FORT THOMAS, Ky. -- The brainchild of Fort Thomas resident Tim Mielke, SuppleMENTAL is an app, still in development, intended to help consumers make better decisions about what supplements to buy.
There’s not much to SuppleMENTAL yet -- not even a website, although that’s coming soon. But the potential market in the United States alone is huge: the $37 billion spent annually on dietary supplements.
Mielke didn’t want to spill too many details, for fear someone with deeper pockets would steal the idea. But he said users would create a profile of themselves, which the app would then use to tell them what they needed.
Where’d the idea come from?
When he was 14, Mielke started working out for football, he said, and fell in love with weightlifting. He got into competitive bodybuilding -- winning some state competitions -- which led him to start using and researching supplements.
After he graduated from Elder High School in 1998, he worked in the supplements industry, he said, where he helped customers find the right supplements and wrote dozens of articles about supplements for company websites. He also wrote and self-published two books, “The Supplement Guide: An Unbiased Review of the Best and Worst Sports Supplements” and “The Book of Supplement Secrets: A Beginner’s Guide to Nutritional Supplements."
Although he didn’t sell many of the books -- he had no marketing budget -- he received lots of good feedback from them. Then he realized that more people could get the information if it were an app.
In March 2015, he recruited a longtime friend, Greg Buns, whom he knew was good with computers, and Buns recruited Nick Moore to help build the app. After bonding over beers one night, they all became partners in SuppleMENTAL.
Do they have investors?
To this point, the partners have supplied a lot of sweat equity but put little money into the business other than attorney’s fees. They hope to pick up investors in February, when they participate in the demo day for UpTech, the Covington business accelerator.
Being one of the nine startups chosen for UpTech’s latest class, which began in September, was a big break for the company, particularly since they didn’t even have a prototype of their app.
UpTech was looking for “coachable, driven and smart teams who are able to learn and build quickly,” UpTech Program Director J.B. Woodruff said. Mielke’s team fit that description, he said, and he liked Mielke’s passion for, knowledge of and contacts in the supplements industry.
“We gambled a bit on the lack of prototype, but it’s still early, and we’re going to push Tim as far as we need to,” Woodruff said.
Meanwhile, Mielke wants to start working full time on the app -- he now splits his time between that and his remodeling business, Mielke Home Improvements. If the company gets investors on demo day, that can happen in February. If not, he’s hoping it will happen this summer, when the app starts making money.
How will the app make money?
In at least two ways, Mielke said. Firstly, users will use it to buy supplements from the company. Secondly, the company’s creating a database of information about supplements, which it hopes to sell to supplement manufacturers.
Long-term, Mielke said, he’d like to partner with the Food and Drug Administration, which doesn’t currently regulate supplements, to bring some integrity to the industry, which he described as mostly shady. There are too many supplements for sale that don’t contain what they say they do, he said, or have actively harmful ingredients.
The most common mistake supplement buyers make, he said, is to buy a product simply because it’s new -- without doing any research on it.
“Just because it’s new, doesn’t mean it’s any good,” he said.