Being Mama: A Catch Up With Shazi Visram
Did you know that in the first three years of a baby’s life, there is a window of time when their brain is making more than 1 million neural connections per second? That’s why healthynest & Happy Family Organics Founder, Shazi Visram, is here to chat about the products her companies are creating to help parents foster this precious time as well as how she managed to create the world’s first ever EWG VERIFIED™ diaper.
The last time we caught up with Happy Family Organics Founder, Shazi Visram, she was busy running the #1 organic baby food company in the US while raising two kids under seven.
Fast forward two years and Shazi has launched yet another game-changing business: healthynest, who has created the first ever EWG VERIFIED™ diaper. (All while working from home/ homeschooling during a global pandemic, but more on that later!)
While organic food and enlightened nutrition is a fundamental building block for healthy development, Shazi has come to see nutrition as only one of the key elements in a child’s entire environment, which includes the air they breathe, the water they drink, the things that touch their sensitive skin and cradle their tiny bodies.
Shazi explains, ‘When an environment is safe, it’s prime time for a baby to do what they do best – to soak in their environment with play, laughter, wonder, and novel experiences. And this happens in tiny moments every single day. Healthynest is really here to activate those opportunities, to give parents the tools and inspiration to make the most of those moments. Whether it’s turning a diaper change into a brain building massage that lights up both sides of the brain, or using bathtime as an opportunity to stimulate their olfactory sense, there are little hidden opportunities in everyday moments that add up to deep and lasting connections in a child’s brain.’
One of the most beautiful and powerful things about Shazi’s work and outlook on life is how her children, Zane and Asha, have been the inspiration behind every decision she makes.
That’s why Shazi doesn’t draw a sharp line between family and her business. Every decision she makes is rooted firmly in her personal mission to protect the health of her children. In life or in business, the daily decisions are not always easy, but the goal is always clear, and for Shazi, that is ensuring the health of ALL babies and children.
‘My son Zane and our learnings around his autism has also been a driving force for my work. Zane has taught me how truly sensitive young bodies and brains are, and how entwined our health is with our environments. Science knows so much more today about the impact our environment has on expressing our genetic code, both for good and for bad. Like all children, Zane’s body is engaged in a dance with his environment, and I’ve realized how critically important it is to design toxicologically safe environments for optimal brain development.
But honestly that’s really only half of it, because while we need to protect this incredible sensitivity from undue harm, we also need to enrich it, cultivate it. A newborn baby’s sensitivity is an enormous opportunity. When I had my daughter Asha, not only did we focus on prevention and optimal nutrition for neurological health, I realized what a unique opportunity I had to shape her brain, to bring all the right elements into her environment to build deep and meaningful connections in her brain. Those first three years of a baby’s life are a window of time when their brain is making more than 1 million neural connections per second and every moment is precious!
Zane and Asha are my teachers in that way, and my experience with and some hard-fought learnings around what we can actually do.’
So what type of products will you find at healthynest?
For starters the first ever EWG VERIFIED™ diapers as well as wet wipes, skincare, cleaning products and of course – developmental activities. All non-toxic and sustainable, Shazi admits the challenge of producing this range was harder than it looks.
‘Diapers are a particularly challenging category in which to innovate. A baby sits in a diaper for the first three years of its life, yet they’re not FDA regulated and diaper manufacturers don’t have to disclose their materials or even test the safety of their products. I believe that we as parents need and deserve transparency when it comes to choosing the products to use with our babies, so I set out to create a better alternative. On December 10, Healthynest launched the first-ever EWG VERIFIED™ diaper.
It’s the culmination of three years of development and has been tested for over 900 chemical compounds in collaboration with laboratory partners from around the world. We truly have the safest and softest diaper available on the market. Everything that touches your baby’s skin in a healthynest diaper is made entirely from 100% plant based materials, and the diapers are made in a carbon-neutral facility. I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to create, it really is a step forward in raising the bar for the entire industry.’
‘Innovation takes a lot of patience and an unwavering commitment to a standard of production that often doesn’t exist. An immeasurable amount of work goes into collaborating with manufacturers and suppliers, to bring them around to the possibilities of what could be versus what limitations may stand in our way today.
Healthynest diapers are a cradle of safety you can trust and I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to create, especially the healthynest Diapering Program, which is the distillation of everything I’ve done as a mother, an activist, and an entrepreneur to this point. The program is an incredibly robust monthly subscription that brings families not just the safest diapers and wipes, but also a curriculum of expert support and stage-based enrichment activities for every moment of baby’s development.
On my journey with Happy Family, I had fostered a passionate community of investors dedicated to children’s health. My investors were everyone from friends and family to some of the biggest names, and no matter what level of support each offered to the business, there was a shared commitment to health and wellness.
So when I started dreaming up healthynest, it was relatively easy to turn to the community I had built, and enlist their support again. The idea was met with great enthusiasm, and it’s been a joy and a privilege to work with many of my Happy investors again on healthynest, along with some new faces.
I’ve found that if every aspect of a business is aligned around one central mission, it’s much easier to move from a position of strength to drive meaningful change in a category, in an industry, and for us at healhynest, in the way we approach children’s health.’
Curious about how they were able to successfully launch healthynest at the start of a global pandemic, we asked Shazi about her decision to stick to their scheduled March 2020 date.
‘At the time, I weighed heavily the options of launching versus waiting to launch. It quickly became clear that launching was the only way forward, as families needed our help more than ever, so we sprang to action.
We donated thousands of diapers to families in need in our New York City community and have doubled our efforts to provide support to families in any way they may need it. For me, as an entrepreneur by nature, the most surprising thing has honestly been the amount of opportunity this time has brought for those companies on the right side of sustainability, the convenience of e-commerce, the service we provide and the ethics behind why we do this.
I know that may seem unconventional because undoubtedly times are tough. I don’t want to pretend for a moment that things are easy. But I’m wired in such a way that all I can see is the immense opportunity this unique moment in history has created for families to really look at everything they bring into their nests and consider the impact of their choices.
At healthynest, our sole focus is to empower moments of connection between parents and babies because we know how important those first three years are. So what better than a totally allowed period of connection with our loved ones to drive deeper brain development and deeper bonds among us?
For me, every setback, every challenge is always an opportunity to be better, to think differently about the way we solve problems. I have no doubt we will all emerge stronger as a result of this.’
While Shazi may be the woman, mother and entrepreneur we all dream of being, she is refreshingly honest about the realities of having to work from home while also facilitating remote learning.
‘I won’t sugar coat it. It’s been very challenging for us as I know it’s been for many families, especially those of us who have children with special needs that are not remote learners. I think it’s important to families everywhere to project an idea that this has NOT been easy, and my heart goes out to families facing the difficulties brought by reduced access to care, therapies, and the need for socialization.
Ultimately for my family, I know it’s made us more resilient. I’m so proud of my Zane and my Asha for adapting to these unprecedented circumstances with little to no context about what’s really going on. Zane has limited language but knows the word “mask” and “maybe soon” and Asha has had some challenging times imitating her brother’s autism to get attention which has been enlightening to us to ensure we spend enough time with her too.
It’s a reminder for me of how resilient children are but also again how their environments shape their development and behaviors and that we are parents are constantly shaping what we can with what we have.
In terms of support for my own needs, my husband Joe has always been my number one supporter. We’ve been an unstoppable team since the early days of Happy Family and I couldn’t have gotten where I am without his unwavering support, his unfailing optimism, and his ability to see beyond the challenges in front of us. He always bring my focus back to what’s most important in moments of stress.’
When asked what changes need to be seen on a legislative level regarding safe products for babies and kids, Shazi had quite a bit to say.
‘There is and has been for some time a real failure of our system to regulate common household products for true health safety, especially for the safety of children. We know that children are smaller and far more sensitive to chemical exposure than adults, and sadly most of the already loose legislation around product safety is designed for older developed humans, not our youngest and most vulnerable. I think we are all craving leadership at a national level that can really prioritize a system that protects our future. It’s in everyone’s best interest, but in the meantime, it’s become the work of third party organizations to really drive change.
My personal hero, Ken Cook, founded the Environmental Working Group in the early 1990’s with a mission to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Their team of scientists bring the utmost research and rigor to empower families just like mine to make choices that protect our families. The EWG Verified Program and the Skin Deep Database are so integral for any family, and both are daily resources I use to ensure I’m bringing products into my home that I know without a doubt are safe for my precious children.
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