Every one of us has been hit with a massive sugar craving. We give into it, indulging in gummy bears or chocolate or donuts, only to be met with a massive crash about an hour or two later. But the story doesn't end there, because those sugar cravings always end up coming back.
As much as 40 percent of health expenditures in the United States are closely tied to overconsumption of sugar. There's also evidence that sugar has negative physiological effects on the brain. As a society, we're addicted to it. That's why Tara Bosch, CEO and Founder of SmartSweets, is riding a sugar-free high from revolutionizing candy consumption.
“Our first and foremost mission is really addressing the sugar and making sustainable eating choices that foster a healthy relationship with food. I really focus on encouraging and empowering a sustainable relationship with food and then ultimately themselves," says Bosch.
In just under a year after conception, SmartSweets expanded from Bosch's kitchen in Vancouver to shelves across Canada. Bosch herself went from a college student, studying arts, to a bonafide CEO. Now, SmartSweets has evolved even further, taking over grocery chains across America. Having launched in Whole Foods in March of this year, SmartSweets has increased its reach from 2,500 doors to over 10,000.
The 23-year-old founder says a conversation with her Grandmother gave her the idea to give sugar the boot. “She shared with me that she regretted having sugar, and so much of it for so long," says Bosch. “For me, it was really shocking because growing up I had an unhealthy relationship with food because of all the candy I was eating. It sparked my inspiration into sugar, what it's doing to us as a society, despite that it's never been more available in packaged foods today, specifically in the candy industry where it's the epicenter of sugar in excessive amounts. It inspired me to begin my quest and make the first candy that kicks sugar."
From there, Bosch began recipe testing like a madwoman. Her secret? She utilizes tapioca and chicory root as natural sweeteners. These ingredients also help you feel fuller longer and have the added benefits of plant-based fiber, she says.
Besides the lack of sugar, the most important thing is for SmartSweets to be comparable to the taste of the gummy bears we've all grown up with. “If people are to make a smarter, more sustainable choice it has to taste like the real thing," explains Bosch. “For us, we have 3 grams of sugar for the entire bag, whereas Haribo would have between 25 to 35 grams, and that's not for the whole bag. That's just a 50-gram serving."
Bosch is beating sugar at its own game, but success didn't come without risk.
She secured her initial funding through debt financing before getting SmartSweets onto shelves. “I signed my life away, essentially, but we launched with 120 thousand of debt financing, and that's what got us basically from the point of ideation to launching on our first shelf." says Bosch. "In January, we just raised 3M and before that I had done a convertible note, and that's really fueling our U.S. launch and really getting us to the place where we're able to sustain ourselves organically through our margins.
She learned to do all this through a resource already at anyone's fingertips - Google. “Everything is on google," advises Bosch. “That's how I found pretty much everything from our first raw materials to our manufacturing partner."
Bosch credits her success to her team and an accelerated business program she was accepted into after dropping out of school. “I'm probably the stupidest person on my team," she jokes. “Not in a self-deprecating way, just being brutally honest about what I'm not good at, and the knowledge I don't have, and then making sure to surround myself with the people that do. SmartSweets has been really lucky because I was accepted into an accelerated program when I dropped out of university, and as a sole founder that was really great because all of a sudden I was no longer in my kitchen by myself."
Bosch says she envisions the SmartSweets brand becoming a global leader in confectionary products that eliminate sugar, and a thought leader in empowering people with the choice to remove sugar from their diets.
As for the immediate future, SmartSweets will be launching two innovations each quarter. “At this time next year you should be able to go to your favorite store, choose your favorite candy product, whether it's Starburst or Skittles or licorice, and Smart Sweets be the brand delivering on the promise that we're using no sugar, sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners."
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."