October 01, 2016
WellnessPro: Improving Health and Wellness Around the Globe
by Lin Grensing-Pophal
Headquarters: Woodland Hills, California
Executives: Co-Founders Michael Kolpakov and Dr. Tatiana Kolpakov
Products: Wellness, weight loss, skin care
|Co-Founders of WellnessPro, Michael Kolpakov and Dr. Tatiana Kolpakov.|
Dr. Tatiana Kolpakov and her husband, Michael, immigrated to the United States from Russia in 2000. Today they’re at the helm of an international company with an emphasis on wellness and weight loss, and recently extended their product line to include skincare products, which will be introduced in the United States before the 2016 holiday season. Based in Southern California, the firm has expanded internationally and is now in 11 countries—their largest market is Russia.
The Kolpakovs brought significant direct sales experience to WellnessPro—Michael had served as the president of a logistics and third-party distribution company. Tatiana, then a practicing anesthesiologist, was a successful distributor for a direct selling company. She was, she says, “a person who had never, ever sold anything in her life.” But she became a top distributor for the firm and an international speaker. Most important, she became a passionate advocate for the role that direct sales could play in helping to improve lives, something near and dear to her heart. “We created WellnessPro in 2005 because we believed we would be able to make a difference,” she says. Two things drove and motivated her. First, as a doctor, she says, “I strongly believed in preventative medicine.” And, she adds, “I loved the direct sales industry and was fascinated with the idea that by helping others a business could grow.”
Initially, WellnessPro offered wellness shakes, formulated specifically for men or women, and to help people lose, maintain or gain weight. Dr. William Wheeler, a nutritionist, was engaged to produce the shakes, which are, according to the website, “packed with HeptaCal™ (helps absorb calcium) and 21 other exclusive and patented ingredients.” The site also shows a series of before-and-after photos of WellnessPro customers who have lost weight using the products.
In addition to the meal replacement shakes, WellnessPro also offers a series of supplements:
- Dfense—to flush toxins and remove impurities from the body
- Block n Burn—to inhibit the absorption of carbohydrates
- Omega—to protect and strengthen the cardiovascular system
- Mpower—to boost libido, improve sexual performance and support prostate health
In 2012, the company added skincare products to its offerings through its NuWelle™ line; skincare products are not currently carried in the U.S., but there are plans to add this line in the future.
What makes the products different, says Kolpakov, is that “we very carefully select the supplements for general health and wellness, incorporating the latest discoveries and ingredients.” The benefits of the products have been substantiated, she says, through several clinical trials conducted in Russia and Israel; all of the products are endorsed by physicians.
In addition to the health benefits of the products, says Kolpakov, taste was critically important to ensure customers would return again and again to purchase the product and continue its use. “We spent more than six months creating the flavor system,” she says. “Over the years we’ve accumulated thousands and thousands of testimonials around the world to prove sustainable, life-changing results,” she says. The results are long-term. With 10 years behind them, not only have customers lost weight, but they’ve kept it off successfully, she says: “70 percent of customers stay on the program month after month.”
Building a Foundation of Strong Direct Sales Leadership
A strong background in both medicine and direct sales has supported the company’s growth, says Kolpakov. “As a medical doctor I strive to bring the best nutritional product to the market—science-based and always high quality. And as a former distributor I also know, firsthand, distributor needs.” Consequently, she says, WellnessPro has a strong commitment to both superior product offerings and a foundation for distributors to be supported, recognized and rewarded.
Recently, WellnessPro added additional expertise in the direct sales industry with the appointment of John Purdy as the company’s new President and COO. Purdy brings a wealth of direct selling experience, having served in executive roles with titles such as president and chief operating officer and senior vice president with global direct selling brands. He has, he says, retired three times. Something, though, keeps luring him back. In this case it was WellnessPro. He’s only been in his new role for a few months—he joined the firm in August—but he already has a clear picture of the path forward.
When Purdy first met the Kolpakovs they hit it off immediately, he says. He was intrigued and excited about the company and its products and began having phone calls with the Kolpakovs about various elements of their business. It wasn’t long, he says, before his wife said, “I can see the snowball rolling down the hill.”
The contacts and connections he’s made over his career represent a distinct advantage in his new role, says Purdy. He’s already brought on board a couple of well-known distributors. That contact list and the ability to prospect through distributors, he says, along with a focus on using social media to raise awareness of the company, are all opportunities he plans to leverage.
Purdy is excited about his new role and the potential to grow the company. “I’ve been pretty successful before, and I plan on playing to win,” he says. “I don’t play for second place. I truly believe that we can take this company to Tatiana’s five-year goal.” It’s not something that will happen overnight, he says. “It’s about doing the right thing, taking it one step at a time and building a foundation. Then you take that foundation and put the building blocks on top of it to build a company that will sustain itself for many, many years.”
|Potential customers and distributors receive a sample of WellnessPro’s signature weight-loss shake.|
WellnessPro is in its 11th year as a company, says Kolpakov. “For most of these years we have been operating in Russia and Europe and have been quite successful. We’ve been focusing on the development of the North American market for the last year only—we’re still relatively small here.” So far, she says, that growth has been primarily organic. But, she adds, “Our plan is to more than double next near and the year afterward.”
Purdy adds, “We currently have six direct staff who work at home offices most often. We also utilize the services of third parties for manufacturing, marketing production, graphic design, event planning and logistics/warehousing.”
A Natural for the Direct Sales Model
WellnessPro’s products are a natural fit for direct sales, says Purdy. It’s social selling, he says. “If somebody tells you the restaurant down the street is the best thing in Italian food and you’re looking for a restaurant, you’re going to try that restaurant. The same thing with nutritional products, especially weight loss.” The impact is simply not the same as, for instance, walking into a GNC store and evaluating all of the products on the shelf. Even if the lone clerk in the store is knowledgeable about the products, you’re not likely to get a very detailed or thorough explanation of what the product does. And, Purdy, adds: “Nobody likes to read a label.”
In addition, adds Kolpakov, WellnessPro distributors offer consultation and support during their customers’ weight-loss journeys. “About 85 percent of our customers are here to lose some weight, and distributors go with them all the way. It’s a great additional benefit we provide.”
The culture is one of integrity and open communication, says Kolpakov. “Open communication with the field is very important to us. We encourage distributors to speak up, and we listen to them very carefully. We understand that the company does not exist without distributors, and that is why it’s really, really important to us.” WellnessPro is a family-run company 100 percent owned by the Kolpakovs. “We would like our distributors to feel they are part of the big family,” Kolpakov says.
Decisions are made, she adds, based on a three-part test: “Is it good for our customers? Is it good for our company? Is it good for our distributors?” If it doesn’t pass the test, it’s not done. Communication is frequent and ongoing with weekly webinars, weekly and monthly calls, and two main corporate events each year. “Distributors do their own meetings as well,” says Purdy. “The leadership kit has enough product to last 30 days and includes some training materials and promotional items.”
Despite the success the company has seen in its Russian and European markets and despite the excitement about the potential for additional growth in North American markets, there are some fairly significant challenges that lay ahead—those that affect others in the direct selling space as well.
Facing, and Overcoming, Challenges
There are two, seemingly contradictory, challenges that WellnessPro faces, Purdy notes. One, the sometimes tarnished image of direct sales companies and, another, the growing popularity of the model.
“There are a lot of people around who think any direct sales company is a scam and a pyramid. It has always been, and will probably always be this way.” That, Purdy says, can be a challenge, primarily in terms of distributor acquisition. At the same time, he says, “Every week somebody decides to start a direct sales company,” creating more competition for WellnessPro and others in the market.
WellnessPro works hard to overcome the negativity and misconceptions about direct selling. “The old joke is ‘I’m not going to buy anything because the next thing you know they’re going to be calling me every day to be a distributor.’ ” That’s not the culture at WellnessPro, Purdy says. Customers are very important—and they’re very important as customers. “We love customers; not everybody has to try to become a million-dollar earner,” he says.
As WellnessPro expands into the U.S. market, one of the things the company hopes to do is build relationships with doctors and estheticians as it has in other markets. “Because of the clinical trials that we’ve done in Russia and Israel, we have very trusting relationships with physicians, doctors, clinics and spas,” says Kolpakov. In fact, she adds, “Many of our customers came from that channel and some of them became our distributors.” She says she hopes to establish these same types of relationships in the U.S.
In terms of other expansion, Kolpakov says, there are both opportunities and challenges. International expansion, in particular, can be challenging, she notes. “You’ve got to watch the regulatory situation.” Each country is different and regulations change continually. “You need to make sure you have the proper resources and regulatory experience to go into some of those marketplaces.”
Still, WellnessPro has some distinct advantages. One advantage is its relatively small size, says Purdy. “We’re small so we can maneuver quickly,” he says. Larger organizations, he adds, are like battleships—it can take them a while to turn. “So, actually, sometimes our size is an advantage to us.”