Appy Vohra Seynani
Eliminating sugar cravings
- Company: Seynani
- Based In: New York
- Industry: Health & Wellness
- Wins: Distributed in GNC
Tell us about yourself and your company.
I am Appy and I am one of the creators of Seynani. My husband and I work on it together, along with a third partner, Robert. Together we started our product Seynani, which is a Hindi word for “a warrior”. We chose the warrior, because the product protects you from sugar cravings.
Together we started our product Seynani, which is a Hindi word for “a warrior”
Robert realized this herb that blocks your taste buds from tasting sugar and artificial sweeteners. We were amazed by it's potential and even more amazed after actually trying it out.
How does it work
You spray Sweet Zap on your tongue and then you try to eat something sweet, let’s say a donut or a cookie. That cookie is not going to taste sweet and what that does is breaks the connection or reward to keep binge eating it. Our product helps prevent binge eating, enables portion control, eventually training your brain. It’s a pretty cool conditioning tool.
How did you start the business
We started making it from scratch using a commercial kitchen. We started with a chewing gum, which didn’t work out that well, because when you salivate, the herb doesn’t stay as effective. Then we tried a dropper which also wasn't that effective because it was hard to calculate dosage.
Finally, we were like “you know what? This is a really different fringe product, maybe we should try something really different.”
We found these really cool spray bottles and decided to use them. Initially the taste wasn’t that great, so we continued testing until we locked it down. After bootstrapping for 3 years, we got picked up by GNC, which gave us some recognition. That year we also won an award for being one of the most innovative women at a convention on the West Coast.
That’s very impressive! I love that you started small, building from scratch in your kitchen! And I was looking on your website last week, it said that your product was sold out, so it seems it’s doing super well!
Here’s the thing, we’re focusing on Amazon right now, so the product is sold out on the website, but you can still buy it on Amazon, which is great. We’re trying to update the product right now based on customer feedback, which is why it’s sold out on our website. You know what’s funny? When we first released, there was no one else in the space, now we have competitors copying us left and right, copying our product, messaging and brand.
Well, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, so as long as you’re staying on top of it, you’re winning.
Yes, which is why we’re trying to improve it based on feedback.
What does your feedback look like?
A lot of people will say,
“oh you know, I sprayed it and tried a sweet 15 minutes later and nothing happened.”
Well that’s not the point of the product. You have to try the sweet immediately, and that’s the best way to do it. So a lot of people will say “it didn’t work for me! it didn’t work for me!” So that’s the #1 thing we must overcome.
People don’t realize that they have to try something sweet immediately to validate it works. Now we’re working on the verbiage, how do we make it clearer. We’re making a brochure, a fold out to put in the box with the goal of helping educate people better. We're also working on more educational videos.
The product itself, people are saying “hey I did one spray, I did two sprays, and it didn’t work for me.”
On the subject of improvements, along your start up journey, I’m sure there were ups and downs. Are there 3 things you wish you had known before you started?
That’s an interesting question! I wish I had been more educated on the regulations that different countries have. It’s a learning process. Every time we try to sell internationally, there are so many regulations that deter us from selling there. Just last week, we were approached by this pharmacy that wants to sell our product in Lebanon, but there are so many regulations, and it takes months and months for approvals. I don’t know if it would’ve helped if I had known before starting, but it would be nice to know answers, but we’re doing it as we go. People in Europe in Asia have a lot of sugar problems too, so it would be great if we could tackle that. We don’t have the resources to tackle international growth right now.
What makes your business unique and can you share a success story?
What makes our product unique is how it’s used. Because, you know, in the supplement world, all you see is people doing pills. What sets our product apart is application and also how it affects your psyche. It’s a psychological product as well, which doesn’t exist anywhere. With our product you try it and you see that it works immediately. It’s an instant connection. It’s definitely the psychological aspect that sets us apart. Maybe I’ll send it to you and you can try it for yourself and see.
I would love that!!! My sweet tooth is definitely my Achilles’ Heel.
Awesome we’ll send me your address and I’ll send some your way. In terms of success story, within GNC has been amazing. Just getting the biggest supplement brand out there giving us a chance has helped our efforts a great deal. I believe that because it’s such a unique product, even GNC wanted to give us a shot. So we’ve been in GNC stores for a year now. Getting into GNC was not an easy task. Every month, my husband and I would reach out to GNC, call the buyers, message them on LinkedIn, just trying to get in touch with them constantly. Eventually they responded to my email, and said they would love to try us! Initially only online. That was a year and a half ago. We were so excited, we decided to give it a shot – of course. After 6 months of being online, they approached us, and they said they wanted put us in their stores.”
That’s incredible! Where is your biggest customer base? Where are you seeing the most buys?
I can tell you who our customer base is. Women. About 90% of our customers are women as you can imagine, as we are craving sugar all the time. Even I use it all the time for my own portion control. I’m not trying to go away from eating sweets entirely, I just use it to stop myself after a little bit.
Especially Indian sweets. They are the worst, meaning you have to be very careful. My dad has Type 2 Diabetes, so this cause is very close to my heart, because it has been helping my dad a lot too, especially living in India where they drink so much tea and it has so much sugar in it. His whole journey has been really hard, but our Sweet Zap is definitely helping him and it makes me so happy that I can personally help my family as well.
In addition to Women, we see a lot of people along the West Coast, and interestingly, Texas has been one of our biggest customers.
Well, everything’s bigger in Texas, I’m from there, so I can assure you there’s a lot of sweets, a lot of taffy and fudge. It makes sense. Who do you wish had advised you along your journey?
Oprah is definitely the first one that I think of. I’ve been reaching out to her. My story’s interesting, I moved here from India 9 years ago, and started from nothing. I used to work at Ruby Tuesday. I had a degree in design, and nobody would give me a chance to work in design.
After working in hotels and restaurants, God knows how many bad jobs I worked, someone finally gave me a chance to do an internship in design, and that’s where my career started. It was a startup. So that’s how I started thinking of being an entrepreneur. I’m a designer by profession and an entrepreneur at heart. My husband went to business school, so we were like “we’ve gotta build something of our own, we don’t want to work for anybody else.” And that’s how we started this company after learning about the herb.
It’s so crazy, my apartment burnt down before I met my husband, so I had to start my life 2 times from scratch. First moving from India to the US, and then after 3 years of being here, my apartment burnt down and I lost everything, starting from scratch again. The irony was I got that internship. I believe everything happens for a reason. I decided to take this internship, and it just catapulted my life into design and entrepreneurship. And then right after we started our business I got into the startup world, learning more and more, talking to investors and fellow business owners. It’s been amazing. Everything happens for a reason. So that’s my story.
So Oprah is definitely someone I could get advice from, just about my life and the business and everything. If I can do it, anybody can do it. So I’ve been reaching out to her but I haven’t heard from her.
Right, and it seems like her audience and your consumer base are probably pretty similar, so that would be a good connection. What has been the single largest hurdle that you’ve had to face or are currently facing?
I can tell you that easily. Capital. We have so much potential, it’s kinda ridiculous how much potential we have. But we have a competitor who funded his own company. Our product is almost identical, just different forms of application. Right now, we’re not even scratching the surface. It’s definitely capital that’s holding us back from growth. Millions of people are looking for something for sugar cravings every month. So there’s one product that we’ve already proven that it works and does great, but we have other products that we want to bring to the market. But money is definitely the biggest thing.
It seems like all startups struggle significantly with getting the financial capital that they need.
That’s the thing! We’ve done a lot. Our sales grew a lot, 5x, from 2017 to 2018, so we did $20K in 2017, and $110K in 2018. Exponential growth. I know these are small numbers, but we don’t even do this as our full time job, this is just a side effort we'ree growing.
What company or founder has been your role model along your startup journey?
The founder of Credit Karma. He started from nothing as well and he used all bootstrapping techniques to grow his business. Now they’re making millions. Credit Karma gives me hope that you don’t have to have a lot of money to start out. You can start out with content marketing. They were doing it with hacks that are amazing. They would put out articles about calculators, get traffic on their site, and get people to download the app from the articles. Their growth has been exponential too. I’d like to think of my field because I work as a designer so I look at a lot of tech startups as well.
5 Hour Energy has also been a role model for us too, because when we started, we were like “oh man, we could easily sell this in grocery stores.” 5 Hour Energy also started at GNC, so it’s like a parallel for us.
Can you share the funniest/most interesting story that’s happened to you since you started?
When we first started testing the product we would buy every sweet thing we could find and one night we collectively bought over 20 sweets - donuts, ice cream, soda you name it we had it and we spent the next hour testing Sweet Zap. You might think eating a buffet of sweets would be a good time but with Sweet Zap they all tasted so bad. I still can't forget the taste of cheesecake.
Is there a question you would like to be answered by the community?
Since we are launching a patented ingredient product line, and we don’t hold the patent, we are getting the license form our manufacturer. Would you rather have a limit to your competitors. They’re only giving out 7 licenses per ingredient. Would you rather prefer that? Or start a new line without patenting? If you don't hold patents, you’re gonna come out with new products, but you’re not gonna come out with anything proprietary. But the other side of the spectrum is: you don’t hold the patent, but you have access to them, and you have a limit to how many companies get that. What do you prefer for your business and why?