overseas.
Please note: I had a sample being crafted within 72hrs of contacting the overseas manufacturer. I love the USA to my bones and eventually want to move my operation to be 100% US based but in certain areas we just can’t compete.
After trying samples from 4-5 manufacturers for flavor, potency, etc… I went with the best (which just so happened to be the biggest and most reputable) and began the process of fine tuning the formula and tasting.
Pro tip: This step takes way longer than you expect - START EARLY. And keep in mind that I had only laid out ~$100 at this point for samples. You can negotiate to pay upon receipt of product or do a 50-50 split.
Throughout the above timeline I was simultaneously building the frame of the business (these are not recommendations just what I used):
LLC - Doola
Banking Novo & Chase
Logo - BowtiedApollo
Packaging, graphics, and product renders -
Website - Shopify + Myself
Payments - shop pay + authorize.net
I’m sure there’s more I missed so if you have any questions my DMs are open
And finally, the last piece of what I consider to be the “starting” phase
I cannot emphasize enough how important this step is and how blind I was to said importance when starting.
Multiple people a lot smarter than me had to drill this into my head
“Don’t f**** buy 5 figures worth of inventory without testing demand”
So I did
And was able to sell 5 figures worth of inventory before I ever saw my product through a combination of influencer marketing and facebook ads
I didn’t have any benchmarks to compare it to but seeing 5 digits in my shopify console was more than enough to convince me that I had something here
Outside of the wasted time looking in the USA for products (practically everyone is forced to Asia due to quality/production costs), we’re absolutely thrilled to see someone actually test demand.
Despite hundreds of warnings we’ve noticed this is the Number 1 issue. People just buy inventory and “hope” it works.
For people who have followed us for years you know that around $50,000 is what you need to start your own biz, test demand and have enough money for the initial batch.
Look at the above disclosure, within the first start up phase he sold roughly 5-figures. This is not a coincidence it lines up with the rough starting money you need. As a quick guess outside of the wasted time with US manufacturing checks, we’d guess he was able to pull this off with a bit less than $50K. Supplement products are pretty low cost even for an initial test batch.
Anyway, thrilled to see this. Please don’t blow $50K on some idea you’ve never tested. You lose the time and you lose the money. If you’re going to test and lose some time, you can always move on and try a new idea. Don’t lose both.
Phase 2: Logistics expanded & Marketing
There are more than enough guides (and BTB content) to teach you how to form an LLC, open a bank account, and get a logo made.
What I want to touch on here are some of the more nuanced things related to a supplement brand that I had to learn.
Compliance: This is a rabbit hole you’re going to have to go down yourself I figured it out with a metric ton of googling, youtube videos, chatGPT conversations with myself, and most importantly… speaking to a broker about liability insurance
You see, when you are being underwritten for insurance they give your company a once over to check for holes - It’s basically a free consultation in compliance (I know.. I know… huge brain move)
Testing: While not a requirement, third party testing is also a great idea for not only peace of mind but also compliance and transparency to customers.
Your manufacturer will provide you with COAs on all of your products which test for heavy metals, contamination, etc… but having a 3rd party also test and grant you a sticker you can slap on your packaging and website will help with trust.
Note: Every batch of Ramp Health product will be third party tested to ensure quality and safety
Fulfillment: I can offer some names here but basically… Just shop around for the best rates. From my experience it’s smarter to go with a local mom & pop type fulfillment center like I use as opposed to a ShipMonk, ShipBob, etc…
I have my contacts cell number and can text him about anything I need. I can hop in my car and check out my product, boxes, inserts, etc… same day instead of relying on pictures or needing to have them shipped. Do what works best for you.
To close out the expanded logistics section
You don’t know what you don’t know. My experience with starting an online business is quite literally just accumulating problems and finding solutions to said problems while obtaining as much money as possible on the journey. If you decide to be a Chad and start something… my DMs are always open.
Come here friend.
Let Uncle Brosei tell you a little secret he’s learned in the last year… Nothing.
I MEAN nothing mentioned above matters without marketing.
I have a sexy website (I built it so I can say it)
I have a cool logo and sleek packaging/branding
I have an extremely high-quality product
But absolutely none of that matters if people don’t see it. And while I am not going to reveal the entirety of the secret sauce recipe, I’ll give a high level of what i’ve done so far, what’s working, and where you can go to learn.
Facebook/IG ads: Tried and true method. Eye catching creative + engaging copy related to whichever awareness stage the target audience is at + a well written landing page or VSL
Twitter: My own twitter account - posting reviews, product information, updates, and reposting customer’s posts. Influencers in the space with large followings
Tiktok/YT: Short form seems to be where it’s at with eCom right now. Once again, I’m not going to reveal exactly what I’m doing here but I will say that I’m extremely bullish on the zoomer’s platform of choice and am diving in head first
The advice given to me that I will now relay to you is to not try and reinvent the wheel. Try all of the tried and true strategies -> see what works -> and then quadruple down on the things that work until they don’t -> rinse and repeat
Phase 3: Scaling and Beyond
This phase is where I currently find myself at the time of writing this.
The product is made and selling well, the infrastructure is built, and the marketing funnels have been established at a base level.
But, like anyone reading this post, I’m trying to be Richie Rich or in the words of BTB “Make it”.
We want 7 figure months and 5 figure days. I can’t tell you how to get there but I can tell you what my next steps are:
Optimize processes to further reduce COGS
Further enhance product quality
Reveal 2 more products that synergize well with B4
Branch out to more platforms for marketing & increase spend on the winners
Influencers. influencers. Influencers.
That’s all folks.
But before I leave you, I wanted to drop one last nugget.
A list of additional learnings and tips that weren’t included above:
Don’t worry about logo, website, graphics, etc… you can easily handle those and/or rebrand later
eCom costs more than you think to start and you’ll never account for everything
Product development takes longer than you think -> start now
You DO NOT have to be an expert in the industry to start a brand. Just pay one to consult you and utilize the power of the internet.
You’re going to have to unlearn being a rule follower. Especially if you’re old like me and have been working a 9-5 for a few years.
Haters are real and are coming. People will spam bad reviews instead of asking for a refund. They’ll throw FUD for no reason other than they don’t like you. Develop a thick skin and handle them gracefully
Payment processing is not mentioned enough but something you need to have locked in ASAP. If people can’t pay you you can’t make money
Customers will drive you insane more and more as you sell more and more - create processes to delegate this (Something I am currently working towards)
If you can, avoid sharing your business with your personal friends, family, and coworkers. I made this mistake and it’s my only regret with starting my business. “How’s your little supplement”
Communities are your best resource
Discord, Twitter, TG, etc… no guide or course will help you as much as some random internet friend that’s been doing this for years
You’re going to make a metric ton of mistakes no matter what. Forgive yourself and move on buttercup
Some I’ve made:
Terrible quality inserts
VERY ugly product bags
Pruchased multiple unused shopify themes & apps
The list goes on…
Welp. That’s all I’ve got for you.
My goal was to give you an inside look at a blooming business built 100% solo by someone with no particular advantages and, hopefully, inspire some of you to take the plunge.
Once again I want to thank BTB for the opportunity here and reiterate that my DMs are open
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