Stephanie Tan, founder of NOOCI, is on a mission to bring Traditional Chinese Medicine into the present. With the creation of NOOCI, a range of plant-based supplements steeped in centuries-old herbal wisdom, Tan is making Traditional Chinese Medicine accessible to a new generation of women living fast-paced modern lifestyles, who are seeking balance and optimal health.
Tell us about your first experience with entrepreneurship.
ST: I created The Kinnet, Hong Kong’s first wellness center that offered holistic solutions around mental, physical, and emotional wellness for the city’s aging population. I was inspired by my mom and grandmother to start this center. They lived vibrant, active lifestyles – so I wanted to create this for other people to stay active and healthy, and have a community that could lean on each other for support of their long-term health.
What is your company’s origin story? What is the biggest reason you started your business? What did those early days look like and teach you?
ST: I started NOOCI last year while I was pregnant with my second child. My nasal allergies were acting up – I was sneezing all night, congested, and had a lack of sleep. I didn’t want to take OTC pills like I did in my first pregnancy, so I decided to research natural alternatives. While researching Traditional Chinese Medicine solutions, I found the process daunting, and the information fragmented and hard to understand. That’s when the idea came to me – there needs to be a better way for other women like myself to access TCM and learn about its benefits, but in a more modern and approachable way. To start, I reached out to one of the leading players in TCM R&D and manufacturing and pitched my idea to them. After several discussions, they became our manufacturing partner and because they loved the mission of NOOCI, they became our first investor as well. We started prototyping NOOCI’s Noo Air Nasal Relief product soon after, and this helped me clear my congestion and to this day, I don’t have to take my OTC pills – which has been life-changing for me.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
ST: This is a hard question since we’re about to launch! So far, I don’t think I would have done anything differently.
What does “success” look like for you? We’d love to hear your biggest, boldest dream? What do you think will help you achieve it?
ST: I would love to see NOOCI become a global brand. When people think of modern TCM or have any TCM related question – they think of NOOCI.
What is your superpower as an entrepreneur? What is your proudest and darkest moment so far? Share a key high and a key low from your journey if you can.
ST: My superpower is getting like-minded, passionate people together to build something that we’re proud of. My darkest moment was when one of my key team members had a conflict and couldn’t join NOOCI. I was really disappointed, and it was hard to wrap my head around at the time, but we’re still great friends and she’s a strong supporter of NOOCI. My proudest moment was seeing our final NOOCI products in hand, after almost a year of protoyping and manufacturing!
What are your personal driving principals, your top values?
ST: Authenticity, transparency, and being passionate.
How have your personal principles and values shaped your company’s values and principles?
ST: When I built NOOCI, I wanted to create a company that is authentic to myself, one that I can live and breathe and center my life around. NOOCI is a place where women can be their authentic selves and share their TCM wellness journeys with one another.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners?
ST: NOOCI was created in the middle of the pandemic and there were definitely times when it was lonely to work from home. That said, technology has allowed us to collaborate across teams efficiently and effectively, especially since we span across the time zones of Hong Kong, California, New York, Austin, and Japan! I love brainstorming and bouncing ideas around with our NOOCI team, it gets my creative juices flowing.
Do you have a mentor? Tell us about what makes them valuable to you and your business?
ST: My mother is my mentor. When I was young, I saw her take over our traditional rice business, re-do it from the ground up, and turn it into a successful business today. I frequently go to her for advice and emotional support. She knows first-hand what it’s like to try, fail, and pivot – and to do so while always keeping a smile on her face.
What role does mentorship play in your world (as a mentor or mentee)?
ST: Mentorship is so important. I believe in making mistakes, but if you can have a mentor guiding you along the way, then the mistakes are at least calculated.
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day?
ST: My days are so different day-to-day at the moment, but the ideal day looks a bit like this… I like getting my day started early, and it begins with checking emails (in case there’s anything urgent) until my kids come in for some morning snuggles. We’ll have breakfast along with my NOOCI ReNoo drink. The barley-meets-green tea is a nice way to start my morning, and it gives me an energy boost for the rest of my long day ahead. I also try to fit in a morning workout (either a run or gym session) before my work day starts!
What are you reading or have read?
ST: I recently read Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog. I found it so inspirational and every time I have a bad day, I think about what Phil Knight has gone through and what he would do if he were in my shoes (no pun intended!).
Where do you go for inspiration?
ST: I like to go for a hike to let me hit pause, clear my head and get inspired.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, or words of wisdom to get through the tough days?
ST: Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered.
What is a problem that keeps you up at night?
ST: Many problems keep me up at night… I try to block them out and save them for the morning.
How do you think about helping others through your work?
ST: NOOCI is made for women by women. We hope NOOCI can support women in exploring TCM lifestyles and help them find balance in their long-term health journey.
What advice do you have for fellow (and aspiring) entrepreneurs building and leading teams?
ST: Inspire and empower your teams to always strive for the best and to take ownership in everything they do.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as – as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
ST: Health can be a very vulnerable subject for many, so my hope is to create a trusted, empathetic community where women can openly share their wellness journeys with each other without fear of judgment. I am always listening and learning from others, and that is the way I intend to continue as I build our NOOCI community.
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