Toothpaste Changed My Life

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Inside U (Part 1)

In my last article I made the case that its time for all of us to tell our stories…so now I also am finally telling my story, and how I used a tube a toothpaste to start Inside U.

There is no life altering experience that marked the beginning of Inside U. It sort of just happened:)

In high school I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, so I went to Laurier, enrolled in a 4 year Political Science course with a minor in Business.

In second year, during a stats class, the idea to drop out crossed my mind, so I thought about it for a minute, and then just walked out of class. The political science head tried to scare me into staying. I remember him saying, “What are you going to do.?” “I don’t know, but I’m not happy here, and I’ll find something.”

I ended up working in construction, where I learned how to work hard again, but after a few years I was bored mentally….so bored. I was downright unhappy and did not like going to work at all.

During this time my wife and I had just been married and we had our first child Roman. My wife finished her degree in nursing around the time that my son turned one. Since she now had a good paying job, it gave me the opportunity to look for something else, and I seemed to lean towards starting my own business.

I almost started a bakery, which is a story in itself, but it would have been challenging selling my mom’s amazing whole wheat bread in our gluten free era.

One day at the gym, my friend Mike Van Wyk mentioned that his girlfriend Danielle had just become a nutritionist, so I suggested that Danielle and I should start a store together. To this day, I still do not know why this idea popped into my head, because I had never actually been to a health food store myself, and had absolutely no friends or family connections to the industry. Sure my mom had a massive garden, and I had a very active lifestyle, but I had never taken any supplements in my life, or stepped foot in a health food store before.

I think its vitally important to learn about an industry before you jump in, and the best place to learn is at an industry show. I registered an ad hoc business name (cost me $50 or something like that) and we went to Toronto representing Oxford Health Supplies.

It felt good being at the show…and it looked like there was life in this industry.

I visited two local stores, and bought one tube of toothpaste. I remember thinking, “Man, $7 for toothpaste….oh well, I’ll just use 30% of what I normally use.”

We bought and renovated a century home, but it took almost a year by the time I could quit my job. Everyday I just wanted to walk away, but I couldn’t because I ended up using my last 2 pay-stubs to take out a line of credit for more than our house was worth.

A year and a half after the original idea, and 7 years after dropping out, on January 2nd, 2009, Inside U opened its doors for the first time. Much later Danielle reminded me, that an hour before we opened, I had pulled her aside and said, “Ok, show me what some of this stuff is for.” I had no clue what I was doing, but when your young it doesn’t really matter.

What attracted me to Natural Health? Looking back, all I can say is that it was a positive industry and I had a gut feeling that it was poised for growth. It seems to be in my nature to help people, so this industry feels like home for me.

This article previously appeared in the Canadian Natural Health Retailer magazine in March/April 2017.

Steve Velthove

Inside U Founder & CEO


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