Many of the world's most successful entrepreneurs began their companies by solving a personal (but universal) problem. They envisioned a product or service that would make their own lives better and then of course, what would make the lives of others better. With entrepreneurs, it's usually personal, but for some, it goes even deeper.

Shane Griffin was the biggest independent nightclub owner in Canada, owning four of the most successful bars in Toronto. In addition to coming from a family of entrepreneurs and being good at numbers, Shane was also an excellent host. He built a great rapport and even a friendship with his patrons; he always remembered what their favorite drinks were. His motto? To make people feel at home. So whatever they were drinking--he was drinking with them. Simultaneously, whatever the customers were doing after hours, Shane gladly joined in. This attributed to the success of his business, but once he sold his night clubs he no longer could mask what was really going on. He was a full blown addict who needed help.

While seeking treatment for his addiction in Los Angeles, Shane learned about the concept of holistic treatment, which emphasizes treating the underlying issues in lieu of simply managing symptoms--most notably with respect to nutrition. With a new lease on life and a fascination with what he learned in rehab, he enrolled at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition to become a Certified Nutritional Practitioner with a new mission to help others as he had been helped.

But he still wasn't happy. Six months into school and six months out of treatment, his brain still wasn't producing serotonin correctly and Shane lived in what felt like a perpetual slump. His breakthrough came when he remembered a conversation with his therapist, where he learned that it takes at least five years for the brain to heal and become chemically rebalanced.

Addiction treatment is a fickle game, with less than 10% of addicts staying sober across the board. While traditional 12-step programs do have a track record of success, what works for one addict may fail another miserably. It's a sad reality, not only for addicts but for their loved ones as well. So if addicts must wait five years for their brain to reset to "normal," it's no wonder that so many who attempt recovery fail.

This research drove Shane to create his new start-up, Whole Life Balance. Shane researched and developed a comprehensive nutritional assessment specifically designed to help addicts in early recovery--something that had never been done before. He then developed a software program using complex algorithms to produce a unique protocol based on each addict's specific nutritional deficiencies.

The passion he had for helping so many people like himself was his driving force, but Shane couldn't forget that he was also a businessman. His former nightclubs made millions. The average nutritionist makes just over $56K per year. That's a bit of a discrepancy!

His new challenge was to find a way to monetize nutritional treatment in a big way. He looked at the typical business model of a nutrition practice and made a few changes:

  1. He treated the assessment process--a notoriously time consuming endeavor--like an assembly line, using his new software to speed up the procedure which allows him to service more clients at a quicker pace.
  2. Next, he took his software program and began to license it to other nutritionists and companies who simply didn't have the bandwidth to increase their client base.
  3. Then, he found an obscure way for insurance to cover his services so that clients who couldn't otherwise afford him didn't have to pay out of pocket.
  4. Lastly, he's forged relationships with many of the top addiction treatment centers on the West Coast and takes on groups of clients at a time, as opposed to traditional nutritionists who mainly consult one-on-one.

So how much can he make doing this? Based on his current growth model, expanding client base, level of insurance reimbursement and software licensing fees, Shane's company projects $1.6 million in gross revenue in 2015.

Business is thriving, but Shane is still staying true to his original passion: helping others in early addiction recovery. By the way, he is still a great host. Whatever his clients are doing--he is doing. Luckily, that has gotten him addicted to a slightly more appropriate vice: whole foods.

Published on: Jan 8, 2015