Her thoughts on credibility, scientific substantiation and compliance.
Executive: Asma Ishaq
Location: Springville, UT
This month, SSN interviewed Asma Ishaq, CEO of health, wellness and household care company Modere. Ishaq entered the direct selling channel in 2009 as a co-founder at Jusuru International. In 2017, Modere purchased Jusuru from Ishaq and launched its Collagen Sciences division, which Ishaq came on board to run. She was promoted to CEO of Modere in January. 2018.
SSN: What drove you to start your own direct selling company?
I have an extensive background in dietary supplements and skin care, mostly on the supply side. My passion for the natural product industry runs very deep. I wanted to launch finished products that extended my expertise. When I started my company, there were very few, if any, oral collagen and hyaluronic acid supplements in the market as there are today.
I wanted to tell my products’ story in a way that was engaging, authentic and informative. I had been exposed to the direct selling channel through my manufacturing and ingredient supply career.
The channel offered a unique opportunity to launch an emerging product category such as nutricosmetics. Additionally, the channel offered the perfect convergence of social, business, and market trends.
SSN: What led to the acquisition of your company by Modere?
I knew having a strategic partner to complement my company’s strengths would be the fastest way for me to amplify the opportunity for our field. At the time, we were mainly in North America, whereas Modere conducted the bulk of its business in international regions. Modere had a wide range of personal-care and health and wellness products, and acquiring my company allowed them to have a sharper-focused leading product story. Adding the diversification of Modere’s existing product portfolio with many different products would also inevitably help with both sales growth and retention on my company’s part. It was truly a strategic partnership.
SSN: How did the acquisition and rebranding impact the product line?
We launched the products successfully and have seen a significant increase in sales ever since. As our organizations merged, the field became energized about attaining an extraordinary hero product story as well. We have seen tremendous growth post-acquisition and even more in the following year. In fact, we’ve seen 85 percent growth in Australasia, 108 percent in North America, and 890 percent in Europe (2018 vs. 2016). Everything has gelled at this point from a transaction perspective, and now we’re well on our way to our next phase of growth, which is all very exciting. I’m fortunate to be working with such a talented internal and external team.
SSN: How did your promotion to CEO of Modere take place?
My initial role as president of the division was to launch new products into the international markets as well as to establish their importance in the fast-growing North American market. I am grateful to our executive committee and management who welcomed me to the company with open arms. We’ve developed a rare professional chemistry and are aligned on the company vision and future direction. It was the natural progression of the company to move in this direction and I’m thankful that Z Capital entrusted me with the future of this business. I can’t imagine more supportive partners.
SSN: How important do you think it is for a company to have patented products?
Anything that differentiates a company’s products is critical and serves in part as the value proposition that it offers to consumers. In addition to market protection, patents establish the credibility of being an innovator or category leader. This contributes to the confidence, trust and belief in the field and the company. If the seller has more confidence in the product line due to its science, patents, uniqueness or other differentiators, they then have the exclusive ability to sell to their consumer base.
SSN: Modere’s tagline is ‘Live Clean.’ What does that mean exactly?
To live clean is to care about your body, your home, and the impact your lifestyle has on the environment. It means to be aware of the choices that you’re making as a consumer. At its heart, it is a statement of our company’s responsibility to help our consumers live a cleaner life. They’re conscious about the choices they’re making, as are we.
SSN: You say scientific validation is important to you. What weight does that carry?
Scientific substantiation means everything to me. I believe that to add value to an individual’s life, products must be safe and effective, at its very basic level. Having pioneered an emerging, and now well-known category like collagen and hyaluronic acid supplements, it bothers me when competitive products are released from companies that are either operating on borrowed science, presenting egregious claims, or have not done enough research on their own ingredients or finished products.
The direct selling channel usually faces two issues, income claims and products claims. It is in everyone’s interest to uphold the trust of the consumer. Providing products that offer false promises not only degrades the reputation of the industry or channel, but has a compound effect on the consumer’s willingness to purchase in the future.
SSN: How does your team make sure they stay compliant with FTC guidelines?
We developed a program called the Modere Good Business Practices to educate our independent salesforce on the guidelines within which to promote the products we sell or the business opportunity. We hold our field accountable to those guidelines and often find that people require proper education and expectations.
The launch of the DSSRC will help all channel participants get on a level playing field. I’ve been very impressed with what we did in the nutritional industry with a similar self-regulation concept at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, and feel the DSSRC will follow suit as strong industry stewards helping to uplift the reputation of the channel and the trust of the consumer or distributor.
SSN: Do you have a specific program that trains your consultants in compliance?
Yes. We have an ethics and education department that focuses on training and compliance guidelines. We educate our field at every opportunity and train on compliance at all our events. We also provide materials and assets that support the rules around product or income claims.
SSN: What advice would you give your younger self?
I never thought that this would have been an issue for my younger self because I was an overachiever, but, in retrospect, I would tell my younger self to lean in (even) more. From my vantage point now, I notice a distinct discrepancy in the way women handle themselves in certain positions compared to their male counterparts. Also supported by research, women tend to not ask for what they truly desire or need. Ask more. You’re worth it, and in fact, you deserve more for all you do.
SSN: Who has influenced your career the most and why?
Mike Hannigan, my boss at my first job out of college at UC Berkeley, has had a life-lasting impact on my leadership and career. Mike is the co-founder and co-owner of a company called Give Something Back. He showed me that doing good and doing well are not mutually exclusive.
He exposed me to the concept of social enterprise which holds that doing good for others can create wealth, success and a better environment. I started my company to create profit in order to have a positive impact on the world. At the time, I didn’t know that this channel offered ways to create a positive impact on people’s lives. Perhaps that’s why it resonated with me. I try to thank Mike often for the passion he ignited in me.
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