Ryan J. Blair, CEO, ViSalus Sciences

Ryan J. BlairWinner, Consumer Products

Ryan Blair’s life is an open book, literally. His story of graduating from the life of a gang member to that of a millionaire is portrayed in The New York Times best-seller titled, “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I went from Gang Member to Millionaire Entrepreneur.”

Blair is the co-founder and CEO of ViSalus Sciences, a marketer and distributor of health and wellness products. He founded his first company at the age of 21 and started and sold two others before he helped found ViSalus. The company employs thousands of people and has more than 60,000 distributors worldwide.

ViSalus grew quickly, and in 2008, it was sold to Blyth Inc. A few months later, the economic recession hit and ViSalus was left one month away from having to declare bankruptcy. Blair and his co-founders invested all of their savings to give ViSalus one more month of operating capital to test an idea they believed would save the company — the Body by Vi 90-Day Challenge. In July 2009, the Body by Vi 90-Day Challenge was launched with little response. The move was a total corporate transformation and a huge risk, which looked as though it would result in failure. However, Blair’s industry disruptive business model of acquiring customers by leveraging mobile and social technology started to gain traction. That year, the company’s revenue tripled, and in 2011, ViSalus saw sales increase sevenfold, and they haven’t slowed since.

The new business platform leveraged the primary strengths of network sales: momentum and social marketing. ViSalus continues to gain customers through a customer-first approach and a focus on customer acquisition and retention. In February 2012, the company added 113,000 new members and currently boasts an 8-to-1 customer-to-promoter ratio.

HOW TO REACH: ViSalus Sciences, www.visalus.com