Manasa never really set out with the desire to own a company. She really just desired to help solve a problem with a clear solution. It was that passion that drove her to be so successful. She quickly went from doctor to entrepreneur in a short period of time as she developed Ahimsa Home, stainless steel dinnerware for kids.
From this Episode, You Will Learn
- The road to becoming a pediatrician
- Standing up for yourself as a female physician
- Finding a need and tending to it
- Going from doctor to entrepreneur
The road to becoming a pediatrician
Manasa shares her journey to becoming a physician. She followed the example of her dad and had the strongest desire to help children. She never considered anything else, not even being an entrepreneur until later down the road.
Standing up for yourself as a female physician
As a mother, Manasa was a full-time physician, pumping for twins and training. She shares her tips on how she stood up for herself amidst the discrimination and pushed forward. She was eventually able to do all of those things, and get more done than her colleagues.
Finding a need and tending to it
Manasa was able to find a need within the community after her mother introduced her kids to all stainless steel dinnerware to protect them from harmful chemicals. Her love for children and their health inspired her to do something about this need and help spread the word.
Going from doctor to entrepreneur
After noticing this need for less plastic and more stainless steel, Manasa knew she needed to do something. She had so much support from her friends and fellow moms. When she learned that plastic chemicals were harmful to children’s health, she knew she needed to do something for not only her own kids but also others. She had mom friends asking to get some of the stainless steel that she was using, and that is when she learned only plastic was on the market. Manasa never really set out with the desire to own a company. She really just desired to help solve a problem with a clear solution. It was that passion that drove her to be so successful.
Episode Resources and Links:
CAMILLE WALKER [0:02]
Setting out to be an entrepreneur is not everyone's ambition or path. Our guest today, Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, is a trained pediatrician who has a passion for children, helping to keep others healthy, and take care of them. It wasn't until later in her career that she really looked into what goes into our children's serving ware, their plates, their cups, and all of the dangers that are involved with plastic. I'll be honest. I'd never really had thought about it this much before and why stainless-steel offers a better option for our kids to help them with their futures.
Now, what's really interesting about Manasa's experience in this is that her parents are from India, she was born in India, but raised in America and eating off of stainless-steel plates and cups and forks and spoons is something they just knew. That's what they all did there, but it wasn't until becoming a doctor and learning more and more about the dangers that she thought that she wanted to offer something for our kids that isn't available on the market or it wasn't until she created Ahimsa, which is a product available now today that you can help your children have a more healthy future through a product that she helped invent.
So, let's hear her story and how she was able to create something that came from the heart, but is now blessing us all.
So, you want to make an impact. You're thinking about starting a business, sharing your voice. How do women do it that handle motherhood, family, and still chase after those dreams? We'll listen each week as we dive into the stories of women. This is Call Me CEO.
Welcome back everyone to another episode of Call Me CEO and you are in for a major treat today. We are talking with Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, who is an expert at the American Academy of Pediatrics and has developed a product line just for children to help them stay safe with what they're eating, what's in our plastics, what are we aware of as parents and what do we need to be aware of. I can't wait to dive into this story, Manasa, today about how you got started with this amazing business.
MANASA MANTRAVADI [2:17]
Hi. It's so great to be here. I always love talking to fellow mommas. It's the best.
It really is the best. It was so fun to read your bio. You said you have three children and I love that you described them as curious and kind. Everyone wants kids that are curious and kind. What a wonderful description. Tell me more about your kids, your family and where you grew up.
Yes. So, my kids are young. They're seven, seven, and four. I've had twins. So, I was actually born in India. When I was three, my father was training to go into medicine and so that's when we immigrated here. I grew up in all sorts of places, Oklahoma, then New York, and then Indiana. It was a really wide range of geography. Yes, I grew up in New York, and then we came to a small town in Indiana after living in New York. We spent our weekends going to Broadway shows and being in the city, and then we went to a really, teeny, tiny town in Indiana, so that was a real culture shock for me as an adolescent female.
How old were you at that point?
I was just entering sixth grade. It seems like the most untimely time to move for an adolescent.
Yeah. That's a hard time. Yeah, for sure.
Hard time. So, I was already a bit different because I was a minority in a very mid-Western town. And then, on top of that, I had a very thick New York accent. I didn't fit in right away, but it was really great because, go figure, after all those years in Indiana, I swore I'd go back to New York for college in NYU and, go figure, I wanted to stay close to home and went to Indiana University. I've never really left the mid-West because I fell in love with it. So, go figure, through all of that.
Wow. Can you take me a little bit back to feeling different as a child growing up? I would imagine in New York that's the melting pot of everywhere. I'm a white Utah girl. I love hearing stories about diversity and what that was like for you growing up and how you acclimated to different situations. What was that like?
Yeah. So, growing up in New York, it was interesting because Indians are a very young immigrant population actually. So, if you look at Indians across the board, really, we're a very new immigrant in relation to all immigrant groups because everyone's an immigrant in this country.
Right, absolutely. Yeah.
So, it was not until the 1960s and 1970s, the first wave, if you think about that context.
Pioneering, really, yeah.
Yeah. So, we were amongst the first, and so my parents as well as many other immigrants had banded together. Growing up, I went to school with people who didn't necessarily look like me. At home and on the weekends, it was all these people who looked like me and we ate the same food and we had the same culture. We listened to the same songs. And so, I think it's a testament to immigrant parents to say, "I'm moving across the world, bringing you to a totally new space that I've never been and I'm far away from my own family. But I'm going to form this new family of people who are very similar to me and ensure that you can experience everything there is about American culture, but then really hold onto our roots and embrace our culture because you want that to last."
You want that to last even in a new environment. So, that was a really great part about my upbringing and a lot of immigrants is that in this country, you can celebrate all of these different cultures. And so, because we were so young, when I grew up, it wasn't now, Bollywood, we've got Kamala Harris and Mindy Kaling, all these things are really the norm, having my children watch Mira, Royal Detective, which is the first Indian Disney character, female lead.
That did not happen just a generation ago. We would have to do an Indian dance to celebrate our specific culture and traditions we had. I remember being really wary of wearing Indian clothes and having my friends see me. I was almost at that age embarrassed because it was different. But then, as I grew up, it was really interesting. You started to find each other in college. You did these really cool cultural programs together. And then, honestly, it was just enough of us where it's like, "Oh. This is really cool to be Indian. Let's celebrate our culture more openly and not just at home."
So, that's been quite a journey for me just as a first generation Indian here and now having my own kids live really a very different upbringing where in their schools, we're celebrating Bolly and doing all sorts of cool things.
I love it. I have chills listening to you talk about it because I love seeing celebration of culture and education and there's so much beauty in learning about different types of cultures and religions. I remember one of my first introduction to Bolly was So You Think You Can Dance? I don't know if you've ever watched that. I grew up as a dancer, so watching that, I was just blown away by the beautiful movements and costumes. They talked about how it was so important to have specific hand placement and how it can mean different things. It's such a beautiful culture.
I grew up doing classic Indian dance called Bharatanatyam. It was originated in temples and it was a lot of storytelling, so those hand movements and the bells on your feet to keep the beat were such a cool thing that now my own daughters do. It's awesome that I think our parents felt so strongly about keeping those cultural roots, so that we could pass it on. But then, embrace this very new culture that they were not used to and say, "Let's celebrate that too." And so, I feel really blessed that I had an upbringing that celebrated two very different cultures and was able to meld them, and now, offer my kids, I hope, the best of both worlds.
Yeah. Absolutely. So, I'm curious to ask you a question because I had a guest. The episode just aired last week, but my guest is Indian. She was actually in India when I recorded with her. Something that really interested me and I'm curious how it is for you as well, but this is my perception that women are really encouraged to go for whatever they want. There's nothing that this is a gender-specific like boys do this and girls do this. It seems like they're like, "No. Be the doctor. Be the chemical engineer. Be this. Be that." Is that a good assumption or is it not that way? What do you think about that?
I think it really depends. I think traditionally much like gender roles have changed drastically in the past few decades globally, I think we have followed a lot of those same trends because very, very traditionally, many, many years ago, the female was at home taking care of the kids and not working. So, I think that that kind of shift into become a professional and explore what you want to is more recent, I would say.
Now, what is interesting about specifically the immigrant population here in full disclosure, you do see a lot of female physicians or Indians in medicine, Indians in engineering, Indians in very specific roles. It actually had a lot to do with the immigration that happened in the 1960s and 1970s, so it's a byproduct of that because the U.S. was essentially offering visas to really highly educated immigrants. And so, that was really their entry point into the country. And so, there was a whole slew of doctors and engineers, who were really professionals. The immigrant wave was from professionals, and so that has perpetuated.
Okay. That's a good insight because I was curious about that. I'm like, "Man, these women are killing it."
I would say a large portion of us probably had parents in those professions, and so naturally when you see that at home or you experience that at home, it rubs on you. I always knew I wanted to go into medicine because I watched my father and his patients. It's such a special profession where you're truly interacting with another human about their life, about their health. There is nothing more important than that.
I agree. If you don't have your health, what do you have?
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So, talk to me about getting into the medical field and what was that like for you and what you wanted to do from the beginning. It sounds like that was the passion that started early.
Yeah. My father was so wonderful about teaching. I think that came second nature to him. And so, learning about science and physiology was always something that I enjoyed growing up. I was definitely one of those high achieving, I had to get As, just very self-driven even as a young kid, but it was really internal. That's the other part of our culture. People really do place a large emphasis on education. Education first, this is your job in school.
And so, that was ingrained in me and watching this. It was just something I gravitated towards. So, I decided to go to med school and from the beginning, I think my mom has this written. When I was in kindergarten, I said, "I was going to be a pediatrician. I want to be a pediatrician." I spelled it with a SHIN. Pedatrishin. In addition to the love of learning, I've always loved kids from the start. I was the nine-year-old taking care of the three-year-old. I was the fourteen-year-old running camps for the eight-year-olds. I've always had this affinity for children even as a child.
And so, that was a perfect meld as I went into the career of medicine that children were where I was supposed to be. I was supposed to be there for them and when I fell in love during medical school and residency is being able to interact on a daily basis is really rewarding because they're the most smartest, most curious, purest people literally in the university. Being able to interact with them on a daily basis really grounds you and puts perspective on life. I think it makes your job really fun to do what you're doing.
I think the bigger picture is that whatever you do as a pediatrician for a child has such a lasting impact. We call it early intervention. So, not that all hope is lost with adults, but you have such a greater impact on a kid because they're young and they are resilient and whatever impact you have on their health or their mental health or their outlook on life is so lasting. You have such a room to impact a human from whatever it is you do.
And so, that's why I went into pediatrics because I felt like whatever happened to them, whether they fell off the playground or unfortunately, they got cancer or whatever it was, children are so pure. They didn't od anything. Not that adults do things to deserve stuff but we have a choice in what we have and maybe the high-risk behaviors that we do that put as at risk for certain diseases, let's say. Children aren't that way. They just are. Whatever cards they're dealt, they're dealt. And so, that's what really drew me to them, their innocence and purity and our ability to really be able to provide a lasting change for them.
That's so fascinating. I'm very familiar with early intervention, that language. I have an Education degree, so those things that you're talking about they venture with my experience as well.
I always said that if I wasn't going to be a pediatrician, I was going to be a teacher. I just loved science and medicine so much.
You just wanted to do school for a really long time. That's really cool. I want to hear about when you went into medical school, was that daunting, the idea of going? You saw your dad, so you had that equipment and you had a lot of training and love for it, but did you feel overwhelmed or did you ever feel discriminated against because you were a woman? What were the numbers like that and the ratio? How were you treated?
Yeah. That's a great question. So, I actually feel very strongly about this topic and I was just on a panel for our student interest group at my university at our medical school called AMWA, American Medical Women's Association. There was a big shift. So, when I started, we didn't make up quite half of the class and what's really cool about our medical school is that you can walk through the hallways and see the composites, so every class photo over the past 100 hundred years you can see. Add when you start that journey, you're like, "Where are the females? There's zero. There are zero females." Then, you start to see maybe one face for ten years. And then, you see maybe two and three. And so, that has been a journey in itself, women in medicine. And now, I'm actually proud to say we make over half the medical students in terms of actual medical colleges, and so there is this shift.
Now, does that mean everything is even? No. So, prime example, we were just talking with our students. There were many times still as an attending physician that I walk into a room and be having a complete conversation with the parents and their children and then I'll walk out and somebody will say, "Oh. They said the doctor didn't come into the room." I was like, "Literally, I just had this entire conversation." Or I'll come in and they'll say, "Oh, where's the doctor?" And I'm like, "Right here. It's me."
But this is not unique to me. We were having these conversations the other day. I would say the vast majority of female physicians have been asked that question over and over and over again. So, clearly, we are not where we need to be. I think in pediatrics, it's a little softer than my surgical colleagues. Females in surgery get asked that a lot. They get treated very differently even by their own OR staff in relation to their male counterparts. So, it's very interesting because we've made a lot of strides, but we have a long way to go.
Yeah. Do you feel like your professors treated you well as you were going through your schooling?
Yeah. That’s interesting. So, I've had experiences where I've clearly been discriminated against as a female. So, I would say one example is in my training. I did have a male attending, I was already a physician in training and had twins pumping because this is what you have to do.
Wait. Just back up for a minute. Wait. You were a doctor in training. You were a physician and you were pumping for twins?
Oh my gosh. What? You just blew my mind. What did your schedule even look like? How?
You don't even want to hear about it. I think that people really truly don't understand what we do as physicians because people don't necessarily know behind the scenes. But in our training, you have lectures because you're still training. So, you have lectures you need to be at. And then, you have patients you need to take care of, and then you have tests you still have to study for. And this is all really important because if we're being tasked with being in charge of somebody's health, you better believe that you've got your physician well-trained and well-studied and they're giving you a medication or advising you on your health or operating on you, you better want that person to have gone through a very long training and being well-trained to be able to handle that.
But I don't think a lot of people understand the real path of medicine. I think they see the end product of what a doctor does, but the behind the scenes, how much we do and the emotional burden and all of the other things that we do is not really a thing that people talk about except within our own circles. Yeah, I had a time, especially females. The thing about medicine is that you're set on this linear path. You go to med school, then you do residency, then you do fellowship and then you are a doctor. You just keep going. It isn't until most recently when females are able to talk to females a bit more to say, "It's okay because guess what? You may have kids and you may have to pump during your clinics. There are things that are going to happen that a man just won't have to endure."
So, I would be waking up. I'd often nurse my babies and then go off to my lecture, but then you'd have to pump. And so, there were times after a patient visit, you'd have a nursing room and so the hospital was wonderful about that. They would have pump stations and everything for people. So, I'd be pumping, doing my notes for the clinic patients and answering pages all at the same time. I remember this male attending told me, "Well, you're taking too much time away from patients." Yet the end result was that I had all my notes done on time, all my patients were taken care of, and I was pumping.
Yes, girl! Oh my gosh.
But it was just one of those moments that really brought to light that now, I tell my students, "Okay. Guess what? There are federal laws in place that allow you to either nurse or go pump every three hours and don't let anyone tell you differently." Because in full disclosure, a male attending may not tell you that, but your female attending will tell you that. So, attending is someone who's already completed all of their training and is the physician in charge. And so, it's our job to empower female physicians, female medical students to understand not just their worth, but their rights because I don't think a lot of us know that.
And so, I remember being very distraught, thinking, "Gosh. Do I have to choose?" And then, I read the laws. I was like, "No. I don't have to choose." And my work speaks for itself. I'm completing my work. My patients are being taken care of and I'm doing it faster than my counterparts. So, how is this a thing other than just discrimination? And so, I think that's the biggest thing that has changed for females in medicine recently is that there's more of us who can say to our students and trainees that don't stand for it. If someone says, "Where's the doctor?" Be like, "I'm your doctor. I am your doctor." And it's okay to say that and not feel intimidated by those questions and not feel intimidated by male counterparts maybe making comments about picking up your kids or scheduling your surgeries around recitals. There are just some things that we can stand up for because it's okay to do that. I don't think we had that even a generation ago.
Yeah. Well, I appreciate you sharing that story right now because I'm sure that there are people who are listening and that experience of feeling like you have to defend yourself in something that's essential to life. It's just mind blowing to me.
It is. These are physicians. This was a pediatrician man. Again, you don't see it as often in peds, but I think it's much more prevalent in the surgical field than other fields that females aren't necessarily the majority like in pediatrics. So, I really feel more for my counterparts in some of those other fields because I can't even imagine the stories that they could tell you.
Yeah. I'm sure.
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Okay. So, you get through school. You become a doctor. How did you get to the point from being in pediatrics and then developing Ahimsa where you thought, "There needs to be something different." How did you go from doctor to inventor? How cool is that? Not only is it beautiful, but it's actually there to help our children and their health. Take me on that journey. Yeah.
So, the irony it all came from my fellow pediatrician moms. I had five close girlfriends from residency. We all did pediatrics together. Everyone went on their own ways. Some people did specialties. Some people did general pediatrics. We have always been close friends since that time. And so, we often text each other about mom things, about home things, about patient things even. Like, "Hey, I've got this case. Does anybody have any ideas?"
And so, in one of those threads in 2018, one of my friends who's a neonatologist texts and says, "Have you guys seen the AAP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, policy on plastic? What are we supposed to do? Oh my gosh. I've been putting all of my water bottles in the dishwasher. What are you all doing?" And that was the first time that we really discussed a major policy statement that was coming out and basically, it said, "There are chemicals in plastic that we know are harmful to children's health. And so, in order to decrease your exposure, here are some things that you can do." One of those was avoid using plastic, avoid putting them in the dishwasher and rather use glass or stainless steel. And so, all of my friends were like, "Oh my gosh. What are you going to do?" And their heads were spinning because honestly, that's what out there for children is plastic.
And so, I had basically pulled out my very traditional Indian stainless steel because I had a moment during my own journey as a mom, my kids were six months, I was introducing solids. So, I did what every other parent did and I went out and got these cute little bowls, these little suction bowls and cute little spoons and they were all plastic. I got through one feed, I think, until my mom came over and was like, "What are you doing? Don't use plastic. It's bad." This was five years ago before the statement came out. I was like, "Really?" She was like, "No. That'll leech chemicals into your food and don't use that. I'll bring you all our stainless-steel from home." So, she replaced my entire cabinet. I actually went off to work and I came home and my cabinets were cleared. So, talk about an Indian grandma. She was number one out there.
She's on it.
Yeah. And so, she had replaced them. I had actually made that same mistake because I was unaware and then, go figure, five years later, the AAP proved my mom correct. And that was a real shining moment for her. She was like, "I told you."
Moms are always right.
They're always right. I had already been using stainless-steel and so, I just sent them a picture. I was like, "In India, this is the standard. This is what we use." And so, when I sent them the picture, all of them were like, "Oh my gosh. Could she get me sets? Could I get six sets?" I was like, "What? Surely, there's got to be something."
When I looked at the market, it's overwhelmingly plastic. And so, there was a real disconnect between the science and what the pediatricians were saying and what's available for parents. And so, I thought, "Well, billions of Indians are using stainless steel. It's what I grew up on growing up." And actually, in fact, when my kids go visit my parents or my in laws, they're eating off of the same stainless steel that I did at the dining table. And so, that's where the idea came. Its just a cultural norm that was not here.
And so, as we started this whole conversation about cultural norms, that tradition of eating off of stainless-steel at the dining table was something that I and many, many, many Indians are used to. It was a no-brainer. And then, the one thing that for me I knew that children liked colorful things and they like characters. They have to be excited about their meal. And so, that's where the idea of color came from. And so, I have seen in that operating rooms various implants, things that actually went inside patient's bodies, but they were metal. They were colorful. I was like, "Well, whatever they're doing must be safe because it's going inside."
To go inside, yeah.
So, I used that basically existing technology and existing stainless-steel dinnerware from India and married the two. It really truly was medicine and my cultural traditions and roots in India just merged together right in front of me. It was crazy. I always joked that I didn't create Ahimsa. Ahimsa just popped itself right in front of me. It was like, "Do this."
Yeah. That's fascinating. I didn't know that talking about your culture would be so integral to your story. It really is.
It really is. It's the basis of everything. It just happens to be that the medicine just validates the roots and the traditions. And you often see this. This is very interesting. So, how old are your kids?
The oldest is twelve. So, I have twelve, ten, seven, and four.
Okay. So, you've been through that newborn period.
And you know in that first month, your pediatrician was like, "Okay. If they have a fever, call me. You need to go to the emergency." We get that. It's a big deal in that twenty-eight days, that first month. In India, there's a ceremony at twenty-eight days of life that celebrates the infant and you're really not supposed to go to the house before then. You're not supposed to expose the baby to a lot of things during that time. And so, there's a tradition around it. There's a ritual around it, all of this stuff.
Well, go figure, in medicine, in pediatrics, so the actual scientific evidence shows that babies less than twenty-eight days are at very, very high risk of infection, and so that's why if a baby who is twenty-eight days or less has a fever, they automatically get a spinal tap and blood drawn and are admitted to the hospital because they're so high risk of getting infections then. So, it's interesting that again yet another tradition and cultural norm is really backed by science and this is just another way to look at that. It's like there's actually physically wrong in plastic, but there's nothing in that same caliber with stainless-steel.
Science just proves it, I guess.
Don't you think it's fascinating that your life's path really wove itself this perfect, like you said, it just came into your lap? I feel like we need to back up a little bit for those that are listening and want to know, "Well, what is the problem with plastic and what are those findings and what do I need to know?"
Because I remember at that time, it was when the youngest is almost five and I nursed him, I think, for nine months, so it was just those last few months he started taking a bottle and I remember asking my doctor, "Do I need to go out and buy all new bottles?" It was only a couple of months. He's like, "Nah, you're fine." But tell our audience, what are the dangers of plastic and what as parents do we need to be aware of? Because I feel like this is something that just backing up to those basics, we need to talk about that.
Yes. I think that's really important because it's like, "Okay. Here's the thing. We all know plastic's bad for the environment." That's clearly laid out there. We've seen microplastics in our ocean. We see the effects that it's having on our ecosystem and that's been the breaking news around the past decade. But what many people don't know because there's a lot of research in the past decade that's incremental. It's not like, "Oh, it's doing this." The evidence is going like this, shooting up.
On all these studies that are showing that the chemicals in the plastic, so the things that you hear about, BPA. We think about BPA, but BPA is just a one part of a family called bisphenols. So, things that are in plastic, so bisphenols and phthalates and perchlorates, all these fancy words, those are chemicals that are used to make plastic to make it really helpful, so it doesn't break. It can hold a little bit. So, they're in there for a reason, but it turns out they're not great of the environment, but these specific chemicals are really not good for your body.
And so, the way that they interfered with your body is they interfere with your hormone systems. So, we call them endocrine disrupting chemicals. Endocrine just means your hormone system. So, the endocrine system, you may have heard things like your thyroid hormone or your cortisol, all of these different hormones. Your hormonal system is just a series of communications between different parts of your body, so various organs like your brain communicate with your thyroid, which communicates with your adrenals, all of these different parts. So, it's a big communication system within your body and that communication system is really important for growth, for brain development, for just normal things like your heart rate even. Your thyroid function is really important for your heart rate and your blood pressure and things of that sort.
So, the issue is that kids, they don't have a fully developing endocrine system yet. As they're growing, that stuff is still developing and they're growing. If you think about your child at one to five, that's a big spurt of growth. And so, it's really important in kids. Endocrine system is important for everybody, but it's particularly important for kids because they're going through such rapid growth, such rapid development. So, these chemicals, they essentially look like our chemicals in our body which are our hormones. And so, they're real tricky. They go in. If you think about a lock and a key, it almost looks like the same key. It goes in and blocks the action that the normal hormone should be doing so it interrupts all of these signals. When you do that, it can have real consequences on a child's growth, on their brain development, on their sexual development. So, when we talk about sexual development, we think about puberty and how that normally develops.
And so, it's a real big deal that no one knows about. And so, even physicians because this is not frontline on our physicians' tables yet. It is over the past two years coming out into our grand rounds, into our medical schools. And so, we are ourselves learning about it at such rapid pace. And so, until we really educate the clinicians, you're probably not going to learn of it much from your pediatrician who is also learning about it at a higher level. So, that's why it's not so mainstream yet. And so, that's why it's so important.
It's very much like lead. Back in the day, we didn't know lead was bad for our kids' brains, but then we figured it out. We were like, "There's a connection here." And then, we studied it. And then, we made recommendations. "Let's remove lead from gasoline. Let's remove it from paint and let's change the regulations on what goes into our children's products." Lo and behold, we have a generation of children who are four to seven IQ points higher than the children before lead was removed from all of these things.
So, there's a real impact and so, it's the same story with plastic. It's just we're at a different point. We're at the beginning of the story. And so, I really hope that I can scream from the rooftops beginning of the story, so we can gather together as parents to make the end of the story come much faster.
Okay. So, I've had the same set of IKEA cups and plates for years and I’m just thinking, "I want to go throw them all away right now just listening to this." How does it seep from the actual plate? They're not eating the plates obviously, but how does that transfer into the body and are there any plastic cups that are safe because kids drop everything?
That's such a great question. Okay. In general, plastic is just leeching. That's why the AAP they talk about that. Food packaging even, it's always better to eat the fresh fruit. Why we package a zucchini in plastic wrap is beyond me. I don't understand. And so, it's just the nature of plastic by itself.
So, I'll just do a quick comparison. When we talk about plastic versus stainless-steel, the reason why the AAP recommends glass or stainless-steel over plastic is that glass and stainless-steel, they're called inert materials. Inert means it doesn't interact. And so, that's why you see stainless-steel rods and things inside your body because it doesn't react with anything. Whereas plastic is not inert, so it will interact with things. There are certain things that will make that interaction even worse like heat. So, that's why the AAP says, "Try not to use plastic. Definitely avoid these kinds of plastics. And then on top of that, if you're going to use plastic, don't put it in the microwave and don't put it in the dishwasher."
Because here's the thing. There are all these recommendations, but we also have to think about what's practical. So, if the entire market share is plastic and parents, that's all they have to choose from, well, it's baby steps. Okay. Maybe try to not to put them in the dishwasher or the microwave. That's step one. Then, try to avoid using them. And then, try to use various things like glass or stainless-steel. Kids break things, which is why I think personally, stainless-steel is the better option than glass, but glass in itself is a perfectly good material.
And so, those are the kind of things that we need to start educating. So, heat will increase that leech and also the etching. If you look at plastic cups or things you've had for a while, they're probably fraying. They probably have melting spots. They probably are scratched up. If you see those signs, that's another thing. It's time to throw them out because you shouldn't use them for this purpose because those chemicals are leeching into your child's food.
Ugh. I'm so grossed out right now because everything you just described like we have plastic cups right now that have scratches on them. Okay.
But here's the thing. Listen. I didn't do this to launch a company. I did not create colorful stainless-steel dinnerware for kids because I felt like I wanted to run a company. It's not why I did it. I did it because there was a very clear solution to a problem with plastic. Billions of Indians are doing it and many, many other countries are also doing it. So, it's not a hard fix.
I just happen to be one of the first people doing it, so it would be lovely if more people offered products like this. There's a market share for everyone and that's okay, but we have to be able to offer these products to parents. I think the other big thing to note for parents is, don't freak out. Don't go down the rabbit hole. You didn't do anything wrong. Science is evolving as we clearly see with COVID. As we learn more, we can make better recommendations. And so, I think there's a few key things you can do as a parent without freaking out and being like, "Oh my gosh. I've totally damaged my child forever."
Because that's not the case. The beautiful thing about decreasing your child's exposure to all these chemicals is that those levels that they have in their bodies like from the exposure, which by the way they really shouldn't have bisphenols and phthalates in your body because it's not normally in your body. But by making very small changes, those levels can drop within three days. So, that should be really encouraging to parents, instead of a Dooms Day scenario, to feel like, "Okay. Now I know and it's really simple and it can really impact my child." You should feel empowered not scared.
I think that's really important for parents because I think a lot of times when they hear this, they're like, "Oh. What did I do? I got to go change my entire life." It's not like you have to go and change everything, but there's certain things. So, number one, eating fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, foods that are less processed. I talk about it in terms of dinnerware, but remember all the packaging, the cans of food have a lot of bisphenols in the lining of the cans. So, by just buying fresh food, you're already in the right direction. So, that's number one. That's easy, just try to buy fresh fruit when you can, fresh food when you can. And then, if you are going to use plastic, don't put it in the microwave and don't put it in the dishwasher. And if you are going to use plastic, try to avoid three, six, and seven because those are the worst ones.
And then, really use glass or stainless-steel. These are small simple things. A lot of people have transitioned from plastic water bottles to stainless steel water bottles. And so, my hope is that these are really small little things that you can do that drastically change your exposure for your child, whether that's with Ahimsa. Again, if I had my business mentor, they would be like, "Don't say that." Whether you buy Ahimsa or some other product, I truly, truly did this entire adventure, this entire journey, for children's health. That's what I'm trying to do. That is what my passion is. And so, if we could just educate parents on the problem with plastic, why it matters and how we change our buying behavior, whether that's with Ahimsa or go out and buy glass and other stainless-steel, it's fine.
I think the biggest thing is empowering parents to make those decisions, but also that the industry has to change. You have to have options. So, if we're saying, "Try to use glass or stainless steel", well, you should have options as a parent and not have to feel like you have to buy plastic because that's all there is out there.
I think that the other big thing for parents to understand is that the regulations are nil. I have seen them firsthand. It is frightening. It's frightening the lack of oversight in our children's products. And so, I'm a business owner. I can take care of my business and what I put on the table for your child, but it's really important that legislation changes, that there are better guidelines and guardrails, so companies can do a better job of putting safe products for your children. And so, that's the other thing I really want to stress is that as parents, you can change things by just changing the way you purchase and picking up the phone and calling people. You're like, "Hey. Why is this this way? Why is no one looking out? I'm trusting you to be regulating this stuff." I can tell you it's not.
So, the good news is that we don't need to wait until the lead movement, where all of our children are cognitively delayed before we do something. We can band together and be like, "Yeah. This is not cool" And we're going to band together as parents and that's actually what lead to the BPA movement. So, it was a bunch of parents being like, "This is ridiculous" and calling and making phone calls and they changed it.
But the problem is, that's only one chemical, so even if it says BPA, it still has bisphenols in it and the replacements, the BPS, BPF, you can name a letter, they're equally as bad if not worse. And so, there's just got to be better guardrails in place at a regulatory level so that industries can really take some more accountability for what they're putting in their children's products because I can tell you as a mom, it's really scary what I've found out.
Yeah. So, tell me about transitioning to the idea of creating this business. Was it scary for you to transition into doctor, hello amazing, and then also now inventor? What was transition like in creating a business? Was that intimidating for you?
Yeah. In some ways, yes. In some ways, no. I think inherently, doctors are not risk takers. We have a very set path. This is what we do. We get to our end goal and even for our patients, we're not risk takers. We want to do the lowest risk things, whether it's a procedure or a decision for a patient. Inherently, we don't take risks. Entrepreneurship is the exact opposite of that and just putting yourself out there saying, "This is a minimum viable product." That's not even a word we even remotely use in medicine like clinical trials, lots of testing, make sure things are pretty near perfection before you do anything.
And so, that was a big leap of faith for me to all of a sudden be like, "Okay. I'm just going to launch this company." But what was not intimidating is the learning because that's what we do as we physicians. It's been lifelong learning. If there's one thing that we're really, really good at, it's learning. And so, being able to read voraciously about stainless-steel, about the coloring process, about how to start a business. It was just like reading textbooks, taking notes, like I was in school all over. And so, that felt pretty comfortable to me, but taking that leap of faith to be like, "I am going to start a business" was very intimidating, very frightening because I'm surrounded by a lot of other physicians and we don't know this space. We don't take risks.
And so, I think it wasn't until I started interacting with other entrepreneurs and one thing that they said to me, they said, "Well, why not?" And I had to really think about that. I was like, "Well, I can list all of the reasons, but nothing is detrimental.: Those decisions on the medical side are life and death decisions. And then, here it was like, "Okay. Well, what's the worse thing? I fail. But I tried something and I learned something new." And so, that was the moment I thought, "It's too big of a deal when it comes to children's health for me not to try."
And so, I think that's what empowered me to not be so scared, to just do it because I felt like again, I wasn't launching a business. That has never been my mindset. I was creating a solution to get out there to fix the problem with plastic. That was my journey. So, it just happened to be in the form of a business and in the form of products.
Honestly, I think those are the best kinds of businesses because you see a space in the marketplace where you want it for yourself and realize that it doesn't exist and where you have so much heart and care behind it of really caring for children, that is going to empower this business forward. I can't wait to see what happens. I'm just at the sidelines here going, "This is incredible." And I’m so grateful that you had the insight and the foresight to do it and to create an option for our kids.
Yeah. Listen. As pediatricians and as parents, we are de facto advocates for our children. They can't vote. They don't have jobs. They don't contribute to society in a monetary way. So, they often get sidelined. And so, coronavirus is a prime example. Our schools are closed, yet the bars are open. I'm not saying anything about small businesses. I am a small business owner. I very much believe in supporting small businesses, but I think it just shows you that kids don't have a voice often because there's always economic issues and voting rights that they don't have. I always say, "It's our job to fix it. There is no other option for them. They don't have a job to go choose what kind of plate they eat off. And so, its' our job to fix it."
Yeah. Well, this has been absolutely incredible hearing your story and how you were able to create such a beautiful product. Where can our listeners buy your product?
Yes. So, we are online on our website. It's called ahimsahome.com and you can find us on Instagram or Facebook at ahimsahomeusa. So, those are the two places. We also have a Pinterest page. So, please od share and pin us and tag us and like us and all of the things because I have not been on social media for ten years, so I need your help.
Yes. So, I'm looking at your packaging right now. It says designed in the U.S., made in India, so do you have connections to your home? How were you able to set that up so that you could facilitate that manufacturing? Did you have connections from family?
Nope. Just lots of cold calling.
Okay. So, you just got in there.
Just picked up the phone, called as many people as I could, and then found somebody who was willing to take a risk on this whole, "Let's try this colorful stainless steel" and really finding somebody who was able to take that journey with me was a blessing. So, my husband and I flew out to India to meet this person and to understand the process because I was like, "If I am putting something on your dining table with your children, I better know what I'm doing and I better meet the person face to face who was going to be making these products and hold them accountable for every degree of safety and quality."
He probably didn't know that was going to be his journey and have somebody so demanding, but listen, it's children's health and we got to take it really seriously, and so that's the end product. It's hopefully high-quality items that are safe, that are teaching tools for children to eat a healthy portion and variety of food, and hopefully that you just get to keep them forever. That’s my business model. Buy less stuff and just keep it forever and pass it down to your children and you don't pass it on to the landfills. It should be a win-win for everyone.
Well, I only have one set, so I definitely need to buy more. I think you should make adult sized because these are so beautiful. They really are.
They keep things cold, so they're really great for after bedtime beverages if you will for parents too.
I was thinking ice cream, but yeah, it has multiple uses.
Well, ice cream is so perfect in our bowls because they're the best ice cream bowls because they're just the right size.
But yeah, I get that all the time for parents. Here's the secret though, parents including myself, I eat off of these plates all the time because that's another thing. We're not just these pretty plates. We have such a mission behind it with education about the plastics but also about children's health. If you look at portion sizes, there's this big portion distortion on what our portion sizes should look like.
Especially in America. Yeah.
Yes. Our bowl sizes are specifically designed to be a cup and our cup sizes are specifically designed to be a cup because studies really do show that children when presented with a larger bowl waste thirty percent more and eat almost double. And so, it's not that we're trying to limit their caloric intake by any means but these are tools to educate and visualize these really more age appropriate and normal portion sizes rather than the super-size me plate. Because you can always refill your plate, but there's no reason to consume more than what your body needs or waste it and put it back into the landfills. You can always just refill it. And so, that's our philosophy is everything is intentional. So, our boxing has no microplastics in it on purpose, so you can actually put it in the recycling and it will get recycled. So, everything is really intentional.
Well, thank you so much for coming on our show today. This has been so wonderful getting to know you and your product and your business and your hard work. You just have such a big heart. I can tell that you did this because you love kids and you did this because you wanted us to have a better solution and I'm so grateful for that.
Oh, well thank you. Thank you for having me on. Sorry for my technical difficulties. I am not as tech savvy as I am heart heavy.
Well, that's not a bad thing. Thank you so much for coming today.
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