Foundr Magazine publishes in-depth interviews with the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. Our articles highlight key takeaways from each month’s cover feature. We talked with MaryRuth Ghiyam about how she built her business MaryRuth Organics out of crippling debt. Read excerpts from that in-depth conversation below. To read more, subscribe to the magazine.
No stone left unturned. MaryRuth Ghiyam, founder and CEO of MaryRuth Organics (MRO), lives by those words. To her, it means turning her attention to every customer and every employee for her brand.
“I once read something about how if you ignore someone, it releases a chemical in their brain that’s the same as a bodily injury, meaning ignoring someone is very bad.”
In 2013, Ghiyam and her mother founded MRO with a morning liquid vitamin and an evening liquid mineral product to fill a real need in the wellness market. Nine years later, she is running a multimillion-dollar company that offers herbals, sprays, and gummy vitamins, among other products. All of her products are vegan, non-GMO, and USDA-certified organic.
Ghiyam is genuinely excited to build products that help people live better lives. And while the company’s explosive success may seem to have come easy, Ghiyam worked tirelessly to overcome some serious challenges along the way.
Building a MaryRuth Organics Out of Debt
When she was just 12 years old, Ghiyam’s father passed away. Her mother took over his lumber business, and by 2008, it boasted 300 employees in several locations and $9 million in revenue. That all changed, however, after the market crash.
By 2012, she and her mother were $700,000 in debt to friends, family, and credit card companies. In the ensuing years, her 17-year-old brother died suddenly when she was a sophomore in college, and her mother was diagnosed with two benign brain tumors.
In response, Ghiyam embarked on a journey to understand how the body heals itself and came up with a health regime she called the MaryRuth Method. She details that method in her book, Liquids Till Lunch, which prescribes a diet that requires liquids only until lunchtime.
She opened a small clinic in New York City, but the money she was bringing in through the clinic wasn’t enough to get her and her mother out of debt.
As she spoke with her clients, she noticed a common complaint: Taking a vitamin capsule after having only liquids all morning causes nausea. That’s when she had her “aha” moment and came up with her first two products: MaryRuth’s Liquid Morning Multivitamin and MaryRuth’s Liquid Nighttime Multimineral.
“It’s what really put us on the map because it created a little routine for everyone,” she says. “In the morning, they take the raspberry morning multivitamin, and at night before they go to bed, they take the magnesium nighttime one for sleep. So it’s like putting these two little anchors in people’s routine within a 24-hour period.”
In 2013, she and her mother opened MaryRuth’s Organics, and by 2014, they had 90 bottles of product to sell in her clinic and on Amazon.
Getting MaryRuth Organics Off the Ground With Amazon
First things first. She had to find a manufacturer that would produce only a small amount of product.
“I said, ‘OK, I’m going to make a product. And this product is going to be the liquid morning multivitamin,’” Ghiyam says. “And for six months, I called all the manufacturers, and no one is going to take a run for a custom blend product for 90 bottles.”
Finally, she convinced a California manufacturer to take a chance on her. “I said, ‘I promise, if you make this liquid morning raspberry multivitamin, someday we’ll be your biggest account.’”
She had the bottles shipped to her 580-square-foot apartment in New York. Her husband made a label for them. They took 60 to her office and put the rest on Amazon.
Her strategy paid off. Her private clients reviewed her vitamins on Amazon, and the algorithm bumped her to the first search page. From Day One, she says, her company was profitable.
“I remember crying the first Saturday we sold $250-worth of vitamins,” she says.
“And I honestly could see a path of getting to do what I love, getting to help people deliver this amazing product. And I saw that I would not be the only one digging us out of this $700,000 in debt.”
She was able to pay off her credit cards and pay back everyone she owed money to with at least 8 percent interest. Her company, which now boasts 130 products, is worth more than $1 million. In 2025, she plans to take MaryRuth Organics public.
Despite its phenomenal growth, MRO only raised outside funding for the first time this year.
There are three strategies Ghiyam attributes to their bootstrapping success. First, they set up a negative cash flow conversion cycle, much like Walmart. Second, she says, was constant patience.
“It’s so important to go slow and to be patient,” she says. “There’s a quote: Everyone overestimates what they can do in one year and underestimates what they can do in 10 years. So if I’m 37, if you go back 10 years, I’m 27. I didn’t even have a business then. And to go from such debt to a healthy company was done one day at a time in a very patient way.”
But probably the strategy with the most impact was simply to provide value for their customers through quality products and an emphasis on customer care.
“We take compliance and quality assurance very seriously,” Ghiyam says. “And then we really focus on customer care. If we take care of one person, we do a good job, they’re going to tell their friend.”
For years, she says, they didn’t even have a marketing budget.