August 06, 2014
Stemtech International Inc.: Pioneering a New Technology
by Jennifer Workman Pitcock
Headquarters: Pembroke Pines, Florida
Executives: Ray C. Carter Jr., President and CEO;
Christian Drapeau, Chief Science Officer
Products: stem cell nutrition
|Ray C. Carter Jr.|
In the eight years since its founding, Stemtech International Inc. has seen amazing growth, having brought its unique stem cell technology to market, backed by scientific research. Pioneering a brand-new category of healthcare products, the company has already launched in 30 countries worldwide.
With only about 10 percent of its 200,000-plus Independent Business Partners (IBPs) based in the United States, Stemtech expects to see the U.S. market grow exponentially as interest grows in the role that adult stem cells play in the body’s daily repair.
Known as the Stem Cell Nutrition Company®, Stemtech has also garnered national and industry recognition in a short time. It made Inc. magazine’s list of fastest-growing private companies based in the United States for the second time in four years in 2013 with a 2012 revenue of $58.1 million—it first entered the list in 2010. It had already been recognized by the Direct Selling Association as one of three finalists for the DSA’s prestigious Rising Star award in 2009.
The Stemtech Story
Though Stemtech got its start less than a decade ago, botanical researcher and neurophysiologist Christian Drapeau, MSc, began researching the science the company is founded on during the 1990s. Having learned of the health benefits people experienced when eating nutrient-rich algae known as Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA), Drapeau and fellow scientist Dr. Gitte Jensen began examining how AFA supports health. In their research, Drapeau and Jensen discovered that AFA supports the body’s release of adult stem cells. Soon Drapeau developed a nutritional product based on these findings.
Around the same time, Ray C. Carter Jr. took a position with a direct selling company. He was brought on to increase the company’s U.S. market and then take over as president. With a bachelor’s and MBA under his belt, Carter also had decades of industry experience in direct sales and marketing. He understood the business from the distributor side, having built a successful organization with a telephone reseller as well as with other direct sales companies before becoming an executive.
Carter began seeking a product that would breathe new life into his company. His search led him to Drapeau, who had recently secured a patent for a new nutritional product that supported the body’s renewal system by increasing the number of adult stem cells available to repair the body’s organs and tissues.
Drapeau was looking for a home for his product, and Carter found him. Both men were elated when Carter’s company gave the green light to begin the process of acquiring it. But a month later, Carter was called in by the board, who informed him that they had decided to pass on Drapeau’s stem cell technology. Carter then left the company to help Drapeau find a home for the product. Despite significant interest among some of the major direct selling companies, months of negotiations and red tape kept the technology from reaching the market.
“In hindsight, I can see that trying to pioneer a new dietary supplement product category based on stem cell science was too risky for an established company at that time,” Carter says. “It was more suited for a new startup company.” So in the summer of 2005, Carter and Drapeau co-founded Stemtech, with Carter as President and CEO and Drapeau as Chief Science Officer.
“Three months later, we were in business, and we did nearly $1 million in sales our first month,” Carter says.
Within the year, Stemtech was receiving inquiries from all over the world. People wanted Stemtech’s products and opportunity to be made available in their countries.
“Ray was smart,” says Don Karn, Stemtech’s Vice President of North American Markets. “He put a focus on not just growing North America, but on growing internationally.”
Carter began placing vice presidents in various regions of the world, and soon the company’s global growth was outstripping domestic growth. With such robust international sales, the company was unscathed by the 2008 recession.
Now active on six continents, Stemtech continues to expand as demand for Stemtech’s products increases globally.
A New Home
This summer, Stemtech moved its headquarters from San Clemente, California, to Pembroke Pines, Florida. The move is part of Stemtech’s global growth strategy. The company currently employs over 200 people in over 20 countries.
“Florida is a very friendly state to do business in,” Karn says. “And the proximity to Miami International Airport gives us the opportunity to easily grow the international business.”
The company’s headquarters is located in the historic Miami Herald Building, which has been renamed Stemtech Square. Stemtech’s research and development lab and manufacturing facility will all be housed in the same complex.
“In addition to executive offices and international activities, we have all of our North American activities there, and we have distribution for half of the United States coming out of our new offices,” Karn says.
The move will create 90 jobs, which will help support the local economy.
Ongoing Research and Development
When Stemtech launched, the company had a single product, StemEnhance®, created with the purpose of enhancing the body’s production of adult stem cells. Since then Stemtech has added products, but the company has not lost focus. “We have stuck to our mission to be the Stem Cell Nutrition Company®,” Karn says. “All the products we’ve released are related to stem cell nutrition. And we intend to stay focused on these types of products.”
In 2011, Stemtech launched an improved version of StemEnhance, SE2®. Additionally, Stemtech’s product line includes other items that work in conjunction with the company’s flagship product. As its product line has grown, Stemtech has continued its scientific studies to demonstrate the products’ effectiveness. The company has participated in many studies, which have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals such as Cardiovascular Revascularization Medicine and Cell Cycle.
Commitment to Giving Back
For Stemtech, giving back continues to be important. The company has its own 501(c)3 organization, The Stemtech Global Foundation, and it is committed to supporting the less fortunate in each country where it does business. “In each country we go into, one of the first tasks of the GM is to find a charity we can support that serves children, animals or the environment,” Karn says.
Choosing the direct sales channel to market Stemtech’s products is also based on the co-founders’ commitment to improving the lives of others. Stemtech’s mission is to spread wellness and prosperity around the world.
“We do business through a model that does not bring all the income into our pockets,” Drapeau says. “We actually share it through the direct sales model. What we try to do in our company is to bring both health and wealth to people.”
Carter agrees. He wants to use his income from Stemtech to help support charities worldwide. “In my view, the definition of wealth is how many people you can help. You become ‘wealthier’ by helping more people,” he says.
As the economy continues to improve, Stemtech expects to see significant growth inside the United States, as well as continued global expansion. With that in mind, Stemtech has invested in state-of-the-art training tools. Not only do Independent Business Partners have their own website available in their native language (and 14 others), but Stemtech is also making it easier for IBPs to complete training, track their sales and monthly progress, and share with others.
Whether they are sponsored by a dynamic leader or a friend who joined the previous day, Stemtech wants to ensure that all IBPs get the training they need. In 2015, the company will launch new tools in their back office. “They’ll have online business training—not only training videos but also an email responder and a list where they can track which of the five most important things to do every day they’ve already completed. Leaders can set up fun competitions, and IBPs will be able to see themselves compete with others on their team in real time in Back Office,” says Chris Simonian, Vice President of Global Marketing.
Additionally, IBPs will be able to share materials and track how many exposures it takes before potential customers take the next step to buy or join. “Everything will be mobile-driven,” Simonian says. “IBPs can send a video to your phone or iPad, and the system will indicate if you watched it—or even how much of it you watched.”
The company will also use online training to make sure their IBPs are aware of compliance issues. Simonian says, “Companies are being held more accountable for compliance. What we’re talking about is something like a certification program. IBPs will complete a training session online and then test on what they may and may not say about the products.”
The new tools will not take the place of other proven methods of training. Along with conference calls, webinars and videos, Karn has recently added new staff to help train and lead meetings. Two are Spanish-speaking, as one of Stemtech’s initiatives for growth is to create diverse, ethnic markets in the United States. “We already have Spanish-speaking and Chinese markets outside the U.S.” says Karn, who believes Stemtech’s multilingual tools, along with the company’s sensitivity to individual cultures, will give the company a “leg up” on building these ethnic markets inside U.S. borders.
The company is also focusing on another frontier—social media. Stemtech has both an internal and external team focused on raising the company’s profile on social media. Along with communicating with IBPs using social media, Stemtech will train IBPs to better utilize the platform to grow their own businesses. “With that in mind, Stemtech will be implementing a very targeted training on social media,” Simonian says.
Building a Brand
So far, Stemtech has focused its energy on the science and the products themselves. As the company has matured, it has become increasingly focused on branding. Simonian believes the best way to find out how people perceive Stemtech is to ask them. “The most valuable information you can own is what people think about you,” he says.
That means interviewing people both outside and inside the company and zeroing in on who the company says they are and how that lines up with people’s perceptions. “Branding is much more than a color or logo change,” Simonian says. “A brand is a promise that when you go to buy a product or a service, that product or service is going to deliver on exactly what it tells you it’s going to do.”
As part of its branding, Stemtech intends to ramp up its recognition of IBPs. “We want to show people that we value them at Stemtech,” Simonian says. The company plans to do more to showcase IBPs’ accomplishments in Stemtech magazine articles, on the website, in conference calls and in other media, as well as continue to build a solid recognition program.
The company hopes that its recognition and rewarding of IBPs becomes one of Stemtech’s hallmarks. “When people think of our brand, we want them to know us as a company that really cares about its distributors,” Simonian says.
Stemtech knows crafting their brand will take time. Creating a brand is like constructing a giant puzzle of elements, including the brand’s promise, the emotions the brand inspires, and the way the products look and feel. “When all the pieces start to fit, then it becomes a beautiful picture,” Simonian says.
The Future of Stemtech
Carter knew Drapeau really had something special when he took a risk on Drapeau’s pioneering technology. His bet was a winning one. This year alone, the company expects to see 50 percent year-over-year growth from 2013. “Many markets around the world are breaking records every month. We just opened two more major markets, Russia and Indonesia, and we have inquiries from over 100 other countries around the world,” Carter says.
But for Stemtech’s co-founders, the company’s most important contribution goes far beyond the financial. “Our long-term goal is to touch as many lives around the world as possible,” Carter says. “We want to give an opportunity to those who currently have limited options to improve the quality of their lives.”