You’ve probably fantasized about starting your own business at some point. But owning a business isn’t as easy as it sounds. In fact, it’s usually much more intense than any traditional job. If you do plan to strike out on your own, it’s important to first seek advice from experienced entrepreneurs. We interviewed Hallie Rich, founder and CEO of Rich Vitamins, LLC and creator of the alternaVites brand. Ms. Rich offered some words of wisdom for would-be entrepreneurs.
What led you to start alternaVites?
I am the third generation in my family to be part of the vitamin industry as formulators, manufacturers and marketers. Over the years, the most common question I had been asked is “what vitamins do you take?” and my answer had always been the same. “None, I can’t swallow pills.” I had to admit to everyone that I couldn’t benefit from the vitamins that I not only spent years promoting, but that I also passionately believed in. Since I wasn’t experiencing any of the benefits that so many studies report or that I had personally witnessed, I became very aware of the fact that vitamins can’t help if you can’t take them. When I discovered that I was not alone, and that everyone had reasons or excuses as to why they didn’t take vitamins, I was motivated to create alternaVites, a new type of multivitamin that fits into everyone’s life.
A lot of people have a great idea for a business, but don’t know where to start. What are the first steps one should take when starting a business?
It’s important to identify and devise ways to stand apart. A great idea is only a small portion of what makes a product successful. While there isn’t much that consumers haven’t seen, it’s finding ways to prove you are either new & innovative or show people how something old can be fresh and exciting. What will accomplish that – is it packaging, product offerings, benefits, company philosophy, manufacturing/development processes? For alternaVites, it was all of the above. We are able to differentiate ourselves on numerous platforms including taste, delivery system, convenience, packaging, portability and versatility.
While substantiating the unique selling proposition, it is also important to be mindful that with the economy in the state it is currently in, people are cautious with their spending. It’s very important to be able to motivate them to spend their dollars on your product and see it as adding value to a particular segment of their life.
Selling a product (as opposed to services) is much more involved and complex. Can you briefly describe how to begin the product development and manufacturing process?
It’s very important to know exactly what you want in your product and then to find manufacturing and development partners who will help you achieve those goals. For example, I wanted to develop and manufacture a product that tasted great, did not contain specific ingredients and was produced with the utmost attention to nutrient quality and potency. Finding production partners that support and share your vision is crucial.
What has been your biggest business challenge so far?
Very often, vitamins (especially the multivitamin segment) are viewed as a commodity item, as the category is filled with many undifferentiated products that offer little or no perceived differences. In a crowded marketplace, we had to find a way to let consumers know that there are many new factors that can drive purchase decision when it comes to a multivitamin. We were able to overcome this as both adults and children have realized that alternaVites finally offers a solution to the many problems associated with taking a multivitamin.
What are some big mistakes that entrepreneurs should avoid?
Making mistakes are unavoidable. The biggest missed opportunity though is not learning from those mistakes.
Any further advice for budding entrepreneurs?
If you’re not excited and passionate about what you’re offering, you can’t expect consumers to be either. Starting your own business really does mean that you eat, sleep and dream about your product and it gets hard to maintain the focus and passion needed if you don’t really believe in what you’re doing. While being an entrepreneur can be trying at times and you have to really want it to make it through all the inherent obstacles thrown your way, working for yourself while witnessing your idea become reality is truly the most rewarding experience.