Ali Lazowski is Founder of West Hartford-based Bare Life, which is one of many startups participating in the 2018 reSET Impact Accelerator. The program is designed for entrepreneurs in the early stages of business development.
Ali discussed some of her startup challenges and her experience with the accelerator.
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: When and why did you start your company?
ALI LAZOWSKI: Cancer and chronic illness actually started Bare Life, not quite the typical startup plan. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2012 as well as Lyme Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I had been very ill for a while. Those diagnoses pushed me to adopt cleaner and healthier diet (gluten free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free, and organic).
At the time, I just thought I was making hot cocoa and other recipes I loved; there really was no plan beyond feeding myself. In talking with people in my community, I realized a lot of people also wanted access to healthy food that didn’t taste like cardboard. Even though these have been the most challenging years of my life—and the challenge is not over—finding something I love to do, feel passionate about, and can possibly help other people has made it all worth it.
I launched Bare Life in October 2017.
IDH: Tell us about the startup and what makes it innovative.
ALI: Bare Life is an allergen- and irritant-free brand, based in West Hartford, CT. Our mission is make crave-worthy, body-friendly foods convenient for people coping with chronic illness. Our first product is a unique instant hot cocoa, that’s organic, non-GMO, dairy free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, kosher, paleo, and vegan. We also have Sweets and Thanksgiving cookbooks coming out later this year.
IDH: Why did you become involved in reSET Accelerator program?
ALI: Why wouldn’t you want to be involved with reSET? Their team is so supportive, collaborative, and engaging, every time I talk to a team member it’s clear they just want to help us succeed. It’s truly a special place.
IDH: In what ways is your company making a social impact?
ALI: It is very important to me to help people coping with chronic illnesses. Having a chronic illness is unbelievably hard. I am fortunate to have wonderfully supportive family and friends who help make my journey a bit easier. But I know not everyone has that.
If Bare Life can make food choices easier, help people feel less alone through our support groups, or create flexible employment opportunities, that would be an amazingly wonderful thing to me.
IDH: What has been your biggest challenge as a startup?
ALI: I think my biggest challenge with Bare Life has been what started the company—my chronic illnesses. A startup requires a lot of energy, you’re working all the time and there are no days off. Balancing startup life and my health is no easy feat, and I am definitely not good at it yet. But as I continue to build my great team around me I know we can overcome this challenge.
IDH: What resources do you need most to move your company forward?
ALI: With a startup I think it’s always two things: financing and strategic advice or partnerships. We just completed our crowdfunding campaign and we raised about $10,000. We didn’t hit our big funding goal, but that allowed us to move forward with no margin for error. Mistakes are also always part of a startup. That’s where strategic advice or partnerships come in, like reSET. Hopefully I can learn from other people’s experiences and avoid repeating some of their mistakes.
IDH: What is the best advice you have given/received?
ALI: The best piece of advice I’ve received was from my father. I was at a crossroads and he told me to never make a choice, to stick with something, because the other choice seemed worse or harder. To always go with what felt right and that the rest would work itself out. So far, he’s been right.
Learn more about Bare Life
Find out more about startups participating in the 2018 reSET Impact Accelerator: