Small Business Profile: Nadine Joseph, Founder of Pretty Mushroom - Seattle
Hey Nadine! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! I’m Nadine Joseph, co-founder and CEO of Pretty Mushroom, a company that makes adaptogenic blends to enhance your beauty, mood, and mind. I have a haitian/italian background, a cute wiggly pup named Cora, and an everlasting love for neuroscience. Currently, I’m residing in Seattle, WA and am trying to get used to the rainy days!
What led you to start Pretty Mushroom? What was the turning point that drew you to starting your own business?
I was working at a lab studying the neuroscience of stress and became enthralled with the question of how the stressors of the modern world were affecting our bodies overall. While I was studying stress, I was also dealing with chronic stress and anxiety myself so this question had personal roots to it. This launched me into months of dedicated personal research into stress and adaptogens (herbs/mushrooms that help balance your body’s response to stress). I started incorporating several adaptogens - like reishi mushroom and ashwagandha - into daily smoothies and tonics. My energy levels, brain fog, eczema, and overall well-being improved tenfold. I just couldn’t believe how great I felt!
However, as I had a research background, I had very high standards for the herbs and mushrooms that I was sourcing. I wanted high purity/potency, as well as ingredients farmed with an eye towards sustainability/ethical practices. That’s a pretty hard thing to do, and it took me a very long time to find suppliers and farmers that I trusted. One day, I took a step back and looked at the all the work I had put into this, and realized that I really wanted to share my findings and research with others. So, I decided to launch a line of adaptogenic blends - so that others could easily be introduced into the world of herbs, mushrooms, and adaptogens.
Adaptogens are an amazing category of herbs and mushrooms that help balance your body’s reaction to stress by modulating it’s hormonal and physiological functions. They literally adapt to your body and restore balance. If you are stressed, they help to calm you down. Tired? They’ll energize you. Not to mention that they work gently and have no yucky side effects.
When you look at the whole picture and see everything adaptogens can do - improve adrenal function, protect you from disease, boost immune function, improve overall well-being - it’s just fascinating. Plus, herbs and mushrooms such as reishi mushroom, ashwagandha, and eleuthero root have been used for centuries by Traditional Chinese Medicine and Aruveydic healing traditions for their adaptogenic properties. Looking at the rich cultural history behind these herbs and examining the scientific research backing them - I couldn’t help but be intrigued.
How do you source your ingredients and work with farmers?
When first starting out, the goal was to work with farmers and suppliers that were just as obsessed with purity, potency, environmental sustainability, and ethical practices as we are. We have 18+ adaptogens, mushrooms, or herbs in our blends, so doing this required an extensive amount of research.
Keeping all of these things in mind, we decided to source all of our mushroom powders like Lion’s Mane, Reishi, and Tremella from a small organic farm in Washington. They ensure that the mushroom powders are in the most bioavailable form by freeing the 1,3-beta glucan from the chitin of the mushrooms through a process called steam distillation. They go through two rounds of third-party lab testing, which certifies that they are rich in antioxidants and all the good stuff. :)
I could go on - our cocoa is from the Equal Exchange Coop, our rosehips from a women’s coop in Lesotho — but this would be a very long list! Keep an eye on our website, as we are currently working on listing out all of our suppliers so people can know exactly where our herbs and mushrooms come from. Complete transparency is the goal. Where did the ingredients come from? Who handled them along the way?
What makes your blends different from others?
One priority for me when I founded Pretty Mushroom was that our blends be as accessible and inclusive as possible. At the time, I couldn’t find anything on the market that was reasonably priced or even had a sensible quantity. Each of our blends has at least a 30-day supply (twice the amount as other companies) and they also have accessible pricing. I did this because I strongly believe that wellness should be for everyone, not just those who can afford it.
What are your short/long term goals?
Right now, we are focusing on fleshing out the reach of our brand in domestic retail stores. Working with our wholesale partners through pop-ups and informational events has been a really fun way to engage with our customers face-to-face. Long term, are aiming to extend our reach internationally.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I think about the book ‘We Are All Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - it’s such a powerful read and I recommend it to everyone. In it, she says “ The sad truth of the matter is that when it comes to appearance, we start off with men as the standard, as the norm. Many of us think that the less feminine a woman appears, the more likely she is to be taken seriously. A man going to a business meeting doesn’t wonder about being taken seriously based on what he is wearing—but a woman does.” Women in business start off at a disadvantage, and it is up to us to support each other to overcome these sex-specific prejudices. We need to build a strong foundation of women supporting women so that generations to come can be less worried about meaningless things -- like what to wear to a business meeting.
We have a series called Purchase from Women - what women owned businesses are you encouraging with your dollars?
We source the turmeric for our Pretty Mushroom blend from a company called Diaspora Co. They are all about the decolonization of Indian spices — giving the equity, power, and equality back to indigenous farmers. It is grown at a 4th generation family-owned farm in Vijayawada and Diaspora Co. pays 6x the commodity price in order to ensure fair wages. Diaspora Co. was founded by Sana Javeri Kadri, an awesome WOC business owner who is a bit of an ‘entrepreneur crush’ of mine. Collaborating with ethical, sustainable and female-founded companies like Diaspora Co. is a priority for Pretty Mushroom.
Do you have any creative, business, or female-centered resources that have been helpful to you that we should know of?
When first starting out, I underestimated how important connecting with other entrepreneurs would be for me. Especially because I work from a home office, I think it is important to network with people face to face rather than through Instagram or email. I joined Gather Seattle, which is a community of entrepreneurs, creatives, and makers who meet to support one another’s creative pursuits. It has been vital to helping me grow my business confidently.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I’m known for toting a book around everywhere I go and lately the topic that I have been pouring over is ethnobotany, which is the study of the traditional knowledge and customs of people concerning plants and their medicinal uses. At Pretty Mushroom, we source mushrooms and herbs that have been used in Ayurvedic practices and traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. It’s really important to me that we as a company show respect and appreciation for the traditional roots of the mushrooms and herbs that we use in our blends, and I have been exploring ways to do just that. Currently, I’m reading ‘Plants, People, and Culture’ by Michael Balick!
What are some of your favorite places in Seattle?
Sugarpill Apothecary: My go-to neighborhood apothecary for all of my herbal wellness needs.
Sweetgrass Food Co.: A kickbutt salad joint that offers adaptogenic lattes/tonics (a la Pretty Mushroom)
Frink Park: The perfect natural escape for city dwellers.