Sherry Zhang of GenoPalate on empowering people to eat healthier with personalized nutrition

Sherry Zhang_Blog Header

Describe your business in a few words?

GenoPalate is a data-driven personalized nutrition company that helps individuals eat healthy based on the analysis of their unique genomic DNA.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

My desire to fix a big problem that can affect me, my family and hundreds of millions of people. Wanting to help with what I know, initially. I remembered the day when I was a research professor at a prestigious medical college reviewing some new results in my lab. We found a specific genotype in certain part of a study population that is always associated with higher BMI (an obesity proxy). I remember I said to myself, “wow, I wonder what mom’s genotype is for this one?” My mother struggles with weight issue all her life. I wonder if this gene may play a role in her traits. As a geneticist with Ph.D. training in molecular biology, I knew this technology can be applied to everyone and I thought the insights can really help our rising pandemics of obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammation, metabolic syndrome, all are chronic diseases related to food behaviors and nutrition. Years later, I was ready to start my company GenoPalate to provide a unique service to empower anyone who wants to eat healthier and practice personalized nutrition with evidence-based knowledge in nutrigenomics. 

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

Before starting GenoPalate, I was a Ph.D. research scientist and medical college assistant professor studying obesity and Metabolic Syndrome using the most state-of-art technologies in the genomics field. 

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I did. I always felt this urge of starting something on my own, you know. I have had two startups before GenoPalate. Each one always started with me wanting to bring a new, potentially better solution to the world. GenoPalate is very special. I was able to give it my best as the founder and I think it is important for an entrepreneur to differentiate the qualities of multiple good ideas for making a successful startup. 

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

I was lucky to have some of the best help for starting up GenoPalate in Milwaukee. Our first marketing strategy involves earned media such as pitching my story of founding GenoPalate and what it can offer to reporters of local papers, journals, TV and radio stations. Those are the best kinds of media if you can get some reporters to write about your story. Not only they don’t require much of media spend, but also people that became our customers from reading those articles are often our best brand advocates. We then drive awareness of our product and value proposition on social media. Our strategy went well for the stage of the company. 

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

I think one lesson I have learned from making multiple mistakes is the importance of creating your organizational design early. I wanted to run my startup lean and efficient so I stretched for longer than I should have for some key positions that can benefit the business greatly with talent that brings the right experience-based perspectives and skillset. Eventually we have survived and learned a great deal from making those mistakes but I think we may be able to save much time and effort in reaching our targets if I realized the impact that extra help in early days can make. 

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

I am most proud of the product GenoPalate has created with my vision and technology insights and I was able to offer a sophisticated product of premium value to general public with low friction in user adoption and experience. That’s very hard to accomplish and is the barrier that prevents quality solutions of high complexity to be accessible to general population. I am happy that GenoPalate has been successful in overcoming tremendous amounts of challenges in delivering quality products at scale. 

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

My go-to interview question when hiring for my team is, “where would you like to see yourself at in 5 years?” I have observed that the person’s answer to this question will tell what kind of growth trajectory this person aspires to have and whether my organization and myself can be that incubator to foster that. Most of my employees have stayed on growing with the company and it is important to know when hiring if it could work for long for both the company and the talent.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

It has seasoned my business fast, in a positive way. We are a digital health and wellness company providing a unique solution to everyone who due to the pandemic have been “trapped” in a situation where self-care became a need. With our knowledge in personalized nutrition and health and our offer of 24/7 communication through our engaging customer service team, we have been taken even closer to our customers and the public through our publications (blogs, newsletters etc.) and service calls and communications. We want to give our customers more than the products they have purchased from GenoPalate. We want them to feel we are there for their questions and needs for nutritional information for taking best care of themselves with the power of science. 

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We have entered a very exciting phase of GenoPalate. In the next few years, we will be releasing a series of new DNA-powered personal nutrition products and being able to provide our service in a data-driven engaging way to our growing customer base. We wanted to help people optimize how they eat their foods, how they make food decisions, and help them understand their nutritional needs and prevent nutrition-related chronic health issues. I have never been more excited about GenoPalate and the potential impact it can make in people’s lives. 

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Never take health for granted. It is fragile and vulnerable. Yet it is so important to us. It is the foundation to enjoying all our rights. We need to take good care of it, as a team. 

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

Start the process of organizational design from day one. Double down on talent that can help you move fast towards your goal. 

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

I have a very strong family rapport right now. My family 100% believes in me and I do them. I think family is always someone’s foundation in life, no matter what happens. With GenoPalate business, we have made effort to stay close and being helpful to our customers. Within the GenoPalate team, we are cordial to each other and try to be there for each other in creative ways during the pandemic time. We are welcoming the first “baby of the company” and we are all so happy for our colleagues’ milestones in life. 

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Yes, I do. I have to admit I didn’t believe or realize how important it is for my happiness to maintain a well- balanced work/life equation. When I was younger, ambition sometimes gets in the way of making the wiser judgement on work/life balance. I think it can be a common pitfall for anyone and I specially wanted to caution women entrepreneurs to be aware of it as women have our own biological course and clock that can make certain life decisions more challenges on timing of events. Becoming a mother is one of the best things happened to me and I knew I always wanted to be a mother. But it was not easy when I wanted to accomplish my goals for career in making decisions like when to bear a child. Fun fact is that I became pregnant the last year of my graduate school. I gave birth to my son in a February, defended my Ph.D. thesis in April, graduated in May and started my first job as a post-doctoral fellow in June. It may sound a little crazy, but I loved every minute of that busy time and I am so happy that I managed to become a mother in the midst of one of the critical phases of growing as a professional. My tips will be thinking further into your future life, like 10 years and imagining what makes you feel you will be happy then. Take that list and see what can be offered by growing in personal life and what can be offered by your career and jobs. Seek out for advice from people who has life and work experiences more than you do, especially from those who will candidly share not only positive experiences and successes but also lessons and failures. Collect data from more than one point of view. 

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I want to one day write comedy and maybe even do standups once a while. 

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

When you need to power through a project, put a timer on for a 2-min break every 20 mins. Your brain will decline in productivity in 20 mins or so and taking a short break will help your brain quickly regain its speed. Use a notebook daily and draw your most difficult thoughts out on paper. I found it very helpful to take burden from my mind and suddenly feel it is really not that complicated. Do something both healthy and enjoyable every day. My go-to is cooking. 

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

It helps define and refine what I do.  Being an Entreprenista, I benefit from my natural calls and intuition from the perspective of a female as a person, as a partner, as a mother, as a daughter. To me it is a powerful and evolving identity that enables me to play a productive role in my community. 

Share it!

Posted in
Tags

Leave a Comment





Natalie Ramirez Designs Impactful Spaces With Her Architecture Firm

Hi, Natalie! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business. Natalie Soledad Ramírez is the Founder and Principal Architect of Natalie Ramirez Architecture + Impact Collaborative. She has worked in architecture for over 14 years. She believes that the built environment can act as a catalyst for positive change and has devoted much…

Massage Therapist Gabby Garduno Promotes Self-Care and Mental Wellness

Hi, Gabby! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: Hola, I’m Gabby, a Los Angeles mobile massage therapist providing massage for self care and mental wellness. What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member? Definitely being in a community with ladies who want to help build each other up! What made…

How Leslie Roberson Became a Leader in Inclusive Beauty Retail

“I became hyper detailed on the processes and how the business should run. Any good business, this should be the baseline. Nothing else, like this is it. How does your business run without you? My team understands that everyone’s on board, so they just move through the system systematically. And so if they have any…

How Renee Parsons Innovated Golf Apparel in a Male-Dominated Industry

“Just surround yourself with people that are not necessarily better than you, but that bring something to the table you don’t—and [don’t] be intimidated by that or threatened by that. I love collaborating and I love having people on my team that bring something to the table and can teach me, and I feel like…

Laurie Arron on Her Coaching Biz for C-Suite Execs and Chiefs of Staff

Hi, Laurie! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: Hi, I’m Laurie. I’m a trusted advisor and executive coach to C-Suite leaders and Chiefs of Staff. I’m also the founder of ChiefSpace Boardroom, a group coaching mastermind for Chiefs of Staff. What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member? I am…

Take a Look Inside Our Founders Weekend VIP Gift Bags

We’re still thinking about the VIP gift bags from Founders Weekend! The gift bags were filled with such innovative, useful (and luxurious!) products. Amplifying women-owned businesses is what we’re all about and we want to be sure all of the founders that featured products in our VIP Founders Weekend gift bags are discovered by all…

Dalana Lara Turned Her Passion for Baking Into a Cookie Biz

Hi, Dalana! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: Hi, I’m Dalana, founder of The Cookie Mania. Originally from Caracas, Venezuela, I moved to the U.S. in 2015. My lifelong passion for baking was always a part of me, even though I went to college and graduated as an accountant. Beyond balancing…

Ariana Olive Helps People Reach Their Financial Goals Through Planning

Hi, Ariana! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: With over fifteen years of experience in finance and business management, Ariana is a performance-driven professional who provides strategic guidance to help individuals, families, and small-business owners reach their financial goals through comprehensive financial planning. She focuses on four key areas: tax planning,…

How Marina Khidekel Made Her Business a Household Name Through Networking

“Everybody has an unfair advantage. Use it. It could be an expertise that you have, that could be contacts you have in an industry that’s adjacent to the industry of your startup or can help your startup—use that. When Marina Khidekel started her search for a solution to her nighttime anxiety, she turned to weighted…

Elsi Pacheco on Her Brand Development and Digital Design Agency

Hi, Elsi! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: I’m Elsi. I am the creative force behind Link Up Level Up, bringing over 20 years of experience in marketing, design, and website development to the digital space for business owners. I was born and raised in the vibrant hustle of New York,…

How Tisha Thompson Launched the First Black-Owned Clean Makeup Brand at Sephora

“There’s a lot of things that come with being able to support a retailer like that… If you’re not ready for those things, then go DTC first because you also have to have: Is your product merchandisable? Do you have unit cartons? Do you have UPCs? All of these kinds of operational tactical things that…

Shulamit Ber Levtov Supports Woman Entrepreneurs’ Mental Health & Well-Being

Hi, Shulamit! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: I’m Shulamit Ber Levtov, MA, RSW, CCTP, aka The Entrepreneurs’ Therapist. I’m passionate about mitigating the entrepreneurial mental health crisis and transforming the entrepreneurial ecosystem to include the whole human in business. I do that through speaking, teaching, and consulting, as well as…

5 Tips for Planning a Seamless Event

Founders Weekend was a month ago, and we still can’t get over the impact the event made for our community. Seeing our members, in person, connecting and collaborating with each other was what it was all about.  The content that was captured truly reflects the feeling of our Founders Weekend event and we can’t wait…

Gina Caracci Does it All: Trainer, Podcaster, and Charity Founder

Hi, Gina! Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business: I’m Gina aka GinaMarieFit. I’m a NASM personal trainer, business owner, podcaster, and charity organization founder. When I set out to become a personal trainer and online business owner, my goal was to provide more than just workouts and macros. I wanted to…

Building a 50,000+ Community While Navigating Postpartum Challenges

“I really care about people and I really care to see people thrive in communities where they feel welcomed.” Amanda Smith is the Founder & CEO of Dallas Girl Gang, a 50,000 plus global community of engaged women connecting in career, business, and life. Amanda, a former elementary music teacher, has grown Dallas Girl Gang…