Small Business Spotlight: AlternaVites

Who: Hallie Rich, @AlternaVites

What: Rich Vitamins’ AlternaVites

When: 2009

Where: New York, NY

How: AlternaVites founder Hallie Rich had grown up in the vitamin industry, but when her father died, she closed his vitamin manufacturing company. After about six months, though, Rich says that inspiration struck: a new way to take vitamins, for people who can’t swallow pills.

“I can’t swallow a pill, and there are 100 million people who can’t either,” says Rich.

 “Chewables are slightly dated, and gummy vitamins are full of sugar,” she adds, so she felt like there was space in the market for a different type of vitamin.

“AlternaVites are a powder that you can pour on your tongue, mix it into juices or waters –however you want to take it,” says Rich, praising the versatility of the vitamin “delivery system,” as she refers to it. AlternaVites are sold on Walgreens.com, Drugstore.com, Whole Foods stores and Wegmans; “Every month we’re doing better and better in terms of sales,” says Rich.

Biggest challenge: “People see multivitamins as a commodity, so it’s a crowded category, where people see little to no difference between brands. Overcoming that has been the biggest challenge,” says Rich.

One moment in time: Rich says that she’s proudest of the response she’s gotten from parents, who say it’s made a difference in their kids’ healthy habits, and that they now look forward to taking their vitamins every day.

Best business advice: “It’s something my father taught me: You need to crawl before you walk and walk before you run. You can’t get overly excited or be stuck in the mud; you need to be following a plan on an upward and deliberate path,” says Rich.

Most influential book: Rich points to Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” as having a particular influence on her. She says, “It showed me how something can become a trend, and how consumers behave to cause something to take off.”

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