Sas Parsad, founder of The Gut Co, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease seven years ago, aged 31, leading him down the path to gut health knowledge and a new entrepreneurial passion.
He says there was a clear link between his ill health and the time when he ‘lost it all’ in the financial crash of 2008.
“I had been in the business of property since the age of 19 when I bought a property for £69,000, renovated it and sold it for £124,000. But in 2008 I lost it all in the economic crash. It was almost immediately that I started to notice symptoms and a few years later – after multiple MRI scans - I was finally given my diagnosis. While diet was clearly a huge factor, I’m convinced that stress was the final trigger.”
The ‘trigger’ led to a two year period where Parsad was housebound as he struggled to keep any food down, causing deficiencies and extreme weight loss.
“The doctors weren’t able to help me with my nutrition so I had to speak to specialists to find out how to take back control.”
After hearing about the importance of his microbiome, the Eastbourne Borough football coach devoted his time to researching gut health and how to improve it, causing a revelation about his diet.
“I thought I was really fit and healthy. I was on what you might call a typical gym goers’ diet – so loads of whey protein shakes, lots of dairy, lots of starchy foods, and big portions with loads of protein.
“I realised that with all those protein supplements I was taking and with my gut being so unhealthy, I wasn’t absorbing a lot of the nutrients that I was consuming. I started to realise supplements won’t do any good unless your gut is able to absorb the nutrition.
“Now I follow more of a high fat diet with lots of healthy fats, plus I intermittent fast for 16 hours a day, but what really made a difference was when I found the right pro and prebiotic supplements.”
Three years ago he decided to delve into his savings and sell some of his possessions in order to develop his own range of supplements, with a vision of providing targeted solutions offering probiotics, prebiotics, vitamins, minerals and botanicals as well as providing consumers with much-needed gut health advice.
“I got to a point where I had completely re-assessed what was important to me and I just wanted to throw myself into what I saw as being a huge gap in the market. So I sold my cars and my watch, which I had always valued so highly before, and I put all my time into researching, speaking to gut health specialists and microbiologists, and building a portfolio of formulations.”
In his final push to see his passion over the finish line last year, Parsad re-mortgaged his previously mortgage-free house.
The self-funded venture is now just over one month from launch with a 16-strong range in the pipeline, with three launching to the UK market in March: ‘gut care’, ‘skin’, and ‘immunity’.
The biggest USP for the brand is its patented delivery format – using layered pills which ensure the different elements do not interfere with one another and are released sequentially, to ensure each element of the supplement has the best opportunity for absorption.
The ‘first’ layer contains the botanicals which can release first, with the second layer containing the live bacteria which will release around two hours after ingestion, and in the final layer sits the vitamins and minerals which release last, to ensure maximum absorption.
And Parsad says there will be additional layers to add to his offering.
“Ultimately, I want the company to be the ‘go to’ for gut health advice and supplements. In addition to offering supplements, I would like to provide consumers with an integrated page, or perhaps a satellite website, providing blogs from health professionals and updates on new research into gut health.
“I would also like to offer the brand’s customers with free advice from health professionals as I think it’s essential to provide that additional value for consumers these days.”
Asked how long he can continue to self-fund such an extraordinary venture, Parsad says he is confident the brand will speak for itself when he comes to his first funding round in about 12 months.
“We’ve had two offers of investment which I have turned down as it’s really important to me to retain ownership of the brand and develop the brand’s voice to begin with but once we have established that, we will look for investment.”