When it comes to fueling up before and after workouts, athletes know best. Former cross country and track All-American Stephen Zieminski was inspired to create Naked Nutrition after discovering that many of the health supplements on the market were comprised of unnecessary added ingredients that provided no nutritional value.

Launched in 2014, Naked Nutrition was born from the idea that supplements should be simple, healthy, and effective. We caught up with the founder to learn more about the product, how he’s building his fully remote team, and more.

ForceBrands: The supplement space is a crowded, competitive category. What sets Naked Nutrition apart? Was there an ‘aha’ moment when you knew you were onto something?
Stephen Zieminski: Our philosophy of giving people more control of what goes into their bodies is what sets Naked Nutrition apart. Our product line has expanded to over 50 products. We recently added protein cookies but we’ve stayed true to our core of focusing on sourcing premium ingredients primarily from North America and Europe, and using as few of them as possible.

FB: What were the initial pain points that you had to solve for when you first launched Naked Nutrition?
SZ: As an athlete, I was frustrated that I couldn’t easily avoid filler ingredients — many of which most people can’t pronounce and have no business being in a health supplement. We launched with five single-ingredient proteins, including Naked Whey from pasture-raised cows on small California dairy farms. We offer many more products today, ranging from clean pre-workout supplements to adaptogens, and proteins for a variety of lifestyles. But many of our products still contain three ingredients or less.

FB: How have you approached team building? What qualities do you look for, especially in those first key strategic hires?
SZ: We’ve grown our team of freelancers and agencies slowly and found a mix of specialists and generalists. We look for reliability, results, and quality work. It’s not much more complicated than that.

FB: How would you describe the culture at Naked Nutrition and how has it been impacted, if at all, by the pandemic?SZ: In a way, we were ahead of the curve with a fully remote team from the very beginning. We have a small, close-knit remote team that believes in the products and the mission of the company, and enjoys working with each other. 

While the pandemic has impacted all of our lives in one way or another, we’re fortunate in the sense that it hasn’t affected the work culture at Naked Nutrition.

FB: How has leading amid a pandemic shaped or defined your leadership style?
SZ: It’s helped in thinking about “what could happen” and being prepared for future unknown events.

FB: Are there any industry mentors who have inspired or motivated you in your own work?
SZ: I love to read about the stories and successes of other DTC brands that have started from nothing and then been acquired in a fairly short timeframe. Specifically, Dollar Shave Club and Vital Proteins come to mind.

FB: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
SZ: Going back to my long-distance running days, I think there are a lot of parallels with the work that it takes to become a high-level runner or entrepreneur. A coach once told me that the key to success in running is incremental improvements combined with consistency. Year after year, the two build off each other to create an impressive body of work/performances.

FB: What keeps you up at night?
SZ: Supply chain and continuing to grow our production capacity.

FB: What excites you most about the next 3-5 years?
SZ: Many of our best products are so new and have a lot of room to grow. We’ve created many products that stay true to the brand but also appeal to a wider audience such as our Naked Shake line of proteins that do not need a blender and Naked Cookies, which we feel compare very favorably to other protein cookies on the market.