Sunday October 25, 2020

Making It Work: Health start-up supplements sales with online subscriptions

Vitropics has more than 500 stockists in Ireland, but it hopes a new online subscription service launched during lockdown will help it to scale overseas

18th October, 2020
Donna Ledwidge, Co-Founder of Vitropics Picture: Fergal Philips

An online subscription service launched during lockdown is yielding positive results for Vitropics, the health supplement start-up established last year by friends Donna Ledwidge and Renee O’Shaughnessy.

Ledwidge describes Triumph, Vitropic’s first product, as a cyclical supplement designed to provide women with vitamin and mineral blends tailored to the different phases of their monthly menstrual cycle.

Vitropics launched Triumph in March 2019 and has since picked up more than 500 stockists in Ireland, including health-food outlets and pharmacy chains such as Boots, Lloyds and Meaghers.

Now Ledwidge and O’Shaughnessy have shifted focus and hope that their new online subscription service will allow Vitropics to scale faster overseas.

“The lockdown really set us on a new path. It showed us a completely new way of working,” Ledwidge said.

“We’d always intended to do online subscriptions at some stage, but Covid pushed us to do it immediately. Auto-delivery is really the big focus for us now.”

Customers who sign up to a Triumph subscription at vitropics.com can choose a monthly delivery date in line with their menstrual cycle.

According to Ledwidge, they can skip, cancel or pause their subscription at any time and, at €29.99 per month, the price is lower than the €45 retail equivalent.

Vitropics is using 2Flow, an outsourced fulfilment partner in Dublin, to handle deliveries to Triumph customers in Ireland, but Ledwidge and O’Shaughnessy hope to set up their own fulfilment centres in other markets to facilitate future growth outside the country.

“We want to open a fulfilment centre in Britain early next year, so we can grow the online subscription business over there,” Ledwidge said.

“We had planned to expand into the UK through distributors supplying bricks-and-mortar retailers but now, with Brexit around the corner, selling online will be the main focus for us there.”

Beyond Britain, Ledwidge and O’Shaughnessy hope to expand into other European countries and, from there, into China, the Middle East and the US.

They are in the process of developing further nutraceutical supplements for prenatal and menopausal women in conjunction with Bioshell Teoranta, the Mayo-based manufacturer of healthcare products.

Ledwidge, who lives in Wicklow, opened her first beauty business in Dublin at the age of just 20 in 2004. She ran High Maintenance Beauty Parlour in Donnybrook for four years and went on to co-found Wow Brown, the Irish tanning brand, in 2008.

She subsequently brought to market Dream Dots, an overnight patch treatment for spots, and worked as a consultant for Viviscal, another Irish supplement brand, before setting up Vitropics.

“I’ve built up a really good network of contacts in retail and distribution all over the world and I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to take a product from concept to shelf. You can never stop learning though,” Ledwidge said.

“What we’ve learned this year is how immensely important it is to have more than one way of bringing in revenue.

“Covid has shown us all how quickly the market can change. Our retail arm was badly affected so we had to pivot very quickly online.

“I spent quite a few sleepless nights in the spare bedroom getting everything ready for the subscription site. In the end, we were able to get it coded and ready to go live in just two weeks.”

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