In the last few years, Tina Chan has channeled her passion for healthy eating into two entrepreneurial endeavors: Powbab, Inc. and healthyip.com. Chan’s startup story underscores two essential components to any successful startup: passion and determination.
What’s the story behind your businesses?
The reason I started these ventures came through a personal injury. I was injured for awhile and even had to use a wheelchair and crutches at times. I was also suffering from side effects from medicine, which included fatigue, headaches and even memory loss. The recovery process took over a year and a half, and during that time, I sought food for healing, as well as Chinese medicine and alternative therapy.
During that time, I started my two companies. healthyip launched in 2011, and is a healthy restaurant and food finder focused on diets like the paleo-diet and gluten and dairy restrictions in the Chicagoland area. The official beta launch is forthcoming in the near future. The hope is to help people find restaurants and dishes that fit with their diets and healthy-eating lifestyles.
I also started Powbab, a super foods company. The recurring story through all this is healthy eating, which stems from my childhood. healthyip and Powbab have been both part of my recovery as well as my discovery.
How has your previous professional experiences helped you with starting your businesses?
I previously worked in private equity, corporate development and investment banking in the middle-market. I focused on mergers and acquisitions, buying and selling companies. I’ve seen businesses in a variety of industries, not necessarily in the “health” spaces. In some ways I’m an investor myself, putting my own money in these businesses and seeing where the opportunity is. My background in finance definitely helps with looking at business strategy and execution, as well as having an understanding for what investors need.
When starting any business success is not guaranteed; there is so much timing of opportunity involved. For me, coming out of what I did during the hardest time in my life and given my active lifestyle dancing ballet and doing triathlons on the side, starting a business gave me something to focus on. During a time when I couldn’t walk or work, it ate me up. When I think about what I have today, it’s amazing. The fact that I can walk today is huge. My businesses come from my drive to find recovery and to find something I am passionate about.
When one loses something one uses every day, that event changes a person’s life and perspective about life. It sparked a new phase in life for me.
What’s in your fridge right now?
The Chinese New Year is coming up, so I bought a ton of stuff!
· Whole, cage-free, chickens
· I really like olives so have Spanish whole stuffed olives
· A lot of veggies: eggplant, Chinese broccoli and cabbage
· Lots of mushrooms—king oyster, fresh shiitake
· My milk is pasture fed and so is my butter
· I really like peanut butter and I get the Trader Joe’s brand; I don’t do any brands that have synthetic ingredients or added sugars.
When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
My dad is an entrepreneur, so it’s always been a thought and perhaps something I wanted to do in the future, but I didn’t know exactly what it would be. My dad is a really big influence in my life and part of my business—both my parents are.
Growing up with entrepreneurial influences made it more feasible in my mind, because I saw what they went through. It can be scary going down the entrepreneurial path. Most people focus on the big wins and growth, but they do not focus on the hard days when you feel like you’re failing, you’re waiting around, no one wants to return your call. Those days are tough and the thought of quitting has come up.
Entrepreneurship may seem trendy right now because of the overnight successes, but really probably most businesses go years before any success. I am making some good headway with my businesses. It’s a lot of work, but having a role model and access to resources will help sustain during those tough times which determine the difference between making it or not.
What was your first job?
Investment banking. I started a month after I graduated college and was working towards my first 100 hours that first week! I tried to quit after the fourth day, but my boss said to just give it another two weeks. So I was like ok, fine. I ended up staying for three years. I guess that’s what you get for not quitting.
Where do you see your businesses headed in 2013 and beyond?
For Powbab, I’m hoping for major retailers, and we’re getting more press as we expand.
For healthyip, I am looking for a technical co-founder and angel investors. The goal for 2013 is to get the product fully baked. We have many thousands of dishes to offer, we just need to get the product to the finish line and get people discovering what health yip has to offer.
What’s your ultimate tip for healthy living?
Know the ingredients that you are eating. At the end of the day, when you know where your meats are coming from and what was fed to your meat, and what kind of soil and seed your veggies are coming from is what helps us better understand how to eat and how we should feel. We live in an age with obesity and trending diseases that were not prevalent or even here some 60+ years ago. Genetically modified foods don’t have thousands of years of testing history. Certain whole unprocessed foods do.
Another tip is to learn about food which starts with gardening. More healthy living and eating comes from knowing how it grows, what it should look like and what it should taste and smell like. Healthy eating and healthy living is a lifetime learning process.