The making of a
By Tim Talevich
Justin Brotman sees a
promising future in cutting-edge whole food nutrition.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 25
26 ;e Costco Connection MARCH 2010
WHEN JUSTIN BROTMAN opened a new
health-food and supplements store called
Healeo in Seattle last year, he became the
fourth generation of his family to start a retail
business. His father, Jeff, is a co-founder of
Costco, his grandfather and great-grandfather
both started businesses and several other family members are in retail as well.
Jim Sinegal, Costco CEO, sat down with
Brotman to ask him about how he went
about choosing a business, the operational
challenges of a startup and more.
Jim Sinegal: What gave you the idea to
get into this type of business?
Justin Brotman: There were a variety of
influences. First of all, I grew up with a dad
who was drinking bran every morning with
his orange juice and taking vitamins every
day. My mom was also health conscious. And
in practical terms, I worked for my uncle in
his retail stores and gained experience in
every part of the business.
In college in California, I met a lot of
sons and daughters of farmers and learned
how to grow organic fruits, vegetables, herbs,
mushrooms—everything that was nutritious
and had healing properties.
Food-based vitamins made a lot of sense
to me in terms of the way I had been living
my life for several years. I began to pursue
this by traveling to see what others were
doing. I went to New York and up and down
both coasts, visiting any food and vitamin
store I could find. And through a family
friend I went to work for Great Earth Vitamin
Co. in Los Angeles. It was a real boot camp in
terms of teaching me the industry.
DAN DELONG/RED BOX PICTURES
his hard work. That’s what kicked me into
overdrive, knowing that I wanted to do something like that.
JS: How have you had to adapt your business since you opened?
JB: The biggest challenge was figuring
out how to drive volume, not only as a new
business, but as the seasons changed in
Seattle. We added hot drinks, soups and
more options, and reminded people that
smoothies and juices aren’t just for summertime. Your health and cleansing and maintaining a daily routine are [just as] important
during the winter.
JS: You have employees, so now you’re in
the management business also. What have you
learned about that?
JB: The most difficult part of the whole
business is managing people—definitely. I have
great employees, but there’s always a challenge.
One thing I have learned is that everybody
has their skills, and you can’t expect people to
be completely rounded. One employee might
be excellent in knowing everything about
every possible vitamin and mineral yet stumbles around making a drink. But everybody
has his or her talent to contribute.
JS: What’s your aspiration for this company? A thousand stores across the country?
JB: For now, I’m enjoying what’s going
on in growing the business. I wanted to do
something like this before I was 30 so that I
would have plenty of time to figure out what
I want to do with it. Right now I’m just
focusing on every customer having a good
experience. But at some point we will want
more locations. C