Everyone has a path in life, and many of us come to find our calling in completely unconventional and unexpected ways. Every time I look back and think about how I became the founder and CEO of Orgain, I am surprised — and incredibly grateful — that a serious illness helped me realize what my path and life's work would become.
My unexpected journey started when I was only 17 years old. One day, I was taking a shower and I felt a strange lump in my abdomen. I thought it was nothing but my father, a pediatrician, wanted to have it biopsied just in case. Days later I received news that changed everything: I had a very aggressive form of cancer. It was last thing a 17-year-old wants to hear. All of a sudden I went from being a teenager with my life stretched out before me, to someone who was fighting to stay alive.
Shortly after the diagnosis, I had surgery followed by twelve months of chemotherapy that left me extremely fatigued, nauseous and unable to eat. I was losing weight and my doctor suggested that my parents purchase the liquid nutrition shakes found in the grocery store to get the nutrients I needed to gain weight back. I began drinking them, but wasn't improving.
Since I wasn’t able to do much in the way of activity, I passed the time by reading a lot, and I ultimately read more than 100 books on nutrition. From those books, I came across a page that listed ingredients that one should never eat — and much to my surprise, nearly all of them were in the conventional shake I was using!
As soon as I discovered this, I decided to do something about it. I went out and bought whole, nutritious, organic ingredients, including fresh fruits, vegetables, organic protein and brown rice, and I started making smoothies at home. After just a few weeks of drinking these nourishing smoothies I started feeling better and putting weight back on. I was amazed at the difference.
Filling a nutritional gap
After that year of chemotherapy, I was in recovery, went on to college and medical school. During my medical training, I was shocked to see that the curriculum included only two weeks of nutrition education. It was surprising and alarming to me, since I knew firsthand what a difference proper nutrition makes in fighting and preventing disease.
When I began treating patients, I couldn't in good conscience recommend the conventional nutrition shakes I had originally used. Instead, I would encourage people who needed liquid nutrition to buy healthy ingredients and blend their own smoothies, like I had done when I was sick. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or energy for this, so most didn't take my recommendation. I knew there must be a better way.
It wasn't what I had planned, but I decided to start a company that would create and offer liquid nutrition filled with organic, high quality ingredients that would help people dealing with illness or those just wanting to lead a healthy, vibrant life.
Today, Orgain offers a variety of organic nutritional products including ready-to-drink shakes, protein powders and protein bars providing high-quality nutrition to a wide variety of people, some dealing with serious illness but most are actually healthy and looking to incorporate cleaner sources of nutrition to their everyday lives. The company is growing quickly, and every day I am grateful that I am able to help so many people get the high quality nutrition they need.
It's hard to believe that what seemed like the worst possible thing that could happen to me as a teenager would actually lead me on a path that would define who I am today. If I hadn't heard those scary words when I was 17, I wouldn't be where I am now, or be helping thousands of people through my company.
About the author: Andrew Abraham, MD, is the founder and CEO of Orgain, a company that offers high quality organic nourishment. Since its inception in 2008, Orgain's portfolio has grown from the original ready-to-drink nutritional shakes to include a wide assortment of organic nutritional products, including vegan and kids shakes, organic plant-based protein powder and protein-fortified almond milk.
Edited for length and clarity by Nicole Taylor. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org with your pitch.