“We aim to have a two-fold benefit for society. The first of which is that we work incredibly hard to make products that genuinely help people and solve problems that people face every day. Our entire line is focused on recovery, an often overlooked area. To do this effectively, we have to educate — and be incredibly transparent and open with our community. While this seems simple and obvious, it is a paradigm shift from the traditional model in the supplement industry. This was our genesis to start the company in the first place and the absolute core of what we do. On the other side of things, we try to use our platform to raise awareness about health and nutrition and support other brilliant causes in our home-base of Boston. For example, we hosted an event that was a meetinghouse style discussion on how to make modern health and wellness practices to all social classes. “
I had the pleasure of interviewing Alfred Schofield, co-founder of VitalFit Nutrition. Schofield was recently awarded by Schnepps Communication with the 40 under 40 “Entrepreneurs of the Year” along with his co-founder, Cam Fischer. Schofield studied entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst, furthering his pursuits with a Cum Laude graduate degree from Babson College. VitalFit is a rapidly growing start-up that is on the verge of a national presence — VitalFit’s first product was named “the best new anti-inflammatory of 2017” by The Feed, the nation’s largest e-commerce sports nutrition site.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up on Cape Cod with my parents and younger brother. I was always interested in sports and loved being outside and enjoying the world around me. During my childhood, my parents purchased a local storefront and retail center with a rich history and our family set out to restore it to its former glory. During our decade of ownership, I did it all and as with most family businesses, was trusted with responsibilities far beyond my years. It was during this time that my love of entrepreneurship and natural products (we operated a general store with many local goods) was born. After studying entrepreneurship throughout college and graduate school, I knew that I wanted to start my own company. I met Cam at school and we started VitalFit shortly after graduation.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
One of the funniest and most interesting stories is the backstory to how we discovered and launched our first product, Tart Cherry. After founding the company, Cam and I were dealing with a lot of uncertainty as just about every start-up does. After a particularly tough day, Cam and I went out to play some basketball and clear our heads. Cam was new to basketball and after playing for just a short while, started complaining about his back hurting. I thought this was a “phantom injury” and gave him quite a hard time about it. Turns out, he had a herniated disc, a very serious medical issue, that was causing the pain in his back. It was in searching for recovery products to help him deal with the pain and inflammation that we discovered the anti-inflammatory benefits of tart cherry and the rest is history!
Are you working on any meaningful nonprofit projects? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
At VitalFit, we aim to have a two-fold benefit for society. The first of which is that we work incredibly hard to make products that genuinely help people and solve problems that people face every day. Our entire line is focused on recovery, an often overlooked area. To do this effectively, we have to educate — and be incredibly transparent and open with our community. While this seems simple and obvious, it is a paradigm shift from the traditional model in the supplement industry. This was our genesis to start the company in the first place and the absolute core of what we do. On the other side of things, we try to use our platform to raise awareness about health and nutrition and support other brilliant causes in our home-base of Boston. For example, we hosted an event that was a meetinghouse style discussion on how to make modern health and wellness practices to all social classes. We’ve also hosted events highlighting other inspiring entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders, raising money for our friends at Inner City Weightlifting along the way. We’ve partnered on marketing projects to help draw attention to brands such as Run Janji, Cambridge Naturals and BOKS for kids along the way, doing everything we can to share the stories of inspiring causes and raising awareness wherever we can.
Wow! Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
Absolutely! I think that the most heartwarming moment for us was an email that we received from a customer in the early days of our brand. It was from a customer named Cynthia that we had met while doing a product demonstration one day. After trying one of our products, tart cherry, she responded that, “Up until now, in order to get the same pain relief, I had to take 2 Alleve and 1 Butalb-Acetamin, a prescription pain reliever. I had been taking that cocktail of drugs 3 times a week, but still felt sore.” After taking our product, she said, “I swam mid-day and by the evening, I felt so good I went for a short bike ride in the early evening, the first outdoor bike ride in 2 years!” Later, she said that, “I’m going to a wedding next weekend and I’m super excited because with Vitalfit I will be able to dance AND have a drink or two!” This was some of the most rewarding feedback we’ve ever received and it is the kind words like these that keep you going on even the toughest days.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! We were very naive when we started and I think there is the inclination to not want to ask for help. Once we asked people for help and let down our guard a little everything became easier. For example, a local store Cambridge Naturals helped launch our brand and did everything from helping us with label design to helping us find manufacturers. Never underestimate the kindness of others.
- Don’t believe everything you think — I think we all have an inclination to think we know answers, especially as entrepreneurs. But, ultimately, your brand isn’t yours — it’s the people who support it. So, listen to them and you will be far more powerful.
- Trust Yourself and your partners — When you start a company, everyone has input and wants to tell you how to do things. It can be tough to tune this out, especially when the guidance comes from people you respect. But, you need to be confident in yourself and the feedback you’re getting from customers, this is a far better guiding light.
- Authentic brands aren’t built overnight — In the start-up world, nothing can happen fast enough and the time it takes to do even simple things can get immensely frustrating. However, authentic brands aren’t built over night and it takes time to build the community and the ideals that the strongest brands build. Embrace the process and be accessible!
- Cash Flows are a Killer — One of the hardest parts of managing a start-up is dealing with financing. Even if you have a profitable business, it can be really hard to keep it afloat due to cash flows. For example, if you have a product, you have to pay for the inventory up front, but even once you sell it, you won’t receive payment for another 30 days most of the time. So, it is vital to know this and be careful when making big decisions — cash flow issues can consume even the most promising start-ups.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.
Blake Mycoskie — Founder of Toms. I have always idolized Blake for his entrepreneurial spirit and for popularizing the business model which integrates social good into the product itself. I would love to learn from him and see how to continue to advance this model/find the next innovation of this model. I believe that everyone wants to do good and by finding ways to make it easier and less costly, the world will be a better place.
Originally published at medium.com