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How to Start a Supplement Company

How to Start a Supplement Company

When we hear ‘supplements,’ many immediately think of fish oil capsules and vitamin C pills. For others, multivitamins and herbal supplements are front of mind; for some, it’s all about supporting workouts, recoveries, and proteins. 

Whatever ‘supplements’ mean to you, it is big business. And the industry is not showing any signs of slowing down. We seek to live healthier and improve our well-being. Supplements offer convenient ways to do that. 

Starting your own online supplement business will give you access to a fast-growing industry,  allow you to be your own boss, and help people achieve their wellness goals.

Business Description

As an online vitamin and supplement business owner, you will be selling and possibly producing dietary supplements. These may include sports nutrition products, mineral herbs, and herbal supplements, vitamins, and multivitamins that can be bought without a prescription.

This is a great business to start from home and keep overheads at a minimum while honing your business skills and growing your company. 

Industry Summary

According to IBISWorld, the online vitamins and supplements industry has seen a 12.6% annualized market size growth between 2017 and 2022 in the US. This year, it has reached a $21 billion sales volume. 

This is not a highly regulated market in the US, with few requirements for testing and correct labeling of supplementary products. However, diminished oversight, the relatively low barriers to entry, and the increasing demand for wellness products have created an increasingly competitive environment and saturated market.  

In the US, the two largest companies in this space are Amazon.Com Inc and GNC Holdings.Inc. 

Industry Trends

The increasing healthcare expenses in the US and a generally more health-conscious population continue to drive growth in this industry.  Vitamins and supplements offer an easy way to support wellness and preventative healthcare without needing to see a GP or dietician – they are part of a daily routine for many. 

Globally, the dietary supplements market is forecast to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 8.9% between now and 2030 (Grandviewresearch.com). This figure reflects the increase in population. We are also increasingly becoming time-poor and struggle to fulfill daily nutrient requirements –  thus are increasingly dependent on supplements. 

Target Market

Supplements are relevant to and popular with a relatively wide age group. Perhaps dividing your target market according to the goals consumers may wish to achieve is more practical. For example, you may want to develop and supply supplements to:

  • Add vitamins and minerals to a daily diet
  • Control weight gain and support weight loss. This may include fat burners or meal replacements.
  • Boost and maintain wellness and vitality, from joint health to improved sleep and rejuvenated skin. These may include multivitamins, specific vitamins, but also plant- and animal-derived substances.
  • Supplement exercise and workouts – this may include pre-workout and workout recovery supplements and muscle builders. 

Checklist for Starting a Supplement Business

Starting a supplement business can seem confusing and daunting. How do you even get started? What do you need to do? This checklist will help guide you through the process of starting your own supplement business.

Step 1: Write a Business Plan

Every business, no matter what industry, needs a business plan. This document serves as a roadmap for your business, laying out your goals and how you plan to achieve them. If you’re thinking of starting a supplement business, here’s what your business plan should include.
First, you’ll need to research the supplement market and determine what gap you can fill. Who is your target audience? What kind of products are they looking for? What do they currently use, and why aren’t they satisfied with it? Once you have a good understanding of the market, you can start to develop your own unique selling proposition. What will make your products stand out from the competition?

Next, you’ll need to create a financial projection for your business. This will involve estimating your costs for ingredients, packaging, shipping, and marketing, as well as projecting your expected sales. Don’t forget to factor in a buffer for unexpected expenses. Finally, you’ll need to put together a marketing plan. How will you reach your target audience? What kind of messaging will you use? What channels will you advertise on? Answering these questions will help you develop a clear plan for getting your products in front of potential customers.

Creating a business plan may seem like a daunting task, but it’s essential for any new business. By taking the time to research the market and develop a solid plan, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

Related: How to write a business plan

Step 2: Choose a Name and Create a Brand

When it comes to starting a supplement business, one of the most important considerations is choosing a name and creating a brand. The name of your business is the first impression you make on potential customers, so it’s important to choose carefully. It should be something memorable that accurately reflects the products and services you offer.

As for creating a brand, this is all about developing an identity that sets you apart from the competition. Think about what makes your supplements unique and find a way to communicate that through your branding. This could include everything from your logo and packaging to your website design and social media presence. By taking the time to develop a strong name and brand, you’ll be in a much better position to succeed in the supplement industry.

Related: Tips on naming a business

Step 3: Form a Business Structure

A business structure (also referred to as a business entity) refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business structures to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.

When deciding on which business entity is best for a supplement business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.

A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay.
 
The corporation can be a good choice to minimize liability risk because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.

That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.

The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is that the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.

Related: Guide to forming your LLC
 

Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.


Some popular LLC formation services include:


IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!

ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

Step 4: Find a Manufacturer

When starting a supplement business, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is finding a manufacturer. You want to find a company that is reputable and has experience manufacturing supplements. Here are a few tips for finding the right manufacturer for your business:

Do your research: Be sure to research any potential manufacturers thoroughly before signing any contracts. Check online reviews, ask for references, and visit their facilities in person if possible.

Ask about their experience: Make sure the manufacturer you choose has experience making the specific type of supplement you need. Ask about their production process and quality control procedures to ensure they meet your standards.

Compare costs: Get quotes from several different manufacturers before making a decision. Be sure to compare not only the cost of the finished product, but also the cost of shipping and any minimum order requirements.

Choose a company you can trust: When it comes to manufacturing supplements, you want to choose a company you can trust. Make sure you feel comfortable with the staff and that they are transparent about their manufacturing process.

Taking the time to find the right manufacturer for your supplement business will pay off in the long run. By doing your research and asking the right questions, you can be confident you’re working with a company that can provide high-quality products that meet your needs.

Step 5: Select Your Location

The ideal location will vary depending on your business operations. A supplement business that has products fulfilled by their supplier or a third-party warehouse will not need a warehouse to store inventory. Other companies that plan to create their own formulas in-house, manage inventory, or sell products locally will need to invest in a building.

Step 6: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

Any business that manufactures, distributes, or sells dietary supplements or other health-related products must obtain a license from the FDA.

To obtain a license, businesses must submit an application that includes information about the manufacturing process, ingredient list, and product labeling. The FDA will then review the application and may request additional information before granting a license.

In addition to FDA regulations, there are also general business licensing requirements that will vary depending on where the business is located. A few of these may include a local business license and sales tax permit.

Related: Common business licenses, permits, and registrations by state

Step 7: Find Financing

There are a few different ways to get funding to start a supplement business.

One option is to use personal savings or take out a personal loan. This can be difficult for any startup business without a track record. Banks are typically going to want the borrower to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.

Another option is to look for investors who are willing to put money into your venture.

Another route to consider is crowdfunding, which allows you to raise funds from a large group of people.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 8: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
 
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.

Step 9: Get your Marketing Plan in Place

Marketing a supplement business can be difficult, but there are a few key strategies that can help.

First, it’s important to identify your target audience and craft your marketing message accordingly. Are you selling to athletes? Bodybuilders? Everyday consumers? Once you know who you’re targeting, you can create ads and social media content that resonates with them. It’s also crucial to use the right channels to reach your audience. For example, if you’re targeting athletes, sponsorships and tradeshows may be more effective than online ads.

If your marketing strategy focuses on a local market, you could partner with a gym or fitness center and offer discounts to members who purchase your supplements. You could also partner with a health food store or online retailer and offer in-store samples, promotional discounts, or coupons.

Additionally, you could sponsor events such as fitness competitions or running races. This would provide excellent exposure for your brand and help to create a positive association in the minds of potential customers.

Another great way to market your supplement business is to create informative blog posts or videos about the benefits of taking your supplements. You could also offer free samples or giveaways, which would generate excitement and word-of-mouth buzz.

By taking advantage of these marketing strategies, you can help ensure that your supplement business is a success.

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Any business owner knows that one of the most important things you can do is to make sure you are properly insured. This is especially true for businesses in the supplement industry, which face a unique set of risks.

Product liability insurance is essential for any supplement business, as it will protect you in the event that one of your products causes harm to a customer. In addition, you will need to carry property and casualty insurance in case your premises are damaged or your inventory is lost or stolen. If you have employees, most states require the business to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

By protecting your business with the right insurance policies, you can give yourself peace of mind and protect yourself from financial ruin in the event of an accident or disaster.

Step 11: Hire Employees

There are a few key things to keep in mind when hiring employees for a supplement business.

First, it is important to find individuals who are passionate about health and fitness. Not only will this ensure that they are knowledgeable about the products you sell, but it will also mean that they are more likely to be enthusiastic about promoting your brand.

Secondly, it is important to find employees who are reliable and detail-oriented. Since supplements require careful measuring and packaging, it is essential to have staff members who can be counted on to follow instructions carefully and pay attention to detail.

Finally, it is important to find employees who are friendly and personable. Since much of the sales process for supplements takes place online or over the phone, it is essential to have staff members who are good at building rapport with customers. By keeping these factors in mind, you can be sure to find the best possible employees for your supplement business.

Related: Hiring your first employee

Step 12: Set up an Accounting System

Establishing an accounting system for your supplement business is critical to maintaining accurate records and measuring the success of your business. There are a few key components to setting up an effective accounting system.

The first step is to choose accounting software that will meet the specific needs of your business. QuickBooks Online is a popular option for small businesses. Once you have chosen your accounting software, you will need to track all income and expenses. This includes sales revenue, cost of goods sold, overhead expenses, marketing costs, and any other expenses associated with running your business.

Finally, you will need to establish a system for invoicing customers and recording payments. This will ensure that all income and expenses are accurately tracked and reported. By following these steps, you can set up an effective accounting system for your supplement business.

By establishing these systems early on, you can ensure that your supplement business stays on track financially.

Related: Setting up the accounting for your business

The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:

- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.

Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.

How much does it cost to start a supplement business?

This is a great business to start from home as you can test the waters without committing to significant investment and gradually expand as your client list and product range grow. 

While the startup costs can vary greatly depending on the business model, figure a minimum of $15,000 to get started.
Here are some common start-up expenses:

– Business formation, licenses and permits – $400
– Online presence (website, eCommerce, social media) – $3,000
– Marketing materials (leaflets, business cards, professional labeling, UPC codes, etc) – $1,000
– Initial marketing and Communications campaign $1,000
– Initial inventory – Depending on the supplier’s minimum order quantity (MOQ), the first batch of products, up to $10,000

*These are average start-up costs. They will differ depending on your area and State, the testing needed, and the size of your inventory.

How profitable is a supplement business?

The average bottle of vitamin capsules can cost anything between $20 to $130 in the US. As a result, selling supplements can be incredibly lucrative, with some sites claiming a 75% profit margin. 

It is, however, a highly saturated market, so having a detailed business plan, understanding your target market, and correctly pricing your products will be crucial to making this a successful venture. 

Are there grants to start a supplement business?

It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a supplement business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.

Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov, and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.

What skills are needed to run a supplement business?

Business management skills. Whether you will run a business manufacturing your own products or you’ll be selling existing vitamin and supplement brands online,  business management skills are always valuable. In addition, accounting and pricing skills will be handy, as is competency in using e-commerce platforms.

You will need to be able to price your products, work out profit margins and ensure your accounting is in line with tax regulations.

Marketing and communication skills. These are good skills to have as they can save you quite a bit of money. 

With your business being online, you will rely on compelling content, powerful imagery, and savvy product placement across your social media channels, website and eCommerce platform. 

Your messages and content need to stand out from quite a crowd in this industry and connect with your audience. In addition, your online presence needs to provide a good user and shopping experience.

Entrepreneurial spirit. You may decide to sell your own brand with your online vitamins and supplements business.
 
In that case, we recommend you do your research. What is your target market? Who is your competition? Where can you get raw ingredients from, where can you test your formula, and who can manufacture potentially small batches of products for you? You will also need to determine the regulatory requirements for your products and what approval mechanism – if any – is required in your State. Some companies can take on this entire process for you. 
Consider also having your products certified to increase the credibility and, ultimately, the value of your products. Several programs in the US can take care of this process.

The USADA is another resource that provides helpful information. 

What is the NAICS code for a supplement business?

The NAICS code for a supplement business is 446191.

The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.

Related: What is a NAICS code?

Final thoughts

How can you create value for your customers and make this a successful business? The online vitamins and supplements industry offers excellent opportunities to start your own venture. 

Find the market gaps, do the research, understand your target market, and work out price points and production levels. Then, weigh up what you need and write an honest business plan. This is an industry expected to grow substantially. What is your piece of the pie?

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