Meet the Chief Wellness Officer Katie Wells. She’s the mom, wife, and entrepreneur who makes her life’s mission to help other women and parents lead a healthier life after coming to a realization her lifestyle could impact future generations. Her countless hours of research with a team of medical advisors on a variety of health, parenting, and natural living topics culminated in over 1,500 blog posts, three books, a podcast, and an amazing community of like-minded individuals.
Here’s her story on how she came to be a #FemaleDisruptor attracting an audience of more than one million social media followers who like, listen and share the organic love on a daily basis.
Katie is the CEO of WellnessMama.com and her most recent venture Wellnesse, both brands sharing one universal mission in creating the best products and content for naturally minded moms and families. Did we mention she’s an Aquarius? An Aquarius is represented by the water bearer, the mystical healer who bestows water, or life, upon the land. How fitting?!
Home Base? 🏠
With her six kids and husband, Katie can be found raising her family and running her business from the sunshine state known as Florida
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I had my first child in 2006. As I sat in the doctor’s office for my six-week follow-up appointment, I read in a magazine that “for the first time in two centuries, the current generation of American children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.” That hit me like a ton of bricks as I sat there nursing my tiny newborn baby, and I resolved that I would do what I could to change that statistic. With a background in journalism, I turned to research, and the timing lined up with me suffering from the early symptoms of Hashimotos Thyroiditis.
I shared my journey at WellnessMama.com as I worked toward my health, and as I tried to create a healthy start for my kids. The Wellness Mama community grew as many women and moms realized the uphill battle our children were facing and struggled with health problems of their own. For years, I shared DIY recipes and beauty tutorials and realized that many people are not going to have the time to make all of these products from scratch.
Katie’s “Aha” Moment
Wellnesse.com was founded to create the highest quality personal care products for families.
It’s tough to find high-quality products that work as well as “regular” alternatives and that people aren’t willing to sacrifice effectiveness to use a natural option. We set to create products that do both: work as well as conventional alternatives while maintaining safety and clean ingredients. We absorb most of what we put on our bodies, and we’ve turned this on its head. Not only avoiding anything harmful but adding beneficial ingredients to nourish the body from the outside in.
When did the entrepreneur light bulb go off? 💡
Entrepreneurship was a gradual journey for me. I very much grew up with the idea of going to college, getting a job of some kind and planning for retirement. As I mentioned, I fell into the wellness world because of my own health struggles. I went back to school to learn nutrition and researched my way out of it. I started writing about health purely out of a desire to help others who might be going through the same thing.
My husband was much more tech-savvy than I was at this point and encouraged me to use affiliate links in my content as I wrote, though I don’t know that I ever expected anything to come from them. Our finances were pretty tight at that point, and I remember one month working on balancing the checkbook and not being able to figure out where some money had come from that said “Amazon.” I eventually figured out it was a commission payment for those affiliate links I had used.
That’s when the light bulb went on that perhaps there was a way to make money with this new hobby and passion I loved. Since then, I’ve always kept the focus on educating and helping first, and view the monetary side as a measure of how well I’m able to do that.
Wellnesse.com is a whole new way to affect change by turning the personal care market on its head and creating the first line of truly safe and effective personal care products for families. It’s truly the culmination of over a decade of research and testing and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with the world.
What advice would you give other women wanting to start a biz?
To me, entrepreneurship is about creating change and helping others. I strongly feel that profit is the easier variable to figure out if you start with solving a problem. The businesses and brands that the last start with identifying and solving a problem in a unique and original way. This is part of the journey of being an entrepreneur. There isn’t a rule book or outline to follow. Often, it means setting out into uncharted territory and approaching things in a unique way. In my experience, it often also means trying and failing a good number of times before getting it right.
Each entrepreneurial journey is unique, but I think there are some helpful common starting points:
- Focus on serving the customer or reader first
- Clearly identify the endgame and work backward to establish your goals
- Build a strong community
- Find the right balance of bootstrapping, hiring and working with outside parties
- When in doubt, simplify
How do you bring goodness to the world?
I think that each person has a unique personal ability to bring goodness to the world and discovering that unique way is part of the work of our lives. For some, that goodness is art or music. For others, it’s bringing education or products into the world. For all of us, it’s also in our relationships and community and how we interact with others.
For me personally, I hope that I bring goodness into the world in several ways:
- Through loving and supporting my children as they become adults with the skills and passion to help make the world a better place.
- In the community of Wellness Mama, by creating an inviting and peaceful place for women and moms to learn and improve their families each day.
- By creating products that improve the world by working with family-owned suppliers and manufacturers, sourcing earth-friendly safe ingredients, and creating finished products that improve the health of those who use them and that improve the world through Wellnesse.
None of us can achieve success without some adversity along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
As entrepreneurs, we never forge our paths entirely on our own. Often there are struggles along the way, and this is certainly true in my case. As cliche as it sounds, I feel like I’m “on the shoulders of giants” and grateful for many people who have directly or indirectly helped me along the way. I can’t narrow it to just one person but can think of several who were instrumental to the journey.
My husband Seth first suggested I should start a website 13 years ago. He predicted that blogs would rise in popularity and saw that with my background in journalism, it was something I would enjoy and be successful at. Starting WellnessMama.com also pulled from both of our strengths and created a synergy that would lead to the most extensive website for naturally minded moms. His background was in marketing and technology, and he was running a boutique marketing agency that did website design and SEO. His knowledge of tech and my love of writing allowed us to grow Wellness Mama to what it is today.
Another person that comes to mind is Dr. Alan Christianson. Years ago, I knew something was wrong with my health, and I had been to a handful of doctors but left without any answers. I met him at a conference, and within minutes he was able to tell based on symptoms and history that I likely had Hashimotos Thyroiditis. Follow up tests confirmed this, and working with him was the first step in turning my health around. In hindsight, I’m so grateful for those health struggles because they taught me to listen to my body, and they ignited a passion for research that has now helped thousands of women take control of their health.
Finally, though I have only talked to him a couple of times in person, Tim Ferriss was very influential in my journey as an entrepreneur. I read The Four Hour Workweek in 2009, and it was paradigm-shifting for me. I applied many of the strategies, and it changed my mindset and business goals dramatically.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why?
- Extreme ownership. This concept was popularized by retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink. As a team leader, I’m responsible for the outcomes and operations of that team on every level. That doesn’t mean I am responsible for handling every task. Far from it. But it means that while I can delegate decision-making and jobs, I can’t ever delegate the responsibility for these things. If someone on my team misunderstands directions or carries out a task incorrectly, it is my responsibility as a leader to be more precise.
- Admitting when I’m wrong is more important than being right. To focus on growth and to create the best product possible, I have to let go of the need to prove that I’m right. Leadership is rarely just about how much I know, and focusing on this creates a culture where team members are afraid to make mistakes or will make excuses and knock each other down to appear correct. Conversely, when I’m able to admit mistakes and talk about when I’m wrong, it sets an example, and lets team members do the same. It also fosters an environment where everyone feels confident in trying new things and sharing new ideas. Additionally, I can learn something from every situation and person I encounter and that entering every interaction with an open mind makes it much easier to learn.
- Minimize meetings to increase productivity. In our company, meetings are mostly culture and connection more than for tasks. I think many companies overuse in-person meetings when automation and systems would be more efficient. For accomplishing tasks, I try always to ask what could be simplified and automated in each instance. With a wholly distributed virtual team, our video and in-person meetings are for bonding and culture building and not for discussing mundane tasks.
- Focus on autonomy. I have a parenting rule that I won’t do anything for my children that they are capable of doing on their own. Ironically, this same lesson was one of my hardest to learn in business. As a recovering Type-A control freak, I had a habit of hiring people and then not letting them do their jobs because I was afraid things wouldn’t get done correctly. I had to learn that not only could my team do things as well as I could… in many cases, they could do better because they were specializing in that particular thing while I was trying to balance it all. I shifted the focus to empowering them to own and be autonomous in their roles, and the team flourished.
- Praise publicly and offer feedback privately. As a leader, there are times when I need to provide constructive feedback to a team member. I had to learn to navigate this in a way that didn’t make anyone afraid to take future risks, and that encouraged growth. I developed a system of offering praise and positive feedback publicly and reserving any less-than-positive feedback for private conversations. This way, everyone felt encouraged to take moonshots or work hard on projects because it might lead to public recognition and not afraid to take risks because any negative feedback comes kindly and privately.
Culture first. Our culture is special and focused on a very clear objective of helping moms. This mission and culture is the most important factor in hiring and team building. I learned through several hires that didn’t work out that it’s easy to teach a great culture fit the skills of any job, yet nearly impossible to teach even the most qualified applicant to be a good culture fit.
Favorite “Life Lesson Quote” ✒️
“Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.”
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I wish I had a more exciting answer to this question, but I get to have breakfast and lunch with the people I’d most like to every single day: my family.
Thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to learn from people I look up to, and while it would be fun to have a meal with any of the people I look up to in business or life (Sara Blakely, Tim Ferriss, etc.), I’m happy to be able to learn from all of the resources they share publicly.
From a learning perspective, it would be fun to have a meal with and learn from people whose work I admire including Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Dr. Sacchin Panda. Thanks to the podcast, I’ve been able to share time with many others who I also admire like Dr. Chris Masterjohn, Dr. Valter Longo, and others.
Katie’s Secret Talents💃🏼
Going beyond her natural instincts for health and wellness, Katie’s secret powers include oil painting, speed reading, sign language, archery, long-distance shooting, being able to taste a food once and recreate it, answering the question “why” a thousand times a day, making spreadsheets for everything and taking tests.
Re-reading the Four Agreements, Man’s Search for Meaning, The Obstacle is the Way, The Four Hour Workweek (all of these were influential in my entrepreneurial journey and I re-read at least once a year). New reads: Stillness is the Key, The Untethered Soul, Letters from an Astrophysicist, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
Where will social media in five years ⏰
I’d like to think that in the next five years, we will collectively move away from the increasingly digital world and get back to more in-person communication and interaction. Realistically, I think social media will be an increasingly intertwined part of our lives and interactions. My biggest concerns with this scenario are that people will move farther away from in-person human interaction and that the comparison culture will increase as we all only see each others’ highlight reels. The antidote is to intentionally prioritize human relationships and in-person time, which we know are important for happiness and longevity.
Favorite drink order? ☕️
Matcha or Pour Over Black Coffee
Favorite Instagram Account?
View this post on Instagram
My laptop and Oura ring (use it to track and constantly tweak sleep, HRV, movement, etc)
Favorite Way to Decompress?
In the sauna… Not only is it quiet and meditative, but it’s also one of the easiest and most beneficial things I do for my health. Studies show that regular sauna use (4-7x/week) can lead to up to a 40% reduced risk of all-cause mortality. This included up to a 50% reduction in cardiovascular death risk and a 60% reduction in stroke risk. Did I mention it’s also quiet in there?
Katie’s Social Channels
— Wellness Mama (@WellnessMama) November 13, 2019
Katie’s Women of Admiration
The first example that comes to mind is my grandmother. She passed away several years ago but was very involved in my childhood and young life. I admired that she was intelligent, entrepreneurial, and constantly challenged me. She taught me to oil paint and to play chess, and never went easy on me. Of the many, many games of chess we played, she never let me win or even made it the slightest bit easy. She was in Mensa, and the one time I beat her at chess felt like one of the most significant accomplishments of my life because I knew I’d earned it.
Beyond that, it’s hard to narrow down specific women I admire for a couple of reasons… I strive to avoid comparing myself to other women since the comparison is the thief of joy and also try to look for the good in everyone I meet, so I’d say I admire most women (and people) in some way. From a strictly entrepreneurial perspective, I enjoy learning from women like Sara Blakely, Vivian Glyck (founder of Just Like My Child foundation), and others who are improving the world through their products and services. I also really admire all moms and the work we all do daily. I’ve said for years that I think moms are the most potent force for good on the planet, and I know firsthand the daily work and sacrifice that comes with motherhood.
What is Katie excited about this year?
I’m beyond excited to bring the highest quality natural personal care products for families to market through Wellnesse.com. These products have been years in the making. After dozens of rounds of formulation, we’ve created products that are human safe, earth safe, and high effective. We absorb much of what we put on our skin or mouth, and these products don’t just avoid the bad stuff but contain nourishing and beneficial ingredients to let the good stuff in.
About Female Disruptors
Female Disruptors is a passion project by Lisa Buyer, designed to spotlight women who are disruptors in their space. You don’t need a bestselling book to be a female disruptor—you need passion, vision, focus, compassion, determination and a burning desire to share this with the world.
Spark your ambition with more inspirational stories of women breaking down barriers: