Michelle Huie – Founder and President of VIM & VIGR

Focus, focus, focus. We don’t try to be everything to everyone and we’re okay with that. It’s easy to constantly run to the next target that’s willing to give you money but this causes you to lose focus.

Michelle Huie is the founder and president of VIM & VIGR, LLC. With an extensive background in sales and marketing in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, she applies her experience and innovative ideas to the VIM & VIGR brand.  Michelle has successfully launched over 5 products in the health sector, which have generated over $5 billion in revenue. Her professional background and family of entrepreneurs and small business owners primed her for starting her own groundbreaking company. Michelle earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Chicago in Economics and a Masters of Business Administration from Kellogg Northwestern School of Management where she majored in marketing, management, and entrepreneurship. After moving to Missoula, MT from New York, she found herself sitting for long periods of time at her new job, which left her with achy, sore legs. Her legs became too tired after the workday to exercise effectively or enjoy many other activities. When she mentioned this to a physical therapist, he recommended compression socks but she couldn’t find anything beyond athletic or medical use or in any color besides nude. This inspired her to start VIM & VIGR, a high-quality compression sock and compression leg sleeves line with stylish designs to be worn all day.

Where did the idea for company come from?

I moved to Missoula, MT in 2011 and I took a sales job where I sat for long periods of time, leaving my legs tired and achy. A physical therapist told me that the reason why my legs were so tired from sitting all day was because of poor circulation in my legs from the lack of movement and he recommended compression socks. I did some research but the only thing I could find were athletic or medical looking compression socks. This inspired me to start VIM & VIGR. I thought – if I have a need for something like this – I’m sure thousands of other people could benefit too.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I’m not a morning person and when I initially launched, I tried to make myself get up early because I thought that would make me more productive but I quickly realized that I had to do what’s right for my body. I get up at around 8 AM and start the day off with a fruit and vegetable smoothie and then I’m on the computer answering emails from the previous evening. Our manufacturer is in Taiwan so it’s daytime when it’s nighttime here. I meet with my team for about 30 minutes each morning so they’re set on their priorities and then I make sure I do sales for at least 2-3 hours a day. That means corresponding with existing customers to cold-calling new customers. I then spend 2-3 hours on marketing initiatives and several hours working on research and development for new products.

At around 5:30 – I either do hot yoga or go for a run. Exercising is my main stress relief and actually helps me sleep much better at night, which makes for a more productive day. I have dinner with friends and family and then I work for a few more hours before I go to bed – usually around midnight.

The key to having a productive workday is staying focused and maintaining structure. There’s nothing worse then working all day and getting nothing accomplished. My team respects each other’s time and makes sure we don’t waste it with unnecessary meetings.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I always tell my team – I love ideas but I need a game plan for execution. Now that we’ve been on the market for almost two years with over 65,000 pairs of VIM & VIGR compression socks on people’s feet – we receive a ton of new ideas from our current customers. When we receive an idea – we ask ourselves a few questions:

– Does this idea align with our brand and our strategy?
– Will implementing this idea take time and resources away from other important initiatives?
– Is this the right time to execute this?

Most recently we launched compression leg sleeves and this came to us from customers wanting to receive graduated compression but still wear sandals for the summer. The timing just worked out well and it didn’t take a ton of resources. The sleeves have been selling great!

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I love bold and vibrant colors. One thing that sets our product apart are the bold colors we use. This past season, we say some beautiful jewel tones on the runway and we plan on incorporating some of these rich colors to our next collection.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Saying “No” and being more selfish with my time. I know this may sound counterintuitive but when I initially started VIM & VIGR, I gave my team all the time they needed and said yes to every opportunity even though it took a lot of time and the payoff with minimal. I now do a much better job of evaluating each opportunity and saying “No” when the payoff isn’t there. As an entrepreneur, your time is the most valuable resource. There are things that only you could do and everything else should be delegated to someone else.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Where do I begin?! I was a telemarketer for a financial firm when I was around 16. It was horrible but I learned a lot through that job. I learned that selling is more about listening than speaking. I also learned that people like to talk if you give them an opportunity – so let them!

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I really wish I took more of a risk on inventory and ordered a lot more product my first year. I ran out of a lot of product several times during my first year of launch. I know this really annoyed our customers and I should have just invested a lot more in that.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Focus, focus, focus. We don’t try to be everything to everyone and we’re okay with that. It’s easy to constantly run to the next target that’s willing to give you money but this causes you to lose focus.

My team knows exactly who our customer base is and should be and we stopped focusing our attention on the other markets.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Focus on our retailer customers. So many brands are overly focused on their own online platform. Of course I think that’s important but a majority of sales still come from brick and mortar retailers. We want to continue to build our business with the brick and mortar retailers rather focusing on our own online platform for the time being. I think this has served us well and created more loyalty with our customers.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest failures is when we ran out of inventory several times last year. I was too conservative with ordering product.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

One idea I have is to take that risk and find a solution for the issues that are sure to arise.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A great dinner with my partner, Kyle. No matter how busy you get, make sure you spend time with your loved ones.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I use Stitchlabs for my cloud based inventory platform, Shopify for my e-commerce platform and ShipStation to coordinate my shipments. They’re all integrated so it makes life much easier.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I recently read The Lean Startup a few months ago and was completely inspired! Much of it is common sense, which usually ends up being the best advice.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

The first would have to be Sheryl Sandberg. She genuinely wants to empower other woman and is constantly celebrating and promoting other women. She has such wonderful inner strength and kindness about her. Showing kindness is not a sign of weakness.

On the other end of the spectrum is Mindy Kaling. I find her funny, real and refreshing. She’s unapologetic about who she is and I think we all could benefit from a dose of that confidence.


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