Shazi Visram is an entrepreneur who has dedicated her career to protecting and promoting children’s health. Their first company, Happy Family Organics, became one of the fastest growing organic baby food brands in the United States. It was so successful that she sold the company to Danone for $ 250 million in 2013. Fast forward to 2020, and Visram has launched her second company, Healthynest, which she calls the first brain-enhanced brand for babies. The company works with pediatricians, neurologists, and toxicologists to develop non-toxic products as well as science-based fortification activities that focus on baby developmental health in the first three years.
Shazi Visram, founder of Healthynest
Amy Schönthal: Talk to me about the transition from diet to personal hygiene and brain development.
Shazi Visram: A few years after starting Happy Family, my son Zane was diagnosed with autism. This took me on a journey to better understand how babies’ brains develop. My focus has always been on improving the health of babies through nutrition, but I quickly learned how important our environment is to this development. Launched in Fall 2020, Healthynest creates a new standard of safety and support for parents to make the most of their child’s formative years. This is a time when a baby’s brain is growing and changing faster over the course of its life than ever before.
I’ve spent my entire adult life focusing on the baby world. My original idea was that if we feed them good food, we could have a positive effect on the health of babies. When I started Happy Family, less than 3% of all baby foods were organic. Now it’s closer to 40%. Until a few years ago, organic food was not even allowed in the WIC program. We had to lobby from state to state to get WIC approval so mothers could use their WIC dollars to buy organic food. Happy Family is now represented in one of eight households.
It’s a very humiliating environment. It really is a powerful thing to bring to a new family life. I sold the company to Danone when my son was diagnosed with autism. I felt that I had to devote myself more to him. I wanted to understand what is it, why is it so unknown, what are treatments and therapies for him? During this personal journey, I realized that food is just one piece of the overall health puzzle.
From my experience with autism, I’ve learned that so much happens in the first three years of life. 85% of your brain is formed by the age of three. All of the biohazardous things around you are much worse when a baby is developing.
Schonthal: Were there any unique obstacles that you faced when you started building Healthynest?
Visram: Healthynest will launch the first and only organic cotton diaper in the US. The Healthynest diaper is the very first EEC verified diaper that has passed laboratory tests for more than 900 chemicals and is now engineered with cotton for the ultimate in purity. 80% of the world’s pesticides go to cotton, and using organic cotton is the safer and more transparent alternative. Organic cotton also has a positive impact on the environment: 90% less water is wasted and 45% less CO2 emissions. The Healthynest diaper also eliminates plastic through its paper packaging.
To earn the EWG VERIFIED mark, Healthynest had to analyze every material in our supply chain that is used in the manufacture of our diapers for the presence of over 900 different toxic continents. This took over three years and many iterations of the product. I am proud to announce that our diaper is free of all 900 toxins.
Schonthal: When did you feel that you were successful?
Visram: Diapers are a dirty business and, as a parent, I know that we need and deserve transparency when choosing which products to use. Since launching our EEC-verified diaper, the company has sold more than half a million diapers to families across the country. The response to our monthly subscription, which combines the cleanest diapers and wipes with development activities and tools for parents to improve everyday life and create an enriching environment, has been overwhelmingly positive. The retention rate is exceptionally high (90%) as parents see the value of a safe alternative without sacrificing performance.
Schonthal: Talk to me about starting a business during the pandemic.
Visram: The pandemic has shifted society’s focus to health and wellness. Our subscription was very well received when the parents worked from home and looked after their babies. Many of us needed inspiration and a little more support over the past year. The pandemic forced us to focus on mental health. Indeed, it was a global awakening around the importance of mental health. We are also more aware that everything we bring into our home must be safe.
Protecting and enriching babies has been our focus, but the pandemic has led us to bring in that other level of support. We give parents access to development specialists, we basically created a baby concierge because parents need support too.
Today, one in six children is diagnosed with developmental disabilities such as autism, ADD, ADHA, asthma, and more. Our goal is to provide parents with the information and tools to build resilience in the development of their children’s health. If there is one key issue that emerges clearly from our work with leading doctors and scientists, it is that a baby’s brain is extremely sensitive to its environment.
I want to use my platform to open the discussion about developmental health. So if one in six families is diagnosed now, there is a place to go.
Schonthal: What are you looking forward to the most right now?
Visram: We’re opening a room in Tribeca, actually in the same building as Tribeca Pediatrics. It’s an enriching environment. I want a place for parents where they can feel safe and learn while watching their babies play with a developmental game specialist. You won’t get that in the pediatrician’s practice during your 15-minute examination.
What I learned on my journey is that you don’t speak to a developmental pediatrician unless you have a problem. But you can change course if just got a clue of things to work on, like oral motor skills. It’s not hard to work on, it’s like blowing bubbles. My son didn’t originally have the oral motor skills to do this, so it took us three years to get him to learn how to blow bubbles. We let my daughter start early because she was close to my son’s therapy. So she also benefits from doing these things. It’s like flexing your muscles to get resilient before something becomes a problem.
I like to say we’re a development health brand disguised as a diaper company. I realized that it was my duty to somehow influence development outcomes with knowledge upfront and take everything I learned the hard way and then leverage access to these world-class thought leaders in neurology and developmental health to share that with new families. This business is more about wanting to share the gold kernels that I’ve learned along the way that can make a huge difference to families.
Read More Now