In 2017, Jonathan Lemkin founded the UnNaturals – a vitamin and supplement company – after working in law enforcement as a police officer for many years. With a lifelong passion for fitness, Lemkin has since grown the UnNaturals into a leading fitness supplement brand with an internal mission to “Represent the truth.”
Lemkin says the truth is that “people want to achieve their goals as quickly as possible.” And as a result, they “are willing to do whatever it takes to get there as quickly as possible. That ideal is the direction we want to take with the company’s brand,” he says.
The vitamin and supplement industry is hotter than ever. Over the previous five years, Americans have become increasingly health-conscious and supplement companies continued to introduce new products. “Rising pharmaceutical drug prices, increased media coverage on health and wellness trends and the rise in research of diet-related illnesses encouraged consumers of all ages to turn to dietary supplements,” according to IBISWorld reports.
Overall, industry revenue is anticipated to grow an annualized 2.0% to $32.7 billion, the market is backed by rising health awareness among consumers, coupled with a considerable rise in the number of fitness centers and gymnasiums, and the UnNaturals is building a big business around supplements for people who are passionate about fitness and bodybuilding.
Quickly emerging as a leader in North America, the largest market for dietary supplements in 2018, Lemkin has his sights set on unnatural (pun-intended) growth and expects to propel the demand of his product in the forthcoming years.
The business is built on the UnNatural’s offering of supplements for both men and women and branded fitness apparel. The company boasts a diverse product line with a best-seller called TrenRage, a pre-workout supplement that claims to boost workout performance if you consume it beforehand.
We had a chance to connect with Jonathan Lemkin, the founder and CEO, to discuss his start by helping regular people achieve their goals, his view on trends in the supplement industry, and his best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Helping people achieve their fitness goals and doing whatever it takes
Like many entrepreneurs, Jonathan Lemkins’ motivation to start a business were two-fold: personal freedom and helping others. “I became an entrepreneur for the freedom that it allowed,” says Lemkin. “I am able to create my own schedule. I wanted to be involved in something that I was passionate about but at the same time I craved freedom from the 9-5.”
Lemkin bet on himself to break-free from the 9-5 lifestyle he was accustomed to. “Working a 9-5 job restricted what I was passionate about, which was working out and the idea of being my own boss. Mathematically, you can only make so much per hour, so in my head I knew I had to figure out a better way.”
Meanwhile, some might say he was destined to disrupt the vitamin and supplement industry. “My size had always opened doors for me since I was 6’5” and 250 lbs. I was always approached by people who wanted help (whether it was friends, family, or strangers at the gym). When people asked for help, I gave it to them. When I lost my job in 2010, I went back to what I knew best, which was helping people –– and it was free.”
“There was a point in my life when I didn’t want to wake up in the morning because I had a ton of terrible things happen to me. Somehow, I managed to go back to the only thing that made me happy, working on myself and my physical fitness. I started posting pictures and soon I found that even though I had nothing, I was helping strangers who were reaching out to me via social media. Now I realize that when you have nothing, don’t ask people for s**t, offer yourself.”
Fitness in a swipe right, delivered to your door, instant gratification culture
“Food, relationships, and physical fitness. When it comes to these three things, everybody looks for the easiest, quickest way out, but nobody is willing to put in the work,” says Lemkin.
We are increasingly ordering food through apps on our smartphones or by calling in, while restaurant visits wane. We can be in touch 24/7 but we still can’t communicate and want to keep our options open. Boutique fitness studios and “high-value, low-price” (HVLP) health clubs are growing in number, yet memberships go unused.
“Be the best version of yourself, without selling false hopes.”
“We all know that anything in life takes hard work… People want instant gratification.” With the culmination of these dueling realities in mind, Lemkin recognizes the truth. A truth, he says, that is pivotal to his brand. The UnNaturals “is about trying to get people to their goals as quickly as possible, but at the same time we want to make it known that there is no way to outsmart the way you train in the gym or get away with an improper diet.”
“People want to take supplements to achieve their goals quicker,” he adds.
Great products, and brands, sell themselves
A brand called the UnNaturals isn’t an obvious choice for a supplement company–especially one competing in a crowded market where customers are increasingly fixated on products that use the word “natural” in their marketing campaigns. However, for Lemkin, a self-proclaimed “non-conformist,” this is precisely the type of truth the fitness industry needs and brand message he wanted to create.
“The word ‘natural’ in my opinion means anything that has not been contaminated. A brand called ‘UnNaturals’ goes against the grain of the norm… it triggers most people,” he says. “In the supplement industry, anything that is ‘good for you’ is often labeled a natural product. The question is ‘What is really good for us?’ Today, we have two distinct groups of people: those who are willing to use science as a secret weapon, and others who want to be all-natural.”
The bottom line is “synthetic nutrients are dietary supplements made artificially in a laboratory setting or industrial process. Natural nutrients are those found in whole foods.” And most supplements available on the market today are made artificially.
“Even if you buy a vegan protein, it is still made in a laboratory and is synthetic [or made artificially],” he adds.
For the UnNaturals, and whichever camp you belong to – the key is transparency. “A good product will sell itself,” Lemkin asserts.
Don’t just know your customers, know them better
Nearly every industry has been impacted by the rise of the self-directed consumer. Customers are increasingly relying on alternative channels to identify targeted health needs. McKinsey reports that “70% of Americans use the Internet to access information that could help them make better health decisions.” This trend has benefited the vitamin and supplement industry because many purchases are the direct result of consumers taking their health into their own hands.
Lemkin has noticed the direct impact on his business. “The average consumer is highly educated due to readily available information online. Customers want a cutting-edge supplement that is safe and can help them achieve their goals in the quickest way possible,” he says. “The customer is smart and wants to make smart choices.”
“We have the most knowledgeable and educated customers that believe in our products. They are looking for cutting-edge supplements for muscle gain and fat loss while doing so in a safe manner.”
While the UnNaturals is perceived as “hardcore” coupled with a self-proclaimed “unique and funny” brand identity, “once you look at the ingredients, you will realize that we are one of the more serious companies,” Lemkin told YFS Magazine.
Staking your claim in a high-stakes industry
“Do not get involved in an industry unless you are passionate about it,” Lemkin warns aspiring entrepreneurs.
When asked to share his best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Lemkin advises, “You should always have more moves than an octopus, and never depend on a single source of income because you never know what could happen.”
Meanwhile, mistakes can become a force multiplier for entrepreneurs who are willing to learn from them. “I made mistakes with improper training and improper diet, and the only way we can learn is by making mistakes. I might not have the book smarts or a degree, but I have the experience from trial and error,” he adds.
“The only competition you should have is with the person in the mirror. God created us all and we are all unique as individuals… The average guy that just wants to be healthy is not stepping on stage to be judged. They just want self-betterment.”
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