Welcome back to our Founder Stories series, where we sit with inspiring and influential women to dive into their entrepreneurial journey and discuss all things business (and wellness). Today, we speak with Aliza Marogy, the founder of supplements brand Inessa.
Aliza Marogy was an early adopter of the application of nutrition and functional
medicine to health long before it became mainstream. She is the founder of Inessa
— a leading and Amazon bestselling global supplement and wellness company, and
a registered Nutritional Therapist who regularly contributes to media publications including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Fitness and Net Doctor.
FLAURA: What inspired you to start Inessa?
Aliza: Inessa started life as a nutrition and functional medicine clinic back in 2009. As the clinic grew, there was one thing that really stood out to me; that quality nutritional supplements could be incredibly effective, and when used alongside a healthy diet, could dramatically improve a person’s health. This was something I had experienced for myself, after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a lifelong autoimmune condition, in 2001. The prescribed medication made my hair fall out among other side effects, but didn’t improve my symptoms and so the recommended next step would be to undergo life changing surgery.
At that time, the importance of nutrition and diet was not as well understood as it is today, but as it was a disease of the digestive tract, I felt there had to be something there. Determined to find a solution, and still being monitored by my medical team, I started researching and self-testing to find a way to fix my health. A year later I was confirmed in remission and have not had to take immunosuppressants since.
I later decided to qualify as a nutritional therapist, and over the 7 years I was in full-time clinical practice, noted that there was no shortage of practitioner brands creating quality, science-based products. Many of these products were not available on the high street – in order to gain access, you’d often have to see a nutrition professional, which not everyone can afford. I also observed that across the industry as a whole, customers would take multiple products to achieve the nutrient combinations and results they desired – this was not only impractical, but also horribly expensive. In addition, there were so many supplements out there, how was the average consumer meant to know what to choose?
So, I decided to create my own products under the Inessa brand, and having built up a network within the industry, I sought out the UK’s leading product developers, laboratories and researchers to work with me to create a streamlined range which made no compromises on quality or effectiveness.
F: What makes Inessa different to other supplements brands?
A: Our ethos is based on us being a clinical practice first and a supplement company second, making us unique in the market. Unlike many other brands started by entrepreneurs seeing a business opportunity, our clinical roots means we have a deep understanding of the bigger picture. From what works for the different types of consumer interested in supplements, to real in-depth understanding of supplement forms, nutrient combinations used in clinic, and intimate knowledge of production processes.
We offer clinical grade supplements at a significant discount compared with practitioner brands, by combining a number of products which would have had to have been purchased separately, and selling them direct to consumer. We also believe in doing business with integrity – when we speak with our customers, we never try and sell anything that isn’t right, and are happy to recommend products from other companies if we feel that what we offer isn’t the best choice for their needs.
Lastly, our other point of difference is that we are independently owned – which is rare in this business – so we put health above prioritising company growth and profits, never cutting corners in our offerings. Our scientists tell us that they enjoy working on Inessa formulas as we give them licence to create without ingredient cost barriers, really allowing them to do their best work.
F: What has surprised you most about the entrepreneurial journey so far?
A: How all-consuming it is. Like many people, I thought that having my own business would allow for a better work-life balance and flexibility. That just isn’t the case – the reality is that for many of us, the working week isn’t just 5 days and the 9-5 is myth. However, on the positive side, I feel that grafting on a business you love never feels like a chore; it’s incredibly satisfying to grow a business of your own.
F: How do you stay motivated?
A: I love my work so it never feels like a chore, and I work across all aspects of the business, so no day is the same. Sometimes people use our products to support their general and future health, but every so often we’ll get an email or a call from a customer telling us that our products have had a significant impact on their quality of life and I still get a bit emotional reading those. That’s what it’s all about and I know many of my practitioner network feel the same about their own work.
F: What’s the most rewarding part of your day now?
A: My husband (who now works with me full-time) and I always spend time with our son after nursery and we do bath and bedtime as a family. We do this together no matter what’s going on in the business. Often we’ll have to work late into the evening if things are busy, but those two hours before his bedtime are always spent as a trio.
F: What would you say are the three most important traits of being a successful
A: Resilience. There’s lots of talk of never working a day in your life if you do something you’re passionate about, but I’d say that it’s also important to question whether the business you’re building is something you’re willing to suffer for. The truth is that no matter how successful you are, there will be some dark and tough times and you have to be willing to go through that for whatever venture you choose.
Being prepared to muck in and having the willingness to work in the business as well as on the business. Even if you’re able to hire people to do roles you don’t like or have a grasp of, it’s always good to get involved – at least in the short term – in even the most mundane tasks. It gives you a deeper understanding of your business and not every founder does it.
Good communication skills – this is essential for everything, including building relationships with your team, suppliers and customers, as well as being key to translating your ideas into reality and creating a happy work culture.
F: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: “Don’t worry about what your competitors appear to be doing – observe and take note, but focus on growing your own business.”
F: What advice would you give to other women looking to start their own business?
A: Don’t give up the day job straight away. Being strapped for cash if you give up your regular income piles extra pressure on. It’s estimated that 9/10 businesses fail, so it’s prudent to build the business around your existing work. This means sacrificing evenings, weekends, and social time, but it also protects you against being financially vulnerable until you have some proof that your idea has legs, and you’re ready to make the leap to full-time.
You also don’t have to fundraise to start a business. People talk a lot about fundraising as if it’s the only way to build. Inessa was started with very little capital and was built the old fashioned way – by selling, reinvesting profits and so on. Personal sacrifices had to be made, but I could see that the business was growing, so it felt worth it. For women looking to create physical product to sell, once you get to a certain level, debt financing can become an option, but I’d only advise using this mode of funding if you’re confident that your business can clear that loan early. In fact, if you do decide to seek investment after you’ve built and tested a prototype, or demonstrated that you have an audience who will buy from you, you’ll likely get a better valuation when you come to raise.
F: Do you have a favourite product you’ve created for Inessa?
A: They’re all my favourites! At the moment, I have a lot of love for our anti-inflammatory complex, BioSoothe. This year I’ve had painful inflammation in one of my toe joints for around 6 months, confirmed via hospital scans. So after receiving the diagnosis, I decided to switch out the Advanced Daily Multivitamin for BioSoothe alongside our Omega 3, and the pain has been gone since. It also quickly calmed some gut grumbles I was having at the start of the year. It’s a great product to use on an as-needed basis, as well as ongoing, where indicated.
F: Are you working on any new/exciting projects you can tell us about?
A: We’ve just relaunched our website and as Inessa started life as a clinical practice, 2021 will see us come full circle and we’ll be introducing more in depth evidence-based health content, digital functional medicine protocols, and more personalised health and fitness services, for a 360 degree approach to health and wellness.
Top 5 Wellness Habits
- I like to set myself up for the day with breakfast, a black coffee and Inessa
- I include a variety of vegetables with every meal – you can always ‘up’ the nutrient profile of even the unhealthiest takeaway by having some fresh veg to accompany it.
- I try to fit in a brisk walk before starting work – it helps clear my head for the day.
- No caffeine after 2pm – I sleep much better if that’s the cut off.
- I take a magnesium supplement 30 minutes before bedtime – it increases GABA levels in the brain and really helps improve sleep quality.