Anna Thompson-Ford, CEO of a food supplement company, co-founded the company because she could not get out of bed to take care of her baby. Photo / Presented
When Aucklander Anna Thompson-Ford found out that she could not get out of bed or take care of two young children due to a weakened immune system, she set out to find them.
A way to get back to good health. That co-founder of the nutrition supplement company Pro.
Who is the Pro you are targeting?
Women between the ages of 25 and 40, although older women, are watching us. They are nicknamed the largest population of women in New Zealand and the nickname ‘Health Generation’. They often have mothers who move small children, climb corporate ladders, and are sick, elderly parents. It is a very, very busy time of life, a time to keep your health on track.
What products have you launched so far?
We made two mixed protein powders – peas and whey. We combine protein with all B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, ash, pre-biotic acacia fiber and New Zealand organic flax fiber. We are really getting good feedback from customers. They love the taste and love the fact that they should not take too many products.
What other Pro You products do you plan to launch?
We have R&D on seven other products, including collagen powder and pellets, intestinal health synthesis, New Zealand greens and caffeine-free adaptogen compounds without side effects.
What has helped you to develop a healthy diet for women?
About two-and-a-half years ago, I became ill with autism. I worked full-time in a real estate company that managed two teams, and under a lot of pressure. I was pregnant at the time and my wife and I went from business to residential development in the sales center. I had a lot on my plate. I had my son Luke and I returned to work at six months of age. Then I learned that I was pregnant with my 18-month-old daughter, Polly.
When Poli was six months old, I fell seriously ill and fell asleep. I was completely bedridden, we had to find a full-time nurse. I was initially diagnosed with postpartum depression but had many physical symptoms – chronic fatigue, anxiety, irritability – my doctor did some tests and I was diagnosed with severe autoimmune disease.
How do you recover?
I started taking some strong medications prescribed by an endocrinologist, but I worked with dietitian Kite Boyd to improve my overall health. A complete diet, gluten, dairy products, caffeine, sugar, alcohol … it was a really fun time. It took about six months to recover.
I was determined to make sure that others did not pass by me. You go from bed to bed and from person to person and from person to person. I desperately needed preventive health care.
How did you go about developing Pro You?
We didn’t want to be another female-led Instagram fashion brand. We really wanted to make products that we could stand on. We worked with Jenny Lane, who has a scientific background as well as a qualified natural and herbalist. Working with her means that we are able to bring in products from a variety of ideologies.
From the beginning, we were very clear, we just wanted to include ingredients in the possible stages. All of our content is supported by PubMed Research. And you can search for every ingredient on our website and see all the published research that supports its effectiveness.
How do you sell the territory?
Through our Pro You website and major retailers and gyms. We are tasting on our outlets and we have launched a digital marketing campaign called ‘Eat Your Age – A Complete Guide to Eating and Living for Every Ten Years of Life’. We advertise on Instagram and Facebook.
What are your future business plans?
We are now really focused on building our New Zealand customer base. We really started working with NZTE in the beginning. We look first at China and Southeast Asia, then Australia, the states and the United Kingdom. We are currently working with Alibaba, an online broadcaster in China and the New Zealand Business Manager for Alibaba.
Healthy eating is a very crowded place. What makes you special?
First, we have explored almost all of the best ingredients from New Zealand. Second, we used generous amounts of vitamins and other nutrients in combination with protein powder.
Comfort is a big thing for us. A woman can take our product and she should not take many other products.
We do not classify it as a weight loss product but it does reduce the need for sugar as it helps maintain a sense of fullness. But we do not want to be seen as a sign of weight loss. We want to improve overall health.
Sustainability was also important to us. To support local businesses and reduce our carbon footprint, our products are made in New Zealand with a focus on kiwi ingredients. Our bags are made of aluminum, which can be reused indefinitely and our bags are home fertilizer. I’m really proud of that.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting their own business?
I say don’t be afraid to go out there and talk to people in advance. We did not go out to retailers until we had finished our production and we lost that much time. If I take my time again, I will talk to retailers much earlier. People generally give you direct feedback.
Have a really good content marketing plan. Get organized, move all your systems. Start as you intended, because once you are in the market, you are busy with things you did not know you would be busy with.
What Pro Pro product do you use?
I use pea protein synthesis religiously every day, and if I don’t, I really notice the difference. He gave me more energy with a working mother. I don’t get sick all winter, I comment on my skin, and I don’t eat spoiled food in three hours!