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Why Lauren Whatley Opened a Wellness Company During a Pandemic

The Good Glow founder spoke to Worth about what it’s been like to launch a company in the height of a global pandemic and why wellness is so important right now.

Center: The Good Glow's lemon ginger apple cider vinegar wellness shots. Top right: Founder Lauren Whatley

Wellness is a growing industry. In 2017, it was a $4.2 trillion industry, and that number is only expected to increase. In a time when we’ve had the ability to reevaluate our habits both at home and at work, it only makes sense that many would turn their focus toward health and wellness. Enter The Good Glow. Lauren Whatley, founder of The Good Glow, launched her company in June of this year with just one product—a lemon ginger apple cider vinegar wellness shot. For anyone looking to add some simple wellness into their current routine, The Good Glow has made it easy with its individually packaged shots, offering benefits such as improved digestion, improved metabolism and improved energy levels.

“I think that people are very interested in ways that they can simplify their routine,” Whatley says. “When you’re spending so much time at home and you’re cooking all your food and you’re so focused on what goes into your body and how you’re feeling throughout the day, there is that natural connection to wellness. So, I do think that this whole experience has caused or just has led to more focus on health and wellness and also figuring out ways to make your routine efficient.”

Whatley spoke to Worth about how The Good Glow came about, what it’s been like to launch a company in the height of a global pandemic and why wellness is so important right now.

Q: Could tell me a little bit about your professional background and what led you to founding The Good Glow?

A: Previous to The Good Glow, the majority of my career I spent at the Nature Conservancy, which is an environmental nonprofit. I would say that the intersection between health and sustainability and the environment has always been really interesting to me. So, I wanted to get a well-rounded background in sustainability, environmental conservation. The Nature Conservancy is an amazing, amazing organization. It’s actually the largest environmental organization in the world.

So I was doing marketing first for their Caribbean program and then for their New York chapter. It was a really wonderful experience, but [I] just was feeling that entrepreneurial itch. I think that the one issue that I had as a millennial at such a large and well-established, slightly old-school organization is just, it was slightly limiting and the ability to act nimbly and think of new ideas and then act on them. And so, my partner for The Good Glow approached me and we started brainstorming. She wanted to start something. She’s definitely a serial entrepreneur and started brainstorming different wellness-related ideas. Her knowing that it was an interest of mine and also knowing that I would bring some sustainability expertise, as well as expertise on the marketing branding side.

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We, after talking, realized that both of us had been regularly taking shots of apple cider vinegar as a way to improve our health. We also shared the annoyance with the whole process of pouring out the right proportion, properly diluting it. And so, this whole idea of creating these pre-made, ready-to-go shots [was] born. And that’s where the very beginning of The Good Glow started.

Awesome. Yeah. I got to try some of those shots, and I was so surprised. I thought the idea of a wellness shot was kind of gimmicky, and then actually trying those I was like, “Wow, this is actually really effective.”

Yes, and I think so often we see wellness shots that are more tailored toward taste, and so the ingredients are maybe not as effective, but they just taste good. And we really went for effectiveness. So, if you’re not used to taking shots of apple cider vinegar, I do think that the taste can be a little bit strong initially. But if you actually have taken shots in the past…I can’t take a shot of apple cider vinegar now that is not The Good Glow. I find it too harsh. In comparison, I think our shots are a little bit more palatable.

I had never tried any wellness shots before trying these, so I was totally new to it, but I was surprised by how energized I felt. I literally took it in the morning and then I was like, “Well, I’m going to go work out now.” And I wasn’t planning to initially. I didn’t even drink coffee that day.

Oh my gosh, I love that. That’s music to my ears.

That is something that we’ve heard continuously from people, the energy boost and not feeling like they need to drink coffee that day. So, I’m happy to hear that you had that experience, too.

So now I’m really curious, what are the benefits of taking a wellness shot?

For us, the foundation of our shots is apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar itself has a lot of really powerful health benefits. I think the ones that we focus on the most and that have been most helpful for me are improved digestion, improved metabolism and also that energy boost that you were experiencing. So, I would say the reasons for taking wellness shots actually, because those are three, although complimentary and very different benefits, it really depends on what are your pain points? What’s your body like? What maybe are you missing in your diet or just feeling like you’re lacking?

So for instance, with The Good Glow, even the use cases can be very varied. For instance, if your goal is really to get that energy boost, we recommend taking The Good Glow first thing in the morning to kick off your day. If it’s for improved digestion, we would recommend taking it before maybe your two biggest meals of the day. So yeah, the advantage of taking wellness shots in general is obviously very varied based on the ingredients and specifically for Good Glow and apple cider vinegar, even still the purpose can be quite diverse.

That makes sense. So, you and your business partner launched your company officially in June, is that correct?

Yes.

What has it been like launching a product and a company in the midst of all of this?

Yeah, it feels a bit crazy that we launched our company in June of 2020. So actually, in complete transparency, we were pretty much ready to go for launch back in March, April. We were really just putting finishing touches on our website, but because of the pandemic, we were nervous about all of the unknowns. And so, we waited a few months and we were consulting with our PR agency. After a few months of everyone being in quarantine, they actually advised us to go ahead and move forward with launch because, as you can probably imagine, people being stuck at home, not able to go out to the grocery store as easily and also looking for ways that they can be healthier at home was a true demand.

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And so our agency said that they actually had been seeing a lot of success from consumer brands, especially direct-to-consumer ones that are just helping people find easy ways to be healthier at home. And since that is exactly what The Good Glow does, although The Good Glow, because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, you can also take it on-the-go with you and travel with it. But as far as just giving you a very easy way to be healthier at home, it definitely provides that.

I recently spoke to a woman who started her own shoe company a few years ago, and she mentioned that one of the things she still has a hard time with is getting investments. So I’m curious how you’ve found that process, and if it’s been tough for you as well?

So we actually have not taken any outside investment. It is something that we considered for a brief time about a year ago and had a soft offer. And ultimately once we went back and chatted through the pros and cons, we ultimately decided that, for now, we prefer to keep control. It’s meant that we have had to do everything on a super, super tight budget and that some of the things that we would love to do now, in terms of marketing and promotion and whatnot, we’re more limited, but having full control of the business right now is something that’s really important to us. So, we haven’t gone through fundraising at all.

What was the strategy behind launching with just one product initially?

There are a few reasons that we chose to do that. One was just we’re curious, is this actually something that is going to provide value to people’s lives? It’s a theory that we wanted to test. It’s something that we personally felt added a lot of value. From talking with friends and family, they sort of validated that, but at a larger scale, we were curious. I would say the other reason is that this combination of apple cider vinegar, ginger, lemon and water is just something that we perfected early on. I think it seems like the consumer is hungry, thirsty for it and is also interested in other flavors, other products. We are excited to expand. We have so many fun ideas of other ingredients that we can include in future shots or even different products that are related. So, we’re excited for these once we get to it.

Do you imagine you’ll release primarily wellness shots, or do you see yourself branching into other types of food and drink and maybe wellness products?

For now, our next product that we’ll focus on will most likely be wellness shots as well. Although, as I shared earlier, I do have this background and also passion for sustainability and the environment. I would say my biggest concern is, although our products are recyclable, it’s just a lot of plastic right now. And so, I think thinking of ways that we can limit that or to change material is going to be a focus…For those that are like me, really environmentally conscious and don’t mind pouring the mixture, I think we might consider something more large format. And then once you start getting into large format, I think you can start thinking about tonics and other drinks. So, it’s on our mind. But I do think that the next products will most likely be also in shot form.

How do you think wellness and the wellness industry has been affected this year, and how has that affected The Good Glow?

It’s been a really hard year for a lot of people, maybe everyone. And it’s funny because I think at the beginning of the pandemic outbreak and quarantine, people were under the illusion that because they weren’t able to socialize outside, that they were going to have all of this newfound time and that we would all be swimming in time and be able to learn languages and read all the books. I feel like from talking to so many friends, I mean, I will not even speak to the friends who are parents of young children, because that’s a whole separate game, but people are feeling that their plates are still full.

I’ve read studies that people on average are actually working more hours since working from home. And so, I think that people are very interested in ways that they can simplify their routine. I also think that when you’re spending so much time at home and you’re cooking all your food and you’re so focused on what goes into your body and how you’re feeling throughout the day, there is that natural connection to wellness. So, I do think that this whole experience has caused or just has led to more focus on health and wellness and also figuring out ways to make your routine efficient. So for that reason, it has, I think, created a great space for wellness brands, like The Good Glow.

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I think that we’ll see a lot of other brands be successful that are offering something similar, which is just a really approachable and convenient way to be healthier at home or to feel better at home. So, I think as much as it was a very hard year, there are definitely opportunities. Once we’re out of this mess, I think that those new routines will last as well—just because you’re able to eat out more and whatnot, you’re still going to remember how good you felt when you were paying attention to your body.

What have been your biggest challenges and biggest opportunities in opening a business during a pandemic?

So challenges, number one was just the unknown. As things have changed so much and so quickly, it’s been…the pandemic hit in a big way in the United States. And that definitely just caused us a lot of anxiety, wondering are all of our operations going to work during this time? Are we going to be able to get regular shipments from all of our producers around the United States? So, the anxiety itself was a big challenge, especially in trying to plan accordingly.

In general, a challenge that we experienced in starting our business is just, it’s so difficult to predict how long every single part of your business, how long it will take it to get up and running. You’re just managing a ton of different timelines simultaneously, and a lot of different vendors that are moving at different paces. I think with the pandemic that was just even more of an unknown for us.

And then, as far as opportunity goes, I do think just what we were just talking about. Suddenly people are really thinking about how they can be healthy at home. We’ve seen so many fitness apps be so successful, and people are now used to spending more time at home. And so how can we bring them the best and healthiest experience possible to their doorstep? And so, we really do feel like that has led to a great opportunity for The Good Glow.

What excites you the most right now about being at the helm of a wellness company?

I think for too long wellness felt very unapproachable, and you see wellness influencers with their perfectly curated and organized refrigerators and pantries and their beautiful a?ai bowls with each almond perfectly placed. I think for so many people, though it’s great to look at, it felt like something so far from their grasp and especially people that are working full-time jobs and they’re parents, they’re busy and just, life is happening, we don’t have time to do that. So I am very, very excited about the way that I think that the wellness industry is and will continue to evolve, which is providing a more approachable and convenient experience for people so that you’re not alienating those that don’t maybe have a natural knack or even interest in wellness. They just want to be healthy.

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I feel like I’ve seen a lot of brands recently doing just that and speaking to the customer in a way that actually makes sense to them instead of spouting out these foreign ingredients that you would never have in your kitchen. I mean, our product is made with apple cider vinegar, lemon, ginger and water. Like it couldn’t be simpler. I think that, yeah, it just makes the whole experience more approachable for people where they feel empowered like, “Oh yeah, I can take this. I can take a shot of this every day and feel healthier and just be a little bit better.” And so, I’m excited for people to reap the benefits of the wellness industry providing these experiences.

Why do you think wellness is so important right now?

I was going to say, I think it again goes back to being at home more and just suddenly more aware of your health and wellbeing, but all that said, the wellness industry has been picking up more and more steam for years. So clearly, it was a reaction to something happening in our world that people felt the need for, I know this term is so overused, but self-care. I think that we were getting to a place and to be perfectly honest, I think the pandemic has actually helped to slow us down and reassess priorities, but clearly something wasn’t working in the way that we were living our lives, just being so tired and overcommitted. And so suddenly all of these brands popped up to help people either feel more relaxed or energetic or just happier overall.

So I do think that that feeling was already there and forming and taking place, and then the pandemic hit and it put even more of a focus on health and being healthy. I mean, having a strong immune system, but also just thinking in my own life about how I was living prior and how it wasn’t sustainable. I was like constantly searching for small ways to make myself healthier and feel better. Now I feel that I’ve been able to take a step back, and I can’t imagine going back to how I was living before. So COVID has definitely compounded that feeling, but yeah, I’m excited for the future of the wellness industry. Like I said, I’m excited for it to be something that is more approachable to more people.

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