Co-founder of Vital Juice
There’s more to a winning business than a good idea and passionate follow through. Just ask Vital Juice launch partners Amanda Freeman and Lisa Blau, who learned the secret to a successful launch the hard way. The two longtime friends began discussing business ideas after meeting in college and attending the same business school. Their first venture, launched with friends, was called The Experience Club. It was a service for women in New York who were bored with having their social activities center around restaurants. The Experience Club’s fun alternatives included burlesque classes and trips to the shooting range. The partners really believed in the concept, but had not sufficiently crunched the numbers, and the business ultimately failed.
When they regrouped for round two, Freeman and Blau again started out with an idea for a service that they wanted themselves – a way to keep current on breaking women’s health and beauty news – but they were careful to use a business model that had already been tested. They launched the daily email newsletter Vital Juice in May of 2007 with less than 1,000 subscribers. They now have 50,000 subscribers. Three different versions — New York, Los Angeles and Vital Juice Everywhere – go out Monday through Friday. And Vital Juice Moms is delivered every Friday. Their growing business got a further vote of confidence in October 2009, when they received equity investment from The Pilot Group, which also backed DailyCandy and Ideal Bite. They’ve been living the good – health-conscious and business-savvy – life ever since.
What we learned from Amanda: “You have to make sure you have a really good business model, and you know how you’re going to be making money. Lisa and I are super passionate about Vital Juice. But we were also super passionate about The Experience Club, and the big difference is that it did not have a good business model. We made sure before we started Vital Juice, our business model was similar to a few existing businesses, and so we fully understood how we were going to make money. And I think that is one of the big keys to success as an entrepreneur, is that you need to know how you’re going to make money.”
New Consciousness Equals New Business
“We saw a shift in our personal focus, as well as the focus of the women around us. It’s what I call well-consciousness, rather than health-consciousness. People have always been health conscious. But, largely, it’s because they already have a problem, or they just want to fit into their skinny jeans. But we felt a shift in women who really just wanted to take care of themselves, and live well, and prevent [problems] from happening. It’s this mind, body, soul, spirit approach to life improvement.”
The Perfect Partner
“My partner Lisa and I actually knew each other in college, and then we ended up at the same business school. It was really at business school that we realized we have different skill sets but similar interests.”
Take The Plunge, Sort Of
“We were pretty conservative when we started the business. We actually kept consulting on the side to help fund the business, so we were pretty secure that we would have funding, at least for a certain amount of time. We also committed some of our own personal resources to the business as well. We took the idea to people that we knew in the health and wellness space to get a read on how interesting it might be. When we launched Vital Juice, we had a partner of sorts in a slightly larger startup business, a health resource Web site and social network of sorts.”
Play To Your Strengths
“Lisa and I have similar backgrounds in some ways. We both have MBAs. We have that well-rounded business background. But then, it was really Lisa’s strength to create content and edit content, and so she became the editor-in-chief. And my background and strengths lie more in marketing and ad sales. Additionally, Lisa had the technology background, so we had her focus on the tech piece of things. And I happen to love accounting, so I did our accounting. Once we had funding, I was actually able to say, ‘I can’t do marketing, and ad sales, and accounting. What is the one area I can focus on?’ I can still help and oversee the other areas, but then, we were able to really focus even more and what we were doing.”
Be Your Own Fortune Teller
“We always had in mind that one of two things was likely going to have to happen: Either that we raised venture capital, or if we were fortunate enough to grow really quickly and generate ad sales on our own, then the other opportunity would have been to partner with a strategic partner at some point in the future — a media company or a larger health and wellness company.”
Do Your Homework
“You really have to do your research about potential partners, or VCs, and find out if you are the type of company that they like. There are VCs that prefer an ecommerce-based business, or they prefer media companies. We happened to be in touch, through friends, with a private equity VC shop that likes email-based businesses, so that’s who we ended up with in the end.”
Balance Really Is Key
“I think that’s always the ultimate irony; I’ll talk to nutritionists or trainers, and we all preach about a healthy life, but if you’re an ambitious person and really trying to get something going, it’s very hard to stay balanced. In fact, I threw my back out because I think I’m trying to do too much right now. You have to practice what you preach as much as possible. And you have to keep in mind that, in the end, if you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be as good at all of the stuff that you have to do.”
“A big fitness trend is a combination of mind and body in exercise classes, adding elements of breathing and relaxation, or a little bit of stress release, and mixing that with cardio or strength-training. We’re starting to see more hybrid exercise classes being offered.
In beauty, I think the big trend is what’s not in your beauty products. People are trying to avoid certain ingredients. We’re seeing, obviously, more organic. I think biodynamic is the evolution of organic, it’s even higher standards than organic.
One food trend that’s getting very big is the gluten-free trend. More people are being diagnosed with celiac disease, or wheat or gluten allergies. They’re finding that if they can avoid gluten, they have more energy and feel better all day long.”
This Featured Lady was profiled by Sarah Tomlinson, a freelance writer in Los Angeles.