Written by J.A. Giresi
16 October 2017


Mike and Tony Costello: An American Success Story and Inspiration

How Two Brothers Took a Garage Business Into a Leading Fortune 500 Powerhouse


The foundation of American manufacturing comes from a source of ingenuity. Inspiration can strike at any time, and it is that inspiration that becomes the backbone of a multimillion-dollar enterprise while providing good jobs to hardworking Americans. I was privileged to have a conference interview with Mike and Tony Costello. The interview, conducted with MD Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Steve Blechman, was one I will always remember. In that hour, I felt like I wasn’t a columnist, but a student learning from three powerhouses of the business world. It was also a rare glimpse into what made Mike and Tony Costello, as Steve said during the interview “…one of the greatest success stories in the history of the (supplement) industry.”


The Costello Brothers story begins in the early 1980s; they were a modest Italian-American family living in a suburb of Chicago. Their father, Joe Costello, was a police officer, while their mother was a homemaker raising seven children. Tony was inspired by his father, who was a bodybuilder and Golden Gloves boxer in his own right when he was younger. Tony, having played high school football, also took a liking to bodybuilding. In fact, Tony had wanted to compete in bodybuilding after graduating from high school, and went to work out at the local gym.


At this time, the supplement industry was in its infancy. GNC was just getting started and there were some mail-order companies offering supplements. When Tony was talking to his father about the gym, he would notice that some of the gym’s patrons would use various vitamins, desiccated liver tablets and egg protein. But it was their father, Joe Costello, who urged them, “Where are these guys buying their protein powder, son?” Joe Costello also reminded them, “ … mark my words, there’s going to be big business in protein. You need to find out where these guys are getting their protein powder. Look in the back of the magazine, and I bet you can be a private distributor. You go in there and sell it.”


That was exactly what Tony Costello did. He looked in the back of the magazine and found an ad for a supplement company called Beverly International looking for private distributors, and bought $300 of proteins. Little did the brothers know, that this would lead to the beginning of a supplement empire.


Toting his gym bag full of egg protein and various supplements to Grove Gym, Tony would do his workout. While he was working out, gym members would ask, “Whatcha got, Costello?” From that first day, Tony came home with an empty gym bag and a future in entrepreneurship.


Both Mike and Tony told us that their father was an enterprising entrepreneur in his own right, investing in a local gas station and real estate. Most importantly, Joe instilled in them both a work ethic: how to work hard.


It was this same work ethic that would carry the brothers through their start-up phase from a small office in the same gym, into one of the largest manufacturers of supplements in the United States.


In fact, Tony joked that their father would say to them, “What are you doing home so early? You need to do more work! How much did you sell? You’ve got to know how much you sold!” The mentorship of their father taught the brothers how to grow and manage the company and made them advance further by buying warehouses, assigning territories and hiring sales staff.


Quickly, the company grew and it wasn’t long before they were doubling their order requests. As Tony began visiting various gyms in the area, suggesting that they set up small supplement shops, Costello’s Health Company propelled itself from a small office at Grove’s Gym into a staple in the supplement industry. It was this transition that would become Optimum Nutrition, encompassing over 550,000 square feet in various locations throughout the United States, but headquartering in Aurora, Illinois.


Throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s, Optimum Nutrition would carve out a name for itself— making it a leader in the supplement industry. Mike stated with a chuckle, “ … it was our intention to beat our main competition, Twinlab.”


Mike and Tony Costello were gaining popularity and recognition with their quality products. With a motto of quality, hard work and initiative, they were succeeding and others were taking notice.


Various companies began courting Optimum Nutrition for possible mergers, or offer of sale— but as Mike and Tony were firm in their direction of where they wanted the company to go, they could not ignore that the offers were plentiful. Some companies even offered promises of partnership, but as Mike stated, “… the only partners are the brothers and the wives.”


In 2008, the Costello brothers made the decision to sell Optimum Nutrition to Glanbia. While it was a hard decision to make, the sale of Optimum Nutrition would lead them to start working on their next great endeavor, Nutrivo— five-and-a-half years later.


Nutrivo was formed in 2013 by co-founders Mike and Tony Costello and is wholly owned by both brothers. The headquarters of Nutrivo is in Aurora, Illinois, near Chicago. The building sits on 19 acres of land. Originally, the building was a window factory, but Mike and Tony transformed it into a state-of-the-art, 130,000-square-foot facility centered on manufacturing quality products.


More so, Nutrivo, LLC is an FDA inspected, NSF GMP Certified, Informed Choice Registered and ChromaDex Quality Verified manufacturer of premium powdered protein beverage and nutritional supplement mixes. This only adds to Mike and Tony’s strict guidelines for manufacturing when it comes to control, quality and speed to market. Everything at Nutrivo is controlled internally, from manufacturing to marketing, with no outside influences.


In 2013, Nutrivo acquired the company RIVALUS Sports Nutrition, Inc. out of Nova Scotia, Canada, but their work was far from over when they decided to go forward with Rule 1 supplements.


Developed by Nutrivo, Rule 1 started in 2014, and was a way for the Costello brothers to bring their children into the industry. Tony’s son, Tony Jr., became very interested in the industry from a young age, and wanted to continue. Tony Jr. loved the bodybuilding industry. Rule 1 was a way for father and son to work together, as Joe did with Mike and Tony all those years ago when they were first starting out. In fact, Tony’s son Connor is also actively involved in the business. When their children started taking an interest in the business, both brothers offered enthusiastic encouragement and advised them what they should study in college to become successful as part of the business. It was advice that was well received, as Tony Costello Jr. developed Rule 1 with his father, and Connor is working in the business too with his father, Tony.


Recently, Nutrivo, LLC recently broke ground on a 100,000-square-foot expansion. When completed in January 2018, the addition will nearly double the size of its existing functional food and dietary supplement manufacturing facility to 230,000 square feet.


But aside from producing brands RIVALUS and Rule 1, Nutrivo is also hard at work on developing various other private label sports nutrition, weight management and general health powders for leading industry brands and major retailers.


As Nutrivo co-founder Tony Costello stated recently on the company’s press release dated July 7, 2017. “… We never imagined that we would outgrow our new facility in just over three years, but growth on the contract manufacturing and branded sides of the business have exceeded our expectations.”


In our interview, Tony and Mike both stated that today the supplement industry is not what it used to be— however, the key to being successful in retail is not only to know your product, but “… to make your product special, or else (customers) will never walk in your door.”


From their beliefs in the business world, and what they transcended into Nutrivo, it is clear that both RIVALUS and Rule 1 stand out as special in their own right. RIVALUS is geared more toward the athlete who would be a member of the NFL, NHL or Olympics while Rule 1 is geared toward bodybuilding and the bodybuilding industry.


With their growth and quest for innovation, it is no wonder Nutrivo continues to grow as strongly as it did when Mike and Tony ran Optimum Nutrition. With quality brands manufactured in a state-of-the-art facility, both RIVALUS and Rule 1 have already garnered much praise and accolades for the unique taste, structure and results.


Mike and Tony’s strong family bonds have propelled them toward the future with Nutrivo. There is still much to be seen from the Costello family, and I have no doubt that the best is yet to come.


In closing, what I have learned from these two extraordinary men is to know the industry that you choose. As the world of marketing and manufacturing changes, due to the rapid increase that technology plays, Nutrivo is growing with the technology, adapting itself to the market with innovation and zeal.


From RIVALUS to Rule 1, the brothers and their children continue to develop their family-owned company into another powerhouse of the supplement industry. It was truly an honor to write this story, and if there is anything to come away from this experience— it is that the heart of the entrepreneur is driven by one’s family.







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