As consumers, we tend to trust the government to protect us and value our health. However, they don’t always do the best job. Did you know that just like the beauty industry, the vitamin industry is also extremely under-regulated? Yup, you can really get away with low-quality products these days. That is why it is so important to know the story behind brands and the authenticity behind the Maker. We got lucky to be introduced to Gem, a bite-size daily nutrient made with real food ingredients minus the fluff and synthetic fillers.
From one nomination to the next, the way we grow our RADICHE network of Maker’s is through word of mouth. After our last feature with Jenna Kerner from Harper Wilde, we were introduced to the lovely Sara Cullen, Founder, and CEO of Gem. “My inspiration for Gem came out of my own personal health struggle. At the time, back in 2016, I was working with start-ups, building things and simultaneously dealing with a lot of stress. The stress had manifested itself in ways like swelling, mood swings, low energy and breakouts on my skin. When I turned to the vitamin aisle for relief, it only made the matter worse. I then looked closely at the ingredients in these drugstore vitamins and realized that if you look behind the label there is so much sneaky stuff you don’t see because it is hidden.”
“We wanted to create a new delivery system for getting your vitamins.”
No one ever questions the origin of vitamins, yet we question everything we need to know about our meat, sometimes even the name of that fella (shoutout to T.V. show Portlandia!). During Sara’s quest to dig deeper she got inspired to start Gem in 2017. “I wanted to formulate specifically for women in order to give them the essentials needed to live a balanced and stress-free life.” Gem is powered by algae and includes 15+ vitamins, minerals, and herbs for optimal health.
Some fun facts about vitamins:
Vitamins are made with gelatin, the stuff left over from the meat industry such as pork skin, horns, and cattle bones.
90% of existing vitamin D comes from the wool of sheep. Gem derives theirs from mushrooms.
Testing The Market
When you go to raise VC funding, the main question you will get asked is how did you test the market? Fun fact: Sara was able to raise $750,000 in pre-seed funding! You go, girl! “We tested the market by creating an invite-only Facebook group in April 2018. We grew to over 300 women by word of mouth and were shocked by the community that came together to share inspiration around their health. We offered free samples to 150 of these women and received product feedback prior to launch. This is also how we figured out our product positioning.” Sara launched Gem on Product Hunt to gather more product feedback.
“We want to reframe how women think about health and nutrition.”
Rewind back to the early years, Sara grew up on a farm in Oregon. She had always been around food which piqued her interest in nutrition. After graduating from Cornell University, with a major in International Development, she traveled to Kenya, Morocco, and India to work with female entrepreneurs. “I started out working with the governments around their policies but quickly realized that this wasn’t the path for me and ended up joining Venture for America fellowship.” Later, she started her first business around CBD beverages back in 2016, but was way ahead of the market and ended up leaving. “I used to be referred to as the weed water woman in those days.”
Today, Gem has a team of 3 full-time employees and 4 part-time folks. Their first hire was a food scientist who helped them with product development. When we asked Sara for her advice she told us:
Everyone has their own path.
Learn what to prioritize and what matters the most to your customer.
Don’t romanticize the need for fundraising.
If all this talk about nutrients has got your tummy rumbling, then click here to try out Gem’s daily essentials. Priced at $39 for a monthly subscription, their product is gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free, emoji-free (jokes) and vegan. If that doesn’t sound like music to your microbiome, then we don’t know what will. Happy munching!
Photo courtesy of Gem.