—Taking a cue straight from the horse’s mouth, the Herthel family of Los Olivos transformed a strictly equine enterprise into one that benefits bipedal patients as well. From their world-renowned veterinary practice, Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center, the Herthels launched a line of products that improve the health of pets and their people, too.
Dr. Doug Herthel founded the clinic in 1972 and with his team of innovative veterinarians, established it among the top equine care centers in the nation. Here, Dr. Herthel and his associates practice what he calls a “biological approach to healing.”
In a bid to improve results at the clinic, the Herthels developed Platinum Performance, a line of therapeutic nutritional supplements that include sport, joint, and cardiac formulations. Rich in high-quality protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, trace minerals, and antioxidants, the supplements provide vital elements often lacking in standard equine diets.
The supplements came to market in 1997, just as Mark Herthel, the doctor’s older son and co-founder of Platinum Performance, finished his second year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Studying agricultural business and nutrition, his skills meshed with the needs of the burgeoning business.
“My father developed the horse products for our practice at Alamo Pintado,” Mark explains, “but we actually had quite a few locals using the products themselves. So, within a year, we developed a human-equivalent.”
Impressed by the improvement in her horse’s health, one particular client started taking the supplements during her cancer treatments.
“She’s the one who sat my father down and told him how well she was doing,” Mark remembers. “That’s what spurred us to develop a human equivalent. It happened pretty quick.
“In my freshman year, in the dorms,” he laughs, “I had the first prototypes of the human equivalent formula and we would eat it. It was in white coffee bags and we were giving it away to get feedback.”
Mark’s mother, Sue, came up with the name Platinum Performance—as a kind of step up from gold—to describe the dazzling improvements they were seeing among their equine patients. She continues to work at the clinic, alongside her husband, and now her younger son, Troy, who recently joined the staff after completing his veterinary internship.
Although Mark was employed at the clinic as a youngster, doing tasks as varied as helping with surgeries to mowing the lawn, he always found the commerce side of things more compelling.
“In fifth grade I had my first business,” he remembers. “We’d pick apples and sell them in the park in Los Olivos, and I had a tiny roadside stand. I grew up in the veterinary practice, but I always wanted to be more of a businessman.”
While in college, Mark met his future wife, Erika, a nutrition major who has been part of Platinum Performance since the beginning. In the early days, the couple traveled across the country promoting the products.
“It was fantastic!” Mark declares. “We were gone every other weekend, and between the veterinary and human sides, we were at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American Association of Diabetes Educators one week, and then we’d be at a veterinary conference or horse show the next.”
Research for Platinum Performance products takes place at universities across the country, including UC Davis, Colorado State University, and Michigan State. In 2011, the company introduced two new equine products: one promoting gastric health and the other a pro-biotic digestive aid.
Equine clients have ranged from Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup winners to Olympic jumpers. Two-legged athletes who use the products formulated for people include several Olympic swimmers, among them Gary Hall, Jr., who won gold in Athens in 2004.
As president of Platinum Performance, Mark reveals the launch of a new program for human clients that will help to personalize service.
“It’s a new concept and we’re very excited about it,” he says. “We recommend different products based on individual need, so it’s the right program for the individual. It’s pretty cool.
“Our approach is fewer products,” he continues. “We’re focused on quality results and making the right recommendations.”
With nearly 50 employees, Platinum Performance recently moved into a new, larger facility in Buellton, where the Herthels manufacture all of the products. In front of the building, located near Firestone Brewery, is the company’s retail store.
“We’re known for having really good service,” Mark says. “Our retail area is staffed by our Platinum Advisors, who are our service team, and they’re really helpful for answering questions.”
A member of a global group called the Young Presidents Organization, Mark regularly meets with fellow entrepreneurs to kick around ideas.
“It’s a real cool thing that I love to do,” he says. “A couple of my buddies have businesses, and we get together monthly. It’s kind of a personal forum-type deal, where we share experiences and talk about business ideas.
“I’m constantly getting challenged by my friends to look at doing things a different way,” he smiles, “but I really enjoy it, because it’s all about improvement.”
When not tending to Platinum Performance affairs, Mark serves as president of the Los Olivos Business Organization board, which stages local events, such as the annual Quick Draw.
“We’re trying to make sure art stays alive in Los Olivos,” he says, “and the event raises money that goes to support the promotion of art.”
He is also on the board of the Los Olivos School Foundation, which recently implemented a $200,000 technical upgrade that included re-vamping the school’s computer lab.
His daughter may be only three years old, but Mark acknowledges the importance of strengthening education and helping to improve his small town.
“It all starts at the local level,” he says, “and we’re definitely involved in the community. It’s key, so we’re happy to volunteer and do what we can.”
An avid bicycle rider, Mark grew up in the Santa Ynez Valley and always knew he wanted to stay. Fortunately, with the advent of Platinum Performance, his future was secure.
“All through school,” he says, “I just always loved it, the people, the natural beauty. Now, we’ve got a lot of great friends—some of them grew up here—and we all have kids together.
“It’s really an amazing community to raise children in,” he adds. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
INFO: Platinum Performance is located at 90 Thomas Rd., Buellton. The retail store is open Mon. through Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information or to purchase products, call 688-1731 or visit PlatinumPerformance.com.
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From left, Mark Herthel with product-development team members Chase Millhollen, Erin Kelly, and Gary Hall, with Jessie Condit, marketing.
Hall competed in the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympics and won ten Olympic medals (5 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze). He has used Platinum Performance since 2000 and recently joined the Platinum Performance staff. He now lives in Solvang.
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The new facility was designed to incorporate expansive windows and spread natural light throughout the administrative offices.