Today on the blog, the Founder of Om Mushrooms, Sandra Carter, is sharing all of her expertise on the very long list of benefits that mushroom powders have, and why she has made it her mission to make them approachable for everyone. From reducing stress, to better focus, to more energy, it’s no wonder that mushrooms have been gaining popularity in the wellness world. Learn more in our interview with Sandra below about how you can easily bring this superfood into your routine, how to decide which species to try, and her advice on starting a business in the wellness space.
Tell us a bit about your background! What led to your passion for wellness, and the founding of your company, Om Mushrooms?
I’ve always had a passion for helping people achieve optimal health and wellness through good daily habits and nutrition. After being an athlete in college, I sought out a career in sports performance with a Master’s in Exercise Physiology from McGill University where I began teaching fitness classes and developing community health programs. I went on to obtain a Master’s in Public Health from UCLA and a Ph.D. in Preventative Medicine from USC. When I see a collective need for something in my community, such as a Cancer Center or Center for Health and Sports Performance, I can’t help but pursue it until its a reality. This obsession with providing access to what can help us thrive is what ultimately drove me to start Om Mushrooms.
How did you first learn about the many benefits of mushrooms? What ways have you seen them impact your health and the health of others?
I was attending an Integrative Medicine Supplement Conference, and serendipitously met mushroom expert and mycologist, Steve Farrar, who had developed a unique growing technique for powerful mushroom superfoods. I began researching the benefits of these amazing mushrooms and after experiencing them first-hand, I felt a strong passion to help introduce mushroom superfood products to the American market.
Each individual species of mushrooms has its own unique benefits. Since I began my career in sports performance, I was immediately drawn to mushroom species, like cordyceps and reishi, which have been widely studied and shown to increase stamina and endurance. I started taking these mushrooms daily and couldn’t believe how they helped give me long-lasting energy throughout the day and into my work out. I’ve always believed that food is medicine, but these functional mushrooms were unlike any superfood boosts I had tried before. I continued doing more research on other mushroom species, like chaga, which provides anti-aging benefits, and lion’s mane, which helps memory and focus, and was blown away.
I think many people underestimate how versatile mushroom powders can be, not only in terms of how they can be consumed, but also the vast range of functional benefits they offer.
We can all benefit from these amazing superfoods!
You have several different products, featuring a total of nine different types of mushrooms - all with varying benefits! For anyone who has never taken mushroom supplements before, how should they determine what to try first?
Before you dive in, it’s important to hone in on why you want to start incorporating mushroom superfoods into your daily routine. Is it to help with your memory, or perhaps increase your overall energy? Maybe you want to reap the anti-aging benefits. At Om, we offer a wide variety of USA-grown whole food functional mushroom powders to empower people to choose a product based on their own individual needs.
For someone looking to improve overall health and wellness, I suggest trying our Om Reishi. Reishi is one of the most popular mushroom superfoods and for good reason! It has a vast amount of research related to its support for immunity, as well as being known to help blood pressure and blood cholesterol. Reishi is also frequently referred to as an “adaptogen,” as it’s been shown to help people adapt and better manage stress.
As an entrepreneur, how do you incorporate the mission and values of your business into your day-to-day work?
Our vision is to make a positive difference to everyday health through mushrooms. We believe in making good-for-you products that are fun, approachable, and effective, and we strive to do this every day through our commitment to quality, integrity, and transparency. As an entrepreneur, there are a few lessons that I experienced early on as a fitness instructor that have carried over. Giving feedback on small wins, setting achievable goals, and most importantly creating a relationship with people that made them want to come back to my classes really made the difference. In building Om, forging strong connections with our retail partners and customers by listening to what they need, sharing education, and being in-store for demos has been a key part of my day-to-day work.
What is your hope for the future of the wellness industry?
It’s so great to see how people are demanding more from their food, supplements, and everything they are putting into their bodies.
I truly believe that food is medicine and the more we look to food as nourishment for targeting our individual needs, the better we’ll feel.
I think many people understand that Mother Nature is pretty smart. The complex array of nutrients in a whole-food product provides the most benefits, as opposed to an extract. People are now more than ever doing their research to gain a better understanding of ingredients and how products are made for holistic wellness, so I’m thrilled to play a part in growing the awareness.
You have very rigorous requirements for your products – being certified organic, non-gmo, soy, gluten, and filler-free, and all grown and processed right in Carlsbad! Many entrepreneurs and brands want to create products held to these standards, but have challenges getting started due to the costs. How has Om been able to approach these challenges? What makes it the most worth it to uphold these standards?
I realized early on that the quality was paramount in order to achieve long-term success. Consumers need to trust that your products have been grown in an environment that is safe from toxins, pesticides and other contaminants. I also discovered that the major players in the natural product and conventional food channels were continuing to elevate their standards, and in order to be on the shelves of Whole Foods and other chains, we needed to maintain and exceed expectations.
We have invested an enormous amount of resources in our indoor farm and team to ensure that our quality is at the highest level – and it’s definitely a key differentiator for us. The daily testimonials we receive also drives me to uphold our rigorous standards - someone with arthritis who can play the piano again - someone who had immune related skin issues that finally found a way to get their problem under control. Helping these individuals through our magnificent mushrooms has been the most rewarding part of the business!
What are some of your favorite recipes to add Om Mushrooms to?
I created Om with the vision to make our superfood mushroom powders as versatile as possible so they could be easily added into any recipe. Aside from Om Energy which has a refreshing citrus flavor, all of our powders have a neutral flavor, so they are great to add into smoothies, coffee, avocado toast, soup, even ice cream! While I always add Om Lion’s Mane to my morning coffee, I love incorporating Om Reishi or Om Beauty into my baking recipes or pasta sauces. But again, they’re so versatile, so I encourage you to get creative!
While mushrooms are growing in popularity in the wellness space, many people are very new to the idea of taking them for health benefits. How is Om widening the conversation about mushrooms and making them approachable to a wider community?
At Om, we aim to make mushroom powders approachable for everyone no matter your knowledge of health and wellness. When educating the community on mushroom superfoods, we lead with the functions and benefits of each species, so that if you’re new to the wellness space, it’s easy to find one that suits your lifestyle. For example, energy and stress are very common issues that most people are looking to combat. Whether it be our Om Energy drink sticks that you can easily pop in water for daily energy, or Om Reishi that you can toss in a smoothie to calm stress, these products are relatable entry points for anyone wanting to try mushroom powders for the first time. Our website also breaks down each powder and makes it seamless for people to identify which product best fits their needs. We’re constantly looking to improve and grow as a company to reach new audiences and allow everyone the opportunity to reap the benefits.
What advice would you give to any woman wanting to create meaningful work in the wellness industry?
My first piece of advice is to identify what you’re passionate about. Then, find an area that has research-backed benefits, so you’re able to support and substantiate the benefits you want to promote.
Be excited about challenges – don’t let them hinder you!
For me, the most meaningful work often comes from the most challenging situations. I’ve had my fair share of encounters with developing health plans for people who are not willing to make a lifestyle change. That said, once I shared the benefits I earnestly believed in and they experienced them first-hand, it was a wonderful breakthrough. Embrace difficult moments – they may be the most fulfilling!
Photos courtesy of Om Mushrooms