- Liz on philanthropy: “I work and I run my business during the week and then on the weekends, I feed the homeless.”
- Liz on perseverance: “I’ve heard no since I was little. I wasn’t affected by the word no. I worked so hard to get what I had.”
- Liz on cultural differences: “I understand how to treat a customer but with their culture. I took it to another level.”
- Liz on entrepreneurial perspective: “I had to be different.”
- Liz on women in business: “I remember my distributors and Vitamin shop saying, “It must feel good to be one of the most powerful women in this industry.”
- Liz on humility: “Remember where you came from. You’ve got to keep your head straight.”
- Liz on being a role model for Afghani women: “I’m proud to pave the way for women from countries like mine.”
Liz credits much of her entrepreneurial spirit to her father. When Liz was young, her father opened a restaurant called “Colonial Fried Chicken.” Commuting to Brooklyn while living in Cherry Hill, Liz watched her father struggle to provide for his family. Liz recounts vivid memories of working in the restaurant at age 14, flipping burgers and cleaning tables. Her father had a goal set for every day…. Make $1000 and then Liz could leave. She learned the value of hard work at a young age, and this set the tone for the rest of her adult life.
From the time she was 14, Liz had caught the entrepreneurial bug. From selling her own video games in front of her parents chicken restaurant to hustling framed pictures of Princess Diana in front of her home in Allentown, PA, Liz was born an entrepreneur. Perhaps her most successful minor league venture was her homemade pretzel stands that she strategically placed in front of the New Jersey Boardwalk. She walked away with $700, which was quite a lot of money for a 15 year old.
Liz learned a lot of valuable business lessons early on. Her first mistake came when she spent everything she made, not realizing there was a cost of goods. At one point, Liz started a manufacturing cabinet that sold custom cabinetry, despite her allergy to wood. She then owned a dry cleaner, but after realizing the market was saturated, she knew she had to differentiate her services. Liz began to cut prices, charging $1.79 per garment which was astronomically cheaper than her competitors. She quickly saw an influx in customers, but after ruining a few loads of laundry by washing pens with the clothes, she decided to move on to better ventures. Anytime she saw a business opportunity, she jumped on it, but she always learned from her mistakes. She knew that if she worked hard and kept pursuing her passions, something would stick. And man, was she right!
Liz met her ex-husband, Rich Gaspari, in 2001 through her personal trainer. At the time, Rich was a well-known retired bodybuilder, peddling protein supplements out of his home. This IFBB Pro was on the cover of bodybuilding magazines, traveling all over the world, and was internationally known, but his business didn’t take off until Liz came along. Rich was charismatic, while Liz was business savvy and strategic. While Rich was comfortable in situations involving his fans, he wasn’t comfortable in public speaking environments, so Liz quickly took over that aspect of the business, despite her anxiety. Liz took over the company and ran the business like it was her own, managing the packing, shipping, distributing, etc.
At that point in her life, Liz had achieved moderate success with her other side projects. She had a nice car, a nice house, a comfortable living, but gave that up when she started hustling for Gaspari Nutrition. It took everything Liz had to get the company going and she quickly realized that they needed to be different, to think differently than their competitors, in order to achieve success.
Liz started small, with specific short term goals that were achievable. She thought to herself “Why don’t we market in bodybuilding magazines? Why are we not in Vitamin Shop? Do we need a distributor?” One of her first goals was to get an ad in the prominent bodybuilding magazine, Muscular Development. From there, it was all about guerilla marketing, going right to the stores, going to the gyms, setting up tables, sampling and talking about products, emailing the clients, etc.
A breakthrough occurred when Liz was visiting her hometown and remembered a supplement store that was run by an old high school friend. Luckily enough, he turned out to be a huge Rich Gaspari fan and ended up placing an order with Liz for almost $3,000. At the time, Liz and Rich had been selling bottle by bottle at local gyms, so this not only marked the first time they were in stores, but also the first mass order. Things began to pick up for Gaspari Nutrition after this. Liz finally landed the advertisement in the Muscular Development and then shortly thereafter, landed an account with Vitamin Shop and Bodybuilding.com (the #1 site for supplements). They continued to build on their success in American markets, until Liz made a connection in the Middle East that changed the game for Gaspari Nutrition.
Liz offered a new perspective to the business, both as a woman and a businessperson with ties to the Middle Eastern culture. One of the most successful parts of Gaspari Nutrition was the progress they achieved in the Middle East. As Gaspari Nutrition started to gain success in America, Liz realized the US market was becoming saturated and that the Middle East remained an untapped, potential gold mine. She hired a national sales director for the US and then shifted her focus to doing business in the Middle East.
Because Liz is 100% Afghan and speaks Farsi fluently, she understood culture better than her competitors. She understood how to treat a customer with their cultural backdrop, which is why she became so successful overseas. Gaspari Nutrition was the first supplement company to have one middle eastern distributor, selling piece by piece resulting in Liz doing nearly $500,000 in sales. She had so much clout overseas that it became nearly 65% of her company, not to mention that she was the only woman in the industry in a management position.
By the team she had reached her peak success in the Middle East, Liz had made a contract for $6 million with the most powerful Middle Eastern distributor. You might be thinking, “What was the key to Gaspari Nutrition’s success?” Well, Liz found a playground that no one else was playing in. She tapped a hidden market, differentiated herself from competitors and reaped the benefits. The difference between success and failure was her perspective. Liz had a new perspective on everything, ranging from packaging and manufacturing, to ways to combat the saturation occurring in her market. If anyone understands the entrepreneurial struggle, it’s Liz. Building a multi-million dollar company while paving the way for women in the nutritional supplement industry is just a small portion of Liz’s story.