vitamin packets spread out on a table
Care/of uses daily, colorful and quotable packaging to engage its customers and encourage excitement around health and wellness. — Care/of

Shopping for vitamins and supplements can be an overwhelming experience for customers. Both online and in-store, navigating the type, strength, brand and ingredients can make consumers feel like they have to research a dissertation before picking up a bottle of B12.

“I was standing in the vitamin aisle aiming to purchase prenatals for my wife and it was incredibly overwhelming and confusing,” said Craig Elbert, co-founder and CEO of Care/of, a direct-to-consumer supplier of vitamins and supplements. “It felt like there had to be a better solution.”

The experience led Elbert to start Care/of in 2016 with Akash Shah, the company’s head of product, in an effort to improve the consumer purchasing process. The company claims it does that by personalizing each customer’s experience using a “signature, science-backed quiz” that deduces uniquely curated regimens for its customers, which now number more than 2 million. The quiz contains questions pertaining to customer health concerns, diet preferences, lifestyle habits and fitness goals and recommends products based on those needs.

Each product recommendation is based on peer-reviewed scientific research and clinical reports, as well as medical and nutritionists’ advice, Elbert told CO—. The company employs an in-house doctor and several nutritionists, as well as a Scientific Advisory Board made up of naturopathic physicians, integrated physicians and clinical researchers, according to Care/of.

“The quality of our products is a huge priority for us and we take great care to ensure our line of vitamins and minerals is made from the best ingredients out there, sourcing from the places they grow best, so each nutrient is as effective, safe and bioavailable as it can be,” Elbert said.

The company’s aim for transparency is also displayed on each product page, where customers can read up on the available science and published articles that support each recommended product.

Care/of entered the vitamins and supplements market in a time of significant upheaval. Issues ranging from mislabeled ingredients to dangerous, unknown interactions with prescription medications have placed the industry under scrutiny. Considering three out of every four Americans take a dietary supplement on a regular basis, changes in the industry have the potential to impact a large number of consumers.

The growing turbulence within the industry has since prompted the FDA to issue a statement in early 2019, announcing its plans to strengthen regulatory control over the safety and quality of vitamins and supplements.

In a way, as a founder, you’re constantly trying to hire yourself out of a job. Which is much different than making all of the decisions early on.

Craig Elbert, co-founder and CEO, Care/of

Brand Building

Care/of's company mission is built on transparency — with the goal to build trust with its customers. Read more on how to build trust within your brand.

Startup struggles with adaptability and delegation

Care/of has been able to capitalize on a growing demand for more transparency in the industry; and, as a result, has experienced rapid growth within the D2C wellness space: Since its founding in 2016, Care/of is valued at $156 million.

With this fast-paced growth, Elbert quickly realized that Care/of had to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure was in place to keep supply consistent with the demand. He emphasized the needs to think ahead, anticipate and adapt along the way.

“Coming from a marketing background, one of my biggest [lessons] was on the operations side of the business — specifically being able to stay ahead of increased consumer demand with fulfillment centers,” he said. To keep up with this challenge, he emphasized the importance of having a fully functional warehouse and staying on top of the latest technology.

Delegating decision-making tasks was another struggle that Elbert felt as co-founder. “When you’re first building something, it’s a small team, and as a founder, you’re doing a lot of the work,” he explained. However, when the business grows, the team needs to scale along with it. This means finding the right employees who are trustworthy enough to take on tasks that the founders are comfortable with giving away.

“In a way, as a founder, you’re constantly trying to hire yourself out of a job. Which is much different than making all of the decisions early on,” he said.

 display of care/of products
A big portion of Care/of's mission is to disrupt the vitamin industry through transparency in ingredients and direct-to-consumer convenience. — Care/of

Employee retention through team bonding, flexibility and ‘low ego’

When it comes to his team of employees, Elbert said, Care/of has an excellent retention rate, and he credits that to focusing on balance within the office culture.

“We just conducted an employee survey where the majority of our team listed that they feel they have total autonomy and flexibility to work from wherever they need to,” he said.

In addition to flexible working arrangements, the company offers unlimited paid time off with a 12-day minimum, and fun team-bonding events like pizza Fridays, bowling and happy hours.

“Our company core values are founded on the ideas to be humble, be thoughtful, be different, be honest,” Elbert said, going on to explain that a defining characteristic of the Care/of team is their humility. “We have low ego around here.”

Keeping up with today’s tech-savvy, ‘Instagrammable’ age

A common question heard nowadays is, “If you didn’t post it, did it really happen?” Social media has enthralled the general public — and businesses have tweaked their business models as a result.

Care/of strives to meet the demands of consumers so used to posting moments from their everyday lives through its packaging: That’s why each daily personalized vitamin pack is printed with the customer’s name and an inspirational quote of the day, Elbert said. The goal here is to “create a simple experience that resonates with customers,” he said, and “add a bit of delight” to taking vitamins.

Also, customers are encouraged to download the Care/of app, where they can track their healthy habits daily to earn rewards, known as “carrots.” The intention behind this, Elbert explained, is to be able to engage with their customer base — providing news, building relationships and celebrating and encouraging milestones.

With its March 2019 product line expansion into personalized protein and boost powers, Elbert said the brand has plans to continue its growth into additional categories.

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