Ali Lazowski is the President and CEO of the new startup, Bare Life.
Ali Lazowski knows first-hand how difficult it can be for someone living with food restrictions. It’s one of the reasons her allergen and irritant-friendly food company, Bare Life, launched in October 2017.
This month, Lazowski stopped by LionessMagazine.com to talk about chronic illness and getting behind a product you love. Based in West Hartford, Conn., meet our Entrepreneur Of The Day.
Lioness: Why have you chosen to dedicate yourself to this particular industry.
Lazowski: Cancer. Sounds odd, but it’s true. In a really short period of time, I was diagnosed with metastasized thyroid cancer, Lyme disease and co-infections and IBS. Each diagnosis came with new food restrictions from my doctor, and by the time I was finished, there was nothing I could eat. Except, boneless, skinless chicken breast, and how many times can you eat that? I always had a strong sweet tooth, and without a thyroid, I had trouble regulating my body temperature. Hot cocoa was the perfect solution. But there wasn’t one available that was instant and fit my needs (organic, dairy-free, gluten-free and refined sugar-free). So, I created one. I began by giving my new hot cocoa to my friends, family and people I met at chronic illness support groups; they loved it. I soon realized that there might be a business there.
Lioness: What makes your product unique?
Lazowski: Our hot cocoa is unique because it is the only refined sugar-free hot cocoa on the market. That means it isn’t made with highly processed sugars. It is sweetened with coconut sugar which has a glycemic index of 35, compared to 100 for normal glucose. The glycemic index is a scale which measures the impact of sugar or food on your blood glucose levels, the lower the number the less impact it has. We are also unique as our hot cocoa is dairy-free. All you have to do is add hot water. The few other dairy-free hot cocoa options require you to add your own milk, but that’s not necessary with our hot cocoa. Additionally, our hot cocoa is also gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, vegan, kosher and paleo.
Lioness: You could have worked for anyone and would have been successful, why become an entrepreneur?
Lazowski: I wanted to provide more food options, especially to those struggling with chronic illnesses like me. When you’re ill, searching for food that is not full of chemicals and is allergen and irritant-friendly is a chore and your energy should be spent healing. Also, for me, not having food options was a really isolating experience, since I could not go out to eat with my friends. I wanted to help solve these problems. I also love the challenges of owning my own business. Especially as a solo entrepreneur, I wear a dozen different hats, sometimes in an hour and that keeps it from ever getting boring.
Lioness: What was your last, “why did I go into business for myself” moment?
Lazowski: HA! Probably yesterday. We were having trouble getting certifications approved in time for our production schedule and I was just so tired that I started questioning everything. Then I went to bed and it all didn’t look so dire the next day.
Lioness: Every female professional should have …
Lazowski: A great support system. Whether it is other female entrepreneurs or your family and friends, it’s important to surround yourself with supportive people. Being an entrepreneur is challenging and you need people you can lean on.
Lioness: If you could steal some business mojo from another mogul, who would it be and why?
Lazowski: Sheryl Sandberg, I am so impressed by how she has thrived in a male-dominated industry and how much she supports other female entrepreneurs and businesswomen with her Lean in Foundation.
Bare Life’s first product to market is their instant Hot Cocoa.
Lioness: What is your business motto?
Lazowski: My motto is “Never Give Up.” It’s actually my grandparent’s motto, they are Holocaust survivors and their strength has always been inspirational to me. Through all the horrors they have experienced and survived, they never gave up. No matter what I go through, I will never give up.
Lioness: If you could give other entrepreneurs three tips, what would they be?
Lazowski: 1. Love your product. Whatever you are bringing to the market, make sure you love it. You need to be its champion and if you don’t love it, people will know and you probably won’t be as successful. 2. Trust yourself. This one is the hardest for me to do, personally, but it is probably the most important piece of advice. Entrepreneurship is hard and many ventures fail, but I think that if you can trust your instincts and love your product, then no matter the ultimate outcome it will not feel like a failure. 3. Get out there. You’ve probably heard this before, but network. It’s key. I’m not saying you have to attend all networking functions; start by reaching out to your community, to pro-women entrepreneur organizations like Lioness, to startup accelerators like reSET and to anyone else you can think of. Connect and ask questions. I have been awed by the amazing support out there.
Lioness: Has there been a piece of technology or software that has been a lifesaver to you?
Lazowski: The Internet. Simple, but powerful. It is the ultimate connection tool to both people and information. I would be lost without it.
Lioness: What is your goal for the next year?
Lazowski: My goal for the next year is to have our hot cocoa mix available online and in stores, as well as to publish our first two cookbooks, Sweets and Thanksgiving.
Lioness: When someone is telling their friend about your business, what do you hope they say?
Lazowski: I hope they say that they didn’t know allergen and irritant-friendly food could taste so good.
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