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#11 – Making Travel Healthier, The Best Travel Supplements, Quitting Your Job and Finding Balance with Allison Schaper

Much of the conversation in health and wellness centers around food and supplements, however, lifestyle plays just as big of a role as nutrition on the path towards achieving a solid state of health. Our guest today, Allison Schaper, is a former management consultant who spent years on the road traveling every week for work. Out of that role, sprung a passion for making travel healthier which gave rise to her startup Zigii. Zigii sends curated wellness packages to travelers at their destination of choice. In this episode of the Gene Food podcast, we get the low down on the best supplements for travel, how Allison was able to quit her job and pursue her passion without the help of venture capital, whether it’s possible to find balance drinking from the health and wellness firehose and much more.

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This Episode Covers:

  • Allison’s journey to health and leaving prescription drugs behind [7:00];
  • The different large players in the health care world [11:00];
  • The conundrum of work travel and how to do it better [16:00];
  • The best models for regenerative farming [30:00];
  • The Zigii model and health benefits of NYC [33:00];
  • Allison’s wellness routine [39:00];
  • Quitting your job to enter the world of startups [43:00];

Discussion:

Official Zigii Website

Transcript:

Allison: People aren’t gonna stop traveling, but the amount of radiation that flight attendants are exposed to, I mean, I think it’s from Chicago to Beijing, it’s two chest X-rays. So if you are in the air multiple times a week, your chromosomes are exposed to more damage than the average person. The good news is you can take things like Chlorella or Camu Camu powder or any of these things that will help your chromosomes protect from damage. And again, it’s not solving the problem, but it will make you feel drastically better.

John: Welcome to the ”Gene Food” podcast. I’m your host, John O’Connor. Hey, guys, before we get started today, going to give the usual plug. If you haven’t already, check out our sister site at leafscore.com. That’s www.leafscore.com, leafscore.com is the home for nontoxic products. We rate all sorts of stuff from duvet covers to mattresses to anything you’d wanna include in your home or with your family. On a scale of one to five leaves, five leaves being the most eco-friendly. Comes up all the time in conversation with people who’ve had a new baby, you wanna know what the best brand of nontoxic crib is. Boom, leafscore.com, that’s the place to go.

Today our guest is Allison Schaper. Allison is the founder of a startup that is launching soon called Zigii. It’s Zigii’s mission to help people travel healthier and smarter. She is a former management consultant who was on the road all the time. And her startup comes as the result of the experience of being on the road and just understanding just how hard travel can be for people’s health. We get into a bunch of topics today in the episode including what are the best travel supplements, the supplements that you can take that will really kind of lessen the load when you’re on the road all the time if you have a job that requires constant travel, how to escape corporate life and start your own business and maybe do so without the help of venture capital. We talk about regenerative farming and the future of agriculture. We talk about balance, the balance between too much information in the health and wellness space and not enough information and how you can kind of take what works for you and what you found valuable and sort of tried to discard some of the noise because I think in some cases people can get overwhelmed with all the information that’s out there. We touch on New York City, some of the startups that are in the New York city health and wellness space. A little bit of a different episode than we normally have, but I hope you enjoy it. It was a lot of fun recording it. And without further ado, here is Allison.

So I wanna get deep into your story and talk about your…because you have a really interesting journey towards like, you know, coming into the health and wellness community. Just tell everyone kind of like how you arrived at this place you are now and how you got into health and wellness and kind of going back to the whole childhood story and all that stuff.

Allison: Yeah. So it’s interesting because as I’m very passionate about the wellness space and the more that I’m in it, I realized that everyone’s story is eerily similar, which was an interesting. I mean it’s interesting and it just also points to a lot of the flaws in our system, the fact that there’s this many stories even within just my community. But so my intro to this was, and I feel like, you know, you’ve probably heard this similar path, the typical journey is a lot of people go to the doctor at the young age for whatever problem, lack of education with anything that’s really going on in their body. So my situation was I had stomach problems at a young age. A lot of it I feel like might’ve been a result of C-section or being on antibiotics as a baby. You know, there’s like a kind of combination of factors of why I think it was happening.

Stomach problems, I go to the doctor. And I got a few tests around. My mom was with me, but again, we just got a recommendation. We go and he essentially says the cliff notes of it is, my diagnosis was, you have really bad acid reflux and if you don’t take this acid blocker, it was Pantoprazole or Prozac and gave me the highest dosage. If you don’t take this every day for the rest of your life, I’ll develop esophageal cancer and die within three months. And so that was my diagnosis as a 16-year-old. Of course, that’s really freaky, blindly trust whatever he says and was on this pill for five years. And he basically said, you know, if you take it, you’ll be fine type of situation.

So I take it for five years and during that process, I’m starting to get more in tune with wellness and figure out my body more and what works for me, what didn’t, and just become more educated, just in general. And it was around the time I went to grad school, I started to really get plugged into functional medicine and integrated medicine and really learning about the fact that most disease is caused by food and, you know, you’ve heard this. So anyways, I figured out that the pill that I had kind of cured most of my problems, the pill that he prescribed me was kind of the last outstanding Western medicine influence, if you will. And I was kind of like, why am I on this pill? I looked up a bunch of things about it and it was actually, I think it was Mark Hyman that had an episode or a video that said that this pill actually causes cancer and it’s the most commonly prescribed pill in the United States. And the reason being is, this is how a lot of things operate, is because it has the highest profit margin for doctors.

And I called my doctor back and I said, ”Why am I on this?” And he basically said, ”Oh, you don’t really need to be on it. It was just kind of a cautionary thing. And, you know, I give this out all the time. My kids are on it.” And I’m listening to this and I’m like, “Holy shit.” Then I did all this research and it’s such a common, it’s copy and paste. This is how it operates and at the same time. So anyways, that was kind of my own personal journey with it. And I’ve had other things happen to me where I would just really distrust the system in general.

I mean, and we know this, but a lot of the problems with how things operate right now is the fact that 97% or whatever it is of disease is caused by food, but yet we teach nutrition 3% in medical school. So there’s this huge information gap from doctors and from your average patient that is going to the doctor with problems that could be caused by food, but there’s no diagnosis around that. So anyways, that was kind of my personal story with it. And then at the same time, I worked in healthcare, realized how completely messy the system is. I’m very passionate about that space.

John: There’s a lot to ask about that. I think one of the super interesting things is going back to your parents kind of realizing, okay, this is an issue that you’re having. It sounds like you guys kind of figured it out on your own, just changing up your diet before you realized that this prescription medication was not necessary. So when you guys went home at that time, like you went to the drawing board and then what did you do collectively once you found out that that was an issue?

Allison: So it’s interesting because after I got prescribed this, I kind of didn’t really change anything else about my life. It was more so and it wasn’t even during those initial years. It was more a few years down the line, I started to get really passionate about this space, kind of cure all of my problems, just feel, and we discussed this previously, but I didn’t really, and most people don’t realize how good their bodies are designed to feel if you actually treat yourself well. And a lot of society does just go around floating all the time because, you know, you’re on medicine and you’re not putting the right things in your body. And again, I’m all about the balance and it’s not 100% clean all the time, but I started to realize, okay, if I cover these bases and I’m eating a bunch of vegetables, and I switched, I became vegan for a few years and I just realized I felt like I was on cocaine all the time. I felt awesome and this last thing in my life, I realized didn’t really need to be there. And with the research that I had, I realized that pills are a band-aid effect. The pills for the most part are a band-aid on what the root cause is. And so I really focused on the root cause and then realized this pill was not even for a diagnosis that I even had. So it turns out I didn’t even have what I was diagnosed with.

John: Yeah, that’s incredible. I have friends that have taken those kinds of pills. It does seem they’re common, like a lot of people are on those. The acid block. It’s the acid blockers, right, you said?

Allison: Acid blockers, and they’re prescribed for acid reflux. And the reason for acid reflux is often food and what you’re feeding yourself. So, you know, it’s a domino effect but the system operates, and again, this is not universal but it’s really common that a lot of the things that are prescribed are directly related to profit margins. And the reason why a knee surgery is the most commonly prescribed procedure in the United States is that it has a crazy high profit margin. And the stories that I’ve heard, you know, kind of after I had this personal story and then going in to the healthcare world, it was really interesting because I did consulting for a while and worked with a lot of these companies and started collecting all these stories and interviews from people that work really high up in this space. It’s a crazy messed up system. And you know, from a way it operates from a profit perspective, just in general, like the value chain is royally messed up, which we can touch on. I’m very passionate about that space. But from a patient standpoint, you go in and doctors are somewhat incentivized to prescribe you things that you might not necessarily need because they don’t have a lot of the education that is needed to prescribe you a better diet.

John: Yeah. That comes up all the time in these conversations about people that are passionate about changing the game with functional medicine and nutritional interventions. It’s really difficult kind of as like one individual to kind of try to calibrate and see… We know there’s a place for pharmaceuticals, of course, but there’s also this huge profit margin out there. And then somebody like yourself who is on this prescription drug when you’re 16 and kind of told you’re gonna have to be on this forever, it turns out you didn’t even need to be on it. It’s incredible the confusion that that kind of puts out into the system because nobody’s really getting better. They’re just kind of taking these. It’s like who takes the drug and then, “I’m better. Like now I’m off it.” It kinda seems like they’re designed to be taken forever.

Allison: No, it’s a band-aid. It’s a band-aid. And I think that, you know, the typical story is you’re exposed to chemicals and foods at a young age, you get sick, you don’t know why. You go to the doctor and get prescribed a pill that creates side effects. Then you get prescribed other pills and then all of a sudden, you’re 40 and sick and you don’t know how to fix it. And you have all these problems that there’s a million different factors in your life that could solve all those problems. And, you know, who’s to say what the actual issue is stemming from, whether it’s pill number one or pill number two or whatever it is, or the food you’re eating. But it’s a lot of education, I think, and the healthcare system in general, I think, it’s getting better.

And you saw last year was a really interesting time for me to be working in this space because it is changing and I think that demand by consumer where we want Amazon Prime for your healthcare and a more valuable system. We want, you know, fee for service and things like that. So the reason why all these different massive players are getting into healthcare is number one, they’re realizing that there’s insane amounts of money in it that’s completely being misallocated. Like right now how it operates as healthcare is $3.4 trillion and $516 billion of it is stranded profit.

John: Wow. So what do you mean by stranded profits?

Allison: It’s just misallocated to all…and misallocated maybe is not the right term, but there’s, you know, six, seven different players between the payers, the manufacturers, distributors, the PBMs, and all of these different players from the time a pill is created, all from the time it’s created till the time it reaches the end consumer, it’s marked up all throughout this value chain. And so everyone is taking their piece of the profit. And some of those players are providing value. Some of them aren’t. For example, the pharmacy benefit managers, they’re taking 21 billion in profit and everyone’s super confused on what the actual value-add is. So it’s super expensive. And that in and of itself is creating a profit chain rather than a value chain.

And the issue there is number one, people aren’t getting the results they need or the diagnosis they need because it’s really expensive and really scary. And number two is just a really, really, it’s corrupt overall. And right now how it operates is like insurance, what other industry would we accept this? And it’s like going shopping and picking out a shirt, picking it up, looking at it, you don’t really wanna see, put it back down. And then you go to bill, you know, in the week and four weeks later for $5,000. That’s how healthcare operates right now. And so we’ve just been so accustomed to think that that’s the norm. But a lot of these players are hopefully, all these startup companies are changing it by getting into this space. I’m excited to see what Amazon and companies like that are doing.

John: Yeah, ripe for disruption, to use the startup turn, you gotta throw disruption in there.

Allison: It’s ripe for disruption for sure.

John: For you, you came to all this knowledge of the industry because you went from this, it was kind of a consistent path in a way. Like you had this issue where you realize like you have these individual kind of health needs or you needed to kind of eat a certain way or focus on environment, diet when you were younger and then you went in and you worked for a really massive consultancy and we’re gonna get to your startup here in a minute, which is the fun part, but that kind of sets the table because it’s like this consistent story trajectory. So you worked for this. How big was the consultancy? And just if you could tell the audience, kind of, you got this very inside look at the inefficiency of the system, which gave birth to the startup coming in a second.

Allison: I kind of describe it as it was kind of a…it was Zigii in my company, which we’ll talk about. I’m really excited about it. It was inspired by, number one, my personal story and then going into this industry and seeing how messed up it is and then truly realizing that you can’t fix it from the top down. I really respect the people that are doing it and I’m really excited. I think it’s kind of a…it’s gonna be a meeting in the middle of, you know, fixing the way that the system works in general. But I do think that what creates a healthier person is from the bottom up. So after going in and hearing these stories, you know, just for example, I think this is a perfect example, kind of just snowball and everything we’ve just discussed.

But we are going to… I worked for this massive consulting firm and I focused on a lot of digital healthcare transformation work, which was so cool, really exciting, especially last year when everyone was getting acquired every day and getting into healthcare. And for example, we’re interviewing a really, really high up person at one of these companies who…you know, he’s a major player in American healthcare in that world. And he’s telling a story about his wife going into the doctor and she had to get a procedure done. And they went to a new place because it was kind of an embarrassing procedure that she didn’t want people to know about. And they found a blip on her X-ray, so they thought she had to get this open body surgery. I don’t exactly remember the details of what it is. But the point being is they went into the surgery, opened her up and realized that it was a mess up on the X-ray. It didn’t actually exist. She was completely fine, but they performed the entire surgery anyways because it was better for their fixed costs to use the operating room that day.

John: Yeah. I remember.

Allison: And so I’m hearing stuff like that and, you know, that in combination with my own personal story, that was kind of the inspiration of a bottom up really, really fixed people from the ground up so that way they don’t even have to interact with a system. But then, hopefully, when they do, it’ll be in a more efficient way than it exists right now.

John: So you have this macro level, like, perspective on the healthcare industry from the actual like substance of your job, but then you’re getting sent all over the place as our consult. Like my sister’s done this in the past. I know a little bit about the schedule. It’s you leave Monday and come back Thursday.

Allison: Yes. Monday through Thursday. Corporate road warriors. So, and there’s, and just in the United States there are 600,000 management consultants that are living this lifestyle. And it’s amazing. There’s so many perks of it. But at the same time, so I’m learning all this and then I’m also realizing how bad travel is for you because I love researching just the wellness space in general. So as I’m, you know, traveling and I didn’t even end up traveling nearly as that much as I thought I was. But still, you know, it’s a pain point. How many times do you hear people say it’s so difficult to stay healthy? When I travel, I mean, it’s repetitive and especially living that lifestyle, you hear it all day, every day. And it is really, I mean, you know, it’s super difficult.

So you’re on the road four days a week. And the reason for the company, the reason that I thought of Zigii was because of my own personal pain point of, you know, in daily life we’re super, super overwhelmed with wellness. And it’s a great thing because there’s so many amazing companies that are doing and creating great products to solve for the really bad products out there that are actually creating great ingredients. And but the issue with it is if you are an average wellness consumer, that, you know, that aren’t you or people who have…or maybe your audience who has really, really deep knowledge of this space. But even so, the pain point is there is so much out there and there’s so much information for the average person who does not have the time or care enough to research the space. They have this IKEA effect of getting online and looking on Instagram or going into Whole Foods. You’re hitting the face with eight superfood powders. And then when you travel, so it’s like overwhelming daily life. And then when you travel, there is the KIND bars and the granola mix that have taken over the entire market base. And those things aren’t bad, but they’re just everywhere and there aren’t options.

There’s nothing as far as super foods or supplements or anything kind of that you would get in this overwhelmed world. It’s a completely, you know, there’s this massive gap. So Zigii’s goal is basically to create awesome packages of products that solve for the problems you have when you travel and deliver them to your destination. So number one, creating the opportunity for people to not be overwhelmed but also give them a convenient way to stay healthy while they’re on the road. It’s not a food box, it’s not this, you know, diet plan or anything like that. It’s kinda here’s your travel basis. So you’ll get something for hydration, sleep, beauty, detox and these macro categories. And then the whole perk of it is if you are a consultant and you’re traveling on the massive corporate budget that we get, that you can expense it.

So that’s kind of the overall models with individuals. And I really just wanna be able to, I mean, at the end of the day, it’s an awesome wellness package you send yourself. So, you know, placebo effect, you’re taking care of yourself and you’re also getting the opportunity to be exposed to amazing new products that solve for the problems you have when you travel because travel is wonderful, but it’s inherently horrible for you.

John: Yeah. When I heard the ideas like such a good idea, I love, I was like, I hear startup ideas, you know, fairly often, I’ve heard bad ideas and I’ve spent years of my life pursuing that idea. So it’s like I’ve done both. And this is such a good idea. Like I love the expense piece. I love the fact that it’s like making people aware because you have… You’re right, like people are drinking from a firehose with this stuff big time. And we were just talking about this Oura ring I’m wearing, like is it good? Is it bad? I don’t know. It could be too much information. It’s great to have a curator of information for people that are on the road and be like, “Hey, I’m kind of doing the research so you don’t have to, here are the products that I’ve picked out as being really, really good and valuable. I’ve excluded others that I think might not help you. I’ve been in your shoes and here’s the thing.” And we know like our mutual friend Chris, who’s probably gonna be listening to this episode.

Allison: Hey, Chris.

John: We love you. Hey, Chris. You know, he’s a perfect example of somebody who’s amazing at his job, but he’s traveling to like, I’ll talk to him and he’s going from like Istanbul to like New Zealand to Australia to… And I want to give him, like I wanna send him warm blankets and water and just like, I know it sounds almost hugs, like I wanna just send him stuff and be like, “Chris, we love you.” So…

Allison: So, and Chris, not to freak you out with all this travel research, but the stuff that is coming out right now and, you know, it’s out there in the world, but a lot of people don’t know about it. The amount of radiation you’re exposed to from being in a plane and you’re Joel Kahn who was on your show had a great article on MindBodyGreen about this. And so when you go up in the air, your body basically goes through a massive hangover. Like that’s the cliff notes of it. You get really dehydrated, you’re exposed to deep vein thrombosis, cosmic radiation, all of these crazy issues and people aren’t gonna stop traveling. But the amount of radiation that flight attendants are exposed to, I mean, I think it’s from I wanna say Chicago to Beijing, it’s two chest X-rays and that’s really…

So if you are in the air multiple times a week, you’re really exposing…your chromosomes are exposed to more damage than the average person, It’s like 100 times higher when you’re up that high in a plane versus when you’re at ground level. And the good news is you can take things like Chlorella or Camu Camu powder or any of these things that will help your chromosomes protect from damage. And again, it’s not solving the problem, but it will make you feel drastically better or if you stay hydrated. And there are these things.

So the goal with what I’m trying to do, and again, it’s for the person that needs cliff notes on health and doesn’t have the time to be researching all of this stuff is, you know, as fascinating as I find it and you find it, most people don’t because they’re working a million hours a week for their jobs. So, and, again, with the products that we started, that we curated to start, we have around 20 brands on board for the launch, which is in seven days. And I’m very excited about it. The goal was to sway on the side of things that, you know, it’s not straight spirulina, it’s all these super foods, but they also taste like chocolate. So they’re easy to integrate into your routine. It’s on the go. It’s, you know, you’ll get this collection of not overwhelmed and we’re starting with eight products per these bundles that you’ll get. So we have a feminine one, a universal one and a hangover one, which I foresee being the bestseller. And the whole goal is to make it easy to implement into your daily routine. So it’s not overwhelming, but there are also awesome options that aren’t available where you’re currently traveling.

John: Yeah. So you are a master networker, it seems like you know a ton, I mean.

Allison: Very kind of you.

Jon: Well, it’s true.

Allison: No, I just talk too much.

John: I’ve been impressed and so, but I mean that’s part of your job, is to know the people that are kind of in the wellness space. And then, like we talked about pick the products that you like and kind of get the stories behind the people. So one of the things I think we could do is drill down on and highlight just like three or four. We mentioned Chlorella as like a standalone supplement for radiation, but what are some of the… Like let’s talk about the hangover bundle and then maybe like the feminine bundle and just kind of your favorite products, why you chose them, the stories behind the people that are making them, just so people can get a landscape tour of like, this is the travel stuff that I can get from Zigii that will help me.

Allison: Yeah, sure. So I think we’ll pick a product in hydration. And we’ll pick a kind of a super food powder thing. So number one is hydration. I mean it’s one of the biggest problems that we face just in life in general. I think it’s 80% of people are chronically dehydrated and that’s… If you solve that problem, it would solve so many other problems for people, but especially when you fly. And so there’s stuff that you can take from companies like liquid IV or Hydrant are two of my first brand partners and they’re awesome. So basically the science behind these products is cellular transport technology and the cliff notes of it is it’s osmosis for your body. So if you combine sugar and salt, which in the wellness world are typically regarded as bad things and no one wants them in their food. However, if you combine them at a certain ratio and put them into a supplement and add them to water, you’re hydrating yourself at a alarmingly more rapid rate than you would normally be if you’re just drinking plain water. So things like that are amazing for you to take while you’re traveling.

And one of the things we’re also trying to do is not only give you the product, but also there’s like a little booklet that will go inside these packages that show you what it is, why it’s good for you and how to use it. Because a lot of people, you’ll give them something and they’re like, great, super excited to be healthy and they have no idea what to do with it, or the most efficient way to actually use something. So we’re also trying to educate people in an approachable way about how to use something or integrate it into their daily routine because the whole goal of this is to give people, you know, with these eight products, I don’t want every single product to be a daily part of someone’s life, that’s super overwhelming and not actually sustainable. And we both know simplicity is kind of the key to everything. But the goal being is that if we plant the seed of wellness in people’s lives and they find something that’s great and it tastes good and it’s easy for them to integrate and they can add it to their water or their coffee and it gives them that boost and sets them up for success for the rest of their day because it doesn’t matter, you know, as much what you eat because you’ve got all your vitamins and minerals covered and not matter in the sense that you know that you can go out and live your life and you kind of have your basics taken care of.

So that would be one hydration. And then I think another great example there is a product called FlightFud that combines six core ingredients that are curated to solve for the problems that your body has in the air. It was created by an ex-flight attendant that realized all this insane stuff about how bad radiation is for you and basically realize this is my life and this is what I’m exposing myself to, let me create something for people that are having the same problem. And a lot of the products that we’re starting with, I think it’s really cool because the founder’s story, again, is similar maybe to mine or similar to anyone that’s had a problem with the system or a really bad illness and has created a product that solved their own illness and now they’re trying to share that with the world. So I mean, the whole goal of what I’m trying to do is give something that makes our lives better and easier and live and feel better overall. But from the brand side to also raise awareness for these really awesome brands that are creating products that deserve to be recognized.

John: For sure. So what are the ingredients that are in that flight attendant founded product?

Allison: Yeah, so we have Chlorella, I don’t know if I know all six, but it’s Chlorella, Camu Camu powder, Papaya, Goji Berry. And then there’s two others. And those six core ingredients are all targeting either, one of them is deep vein thrombosis, one of them is hydration, one of them is the radiation. So, and again, with the intent to protect your chromosomes from the damage that they get from going in the plane.

John: Yeah, that’s a tough job. I was just thinking, I mean you think the consultants and then the flight attendants, you know, that is a tough job.

Allison: And you’re having time zones all the time, which is just horrible for jet lag and sleep and everything like that. So part of the… You know, the company is not intended to be based on a fear of traveling, but there is, you know, it’s more supposed to be a positive benefit that you can give yourself to solve for the basic problems of staying healthy on the road. But there is a lot of scary research out there about how bad it is for you and it’s not gonna stop. People aren’t gonna stop flying because they’re scared of radiation, but there is stuff you can do to make yourself feel better because it’s…you don’t even need the science to realize that it makes you feel horrible. Like you land from whatever journey you’re on. Number one, there’s someone coughing next to you for two hours, you’re freaked out that you’re gonna get that. And then the frustration that builds is that you go out into the airport lobby and there’s nothing there. You know, there’s nothing remotely healthy if you’re looking for that. So trying to bridge that gap.

John: So will there be foods too that I’m hearing you say that there’ll be like basically, because you know the airports a lot of times are food deserts, so there will be, you’re gonna mix the supplements with…like what are some of the solid kind of?

Allison: Dry snacks that have awesome ingredients and are just healthier than what you would find out there. So and again, the airport and that space is getting better but also the major problem that a lot of people faces is it’s crazy expensive. I went to the airport and I think I spent $40 on a big water, a pack of gum and like a bag of peanuts or something crazy, you know, it’s insanely expensive. So even though these options are available, they’re not convenient and people are always… A lot of this, even if you’re traveling to a cool, sexy city like New York or LA where there are wellness hubs and you do have these options, people when you’re traveling for work, you spend your time at the client’s site or the office and the hotel and the airport lobby. That is it. So we’re trying to get people things that are accessible and valuable.

John: So you just said, because this is something that we got into last time that I think is good to kind of just touch on New York City as a wellness hub. I know there’s stuff up in the Hudson Valley, and there’s people that are doing really cool things. You’ve put that on my radar. Like sustainable hotel models and farming and like there’s a lot of people who go to the Hudson Valley who kind of escape and get back to the land kind of a thing. And that’s like a very almost kind of like hippie wellness sort of area. But do you think in the city, do you really think that New York City is like a hot bed of wellness? Because I really go back and forth on that one.

Allison: I know, yeah, we’ve had this. I think so. And yeah, I’m really excited about, one of my other passions that’s kind of popped up in my life is that whole regenerative farming space. And the more I learn, I would feel ignorant to not continue to be passionate about it because, I mean, even with what I’m doing, nothing we are all doing will continue to exist if we don’t have the food to create any of these products.

John: Regenerative farming. So you having mentioned it recently kind of puts it on my radar, too, and I never know who to believe because there’s these two sides to the debate. It’s like one, you have the plant or the vegan side that wants to see no animal agriculture in there even opposed to grass fed beef, you know, and sheep and things like that. And then if you watch the movie, ”The Biggest Little Farm,” they’re in I think Ohio or somewhere outside of LA and they cultivate this farm for years and years and they have this beautiful top soil because they use…they rotate their animals through different parts of the soil and it becomes very healthy. And so when there’s a rainstorm, it doesn’t wash away. But the monocrop farms that are next door, they wash away. But then at the same time, it’s like most of these animal agricultural places are not these beautiful sort of Joel Salatin biggest little farm farms or these factory farms where they’re just torturing these animals. And that’s sort of like the flip side of the coin. So I never know where I come down on that whole… I don’t know where I come down on that whole debate.

Allison: Yeah, no, it’s really, really interesting and I’m excited to learn more because I don’t even have a necessarily opinion of what the solution is because I don’t know enough about it. But the more that I learn and the more I meet people that are doing cool things in this space, I realize that overall, there’s a more efficient way to do it. However, it’s underfunded and there’s amazing startups that are doing things to change the space. And if that were to be magnified over the way that we do everything, it would solve the problem. But a lot of it in my personal opinion, so take this with a grain of salt, the issue is that there’s a lot of rework being done across companies that are doing things in this space.

So my idea is like, let’s bring together all these companies and actually, you know, create an accelerator program or an incubator of some sort to bring together really cool companies that are doing game-changing things in this space to actually have number one, a larger network effect from the communities that these people know and to bring together the smartest minds that are doing things. For example, there’s a guy that I recently met and his company take satellite pictures of the earth and those pictures can be used to educate farmers on how to more optimally move their animals around the land to regenerate the soil in a better way. And if those, I mean, if we were to get images like that to all the farms or, you know, whatever it is, there’s solutions that are kind of popping up in little pockets of America or wherever, you know, across the world. So I think it would be really interesting to bring all those people together.

John: Yeah. That’s a fascinating idea that I hadn’t heard of that either and that sort of, I was like, wow, well, that’s a really cool startup. No, what we’re also talking about just like staying healthy because you…

Allison: Oh, yeah, we totally pivoted from New York.

John: Which is fine. No, but it’s like is in New York City sort of like a hotbed of wellness? And you think that it is, and I just wanna hear the case for that.

Allison: I think so because a lot of the people I talk to and work with and have been working with all just physically live in New York City. However, that’s a completely different entity from how healthy is the city, mind, body, soul, whatever it is. There’s a lot of health things here. However, it’s, and we kind of touched on this before, but for some people, it’s a completely toxic environment because it’s so much fun and I think that’s magical. I think that’s the best part of it. And what I have even more recently come to realize about wellness and everything it is, it truly is mind, body, soul. I mean, you can treat yourself so well and eat all the right things and work out and be totally by the books, super healthy. But if you don’t have that, you know, social stimulation or energy or mindset, I think it is really, really split between those three entities, if not more.

But I think that the energy of New York makes me happy. And if I’m happy, then that’s the foundation to be healthy. So I love it. I think that, you know, I’m sure there’s disgusting diseases on the trains here. So from a core health perspective, those can’t be great for you. And there’s a lot of, you know, just natural, not good things about New York from that perspective. But I think that overall, it’s, I mean, number one, there’s a lot of companies here and there’s so many wellness solutions for people that are interested in that space. And as people are shifting away from, you know, necessarily only going to bars, there’s so many communities that are popping up that are focused around wellness. So I think that that’s really attractive for people.

John: Yeah, that’s so true. And that’s a great point because you know your community and how you feel. I mean, the energy of the city is fantastic. I just don’t know where I come down on it. But having said that, I mean, I spent like five months in LA last summer. I thought I was moving there and then I just decided not to do that. Wasn’t for me. LA is a great city. You know, there’s a lot of cool parts of LA. I really liked Silver Lake. But, you know, it’s theoretically healthier in LA, but I think there’s also a certain vanity culture that kind of pops up. And that leads me to my next question, which is how do you balance, I mean, you’re founding a startup, it’s in health and wellness. We know that you can take health and wellness too far. But health and wellness…focus on health and wellness can also be very valuable. Where do you find that dividing line to kind of like be up on information but also keep your sanity at the same time?

Allison: Yeah, no, that’s a great question because it’s something that I’ve actually really had a journey with and I think that a lot of people do go through this similar, you know, roller coaster of finding whatever is their happiest, most balanced state. And I’m really obsessed with this space and in learning new information and absorbing new things. You know, the site, we’ve nerd it out over so much science around this stuff. And it’s fascinating to me. However, I know that, again, simplicity and finding a balance between those three entities, whether, you know it’s physical nutrition and social, however you wanna categorize them, mind, body, soul, whatever you want to call it, finding equal balance in all of those is so key to me. And if one of those is kind of out of kilter, that’s when I don’t feel happy.

And I realized that, you know, there is an obsessive point where, and I think I went through this as I was learning, you know, all this years ago where to fully, fully educate yourself on a space, there is a little bit of obsessiveness that kind of tends to go along with it. That’s why I think that, you know, the most successful people I know are so hyper obsessive about what their space is and they know everything about it. However, that’s not necessarily conducive to balance and happiness. And I think that what a lot of people struggle with is being on one side of the spectrum. You know, a lot of people when they describe their wellness journeys or I’m really, you know, I’ve talked to a lot of women in this space and it’s a very interesting world for the crossover between image and wellness.

And if you focus on the feeling, that’s when people are the happiest. But a lot of people, you know, originally get into the space and we’ve all been there where they’re trying to look a certain way or be at a certain weight and they’re chasing wellness for that aspect of it. But that doesn’t tend to create a sustainable happy lifestyle. And then when they realize when people, you know, actually start treating themselves better, they realize how much better they feel and then when they get addicted to the feeling, that’s actually when it creates lasting change in people’s life. So I think the more you can focus on the feeling of it and, you know, and again, the looks is a benefit, like looking better and feeling better and confident, that’s a benefit of it. But I think it’s been an interesting journey for me because I think I’ve gone hyper obsessive in each of these categories and it’s really served me super well because it’s educated me on figuring my body out.

I’ve been very much experimenting with a lot of different things for the pure sake of experimenting. I did, you know, hardcore vegan for a few years and no coffee, we talked about this, just to see how my body reacts. And now I feel like I’ve somewhat hacked my own system, always changing and always implementing new things. But I have kind of a core ritual that serves me really well. It might not serve someone else really well, but the more I… That’s why I love sharing this information with people about hacks and just general hacks because I’m not a scientist and I’m not a doctor, but I’ve absorbed enough information from the best people at what they do that I’ve taken, you know, the cliff notes of that and everyone with a grain of salt. I don’t fully follow one person 100%, but I’ve adopted each of those tidbits into my routine and I think that it’s landed me where I’m at and I’m super happy, but I’ll continue to change it as I go on

John: Change as needed, that’s not gonna stay static. So what does… I’m sure the audience at home is listening, thinking, “Well, what are some of the highlights of the way you eat and some of the things that you do that you found are most beneficial for you?”

Allison: Yeah. And again, that’s all been a really interesting process because what originally I kind of stuck to when I first started to get into this has completely evolved. But I think that if I had to pick kind of like a few basic principles that I follow and that’s kind of the core set up where, okay, I have these things in place and everything else is I don’t have to worry about, it’s almost like just part of my routine. I think intermittent fasting and that doesn’t mean, you know, I don’t do the 16-hour fast necessarily. Sometimes I do, if that feels right. But I’ll just do core bare minimum 12-hour fast most of the time, if not sometimes, you know, 13, 14 hours, which that works really well for me. That gives me the most energy.

And I do follow a pretty, you know, low carb, high protein, high vegetable diet, whatever you wanna call it. I eat a lot of the same things all the time, which there’s a lot of research about there is that, is that good for you to eat the same things every day? And a lot of it’s just for routine purposes. It’s just easier for me. Like, I know what it takes the stress out of worrying about what I’m gonna do, but that I also have a bunch of really weird things that I do. Like routine wise, I coconut oil pull every morning for 20 minutes and people think that’s… Every time I tell someone that, they’re like, “Twenty minutes, I don’t have 20 minutes.” And I’m like, “I don’t just sit there. You can do other activities while you do it.” But I switched coconut oil around my mouth every morning for 20 minutes.

And there’s a lot of really cool research about this. It’s, you can find both sides of it, whether it’s effective or not, but I think it helps me not get sick and it keeps your mouth really clean and it pulls all the bacteria out of your mouth and keeps your teeth white. I swear. That’s why I don’t get sick all the time. I love that. And then I just have certain other morning and nighttime rituals that are kind of my basics. Yeah. So that’s kind of the overall, but it’s continuing to change as I find new stuff and new products that I’m continued to expose to through through Zigii.

John: So yeah, the coconut oil pulling thing is really interesting. I’ve done that enough. I think you may have just… I think after this I might be going in implementing that again. I’ve been into this product that this holistic dentist gave me, which basically makes the pH of your mouth more alkaline just because I know that basically…

Allison: What is it?

John: It’s called like a…we’ll link to it in the show notes. I think it’s called. It’s got a very cheesy, no offense to why I’m not naming it, but it’s got a very…it’s got a cheesy name but maybe it should because you can remember it, but it’s like something like always white or like InstaWhite or something like that. But actually even though some people may pick it up as like a whitening agent, it’s really, I think, meant to control the pH of your mouth. The oil pulling thing is like from an Ayurvedic.

Allison: Yeah. It’s super interesting, too, because again, with a lot of people, people will take care of what is going in their body really, really well. Or, you know, and then to really have all of this stuff figured out, I mean, that’s what it’s an information overload to like fully be completely in the wellness world. You know, you have to be using all the natural products, eating all the natural food, you know, doing all the right things and meditating and to going into cryo, and there’s so much that you can do. That’s why, you know, simplicity is key. But a lot of people do eat really well, but then don’t take care of, you know, why we get sick is through our mouth and our nose. And a lot of people don’t take care of those two areas a lot. So I think the coconut oil pulling for me has been really, really great. But that’s when, you know, you’re breathing in disgusting air especially if you live in New York all the time. So yeah, that helps me a lot.

John: Cool. And then one thing that it’s a little bit off the beaten path of what we would normally talk about, but I wanna close on talking just a little bit more about how you founded Zigii because some people listening at home are gonna be… You know, there’s a lot of people even just like I talked to friends of mine who kind of wanna go out and do the whole entrepreneurial path, but they don’t know how to get started. And there’s this general consensus that you need to get funding and you need to do all this kind of stuff. And in your case, you left a really good job and you said, you know what? I’m leaving where I think you had a clear path towards basically being promoted and all that, and you did something that you’re into. And at this point, you’re not raising money. You have this and you’re like… If you check out the Zigii website, the branding is amazing. That was the site you did yourself on Squarespace.

Allison: Yeah. Kudos to my branding company helped me with it. We’ll send them a shout out as well.

John: Which we’ll put it in the show notes or whatever. I mean, because just the whole brand looks awesome. And for me, I talk about like my dietary philosophy on this podcast bit, but like my entrepreneurial philosophy is just like very much, I don’t wanna say anti-venture capital. Yeah. It’s kind of anti-venture capital actually.

Allison: No, it’s super, it’s super interesting. This has been… I think the last year of my life specifically has just been collecting as much information I can from the best people that I know. And so, you know, AKA, what that means is finding really, really smart, amazing people that are way cooler and more educated and established than me and have worked in this space and just hearing their advice and then picking the best parts of that advice that I actually wanna implement into what I want. Because a lot of it is, you know, what do you want your life to look like? Do you want to… A lot of it is, you know, instead of following what the typical model is because a lot of people in New York, they create, they have a company and then it’s raised to figure out who can raise the most money.

And my fear with that also, I’m super nerdy. I have an accounting background and CPA and all that stuff. So I’m a little more maybe cautious about the actual funds of it. But I have found that my path with it, I think, is going to be, you know, prove traction and get the business model and focus on value versus scaling something where it loses the value because a lot of companies raise a bunch of money and then spend it inefficiently. And these are all just stories I’ve heard and I’ve seen it happen both ways. Either it goes really well or it goes really poorly. But my kind of path with it was collect all this information from people in wellness and VC land and entrepreneurial land, whatever that means, and implement the best pieces of advice that I’ve heard. And that kind of shaped what my journey with this has been.

And, you know, I was at this job where I was getting such amazing exposure and, you know, it’s a massive company, 260,000 people globally. And it was so cool to be a part of that experience. And I wasn’t an innovation hub when I left. So it’s not like I was in, you know, a dry corporate America job. I really loved what I was doing. But what I found was that there’s no better time in my life to take, you know, the knowledge that I had and implement it with very little risk in the sense of, you know, even through this path, I’ve met so many amazing companies that I would not… I kind of think about everything. Like there’s no point in regret if from timeline wise, whatever you think you might regret or as a scary decision that something is indisposable to your life has come into your life since that point.

And the amount of people that I have met and the knowledge that I have learned in a completely different way than a typical, you know, corporate job where you’re getting these really hard, amazing skillsets. But the things that I’ve learned since that have really shaped my vision for what I want to do with Zigii and just other things in my life. So very thankful for the whole experience, but I think it was all unnecessary building stuff. Like I think there’s no better training for startup life than corporate America. And so I’m really excited to launch it and see how it goes. And I really believe in the business model, it’s completely evolved from what my original thought process was with it. And it’s just been a result of collecting information. So now I’m really excited to collect information from consumers and see what they think about it. And then a lot of this is shape it to be the most valuable thing for, you know, a hundred people than a thousand people and really create something that is indisposable to people’s lives when they travel.

John: Absolutely. So people that are looking for Zigii, like it launches in seven days, what’s the process of going in signing up and testing it out for their next business trip, or whatever the case? Like how do people find you? How do they order the product? Give us all that information.

Allison: Yeah. So, okay, we are launching on August 5th and there’s three bundles that we’re starting with. So we have a feminine one, a universal one, and a hangover one. You can get them all at livezigii.com, which is livezigii.com. And the idea here is you go online when you’re going on a trip, you order one right now. We have a four to five-day lead time from when you’ll need to order ahead of your trip from when it can arrive. That’ll get shorter as we evolve. But this is the official addition number one with these three bundles and you can order it to your destination. So livezigii.com and it’s launching on August 5th and then we’ll continue to add more products. We have a whole pipeline of amazing new brands that we’re gonna rotate in after the first month or two. And the expansion goal is to go to hotels and, you know, actual consulting companies and corporate companies for them to provide this as a perk for their employees.

John: Yeah, I think the hotel one is like, that’s right in the wheelhouse. That would be great if you could just show up and you had a couple options, I guess.

Allison: Yeah, yeah.

John: Yeah. Cool. So anything else in closing that you want the audience to know? Any final thoughts?

Allison: Let’s see. Thank you for listening. I know that you have a very, very educated audience base, so I’ve listened to a lot of these episodes. I’m honored to be included and I hope this was valuable. So, and please reach out, too, if you have any questions or comments. I love connecting with people in the wellness world, as we’ve discussed.

John: Are you on Twitter, Instagram?

Allison: Instagram, yeah, you can find me, Allishaper on Instagram, A-L-L-I-S-C-H-A-P-E-R, and then our Instagram handle for Zigii is livezigii, L-I-V-E-Z-I-G-I-I.

John: Cool. Well, thanks, Alli. Thanks for coming on. Great episode and we will be in touch.

Allison: Thank you.

John: The ”Gene Food” podcast is our attempt to synthesize the latest developments in the fields of genetics, nutrition, and medicine, and offer you practical tips and stories you can use in your own unique health journey. If you enjoy this podcast, you can find more information online at mygenefood.com.

John O'Connor

John O'Connor is the founder of Gene Food. Read his full bio here.

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