Ask an expert

What inspired you to launch Vitaminis?

Much was lost during the pandemic that began in March 2020, including Leslie Danford's job in the hospitality field. Laid off early in the pandemic, Danford quickly went from working full time to staying home full time with her three children. Soon after that, she went from stay-at-home mom to entrepreneur.

As the family sheltered in place, Danford began to think ahead to her children's return to school and how she could protect them and other children from getting sick. The result was Vitaminis - a kid-friendly, shelf-stable beverage packed with simple ingredients to help boost the immune system.

"Kids' nutrition has always been a passion of mine," said Danford, who tries to avoid things with too much sugar or artificial ingredients. She drew on her knowledge as a former executive in the beverage industry to create a dietary supplement designed to give kids 4 and older the boost their immune systems need, without sugar, dyes or unnecessary ingredients. Working with a dietary scientist, Danford centered her product around three immune-boosting ingredients - zinc, magnesium and vitamin C.

After testing several flavors with the help of her own three-member taste-testing team, orange-pineapple Vitaminis became available in July 2021, just two months before the birth of Danford's fourth child.

The Vitaminis drink is the first in what Danford hopes will become a full line of products for children. Next, she would like to develop a product to support gut health and healthy digestion. Down the road, she sees potential for healthy snacks as part of the Vitaminis product line.

Danford said she's committed to offering her children fresh, healthy foods and to developing a line of products that can help other parents do so, too.

"I'm very much focused on trying to grow the business," she said.

Meanwhile, she makes a single 2.5-ounce Vitaminis drink part of her children's daily diet. She tucks the shelf-stable bottles into their lunches for school and into the family's travel bag for outings near and far. At home, the drinks serve as a snack or as a treat just before dinner.

"I have to keep an eye that they don't drink too many," said Danford, who suggests children drink no more than one per day.

Although she has no scientific proof of her product's role in her family's health, Danford does have anecdotal evidence that it's doing its job.

"No one in our family has gotten COVID," she said, and her children haven't missed a single day of school due to illness since Vitaminis became part of her family's daily diet.

"I think of it as an extra boost," Danford said.

Danford said what seemed like such a loss at the beginning of COVID has actually opened up doors she otherwise might never have discovered.

"If I hadn't gotten laid off I would have never taken that leap," the first-time entrepreneur said. She now considers her new venture a silver lining for her and her family, and a lasting benefit for parents everywhere who want to offer their kids an extra immunity boost.

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean