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Columbia Business Monthly

South Carolina Entrepreneur Creates Flavored Iron Supplement

Mar 07, 2023 04:59PM ● By Liv Osby

Patrick Monsiváis confesses that the idea to launch his own business sprang from being a helicopter parent to his infant daughter.

He wanted his baby to have the best start in life, he says, so he gave her iron supplements.

But she hated the taste and refused to take it, he says.

So the Greenville man says he took his life savings and began a company that makes an iron supplement with a raspberry-grape flavor. 

And now, he says, sales of NovaFerrum average 40,000 bottles a month for adults as well as children.

Originally from Texas, Monsiváis, 59, moved to Greenville with his wife, Oksana, and their daughter 12 years ago.

Up until then, he said, he had worked in hospital administration for a Humana hospital in Texas for about 10 years before moving to Reliant Pharmaceuticals – later purchased by GlaxoSmithKline – where he worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative and insurance negotiator for two decades.

In 2010, his daughter was a just few months old, and Monsiváis says he was trying to be proactive about her care. 

“I was a new parent learning the ropes, and I thought I’d just give her a multivitamin with iron,” he said. “But it tasted like rusty pennies. I thought there must be a better way.”

Monsiváis said he was relieved when the pediatrician told him that his daughter didn’t need the supplement at all because she was healthy. 

But he wondered about children who needed a supplement, like those who suffer from iron deficiency. And after consulting with a number of pediatricians, he says he decided to try to develop a better-tasting product. 

“I had been laid off at that point and I had a choice. I can keep on going and get another pharmaceutical job or see what I could make of this,” he said. “So In 2010, I put in everything I had.”

It took him a year of hard work with the help of a couple of silent investors, he says, but eventually, his company, Gensavis Pharmaceuticals, was born. 

Monsiváis says he wanted to develop a supplement that was as natural as possible, something he would give to his own child.

Working with certified laboratories, the first product – a liquid – was formulated, which he says was available by prescription only. 

Subsequently, he says, the company developed NovaFerrum, an over-the-counter supplement with a raspberry-grape flavor that masks the taste of iron which he says was recently patented. He adds that he encourages consumers to ask their pediatricians about the product.

Dr. Steven Emmett, a pediatrician practicing in New York, said between 5 percent and 15 percent of his patients have iron deficiency.

“A lot of pediatric patients, especially if they come off formula … wind up with initial iron deficiency,” he said. “Baby formula is fortified with iron.”

Iron, he said, is the basis of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body. If children don’t have enough, they don’t learn as well, he added.

“The majority of kids who have iron deficiency are not getting enough in their diets,” he said. “Basically, you have a young kid with a developing brain and inadequate oxygen.”   

 The solution is iron supplements, he said, but it was hard to get children to take them. 

Emmett, who said he has no business ties to Gensavis, said he learned about NovaFerrum at a medical conference some years ago and began telling his patients about it. 

“The big thing with all medicine is compliance,” he said. “If you have a medication that kids will take, it makes our job a lot easier. That was our big problem. No parent has complained to me about giving this product to their kids.”

As founder and CEO, Monsiváis says his company is small, characterizing it as “the little train that could.”

“I’m extremely passionate about it,” he said.

While it’s incorporated in Texas, where it was founded, he runs it from Greenville.

Though he declines to disclose his revenues, he says the company has grown every year since 2011 and that sales have doubled in some years.

Each month the company sells about 10,000 bottles of its liquid iron pediatric drops, another 10,000 bottles of its multivitamin with iron for infants and toddlers, 6,000 bottles of high potency liquid iron supplement, 4,000 bottles of its multivitamin pediatric drops, and 2,000 bottles each of four other supplements, he said. There’s even a supplement for dogs that sells about 2,000 bottles a month, he said.

“This product is not just something I created for revenue,” he said. “This is a labor of love.”