May is Asian-American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month and at Business Impact NW, we want to honor the major achievements of our AAPI small business entrepreneurs. Mongolian medicine-based nutrition company, Amu Nutrition, is not only a celebrated AAPI-owned business with a passionate community; they'll also be one of the incredible businesses participating in this year’s Celebrating Dreams 2023 showcase! Purchase tickets today to show your support for women-owned businesses.
You Are What You Eat
We all know the food and drinks we consume daily have a profound effect on our overall health and well-being. While certain foods are known to trigger chronic health conditions, other foods—known as functional foods—are preventative, offering strong medicinal and protective qualities that can boost your immunity and bring balance and harmony to your mind and body. Known as the Food as Medicine concept, this holistic approach to nutrition not only became the foundation of health and wellness for Khulan Enkhtaivan and her family—it sparked the entrepreneurial journey she continues today.
Amu Nutrition is a medicine-based nutrition company that brings the wisdom of Traditional Mongolian Medicine to the world of personalized, modern nutrition. Khulan and her childhood friend and fellow entrepreneur Daria started Amu Nutrition in 2013 with the firm belief that functional foods could transform the health and lifestyles of their clients and community. Their business venture is a holistic response to the increasing rates of chronic diseases affecting Mongolian people. “The air pollution was extremely unhealthy in Mongolia and children are significantly impacted with levels to 3-10 times higher in classrooms. During flu season, we visited the doctor nearly a dozen times for my daughter’s asthma and hospitals’ childcare departments were at full capacity. I’ve seen thousands of mothers facing the same problems with no solutions.”
Steeped in Tradition
When Khulan learned about the Food as Medicine concept, she knew she’d found something life-changing: a traditional way to treat illnesses and a natural approach to everyday nutrition. Khulan began educating herself and created her first herbal remedy for her daughter: job’s tears and kumquat powder for lung function, and wild yam and goji berry for spleen function. “That year, we only visited the doctor twice! That’s when I realized that functional foods not only made sense personally—it made sense culturally.
Mongolians believe health is a harmony of the body, mind, and spirit. Eating is intentional. I knew I had found my calling and I needed to share this discovery with the world: Food as Medicine works.”
According to Traditional Mongolian Medicine, each body type has a unique composition of 5 elements: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. These compositions determine the best foods for your body type, what lifestyle to follow, which organs need repair, and even the seasonal effects on health and well-being. Khulan says there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to health—each person is unique so healing needs to be personalized. “There is a powerful connection between Mother Earth and the human body. Our nutritional philosophy is ‘the East meets the West’: remedies based on traditional medicine but designed to treat the ailments people face today.”
Farm to Pharmacy
Amu Nutrition began as a small herbal farm in Mongolia, but it has grown beyond that due to its success and widespread coverage across Mongolia and even a TV spot on Bloomberg TV. The company has blossomed over a decade into four nutrition centers in the US where they supply clients with their premium whole-food-based botanical remedies and dietary supplements. Amu Nutrition offerings include 3 herbal tea lines, protein powders, and other superfoods that combat ailments ranging from chronic diseases to poor digestion. They also create customized nutrition plans ensuring each product is personalized for your health needs. But it's Amu Nutrition’s unique combination of traditional medicine and functional foods that sets them apart from other nutrition brands.
“The Food as Medicine” concept is gaining momentum right now with the rising interest in holistic healing. Amu Nutrition products are more than functional foods that treat prevalent health issues of the 21st century. Our products are spiritual, rooted in 5,000 years of ancient wisdom from Mongolian healers.”
With 15 years of experience in international trading and commerce, Khulan dreamt of bringing Amu Nutrition’s Mongolian products to the American marketplace. Khulan and her family finally made the move from Mongolia to the United States in 2016. Her business partner Daria and their dedicated community continue to run the botanical farm in Mongolia while the four nutrition centers act as hubs for client consultations and distribution.
Culturally Powered, Community-Driven
Community is deeply integral to Mongolian culture; it is also the bedrock of Amu Nutrition. Khulan has ensured that each nutrition center provides opportunities for other Mongolian women, especially for working mothers like herself. “As a mother, we need to take care of not just our kids, but the whole family and community—including the elders. Our community has always uplifted us and inspired me. I feel fortunate to be able to offer opportunities back to my community. We simply provide instructions and our products. From home, they can learn about the Food as Medicine concept, what health issues we address, and then they’re ready to join us on this mission.”
Unfortunately, it was a loss of community where Khulan faced her greatest obstacle in the US. In Mongolia, Amu Nutrition had already found success and a strong community. With less than 20,000 Mongolian Americans in the United States, Khulan realized the Mongolian community was not only severely underrepresented but Mongolian culture was relatively unknown by most. “I’m lucky my community is so passionate, and they really believe in our products and want to see us succeed. But compared to other Asian American communities, the Mongolian community is very small. People may know Traditional Chinese Medicine, but not Ancient Mongolian Medicine. I know many still don’t believe in Food as Medicine.”
In the Business of Food Biz
Khulan was steadfast in her belief that the Food is Medicine concept could not only work for all body types but that there was a market need for Traditional Mongolian Medicine. What she needed was guidance on how to break into the American marketplace. Counseling from someone outside of the Mongolian community who had industry knowledge on how to stand out from well-known brands and the countless nutrition products already available. While participating in and attending food and nutrition events across Washington, Khulan says she saw one organization consistently attending the same events: Business Impact NW. “I spoke to Devra Gartenstein at a business summit who explained the many services that Business Impact NW and the Food Business Resource Center (FBRC) provide. When I was referred to Maya Rose for one-on-one coaching, I knew immediately it was the right choice.”
Maya Rose is a Food & Farm Business Coach and Trainer for the Food Business Resource Center at Business Impact NW. As Amu Nutrition was launching its third herbal tea line to retail, Khulan needed guidance on reaching new customers and teaching the many health benefits of Traditional Mongolian Medicine. Maya says Khulan has been a wonderful client and a passionate, driven entrepreneur with a strong vision and clear goals.
“It is no small feat to educate a new market around the tradition and, in this case, health properties behind products from another culture. Khulan recognizes this, which is why she is working on her marketing and communication plan and speaking to those common human needs and pain points that exist across cultures.”
A Blooming Brand
Throughout their coaching sessions, some of the goals Maya and Khulan discussed included how to refine and shift target audiences and potential social media marketing strategies. Maya also connected Khulan to a local job board where she could invite brand ambassadors to join her team. “As we continue to work on marketing and branding, I've seen Khulan really begin to look at her product through a consumer lens which is key to messaging and ultimately driving sales. It can be difficult for business owners to take the perspective of someone buying your product; you’re constantly in the center of it all. Seeing Khulan develop her ‘customer perspective’—it’s a game changer and I’m so proud of her!”
Most critically, Maya and Khulan worked closely on rebranding the packaging for Amu Nutrition’s new tea line which Khulan says is a massive step forward towards appealing to the US consumers and a major development for Amu Nutrition’s overall brand. “I’m new to consumer-packaged goods, but Maya and I agreed the packaging needs to ‘speak to consumers’ in the US space. We brought on a graphic designer, a copywriter, and a marketing manager to create the Amu Nutrition brand voice and clarify our selling points. With the consultants for FDA and regulatory compliance and our entire production and packaging team—Amu Nutrition is a full-service operation!”
A Cup of Tea for Every Body
Amu Nutrition is hoping to release its products in 8 stores throughout Washington State, including PCC Community Markets, H Mart, Uwajimaya, and other natural health stores and Asian supermarkets. They can currently be found on Amazon. Khulan also has several events planned for the upcoming months, most notably the Celebrating Dreams 2023 showcase. Khulan is hoping to promote the new tea line and build her network with other women and AAPI entrepreneurs. The company is also planning tea tastings in the future which will help strengthen her community and create potential new partnerships with other small businesses.
“Our mission has always been to share the incredible benefits of Food as Medicine and introduce the world to Traditional Mongolian Medicine. We want people to learn from Ancient Wisdom, see themselves as part of nature, and apply tools from ancient times. Your body is unique, we’ll help you find a product that is uniquely tailored to you.”
Amu Nutrition has transformed the lives of thousands of clients and gained countless followers online. With the business coaching, brand development, and marketing strategies she learned from the Food Business Resource Center, Khulan has the contemporary tools she needs to bring Ancient Wisdom to the modern-day masses and market.
Interested in launching and growing your own farm or food-related business? The Food Business Resource Center is hosting 2 upcoming classes that are free and open to the public. Contact the Food Business Resource Center for more information here: email@example.com
About: Join us for a moderated panel of four farmers discussing their experience and advice around managing their CSA programs online.
When: Tuesday, May 16th, 3:30pm - 4:45 pm
Shipping Logistic Foundations for Value-Add Products
About: Speaker Holly Cooper from Seattle Elderberry will present all that she has learned from doing fulfillment for her own brand, and will touch on topics such as packaging, cost, helpful technological tools, and tips for getting started.
When: 2nd week of June, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for specifics
About the author
Janelle is a storyteller through and through. She was raised in a family of entrepreneurs who owned and managed a series of small businesses, including a Hawaiian restaurant, a video store, and several real estate properties. Growing up in a low-income community but attending schools as a minority in affluent areas, she struggled with the inequities she faced each day. As a Bay Area native, Janelle has witnessed the rise and fall of countless startups and small businesses. She has worked for a number of nonprofits and has remained steadfast in her commitment to using her craft to support the missions of each organization, and uplift underserved communities throughout the Bay Area.
Janelle graduated with a degree in Creative Writing, specializing in screenwriting and playwriting. She worked as a copywriter for companies such as Coldwell Banker, Callisto Media, a publisher of nonfiction and self-help books, and Artslandia magazine, a premier publisher of performing arts playbills throughout the Portland metro area. In a leap of faith, Janelle moved her family to Seattle in 2021 and worked with Committee for Children, an educational nonprofit committed to supporting the well-being of children through social-emotional learning.