What’s It Like to Launch a Start-Up During Covid?

A world-wide pandemic doesn’t seem to be the best moment to start a business, but it worked out to be good timing for the three co-founders of Balanz.

For Chris Clark, M.D., author of Contemporary Ayurveda and it was his lifelong interest in Ayurveda and helping people stay healthy that motivated him. He had already retired from his position as a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa to work as the Ayurvedic consultant at Garten, a company started by millennial Michael Henirich to bring well-being to the workplace in the form of healthy snacks, meals, and workshops on meditation and Ayurveda.

At Garten, Michael and Chris found that they shared a common goal—creating healthy food products that could bring the benefits of Ayurveda beyond the workplace. By mid-April they were ready to launch Balanz, whose mission is to bring balanced, healthy Ayurvedic products to the mass market.

“Covid influenced us to think of the immunity-boosting aspects,” says Chris. “We were aware that people were reaching for comfort foods during Covid, but we wanted it to be comfort food that is healthy, balancing, and delicious.”

It was Chris who wanted the first product to be Ayurvedic chocolate. He reached out to Justin Vigmostad, a friend of his son’s with seven years of experience creating artisanal, high-end chocolate.

“While it could intuitively seem a little strange to start a business in a pandemic—it also presents an opportunity, to be ready with something new when the economy bounces back,” says Justin, who is vice president of buying and operations of Collective Goods in Boulder, and, like Chris and Michael, has been working at home since the lockdown. “When Chris called me out of the blue in April and asked me if I had an interest in helping him out in this venture, it sounded intriguing to me.”

Michael says there are challenges to starting a business when the co-founders live in three different cities and can’t travel during the pandemic. “We use project management software like Asana, which we check on every week, and Zoom Meetings to connect daily,” he says “We use a log of messaging for real-time communication, plus Google Slides and other remote products to make it work.”

Surprisingly, Michael says, “It has actually worked much better than I imagined—quite a fun challenge.”

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