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February 01, 2011

Industry with Heart

Vemma Changes Lives of the Next Generation

by Rosie Blankenship

Vemma Founder and CEO BK Boreyko shares the gift of good nutrition with children at Father Joe’s Village in San Diego, CA.

When someone has four children under the age of 4, it’s hard not to think about kids all day long.

This truth comes through in the work of BK Boreyko, Founder and CEO of Vemma. As a dad with the health and well-being of his own children at the forefront of his mind, that care and concern spills over into the lives of children with need.

“You have kids and you see these kids in disadvantaged situations and you say, ‘What can I do to help?’ ” he says.

He has managed to provide much help to children in need through his company, Vemma, which he founded as a way to make a difference in the lives of others. Vemma’s charitable work supports this mission by reaching out to the most vulnerable and deserving members of the communities they serve.

Scientifically Based Supplementation

The company specializes in nutrition in the form of liquid supplementation. The company produces six products (with another coming soon), including their flagship product and namesake Vemma, a daily liquid supplement that contains phytonutrient-rich mangosteen, vitamins, plant-sourced minerals and whole-food nutrients.

Vemma

The company prides itself on the scientific validity of its premium liquid nutrition. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the use of Vemma formula over 30 days resulted in a significant decrease in C-reactive protein response and a significant increase in immune system function.

As Dr. Yibing Wang, Vemma Director of Product Development and Research, wrote in a report for distributors, “C-reactive protein is an important blood marker because it can measure the risk of cardiovascular disease; the higher the level, the higher the risk. Immunity markers in the blood can show how well the body is able to fight disease.”

The importance of good nutrition and supplementation is something that hits close to home for BK.

“I lost both of my parents to the two top killers in the United States—cancer and heart disease—and I still think of them every day. When you go through that much pain, you search for a way to turn that pain into a passion,” BK says. “That whole experience laid the foundation for Vemma and the mission that we are on. There is a tremendous amount of science out there that confirms the importance of supplementation and how something as simple as supplementing may prevent many of the modern-day health challenges.”

All in the Family

Vemma is a young company—founded in 2004—but it’s not BK’s first experience in network marketing. He ran his former company, New Vision, for 16 years. And he’s actually a second-generation network marketing professional—and philanthropist.

His parents were Amway distributors and BK got his own start selling in his dad’s store during summer break. “We grew up in a network marketing household,” he says of him and his sisters. “My parents became involved in 1969.”

Their business helped them share their passions with others, as well. “My mother was in Mexico and kids were having school underneath a tree outside. She asked why they were doing that and it was because they didn’t have a place for them inside. She actually funded the building of a classroom for those children,” he says.

Inspired by his mother, Dottie Boreyko, who he says always made children her first priority, BK’s focus is on Vemma’s charitable giving to improve the lives of children. And true to the company’s focus, they do this particularly by impacting the health and wellness of children and teenagers, helping them to grow into happy and healthy adults.

“My parents were a huge influence on my life, but they were a huge influence on a lot of people’s lives,” he says. “My parents wanted to make a difference whether they benefited or not.”

Vemma tries to positively influence the lives of children through three major endeavors: the NEXT Helping Now Project, the Children’s Miracle Network® and HealthCorps®.

NEXT Helping Now Project

BK recently visited Father Joe’s Village in San Diego, Calif. To describe Father Joe’s Village as a “homeless shelter” would not be doing it justice. The charity works with people who are homeless in multiple ways—first by providing shelter, then by helping them regain their self-sufficiency through job training, counseling, chemical dependency services, and dental and medical care. Ninety-one percent of the “graduates” of Father Joe’s Village are families with children.

The visit was, for BK, very emotional. “It really had an impact on me. I almost started crying when I was talking about it. Man,” he says, “it’s a big deal to these kids. It’s a big deal to make a difference.”

Father Joe’s Village is one of many recipients of the NEXT Helping Now Project.

NEXT Helping Now was inspired by the TOMS Shoes One for One program. When BK heard about TOMS Shoes, who donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair of shoes customers buy, Vemma was coming out with Vemma NEXT, their children’s product. BK says, “This Vemma NEXT is going to be our philanthropic brand. We are not going to be making a profit.”

For each purchase of a month’s supply of Vemma NEXT, the company donates a month’s supply to several different nonprofit organizations who distribute them to children in need.

He says even when he thinks of his own children, “even a typical child doesn’t eat right, let alone a disadvantaged child.” Vemma NEXT was designed to provide children with the nutrition they need. He felt that giving away this product to children in need would do the most “to give them a lifetime of benefit.”

The experience of visiting Father Joe’s Village and seeing approximately 150 children, ages 2 to 12, living in a homeless shelter was overwhelming for BK. “It astonishes you that these kids are just like your kids. They have the same laughter, the same dreams. They are just caught in this cycle of poverty,” BK says.

He feels Vemma NEXT is an important addition to their diets. “Everybody kind of focuses on feeding these kids,” he says, because the need is so great. But often, inexpensive food isn’t nutritionally sound. “Nutritionally, their diets are so bad. We are filling that gap. We are giving them the finest supplements on the planet.”

Vemma partners with several nonprofit organizations to distribute the NEXT Helping Now donations throughout the country to children in need. The list includes Feeding America® Food Banks (such as St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, the world’s first food bank), who works across the country with thousands of local agencies; Kids in Distressed Situations, who distributes to organizations, such as Operation Homefront; Presbyterian Hospital’s Community Care Cruiser in Charlotte, N.C.; the Havasupai Native American Tribe at the Grand Canyon; and Father Joe’s Village in San Diego.

Since the company launched the NEXT Helping Now Project in September 2009, they have donated more than 100,000 bottles of Vemma NEXT, representing 1.6 million doses, with a value totaling more than $2 million.

The donations aren’t just a “one-shot deal,” BK says. “When we give this, we are committed to giving it again and again as long as the product exists.” So, he says, when a mother picks up a supply at a local food pantry, she can be assured that she can come back next month to get it again, if that’s what she wants to do.

BK is looking to expand charitable giving internationally with a new product—what he terms “a healthy soda-pop”—coming in 2011. “We are always going to keep doing more,” he says. “There is always someone who has a need for you to do better.”

Children's Miracle NetworkChildren’s Miracle Network®

In addition to the one-for-one model with Vemma NEXT, for three months of each year, a portion of the proceeds from every purchase of the product also is donated to the Children’s Miracle Network®.

During those months, the product is co-branded with Children’s Miracle Network® and Vemma works to fundraise in other ways through email marketing, social media and mobile giving, where donors can text to make donations.

Children’s Miracle Network® is a charity that works to save the lives of children throughout North America by raising money for children’s hospitals. The organization was founded in 1983 by Marie Osmond, John Schneider, Mick Shannon and Joe Lake as a nationally televised telethon. The organization has raised nearly $4 billion for children’s hospitals over the past 27 years.

Since 2009, Vemma has donated a total of $70,000 to Children’s Miracle Network® through the sales of Vemma NEXT and additional fundraising. This includes 23 of Vemma’s distributors who made a donation of $1,000 or greater during the three-month campaign in 2010.

HealthCorps®

BK calls Vemma’s association with HealthCorps® his favorite charitable initiative.

BK met Dr. Mehmet Oz, founder of HealthCorps®, about six years ago “when HealthCorps® was just a glimmer in his eyes,” he says. “We were actually able to get in and lay the groundwork, to have it be the great charity that it is now.”

HealthCorps® is a movement to help fight obesity through comprehensive health education that centers on a peer-to-peer educational model. HealthCorps® coordinators volunteer for two-year stints, deferring medical school or graduate school health field studies to do community service (similar to the Peace Corps). HealthCorps®’ mission is to educate high-school students about nutrition, exercise and mental resilience in order to empower them to live a healthier lifestyle. The hope is, also, that the students will bring this message home to their families and communities.

BK serves on the advisory board for HealthCorps®. He talks about his work with HealthCorps® as an investment in the future.

“If you want to talk about a return on your charitable giving investment, teenagers are the next generation to be taking over,” BK says. “To be able to help them with their mental health, their physical health, their exercise, their decision-making process—it’s just really, really great work.”

As a principal sponsor, Vemma has donated more than $500,000 to date to HealthCorps®. In 2008, BK was recognized for his personal support of the organization with the HealthCorps® Award.

Vemma’s relationship with HealthCorps® was featured in the February 2008 issue of Direct Selling News.

Bringing It Home

To focus only on the major commitments of the corporation would be to overlook a vast amount of financial and volunteer support by the employees of Vemma at their home office. Whether it is food drives to support a food bank, serving as Christmas angels for children in need, participation in a holiday hot meal feeding program or even recycling hundreds of computer systems, Vemma’s more than 100 employees step up to support the local community.

The employees conduct an annual food drive to support their local Feeding America food bank. Vemma’s annual drive is always important, but this year it was especially impactful—in October, the facility was damaged by a storm, and the food bank lost 20 percent of its food stores. So, right before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Vemma staff jumped into action and started their annual drive early.

The staff also steps up each year at the holidays to provide gifts to children in need. The 100 employees act as Christmas angels, supplying gifts for 50 children.

Church on the Street is a Phoenix-based ministry to people who are homeless. Each year, they do mobile Christmas dinners during the month of December. Vemma makes a financial contribution to fund a few of these dinners. In addition, employees bring family members to help distribute the meals. The employees bring blankets and clothes to hand out as well. BK says he encourages staff to bring children, so they can see charity in action.

“It’s sort of a melancholy thing,” BK says. “You are sad, but you are happy. You just wish the world was kind to everyone. It’s sobering. You count your blessings where you are.”