Jim Kras is the Chief Marketing Officer of Inergetics and seasoned marketer turned entrepreneur. His start-up, Whole Products Group, was recently acquired by Inergetics and Jim offers some valuable advice on how to build a company from the ground up and eventually get acquired by a much larger company.
Interview by Jim Armstrong of Get Busy Media.
Q: It’s been 21 months since we last spoke, fill me on what the last year and a half has looked like for you.
The last time we spoke, Whole Products Group was a start-up. We were really working hard to build our own profitable small brands. We launched a diet brand, SlimTrim, via e-commerce, generating a nice, steady business, through SEO, paid search and key sales promotions. Despite the recession over the last few years, the supplement business has continued to grow at almost a double-digit rate. Consumers are looking to find ways to extend their quality of life by taking preventive measures to improve their health while lowering healthcare costs. We tried to capitalize on this trend.
About a year ago, in July, 2012, I got a call about a company called Inergetics (Stock symbol: NRTI), based out of Newark, NJ that was looking to build their nutraceutical business. Inergetics is a 12-year old company specializing in high quality vitamins, minerals and supplements. The company started in hospitals, specifically, clinical oncology, with nutritional products that were geared for cancer patients. The focus was on patients that had to keep body weight on and retain lean muscle mass due to cancer treatments. There was success with their initial product – Resurgex, which they marketed to hospitals and long term care facilities but pricing became a hurdle despite the superior quality of the product.
They capitalized on their early success by taking the company public in the early 2000’s. A few years passed and they realized that Resurgex couldn’t compete with brands like Ensure & Boost. Back in 2008, they shifted their business model from B2B to consumer markets leveraging their critical care know-how in hospitals to build a better consumer product. The company developed a premium sports nutrition product capitalizing on this heritage, calling the product – Surgex. A key differentiator was the approach to product development – the company looked at athletes as being “patients” with similar recovery and muscle building needs as critical care and elderly patients. The compelling approach caught the eye of Army Sports at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Inergetics presented Surgex to Army Sports and received the approval to market the product with Army Sports’ stamp of approval. That was 2008. Inergetics had a consumer product line and some authentication but no true go-to-market strategy.
Fast forward to 2012, after almost four years of treading water in B2C, they reached out to me. Michael James, the new CEO identified the need to invest in marketing and advertising in order to accelerate growth. Mike’s first priority was to bring in team members with industry knowledge, keeping in mind that we were going to brand and build a business. Marketing was paramount. We had similar philosophies on what it took to build value into the business and what it was going to take to get there.
Initially, I was an outside management consultant working with some help from my WPG partners, Marshall Post and Dario Pressimone. After about a month, Mike asked, “Why don’t you come on full-time?” I struck a deal with them to buy the SlimTrim & Bikini Ready brands from us as I came on board. One of my partners had a relationship with MSLO, Martha Stewart’s company and we decided to approach Martha Stewart about a line of women’s supplements with her name on them. We closed on the deal on May 7th, 2013. It happened that fast.
We knew there was a real opportunity to come out with women’s supplements geared towards aging baby boomers that are looking to age gracefully. Martha Stewart was the ideal partner. A super lady and the “arbiter of good things,” she worked with us to develop the optimum product line-up for our target consumer. The line included six condition specific formulas ranging from a Multi-Vitamin to Hair/Skin/Nails, Digestive Support, Bone Support, Menopause Support and a Graceful Aging product.
Q: How has the partnership with Martha Stewart helped to bolster your brand? And how has she, specifically, helped to drive the Inergetics brand forward?
Partnering with her at this time is great for all of us. We bring the category expertise, distribution insight and the digital chops, while she brings the power of Martha Stewart and her critical eye on quality.
Everything that she touches is successful. She has huge retail power. Her brand has 37 million engaged consumers a month that are readily influenced to buy her branded products. That’s over 10% of the total US population! Her Twitter account has over 3 million followers and growing. And her Facebook page, what a great place for recipe or health tips. Furthermore, she has a book that just reached The New York Times Bestseller list called, “Living the Good Long Life.” It’s a practical guide on how to exercise, eat right and improve health with supplements. At over 70, she’s proving that you can be a vibrant and extremely relevant entrepreneurial and brand influencer.
How did your role and experience at Whole Products Group position you for this opportunity with Inergetics?
Whether you’re a media person, a brand person or a creative person, I don’t think people get into this business if you don’t believe in vision. We are not short on vision. Set a vision and see it through.
Whole Products Group allowed us to go out and take risks. We were fast and nimble. We were able to put our best foot forward, be entrepreneurial and showcase some of our results. We could grow the business exponentially once we proved our concepts. That’s why it works with Inergetics – they provided the capital and structure to help scale the concepts. It’s been a great match.
Q:What are Inergetics’ core brands and products?
We have our core brands, an all new Surgex Sport Nutrition with a new website at www.surgexsportsnutrition.com, Bikini Ready, a line of female diet supplements that are new, fresh and unique for the category. We just shot a campaign with Pro SurferAnastasia Ashley in Malibu, California last month with our creative director Erik Norgaard. Who better than a top surfer to communicate what being Bikini Ready means?
We also continue to support SlimTrim. It’s more of an entry level brand, at a lower price point and continues to sell well.
Then we have Martha Stewart. We’re going to have a huge launch to the trade at NACDS, which is a big chain drugstore tradeshow (think Walgreens), from August 10– 13. We are planning on having Martha at the booth to meet retailers and sign her book. We can’t wait!
Q:Learning all of this over the last year and obviously for you, going back many years, what would be your best piece of advice for any sort of start-up looking to succeed with what they do and also with being acquired by a larger company?
You have to be able to bite off what you can chew and be able to manage it. It’s about quality not quantity. It’s more important to make sure that whatever you do is at the highest quality it can be. I think you have to be focused on what you’re doing. Know what you’re doing well and play to your strengths.
People don’t necessarily take this advice to heart. The key piece of advice, if you think something is going to be successful and that you believe it can be successful, is to make sure you put in the time and effort to that idea to make sure it is successful. It’s really about being driven and tenacious more than anything else, because most people give up. Most companies give up. If people are focused enough on the goal, then your chances for success are great. It’s better to have a small success and showcase that, then to have a big failure and look to step away from it.
For us now, it is about building shareholder value while becoming a world class organization. We are excited about the future and passionate about our business. It’s been a great ride and I’m not ready to get off it yet!
Jim Armstrong is the Co-Founder of Get Busy Media and a paid search specialist. Since 2008, Jim has built his knowledge around emerging media and leveraged several experiences to develop a keen understanding of internet marketing. He currently works for Resolution Media, as a senior advertising strategist.