What happens when a self-described “swami mami” and a burned-out investment banker catch the entrepreneurial bug at the same time and decide to team up? Just ask Sukey Novogratz, 44, and Jackie MacLeod, 48, co-founders of The Well Daily, a website and daily subscription newsletter that focuses on health and wellness.
They met twenty years ago as expats in Hong Kong. MacLeod and her husband were bankers, as was Novogratz’s husband. “We remained close, then separated, and then got back together at a lunch three years ago,” recalls MacLeod. “I was at the end of my finance career; I just didn’t know it then.”
Novogratz’s father had recently passed away and she had just returned from a meditation retreat. MacLeod noticed a change in her old friend, and began ruminating on her own life path: 80 hour work weeks, the stress of raising a family and holding down a high-powered job, the extra pounds that wouldn’t go away. She decided she needed a change, and so the two began practicing yoga and meditation together. Shortly thereafter, an idea for a business began to take shape. “I thought that if this lifestyle resonated with me, it would resonate with others as well,” MacLeod says.
The two started writing a book together, but the work soon evolved into a blog, and then a daily newsletter offering tips on wellness, cooking and healthy living. “We wanted to take a fresh approach to age-old wisdom,” says Novogratz. That meant avoiding heavy handed and lofty language, and keeping their content accessible and practical by concentrating on what people could add to their lives rather than what they needed to give up.
The Business Takes Shape
They started in January 2011 with a daily newsletter to approximately 3,000 of their personal contacts in the Manhattan area. Positive feedback encouraged them to start experimenting with content and to take a more national approach. Novogratz and MacLeod also signed on some high-powered expert “Wellies” to feature on their website and to give their business added credibility. Among them are model Christy Turlington, designer Donna Karan, socialite Cornelia Guest and Kris Carr, author of Crazy Sexy Cancer. Today, The Well Daily now has 55,000 subscribers who receive emails with short tips on everything from how to save gas to the health benefits of coconut water.
While the business has not yet broken even, it has begun to attract advertising from companies that sell holistic products, such as SmartyPants Vitamins. The partners plan to add an e-commerce element to their website this year and will sell trusted brands in the health and wellness industry as well as their own private-labeled products. “We’ve been happy being self-funded,” MacLeod says, “but our capital needs are growing and we’d like to have partners that will help us think through our strategy.” So they are preparing to seek a Series A round of capital to help finance growth.
In the meantime, both MacLeod and Novogratz, who have seven children aged six to 17 between them, feel that they’ve found their true calling. Sukey Novogratz, who has been living the kind of life that The Well Daily promotes for many years, feels that she now has a forum to spread the word to others and help change lives. And MacLeod is thrilled with her new career. “I’ve never really worked in a field where I’ve felt so much passion,” she says. “It’s all about reinvention.”
Donna Fenn is co-founder of Y.E.C. Mentors, an initiative of the Young Entrepreneur Council. A business journalist for more than 25 years, Fenn is also a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine, a blogger on BNET/CBSi, a columnist on Lifetuner.com, and an experienced keynote speaker. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Working Woman and Parents, among other publications.
Photo credit: The Well Daily