As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Faulkner.
Mark Faulkner is the Founder and President of Vireo Systems, the manufacturer behind some of the most innovative and trusted nutraceuticals and health support brands on the market. Vireo is a Latin word for health and Mark is passionate about improving the lives of people and pets by delivering premium, healthy products through world-class research, innovation and manufacturing, Mark’s goal has been to revolutionize global health through innovation. He and his team’s work has been awarded more than 10 patents in the nutraceutical and biochemistry markets.
Most recently Mark spearheaded the creation of Vireo’s Promera Health products division with the launch of PROMERA HEALTH IMMUNE SUPPORT, the first and only daily supplement designed to support your immune system by powering T-Cell energy with CON-CRĒT® Patented Creatine HCl®, the most bioavailable form of Creatine on the market. Creatine is an ingredient that has now been clinically shown to play an essential role in maintaining immune system health by boosting T-Cells.
Mark’s background includes a wealth of expertise in the field of health, wellness and nutrition; and as a leading entrepreneur behind various businesses. After graduating college with a degree in physics, accompanied by a heavy emphasis on biochemistry and research, Mark began his career in the “business of science” at one of the largest publicly traded multinational diagnostics, pharma, and medical device businesses. And prior to starting Vireo Systems, he also co-founded a forensic toxicology and healthcare laboratory that provides science-driven drug testing, post-mortem, and consulting services. He has also acted as a consultant to Tennessee legislators and governor’s staff in writing components of legislation and rules to reform Worker’s Compensation, establish Drug Free Workplace laws, and even recently on government guidelines for safe, healthy return-to-work policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has guided Union talks and negotiations regarding forensic toxicology programs and dedicated his life to quality, innovative science. Mark resides in Nashville, TN where Vireo Systems and Promera Health are headquartered.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I’ve always worked in healthcare and having been imprinted by my farm-living grandmother and her “home remedies,” I’ve also always been interested in holistic ways to improve our wellness and health. Early in my career I co-founded a forensic toxicology lab that specialized in athletic drug testing and sought to keep athletics safe and legal. The original staff of the lab developed the steroid testing program for the National Football League, and also did testing for various Olympic athletes and many of the NCAA conferences and member teams.
Athletes often grumbled about our testing and I realized in these conversations that there was a need for safe, healthy and legal sports supplements to support their athletic goals. Not long after that I started Vireo Systems to conduct peptide and amino acid research with several University scientists. We were determined to find a holistic and effective option to steroids. We synthesized a molecule, a special conjugation of Creatine, that would far out-perform any other product in sports nutrition. I called it CON-CRET® — CONcentrated CREATine, CON-CRET, and after years of studies, it has been shown to be not only safe, healthy, and legal but also to provide the strength, endurance, and recovery that elite athletes need. It is the only form of Creatine that delivers superior performance enhancing results with none of the negative side effects of regular Creatine. That fact has really opened up the Creatine market beyond elite athletes to the wide population of both male and female fitness enthusiasts.
CON-CRET Creatine HCl has been awarded 8 patents and it became the #1 specialty Creatine in the market after research presented to the International Society of Sports Nutrition in June, 2009 showed it to be far more bioavailable than any other form of Creatine.
Fast forward to today, we now know through clinical studies that Creatine not only energizes muscle cells but provides energy to all cells including immune boosting T-cells. This clinical discovery provided the basis for the creation of our Promera Health products division, which we just launched.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I’m really proud to be shaking up the industry by bringing the next generation of immunity supplements to market, particularly in an era where immunity and T-cells have taken center stage in public health discussions. Not only is Promera Health the first and only brand to incorporate Creatine into a daily immune supplement, we’re helping consumer health during this pandemic by powering T-Cell energy with CON-CRĒT® Patented Creatine HCl®, the most effective form of Creatine on the market.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Although not really funny at the time, one of the most humbling but eventually serendipitous mistakes I made came to light back in January of 2003, just a handful of months after starting Vireo, when a batch of amino acid compounds we were making “went wrong.” The batch mistake ended up NOT making the compounds we wanted or were targeting. It was an expensive mistake and I was really upset with our process engineer until it was pointed out that I was the one who had miscalculated the amount of acid catalyst we needed for the correct reaction to take place! We had no idea what the molecule was that we had mistakenly made but we just set it aside and got back to work right away to produce the correct compounds. It wasn’t until sometime later that we eventually studied it and realized it was a very unique molecule that ended up earning 8 patents and becoming what is now known to power T-Cells as the most efficient and bioavailable form of Creatine on the market — CON-CRET Creatine HCl.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
One of things we at Vireo pride ourselves on is innovation and being creative and open to all sorts of scientific exploration in our field(s) of study and business. However, one of my best mentors, Mr. Marvin Hopper, who was a very successful businessman in numerous market sectors, once told me something memorable as we were discussing all the very cool research we had going on and the amazing results we were generating. He said, “Mark, the last thing you need right now is another good idea!” In other words, there is an important amount of focus and prioritization that needs to be brought to any situation in order for meaningful progress to be made. I have always remembered that, laughed about it, and been grateful for the wisdom he shared.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
For Vireo, I think being disruptive is about finding ways to leverage the scientific findings we have discovered that can improve our way of life while overlaying the innovation with solid business processes to create stability and accountability. It isn’t all about out with the old as it is about adapting and incorporating new discoveries that science brings us into business systems that make it all sustainable for consumers. And also combining innovative science with the best that others before us have developed. Like the case of PROMERA HEALTH IMMUNE SUPPORT, our formula leverages new clinical studies showing Creatine’s important role in boosting T-Cells but it also incorporates known key immune ingredients like Vitamin D, Zinc, Selenium, Black Elderberry and Green Tea extracts, which have a long been touted for their health benefits.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- “The last thing you need right now is another great idea!” It’s easy to think of great ideas but harder to turn them into something tangible and real, again as echoed by Mr. Marvin Hopper, one of my mentors.
- “Discern carefully in tense or important circumstances to know whether you should make something happen or let something happen.” There have been many instances where something absolutely needed to be acted upon, to drive the situation to positively effect an outcome, with no replacement for being boldly decisive and working hard to make something happen. Yet there have also been at least as many situations where patience and letting something play out was absolutely the right path so as to not overreact and to allow Providence to play its role in the choreography of life.
- “Persevere and be positively resilient.” There are many instances in life and business where truly the last person standing is the winner. Don’t give up…never, never, never give up…especially if you know you are in the right. Unfortunately, there are nefarious and selfish people in life and in business, and they learn your mettle when they see they can’t erode or wear you down. It sets the tone for many business dealings and market respect going forward.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
At Promera Health we’re working on expanding our immunity boosting products and offerings beyond our initial product. I also look forward to seeing the development of more products based on our holistic antibacterial compounds and ongoing research that is yielding new scientific discoveries.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
The stories that have most impacted my thinking with their wisdom are those through my personal relationships. Three of those that come to mind are the bravery and loyalty shared with me when my Uncle Jack (3 times wounded in WW II as a 17-year-old combat private) told me about his time fighting behind enemy lines and immersed in the Battle of Heilbronn. In a lesser but important character way, bravery and loyalty are important in business with vendors, customers and competitors.
Second, my Dad shared the basics of a solid business with me that are so simple but have been so important to being successful. So many businesses that start up end up failing. He said make sure you document processes so things can be tracked, and make sure that there is more money coming in than going out…Brilliant!
And third, Sister Sandra Smithson, a very sharp and wise Black nun, who reinforced in me that I need to Trust and take time to be still and always, as much as possible, act in kindness to others. Doing so over the years has generally established for me a reputation where people accept that I am good for my word and will be fair and work towards mutual benefit.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It would be to widely promulgate the teaching methods of Miss Mary Craighead, particularly her “Reading Success” methods. They absolutely are the most effective methods to teach a child to read regardless of their socioeconomic background or status. When a young child can read well, they succeed in school and become motivated by their own success — enthused to sense their own potential. Success in school has the ability to lead people out of poverty and above challenging circumstances. To read well in the earliest school years gives the child the opportunity to be the best version of themselves possible — the fullest person the Divine intends them to be.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!