June 01, 2012
ViSalus: Bravo Growth Award
by J.M. Emmert
Table of Contents
Intro • Global Outlook • Why the Global 100? • The 2011 DSN Global 100: The Top 10 • The 2011 DSN Global 100: 11-100 • Topping the Charts • DSN Global 100 • The $100 Million Club • Celebrating the DSN Global 100
ViSalus Co-founders Ryan Blair, Nick Sarnicola and Blake Mallen, along with Blyth’s Robert Goergen Jr. and Todd Goergen, accept the Bravo Growth Award at the DSN Global 100 Celebration held in April.
In April 2011, ViSalus received Direct Selling News’ Bravo Turnaround Award for revitalizing a company that many in the direct selling industry thought was about to disappear. When co-founders Ryan Blair, Nick Sarnicola and Blake Mallen took to the stage that night to accept the award, many in the audience had the feeling that the turnaround would not be the end of the ViSalus story—only the beginning.
And were they ever right.
The ultra-premium lifestyle company delivering cutting-edge products through the Body by Vi™ 90-Day Challenge had a remarkable 579 percent increase over prior-year earnings, going from $34 million in net sales in 2010 to $231 million in 2011.
And just last month, ViSalus announced that first-quarter sales for 2012 were $136.7 million, an increase of $116.7 million over the prior-year period. In addition, the company reported 92,000 independent Promoters for the first quarter, compared to 16,000 for the same period in 2011.
So how did they do it? It could be boiled down to this: Some people see problems and others find solutions. Blair, Sarnicola and Mallen learned from the mistakes made during the first five years of business and, urged on by the economic downturn, set their sights on a solution for their struggling company.
According to Mallen, who serves as ViSalus’ Chief Marketing Officer, the remarkable turnaround and growing success can be attributed to staying focused on a simple and social selling method revolving around the Body by Vi Challenge.
The Bravo Growth Award
It is for the company’s incredible growth during 2011 that Direct Selling News presented ViSalus with the 2011 Bravo Growth Award this year.
“We are very humbled and grateful,” says CEO Blair. “It’s been a lot of hard work, and we couldn’t have done it without our teams, without the Goergen family [owners of majority shareholder Blyth] and without the Promoters in our field. It took a whole lot of us to get where we are, and I can tell you we’re just getting started.”
Life, Health, Prosperity
ViSalus was originally launched in 2005 with the intent to build a health-based business that would stand the test of time. Known then as ViSalus Sciences, the company’s mission was to improve the lives of people through network marketing, premium wellness products and a global community culture—that is, Life, Health and Prosperity. The company name represents those goals: Vi being the Latin root for “Life” and Salus representing “Health” and “Prosperity.”
Life. ViSalus enhances the lives of its members, called Promoters, through incentives and reward programs designed to create new experiences, build relationships and create lasting memories. Life is a series of moments, and ViSalus takes pride in making those moments special for those on The Challenge. Whether it’s a dream vacation or just a timeless Sunday with the family, life experiences are enjoyed in abundance throughout the community.
Health. The fight to improve world health and combat obesity is core to the ViSalus mission. The company offers a line of innovative wellness products—developed by a world-class Scientific Advisory Board and backed by some of the most advanced scientific technology available—to help customers lose weight, get in shape and achieve their fitness goals.
Prosperity. ViSalus is about people, and about people helping people. The company provides its entrepreneurial opportunity to anyone, regardless of experience level or educational background, who desires to grow and fulfill their financial potential. The business model upon which ViSalus is based also allows those passionate about sharing their beliefs to give back and make an impact on others.
The Body by Vi Challenge, which was launched in 2009, is a lifestyle transformation platform that helps the average person transform his or her body over a 90-day period. Participants can take advantage of ViSalus’ health products—the low-calorie, high-nutrition Vi-Shape meal replacement shakes are the company’s core products—as well as support tools to assist them in their goals.
The company’s products are sold in five Challenge Kits, designed to support a range of weight-loss and fitness goals. Success can be had by people of all ages who are focused on creating and maintaining individually defined healthy lifestyles.
The Balance Kit helps maintain a daily balanced nutrition. The Shape Kit helps customers lose weight or build lean muscle more quickly. The Core Kit fuels performance. The Transformation Kit, which is the No. 1 Challenge kit used by Body by Vi Champions, helps transform the body the quickest. And the newest addition to the product line, the Fit Kit, is geared for athletes and those leading more active lifestyles.
To say that the Body by Vi Challenge has been wildly successful would be an understatement. In the three years since it was introduced, more than 100 million shakes have been served and millions upon millions of pounds have been lost by customers.
“We had 575,000 people join the Challenge in 2011, and that has risen dramatically already in 2012,” Mallen says. “In March alone we had 158,000 people join, to give you an idea of the trajectory we are on. We hit the 1 millionth customer mark [in April]—it took us seven years to get there—and in all likelihood we’ll add another million customers over the next six months.”
So what is the key to success? Promoters do not focus on “selling” the ViSalus products. Instead, they help people set and achieve Challenge goals, using the products to support that success. Just as thousands of bodies have been transformed through Body by Vi, the old method of selling has been transformed into a new social selling method that asks “Are you up for The Challenge?”
Today, ViSalus is the No. 1 weight-loss and fitness challenge platform in North America.
Making the Connection
While the Body by Vi Challenge is the engine that drives ViSalus’ sales, the company’s success is not simply about a product. It is about connecting, communicating, relationships and people. And ViSalus is connecting more effectively, more efficiently and more effortlessly than ever before.
ViSalus champions personal victories and entrepreneurship through a social marketing model and global community culture.
“We have a different perspective and we are definitely taking a different approach to what has been done within the direct selling channel,” Mallen says. “We come from more of a Gen X and Gen Y perspective, heavily integrated into social media and technology trends.”
ViSalus has spent a lot of time and energy—and money—on social media, technology and web initiatives. In 2008, the company launched Vi-Net, an exclusive online community for people who share a passion for health and fitness. With Vi-Net, ViSalus put the power to market the Challenge into the hands of its Promoters, enabling them to instantly connect with like-minded individuals and access social tools.
“We have a different perspective and we are definitely taking a different approach to what has been done within the direct selling channel.”
Vi-Net Mobile, which was launched in the first quarter of 2011, is an application that enables anyone with a smartphone to fully access all business management, social networking and order processing tools.
Of course, ViSalus also has a strong presence on all the popular social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest.
“Social media amplifies our organization,” Mallen says. “Any conversation gets multiplied or amplified by the consumer, for better or worse. So if there are people talking negatively about your product or service, it’s going to impact you negatively. In our case, we’ve had a lot of great results because of our social message and, yes, social media in general has a lot to do with that reach. People are enjoying their results and are sharing it with friends on Facebook and their followers on Twitter.”
In January, ViSalus spent $825,000 for two web domains to help speed up the viral nature of the Body by Vi Challenge. The purchases of challenge.com for $500,000 and vi.com for $325,000 represented the second- and third-highest reported domain purchases in 2012.
Blair says the acquisitions were part of ViSalus’ plan to invest aggressively in the challenge marketing space the company had created. “We now own the word ‘challenge’ online with the purchase of challenge.com. With the acquisition of vi.com, we have gained a simple, multilingual brand architecture that will enable us to become a global household name,” he says.
Partnering with Blyth
The different selling approach and technology savvy of ViSalus’ founders is what drew the attention of Blyth Inc. In October 2008, Blyth, a Greenwich, Conn.-based multi-channel company that operates primarily in the home fragrance and decorative accessories industry, signed an agreement to purchase ViSalus in a four-phase acquisition plan. Blyth, which is the parent company of another direct seller, PartyLite, believed that ViSalus had the right people in place to catch up and possibly surpass all of the other Blyth companies.
This past January the third phase of the agreement was completed. Blair, Mallen and Sarnicola will continue on in their current positions after the acquisition is completed.
“We have a great working relationship with Blyth,” Mallen says. “They are amazing strategic partners and we are excited about the future.”
That future includes the company’s March to a Billion. The phenomenal sales growth has invigorated everyone at ViSalus, and Blair, Mallen and Sarnicola have the entire field setting their sights on a new goal: to be the first product-based company in direct selling history to reach a $1 billion revenue run rate purely in North America.
“To my knowledge it has never been done by any company in any category,” Mallen says. “We think we can hit a $1 billion run rate purely in the U.S. and Canada. We believe it’s possible.”
One gets the feeling that they just might be right.