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Supplement firm puts fizz in sales

Fledgling firms' key moves By Lisa Goff When his plan to market a line of vitamins fell through, marketing executive Josh Taekman turned to his friend John McDonald to brainstorm new ideas. Oddly enough, Mr. McDonald found inspiration in the number of staffers calling in sick at several Manhattan restaurants he co-owns. In June, the partners launched E-Boost, an all-natural supplement that supports the immune system and fights fatigue. "There was nothing on the market that supports both immunity and alertness," Mr. Taekman says. Sales of the effervescent tablets--a pack of 10 retails for $11.50--hit $300,000 in just the first three months. Mr. Taekman projects first-year revenues of at least $1.2 million. The Manhattan company has three full-time employees. HITS - DAILY REGIMEN Two marketing decisions have had a big impact. First, the partners pitch E-Boost as a supplement to be taken daily as a preventive, not as an occasional fix for a pesky cold or hangover. Second, the product is sold not in drugstores or supermarkets but at upscale hotels like W and Mondrian, as well as a few high-end spas. It can also be ordered online. Another smart move: The company provides free samples to hotel and spa staffers, who peddle the revitalizer with the zeal of the converted. "They're all hooked on it," Mr. Taekman says. MISSES - SLOW TO SPARKLE The partners wasted a year trying to develop the product with a pharmaceutical lab that didn't listen to them. "We told them that it had to violently dissolve--to erupt in the glass--and they gave us a prototype that took three minutes," Mr. Taekman says. Another lab delivered the goods in six months. The partners also had to focus their distribution more tightly, targeting high-end outlets that cater specifically to singles. "We tried it at a family beach resort in San Diego, and it didn't move," Mr. Taekman says.