In small towns, the nutrition supplement market is often dominated by one or two big chain stores.
The only place Winona citizens can buy pre-workout supplements is GNC or Walmart and the options are limited to what those chains wish to sell.
Winona State student Michael Bennett said he was dissatisfied with the lack of healthy options and decided to create his own supplement company.
Raw Dog Supplements LLC was created because Bennett said he was tired of paying a large mark-up for products containing artificial ingredients.
“Basically in here you got nine ingredients. All 100% pure,” Bennett said while holding a container of his pre-workout. “No additives, no fillers, no proprietary blends, no colors, no artificial flavors. Everything about it is natural.”
Bennett said many companies throw a wide range of ingredients in their products consumers don’t know about.
These ingredients are hidden behind names such as “proprietary blend.”
Bennett is concerned someone new to the gym will consume these products without knowing what it contains
“I just wasn’t having what other companies were throwing in their products,” Bennett said.
“There’s a better way to achieve those results than what other companies are providing. I think I’ve got down the most effective way”
Bennett’s personal trainer and long-time friend Sam Ziemke has been making pre-workout concoctions for years and said he’s happy to see Bennett make a business out of it.
Ziemke said he believes much of the supplement industry is detrimental to the health of consumers.
He said many of those artificial stimulants added to these products can hurt the adrenal glands, kidneys and heart.
“These bigger supplement companies like C-4 will spend most of their money on promoting the product with celebrities who don’t even take the stuff,” Ziemke said. “They could be putting that money into adding more and better ingredients into their product.”
On top of the health concerns, Ziemke criticized the mark-up pricing of popular supplements.
He said one scoop of C-4 is like paying $3 for one serving of pre-workout while Raw Dog is priced at $1 per serving.
Keith Jones, an employee at GNC in Winona, said while they don’t carry a lot of pre-workout supplements without additives or stimulants, there are options within the store.
“We do have one or two that I know of that are not only stimulant free – they have a lot less additives,” Jones said. “We don’t have a lot of those in store, though, which is unfortunate. We need to branch out a little bit.”
While there isn’t a lot of pure pre-workout options, Jones said they carry a line of vegan protein, organic green juice complexes and other supplements regarding holistic health.
Jones said he takes pride in educating customers about exactly what Is in products before he recommends anything for them to buy.
After, he said it’s up to the customer.
“The best I can do is tell them what we have in the store,” Jones said. “If they don’t like it or can’t accept it then I’m sure they’ll find what they want online.”
Bennett said this is why he believes Raw Dog is important – a clean product is available in Winona for local pickup or delivery.
Although Bennett is registered as a Limited Liability Company and said he would love to make money from his company, he is doing this because it’s a passion and he wants to be able to offer something he believes in to others.
“I’m not about trying to make a ton of money off of it,” Bennett said. “I’m trying to give the people what they want. I’m hearing a lot of feedback and I’m loving it.”
Bennett said he has invested between $5,500 and $6,000 total.
This includes the industrial mixer, the raw products, containers, silica packets, container seals, tee-shirts, LLC registration, scoops, labels, stickers and a website.
Bennett said after a few months he has made around $3,000.
“That is much better than I ever expected,” Bennett said. “I have all these supplements that don’t go bad for three years now and I’m already about half way to making my money back.”
Bennett said he would be fine not making all his money back.
What he has gained through experience and knowledge is more valuable to him than money.
This same mentality is why Bennett isn’t concerned with expanding past Winona.
For the time being, he said he wants to continue doing what he loves and master the market in Winona.
“When I’m not at one of my three jobs, this is what I’m doing,” Bennett said. “This is my heart and soul. As corny as it sounds, this is what I enjoy doing.”