I'm a big fan of people who pursue what they truly love to earn an honest living. Recently, a good friend of mine Gianni D'Ottavio did just that. He took his passion for nutrition and athletics and created his own line of supplements, called Muscle Fortress. Gianni and I have been friends for about six years, beginning when we both worked at EAS.
The fact that I've had the opportunity to work and train with Gianni makes it even "cooler" that we can sit down and discuss his new venture. Keep in mind when you read this interview that Gianni is one of the hardest training and strongest bodybuilders (pound for pound) I've ever met. So sit back; I believe you'll find our conversation quite interesting.
[ Vince Andrich ] - Hello Gianni, let's start by telling our readers when was your company started?
[ Gianni D'Ottavio ] - After several months of direct market research, Muscle Fortress was opened in December of 2003 (Initially as Five Star NT).
[ VA ] - So what made you decide to start your own company?
[ GD ] - After over 9 years in the industry for such companies as EAS, Biotest and Pinnacle, I realized as companies grow they often lose touch with the customer as their concerns shift from customers to profits. I was passionate about creating products that I would use and that would produce efficacious results!
[ VA ] - I couldn't agree more with your "lose touch" comment. I would add that people who live the lifestyle are the only ones suited to drive a sports nutrition company, and be successful. So, tell us who started your company and what sort of background do they have?
[ GD ] - Originally, I began Five Star Nutritional Technologies with four partners, whom I later bought out. Together, we had over 40+ years in the supplement industry, all ranging from sales, to R &D, to supplement manufacturing.
[ VA ] - You're obviously the driving force behind Muscle Fortress, so give us more details about you?
[ GD ] - I am a lifelong athlete. Having grown up in Iowa, I started lifting weights freshman year in high school in order to remain competitive in both wrestling and football. Before high school my weight training resembled that of Rocky-I would do push ups and pull ups and curl gallon milk jugs filled with water!
As I grew stronger, I began competing in power lifting and bench press competitions in and around Iowa. My big "break" into the industry came when I entered and was one of the top ten qualifiers (out of over 1,400) for the "King of Reps" competition put on by Muscle Media 2000 in Las Vegas.
After competing against Bill Phillips and the other qualifiers, I won the competition. At that point, I was hooked! I wanted in the industry and it was a perfect fit, as I have always loved training and passing my knowledge on to others in order to help them with their training.
After six years with EAS the industry began to change... it seemed to be less of innovative products and cutting edge ingredients but rather profits, profits, profits. So, I bounced around the industry seeking to find what it had been when I first started...
After not finding it, I decided that I could really make a positive impact, started Muscle Fortress, and began to do things the right way. Now the only bosses I answer to are my customers and so far my bosses have been happy!
[ VA ] - Seems to me you were destined to own your own supplement company; since taking care of yourself and passing this info on to others is in your blood. How have you taken this passion to separate your company from the rest of the industry?
[ GD ] - Muscle Fortress differentiates itself from the competition by bringing safe and innovative products that will truly benefit the customer. I have designed these products, with the help of experts, for my own athletic and bodybuilding goals. If I won't personally take a supplement, you won't see it in my line!
[ VA ] - Are there any new and exciting products that you are coming out with soon?
[ GD ] - In trying to maintain our innovative edge, we are working on a couple of new products that I am pretty excited about.
[ VA ] - So these are "top secret"? You'll have to tell me after the interview (laughing)! Seriously, what other plans do you have to help your company grow?
[ GD ] - At the end of 2006, we brought on one of the largest distributors in Europe to meet the growing demand. In 2007, we are looking to partner with in distributor for Asia Pacific Rim.
[ VA ] - Have you sponsored any athletes?
[ VA ] - How have they impacted your company?
[ GD ] - Impact has been small-scale. We have sponsored athletes more for what we could bring them than for what they could bring to us. We have bodybuilders going for pro cards, arena football players and MMA fighters who need supplements that will take them to the next level. That is where we have come in and provided that opportunity for them to take that next step.
[ VA ] - What supplement combination (or product you market) would you recommend for someone just getting started?
[ GD ] - Let me spilt this into two parts.
I don't like to bury anyone in products as it gets complicated and leads to burn out. By starting out with one or two products, you learn how to take supplements and when, in addition to realizing if a product is working for you or not. Once you are comfortable with this, you can add or subtract products in order to create the prefect stack for you.
[ VA ] - What do you believe is the best and worst things about the supplement industry?
[ GD ] - Best: The "True Believers," those who got into the industry because we only have one life and want to help others achieve their fitness goals and live healthier, happier, longer lives.
Worst: The "Snake Oil Salesman," who destroys the industry with under-dosed, over-hyped products that don't work, and whose main objective is to make money, not to improve the well-being of others.
[ VA ] - Is there anything else you would like to say?
[ GD ] - I would like to say that training and exercise is truly a life's journey. You start when you are young and end when you die. With Muscle Fortress, I am creating products that will make your journey as successful as possible.
[ VA ] - Thanks for your time Gianni, best of luck with your training and your supplement line.
[ GD ] - I would like to thank Tom and Mike Banish at Power Shack and Jeremy, Ryan and Russ at BodyBuilding.com for caring my products since day one. I would also like to thank Paul, Sander and John at Nutriworld in the Netherlands the best distributors in Europe and lastly I would like to thank all the US troops in harms way especially my brother Aldo who is heading back to the Persian Gulf for his second tour.
Click Image To Enlarge.
My Dad, My Brother And I At My Dad's Pizzaria
Just Before The Last Time Aldo Shipped Over To The Gulf.
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