Welcome to Take Five! An interview series where I explore how career women are balancing their work, health, and life. This week on Take Five, I’m excited to introduce entrepreneur, Sarah Dakh, Co-Founder of Moxie Health. After being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, she has been on a mission to heal humans from inflammation and sharing her knowledge through Moxie.
Sarah, you’ve always held entrepreneurial roles. What led you down this career path?
Both of my parents have always operated their own businesses, so as a child growing up I became accustomed to the idea of ‘running your own race’. Although they both worked hard, they had the freedom to spend time with us (their children) while taking us on vacations without the limitations of answering to anyone else. They both just seemed like they had life figured out.
But it wasn’t until I started working part-time jobs that I realized that I hated working for people, or at least under them. It was very hard for me to take orders from bosses, especially when I didn’t agree with their approach to certain tasks. I was fired from at least 3 part-time jobs because I ended up in arguments with my boss, so naturally, I ventured out on my own to figure out how to make money doing something that I loved. And it all fell into place.
Tell us about your company. What is Moxie?
Moxie Health (“Moxie”) is a New York City-based gut health movement founded in 2019. Our mission is to change the way we approach gut health by challenging pre-conceived norms and stigmas around traditionally embarrassing digestive issues. By normalizing the conversation around taboo topics and educating about the importance of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, our community feels empowered on their journey to better health.
What led you to launch moxie?
It all started when I relocated to NYC, downloaded Bumble to make some new pals and ended up meeting my business partner (co-founder) Louise.
Our bond grew over a period of time, and I finally felt comfortable to share my diagnosis. Previously I had felt embarrassed that I had to deal with symptoms that would be otherwise deemed as ‘gross’ or ‘weird’, so I buried my shame and dealt with it privately, realizing that my attitude was only making symptoms worse.
Once I overcame my emotional obstacles of judgment and shame and opened up to people about what I had, it led me to the right professionals who helped me on my journey to better health.
My openness to talk about my digestive health gave Louise the courage to open up about her own health issues: years of working as a corporate attorney had led her to burnout, experiencing leaky gut, chronic fatigue, and hormonal imbalances. We both realized that our research into finding appropriate treatments led us to discover and become passionate about the links between diet, gut health, and mental health.
Although our gut health issues were very different, Louise and I noticed some marked similarities in our health journeys: the isolation of suffering from ‘stigmatized conditions’; the frustration of finding palatable, educational information; and modern medicine’s blinkered approach in treating the symptom and not addressing the root cause.
From that, we had a ‘lightbulb’ moment and Moxie was born…
What do your day-to-day responsibilities look like as a Co-Founder?
I am a copywriter by trade, so my main role for Moxie entails anything that involves copy. I do all of the content branding for the website, including socials – such as Instagram posts, daily. Also blog articles, interviews, recipes, etc. I am also responsible for developing the tone, voice, and identity of Moxie (which is what I have loved the most).
At the moment I have also been brainstorming campaigns to help build overall community growth, such as reviewing brand products and supporting local/small brands who are directly affected by COVID by selling their product on our store. Also building partnerships with gut health experts and influencers so that we can share knowledge about the gut health world.
Do you have advice for anyone trying to launch something of their own?
Firstly, find purpose in what you’re trying to create. It’s so important that there is a ‘need’ for whatever your vision may be. Then, you must find your target market’s pain point. Once you discover that, psychoanalyze your target market to figure out how to speak to them, so that you can build a relationship with them. Community is key to growth.
Once you’ve established that baseline, get started. One of the biggest failures in any start-up is procrastination. People spend too much time sweating the small stuff. If that’s you, then use your resources (network) to overcome that hurdle so that you can continue to focus on your main goal/vision.
There’s no one specific method to succeeding, so become friendly with the idea of failure (because some methods won’t work), always use your network for help (because you won’t know everything), and learn everything there is to know about your brand and business in the beginning (so you can work towards attainable goals).
Is there a failure you’ve learned from?
When I was 22, I launched and operated an online magazine for almost 3 years, and although it had fabulous perks in receiving free tickets to any event that you could imagine, it failed. What did I learn from it? My biggest lesson from that was that if you decide to onboard a partner (which I highly recommend), to make sure they have a similar work ethic to you. Micro-managing within a partnership does not work. They need to be just as motivated as you. And find someone whose strengths are your weaknesses, vice-versa.
Also, research, understand, and establish as many revenue streams as possible in the beginning. As an online magazine, we knew that advertising was our number one route, however, this route meant three things: We needed to be consistently receiving large numbers of traffic onto our site, we needed to find advertising that would suit our brand, and we needed to be delivering unique content that no one could find anywhere else – it was a tough journey that we hadn’t properly prepared for.
What do you aspire to do?
Moxie aspires to be the leading gut health company in providing online (telehealth) customer support where we can connect our community with the best nutritionists and functional medicine practitioners available. We also plan to launch our own supplement line to help our community towards better health.
Personally, though, I want to open a health food store (whether that be a subsidiary of moxie or not), that sells local produce, meats, and cheeses that are organic, antibiotic and hormone-free. As well as other gut-friendly products, and supplements. The health food store will also have a cafe, selling delicious and healthy breakfast/lunch options as well as hosting workshops on how to become completely self-sustainable, eg. growing veggies patches at home.
You’ve publicly shared your experience with Ulcerative Colitis. How do you support your health on a daily basis?
I work with a nutritionist in formulating a comprehensive food and supplement guide that I follow (almost) religiously. Every morning I wake up and drink a glass of warm water with glutamine, I take my supplements and then have a light meal such as fruit with dairy-free yoghurt. After that, I spend some time with my dog to brighten up my morning, before I start doing work. I always carry a bottle of water with me everywhere I go and continue to snack on foods throughout the day that provides me with energy and health. I also try to always get an early night sleep.
Every day is different though. An autoimmune disease is like being in a committed relationship that you can never find space from. That’s why I prioritize having a support network of friends and family, in case times get tough and I need my pillars of strength.
I think the key is to be super flexible when it comes to health, some days your body can be more demanding of your time, and other days it allows you to have a little freedom. But always be in tune with what it’s asking from you.
How do you survive long flights while managing your health?
Being an Australian who travels home often, this is something that I have spent hours trying to master. Firstly, if you have digestive issues and you can afford anything better than economy, then I HIGHLY recommend that you prioritize this. I have flown both economy and business en route to Australia, and the recovery from flying economy is certainly a lot longer.
Otherwise, pack your own food! International travel allows you to take your own food, as long as there are no liquids. I pack a bunch of baked sweet potatoes and hard (gluten-free) toast with avocado. Also, other snacks such as health bars, gut-friendly chocolate, and a bunch of herbal tea sachets. Buy a huge bottle of water once you get past security.
Also, pack a rejuvenating face spray. It hydrates you immediately. As well as wipes for your face and body. I also pack under-eye masks and moisturizers. Try to get the ‘tester’ sizes from beauty stores!
Is there a health food you keep stocked in your home?
Yes. There are a few, but I always make sure that I always have coconut oil with me. It’s such a versatile product. I use it on my skin, I use it in cooking, I feed it to my dog, I use it as a hair mask sometimes. It can have huge health benefits to those who have chronic digestive health conditions. And it makes a great ‘organic’ alternative to lubricant (thank me later).
What’s your go-to easy snack?
At the moment, I’ve been loving a snack recipe that my friend introduced me to. All you need are some cupcake baking cups, coconut/sunflower butter, and blueberries. Place blueberries in the cups, then melt the butter and fill the cups with the butter. Put them in the freezer for 2 hours, et voila! A delicious, white-coconut chocolate blueberry snack.
Do you have any creative outlets that keep you balanced?
Recently I’ve been enjoying a game on my phone called ‘redecor’. It’s an interior design app, where I get to decorate different spaces. I love interior design. Otherwise, I love being outdoors, hiking, and being in nature. Anywhere with beautiful views always makes me so happy.
A book that has had a big impact on your life? Why?
Most recently I read ‘The Courage To Be Disliked’, a book that explores the importance of liking oneself, contributing to the community, and appreciating one another for just ‘being’, also accepting that not everyone will like you, so just focus on being yourself, while focusing on those who do like you.
I love these styles of books because they remind us that in order to be completely free, we need to stop focusing on what others think of us, and just do what is true and honest to ourselves. And this is a hard thing to integrate into everyday life.
Favorite place to vacation?
Byron Bay, Australia. I lived there for 3 years of my life and it still has my heart. It encapsulates everything that someone would want if they wanted to practice ‘an organic life’. It’s a coastal, hippie town that stays mostly hot throughout the year. People don’t wear shoes or expensive clothes. They just live with complete purity, while integrating daily essentials like exercising outdoors, shopping at farmers markets, spending days on the beach, and time with each other.
There are live acoustic buskers on every corner and an air of complete freedom and happiness. Lifes simplicities truly exist in Byron and it will remind you that nothing else matters, other than friendship, good quality food, and life.
Is there anyone that inspires you in life or business?
My mum. She has always been my life mentor. I share everything with her and no matter what I throw her way, she always manages to find a way to make me feel better, or laugh about unfortunate situations. I don’t know what I would do without her. Otherwise, as for business, probably my business partner, I’m in awe of the way her brain operates.
Do you listen to music or podcasts while you work? If so, what are you currently listening to?
I’m absolutely obsessed with live Q and A’s on Instagram at the moment with a gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, who has just released a book about rebuilding the gut microbiome through a plant-based diet. I am not a vegan, however, I do support the idea of plant-based foods being the answer to rebuilding poor gut lining.
Otherwise, do yourself a favor and have a listen to Maribou State’s music. You won’t regret it.
Is there a beauty product you love to indulge in? Why do you love it?
I’m loving ‘Drunk Elephant’ at the moment. The packing is so bright, beautiful, and simple. They also focus on natural ingredients, which is something I try to incorporate into every avenue of my life.
Otherwise, Bondi Boost hair products. I have never cared for hair products because I had never noticed any difference, but these products are on point.
Oh and Gua Sha rollers, and sticks for the face (believe it or not, they actually work really well).
How do you take 5?
At the moment, my husband and I are staying in NJ while NYC settles down. The property that we’re staying on has a very big backyard with lots of trees, birds, squirrels, deer, and chipmunks. Every morning I make my matcha latte and head outside with my dog. We spend at least 15 minutes adventuring around the backyard while listening to the bird’s sing. Spending time outside daily is so good for our mental and physical health.