This month we sat down with Foundery5 client Natalie Van Unen, founder and CEO of One Health, a nutrition brand that offers an all-in-one plant based protein and nutrition powder designed to help people live a healthy life.
Natalie walked us through her story, why she and her sister started One Health, the roadblocks and successes they’ve had along the way and what she is most looking forward to about launching One Health.
The interview below has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Trackmind: Hi Natalie! Before we jump in to talking about One Health, I’ve got a couple fun questions for you. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Natalie (One Health): Well, the ultimate superpower is to manifest anything you want, whenever you want, right? Then you’re like a genie.
Trackmind: That is the ultimate superpower. I love that, that’s amazing. Ok, if you could have dinner with anyone, even someone that’s passed away, who would it be and why?
Natalie: I would have dinner with Richard Branson.
Trackmind: Why Richard Branson?
Natalie: Because he looks like he would be an enormous amount of fun, and he exudes positive energy. He has the mindset that anything is possible. He started an airline and a drink that rivaled Coca-Cola. He got into trains and gyms. There’s nothing he can’t do. He sees his vision and he stays true to that, and so I think he would be highly enjoyable to spend time with, because you could learn so much from him.
Trackmind: I love that. Okay, so your success founding One Health, it didn’t happen overnight. So how’d you come up with the idea? What made you decide you were going to start a company?
Natalie: I started the company with my sister and I think that we’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak because our parents were both entrepreneurs. One Health really is where my passion is. It makes me excited and happy to start something new that’s able to add value, that’s something bigger than myself.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer [at age 42] and during that time I did a lot of research into what humans require for optimal health. And I did that because I thought I was healthy and it turns out I wasn’t for a number of reasons. And now I understand what those reasons are, now I understand what humans need for optimal health, what we need to thrive. And now that I’ve got that blueprint, I make really simple, informed decisions each day about what I eat and how I treat my body, because I know too much to do anything else.
Based on the research from thousands of scientific journal articles, I developed a shake for myself that I knew would have everything in it that my body needed to thrive; that would allow me to feel nourished and satiated, and feel confident that I was doing the best thing for my body. It had to contain a certain amount of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals and other phytonutrients like antioxidants, with cancer killing properties.
I was adding so many different ingredients to achieve this outcome, and it was complicated and time-consuming. My sister watched this and said, “This is crazy. We’ve got to come up with something where it’s just one scoop and we’re done.” And then we decided while we’re at it, we should make it plant based because we both wanted to make an effort to eat more plant based meals.
We knew we needed to create a powder that didn’t compromise on taste or essential nutrients. We thought that the plant based proteins on the market were substandard. Why should we settle for pea or rice protein? They are chalky, overwhelming in taste, and hard to digest. We knew there had to be something better, so we kept researching, studying, and looking and we actually found something that’s now being called the next generation plant protein. It’s an aquatic plant protein grown in Florida on a huge aquatic farm, and uses 5 times less water than pea or rice protein.
It is nickname is a water lentil, but it’s actually not a botanical relation to a lentil, it’s just a lentil shape. And it’s very high in essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. It’s like a wonder food, a little superfood, and they’ve been eating it in Asia for hundreds of years and now the West is cottoning onto it and this company’s trying to grow this at scale.
Once we found this aquatic plant protein, we knew we had something special, and I was able to formulate powder with just five ingredients that checked all of the boxes. It’s complete plant protein with 25g per serving, it has healthy fats, 15 grams of five per serving (which is 40% of your recommended daily intake), and it’s chock with phytonutrients and essential vitamins and minerals. It’s a complete and balanced meal in one scoop.
[My sister and I] were really excited because it’s the kind of product we wanted for ourselves. We tried to make it accessible to anyone who wants to be healthy at $3 per serving. Because if you can go to a McDonald’s and get a burger and fries for $3, or you should be able to take a scoop of this One Health Daily Essentials for $3 and shake it up, keep yourself full and satiated and nourish your body at the same time.
We wanted to make being healthy easy. That’s really the tagline of our product – making healthy easy. You can trust that we’ve done the research for you, and it’s your one-and-done easy pathway to health.
Trackmind: That’s amazing. Thank you for walking me through your whole journey. We’ve interviewed several female founders for this series, and this might be a loaded question but I’m wondering if you feel like you have faced discrimination or been treated differently or not as a woman in the workplace?
Natalie: I’ve been fortunate in my corporate career to work for a very fair company, and I haven’t faced any discrimination when embarking on our venture with One Health. I think as women, our problem is we do have a little bit more of an imposter syndrome than men; we doubt our capabilities. It certainly was the case for me, and I needed to step up and get my male bravado on and say, “Yes I can. Yes, I’m just as capable. I’m just going to stretch beyond where I think I can and I’m going to take the risk and see where that goes.” And if it doesn’t work out the first time, that’s okay. You can dust yourself off, learn, and keep going.
Trackmind: I totally relate and I think a lot of other women relate to that feeling as well. So tell me a little more about the powder that you created.
Natalie: It’s a plant-based protein and nutrition powder made with a next-generation plant protein, and just five powerful plant foods. It’s incredibly clean, and has only the ingredients needed to check all boxes of muscle loving complete protein, gut nourishing prebiotic fiber, skin loving healthy fats, and essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to ensure your cells are thriving.
Our objective is to help people be the healthiest versions of themselves with the least amount of effort; because most people want to be healthy, but find it’s just too hard. Life is busy so being healthy needs to be quick, uncomplicated and accessible. We wanted a solution that would allow people to just scoop, shake, and drink, and feel confident they are getting a complete and balanced meal to nourish their body, to feel satiated, and live their best health – all while they are on the go!
Trackmind: Yeah I love that, because life does move fast and it does take a lot of effort to be healthy. Personally, I’m 30 now and I’m like, “Oh my God, I need to stop eating grilled cheese and be healthier.” So it’s really cool and it sounds really easy.
So what is the biggest roadblock that you faced in doing all this research, coming up with the product, the website design and packaging and all of that. What was the biggest hurdle?
Natalie: Well, believe it or not, coming up with the product and building the brand was easy. And not to say it just because I’m on the call with you, but it really was because we found the right partner with Foundery5 and you guys just made it so easy. The project management was so effortless and you always exceeded our expectations with design deliverables, from the branding, to the photography and website development. The packaging people we found were great and our contract manufacturer is also great.
The biggest roadblock is the production of the one ingredient which is our differentiator – the aquatic plant protein – which was delayed. The company that grows this plant protein was building a new farm and factory, and then COVID hit. So that’s been our biggest roadblock – waiting on the availability of our key ingredient, which is only grown by one company at the moment.
Trackmind: Just one company?
Natalie: Yeah, because this aquatic plant protein is that new and people here are just starting to catch onto this.
Trackmind: Wow. And the company is based in Florida?
Natalie: Yes, in Vero Beach. They’re called Lemnature. And we’ve been waiting for them to launch our product. We’ve got four other ingredients, pumpkin seed for organic pumpkin protein, organic cocoa powder, organic red raspberries, and organic Ceylon cinnamon. We can source those from a number of different places, however, the aquatic plant protein is the one ingredient we can only get from a single company.
Obviously once that becomes available, we’ll be able to launch our product and our next big focus area is marketing. How do we build awareness of the brand? We are focusing on social media advertising through Instagram and Tik Tok, so that’s the next phase of our venture.
Trackmind: Ok, got it. And is your business model direct to consumer?
Natalie: Correct, all online. Who knows what the future holds in terms of instore retail, but right now we’re planning to sell online and market through social media. We think we have got a very niche market. I was saying this morning, “This is for people who want to be healthy. It’s not for everybody.” It doesn’t have any sweetener in it. It tastes healthy. It tastes neutral, but it doesn’t taste like a chocolate milkshake! If you want to be healthy, then this is for you. And if that’s not your jam, then that’s okay too, this isn’t for you.
Trackmind: I know you haven’t officially launched One Health yet so this question might be premature, but what is the most rewarding success you’ve had with One Health so far?
Natalie: I think the most successful thing we’ve had is feedback from people who have tried it. We did a lot of trial and error ourselves in coming up with the right formula. And we’ve given it to friends and family that have a sweet tooth just mixed in cold water, which is kind of the most confronting way you can taste something. And they’re like, “Oh yeah, I could drink this. It’s great.” It doesn’t have that chalky aftertaste of a pea or rice protein. And when you put it in a blender with some frozen berries and coconut water or almond milk, now you’re talking.
Trackmind: What are you looking forward to most about your launch?
Natalie: Having other people experience it. And hopefully other people having that same reaction of, “Oh, actually this tastes good, and I feel really good about making a healthy choice for my body. And I drank that shake at 9:00 AM and it’s 12:00 and gosh, I’m actually not even hungry yet. And why is that? Because I had all that protein and all that fiber and I’ve nourished my cells.” To see people have that kind of reaction, to see people look at food as something that nourishes their body rather than just fulfills their appetite and their taste buds. That type of response is what we’re most excited about.
Trackmind: Do you have any advice for future founders?
Natalie: Just to go for it because we procrastinated for a long time, and they say that the hardest part of the journey is the first step. But once you take that step, you’re in it, you are already in the arena and yes, sometimes it gets frustrating. Sometimes we thought, “when are we ever going to launch this product?” But we’re in the arena; we’re not on the sidelines, we’re in and we constantly remind ourselves of that. And so my advice is just do it, just take this step. You don’t have to have it all right, you don’t have to have it all figured out, it can grow and evolve, and you can learn along the way.