Managing a chronic illness is challenging, whether it is your own or a loved one’s. Starting and running a business also poses unique challenges. If you struggle with a chronic illness, have started a business, or want to start a business, this blog series can help guide you. “Inside the Patient Entrepreneur’s Mind” offers key insights into chronic disease and mission-driven entrepreneurship by some of the most innovative patient entrepreneurs in the world.
Jon Margalit is CEO & Founder of Complete Start.
As a patient entrepreneur, can you describe your personal experience with IBD from diagnosis through your current daily management and how this experience drove you to innovate the space?
To make a long story short, I am a very social and outgoing person who enjoyed immensely being out with friends networking, in all types of social settings. I was also an avid gym goer and black belt martial artist. Once diagnosed with Crohn’s, I had to deal with all kinds of drugs and steroids to mitigate the ill effects of the disease and as a result transformed into a guy with acne all over who was afraid to leave the house at the risk of being too far from a comfortable bathroom.
With that being said, after trying different types of drugs, I realized really quickly that this wouldn’t change until I took matters into my own hands to find solutions. After some research, the one thing I found I really had control over was what I was consuming. I focused on what I could control and immediately thought to myself if I study this, and become an expert in food science, perhaps I might be able to make some drastic changes in how I’m feeling and looking. Inflammation causes the digestive tract to shrink so we [the IBD community] have difficulty digesting whole vegetables and roughage. I had the idea to freeze dry and grind them into a powder to consume micronutrient rich vegetables without digestive issues. I bought a freeze drier on amazon to test the idea.
What makes Complete Start unique and how does it meet an unmet need of the IBD community?
There are products on the market that are similar in nature, but we are the only ones completely organic and non-GMO. Our goal is to deliver the most complete and clean digestible nutrition for customers. As a result, the cost to produce has vastly increased. I quickly realized why our competitors didn’t produce the same quality of product because it narrowed the customer base. We are sticking to offering a premium product at price, staying true to our goal.
Are there any other unmet needs of the IBD community that you think take priority in working to address? How are patient entrepreneurs well-suited to meet these needs?
I think that the key to making a widespread, massive impact is to create more awareness for the products, services, and support that are available, so I’d love to focus more on community building. When I was first dealing with Crohn’s, I was not aware of the products, services, and people out there that were available to help me overcome. Out of instinct and pain I sought them out and created resources for myself, which was key to remission. If I could go back in time where that community already existed, and someone introduced me, then things would’ve been easier to deal with and I would’ve found a way out much faster. My goal is to try and bring us together in a community form beyond just introducing patients to Complete Start.
Where do you draw your inspiration and motivation from to keep forging ahead as an entrepreneur in the healthcare industry?
The real answer is I was initially afraid to leave the house. I was afraid to be seen and covered in acne—steroids destroy you. Now, I want everyone to know that the fear they are feeling is not just them and someone like me can help alleviate those fears and show them the path. If I was able to breakthrough and overcome, they can too. It’s others in the community and the validation that I get from them when they reach out and say I read your story and it made me believe that perhaps I can get there too who inspire me. Other people continue to fuel my fire and my desire to keep getting out there to make sure that others are aware and can receive the comfort of a blueprint for healing.
Lastly, what do you do for fun to manage the stress of running a business as both a person with IBD and an entrepreneur? Do you have any similar advice on work-life-disease management balance to others out there thinking of starting a business to meet an unmet need of a chronic disease patient community?
Absolutely. There is one key and I think that it is just as important as food—it’s exercise. I mean it very passionately—I am a daily hardcore gym goer and when I go to exercise, I go hard. When I do, I feel tremendously better. Movement and consistent exercise is the only way to complete the healing puzzle and again, that is another element that people have control over. I would recommend to anybody who is suffering out there first to test, then heed to Dr. Sandborne’s advice of eating what makes you feel good, and you’ve got to be consistent with exercise. Don’t just go through the motions—do it with purpose and passion. Push yourself physically because there is no bigger healing element in the world. The blood flow, endorphins and sense of accomplishment after a workout is the single most impactful driver to get me into remission. Two things people will never regret are eating vegetables and working out. The exercise is the stimulus to the right blood flow and right state of mind to tackle disease and career—both mental and physical battles. There is no better way to deal with the pain and discomfort of IBD than exercise.