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Phil "The Gift"Heath, reigning and 5-time Mr. Olympia champion, has parted ways with supplement company, Gifted Nutrition. In this exclusive FLEX interview, Phil Heath explains the end of his association with Gifted Nutrition.
FLEX: What was your motivation for starting Gifted Nutrition?
PHIL HEATH: I was ready to start building my personal brand, what I envisioned as an elite health, wellness, and fitness brand. I wanted to create a company that would offer customers solid products that were tested for superior quality and taste. Other Mr. Olympias before me had started similar enterprises, and I thought I was ready to own a company that would provide me with greater financial stability after my competitive days were over.
In general, your Mr. O predecessors started their lines of products after they retired. Why not wait?
That’s true—it would’ve been a lot easier to work for another company while I’m still competing, but I wanted to take on the challenge of creating my own company. I have a business degree, and I know that starting any new business venture is extremely risky, but it was a move I thought I was ready to make. In hindsight, there might be some wisdom in waiting until retirement, when I could dedicate all my time to overseeing all aspects of the venture. What can I say? Some lessons you learn inexpensively, while others, unfortunately, can be very expensive.
What are some of the things you learned in launching Gifted?
It takes a lot to launch a supplement line! I learned how the sports nutrition industry works—from operations and financial breakdowns to product SKUs and marketing. I also learned that it is extremely difficult to create a supplement company in this over-saturated market, and that, in terms of success or failure, teamwork is a must in every aspect.
Why did you decide to leave the company you started?
Basically, I learned that the company finances had been mismanaged—by others who were in charge of day-to-day operations. Some people will say, ‘Hey, you were the President of GN for the last year—weren’t you also in charge of operations?’ But my role in the company, the job I performed by giving 100% effort toward the goal of growing Gifted, was making worldwide public appearances in support of GN, promoting GN products on multiple platforms—spreading the word wherever and whenever I could—and winning Mr. Olympia.
While I was out doing that job, there were others tasked with carrying out day-to-day financial operations, but they let me down. They let GN down. Sure, there were growing pains early on—for example, there was a manufacturer who falsely claimed they had FDA approval, and then we had to change manufacturers, which meant GN absorbed a huge loss. But finally, when there were signs of internal wrongdoing, conduct I couldn’t condone, it started to seem like there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
How much did you profit from Gifted Nutrition?
I never profited from GN. I never received a paycheck, nor was I reimbursed for my expenses. I paid for my own flights, hotels, food, and other expenses on numerous GN trips, which was contrary to my agreement with GN. To be clear, I did not finance the company, but I did pay for the company payroll twice after finding out that GN was unable to do so. In reality, I am a creditor of Gifted Nutrition.
You’ve talked a lot about the quality of GN products, and GN used your name/likeness to generate sales. By resigning, are you suggesting that either the products or the company were not up to your standards?
The products, in my opinion, were great! I took those products religiously. Honestly, I felt they worked so well that I wanted to endorse them. I believe that Gifted was putting out high-quality products. I loved all but a couple of them, not because they didn’t work, but because of the timing of their release dates and names. Using my likeness helped generate sales, but I believed in what I was promoting.
Will GN products still be available?
As far as I know, Gifted Nutrition products are still currently available.
What about your clothing line, Gifted Athletics?
The two companies are not affiliated. I still operate Gifted Athletics and continue moving forward with creating new product for this year.
Do you think this will hurt your image?
I hope that people will understand why I departed. I’ve already spoken with many clients who gave GN their business based solely upon my involvement, because I care about their well-being. I have always had a great reputation with people in the supplement industry and that will not change. As for fans—well, anyone who follows me knows that I went all-out for GN, and I think they’ll be shocked to learn that I didn’t profit at all. I conducted myself honorably. All in all, I left what had become a very negative situation for me, and regardless whether someone is a fan of mine or not, they should understand that this was the best route for me.
What are your future business plans in the industry?
My future consists of speaking with various companies within the industry, having important and fully transparent conversations, and signing with a new company. I have no legal restrictions whatsoever on doing business with anyone else in the industry or endorsing similar products. I will continue to travel to various events, participate in the same fashion as I have in the past with my Gifted Athletics clothing line, do training demos and seminars, and of course, prioritize my participation in the Olympia to bring home as many titles as possible! – FLEX