BIV is recognizing Caitlyn Vanderhaeghe, co-founder and CEO of KidStar Nutrients, and 39 other exceptional business leaders as part of the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards cohort.
Longer Q&As with each recipient are included in BIV's annual Forty Under 40 Magazine (out in print Dec. 11). Award winners will be celebrated at an awards gala Feb. 7, 2024.
This profile may have been edited for length and clarity.
What career highlight are you most proud of?
Launching KidStar at the start of the pandemic and growing the company through that difficult landscape makes me extremely proud, and seeing our products on the shelf excites me every time. Being recognized in the industry to be co-chair of the entrepreneurship committee at Women in Nutraceuticals has also been an incredible honour. It is a wonderful opportunity to work with some amazing, talented and inspiring women in the industry.
What was your toughest business or professional decision?
The toughest business decision to date has been whether to pursue external funding. We need growth capital to help meet aggressive expansion targets for the U.S. and other international markets. Bringing in external accountability factors can be a powerful driving force but also raises questions around control, culture, debt and equity. How do we build the company for maximum success without compromising our values? I want to believe that we can do it.
How do you lead?
I think I lean towards a transformational leadership style, keeping strong lines of communication open and supporting employee contributions in whatever form they may take – ways that help them grow as individuals and also help the company grow. I think leadership has a lot to do with working to set a good example for getting work done, and creating a culture that is supportive, non-competitive and encouraging.
What is the biggest lesson you've learned in business?
I’ve learned to be both flexible and persistent. We launched our e-commerce website days before the province was locked down due to the COVID pandemic. This presented an enormous challenge, but I believed strongly in our products and what we had to offer the market, so we persevered. We pivoted to focus heavily on social media to generate online sales while continuing to build new relationships with larger retailers. By the end of 2022, KidStar products could be found in Sobeys, Loblaws and Whole Foods across the country, as well as major e-commerce sites like Well.ca and Amazon.ca.
Best piece of advice ever received?
When you need help, ask for it! And never worry that you have a stupid question.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Keep at it! The way forward may not always be straight, but just keep moving.
What's left to accomplish?
So many things! We’re excited to take the next step and expand distribution into the U.S. We also have plans to extend our product line. And we want to continue educating parents and caregivers on why we need clean supplements to prevent nutrient deficiencies. On top of our goals for KidStar, I also want to push the Canadian government to move forward with changes to routine health checks so that regular checks for nutrient deficiencies are included.
Is there anyone you would like to thank or acknowledge?
I could not be here without the support of my family and the mentorship of my mother. I am also extremely fortunate to have a mother-in-law who watches my children so I can go to work and a husband who handles more family duties so that I can grow my business.