We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Mitra Hooshmand and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. Mitra, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
My two partners and I are extremely passionate about wellness and health, but felt disconnected from the more “granola” approach we were seeing everywhere; coming from science, tech and finance backgrounds, it just didn’t resonate with us. We personally are drawn to wellness primarily because of the research in the space – the evidence that supports these habits and practices for health and longevity. So we decided to bring that research to our audience (primarily employees via corporate wellness programs) in ways that were easy to understand, but not “dumbed-down”. We know other people also want to know, for example, not just that mindfulness techniques and meditation work, but WHY they work – how your brain chemistry is changed, the real science and clinical data to support it. And the response has been great! People DO want more education in this space and appreciate our no-nonsense, practical approach. Our philosophy is “here are the tools and the knowledge and the techniques; feel free to apply them to your life in whatever way works for you.”
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
This is a great question! I’m most proud of two things: 1) completing my PhD in neurobiology, and 2) having the courage to start a business in the wellness space, beyond my field of research (spinal cord injury and stem cells). And neither was easy! There were many moments when I wanted to give up. The most challenging part for me was to self-motivate. It was all up to me – either suck it up and embrace the challenge or throw in the towel. I definitely had to fight limiting thoughts along the way, like: “I could just stop at my master’s degree instead of continuing to my PhD” and “maybe I should close the doors to this business, competition is too fierce.” These thoughts plagued me more often than I wanted them to. One key lesson I learned along the way is that defeat leads to growth, while avoidance is failure. I learned to be okay with what most would call “failures”: experiments that didn’t go in the direction of my hypothesis; negative feedback about my thesis; owning a yoga studio that struggled every day. As bitter as each was in the moment, in retrospect, those experiences were more meaningful for my growth than the success stories. It sounds cliché, but you really do miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Another great lesson I’ve learned is that a supportive mentor will set you up for success. I was fortunate enough to always have a role model who supported my growth. My graduate school thesis advisor, Dr. Aileen Anderson, has had a huge impact on me and inspired my life in so many ways! Along the same lines of mentorship, I think it’s so important to always surround yourself with people who are better than you. Something I learned from a mentor in high school: when you study, do it with the A+ student; when you work out, do it with your fittest friend; when selecting a job, choose one that surrounds you with leaders. Doing so inspires you to keep advancing, keep improving. Last thing I want to say that is central to my personal philosophy (and why I’m so passionate about the wellness space) is keep moving! Exercise induces positive changes in the body and psyche that are unmatched by any food, medicine, drug, or supplement. Stay physically active and you’ll be motivated to excel mentally. I live by this!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, I would actually love to see the city through a visitor’s eyes! I’d let them drag me to all the touristy things, the trendy things they saw on tv or social media, or read about in a magazine. But I do have a few MUSTS: UCLA is my favorite place, but I’m biased since I taught there! I’d love to show a friend around campus – where I worked and spent so much of my time! We could easily spend a whole day there. If I’m not being nerdy, my other favorite place is San Vicente Blvd – it has great grassy areas to run or walk and just zone out. Also, the Will Rogers hiking trail is a must! And of course, we’d have to grab a bite (or several) at Urth Caffe. They have the most delicious salads and their flourless chocolate cake is to die for!!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
As I mentioned previously, my graduate school thesis advisor, Dr. Aileen Anderson, was a major mentor to me. I have said repeatedly, I owe the greatest part of my success to that woman. She taught me to be resilient and tenacious, with a winning attitude and most importantly, she never gave up on me, even when I told her I wanted to start a yoga studio instead of an academic lab! She stood behind me every step of the way. Also, my partners at Be Fit Biz have been so crucial to our business success, and I could not do this without both of them. We all bring a unique but very important background and skill set to the table – as a researcher, scientist, and educator, I do the data analysis and give most of the presentations for our clients. My partner Molly Delgado has a background in employee benefits, legal/compliance, and business, so her perspective is crucial. She manages our operations and guides strategy. Our third partner (and my husband), Dara Afraz, is a web designer and works in the education technology space which syncs perfectly with our forward-thinking approach to wellness education. He also designs our website and all marketing material. Our partnership thrives because we respect each other immensely and each play to our own strengths – and also because, when we don’t agree, we just put things to a vote (2–1 wins!). Of course I also have to mention the support of our families, which has been absolutely crucial – entrepreneurship is a family affair! We would be miserable humans without them!
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