What is your professional title, purpose or passion?
My passion is helping people to optimise their health - I was able to fix a serious medical condition for myself using diet and nutrition when I was told that wasn’t possible, so decided to retrain in my mid-twenties so I could help others.
What did you want to do when you were a child and what changed?
I've always been interested in holistic health. Later, I was diagnosed with the autoimmune condition Ulcerative Colitis when I was 18 and was unwell for a number of years while I was at university. I had lost my hair as a result of a rare reaction to the maintenance drug I was on and there was talk of potentially removing part of my bowel so I decided to find an alternative and embarked on testing out various diets and supplements to try and get well. Within a year I was confirmed in full remission and nearly 20 years later I still manage my health that way.
I then decided to train as a nutritional therapist and evidence-based naturopath so I could help others with similar conditions. I ran my own clinical practice for 7 years before moving on to launch my own streamlined product range, as a result of seeing the practical and economic challenges that patients had with taking multiple tablets daily in order to obtain therapeutic doses of certain nutrients. Because we are self-funded we don’t have to make cost compromises on our formulas in terms of forms or doses of nutrients as we don’t have investors to pressure us to making financial decisions that may compromise quality. It is also the reason that we have decided to stay a ‘direct to consumer’ company for now despite having been approached by some exciting retailers as it enables us to create and sell premium products more cost effectively for the consumer.
We have a very exciting product pipeline for this year starting with some really potent formulas for digestive health which I wish had been around when I had been diagnosed.
What's the best career advice you've ever been given?
Don’t worry about what your competitors appear to be doing - observe and take note but focus on growing your own business.
What is the best thing about your current working environment?
I split my time between a co-working space and working from home, with both having benefits. The co-working space is great for meeting other people to collaborate with and I have made some great friends there. Working from home allows me to spend time with my son which I know is a privilege that many working mums don’t have.
Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
Still running Inessa hopefully! We had significant growth last year and expanded into continental Europe, the USA and Australia so there is plenty to be getting on with growing those markets over the next few years and many more products to be developed.
Tell us more about a charitable organisation or project you think is great.
I love the Institute For Food, Brain and Behaviour - the work that they do is so important and I find their research projects particularly in the area of omega 3 and dietary influences on brain development and health absolutely fascinating.
What drives you?
Helping people to be well - to my mind there is no greater privilege
What does a normal day look like for you?
I start the day by waking my baby and making sure he has a good breakfast. My days are so varied and also depend on who is looking after my boy - his care is shared between myself and my husband (who took a sabbatical to work on the business with me when my son was born) and he will be going to nursery for 3 days a week, which means that we formally work four days a week each on the business rather than five. Through being more efficient with time, I’ve found I get the same amount done.
I personally oversee everything from creating new products and working with the product development team to find out what is or isn’t possible to manufacture, to all the creative (website, label design etc.), reading clinical studies, checking marketing materials and making sure they are compliant with ASA guidelines, translating labels for different markets and more recently, re-launching the website to include a wellness hub sharing health and wellness tips and information from a range of people in the industry.
What have you achieved that you feel most proud of?
I am really proud of the fact that I have been able to help so many people with chronic medical problems through clinical practice - I still get emotional when former clients email me to say that they are still doing well years later and love that they take the time to get in touch to share milestones like getting married, having children etc.
On the supplements business, it has to be hitting the number 1 spot on Amazon for bestselling multivitamin. It was a huge surprise and incredible moment for us - I had to check on 6 different browsers before I could believe it. I still pinch myself that my little company has got this far.
Tell us about a a woman who inspires you
My mum! She came to the UK from the Middle East to do her masters degree, ended up marrying my dad and staying. When my brother and I were old enough to go to school she decided on a career change and she ended up learning to code going on to have a stellar career in technology and finance despite all barriers being stacked against her - being a foreign woman working in a male dominated environment 30 years ago wasn’t easy. When people were talking about women in tech being a new thing a few years ago I would always smile to myself as my mum has been thriving in that industry for decades - I like to see her as a bit of a pioneer!
What was your biggest failure?
Worrying about what people think of me - I ‘m ashamed to admit that allowing other people’s opinions dictate some of the decisions I’ve made has at times hindered my career. I’m trying to make up for it now and with age have come to care less about what people think.
What do you like most about yourself?
I despise cliques or bullying in any form so will always stand up for anyone in that situation and actively make sure that whenever there is an occasion such as work drinks that everyone is invited, especially if they are new
How can we make the world more inclusive and accepting?
I don’t think there’s a simple answer to this, but I like to think that education and open conversation where each party’s fears and concerns can be listened to is a good place to start.
What skills have been key to your journey so far?
I have always liked listening to and getting to know people and I think that this has helped me as a clinician as well as running Inessa. It’s essential for everything from building relationships with suppliers, employees and contractors, to getting to know and understand our customers and what they want from our products. I believe that in business all the usual leadership qualities such as confident decision making, an ability to take information, assess and act are of course essential, but being a good listener and a 'people person’ are just as important.