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Founder Spotlight – Dr. Farnoush Fadavi, President and Founder of Bala Enzyme | Startup Pulse Podcast

In this episode, Anshuman Sinha talks with Dr. Farnoush Fadavi, also goes by Dr. Faye. She is a distinguished dental surgeon and the founder and president of Bala Enzyme.

She founded Bala Enzyme with her husband, a company that focuses on plant-based hydration and recovery products. 

You Can Watch the Full Episode Here

Anshuman Sinha’s first question concerns Dr. Faye’s journey and education as a dental surgeon and how that led to Bala Enzyme. 

Dr. Faye grew up in Boston and attended several schools, including Harvard, Northeastern, Tufts University for her DMD, and Boston University for postgraduate studies. At Boston University, she and her husband researched Bromelain, a plant-based enzyme from pineapple cores, as an alternative to pharmaceuticals for reducing facial inflammation and bruising. They brought this research to their practice in Southern California, where they gave Bromelain to patients after oral surgery. Its anti-inflammatory benefits inspired Dr. Faye to start her own company. 

Anshuman Sinha’s next question is how a significant accident in Dr. Faye’s life led to her interest in alternative medicine. 

In 2018, Dr. Faye fell in her office and broke her left shoulder and hip. She was diagnosed with severe osteoporosis. Because she is very sensitive to medications and prone to internal bleeding, she couldn’t take pain relievers like ibuprofen. This chronic pain and the need for ongoing treatments made her quit her job, as her shoulder injury stopped her from doing surgeries and delicate procedures. Looking for a natural way to manage her pain, she turned to turmeric, which she knew had healing and anti-inflammatory benefits. 

Along with her prior research on Bromelain enzyme, she learned about the Pepin enzyme found in papaya fruit. These enzymes cumulatively and electrolytes helped her develop Bala Enzyme that helped eliminate inflammation and deal with chronic pain. She also shares, “Bala comes from balance, the first word of balance, because we feel like by reducing inflammation in your body, your life can be balanced with us.” 

Since the CPG and NCPG market is hugely overcrowded, Anshuman Sinha asks, what sets Bala Enzyme apart from other hydration and recovery products? 

Dr Faye replies, “We are very differentiated. We focus on hydration and the icing on the cake for us. So, at our core, we are an enzyme company, and we are also in anti-inflammatory plus hydration. So, the core of our product is an anti-inflammatory consisting of enzymes and turmeric. And we added some electrolytes because, during all the years of my practice, I never used to drink. So, we put some electrolytes in there to help me and help other people take them. So we are very different from other hydration products because we mainly make recovery and anti-inflammatory products.” 

Anshuman Sinha’s next question concerns the science behind the product. He asks Dr. Faye to explain the science behind Bala Enzyme. 

Dr Faye shares that Bala Enzyme includes a combination of 20 different ingredients. For hydration, electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and sugar are present. However, in the case of Bala Enzyme, science backs the 20 other ingredients, and they are sugar-free. They rely upon amino acids to transport the turmeric, enzymes, and electrolytes through the gut and ensure they get absorbed into the system. Many people use turmeric with black pepper for absorption and sugar as a transport carrier. However, at Bala Enzyme, the formulation is strictly based on using amino acid as a transport technology, for which they are getting a patent this year. 

Anshuman Sinha asks Dr Faye about the challenges that she might have faced in creating the product and where it stands today. 

Dr Faye replied that the product was made at the end of 2018 and was launched in 2019 on B2C and Amazon when she could prove the concept. However, after the pandemic hit, things were a little different. Despite this, Bala Enzyme was able to make it. In terms of manufacturing, while things were tough, such as getting the ingredients while dealing with COVID restrictions, the main challenge was educating people about what enzymes are and their purpose. It was a completely new market that was challenging to navigate. She also shares, “We are the only powdered nutrition helping with inflammation, so we need to educate people. We need brand awareness so people know what Bala Enzyme can do for them.” 

Anshuman Sinha’s follow-up question concerns the manufacturing and quality control in place and how Bala Enzyme maintains these standards. 

Dr Faye shares that Bala Enzyme’s manufacturing is in Florida, as they were able to find a great partner. She shares that her husband is the CEO and oversees all the manufacturing and business operations. 

Anshuman Sinha’s next question is about Bala Enzyme’s performance. He asks about the sales figures and the company’s volume growth potential. 

Dr Faye shares that they’re growing daily, which is very exciting for them. In 2019, they were only online and on Amazon with the proof of their concept. However, in 2022, they were able to pitch to Sprouts at Expo West and got accepted nationwide. They were able to launch nationwide at Sprouts at the end of 2022 and have been with many other retailers since then. She further elaborates that Bala Enzyme started with natural channels preliminarily. However, they are almost in 2000 stores and continue to grow. 

Anshuman Sinha congratulates her, saying, ‘I must compliment the Bala Enzyme’s website—it’s quite impressive. Could you tell me more about it?

Dr. Faye says that various parties are helping them, but finding a great team has been a major challenge, especially in CPG. Bala Enzyme has been fortunate to find some great people. The company uses social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok to raise awareness about the brand and enzymes. Despite this, the biggest challenge remains finding a solid team to support these efforts. 

Anshuman Sinha’s next question concerns Bala Enzyme’s vision and future. He asks whether D Faye plans to add more products to the portfolio and about any upcoming innovations that the company is currently working on. 

Dr Faye shares that, at its core, Bala Enzyme is an enzyme company. However, they do have other innovations in place. Through enzymes, the company strives to tackle human disorders. Other formulations are in the works and will soon be ready to launch in different flavors. She hopes they will have new products ready to launch when they close their seed round. 

Anshuman Sinha asks how much money Dr. Faye has already invested in this company and if she is willing to share the revenue numbers or the fundraising mode. 

Dr Faye gladly shares that she and her husband have already put $1.3 million into the business by branding the company from A to Z. However, they have been cautious about the claim regarding the product. They claim to be an anti-inflammatory product that helps with anti-inflammation. The product does not cure but only helps and improves. She divulges, “Our seed round was for 2 million, and then we’re looking for another $700,000 to close the round.” 

Anshuman Sinha follows this up by asking if Dr Faye has any advice for budding entrepreneurs who want to enter the CPG realm of business or if there are any pitfalls they should look out for. 

Dr Faye shares that the CPG realm is exceptionally crowded. Fundraising is extremely tough for females, and only 2% of the fundraising goes to female entrepreneurs. She says, “My recommendation is you should be ready to fight. You must put different hats on and be dedicated and keep pushing forward. It is a tough area, but if you are determined, you can get there.” 

Upon being asked about a demonstration of her products that was visible on screen, Dr. Faye shared that Bala Enzyme has packets with 30-count and 10-count pouches for DTC, which are available on their website and Amazon. For retailers, Bala Enzyme has a different strategy, as they share boxes of eight. Furthermore, they also have certain tester boxes where customers can purchase the product by stick packs next to the cashier to try it once before committing to it. 

Anshuman Sinha follows this up by asking about the different flavors that Bala Enzyme sells. 

Dr. Faye shares that Bala Enzyme has pineapple, lime, and dairy flavors. However, the most important thing she would like to mention is the mix of the products. One stick back of the product can be mixed into 16 ounces of water, and if consumers want it to be a little more diluted, they can add more water. However, the recommended minimum amount of water to use is 16 oz. All the products are orange in color due to turmeric. Bala Enzyme has been able to mask the flavor of turmeric to ensure that the drink tastes delicious without any artificial coloring. 

Anshuman Sinha asks what Dr Faye plans on doing with Bala Enzyme. 

Dr Faye shares that she is looking for a strategic partner to grow and eventually acquire the company. She also shares, “We are happy to announce our launch in August in HEB in Texas. They decided they wanted to put us at the gut health in HEB. So, because gut issues are usually due to inflammation, our product is one of the best to help people with gastritis or any gut health. So, this is a new era in the store that we’ll sit in August in HEB.” 

She further shares that Bala Enzyme has already launched in Kroger and Rayleigh’s and is planning to launch at Tribe Market. 

Anshuman Sinha follows this up by asking how many people are involved in Bala Enzyme. 

Dr Faye shares that apart from her and her husband, another person works full-time for Bala Enzyme. However, they do have many part-time employees. Furthermore, when they do in-store shows, they have their demo agent who demo the product to consumers. They also have an advisory team with Ken Sadasky, also known as the “Beverage Whisperer” in the CPG realm. 

Anshuman Sinha asks what type of help Dr Faye seeks regarding Bala Enzyme. 

She shares that Bala Enzyme is looking for investors to help it grow. They’re also looking for individuals with a significant social media presence who can help it elevate its brand awareness. Currently, Bala Enzyme is doing a lot of influencer marketing. However, they are looking for somebody who can become the face of the brand and help it reach new heights. 

When asked if she’s looking to hire more people on her team, Dr. Faye shares that they have been looking to hire a strategic partner who can help the company grow and is also looking to hire more people once it starts to grow. 

Conclusion  

In conclusion, Dr. Faye emphasizes that Bala Enzyme focuses on recovery and hydration. To experience its full anti-inflammatory benefits, customers need to use Bala Enzyme for five consecutive days to allow the enzymes to build up in their system. After this period, they will notice improved recovery and reduced inflammation. Dr. Faye adds that for continued benefits, Bala Enzyme should become a part of their daily routine. She personally uses one stick pack a day to manage her chronic pain. 

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