Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dear Linda

I may have been able to start my business without you, but I know I wouldn’t have been able to keep sane if you and the whey cool girls weren’t such an important part of what we are doing.  Thanks to you we actually have women investing in teraswhey!  I am convinced that part of how we are going to make the world more sustainable is by having more women investing in other women–owned businesses.  Someday we will all have time to look back and reflect, and understand why I say this.

I remember when I first met you.  You knew about whey protein already but what made you so passionate about this business was its local roots.  These high value whey’s could only come from this location in southern Wisconsin – we had the small family farms, clean water, and specialty cheese makers making specialty cheeses with specialty whey by-products.  As the company progressed, you realized that you had personal health reasons to be passionate about it.

While we were still building the plant, you shared with me your intention to do bariatric surgery.  Many years in a high stress profession, you thought, had led you to gain over 100 lbs since you began practicing law.  Still young, you had already had two hip surgeries.  Diets, meditation, and exercise never worked, and you were concerned about having a future of more health issues.  So you decided to do the surgery.  One of the first things that happened was you saw a nutritionist who talked to you about how to eat before and after the surgery.  You were going to need 80g of protein per day, something that is very difficult without a high quality protein supplement.  By then you were a part owner of the most natural whey protein brand in the country.  Now that you’ve had the surgery, teraswhey is a part of your daily diet.  You tell me you feel bereft of energy when you don’t have it.  I’ve had bariatric surgery nutritionists compliment us on the quality of our protein for their patients, and the privilege of talking to other bariatric surgery recovery patients who, like you, now have teraswhey as a fixture in their daily lives.

There are no accidents in this world.  You were meant to be a part of teraswhey even though neither of us really knew why at the time you invested.  It’s one of my greatest rewards to know that the company I created is making such a positive difference each day in the lives of real people like you who go out and make more positive change happen in this world.  We get to be the pebble that causes the ripple that changes the world…

With love and admiration,


Saturday, March 19, 2011

We're a Real Company Now

It was Expo West last week, the biggest tradeshow of the industry.  In the past I would have been terrible at savoring the moment; now that I’m more present in my life I’m getting better at this.

It was one of the first times I felt like the thing that started as an idea in my head has grown to be a real company.  Last year I was there by myself.  Four days of crushingly busy booth traffic and meetings before and after.  I could barely stand up by the time the show was done.  Product flew into the hands of random people; I managed to talk to very few store buyers.  But we were there and people were seeing us for the first time.

This time we had three people at the show from the company.  Amazing.  I could go to the bathroom, walk the show, talk to industry colleagues.  And people were coming up to us who were already customers.  Store buyers saying their customers love our product and want more sku’s.  People loving the branding, packaging, website.  I even met the guy who founded Clif Bar. Wow. It felt like a long way from an idea in my head.

The best thing about this show for me was the stories, most of which, not surprisingly I guess, came from women.   Two women from a rural area in CA described how they started selling teraswhey in their little community’s health club.  At first people either wanted the cheap stuff or didn’t know what whey protein was.  Gradually, even the guys who were used to the cheap stuff have started to convert to our organic. Apparently they think it works better and want to be a part of shifting away from a global food system.  The women smiled and said it felt like teraswhey was changing their entire community.

Another woman came up and said she was a devoted customer and loved what we are doing.  She was my age.  She started talking about how important she thinks it is that I am doing this, that is, that a woman created this company and the brand not a man.  Like me, she is of a generation of women who had to work hard to prove that we could do anything a man could do in the business world and elsewhere.  We are the generation that paved the way for the younger women following us.  I have two daughters and because women like us have done what we have, my daughters know that they can do anything they want to do in this world.

The show had a poignant moment too.  I woke up to a worried call from home the day the Tsunami was due to hit the California coast.  It reminded me of being on a trade show floor in London on 9/11 and getting a call to tell me my kid’s Dad’s house had a fire the night before and while they were fine, the house was not habitable until it was fixed.  Then the planes hit the towers and I was stuck in London for almost a week, no longer able to even call my kids.  Now my kids are grown, two living in California.  I hung up from the call from my boyfriend at home and got on the phone to talk to each of my kids.  The Tsunami warning turned out to be a non-event, and I felt really grateful for having a person in my life at home who was concerned enough to call me that morning.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dear Brett

Dear Brett,

I went to high school and college from 1976 – 82.  I was a figure skater and for a bunch of reasons knew a lot of people who worked in the fashion industry in New York.  I grew up around gay people and had many as friends.

I remember hearing a few years after I graduated from College, after the birth of my first child, that one of my friends in high school had died of Aids.  He contracted it from a blood transfusion.  Then I heard that another friend from College had also died.  He was a brilliant man who spoke three languages, majored in biochemistry and was on his way to a top medical school.  He had come out as a gay man while we were in College. 

Then the trickle became a flood. I remember taking my kids to the beach house of a woman who was a friend and mentor to me.  She was one of the first women executives in the NY fashion industry.  She had a wall with snapshots on it at her house of all of her friends when they came to visit at her house.  She had started calling it her wall of the dead because so many of the pictures were of people who had died from complications resulting from Aids. The nature of the tragedy changed with the advent of a new generation of drugs.  People stopped dying and I stopped hearing about the tragedy.  I thought it was “under control”. 

What I didn’t realize until I met you was that the tragedy hadn’t gone away, but morphed into a hidden battle with chronic illness and slow physical deterioration.  You told me that living on anti retrovirals was like living on perpetual chemotherapy.  People struggled to eat, maintain weight, energy, they got sick, depressed, isolated, lonely.  They lost the ability to keep a job. They became poor, disabled, went on public assistance.  They needed help from people like you just to make it through the day.

It may not have to be this way.  This past spring an Epidemiologist from Albert Einstein hospital in New York came up to me at my booth at a tradeshow.  He said he had found my whey protein at whole foods in the city and started using it with some of the aids patients in their clinic.  They were doing better.  It helped them tolerate the drugs better, helped them retain body mass, seemed less prone to secondary infections. 

So I got onto PubMed and found that there is a body of research emerging that is documenting the benefits of whey protein for HIV positive patients.  The mechanism appears to related to whey’s ability to increase glutathione levels in HIV positive individuals.  HIV positive people tend to be glutathione deficient, which leaves their bodies without the major antioxidant they need to combat oxidative stress.  Both the disease and the meds HIV positive individuals take to combat the disease cause oxidative stress on their bodies, which means they need more not less glutathione.  There may be other elements of whey that are beneficial, including lactoferrin and immunoglobulins, but more research is needed to document this.

Could it be that HIV positive patients could use lower doses of their medications if they made whey protein a consistent part of their diet?  Could it help them better tolerate their meds, live more active lives, maybe even stay employed longer? 
The way the system works right now, indigent HIV positive patients have their medications covered by Medicare or Medicaid, but not things like whey protein.  Good quality whey protein is cost prohibitive.  The irony is that the lifetime cost of treating these people to society could be less if they had a way to get whey protein into their treatment regimes.

I so much admire the work you do, Brett, to help people with HIV and Aids cope with the litany of problems they face in their lives.  We seem to live in a world that demonizes the people around us who are most vulnerable and one of its effects is to perpetuate a disease abatement industry that costs ever more even as it steals people’s dignity from them.  People like you help them cope, but imagine actually being able to change their lives for the better at the cellular level. However improbable it seems at the moment, you and I get to always believe that it is possible that one day all of your patients can get access to teraswhey. 

With love always,