An interview with Hal Zabrin, owner of Max Muscle Sports Nutrition in Arlington Heights.
Q: Describe your business. What do you do?
A: Max Muscle Sports Nutrition is a health and nutrition store. We sell dietary supplements including proteins, pre and post workout products, nutraceuticals, weight loss and hormone support. We offer personalized meal planning blue prints through our proprietary software. We offer free nutrition consulting and body mass testing all done by our staff of certified nutrition coaches.
Q: What made you start your business?
A: This is a business that supports our family life style. My three sons that are involved with me in the business live very healthy lives. They have been able to make great personal and athletic gains through working out, eating right, resisting temptations that commonly effect people their age and also by supplementing their diet with healthy diet supplementation. I wanted them to learn first hand about building a business and what that entails and the dedication needed to be successful. This is a growing industry and the opportunity to be the first Max Muscle Sports Nutrition in the area was something we could be involved with as a family. Also, I have a life long friend Lou Again that is very knowledgeable about the nutrition industry through previous investments and jobs and was looking to get back into the business. Lou is the store manager and my main business consultant.
Q: How is your family involved with the business?
A: My son Jeff works remotely from school at ISU. He handles the social media outreach. He comes back to town about every third weekend and works in the store. My son Matthew works after school and on the weekends while going to Harper College. My son Jameson also is a student at Harper and works only on the weekends. We all work outside of the store doing nutrition seminars at fitness centers, schools and any other organizations that promote health and nutrition.
Q: What has been the most difficult obstacle in running or starting a small business?
A: For me the most difficult obstacle is time allocation that is needed to start and build a new brand in a new market. The Max Muscle Sports Nutrition brand is well known west of the Mississippi but not very well known yet in the Midwest. I have partnered with the company to develop here in Arlington Heights the concept of educating through guidance and selling of nutrition products. I work in the store on the weekends and some nights but my role is primarily on the marketing side. I have not quit my day job as of yet so finding time to do all the things necessary to promote the new store has been a challenge.
Q: What do you enjoy most about operating your business?
A: There are actually two things. I love challenges and building. This is the second (and last) business I will start in my lifetime. We have over 350 new customers that have purchased from our store in the five months we have been in business. Many of these customers have returned multiple times because they trust our staff and found benefit from what they bought. That is very rewarding and exciting for me. The second is the involvement with my sons and watching them grow as young men and watching them help others with knowledge of exercise and nutrition.
Q: Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young?
A: I thought that I could end up in retail someday and actually always wanted to be in retail but never imagined being in the health nutrition business.Actually, I am old school and never took much more than multiple vitamins as a supplement. When my boys started bringing home protein and other workout supplements I was not thrilled. I did much research on the industry and the products that they were taking which all parents should do as well.
What I found out through research is that the market is much bigger then I imagined. Even though I have participated in athletics my entire life and have stayed reasonably fit I found that many of these products could enhance my workouts and keep me healthy as well so I began taking them as well.
After college I went directly to the wholesale side and worked in sales for brand name consumer product companies selling housewares and home furnishings to the retail industry. I went from there into becoming an independent manufacturers representative working for myself with a partner about 25 years ago.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: Some nights I actually stay awake thinking of what I could do to enhance people to come into the store. That is a work in progress.
Q: If you could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?
A: If you are passionate and believe in your product and business model stay the course. In order to stay the course you must be properly financed so that you can build your business through marketing and effort. A dear friend that is in finance advised me that under financing was the reason for the majority of failed businesses so I made sure I was capitalized properly.
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