“V” for Vitamin – and Victory

Vitamin Daily has the remedy for an outbreak of economic influenza: expand.

The current economic climate may have us tightening our belts before long, but, no matter the privations of a recession or full-scale depression, for some the question will always be, Which belt do I tighten, and does it go with my outfit?

Last December, while news of Tribune Co.’s bankruptcy protection in the U.S. and the massive buyouts and layoffs at CanWest Global Communications Corp. and CTVglobemedia had the media world reeling, Vancouver’s newly rebranded national web magazine VitaminDaily.com raised many a perfectly groomed eyebrow by announcing a second round of national expansion, adding Calgary and Francophone Montreal to its Vancouver, Toronto and English-Montreal roster.

All of which begs the question, How did two best friends with no previous web-business experience, PR maven Tara Parker Tait and former West Coast editor of Fashion magazine Sarah Bancroft, grow a free local service into an ad-revenue-based national brand?

Directly modelled on its successful American counterpart, DailyCandy.com (Daily Candy founder Dany Levy has been a mentor to both Parker Tait and Bancroft), Vitamin Daily’s precursor, VitaminV.ca, went live in September 2004 with five-day-a-week email blasts that provided subscribers with information on new products, stores, restaurants and cultural events in and around Vancouver.

In early 2006, Bancroft says, they “decided to do it for real,” with Bancroft devoting herself to the venture full-time. Together, Bancroft and Parker Tait raised $500,000 of startup capital from their very own Dragon’s Den of investors (including investment guru Sean Morrison and the Keg’s David Aisenstat) and, later, the Canada New Media Fund. “These are guys that don’t do deals under, I don’t know, $10 million, but our pitch impressed them,” Bancroft remembers. “The only problem was that our meeting ended at 9:30 a.m. and we couldn’t get a celebratory mimosa anywhere in town before 10 a.m.”

As traditional media continue to look to the horizon for signs of danger in the coming year, Bancroft predicts smooth sailing for Vitamin Daily. “We expect to be in the black in this fiscal year,” she says, pointing to a relatively steady two to four per cent increase in new subscribers every month.