Ours is not the typical story of a well-planned and perfectly executed rise to business success.
We’d like to say we had plans from the very beginning to become Australia’s biggest retailer of health and fitness supplements. We really would! But that would be overstating our business talent. It would also ignore the powerful influence of passion on the story of our growth.
Back to the beginning
The truth is that we’re singularly obsessed with everything connected to health and fitness, and we have been from the very beginning.
We love seeing people succeed in their wellbeing goals. We’re desperately passionate about helping people live better lives. That’s the secret sauce that has flavoured our own success as a business.
Actually, in the beginning we had not much to do with supplements and more to do with workouts. In 2005, three fitness obsessed siblings – ex-Socceroo Sebastian Giampaolo, who had also played for APIA, Inter Monaro and Heidelberg in the heady days of the National Soccer League, and his younger brothers Tony and Joe – opened a gym in Canberra’s Woden.
That gym had a small shop that sold supplements. The shop was almost an afterthought, but it quickly became the focus.
As customers began to appreciate the fitness and wellbeing benefits offered by the supplements, the three brothers realised after just a few months that there may be a niche for such products. They jumped on a plane to the USA and signed a deal with one of the best supplement brands at the time to sell their products in Australia.
The brothers’ new business was called Elite Distributors. Under that banner, magic began to happen.
Our first shop is born
In Garema Place, the epicentre of Canberra’s retail soul, our first Elite Supplements store was opened in 2007. It was managed by Sebastian’s son, Domenic.
Proving the apple never falls far from the tree, Domenic had played football for Australia’s U21 team and with the Olyroos, Australia’s national U23 team, at the Youth Olympics in 2006 in Sydney.
“Running that store was a lot of fun and a fantastic learning experience,” Domenic, now Director of Elite Supplements, says.
Miki, Tony’s son, is also deeply involved in leading the business as another Director. It’s still a family business, still locally owned and still 100% Australian.
“Looking back, all of that contact with passionate customers, people who were interested in living the healthiest life, was invaluable,” Domenic says. “It still influences a lot of my decisions today. It ensures we are always about the customer.”
With passion comes growth
When a business is passionate about what it does, and about customer success, growth comes naturally.
Between 2007 and 2010, five stores opened. Then another 13 appeared by 2015. Now there are 50 stores – 18 company outlets and the rest franchises.
“We’re extremely proud of the franchise model we’ve built,” Domenic says. “We feel that in the health and nutrition space we’ve created Australia’s best franchise model.”
“It took Miki and I over 12 months to develop. It was a massive struggle, a huge challenge, and we’re super proud of it. It is turnkey from the start. It is deeply integrated digitally and shaped to ensure every business owner knows and treats its customers as individuals with unique lifestyle goals, fitness targets and personal motivations.”
Along the way, at Elite Supplements we’ve been very aware of our own health and wellbeing. We’re told we’ve become the ACT’s biggest ecommerce business, for example. That requires a lot of work.
We don’t want growth to consume our lives but we realise, as with our customers, our lives are becoming busier and more demanding than ever.
“So we get it,” Domenic says. “We know our customers because we love to communicate with them, and because they are no different to us.”
“Our customers are hard workers with complex lives and who are passionate about living well. Our mission, and what a brilliant one it is, is to help make that a reality.”