This blog series, posted in partnership between HYPE and reSET, offers a platform to showcase the commitment that Hartford entrepreneurs have for their work and this city. It examines how entrepreneurs have chosen their work, and provides examples of the ways in which they are having an impact in Hartford. In this edition, we interviewed Ali Lazowski, founder of Bare Life, which creates allergen and irritant friendly foods inspired by her ongoing journey with chronic illnesses. Next month, they’re debuting the world’s first Organic, Vegan, Paleo, Non-GMO, Dairy-Free and Refined Sugar-Free Hot Cocoa Powder. Learn more at www.eatbarelife.com.
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
I’m a 27-year-old Connecticut girl, born and raised. I went to high school at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, CT, and college at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. No matter where I went though, I always had terrible stomach pains and colds that wouldn’t go away. I tried my best to ignore it and to live my life. But when I ended up in the emergency room, unable to get out of bed, I had to face my health issues. It turned out my “health issues” were: Thyroid Cancer that had metastasized, IBS, Lyme Disease and a few more. With each diagnosis, came a different diet recommendation. And with so many diagnoses, I was left with practically no food options. I mean how many times can someone eat boneless skinless chicken breast? So, I started creating some foods that worked for me. Foods that were Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Organic, Yeast-Free, Refined Sugar-Free and Xanthan Gum-Free. I fed my gluten, sugar and dairy loving family my foods and started sharing it with other people struggling with chronic illnesses, and they loved them. So, Bare Life, my allergen and irritant friendly food brand was born.
2. Why did you decide to be based in Hartford?
In looking to start my business, especially as a solo entrepreneur, I was looking for a welcoming, collaborative and supportive environment for guidance and networking. reSET checked those boxes and more. The team there is so incredible, and maybe this sounds cheesy, but I love being there. And when I’m there, I know they just want me and my company to succeed. It’s a special place.
3. How do you think your work has impacted the community and vice versa?
As we are set to launch our Hot Cocoa next month, our impact on the community so far has been small. But the potential I see is very exciting. Whenever I tell someone what Bare Life is, my story, and how our hot cocoa mix, and future products, are allergen and irritant friendly, their response is often, “I’m affected by chronic illness too or my sister/daughter/brother is. I’ve been looking for something like this.” Hopefully, between our product launch , and our social media platforms and online support groups, we can let more people know that they aren’t alone and that they have food choices again. Already though, our community has impacted us tremendously. The generosity and kindness that we’ve received from everyone has been overwhelming. I can’t say thank you enough to our supporters, my family and friends and the Connecticut business community.
4. What words of wisdom would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who may be hesitant to take the plunge into entrepreneurship?
I’d say it’s ok to be hesitant. But have one thing to fall back on, LOVE your product. I love our hot cocoa. So much so that I probably drink it every day. I love our label, our packaging, everything. That may sound insane or like a line, but it’s true. Things go wrong, you get negative feedback, maybe worst of all, your venture won’t succeed. But if you can say you loved it, if you can be its strongest advocate, then whatever happens I think you can live with that.
5. What’s it like being an entrepreneur in Hartford? What are the benefits, but also what are the difficulties and challenges?
Being a startup in the Greater Hartford area right now is a huge opportunity. The community wants businesses here and it wants them to succeed. As a startup, I really feel that from everyone I meet. I’d say a potential challenge in this area ironically also stems from its strongest asset, the small community. If you make a mistake, it’s hard to overcome because everyone knows about it.
6. What’s your vision for your business and personal development over the next five years?
The plan for Bare Life over the next five years is to begin by launching our brand in 2018 with our coconut hot cocoa and our first two cookbooks (Sweets and Thanksgiving). In the following years, we plan to release additional flavors of our hot cocoa, more cookbooks and baking mixes. My vision for Bare Life is that these products help provide better food options and, especially for chronically ill people, relieve some of the stress of limited food options. I’d also like to be able to provide flexible employment opportunities for people with chronic illnesses, as working on my own company, when my health has permitted it, has been life changing. I’d like the opportunity to provide that for someone else as well.
Places to find Bare Life online…