Stephen Adelé, founder, President and CEO of Golden, Colo.-based iSatori, Inc. (OTCQB: IFIT), talks with Opportunist’s Managing Editor Leslie Stone about his company’s scientifically engineered nutritional supplements for healthier lifestyles, his best-selling book Diets Suck!, and his ambition to change the shape of America … one body at a time.
It’s hard to dispute the fact that, as a nation, the United States is getting fatter every year. Obesity in American adults has more than doubled in the last two decades alone and, according to a report in the Journal of Health Economics [Vol. 31, Issue 1, Jan. 2012], obesity-related health problems cost Americans $190 billion in additional medical spending every year. Is our fast-food culture with its super-sized portions to blame? Or is our sedentary, car-dependent lifestyle the culprit? Even for experts, determining the cause—much less the remedy—has proven difficult. As a result, people often turn in desperation to fad diets and quick-fix weight loss products—only to be let down when the pounds pile back on.
Stephen Adelé has vowed to become a voice of reason and truth in an industry where bogus, too-good-to-be-true remedies are plentiful. His company, iSatori, Inc., has developed a line of nutritional products and solutions to help with weight management, building a stronger body and living a healthier life. “Our passion is to transform this country from the most unfit and unhealthiest to the fittest and healthiest nation in the world,” he exclaims. “Our products are deeply rooted and designed on the basis of legitimate scientific studies not pseudoscience, and we aren’t just people who design supplements—we are practitioners who use them. I’m not a muscle head—I have a family and a business—but I enjoy getting up and working out every morning. So I know our products will do what they claim to do and live up to our expectations. While many other companies in our industry tend to talk about science, we perform the gold standard of clinical studies—randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled independent tests to stand head and shoulders above the rest.”
Opportunist: How did you get into the fitness and nutrition industry?
Stephen Adelé: I married my two passions: an entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiasm for fitness. From as early as I can remember I’ve been an entrepreneur. I remember taking clippings from my mom’s houseplants and repotting them and selling them around the neighborhood to create value for others while making money. [Laughs] The first time I touched weights was at 12 years old and I’ve enjoyed what it does for you, both aesthetically and health-wise, ever since. I became a competitive bodybuilder and built up a repertoire of competition wins. I’ve been blessed to be involved in two companies with breakthrough products. First with MET-RX meal replacements and then with EAS, formerly known as Experimental & Applied Sciences. EAS revolutionized the supplement industry by bringing creatine to market.
Opportunist: When did you decide to launch your own company?
Stephen Adelé: We grew EAS and it was eventually sold to Abbott Laboratories for $320 million. At that time I thought it would be a great opportunity to take both of my passions as well as everything I learned at EAS and start my own company. I didn’t get the quote-unquote payout when Abbott purchased EAS, so I used my own credit card and the $50,000 I borrowed from family and friends to start iSatori. We launched our first product in 2002, and this company has always been what you could call grassroots and creative in terms of our ability to design innovative products and engage with customers. It was built on the basis of our values, which are pretty straightforward. At the end of the day I always want to be able to look in the mirror and know I did not lie, cheat or steal to build this company into an industry leader.
Opportunist: What is the meaning behind the name?
Stephen Adelé: Satori originates from the Japanese word satori, which means to have an epiphany or an awakening where once you have the answers suddenly anything seems possible. We added the ‘i’ to make it personal. I believe everyone has a satori moment in their life, where they don’t like the way they look and want to improve their physical appearance. It’s our job at iSatori to extend our hand and help you go from where you are now to where you want to be.
Opportunist: Please tell us about your scientifically engineered Eat-Smart products.
Stephen Adelé: When most people visualize a perfect, healthy meal they probably imagine a plate of salmon, fresh broccoli and brown rice. Their body looks at that meal in terms of how much protein, good carbs, fiber and essential fats are inside. When you look at Eat-Smart the name says what it is and does. We engineered Eat-Smart to contain all the nutrients of the perfect meal, with the right combination of protein and carbs in the form of whey protein and oats and added essential fats, fiber and probiotics and enzymes. It comes in a powder that can be made into a milkshake or a convenient bar for eating anytime, anywhere. I call it fast food for the 21st century. It’s ideal for those of us who are active because it’s convenient and it takes the guesswork out of eating. And to top it off, it tastes absolutely delicious.
Stephen Adelé: Our Eat-Smart products are for weight loss, weight management or just healthy on-the-go nutritional supplementation. I put the small Eat-Smart bar inside each of my three kids’ lunches every day because it’s good for them and they like the taste.
Eat-Smart brings a different approach to weight management. Everybody hates dieting and thinks it’s no fun, and Eat-Smart is very intuitive and takes the guesswork out of eating smarter. People get confused on what is good and bad and what portion they should eat. These meal replacements are a great way to manage your weight or to lose weight and transform the way you look.
Opportunist: What is unique about your newest product, Bio-Gro?
Stephen Adelé: This is one of those really special products that come around once in your career, if you’re lucky. Similar to MET-RX with its meal replacements and EAS with creatine, we believe we are creating a new category with this brand-new product. Bio-Gro was developed and patented based on bioactive peptides or BAP for short. This supplement is basically a flavorless powder that can be mixed into your shake, oatmeal or your yogurt. These bioactive peptides essentially tell the body—in working with your natural biochemistry—to repair and rebuild muscle tissues at a faster rate than it can on its own. It allows you to recover faster, improve your strength and, with continued use over time, develop new muscle. We are the first to bring these BAPs to market and we are really excited about it. And market reception has been pretty incredible, right from the start.
Opportunist: Is Bio-Gro specifically for body builders?
Stephen Adelé: I would position Bio-Gro more toward someone who is looking to develop lean body mass aesthetically. Right now the product has a niche for workout enthusiasts, but we believe its applications are as far reaching as the imagination can see. In the first year, we sold 10 times more of the supplement than we originally anticipated. We believe there will be a wide array of applications for Bio-Gro that will extend into medical foods and enhancement of food and beverages.
Opportunist: Where can people find your products?
Stephen Adelé: Our products are available for purchase from Amazon to GNC and up into Walmart and almost everywhere in between. Not all products are available in all places. Right now Bio-Gro is available at major specialty retailers and places like GNC, Vitamin Shoppe and Vitamin World. It is also available online at bodybuilding.com or tigerfitness.com. And, of course, our products are available via our website, iSatori.com.
Opportunist: Not just anybody can get their product on the shelves at Walmart. How did iSatori get there?
Stephen Adelé: With lots of persistence. [Laughs] Seriously, we have some very experienced team members who have brought with them a lot of previous relationships they built up through the years. It takes a combination of efforts to move your products from the direct sales, specialty stores and up into mass market retail.
First and foremost, it takes a good product that fits the consumer’s needs and that is going to get a high repeat purchase rate. Second, you need solid, experienced team members who have expertise in dealing with all the mass marketing channels. Third, you need a robust marketing plan that helps the mass-market buyer, if you will, understand how you’re going to generate customers for that product. All of this must be underpinned with a proven track record in direct and specialty marketing and sales. That trifecta must exist and has to be proven before it’s accepted into the mass market. And even then, there are no guarantees. I have been fortunate to be able to attract top talent in terms of management for our company, many of who were previously with me at EAS and others who have come from other large companies, such as Spectrum Brands [Rayovac Batteries], and a previous executive at Valeant Pharmaceuticals.
It certainly helps when you have a bit of luck on your side, too. For instance, one of our products appeared on ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ a few weeks ago, and that has done some wonderful things for our brand as well.
Opportunist: What is your iFit Training service?
Stephen Adelé: iFit is about providing a total solution to a customer’s needs and not just a product. See, oftentimes, we tend to get caught up in developing new product innovations and it can be really easy to forget about the customer’s primary goals in terms of the way they think. Experience shows customers think about their goals first and then the products that can help them get there. For example, I might want to know everything about how to lose body fat and which products iSatori makes that can help me do that. iFit Training works backwards in educating and teaching the customer what they need to know in order to achieve their goals, through videos, articles and workout and nutrition plans, and then integrating the recommendation of an iSatori product.
Opportunist: What sets iSatori apart from the competition?
Stephen Adelé: Three things make us quite unique in our industry: iSatori is deeply rooted in science, our team’s experience and we are extremely passionate about what we do. The fact that we use our own supplements really shines through. Our products do what they say and live up to our expectations because they are clinically studied. Our marketing and the way in which we reach and engage with our customers is genuine, caring and transparent. I, as the CEO, am willing to put myself out there, and we have removed the big corporate wall. Every night I get out there and respond to every single person who has responded to what we do. These are the things that, when combined, have proven to separate us from our competitors.
Stephen Adelé: With this book, the approach we took was completely different from all other books out there regarding weight loss. All the others are written in what I call prescription style, where a guru or doctor says ‘This is my way and this is how you do it.’ We wrote Diets Suck! as a narrative of parables based on true events. Seven very real and inspiring transformation stories each deliver a lesson designed to be a ‘homework assignment’ for readers to apply in their life. We hope readers will develop these new habits that will, ultimately, produce a successful and lasting physical and emotional transformation. The book was launched about three weeks ago and hit No. 9 on the Amazon Best Sellers list out of 46 million books. I’m not a nationally acclaimed author and I don’t have my own TV show, so I thought we did a great job of putting this book on the map. If you read the reviews you will see that a lot of people just enjoyed reading it. It’s a real page-turner. Some people said they started it and couldn’t put it down that first night. We intend to reach a lot of new people with Diets Suck!, connect them to iSatori and, in the process, transform a lot of lives.
Opportunist: We understand you were named ‘Best Boss in America’ by Fortune magazine and ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ by Ernst & Young. How did that make you feel?
Stephen Adelé: We have won all kinds of awards over the years and those are a signal that we are on the right track, but it comes down to the fact that we have a team of good people who are passionate about what we do every day. To paraphrase singer Bob Dylan, ‘If you lift your head off the pillow in the morning and lay your head back down on the pillow at night, and you enjoyed and were passionate about everything in between then you’re successful.’ Every time we go into a new store, my girls run over to see our products. That makes me feel successful. When I see people in my company achieving things and growing and becoming better at what they do it certainly makes me feel successful. Hitting our next financial milestone of over $250 million market cap will make all of us feel successful, especially our shareholders.
Opportunist: What role does social media play in marketing iSatori?
Stephen Adelé: We are very active on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Each of those serve a bit of a different purpose in the way they bring forth information and allow us to engage with consumers and build a strong and loyal customer base. For some companies social media is all about promotion, promotion, promotion ... and ‘you should buy from us,’ etc. We find that social media is a great way to engage with consumers and talk with them and listen and be transparent and break down those barriers. We also use it for vetting our ideas faster. Sometimes we think we have the greatest ideas and consumers will tell us if they like or dislike something.
Opportunist: When did you take the company public and have your expectations been met?
Stephen Adelé: The company went public in 2012. First and foremost, when you transition from private to public is your willingness to kind of stand there with your drawers around your ankles, so to speak. [Laughs] You have to be willing to say ‘I am OK with everyone—including my competitors—looking at my financials.’ It wasn’t very difficult for me because I was always transparent. Seeing our stock symbol in the ticker made me awfully proud of what we have achieved. Broadening the reach of our shareholder base, whether through institutional or even customer participation, was something that has always excited me. Secondarily, I believe the ability to gain or have access to additional growth capital was certainly intriguing in terms of being a public growth company. So far, our transition from private to public has been very successful and we couldn’t be more excited about the future.
Opportunist: What else is on the agenda for 2014?
Stephen Adelé: We still have a lot of work to do with Bio-Gro in our efforts to reach more people and design new opportunities around this ground-breaking new development. We will continue to focus on product development and opening more new retail partners coming on board in an effort to increase distribution of our products.
This weekend we will be in Columbus, Ohio, at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Fitness event where we will interact with thousands of consumers. We will also sponsor and participate in the Mr. Olympia event in Las Vegas next September, and a number of Europa Games shows and scientific conferences in between.
Humbly, we participate with Feeding America, an organization that is very dear to my heart. I grew up pretty dirt poor and my mom and I relied on the local food bank to get quite a few of our groceries from time to time. Now that I am in a fortunate situation where I am blessed, we donate a portion of our Eat-Smart bars to the local food banks and Feed America so kids get sent home with a backpack filled with food.
Opportunist: Where do you see iSatori in five years?
Stephen Adelé: Our goals are to have a market cap of well over $250 million, and I don’t see that as being difficult to achieve considering the direction we are headed. I would certainly like to become a household name for workout enthusiasts, and be found in their cupboards if you will. We want to be able to reach and change the lives of over a million people in terms of helping them transform how they look and feel. Given the current atmosphere around health and wellness and all the concerns about the new healthcare systems and well-being—whether improving ourselves as a nation is a fad or a long-term trend—we are excited to be part of that growth and that opportunity.
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer/editor with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance, real estate and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides in Florida. Follow her on Twitter at @lescstone.
iSatori - www.iSatori.com
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iSatori YouTube Channel - http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqKgiCX6LqgRZxNhBeHohFg
Diets Suck! Available at Amazon.com - http://www.amazon.com/Remarkably-Inspiring-Physical-Emotional-Transformation/dp/0986069809