Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health supplements but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ashley Southard, founder and CEO of Mushroom Design, located in Miami, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Mushroom Design is the first mushroom supplement to be truly backed by science. Our supplements are formulated based on years of research and development, quality tested (in a lab and in vivo), and dosed to truly support the human body (whereas most other supplements are backed by little to no research and tend to believe "more is better" when it comes to dosages - resulting in negatively impacted health). Furthermore, everything we do is carbon-neutral - our packaging is printed with carbon-negative algae ink, we use lifetime glass (versus plastic), and we ship with biodegradable and compostable materials.
Tell us about yourself
I came to the mushroom space through marketing and branding for health/wellness and b-corp sector companies, including mental health, holistic/functional health, environmental health, and of course, psychedelics.
I started Mushroom Design when I noticed a gap in how the majority of these supplements are sold - zero attention was paid to how the active ingredients actually work in the body, resulting in potential long-term damage. In fact, our first product's formulation came due to my own blood scare.
I took a mushroom powder supplement 1-2 times per day. I had my annual bloodwork run. A certain marker was so off the charts that my doctor literally ran the test again, thinking the sample was contaminated. It wasn't. She sent me to a hematologist, essentially saying, "I don't want to scare you, but I've only seen this in blood cancer." The hematologist was also perplexed, given I am young, healthy, and have no family history of blood cancer. He then asked if I had taken any supplements. Other than b-vitamins, I said no. He probed further - really, no special juices or smoothies? And that's when I remembered the "innocent" mushroom powder I was putting in my morning coffee and afternoon smoothie. He told me to stop it for two weeks and come back.
Sure enough, I came back, and my bloodwork was all back to normal. At this time, I connected with my chairman and now chief scientist, who explained to me the true mechanisms by which mushrooms work within the body, specifically as it relates to the immune system. He further explained how excessive provocation of the immune system (which is what happens when we go too far with "supporting" and "protecting" it by taking so many immune-boosting supplements) actually harms the immune system and reduces longevity. Big Woah! It was then that I set about to formulate our supplements properly.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I believe that the teams and connections that I continue to grow through my business are my biggest accomplishments. I do not build a company for myself. I build it for how it can serve consumers and how it can help its members grow and learn.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Leaders eat last, always. As a founder or business owner, you must know that there are times when you will not eat at all. You'll hear 100 nos (or more) if you're raising funds before one yes. And you will need to believe in your vision, product, or service to carry you through.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Do not ever hire someone you would not want to spend 8-10 hours per day with. Even if that person has the best resume and the most impressive experience, just don't do it. Your business is your chosen family, and if the energetic connection isn't there, you and your company will suffer.
- Create roadmaps for what you will do with your funds monthly, quarterly, and annual. Even if you are not raising funds, treating the business as if you are will ensure that you're always on top of your operation, your financials, and what moves are best at any given time.
- Always add at least two months to every projected timeline item (for yourself). For example, if you think your online portal will be developed in January, do not be surprised if it's not actually live until March (but keep January on your team's timeline).
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.