Everything You Need to Launch An Online Supplement Company

Welcome back to my little corner of the world, my name is Fortuna, and I’m an entrepreneur from The UK. Here on Firefortuna.com I share advice on entrepreneurship, side hustles and in particular: how to start your own supplement company. On this blog, I cover everything from supplement concept to launch!


Back in 2015, l created my own online supplement brand, my hair vitamins brand aimed at men, It Really Works Vitamins. My supplement line was featured in Men’s Fitness, Menprovement.com and Forbes as among The Best Nutrition Innovation 2021 by Shortlist Magazine. We had tens of thousands of customers worldwide – I can’t tell you how exciting it was to receive orders from the US, Palestine, and as far afield as Rotherham! Last summer I sold my supplement line on acquire.com

Introducing Callam, the new owner of It Really Works Vitamins

If you’ve been figuring out how to make your own supplement brand, it’s a bit of a bizarre story, considering that when I first created the brand – it was aimed at both men and women – and I’ll show you how it had a huge uptake with guys.

In this story I’m also going to share some of the potential pitfalls and scary moments in starting a supplement brand.

Without further ado,  let’s get started.

How to Start A Supplement Company

How to start a supplement company

Who Are Your Target Market?

If you’re reading this, you’re likely to have an idea for a supplement company – before getting distracted with anything else, I’d really like you to hone in on who your target market is. It’s vital that you begin thinking about this, as it will inform how the formulation is made up.

For example – with It Really Works Vitamins, actually by chance my product was unsuitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to its high content of Vitamin A.

Hold A Focus Group

Once you have a clear idea of a target audience, I’d like you to create detailed questions that you would like to ask this audience. Say for example, you would like to launch a fitness supplement aimed at male gym goers. 

I’d like you to ask them what their ‘pain points’ are – for example, ‘What are you looking for in a fitness supplement?’ What are annoying issues that you’re facing with xyz?

Once you have a clear target market and a list of questions – it’s important that you hold a focus group. 

It could be a group of friends-of-friends – you could have the focus group at a barbecue in your garden – it doesn’t have to be formal, you just have to create an atmosphere in which everyone you’ve invited feels free to share their honest opinions on what they’d like to see in a supplement. 

And if you have a first draft of images, packaging, advertising, a website, share it with your focus group and really encourage honest opinions.

I would encourage to do a few of these focus groups in order to gather data on what people really need from your supplement

It’s honestly vital that you get real-life research like this done before spending a fortune in developing a product and building a website and ploughing money into marketing.

Everything I wish I knew before starting my supplement brand!

Everything They Say is Marketing Gold

Ok – before everyone spills their honest opinion, get a dictaphone or your phone’s voice recorder and proudly inform them that you’ll be recording everything – but don’t worry it will be anonymised.

I did just this – and then I used the software program descript to automatically transcribe everything said.

Now here’s where things get juicy – these pain points said in the focus group are 24 carat gold – this is what your advertising are going to be made up of – you’re literally speaking the language of your customers.

Okay – you’ve carried out detailed, real-life research.

Let’s look at market research!

This piece of research came out in the year before my supplement company launched: https://www.mintel.com/beauty-and-personal-care-market-news/vitamins-look-to-appeal-to-mans-vanity/

It confirmed I was on to a good thing. I also want you to look for research to the contrary. Let’s take a balanced approach and stay open-minded to news and opinions that might disagree with our supplement ideas – and so avoid the pitfalls of confirmation bias.

How to Set up A Supplement Company (UK)

The following advice is particularly useful if you are based in The UK: for my friends worldwide, please check with your country’s own Department For Trade and Export.  I would advise you to set up a company, rather than starting out  as ‘self-employed’, even if your company only has you in it.

Register your company at Companies House. The category of your company may be ‘Other: Food Preparations and Supplements’ – but this does depend on the exact nature of your product. 

In order to start off on the right footing – I really do recommend getting a good Accountant. They can offer advice on a number of different aspects of establishing your company and can help with managing your tax affairs, payroll, and everything else down the road.

Setting Up a Supplement Company: Read This First

Finding a Supplement Manufacturer

You’re likely to find a long list of vitamin manufacturers online, but many of these companies seem to be terrible and actually responding to emails or phone calls. When I started out, I really struggled to find a manufacturer. 

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty – actually getting your vitamins physically manufactured. With It Really Works Vitamins, I found a manufacturer that can develop my own formulation, package it, store it and pick, pack and despatch when orders come in. If you can find a similar manufacturer – it will help so cut costs and save huge amounts of time.

Once you’ve found a potential vitamin manufacturer, it’s important that you go physically visit the facility.

This is my good self, giving you a tour of the It Really Works Vitamins facility:

It goes without saying, a vitamin manufacturer has extremely high standards of hygiene. When you visit the facility, you’ll get a real feeling of how professional this company are, and if you’d like to work with them going forward.

Ask to see all of the manufacturer’s certificates – they should all have the current year on them, and if not, ask them when they’re next review will be.

Your vitamin manufacturer will be regulated by The Food Standards Agency here in The UK. If in doubt, give the local Food Standards Agency a call, and ask them for information about the vitamin manufacturer in question.

Be Prepared to Pivot

Even after all your research, be prepared to alter your target demographic. When I first launched It Really Works Vitamins, my product was aimed at both men and women, but after a small advertising feature in Men’s Health magazine, and a couple of influencer posts about my product, I soon found that my customers were 100% men. I pivoted the language used and my marketing content to mirror this, and speaking of marketing…

Marketing Your Supplement

Your vitamins manufacturer will be able to offer you clear advice on what you can and can’t say – for example with certain supplements you can only state that it offers ‘healthy xyz’. If in doubt, call the Advertising Agency -and have a catch-up with your manufacturer. My supplier was extremely helpful in getting the wording right.

My Own Story: It Really Works Vitamins: Lessons Learnt

The year was 2015 – and for almost two years prior, I had been researching and developing an idea for a hair supplement. I came up with a formulation, a brand name and I purchased the domain – but actually didn’t have a manufacturer to create the tablets. I scoured the internet, very few suppliers actually got back to me. Eventually, I discovered a manufacturer up North, that were selling huge quantities of their own brand supplements on Ebay. 

Lesson 1: Your vitamin manufacturer should be inviting you with open arms to their facility

I gave them a call and they invited me to their facility! They mentioned that they were particularly proud of their new machinery. That week I drove up there and the rest was history. As the team were so forth-coming, open and helpful, I felt that I was in safe hands – And I certainly was, as lesson two highlights.

Lesson 2: With every new supplier google their name followed by “reviews”

A few weeks later, I discovered that the labels I ordered online, (from a company that I thought was great value for money) were delivered to the manufacturer – and they were utterly unusable. My lovely manufacturer actually rang the labelling company to find a resolution and they were shouted at!

Lesson 3: Is Your Packaging Ready for the Heat? Double Check Early On

If you’re getting your packaging from one place and your supplements from another, here’s a word of advice: Get a ton of those packaging samples. Then send them to your vitamin producer and anyone else involved in filling those packages. 

A quick and embarrassing story: 

I once bought a thousand pill boxes designed to fit in letterboxes. Guess what? I found out the hard way that they couldn’t be heat-sealed by my supplier. How delightful! I ended up on a wild chase for super-strong labels that did the job and still looked presentable. Those labels dug deep into my pockets and kept my team busy. A little heat-seal test earlier would’ve saved the day.

Lesson 4: Think Smart with Packaging

Get creative! Aim for packages that slide effortlessly into letterboxes. It’s simple math: convenient packages for customers = fewer shipping headaches for you. And remember, bigger packages can mean heftier shipping bills.

Lesson 5: Considering Postage Costs

Sold on Royal Mail? As an individual seller, you might find better deals elsewhere. Do your homework, compare different mail services, and get those quotes.

Lesson 6: Barcode Early

It might seem quirky to barcode your products early, but trust me, it’s a game-changer. As your brand takes off, you might want a fulfillment center to handle orders. Barcodes make everything smoother. Plus, if retailers give your brand a nod, you’re set to hit the shelves much faster with those barcodes ready.

Lesson 7: Get Yourself Ready For Your Supplement Brand Getting Very Big Very Quickly

In the beginning, it’s like you’re in a one-person circus. But always dream and plan big. Even when I was a one-woman army, I knew I’d eventually need a team:

Customer Connections: As your fanbase grows, you’ll need strategies to keep them happy and engaged.

Finding the Right Fulfilment Center: Initially, you might look locally, say within the UK. But don’t close the door on options further afield, like the US. And a little tip from someone who’s been there: Read the fine print on costs. My first center seemed like a bargain until a bunch of hidden fees appeared.

Lesson 8: Don’t Sleep on Your Website

After all the hard work on products and marketing, it’s easy to forget the website. But minor glitches can cost a lot. Case in point: A tiny app issue on my site blocked checkouts for days. Since most people will be shopping from their phones, keep your website in tip-top shape. And a little feedback from friends and family can go a long way!

Wrapping It Up

Embarking on the supplement business journey, as with any venture, is a mix of excitement, challenges, and annoying lessons waiting to be learned. From packaging snafus to website hiccups, the road might be bumpy at times. But armed with insights, some foresight, and perhaps a sprinkle of humor, you can navigate these waters like a pro. Remember, every misstep is a stepping stone to a more refined strategy. As you build your brand, stay curious, stay adaptable, and never lose sight of the passion that started it all. 

Here’s to your success and the many adventures that await in the world of supplements!

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