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Standout businesses are hard to come by in these competitive markets, but today’s guest’s company is definitely one to watch. Joining us for this episode is Qyral’s Co-Founder and CEO, Hanieh Sigari. In this episode with host Patrick Shaw, she shares her entrepreneurship story from being a young girl in Iran to building her own company out here in the U.S. She talks about the current state of marketing and shares her thoughts on what it takes to be CEO. Make sure to tune in and get valuable leadership and marketing insights you can use to better your business.
Hanieh Sigari: Watch this Company Soar!
I’m with Hanieh Sigari, the Founder and CEO of Qyral. In the pre-show, we talked a little bit. I’m so excited about this interview. You are the entrepreneur of entrepreneurs. I didn’t get to ask a little bit about your mother, which I heard in the story. I almost have to start there because my mom raised seven kids by herself. I had a father that was not connected. She has passed but I look at her as a mentor. You’ve got a story at a whole other level, which is incredible. Could you open up with your mom, that relationship, and your journey to being an entrepreneur? That’s a lot. Let’s start there. It’s great to have you on the show.
First of all, thank you so much for having me. This is exciting. I’ll start with the 1979 revolution, which is interesting. It’s timely because a lot of what happened in 1979 is happening in Iran with the protest. People want a regime change. Iranians are revolutionaries at heart. They’re always like, “We’re going to disrupt and revolutionize.” As part of the ’79 sweep, my mom was taken in. Her roommates were all executed. There were 4 or 5 of them. My mom was put on the execution list.
Part of the reason she wasn’t executed is she was not there when the first sweep happened. They came and raided her home. She was down in the South to visit her family. She sees her home is vandalized and calls the police. She’s like, “We have been robbed.” The police arrest her and throw her in jail. They’re trying to gather enough documents against her to execute her.
During those six months, the conditions and the things that she tells me were awful. She gets a little shaken up talking about it. I can only imagine the trauma she must have experienced. During that time, one of her classmates who were with the new regime sees my mom’s name on the execution list. He is like, “What is she doing here? I have to help her.” He knew my mom very well because my mom was a social worker. She was an active and sweet lady. Who would want to kill this one?
He arranges a meeting with her in prison and says, “I’m going to get you out of here but under one condition. This is how I could vouch for you. All these women are street workers. They have a rapport with you.” My mom used to do their health checks as part of working for the Social Service department. “We have swept them up and put them in women’s shelter. They don’t know what to do with them. If I get you out of jail, can you come and run that women’s shelter?” She was like, “Of course.”
She comes but during this time in 1980, the Iran-Iraq War started. You have these prostitutes mixed with widows of servicemen that are ending up in the same shelter. At one point, she had 300 women. They’re clashing. You’ve got this young twenty-something-year-old who’s a sweet woman trying to run. She’s like, “I need to occupy their time somehow.” She teaches them her skill of sewing. That was her hobby and passion. Little by little, they pick it up. All they had was time on their hands.
She goes back to the state department and says, “Do you think we could get a grant for sewing machines? These women have potential.” They were like, “The war started. We need sheets and uniforms. Can your woman sew that if we give you sewing machines?” She was like, “Send it up.” Talk about being resourceful. Without knowing a single thing about business and anything, she sets up assembly lines and starts getting these women the more skilled workers on this side and so on.
After a couple of months, he goes back. She’s running a factory at this point. It was supposed to be a women’s shelter but now it’s a factory. She goes back and says, “I need these women to get paid. Can you pay them?” They’re like, “That’s not a problem. We will pay them per kilo of clothes.” After a while, a lot of these women’s skills developed and involved. Some of them got better-paying jobs. Some of them remarried. Some of them moved out.
That story was so influential in my life growing up. I was like, “My mom did it for 300 women. I want to do it for thousands and millions one day.” That was the story that tucked me in. Fast forward, we came to America. I was seven years old. My parents moved us into a 50-plus community. Unbeknownst to them, they didn’t know that. Those are the advantages of being in America.
I befriended all the seniors in that community. Most of them were 70-plus. All the elderly were there. That’s where my passion and love for the aging process started. By the time I was in the 5th or 6th grade, all my friends started to pass away. I was devastated. You could imagine a ten-year-old experiencing this much grief. They kept passing away a month apart. It was heartbreaking. That’s where the quest for finding the fountain of youth started. I haven’t found it yet but I’m working towards it.
You’re a biochemist. That reason is how you chose biochemistry.
My undergrad was in Biology and Psychology. I was like, “I’ve got the mind and body connection but if I want to do research, I have to go under the hood and figure out what’s happening on a molecular level.” After I graduate, I was like, “This is great and all being in a lab but the people out there need me. I need to apply it.” That’s when I started my home healthcare business. I grew it 600% year-over-year. It’s tremendous growth.
At the same time, we were running an eCommerce company in fulfillment logistics with my husband. That one was taking off simultaneously. I sold first the healthcare business and joined forces with him. After a while, I was like, “This isn’t where I want to be. I want to impact people’s lives. I want to change it.” I took a year and a half off and decided what I’m going to do next.
Entrepreneurship has come naturally to you because it’s all your mom did. She never even thought about it. She’s serving a purpose. It sounds a lot like you did the same. You saw the path. It seemed natural.
It’s about being resourceful. You don’t need to be awarded an MBA. You have to have passion. The skills will develop and come. You have to wake up, do the work every day and ask enough questions.
It’s just about being resourceful. You don’t need to have a warrant. You just have to have the passion and the skills will develop. You just have to wake up and do the work every day and ask enough questions.
What I find interesting in reading some of your input for this episode is it reads like you understood network marketing but you come from outside the industry and became a good student of understanding how to create value for the distributor. That’s what I read into it. At any rate, I was impressed by that. How do you think that came about? How long have you been on the networking side? Is that with Qyral? Was that the first company that used network marketing as a marketing methodology?
When I owned the home healthcare business, I had 600-plus female employees. It wasn’t a meritocracy. It didn’t feel like the harder you work, you advanced. We’re capped with insurance reimbursements, Medicare and Medicaid. It broke my heart. It was devastating. That was part of my mission, “In the next company I start, the harder you work, the more you can earn. What can I do to do that?”
I was talking to a friend one day. He was like, “Have you looked into MLMs and networking?” I was like, “That’s cringe. Those are schemes.” I went and studied it. When I studied network marketing as a category, the potentials were unlimited. This is the first platform that came out. Personal development is inherently built into it. It’s so optimistic. I fell in love with the model. What I did do is I studied what is causing people to have such a negative reaction to network marketing. That’s what I studied. What is the failure? What’s causing companies not to succeed and fail? It comes down to greed.
When it’s all said and done, it’s purpose and value. People start chasing the money. You’ve done a good job. I can see it in all your marketing. You are here to deliver an incredible product. I wish I could say that with everybody we interviewed but you can tell it in your marketing. What was your takeaway?
One, it was an industry ready to be disrupted because the more I started, I was like, “Enough with the collagen, the powders and the supplements.” It’s ready to be disrupted by technology. Number two, what I loved about it is it’s not a transaction with your customer. Your customer is a voice in the community. You don’t get that in the eCommerce world. I fell in love with it. It was a culmination of these two things. This is a platform to communicate your message. I wanted to drive the impact. I was like, “This is great. How else can we do it?” The other side was like, “It’s ready to be disrupted, which is a great opportunity for me to come in and do something that no one else is doing.”
We can go in so many directions but it is interesting in the digital world that we live in that the average person is seeing 5,000 impressions a day. Everybody is knocking on the door. The fastest way to cut through that is authenticity. It’s this model built correctly. How do you bridge that? You have to leverage some technology but the model allows people to be authentic and cut through that noise.
The big CPG brands out there like Procter & Gamble are slowly coming in our direction. They’re not going to call it network marketing. Facebook is pushing down companies. They want content makers. They’re promoting content makers. The cost of customer acquisition is becoming very expensive. Facebook ads and Google ads are expensive. The next phase was influencer marketing.
That’s becoming a little overplayed with everyone. They have been talking about nano-influencers and micro-influencers but it’s Sally next door telling you, “I love your product. I recommend it to you.” That’s all it is. It’s not a nano-influencer. It’s what we have been doing for 30-plus years or 50 years. The rest of the world is starting to catch on, which is interesting.
It requires some education for your team to effectively win the day because you have a product line that is very targeted to individual’s needs. It’s not a blanket, “Take this. Put it in your gas tank. It will make your car run better and fix your ingrown toenail.” It’s a targeted product. How do you educate? Has that education part been difficult with the team? Do you see it as a strength?
As a company, we have taken the role of educating. All our consultants have to do is drive people to our website. We will take it from there, having to teach them to talk about products. You take a quiz. What’s interesting is we also have telehealth. We have a telederm service. We personalize the prescription products for the individual. We personalize the non-prescription product based on that funnel of the quiz. That will guide you. We’re perfecting it every day. We’re trying to do a better job of recommending products for the individual’s needs.
As the quiz and the machine learning algorithms pick up and learn from customer behavior, we can fine-tune things. From there, we tell the customer, “We put chamomile so-and-so extract, this and that in your product because of X, Y and Z but not only that. If you want to learn more about why we put it in your box, click this link. It will take you to the scientific journal article so that you can rest assured that we’re here servicing you and giving you the best of the best.”
This is a loaded question. What if somebody wants to buy your product and they go directly to your website? How do you handle those people? They hear about Qyral and go, “I want to buy this product.” They don’t have a rep or distributor in the field. They go directly to your website. How do they buy the product?
Take the quiz. If they don’t have a rep, we assign them to the nearest rep. We’re doing that on the back end because, at the end of the day, you want the follow-up that the rep does.
Do you do a discount for the commission they receive? How do you handle that?
We give the commission straight to the consultant. We don’t discount it.
That was a trick question. I almost feel bad for asking it but there are so many companies selling against their field. It is shocking to me. They don’t understand that they’re violating it. I knew you were going to answer it that way but it was risky.
Am I not supposed to do that?
I threw it out there. They’re selling against their field. They’re not paying. Even if you paid a discounted commission, it would have been okay but they’re selling the product directly against their field and sometimes at a discount. I’m like, “Why have a sales team?” It’s a business but it’s a family too. There’s a relationship. You destroy all the trust. How important is trust? How do you manage that as a leader? You’re somebody that understands your customer. At least it seems to me that your customer is the distributor. It’s not just the end consumer who buys the product and serves them but it’s also this organization that you’re building.
We try to embed transparency in every aspect. If you come to our website, we have an ingredient page for every single ingredient that’s in our product. You could click on it and learn what it’s doing in your bottle. You could click on the scientific journal article. We put every update we put. We’re transparent. You could be vulnerable enough as a company to say, “We f-ed up. Things are still a little clunky between our pharmacy and the APIs that were set up and so forth. There were a lot of hiccups along the way.” We’re so transparent with our field. We kept them in the loop. They were part of it, even the voting, “Should we put this logo here or here?” They’re part of that conversation. As long as they feel involved and valued and what they’re suggesting is valued and listened to, you’re good.
Do you know what else is cool about your model? I don’t ever do this. I’m not pumping up companies because it’s not the case but one of the things I love about what you’re doing is you’ve done so much research. You’ve gotten this well-documented and researched product. The products are so incredibly expensive that you can compete on price and value and still provide a lucrative opportunity because the margins are better. You’re not selling milk or eggs where the margins are super tight.
Another thing that we’re doing, which we didn’t even think would be this huge value-add is we’re offering a dermatology service for an entire year for less than $50. That’s unlimited. You could go back and forth with your dermatologist as many times as you want. What we’re finding are people in Mississippi. The nearest dermatologist is sometimes within 200 miles. They’re not taking new patients. There’s a seven-month wait.
We’re adding service and value to a lot of our customers. They don’t have any other option. If they want acne treatment that’s prescription-grade, they have to wait 6 to 7 months, whereas we’re offering that at a very good price because if you were to get that from a pharmacy, it would have been $250. We’re compounding it for you for under $75 and giving you access to a dermatologist.
Talk to us about the CEO role and starting a business from scratch. You and I chatted a little bit about reinventing and thinking outside the box. What’s your perspective there? What does the industry need to do? There are challenges in every industry. It’s never going to be perfect but what does the industry as a whole need to do to get its act together a little bit?
It’s interesting you say the CEO role. Everyone keeps telling me, “The CEO role is getting everyone excited and aligned.” That’s great but I was listening to an Elon Musk interview. He is like, “Most of my time is spent in engineering and design.” I feel guilty a lot of times because I’m in the grunt doing the work and sometimes working with our development team to program new stuff. I enjoy that with the formulating. I go into the lab and formulate with our formulation chemists.
I’ve got my hand everywhere. I don’t want to pull it out. I don’t want to be this fluffy top person that’s like, “We got this.” I want to be part of the heartbeat of a company. I never want to separate myself from that. A lot of people think a CEO, especially in our industry, is a motivational speaker. That’s where my sales executives are pushing me, “You need to be the brand. You need to smile, be out there and talk to your consultants.” I’m like, “I need to understand the business of the business as well. I don’t ever want to lose that.”
You do both. They can take pictures of you. There can be quotes and short videos that get repurposed. It’s the part I love too. From a technology standpoint with our company, I know what the struggle is. I want to focus on product development. I love that you’re focused on creating that value with the product. You should be able to hire, train and get people to cover the other side.
Part of what our industry is missing is technology. It’s so clunky and outdated in the back end. Someone has to do it well sooner or later.
I’m going to place your episode right in front of my friend, Richard Sletcher, whom we chatted about briefly before because he’s going to change the game for technology in space. That will be fun.
Someone has to do it. I came with the product. I was like, “I’m going to disrupt the industry with products but I need someone to help with the back end.” It’s a lot to build yourself. I have no ambitions of building that out myself. Our focus should be front-end customers and being customer-centric but I need help. Get it together.
That’s awesome. We’re going to chat about some of that for sure. I love your story and what you’re doing. I’m excited to see the company. How old is Qyral?
It’s three and a half years old in 2023 but I still think that we’re still in the pre-launch mode because we’re still learning, evolving and growing.
What has been the biggest obstacle? Let’s close with some of that because it’s real business. I live it every day. You do. There are challenges. That doesn’t mean we don’t stay optimistic, focused and excited. What have been some of the biggest challenges for you as an entrepreneur in building the business?
It’s insecurity, if I could be honest, especially coming into an industry I knew nothing about. I started listening to a lot of people out there. First things first, I came in. I was like, “Amazon is the biggest search engine in the world. That’s the first place most people go to search for our products. Why can’t we list our product there, put the money that we sell and then distribute it among our consultants so everybody wins at the end of the day?”
Everyone is like, “You can’t do that as soon as your consultants find out that you’re selling through a different platform.” We didn’t do it. I listened to all the advice. I come to find out at the most recent DSN event that they’re talking about, “You have to be on Amazon. If not, your distributors are going to post on Amazon and undercut you. The morale of the company goes down.” It’s like, “When I first pitched this, people shut me down.” This has happened over and over again.
As a female, in general, in a position of leadership, there’s a little bit of that Imposter syndrome like, “I don’t know. Maybe they are right.” Trusting my gut is something I’m learning. It’s evolving. I’ve been doing business for a long time. Maybe the men out there don’t quite understand it as well as the women. Women do suffer from impulses. It’s real. It’s that insecurity like, “Am I doing this right?” I am learning to trust my gut. That’s a personal obstacle.
As a female, in general and in a position of leadership, there’s a little bit of that imposter syndrome.
That’s valuable. There is uncertainty. There are these patterns. The only change is exponential. The market we’re in is so different from years ago. People giving advice from years ago have no idea.
No offense but this industry is a little outdated. The eCommerce world is a little bit farther ahead than direct sales. We have to catch up. I don’t know the statistics off the top of my head. As an industry, it’s declining but we need to stop thinking of ourselves as competing with other direct sales companies. We’re competing in the gig economy. We’re competing against Uber and Airbnb. We need to see what are they doing that’s so amazing. How are they making it easier for people to turn on their apps and start earning? We need to figure it out.
I’m not going to lie. You’re going to freak out when you see what we’re doing. We’re very transparent with everybody. One of the reasons we do this show is to run into people facing that situation. The technology and all the eCommerce stuff are built for a one-to-many approach. It’s a digital marketer, the Kardashians or whoever is marketing to the masses and the technology where we have this distributed peer-to-peer relationship-based team. Nobody has built technology to bridge these two worlds.
Are we going to ask distributors to sign up for ClickFunnels, SurveyMonkey, a CRM, AWeber or an email broadcaster and then they’re going to try to get those tools to talk? You killed network marketing. They can’t deal with all that complexity. The tools work but they don’t duplicate. You can’t build a team. How do you bridge this? It’s a big problem that needs to be solved.
We use Zapier for a lot of these but it still has the capabilities.
That’s exciting. We will do this again. Are there any closing thoughts for aspiring entrepreneurs or any thoughts you want to share? Share how can people reach you and the company if they want more information.
The one piece of advice is to think outside of the box. It’s so interesting. It’s like that Amazon example I gave you. Why did I listen to everyone? Sometimes you know best. Trust your gut and your instinct and go with them. What’s the worst thing that could happen? You will learn something.
Let me drill down for one second on that. How did you execute that as an example?
We didn’t. I went to the DSN conference. I was like, “We should do it. Now that everybody else is saying that it’s okay, we should do it but why?” Another thing I’m thinking about is, “How do we create these?” We have the technology to formulate each bottle. Have you been to Colorado? Do they have the Jamba Juice robots? It’s a little kiosk. There are little robots. I was like, “We could do that.” That’s where my mind is. How can we innovate? How can we disrupt? If somebody buys, we will distribute that money among our consultants so that everybody wins. How can we create an ecosystem where everybody wins?
There’s this pattern I see repeating itself over and over. It’s fascinating to me. It happened. I was a leader in an organization. That’s how this started years ago. Without getting myself in trouble, I saw it repeat itself over and over. Here’s the pattern. A company has a great product. Some distributor uses digital marketing to start selling that product. They’re using digital marketing but they’re using the efforts of the entire distributor base that created traffic on the internet.
As one individual distributor, they’re capitalizing on it, which you can argue is fair or not fair. They’re capitalizing on the entire distributor base’s effort and digital footprint. The company puts them on stage and recognizes them. Everybody else gets mad. The company then wants to terminate them or hold their check because they’re marketing digitally online to sell the product. The worst of the companies say, “We will do it ourselves.”
We’re going to sell against the field. The entire field is mad. They have disrupted the trust when the one solution is to provide the tools to everybody so they can leverage the digital world collectively. You support them in that effort so that anybody can do it. It’s not one who happened to have a $10,000 or $15,000 budget leveraging the rest of the field privately. It’s not the company selling against the field. It’s the company saying, “We’re going to get you the tools so you can do this.”
Empower everyone with technology.
Technology has to exist. You pointed it out. That’s part of the problem. Technology can’t catch up.
It’s you and Netready.
You’re ready to disrupt.
It’s time for disruption for sure. Whether somebody is reading, they’re with the company, they want to know more about the product or they want to learn, I imagine you’re not doing much on the consulting, training or any of that side for other companies looking for direction but are there any thoughts there? How do people reach out to you?
You can visit our website at Qyral.com. It’s a chemistry term. That means mirror image. A mirror image and products need to be created for you. Head on over to www.Qyral.com. Part of my mission is to educate people on longevity. That’s where my passion is. I started the @TheLongevityMom page on Instagram. You can follow me. I put cute little videos out. Support me. It’s called @TheLongevityMom. That would be amazing if you could follow. I would appreciate it. I’m not even sending you to our company page. Come follow me.
I love it. That is awesome. It has been so enjoyable. I’m excited for people to get to read this.
Thank you so much for having me. This is exciting.
About Hanieh Sigari
Hanieh Sigari is an entrepreneur, biochemist, and anti-aging industry disruptor. Her passion started when she was a 6-year-old immigrant whose first friends in the US were her elderly neighbors. She was curious about the process of aging, particularly the age-related diseases that her friends suffered from. Hanieh’s company, Qyral, stemmed from this curiosity. It’s a skincare company that creates custom products for each person, based on a detailed assessment. The company has partnered with board-certified dermatologists to offer custom prescription-grade products as well. Although the current focus is on skincare, Hanieh’s overall mission is to improve lives and increase longevity so people can age well with confidence.