This week Series W spoke to Nikita Singhal, founder of BodyOM. Singhal shared her views on the symbiotic relationship between working in investing and being an entrepreneur, and the importance of meditation in both developing the idea for BodyOM and for getting through those WFIO moments.
How did you develop the idea for BodyOM?
I have been meditating every day for the past several years. Focusing inward has made me more self-aware – emotionally and physically. I’ve come to realize just how much of an impact our food has on our bodies and our mind, much more so than our daily exercise or beauty regime. Through my own personal experiments with food & nutrition, I began to see how almost 80% of how we look, feel or even think, depends on what we eat!
It changed the way I looked at food and thought about nutrition forever, and inspired me to find better ways to integrate natural unprocessed foods into my diet – in a way that is good for us and our planet.
But eating healthy was not so easy. I was frustrated by how hard it was to find truly healthy foods that were convenient for the lifestyle we lead – busy and on-the-go. This is why I founded BodyOM – to make healthy eating an easy part of all our daily lives.
BodyOM is a monthly subscription service that provides 100% raw and organic snacks in game-changing single-serve packets. We source top 1% of the world’s produce (starting with dried fruit and nuts) and send them straight to your home or office. You can completely customize your box. Our signature offerings include rare tree-dried Himalayan raisins, intense Sicilian almonds, plump Turkish figs, wild Brazil Nuts from the Amazon forest, sun-dried Indian mango Bites and more!
How did you make the decision to take the plunge and start your own company? What was your professional alternative?
It was certainly not an easy decision. I bootstrapped for a long time and experimented with my product offering, brand positioning and target demographic via a pilot that ran for almost a year. I learned a lot though that pilot and because it was lean and not time intensive, it slowly gave me the confidence that this was a business that had tremendous potential and worth leaving my full time job for.
I worked for an impact investment shop managing a $300mm portfolio across asset classes. I believe that investing is the next best thing to entrepreneurship and having experience in one only makes you better at the other. Also, since my own entrepreneurial venture is a social enterprise built on the principles of conscious capitalism – where every business has a higher purpose and a true stakeholder orientation – I really don’t see this venture as a departure from my past work experience.
A startup is constantly evolving…what is one thing that you wouldn’t want to change?
Our brand. And our brand stems from our values. One of the first things I did as a founder was to write down the definition of BodyOM and our core principles. While our product offerings, distribution channels and target customer demographic may evolve, we don’t want to ever change the basic principles on which we founded BodyOM – a belief that 1) peak performance beings with nutrition; 2) all calories are not created equal (count nutrition not calories!), and that 3) whole unprocessed foods provide the best form of nutrition.
Inspired by many modern day brands but mostly by Apple, we also believe that a thing of beauty is a joy forever and have therefore aspired to build a brand that is beautiful inside and out. We hope to always integrate our design principles of beauty and simplicity into everything we do – from our ingredients and our packaging to all messaging, including our instagrams!
What has been your greatest WFIO (we’re f*****, it’s over) moment so far?
I think we’re really fortunate to have not had that moment just yet. We have several hiccups almost every day (like when our top selling product ran out of stock just before a social media influencer was about to post a rave review about it). When things get stressful, I remind myself that every day that isn’t a day we shut down, is a good day! Staying positive, finding creative solutions and always keeping the big picture in mind, helps me stay focused and calm. Meditation helps with that too…it’s really a competitive advantage for my business!
What has been the most exciting moment so far?
My most exciting moments are always when our customers write in. We’ve got some amazing feedback with customers saying things like – “where in the world do you get those mango bites from?”; “I loved your pistachios so much…never tasted anything like it. I just fed the ones I bought at Whole Foods to the birds!”
Which HBS resources have you used? Which have been the most helpful?
I use our alumni database frequently…whenever I need advice from experts in different fields, from nutrition to social media marketing. I also often seek the advice of HBS career coaches (did you know that as alums we get 4 free sessions a year!) and lastly, but certainly not the least, I reach out to my professors who continue to provide amazing support and encouragement.
What’s your favorite BodyOM product?
It tough to choose but if I had to, I’d say our intense Sicilian almonds and old-fashioned Mediterranean pignolias. They’re perfectly paired and make for an ideal grab and go breakfast or mid-afternoon pick-me-up. No Ramen at this startup!