Kanika Chadda Gupta

Spotlight

Dougmary & Kausar – Fitness for Moms

 

Childbirth is the most miraculous thing a woman’s body can go through. It’s incredible how we are built to produce a human being inside of us, with a beating heart, functioning brain, organs, and limbs. The aftermath, however, can be difficult for many – the stretch marks, deflated breasts, C-section scar, and overall pockets of weight gain that don’t seem to disappear.

I think all moms can relate to feeling some level of body dysmorphia after giving birth. I used to look in the mirror and barely recognized myself. I’ve been a fitness enthusiast and dancer my whole life so it was hard to stomach (quite literally!) my extra weight, which was due to the fact that I was carrying twins and breastfeeding (btw, it’s a myth that all women lose weight from nursing. Sure it may have helped my uterus shrink back to size, but my caloric intake had increased in order to produce milk for two hungry babies!)

When I was about six months postpartum, a friend of mine told me about a Mommy-focused fitness challenge she participated in and won (Go Aarti!) in our area. Right away, I asked “where do I sign up??” The Jersey City Slim-down Challenge was launched by moms Kausar Rasul (Founder of Golden Sneaker) and Dougmary Esquijarosa (Founder of A Green Unicorn) who aim to help mothers achieve their fitness goals, build confidence, and lead a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their families…for good.

How did you two meet and what compelled you to join forces to launch the Jersey City Slim-down Challenge?

Kausar: I began teaching “Mommy and Me” Zumba classes in 2016, and Doucky (Dougmary’s nickname) was one of my students. A year later, she launched her business as a certified nutritionist. I always wanted to offer programs other than just Zumba, so I reached out to her to see if we could work together. We both had a common mission, which is to help moms get their body back and start feeling healthy again. Our ideas and expertise gave birth to what is now the JC Slim-down Challenge.

Were you always into fitness & healthy living?

Kausar: My background is in biochemistry, but on a personal note, my whole life I struggled with my weight. Zumba was the best decision I made after having my first born. I began teaching Zumba and Zumbini (Zumba for kids) for a few years. I decided to go back to school and this year I graduated as a Nutrition and Fitness expert, which has helped me tremendously not only in my business but in my personal life as well.

Doucky: I really liked playing sports in school and while at university. I practiced gymnastics, soccer and Tae Kwon Do but nothing serious; I was never consistent with exercise as my studies took priority. I graduated with a degree in mass communications and worked for over a decade in advertising.

I became interested in living a healthy lifestyle when I found myself 25 pounds overweight, with very low energy, mood swings and digestive issues that I thought was normal after having a baby. I started exploring new foods and recovered my energy levels, which drove me to exercise regularly and allowed my digestive issues to disappear. At that point I knew I wanted to share my experience with the world. I used my Instagram account to post healthy, simple recipes and then I decided I wanted to become a Fitness and Nutrition Expert and dedicate myself to helping people change their eating and exercise habits.

Did you have an “aha” moment as a mom, where you decided you had to make a change in your life?

Kausar: When my daughter was 15 months old, I felt like I had no energy to keep up with her. I was always tired. I lived on 3-4 cups of espressos a day. I was still carrying 20 pounds of post-pregnancy weight at the time. I knew I needed to get bring about some serious lifestyle changes and get my body back to feel like myself again. That motivated me to get certified as a Zumba instructor.

Doucky: When my daughter started solids, my husband and I were really sick and overweight. I felt concerned because I didn’t want to raise a sick kid. I read a lot, practiced tons of recipes and learned about food labeling (the good, bad, and ugly!) in this country.

Also, after going to several doctors and finding no cure for our digestive issues, I felt the need to get to the root of the problem myself and go back to the basics. Now my husband and I are very active, eat the healthiest we have in our entire lives, and we even feel younger.

Tell us about the Mommy challenge, the criteria, and benefits.

Kausar: This JC Slim-down challenge is carefully designed for moms who are ready to get back into the fitness world. We provide support and accountability which is one of the biggest factors for most moms who have clear weight loss goals. We provide unlimited Zumba and conditioning/strength classes, a personalized nutrition plan, weekly meal plan, grocery shopping list, simple recipes, meal prep plan, 24/7 Q/A support, 2-3 at-home exercises, before and after photos, and fitness assessments & measurements so you can actually see the progress.

Doucky: After experiencing our own transformations, Kausar and I sat down and evaluated what worked for us. We analyzed the challenges that many mothers face when it comes to losing weight. For instance, we offer on-site childcare for anyone who needs it. Everyone knows that they have to exercise and eat vegetables so why are moms not doing it? We came up with ways to keep moms motivated like a private Facebook group for our challengers where they post their daily progress (photos of themselves post-workout, or what we call a “sweatfie,” their meals for the day, water intake, healthy recipes, and more). Having a support system makes a huge impact and helps keep people accountable.

 

What are some of the success stories?

Kausar: Our average weight loss/inches lost is between 5-13 lbs and 18-25 inches in just 6 weeks! Check out our challenger reviews here

Doucky: Every single mom has her own success story because each comes with her own goals in mind. The end result is not only losing weight, but gaining confidence, feeling energetic, and being happier because their kids are eating healthy and are learning from them. You can check out more testimonials here

Have you noticed an evolution from the first challenge until now?

Kausar: We are constantly trying to learn, grow, and perfect our programs. After each challenge, we request evaluations so that we can come up with improvements as we go. From our first challenge till now we have added several features. It used to be 4 weeks but now it’s 6 weeks, we added a point system to encourage the challengers to work harder, and we tapped local businesses to sponsor fun gifts and prizes for our winners.

Doucky: We have had seven challenges thus far and they keep getting better. In fact, most of our challengers come back and want to participate again because we are constantly changing things up! 

What do you like most about motherhood and running your own business?

Kausar: I love being able to spend ample time with my kids.  I chose this career to give me flexibility and I LOVE it.

Doucky: I changed my career because I genuinely wanted to help people but also because I wanted to be there to raise my daughter. I didn’t want to miss a thing in her life. I had her after 8 years of marriage and I really, really wanted to witness her grow up. Now that I have this flexibility, I go to all her activities in school and am present in her daily routine. I love it and she loves it. It has been a win-win.  

What are some songs on the Zumba playlist?

Kausar: My absolute favorite songs on my playlist are Badtameez Dil, Dura (Daddy Yankee), Mi Gente (J. Balvin, Willy William), Echame la Culpa, and Guarachar Salsaton.

What are some of the HIIT exercises you have the ladies do?

Doucky:  I love burpees! It is one of the most complete total-body exercises. I know most people are resistant to do them, but they are really good for your overall endurance and strength. Suicide planks and plank jacks are my other favorites.

If you were to share one tip (fitness/nutrition) with moms, what would it be?

Kausar: Make time for yourself and your health. You are IMPORTANT.

Doucky:  Make ‘living healthy’ a lifestyle, not a trend.

To learn more about these Kausar & Dougmary’s programs, visit Golden Sneaker and A Green Unicorn.

Michelle Ranavat – Ranavat Botanics

Equipped with an engineering degree and management consulting expertise, training in ballet and Indian semi-classical dance, and a keen eye for detail, there’s nothing this LA-mompreneur of two can’t do. Michelle Ranavat is disrupting the beauty industry with Ranavat Botanics, a luxury skincare line inspired by ancient traditions of Indian royalty, formulated with high performance botanicals. 

Featuring masques, toniques, and serums that are paired together to address unique skin concerns ($40 – $175), the brand is rooted in its simplistic approach and minimal, yet highly potent ingredients. For instance, the Flawless Veil illuminating masque is made up of organic wild turmeric, organic sandalwood, and organic bakuchi seed which work in harmony to uncover fresh skin and help kiss hyper-pigmentation goodbye. All the masques are in their raw powder form which provides for prolonged use (no fear of drying out or cracking!)

Michelle and I chatted about her foray in the beauty sector, mommyhood, and our love for dance (we both are members of Payal Kadakia’s Sa Dance Company). Read on below and shop Ranavat Botanics here.

You said your life started after you became a mom. How so?

Becoming a mom forced me to set a high bar for my career. After graduating, I worked at Lehman Brothers simply to have a brand name on my resume. As I got older, I began to care more about aligning my passion and talents with my job. I figured if I was going to spend time away from my kids pursuing anything, it should be incredibly fulfilling. I am lucky to have a supportive husband and two cheerleaders now.

What was the seed that blossomed into Ranavat Botanics?

I had always been in love with beauty and skincare from an early age, though never saw it as more than a hobby. My mother in law is an aesthetician and when I was pregnant with my older son, she came back from India raving about how well Ayurvedic botanicals worked on her skin. I gave them a try, especially since I was only using all-natural, paraben-free products on my skin at the time. I tried to source them on my own but noticed a major lack of quality and consistency. So I decided to use my experience in supply chain while working at my father’s chemicals company to solve the problem. 

So the concept for the brand came about organically (pun intended)?

Yes! Ranavat is a true representation of my personal style and ethos. For instance, I only have a few key pieces in my wardrobe – they’re simple yet made really well. I want to show skincare enthusiasts like myself and the beauty industry at large how effective a small list of curated ingredients can be when they are made incredibly well. The industrial engineer in me is always fascinated by how things are made. I always say “every ingredient has a story.”

How do you feel India’s ancient philosophies are perceived in the west and how are you looking to push the envelope in the beauty sector?

Often times the masses equate India with yoga and ayurveda. To me, there’s so much more to our culture and I wouldn’t want my beauty line to live in a crunchy environment. Much like what Sabyasachi has done for Indian couture, through Ranavat, I hope to bring out a different side of India – its rich history, ornate palaces and temples, and intricate jewelry. 

What’s unique about Ranavat Botanics?

Ranavat Botanics is treatment based focusing on hydration, detoxification, and illumination. There is one masque and one tonique (a hydrosol) created to address each skin concern. We have also launched Mighty Majesty, a hair and body serum that is lightweight and incredibly hydrating.

As moms, we rarely make time for ourselves. How do you aim to change that?

I used to live my life for those moments I went on vacation or time away. Not with kids, there is no such thing as a vacation so you need to find small ways every day to recharge and feel special. To me, using Mighty Majesty in the morning after my shower takes me to that special place where I feel cared for and nourished. I think that feeling of self-indulgence is even more important when we have kids or are caring for others. 

Did you have any qualms about becoming an entrepreneur? 

I was a little nervous about launching Ranavat because ultimately if it was successful, it would mean leaving my dad’s company. When I told him he said, “I didn’t build my company for you to further my vision. I built it to teach you how to further yours.” When it came time to travel to India to source the best ingredients, my dad came with me. We hit the ground running from farms to factories and we had a blast!

Soon after launch, Ranavat Botanics got picked up by Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. What was your reaction when you got the news?

Honestly there are times I still can’t believe it! I think having a very unique and strong point of view, aesthetic, and story to tell has played a role in standing out. It has been a combination of timing, the people who have believed in me since the very beginning, luck, and the Ranavat brand.

You and I are both lifelong members of the Sa Dance Company. How has dance shaped you as an entrepreneur? 

I think being an entrepreneur to me is less about solving a problem or inventing something and more about creativity. My passion for dance allows me to express my creativity and has exposed me to my Indian culture in such a deep, meaningful way. 

How do you strike a balance between motherhood and your business (your third baby if you will!)

I feel it’s about the average balance that I establish over the next 2-3 years. Right now, I am pretty work heavy but I hope to scale that back over time so that I can spend more time with my family. I do have some flexibility in my schedule and see the kids as often as I can. There are a lot of night and weekend commitments I hope to slow down in time. 

What advice do you have for mompreneurs?

If you can create a living of something you love and are passionate about, you should do it! There is nothing more meaningful than leading by example for your children and showing them they can bring their dreams to life.

What’s a mantra you live by?

Don’t compare yourself. I think I was really scared to launch my company initially because the skincare market is so saturated. Ultimately, I believe there is always room for quality and individuality. If you have either of those things, it doesn’t matter if it’s the water business – people will want it. 

Rupa Parekh – Jai Jai Hooray!

 

I am always on the lookout for educational, cultural toys to teach my kids about our Hindu religion in a fun, captivating way. When I attended Brown Girl Magazine‘s “Mimosas with Mom” event in New York (thanks for hosting Trisha Sakhuja!), I was thrilled to meet fellow mompreneur Rupa Parkeh. Her company, Umani (named after her daughter Uma and son Niko), creates beautifully-crafted, simple learning tools that introduce our Indian culture to new audiences with modern flair. Rupa told me about her first product launch, the Jai Jai Hooray flash card set, which showcases the nine deities of Hinduism in a SAY-SEE-LEARN framework enabling anyone to be a teacher or student. I thought the concept was brilliant and bought a set for my twins.

Rupa and I stayed in touch as she relocated from New York to Houston and she included me in a focus group for her next launch, The Goddess Power Tower.

Wasn’t that inspiring? I’ll give you a second to wipe your tears and blow your nose. This commercial pulls at my heartstrings too and makes me think of all the strong women in my life, especially my nani who taught me to follow my sanatan dharma, or “the right way to live.” The Goddess Power Tower poignantly conveys how each goddess in Hindu mythology is a mother (Mata), and is synonymous with virtues we should aspire to, like Sarawasti Mata symbolizes wisdom and Durga Mata is a fearless warrior. We all face mom guilt from time to time and underestimate ourselves and our abilities, but the truth is, we are real-life goddesses and make an impact on our children in so many ways.

 

I was honored to be a part of Jai Jai Hooray’s #SheisaGoddess campaign where nine women were featured to represent the nine goddesses. Rupa chose me as her real-life Parvati, the ambassador of motherhood and fertility; You can read more about it here and check out photos here.

I am so pleased to have met Rupa and convinced her to share her story on Musings of a Mompreneur. ;) Originally from Buffalo, she attended Northwestern for undergrad and earned her MBA from Wharton. Her husband Emre is Turkish American. Rupa has been working in tech, design, and innovation for the past 15 years and aims to help children, and adults alike, learn and play better.

What does motherhood mean to you?

Being a mother to Uma and Niko has been such an honor and blessing. They are growing up to be such clever, funny and creative kids. Our first and second thoughts nearly everyday that we wake up as parents are: “wow, I hope we make them proud” and “how long before they realize we have no idea what we’re doing?!”

When did you become a mompreneur?

I come from a family of business people. We talked about customers and clients at dinner; we geek out about ads. Everyone in my family is sort of a sucker for good marketing.

Umani and Jai Jai Hooray was inspired by the family I’m starting to grow. Both my husband and I are connected to our culture, but we’re not experts. It’s an overwhelming feeling to have children and suddenly you’re supposed to be a teacher of language, customs, and heritage. When Uma was a baby, I searched for tools, games and activities that were both engaging and well designed. I couldn’t find much. Not about India nor any other culture. We saw a gap in the market and went for it. Umani was born.

You believe that every day is Mother’s Day and designed the Goddess Power Tower to serve as a reminder.

Absolutely. Moms, by definition, can do more! It’s astonishing to think about the amount of thinking, feeling, planning, loving, dreaming and nurturing a mom can do all at once.

Celebrating mom just one day out of the year isn’t enough! We thought it would be really fun to create a toy that makes it easier for families to treasure mama. Afterall, for little ones, mom is the center of their universe–she IS a goddess. (Unfortunately, I think that wears off fast as they become tweens!)

Our favorite part of the Goddess Power Tower is the poem that builds when you stack each block. It’s an ode to mommy that should resonate with any family, regardless of their cultural background.

We loved your mom Rashmi Parkeh’s feature. How did your mom inspire you to start your business?

My mom started her small business when I was 6 months old. She is a force of nature–at 69 she has more energy than I think I will ever have. She is also our families culture keeper. Even before we had children, I always wondered, “how do I bottle up my mom and all of her tips and stories?” Umani and Jai Jai Hooray are a first step toward doing that.

Who is your inner Goddess?

Great question! What’s really cool about the Goddess Power Tower is that it brings to life that women have so many personas. On some days, I feel like a warrior (Durga) and other days I’m more calm and fluid (Ganga).

What are your hopes for Umani for the future?

Toys, books and media are simply not diverse–certainly not in the United States. We want to help families feel more culturally connected and we’re only just scratching the surface. We’ll be experimenting with digital learning and play in the coming year. Stay tuned!

What are your top tips for mothers and mompreneurs.

  1. Be patient with yourself. The chips are unfortunately still stacked against moms so we have to create our own opportunities AND set our own pace.
  2. Get better at vocalizing what you need and want in real-time. With your colleagues, boss, spouse, friends–be transparent about what you’re feeling, what you need and what could help you. Moms are optimizers not festerers!
  3. Make time for date night, girls time or solo sanctuaries. If we’re lucky, life is a marathon. Newborn and toddler years are exhausting. Don’t burn out when you’ve just begun!

 

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