How This Entrepreneur Is Disrupting The Vitamin Industry

Katerina Schneider was four months pregnant when she decided to quit her job and start a company that would challenge the status quo of the vitamin industry. “I couldn't find a vitamin that I could get behind during my pregnancy,” she says. Ritual, a $30-a-month multivitamin subscription aiming to provide women with essential nutrients they were previously lacking, “was born out of necessity.”
While she’d already been an investment banker, worked as head of innovation at a major corporation, and spent years building brands in the digital space, Schneider was still a first-time entrepreneur. But she was driven to learn the ins and outs of running a business, what is and isn’t in your average multivitamin, and most importantly, what women truly need — and were lacking — in their multivitamin. She also wanted to make it top-notch. Oh, and affordable, too.
“The procuring process for [our multivitamin] formulation began by researching which essential nutrients adult women are most likely to be deficient in,” says Blanche Ip, Ritual’s scientific advisory board member. One of Schneider’s major goals was to rise above the wellness clutter and look at everything through the lens of data. After all, Ritual’s tagline is “For skeptics, by skeptics.”
With a boatload of research on nutrient absorption, dietary intakes, and genetics, and an unstoppable desire to bring a clean and effective vitamin to women everywhere, Schneider brought Ritual into the world in 2016. We caught up with her recently to find out how she got the idea off the ground, why she embraces the nos, and how she sees her company growing in the future.
You were clearly fed up with the lack of clean vitamin options when you quit your job to start Ritual, but was there one defining moment that solidified your decision to start your own company?
“Once I was pregnant, I started looking at things with a more critical eye. I wanted to know that what I was putting in and on my body was backed by research. I was shocked to discover that the vitamins in the market didn't contain the best forms of nutrients, had too much of what I was already getting from my diet, or were made with some of the same potentially harmful ingredients I was avoiding. I had no choice but to create it myself.”
What was your elevator pitch in the beginning?
“From the get-go, we were a brand for skeptics, by skeptics; it was all about reinventing the vitamin. I’m very research- and analytics-oriented, and I have a mathematics background. We understand why people don't trust vitamins, based on what's been done in the past. We were driven to find a better solution, and that's the basis for why the vitamin needed to be reinvented.”
Did you get any pushback from investors, friends, or critics?
“Yes. Because I was pregnant when I started the company, I was told that a person couldn’t start a company and have a family at the same time.
“I also got pushback from the industry saying we couldn’t do things a certain way. For example, that we wouldn’t be able to get rid of sugar, talc [a mineral that is not a known carcinogen but that can be dangerous when contaminated with asbestos], or PVP [a plastic] in the types of encapsulations we were working with.
“We were also told that we couldn't sell a product at such a low cost. We wanted to create something affordable because we believe that all women deserve access to the highest quality ingredients in the best form. Because we’re a direct-to-consumer subscription, we were able to create a $250 product for $30 a month. And it's a vitamin that’s been completely reinvented, reengineered, and redesigned. We even came up with a new type of encapsulation system to make sure that nutrients are really getting in and not destroyed by the stomach acid.
“We were faced with a lot of nos. But we were determined to create something amazing that could be accessible to all women.”
Did any of that criticism wear you down, or did it motivate you even more?
“I was super motivated. That became one of our team values: embracing the nos. When someone says 'no' to us, that just means what we’re asking for hasn't been done yet. We’ve taken something so fundamental — and I don’t mean that in a negative sense — and made it groundbreaking and exciting, while hopefully elevating the industry."

We told our in-house scientist,
'Imagine price is no object; just find the best forms of these nutrients.'

How long did it take to discover the best form of each ingredient and source them in a way that made you feel confident in the end product?
“It took over a year, because we also wanted our product to be allergen-free, vegan, and non-GMO. Finding a clean version to fit our guidelines is rigorous, to say the least. We had to find nutrients that worked best in the body but also ones that were clean.
“Wellness has become so popular, but there’s not a lot of science to back up many claims. When we started Ritual, we looked at 12,000 studies while developing our formulation. We only looked at ingredients that had clinical studies or clinical research behind them. We paid attention to the forms and dosages that were studied. That took time.
“But that’s how we identified nine essential nutrients that are fundamental to health: vitamins B12, D3, E, and K2; boron; iron; magnesium; folate; and omega-3. The forms in which these nutrients are delivered really matter, too. We told our in-house scientist, 'Imagine price is no object; just find the best forms of these nutrients.' That was a revelation, because usually when you're formulating, you're trying to fit it to a price point. But we just wanted to do the right thing.”
Do you ever get requests for this type of vitamin targeted for men?
“Yes, every day. But we're excited to be a for-women, by-women company. Not because it seems like that's what everyone is doing right now, but because since the beginning, we’ve been committed to research on women's health. It's an area that needs a lot of investment and has been overlooked for a long time. We're excited to be driving that conversation forward.”
Are there any habits you’ve picked up as a result of the information you've acquired since starting Ritual?
“I’ve gone back to the basics, like drinking more water, getting more movement, thinking positively, and taking my multivitamin. Before Ritual, I was always trying the latest trend or being a bit excessive and not sticking to it. With all the research we've done, I’ve learned that consistency is key. The things you do every day have the greatest impact, whether you're working out or drinking water. These things accumulate over time.”
Are there any particular skills from your previous work that have helped you get where you are today?
“I always worked for CEOs, so just watching them operate made me realize that you have to have a compelling story and a real purpose. I also realized that unless you're 110% committed to your company and plan to be for the rest of your life, there's no reason to do it. You're going to need to live and breathe it, hopefully, for the rest of your life.
“It’s shocking to some people that we only have one product, but to create something truly groundbreaking, I think you have to stay focused. This one product is living and breathing and constantly evolving because the science is constantly evolving. I think that gives our customers a lot of confidence.”
What is your ultimate goal for Ritual?
“We want to be for all women, so our roadmap is to have a product for every one of her life stages, [including] pregnancy and menopause. We call ourselves a habit company — we are with her every step of the way. We want to change how she interacts with the products she uses every day, whether that's helping her be better at something or making it fun for her. That’s what we're really focused on for the long haul.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Now's the perfect time to start rethinking your daily vitamin — and it all starts with a simple delivery. Get Ritual here.

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series