- Words by Devon Paige Photography by Don Denton
True personalization”—that’s the buzzword and tagline that inspires and keeps BC-based business owner Anton Solonnikov moving his business, VitaminLab, forward.
“Building this business has been challenging but in a good way because we’re really changing the status quo. We want it to be the norm that people are getting their supplements truly personalized, made to order, just for them,” Anton explains, sitting down with Boulevard on a sunny afternoon in Victoria.
To understand Anton’s journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur, we need to rewind to 2017.
“I’m a pharmacist by trade, so prior to starting my own business, for about a decade, I worked as a pharmacist for Shoppers Drug Mart and also in a hospital,” Anton explains, adding that he began to notice similar questions arising from physicians, customers and other wellness practitioners.
“It all kind of came down to the fact that people were looking for information and support on supplement dosage and form, and I was often sending people to the natural food store with a personalized prescription to find what they needed.”
It was this recurring experience that eventually led him to pursue the start of his own business, something that—looking back on now—makes complete sense.
“I’m someone who is growth-oriented and creative, so starting my own business venture was definitely something I had in the back of my mind, but just hadn’t acted on yet,” he explains.
So armed with an idea, creativity and drive, Anton developed VitaminLab, a subscription service that can create, manufacture and send a personalized supplement formula direct to a customer’s front door.
“In the beginning of starting the business it was a lot of trial and error, but problem solving is something you learn a lot about and do a lot of as a pharmacist, so I enjoyed it,” he laughs. “It’s been challenging but in a good way because we’re really changing the status quo of supplementation.”
In short, VitaminLab provides clients with personalized supplement formulas. An online quiz asks a series of questions to gather information on a customer’s diet, lifestyle, health history and health goals. Additionally, a team of registered nutritionists can provide customers with support in creating a unique formula through a complimentary consultation.
Based on the information gathered, VitaminLab then suggests nutrients for a custom formula. Alternatively, customers can also create their own formula if they already know what vitamins and minerals they want combined.
“Our goal is that every single customer is safely supplementing for their exact needs, goals and lifestyle based on actionable health data,” says Anton, adding that the company believes everyone deserves a well-informed supplement that evolves with them and their lifestyle.
VitaminLab’s subscription service sends customers their formula automatically once they are subscribed. Supplements can either come in vegetable capsules or powder and are sent in a 90-day supply.
“On average, it takes around three months for people to notice a difference in their health after starting a new supplement, so that’s why we focus on the 90-day supply model,” explains Anton, adding that formulas can be easily adjusted as needed up to 14 days prior to the next refill date.
Building the business from the ground up came with both its challenges and its opportunities, like engineering and building a production system.
“In the very beginning we were outsourcing our production and packaging, but we eventually built out our own manufacturing facility in 2018, giving us greater quality control and assurance. We invested in our own robotics system, and we now have our own engineering team which is helping us move toward a fully automated system,” Anton explains.
When complete, the automated system will cover almost all aspects of the business—from ordering and dispensing to dosing and encapsulation.
“It’s very exciting for us and we’re looking forward to seeing that come to fruition,” Anton adds.
Aside from using the direct-to-consumer format via online orders, the company also works closely with a variety of practitioners who can custom order specific formulas for their patients and even choose to have their own private labelling and branding included.
Today, VitaminLab has about 50 employees and a NSF and GMP (National Science Foundation certified Good Manufacturing Processes) registered facility in downtown Victoria.
“It’s been an incredibly interesting journey creating something that doesn’t exist,” says Anton, smiling. “There was no blueprint to follow, but we’ve created this infrastructure from the ground up. And it’s an amazing feeling to now have the brand established.”
So, what’s next for this BC-based business?
“Growth,” says Anton. “We’re looking to expand in Canada as a consumer brand and grow our relationships with practitioners, as well as expand production into the US, all in the next couple of years. So, it’s an exciting time for VitaminLab.”
To learn more about VitaminLab, visit getvitaminlab.com and use code Van30 to take 30 per cent off your next order.