Passion the perfect supplement to small business success

Xplosiv Supplements CEO Jonathan Birrell
Xplosiv Supplements CEO Jonathan Birrell Photo credit: Supplied

The owner of a popular health supplement company says self-determination is the special ingredient that keeps driving him.

It helped him as a struggling teenager, and now it helps him as the owner of a thriving instore and online company, even in current tough conditions.

At just 15 years old, struggling with managing Aspbergers (ASD), Jonathan Birrell, the CEO of Xplosiv, left school and spent his days at home either watching rugby or going online.

"I had a rough childhood, I've been in the system my whole life. I was a part of it well before we knew anything about my illness," Birrell said.

Attending job interviews was a massive struggle due to his ASD, as he felt his social skills were not his strong point.

"You know when you get a personality test at a job interview? Well, my brain just works so differently that I'd instantly raise red flags.

And, in the heat of the recession at the time, there were 200 people going for the one same job," he said.

But, a visit to the local gym changed every aspect of Birrell's life.

"I needed to find something to do with my life. I was always passionate about rugby and fitness, but obviously spending all day at the computer doesn't exactly make you that fit.

"Once I started exercising, a little spot in my brain I didn't know about opened up, and I could see things differently and it just opened me up," he said.

His curiosity about health supplements became more than an interest, it was an obsession. Birrell began researching the products and their results online for hours a day.

"I'm the kind of person that, when I focus on something I obsess about it."

A couple of years later, he decided to turn his passion into profit, and began selling supplements online.

What started as a trickle of sales, became a supply line that ran from his family's garage, through the house, up the stairs and into his bedroom.

"If I'm completely honest, I felt like I wasn't as good as the competition. So I decided I'd just open my small warehouse to the public and put a shop in there if people wanted to come in."

Since then Xplosiv has become both a popular online store, and the name branded across the front of 21 retail stores across the country. And the 22nd one is opening soon. 

Nationwide there are stores from Whangarei down to Invercargill, and recently Xplosiv secured supply from major international companies.

Birrell says just like ASD, there are common misconceptions about what these health supplements do, and who they are for.

"If you think of supplements, a lot of people think bodybuilders and that sort of thing."

"But now it's more like a lifestyle. Your mums, your working class people wanting to keep fit and have a protein shake," he said.

Despite COVID-19, the company is growing at a record pace. For example, its store in Queenstown is trading 18 percent above last year's figures.

And it's this level of success that has allowed Birrell to take his passion and support for rugby and the The Blues to the next level, recently becoming a sponsor of the team he grew up watching. 

Alongside PVL - a Canadian based supplement company - they are also sponsors of the team, and together they have developed the limited edition Blues collectors box.

With franchises opening frequently, you could be forgiven for thinking it was almost time for Birrell to hang up the boots and step back from the daily running of the business, but that won't be the case.

"It's not a job to me," he said. "I work seven days a week because I just can't help it. When everyone else is relaxing and I've got nothing to do, I'll go to work because it's what I know.

"I am very lucky that I get to make a living out of my hobby and passion, and it's something more people should think about doing. And, now is the best time to do it," he said.

Birrell hopes his story can motivate others who might be struggling right now. "I turned my hobby into a job and successful business Always believe in yourself and follow your dream."

This article was created for Xplosiv Supplements