Susan Chen is the founder of Meditate with Susan, a meditation and wellness company headquartered in Los Angeles and New York City. Meditate with Susan helps busy professionals eliminate the stress and overwhelm that often comes with success. Having spent 15 years at the best investment banks on Wall Street, Susan was running on fumes, hustling from one accomplishment to the next. Within the first week of learning Vedic Meditation, Susan felt calm, peaceful, and a natural happiness she hadn’t felt in decades. The effects were so dramatic that she left her career in finance and has now dedicated her life to teaching this transformative technique to others. Susan offers group courses, corporate training, and one-on-one programs to executives.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Susan Chen: It really means birthing. An idea or a way of living, or something that can really help somebody, in a way that feels organic and natural to you. When I talk to other entrepreneurs, and certainly in my own journey of entrepreneurship, it’s always been, this idea of “I couldn’t find it, so I built it.”
And so with my first business, which I’ll talk about in a little bit, it was all about bringing to market a very specialized food product that we couldn’t find anywhere else. And now with Vedic Meditation, it is all about me bringing that bliss and calm that I couldn’t find for so long until I began to practice Vedic Meditation.
So I’m birthing all of it is that you’re super passionate about, in a way that’s meaningful to others as well.
Tell us about your first experience with entrepreneurship.
SC: In 2016. After I left my nearly 15-year storied, finance career, I launched a consumer packaged goods product and company called Soozy’s Grain-Free.
And it was all about bringing a best-for-you, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free alternative to the baked goods industry. In that time, I was enjoying a gluten-free, dairy-free diet, really enjoying, nourishing my food, my body without a lot of nutrients, dense foods. And back in 2016, hard to believe, but it was really hard to find those things in the supermarket.
And so we worked really hard on that business for about five years and we grew that business to about 5,000 stores across the us. We were national at Whole Foods, at Kroger, and it was something that me and my co-founder were extremely proud of building.
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?
SC: After 2016 after I started this natural foods company and left my job in finance, I was also feeling extremely pulled to learn more and more about Vedic Meditation, a practice that I learned almost by accident in New York City, but had a really wholesale change in my life.
It’s what gave me that confidence and that knowingness that it was time to depart from the known of being a finance executive to really go and try something new out in the world. And so in tandem with starting this food business, I also began my studies in becoming a Vedic Meditation teacher. And after two years of study, I came out into the world and launched a wellness business called Meditate with Susan.
And it’s all about bringing Vedic Meditation, which is a really simple, natural, effortless meditation technique that uses a mantra, and sharing it with as many people as possible. That includes moms, it includes busy professionals, it includes corporate teams who are looking for that shared bonding experience that can also build in a little bit more rest and relaxation into an otherwise stressful day.
The origin story is simple. It was just me in the beginning teaching out of my apartment in New York City. I then expanded my business and teachings to Austin and then Los Angeles. And now I lead retreats all throughout the world. I lead corporate trainings and I also still continue to teach out of my home office in both Los Angeles as well as New York City.
Some of the biggest learnings are that, we have to be patient with how it is that we build our business and that we are always on the customer’s, or in my case, my students’ timeline. Not on my own. Everybody comes to products, services at their own time. It’s really up to us to be there as the educator, as their supporter, irrespective of whether or not they’re actually ready to join you on the journey. But when they are, you will always be there to support them.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
SC: There wouldn’t be anything I did differently. I think just a little bit more patience and a little bit more of the sort of, sit back and let the customer come to you type of attitude, especially in the wellness space.
When you’re teaching meditation, you want to make sure that you set up that nurturing environment, but that the agency and the autonomy for that student or that client is always on them. I think in the beginning days when you know you’re shot out of a cannon, out of teacher training and you want to be teaching all of these people because you’re so excited about it, it’s easy to forget that piece.
And this is something that I’m really leaning into now that I’m coming upon my sixth year of teaching Faic meditation.
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?
SC: Success to me looks like corporate America, whether it’s a small business, medium business, or a multinational corporation, has a meditation program that is part and parcel with.
All of the other wellness benefits that they would give to somebody. You know, you have 401K for financial health and wealth. You side by side would have a meditation, a stipend if you will, or a meditation curriculum. Not only would you, would companies, be able to support their employees with a meditation course, but also block out some time for wellness in the mornings and in the afternoons.
And this is not happening across corporate America right now, but it is starting to happen slowly. This is something that I’m super passionate about because once I began to layer in a meditation practice in my career as a research analyst and portfolio manager on Wall Street, I started to find that I was making better decisions.
They were super accurate, and I was staying super calm under pressure. And as an employer, that is the type of employee that really harnesses all of their potential. Not only for the profits of the business but also for that inner profit of fulfillment, too. So that’s my big audacious dream and we’re starting to tackle it company by company corporation by corporation.
And I hope that. It’s my great wish and hope that in my lifetime there will be not only a fitness program, a 401K program, but also a mental health program in every single company in America and across the world.
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.
SC: I would say that my superpower as an entrepreneur is my ability to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. Of our world, the one thing that we know is that change is the only constant. And those who are successful in business, from the perspective of longevity, right?
Everyone can be that one-hit wonder, chasing that new new that’s out there in the world. But to have relevant longevity over years and decades, you really have to be awake and attuned to the changes that are happening and also be able to adapt and co-create that change. What we saw during Covid is that there were so many companies that were caught flatfooted and didn’t have an ability to interact with change, but they could only react.
Through that rigidity and that element of surprise. I like to think that as an entrepreneur, I like to see a preview of coming attractions, and I like to be super adaptable. The super high that I’ve had is probably leading hundreds of meditators on retreat to India, a place that I consider a very treasured place for me and my growth, personally, professionally, and spiritually as well.
We lead meditators to India every single year with my teacher Thom Knoles. And it’s just an amazing experience. One of the lows as an entrepreneur, I would say is a surprising one. It was actually when my other business, Soozy’s Grain-Free, was at the top of the top, we had just secured seed funding from some of the ritziest, well-known VCs out there in the world.
We were doing really well, and we were on top of the charts for all of the scan data for that product. And yet it felt to me like the lowest point in my entrepreneurial journey, because I felt like I was out of alignment with what it is that I want, how it is that I wanted to spend my time.
I knew that I wanted to be teaching meditation full time, but all my time was getting diverted into a really thriving business, something that really wasn’t aligned with me. And you know, it was a high and a low that was combined into one. But it was a great learning lesson for me. And at some point – actually at the end of 2021 – I made the decision to step away from my first startup to focus on my second one.
What are your personal driving principles, your top values?
SC: Honesty, integrity, and authenticity. Only, I only do what it is that I feel super aligned with, and that has always steered me in the right way.
How have your personal principles and values shaped your company’s values and principles? Give us some examples.
SC: There are only three employees in my company right now and Meditate with Susan is a small, closely-knit family with very similar personal and company values.
I think they’re all the same. There’s no difference between a person who shows up at work versus that person who shows up at the dinner table at night. You know, when we lead with genuine authenticity in every aspect of our life, that’s how we know that we’re really truly aligned.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners?
SC: Working with my partners is amazing. I work right now with my husband, Peter Spore, who helps me manage all of the things in my business that I otherwise would not know how to manage. I work on a lot of the creation things like new courses, new cities, new opportunities in corporate, and he does wonderful things like accounting and finance and planning travel and supporting me in all the ways too. So that’s been really great. What I always say with team building is ‘Make sure that you have every single part of the business loop covered.’ Somebody who loves to take care and has a forte in that maintenance mode to be able to really pair with that creation mode, which is me.
Do you have a mentor? Tell us about what makes them valuable to you and your business.
SC: Yes, I do. My meditation teacher and primary mentor, Thom Knoles is the person who has helped me grow from a business perspective, from a professional perspective, and from a personal growth perspective. Big time. They are so valuable to my business and my growth because they continue to remind me to seek the best, to not settle for the best, and to always know that I deserve the best in every single interaction, in every single transaction.
And to remind myself that, at the end of the day when there’s no one else watching or looking, that I really only have myself and my integrity to answer to. That’s been a really important guiding light in my life.
What role does mentorship play in your world (as a mentor or mentee)?
SC: I think mentorship as a mentor or a mentee is what lifts all of us up with each other.
You know, there’s this saying, and it’s a very accurate one, which is it takes a village, right, to raise outstanding individuals in the world. So I have been a mentee to my first boss at Morgan Stanley, which is where I cut my teeth in finance. I’ve been a mentor at Macquarie Bank where I began to rise up in the ranks of senior executive status.
Today I work as a mentor and coach to executives all around the world who are looking to find more fulfillment, more rest, more peace in their lives, in addition to leading very successful and full lives.
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?
SC: My daily routine in the morning is I rise with the sun. There’s a great saying, which is “Don’t ever let the sun catch you asleep.” And I really am a huge fan of that. When we wake up with the sun, there’s something about waking up with the rhythms of nature that really helps you align and begin to see that big picture in life.
So I do that every single morning. I shower and then I go straight into my morning Vedic Meditation practice. Another non-negotiable is in the afternoon and evening, I also dip into my afternoon Vedic Meditation practice, and that really helps me gain that energy, gain that rest, and really allow for that clarity of thinking and that baseline happiness and fulfillment to pervade all of the minutes of my day.
What are you reading or have you read?
SC: I tend to read the Wall Street Journal. I tend to read Bloomberg. And I also tend to read a lot of the myths and epics from the Vedic tradition from thousands of years back in India that have these great plays and displays of heroism and villainhood, and all the different archetypes of the evolution of the human experience over time.
Where do you go for inspiration?
SC: I go into nature for inspiration. I dive deep into my meditation for inspiration. And my students. And my clients are always an amazing source of inspiration for me. I wouldn’t be here without them. They really helped me fine-tune my style of teaching, my way of relating my business building, and just so appreciative of their presence in my life as well.
How do you think about helping others through your work?
SC: Through Vedic Meditation, not only is it a personal gain for the person who’s practicing it, but the impulses of rest and easiness begin to make their way. Through all of the different fields in our community as well, right?
At any given time, we’re emanating something. We’re either emanating our stress or we’re emanating our bliss out into the world. And we know this, there are some people who when you meet them or they’re having a particularly less good day, you see them and you’re with them and it rubs off. Rubs off on you, right?
At any given moment, we’re rubbing off something out into the environment, and I want to make sure that I do my part in helping everybody rub off positivity, natural bliss, and alignment, and that feeling of abundance in happiness. That is really the baseline of the human experience. That’s really what our birthright is.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, or words of wisdom to get through the tough days?
SC: Yes. I love a quote that I’ve been thinking about recently is if the story doesn’t have a great ending, then the story is not yet over. Said another way, in ancient terms from Veda, evolution is all that’s ever happening.
Sometimes during those moments when things are feeling pretty grim, pretty dim, like challenged, you’re tired, just remember that evolution is all that’s ever happening, and if we can’t yet see it, then that means the story is not yet over.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as – as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
SC: Someone who’s generous. Somebody who is generous with their wisdom and their knowledge, and always available to those who are seeking it.
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