A Family Health Crisis Led This Entrepreneur to Start a Spice Business Based on an Ancient Indian Medical Practice


Born to an Indian-Malawi​an family in Silicon Valley, Raina Kumra was fed herbs by her grandmother anytime she felt ill as a boy or girl. Kumra remembers chewing up cloves when she experienced a toothache and drinking peppermint tea when her belly was upset. So in March 2020 when her daughter broke her collarbone in a bike accident and her husband had knee-substitution surgical procedure, Kumra turned to her grandmother’s teachings in Ayurveda, an ancient medical practice from India emphasizing eating plan and herbal treatments, to recover them.

Equipped with considerable working experience in digital marketing and venture capital, as well from founding a startup many years earlier, the now-45-yr-previous was fascinated in building a thing new. Immediately after conducting considerable current market investigate to determine that there was a viable organization chance in food drugs, she founded Spicewell, a Santa Barbara, California-centered organization that makes useful spice, or spice supposed to have a optimistic outcome on overall health over and above essential nutrition. The three-employee organization, which Kumra is bootstrapping, integrated in March 2021 and began procedure that November. In its initially month selling products, Spicewell generated far more than $10,000 in earnings, and is projecting $250,000 in sales by January 2023. 

The epiphany minute

Kumra realized Ayurveda as a kid looking at her grandmother mixing spices. For illustration, she claims, turmeric and black pepper have antibacterial effects and assistance the immune method, while an herb called ashwagandha helps balance cortisol and decrease blood pressure. Now supplementing the early information she obtained by taking a plant-based mostly medicine training course at Cornell University, she says folks are inclined to overlook the electrical power of plants: “It was just incredibly astounding to me that as a culture, in The usa, we have forgotten where medication genuinely arrives from. There is a reason all these crops exist.” 

The notion to transform the practice of Ayurveda into a small business arrived to Kumra throughout her daughter’s recovery. She experienced to hide vegetables in the 5-calendar year-old’s food by dehydrating and powdering them to mix into her smoothie. It took her daughter only 10 days to be again on her ft again, while most men and women with broken collarbones take weeks. After that practical experience, Kumra figured she could place run functional ingredients into salt and pepper to provide vitamins for each and every food. “Individuals are strolling about with nutrient deficiency, so my idea was a basic stage of serving to people today include more nutrients into their diet plans,” she states. “It does not involve a considerable behavior alter.”

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From investigate to retail

However, Kumra found that it wasn’t easy to figure out which greens could go into salt and pepper that people today wouldn’t be able to style. She invested 6 months building the plan, studying spice models and screening recipes with neighbors. In the end, she devoted her $100,000 savings to analysis and enhancement, partnering with medical advisers including Mark Hyman, the founder of Lenox, Massachusetts-primarily based purposeful medicine provider the UltraWellness Heart, and Ann Veneman, a former secretary of the U.S. Division of Agriculture. After countless experiments, the team finally landed on organic and natural kale, spinach, mushroom, and broccoli. Kumra chose pink Himalayan salt as a base, and designed a product that is 30 percent lower in sodium than frequent table salt.

Spicewell’s Ayurvedic salt and pepper is “rather special in contrast with other seasonings because it can be improved with nutrition from organic and natural superfoods,” Hyman wrote in his publication in February. “Its new salt is blended with ashwagandha, an adaptogen that aids your body cope with tension. Its new pepper is blended with turmeric for a classic Ayurvedic combination recognized to combat irritation and aid circulation.” (Hyman serves as an adviser to Spicewell but does not maintain a monetary stake in the business. There is considerable discussion in the healthcare local community above the usefulness of a lot of nutritional nutritional supplements, and Spicewell’s products are not subject to Fda acceptance.) 

Some key ingredients were really hard to come by during the pandemic. Spicewell sources Ayurvedic herbs like ashwagandha from India, so Kumra had to order them several months in progress to stay clear of source shortages. There also were strikes at the ports in Pakistan very last 12 months in which the company gets its Himalayan salt.

Spicewell struggled to find sustainable packaging as very well. “I failed to truly want to use plastic, but the whole packaging industry just pushes you to it,” states Kumra. “All the most affordable matters are the worst for the earth.” Ultimately she identified a submit-shopper recycled plastic product produced in California to use for Spicewell’s five-ounce salt and pepper pouches, which it sells on its web page for $15. She utilized paperboard tubes with recyclable aluminum bottoms to package other goods. But the paper lack and substantial delivery charges outside of the U.S. remain an situation for the firm. “The pandemic taught me to constantly have my backup suppliers, have the excellent examination jogging forward of time, and just be prepared for something,” Kumra states. 

She adds that she hasn’t noticed many rivals in the purposeful spice specialized niche nonetheless. But there are other makes with comparable products, this sort of as Washington-based Artisan Salt Corporation, which sells balanced salt with flavors like truffle and lemon. Currently, Spicewell is concentrating on expanding its direct-to-purchaser business and increasing on retail platforms like Amazon. Spicewell also sells in neighborhood merchants including Farmshop in Santa Monica, California, and the Products Mart in New York City, and is wanting for more wholesale customers these kinds of as resorts and dining establishments that might spread the thought of foods medicine to a broader viewers.


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