Meet the vitamin start-up beating major brands on Instagram
Nutritionist Jessica Sepel on leveraging social media to grow her multimillion-dollar vitamin empire.
When Jessica Sepel first launched her health blog in 2012, body positivity wasn’t a buzzword, being healthy was often code for being skinny, and wellness and beauty were two distinctly separate sectors.
It was against this backdrop that Sepel, a nutritionist, started posting about her own health journey, and gradually building an audience who loved her warm and relatable mix of health tips and self-love advice.
Today, Sepel presides over a multimillion-dollar empire dominated by a hugely successful vitamin and supplement range, as well as books, an eight-week program and an app.
What hasn’t changed is Sepel’s devotion to community building, which she credits as one of the key reasons for her vitamin range’s success. “I think people appreciate having me as the face of the brand, especially knowing that I’m a nutritionist and not a celebrity. They can connect with me and it’s a tangible and relatable connection.”
That’s not to say that Sepel simply parlayed social media fame into sales. When she launched her vitamin business, JSHealth, she had 60,000 followers; today that’s grown to more than 550,000 across three accounts (@jshealth, @jshealthvitamins and @jshealthapp).
The secret is personal, accessible content and a commitment to community, says Sepel, who spends three hours every day on social media, responding to DMs, writing candid captions for her posts and engaging with individuals.
Sepel launched JSHealth in 2018 after attempting – and ultimately failing – to launch a food product. After setting out to create a healthy Coco Pops cereal alternative, the nutritionist decided that the ingredients were too expensive and the market too competitive, and pivoted to vitamins, which were a longtime passion.
It took two years to develop the range, and Sepel almost gave up after spending tens of thousands of dollars on two different manufacturers who couldn’t deliver on what she required.
After eventually finding the right manufacturer in Australia, Sepel’s next challenge was to create the formulas with a team of experts. “We spent a lot of time perfecting the formulas, making sure the ingredients were well researched and high quality, and using therapeutic dosages. A lot of companies don’t use therapeutic doses, because it’s expensive, but we do.”
Today, the JSHealth Vitamins range features products that specifically target women aged 18 to 55, including anxiety and stress formulations, hormone and PMS support, and collagen supplements.
Next to her brightly coloured competitors, Sepel’s products stand out with their stylish, clean white labels and rose gold accents. But that’s not the only difference between JSHealth and its rivals. On social media, JSHealth takes a markedly different approach to content; compared to the heavily stylised social media feeds of most vitamin companies – which tend to be dominated by sterile product shots – Sepel’s posts feel real and relatable.
“If I post my really messy five-minute work lunch of pasta with a napolitana sauce, people relate to that more than a polished, perfectly edited photo,” explains Sepel. JSHealth also makes use of user-generated reviews, which are posted on its website and to social media, often using before and after shots to illustrate the health transformation. As a result, JSHealth has up to five times the social media followings of some of the largest, global vitamin brands.
If I post my really messy five-minute work lunch of pasta, people relate to that more than a polished, perfectly edited photo.”- Jessica Sepel
“Unlike the big brands, we are very much in touch with our community, and every single product has been created for them,” says Sepel, who personally checks in with customers and sends out care packages to the 20-odd “JSHealth girls” who’ve supported her since the beginning.
In 2021, Sepel plans to launch several new formulations – including a male hair growth and libido blend – and two (currently top-secret) new verticals on the JSHealth website.
With the global beauty supplements industry projected to be worth US$6.8 billion by the end of 2024, Sepel also plans to continue building her beloved community, not only in Australia, but globally, too. “We’re focusing on international expansion in 2021. JSHealth has an intimacy with our customers that the big brands don’t have.”
JSHealth founder and director Jessica Sepel’s three pieces of advice for starting a new business:
Embrace your challenges. “Don’t wish your challenges away because they will strengthen your business. When we created JSHealth Vitamins, we had at least three failures before we found the right manufacturer who shares our passion. Don’t be afraid of the tough times because, ultimately, they turn into blessings. Use your failures as motivation to keep going.”
Be consistent on social media. “Your tone of voice and your mission has to infiltrate every part of your business and be consistent throughout all of your content, including your Instagram captions, eDMs and website copy. I’m so lucky that the JSHealth team understands our brand and genuinely care about our community. We get a lot of requests from influencers and celebrities wanting to try our product, but we only engage with influencers who love our brand and are excited to share their before-and-after photos. For example, Martha [Kalifatidis, of Married at First Sight fame] actually carries the vitality and collagen blend in her bag [her @JSHealthVitamins post received 23,200 likes in 24 hours]. As the director, it’s my job to oversee everything and make sure all the teams are speaking the same language – across digital, graphics, customer support and growth – to make sure the messaging is consistent.”
Stay authentic. “Above all else, I think it’s important to stay connected to your mission. It’s my heartfelt purpose to help people live a healthy life, and I’ve maintained that throughout my business journey.”
Alley Pascoe is a journalist who has written for marie claire, Sunday Style and Stellar. Photography by Waded.
All references to any registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Afterpay does not endorse or recommend any one particular supplier and the information provided is for educational purposes only.