Joe Johnson entered Michigan State University on a wrestling scholarship. By the time he graduated in 2016, he was already a budding entrepreneur.
Today, he owns a thriving protein powder company —VADE Nutrition — and was recently named a Forbes’ 30 Under 30 recipient.
“I was fortunate enough to come to Michigan State University on an athletic scholarship,” said Johnson, a native of South Lyon. “By the time I graduated, I was on a full academic scholarship instead of athletic.”
The four-time academic All-Big Ten award winner graduated from MSU Honors College with a 4.0 grade-point average, majoring in finance. It was during his senior year, however, when his life was destined to change.
“My wife, Megan, and I started VADE Nutrition while I was in college and Megan was in the hospital preparing for our son to be born,” Johnson said.
The thought of producing dissolvable packs for protein powder came about when they realized taking protein powder on the go was impossible without prepping ahead of time. The inconvenience of lugging around tubs of protein or measuring servings of protein into little plastic baggies was a real problem that had no solution.
“So, we created one,” said Johnson. “We thought to ourselves, ‘Why not premeasure every serving of your nutritional supplement into a pack made out of a dissolvable food-grade film so that there’s no scooping, no measuring and no mess?’ When this idea came to us, we immediately knew that we were going to be the ones to create it and revolutionize the industry.
“The MSU Foundation was one of our first investors and also helped provide us with our first office space,” he added. “The community has always been there for us as we worked to achieve our dreams.”
Today, with 1.1 million customers, VADE is carried in more than 8,000 stores, including GNC, Winn-Dixie, Hy-Vee and CVS. Johnson predicted sales will surpass $10 million this year.