If you are a bodybuilder or fitness fanatic, it has probably crossed your mind that having a job in the fitness industry would be a great idea. Why not turn your hobby into your profession? So what are some of your options? Clearly, the most popular ones are:

Start A Gym

  • Extremely expensive, but a great idea if you can do it.

Become A Personal Trainer

  • The most popular choice, easy to do if you study hard.

Own A Supplement Shop

  • Expensive and depending on your competition, can be risky.

Start Your Own Supplement Brand

  • Also expensive, but if done correctly can be a great idea.

Obviously, in this article we will talk about how to start your own supplement brand, and how to be successful.

Why am I writing this article? I believe that the better the supplement brands are, the better the industry will be as a whole. If somebody can start a new line of supplements and do it right, it can bring revenue to the industry and can be great for the customers. If they do it wrong, it can make the industry look bad and turn people off from buying supplements ever again.

How would I know anything about this subject? I have been in the industry for many years and have worked with over 600 supplement companies. I am very close to the customers that use the products and I constantly hear their feedback. I have seen what works and what doesn't. I am also in a position to decide what new brands to pick-up, and getting retailers to carry your line is the first step towards success.

What Is Success?

So how will you know if you are successful?

Any supplement company would be successful if they:

  1. Are carried by the major supplement retailers or distributors.
  2. Are respected in the industry by competitors and customers.
  3. Are giving great results to people that buy and use their product.
  4. Are making a profit.

The following guidelines and tips can help you succeed where MANY have failed!

Be Different

If you are starting a supplement line, it is very easy to simply try to copy the popular products that are on the market. I have seen too many supplement lines that have a generic whey protein, a creatine, a multi-vitamin, and a glutamine. Sometimes they also offer some basic copy-cat amino acids and usually have a version of the latest "hot" product.

So am I saying that you should not have these products, which are obviously all big sellers? No. What I am saying is that your line should be more than this. A company that does not differentiate itself will not succeed. Unless you can offer your products cheaper than the leading brands, then why would customers choose your plain creatine product?

If you offer a few cutting-edge and unique products, you can round out your line with a plain creatine, whey protein, etc., since customers that are buying your unique products may want to add these other products to their supplement plan.

If you simply copy what 100 other brands already have, there is no reason for retailers to pick up your product or for customers to choose you over a bigger, more well-known brand.

Create Good Looking & Accurate Labels

You can have the greatest product in the world, but if it is not packaged nicely, it will not sell or be as trusted. Customers should not judge a book by its cover, but the fact of the matter is that they do. The supplement lines with the coolest and flashiest labels, often sell better even if they are the same as other lines. Customers (sometimes accurately) decide if a company knows what they are doing if the company spent time creating professional labels that have accurate information.

Hire a good graphic designer and don't accept anything but the best for your labels. Check the labels for accuracy and be sure you have the proper disclaimers on them. FDA requires certain statements to be made. Make sure you have the right ones by contacting FDA at www.fda.gov and also by studying the labels of well-known supplement companies.

Get Insurance

This is not the most fun part of the article, but it is necessary. We all know that in this sue-happy world, a customer may blame some type of negative effect on your product, whether it is true or not. All of your hard work could go down the drain if you are not protected.

Keep Your Products In Stock

One of the most amazing things to me, as a supplement retailer, is how often supplement companies run out of their products. When we are out of a product, we try to tell customers to choose a different product. This means that the loyal buyer of your brand is now being introduced to another brand.

If it is not in stock, you can't make a sale. It doesn't matter if you have a huge demand for it or not.

I recently went to the mall to buy some shoes from Foot Locker. I had $100 in my hand, ready to buy. The sales rep checked and they didn't have my size! All the work that Foot Locker did to create a store, advertise it and hire employees didn't matter. I was about to give them another $100 in revenue (on a slow day) and they would NOT let me do it. This is true in any company.

Keeping products in stock can be difficult, but it is worth applying effort to. You will be known as a reliable supplier and you will win new customers. Making the retailers look bad to their customers (the customer blames the retailer in their mind, not the supplement company) is not a good way to do business.

Create A Demand With Advertising

Unless you have some new and amazing product, people will not know about it if you do not advertise. When we look to pick up a new brand that we have not heard of, we ask them about their advertising programs. Are they advertising nationally? If not, why should we carry it? The last thing a retailer wants to do is spend money on a new brand and then just watch it collect dust until it expires.

Of course, if the product is different or new, retailers may still take a chance on it.

If you can afford it, advertising in the national muscle magazines not only will create a demand for your product, but it will have the retailers calling YOU to buy your product, rather than the other way around. The best thing you can do is make it so that customers ask retailers about your product.

Contact The Major Distributors

Once you have created the products and created a demand, if you can get a supplement distributor to pick up your line, it can take your company to new levels. Many retail stores simply purchase the brands that their distributors carry, since that is the easiest way to order.

This is not mandatory, and you can be successful by selling direct. In fact, if your pricing model depends on it, you may not want to have a middle-man.

Know The Science Or Hire Somebody That Does

Are you a supplement and biology guru? If not, you better become one before you create your products. You may be better at the business or advertising side of things, and hiring a "guru" may be a better idea. You can even contract a person that you do not hire to create a product for you for a fee.

The companies that are successful are constantly reviewing the latest supplement studies and creating their own tests.

Creating products that are not based on real science just brings this industry down and gives every company a bad reputation.

Create Marketing Materials For The Retailer To Use

Unless your brand is very well-known, do not expect to simply send the products to retailers without support materials. This is especially true if you succeeded in creating different and/or new products.

Giving the retailer informational brochures that they can give to customers and use to educate employees will help in a big way. The last thing a retailer wants is for a customer to ask them about your product and be left with no answers.

Customer: "Is this product any good? Employee: "Um? it's pretty good. I heard one guy whose friend used it got some good results." Customer: "What is this ingredient? hydroxy-amino-creatine-malate-tryptophan?" Employee: "Oh? HACMT is awesome! It really works." Customer: "How does it work?" Employee: "Um? uh? you take it orally and then workout and stuff."

That makes the retailer look bad and the product won't sell.

Other ideas for support material would be REAL testimonials, a place that employees can call for information, posters, stickers, free gifts for the customers, educational information for the employees, hand-outs, REAL before and after pics, or other things like this. Be creative. Also, be truthful. Don't make things up to sell products. It may work in the short-term, but in the long run you will lose in a big way.

Put Barcodes On All Of Your Labels

This is another simple tip that some companies don't follow. Putting a barcode on a label is as simple as downloading a barcode font from the Internet and putting in on the side of your product. For some reason, many companies do not do this, and it is a hassle for the retailer. Most retailers have a scanner for ringing up purchases in their store.

If your brand is one of the ones that they have to "manually" look up and enter in, it will be thought of as a pain in the butt. It also makes your company look less professional.

Create A Pricing Structure That Works

When pricing your product, you may either be tempted to charge too much for your product to make a big profit ("If I only sell 20 bottles a day, I will be rich!") or charge too little in order to sell more ("At $10 per bottle, I will be the cheapest and sell a ton!").

Charging too much will severely limit your sales, because unless your product is absolutely unlike anything out there and it works better, customers will not buy it. There is too much competition out there for a customer to choose your expensive brand otherwise. Be realistic rather than simply looking at the potential dollar signs.

Also, if you charge too much, many customers will simply not be able to afford it, even if they want the product. They will be forced to choose a different product. This will limit your sales.

On the other hand, if you try to set your price too low, you will make it hard for your company to make a profit (which can hopefully be re-invested in new science and/or marketing), and you will make it hard for the retailers to make a profit. Many retail stores simply can't survive by only making a few bucks per sale, since they have a lot of costs to keep their stores open.

It is easy to understand how some companies can charge too little for their products, and put themselves out of business. One day they run a sale on their creatine, and BAM!, sales increase by 50%! To a company owner, sales are like crack cocaine. They love sales and need sales to fuel their ego and they believe higher revenues always means more success. So the company leaves the creatine price at this low price in order to keep their sales up, not realizing that they are not making enough money to even pay their bills. When they realize what is happening, they raise the price back up, but the sales fall back down to normal, or even lower than normal since customers will be upset at the price increase.

Short-term sales are fine every once in awhile, but be careful about setting your prices so low that you can't survive.

To price effectively, study the market for similar products, look at all the costs involved in running your company, and keep in mind that the retailers who carry your line must also be able to make a profit and pay their bills. Test different pricing structures if you are unsure, until you find the perfect one for your company.

Have Your Products Tested

Most likely you will be having your products manufactured by another company. Be sure to choose a company with a good reputation, and demand that you get a certificate of analysis for every batch that they run for you. If they won't do it, or if you do not trust that they are doing it correctly, do not use them, even if they have the best prices.

Get your products tested from time to time from another third party to be sure.

If it comes out that your products do not meet what your labels say they are, your company is pretty much through. Start over with a new name if you think you can.

This hurts the industry as a whole since customers will wonder if other brands are as "shady" as you are. The media also loves these kind of negative stories, as we all learned from the ephedra fiasco.

Create Products That Work

This is the most important tip of all. If your products do not work, you will not be successful. End of discussion. If you spend millions in advertising, you may make money in the short-term, but it will not last. Customers will only be burned once, and they will tell everybody they know (and millions that they don't know on the Internet). You will be hurting the industry since customers will be leery of other products on the market.

Test your products. Use real science. If a product is a dud, discontinue it or don't come out with it at all. Word of mouth is by far the most powerful form of advertising and it will make or break your business, your investment, and your hard work.

BONUS! The Secret To Getting Any Store To Carry Your Line

So if you have the done the above, what is the next step? Obviously, getting your product on the sites and shelves of the leading supplement retailers is the only way to true success. Selling it by yourself on your own site or in your own store limits your revenue in a huge way.

You want to have your products in front of as many supplement buying customers as possible. So how do you convince a site or store owner to spend their money and time in order to carry your line? They have probably been contacted by five other companies this week alone!

The secret is to give them free product to start with.

If you send them a small amount of each product in your line, absolutely free, the offer is almost too hard for any retailer to resist. They can put in on their shelves or on their site, and make 100% profit with no strings attached. Why not at least give it a try, and if it doesn't sell, they haven't lost anything, and if it does sell, they have just made money for nothing.

The thing is, once they have spent the time putting the product into their company systems or onto their site, it is easy for them to place an order with you.

Also, they have introduced your products to their customers. If these customers liked your product, they will come back to purchase again. The retailer needs to keep it in stock to please their loyal customers! They have no choice but to place an order. It's a win-win situation.

This obviously won't work if your product has a bad reputation, horrible labels, or something else that will make the retailer uneasy.


So that's it. Pretty easy, huh? If you work hard and always keep the customer in mind at ALL times, you can succeed. You can help the industry to improve and make a lot of friends at the same time. Isn't that what everybody wants?

Be sure to also check out: Branding Yourself In The Fitness Industry!

About the Author

Contributing Writer

Contributing Writer

Bodybuilding.com's authors include many of the top coaches, nutritionists, and physique athletes in the world today.

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