The Badass CEO

EP 6: How Kiri Cole Popa Started The Health Examiner Publication

July 31, 2020 Mimi MacLean
The Badass CEO
EP 6: How Kiri Cole Popa Started The Health Examiner Publication
Show Notes Transcript

Today on the badass CEO podcast, we have Kiri Cole Popa. Kiri Cole is a founder, publisher, and CEO of the Health Examiner. The Health Examiner is an online health and wellness website where they focus on functional alternative and natural medicine. The health examiner is a one-stop-shop for evidence-based health and wellness research and insights. The health examiner offers cutting edge articles and information for my plethora of top researchers, doctors, nutritionists, and scientists to help readers stave off sickness, chronic disease and premature aging and experience of vitality.

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Mimi (00:01):

Welcome to the Badass CEO podcast. This is Mimi McLean. I'm a mom of five, entrepreneur, Columbia business school grad, CPA, and angel investor. And I'm here to share with you my passion for entrepreneurship throughout my career. I've met many incredible people who have started businesses, disrupted industries, persevered and turned opportunity into success. Each episode we will discuss what it takes to become and continue to be a badass CEO directly from the entrepreneurs who have made it happen. If you're new in your career, dreaming about starting your own business already, an entrepreneur, the badass CEO podcast is for you. I want to give you the drive and tools needed to succeed in following your dreams. Welcome back today on the badass CEO podcast, we have Kiri Cole Popa. Kiri Cole is a founder, publisher and CEO of the Health Examiner. The Health Examiner is an online health and wellness website where they focus on functional alternative and natural medicine. The health examiner is a one stop shop for evidence based health and wellness research and insights. The health examiner offers cutting edge articles and information for my plethora of top researchers, doctors, nutritionists, and scientists to help readers stave off sickness, chronic disease and premature aging and experience of vitality

Mimi (01:40):

As a Lyme warrior. I value the health examiner as a go-to and reputable wellness resource. So I'm so excited to have you on today. Thank you so much for joining us Kiri. Thank you for having me. Okay. First, I would love to talk about how you got started and where you came up with the idea and the name and you know, where that all STEM from.

Kiri (01:58):

Okay. Absolutely. I actually wrote a business plan for a lifestyle magazine while I was an undergrad at Emory University, but this was very different than the health examiner, which is basically the New York Times for health from a functional alternative medicine perspective. But any rate several years after undergrad, I decided to get my MBA and rewrote the business plan for the original lifestyle publication. After I graduated from Duke with my masters, rather than launch the magazine, I decided to start a nutrition consultancy. Nevertheless, I soon realized that while I relished counseling people, when I'm talking about health and wellness, I truly look more interested in disseminating health and wellness information to the public at large. And so realizing this is what sparked the idea for the health examiner, which is a health and wellness website that focuses on giving readers the tools and insights to avoid and overcome a disease naturally. So the concept was a long time coming, but I, the idea of specifically for the health examiner, as you see it today, it started about four years ago. As far as the name is concerned. I went through a few iterations of the name before deciding on the Health Examiner, but essentially I thought that the health examiner really captured the essence of the publication because we're trying to get to the root cause of disease and help people eradicate illness, not just cover the symptoms. And so we're like examining health in detail, so that's kind of where the health examiner, right?

Mimi (03:34):

I love that name by the way. Um, it's a great name. And so, I mean, I've been on your site obviously, and it's pretty extensive. Like you have a ton of articles there. How long did it take you to build that website?

Kiri (03:45):

Gosh. So the website has upwards of 1300 articles on it. The whole thing took four years, but actually because before even building the site, I conducted a lot of extensive research on unspecific, controversial topics in the health world, such as needs and you know, carbohydrates. That's what everyone's always arguing about. Should you, did you have meat? Should you eat beans and legumes and you know, even brown rice and whole wheat bread and so on and so forth. So I wanted to make sure that I was bringing the right information to the public and the right doctors. So during that four year period, the majority of it was spent on that and then took about a year to actually build the site and collecting the content. You know, I was, gosh, I was doing that off and on for the whole four year period. So yeah, it was a lengthy endeavor, but you know, completely worthwhile. There's so much tremendous information on this site to help people. I'm just really excited that it's there as a resource.

Mimi (04:42):

No, it's great. Now, do you add articles every day or how often are articles added?

Kiri (04:48):

The content is updated weekly and updated a few times a week in the future. You know, newspapers update their content daily, you know, but of course we are not, we're not yet like as big as the Washington Post or something, so it's just not feasible at this point and in terms of manpower, but the goal would be to have content updated on a daily basis. But right now it's on a weekly basis and we send out social media on a daily basis because we already have so much content. So we're sending out health tips for the public every day.

Mimi (05:21):

That's great. What do you think has been the hardest part about starting the health examiner?

Kiri (05:27):

Well, I think for many startups, the hardest part about getting started is finding investors and then selling them on your idea. I decided not to take that route. However, so in my case, the hardest part has been finding the right people with whom to work. You know, as an entrepreneur, you have to hire people in areas of your business where you may not really have expertise or connections. For example, I needed a competent website developer to build a site that I envisioned. I have limited knowledge in technology and few contacts. So finding that right person was a challenge. And this is where you really have to hustle unless you are wealthy and very well connected, some people are, but many aren't hustling naturally comes with the territory when you're an entrepreneur. So, you know, you've got to comb through your contacts and we've talked to people who may not even know network, constantly learn as much as you can to get the people you need and to make the helpful connection.

Mimi (06:22):

I love the networking part, cause I think that's really integral and being successful. Where do you network with people? Like, is there a particular place, especially now with Kobe? Like is there places that you go to online or groups or.

Kiri (06:36):

Sure. Well, honestly networking in person has pretty much been curtailed with what's currently going on, but a lot of the next networking that I've done in the past has been in person and has been through university connections through Duke alumni. If you're Emory alumni, I think using, you know, the schools have vast networks and using those as resources has been really helpful. Also, you know, just friends and friends of friends that I've met throughout the, throughout the years, you know, people in business. And then in health. I've been involved in the health space for over two decades, I changed my diet and basically became paleo when I was in junior high school. So I've been in this world for a very long time and I've cultivated a lot of relationships and, you know, that's all been very useful as far as networking and meeting new people and things of that nature.

Mimi (07:30):

Right? So I have found from my personal experience and talking to other entrepreneurs, it's been super hard. It's harder than people realize to get clients, customers, eyeballs. However you want to call it. Have you found that to be the case? And then how have you been able to acquire them?

Kiri (07:46):

You know, for me, I need to get people on the site, right? I need profit. And it is a challenge like you acknowledged as far as a website like mine, a publication, a lot of traffic is driven through social media. And so I work diligently to ensure that we've got great content going out to the public every day by, you know, twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and those types of outlets. Other than that, it's really, you know, search engine optimization, optimizing your site as best you can so that people can find you organically via search. But you know, that takes time too. It takes time for the search engines like Google to crawl your site and then to compete with everyone else. Who's talking about a similar topic, you know, we just launched in January and we're still working hard to build traffic. So it's an ongoing process. But I think since this is a digital publication, really you're dealing mostly with SEO and social media basically.

Mimi (09:00):

Right. Exactly. Okay. So do you believe, I mean, you were already kind of in this space, as you said, you've been in the health industry for a really long time. So this was not unusual for you to start something like this. Do you believe entrepreneurs need to have experience in the industry or whatever before starting their company? Because like right now it's so trendy to be an entrepreneur. I feel that there are a lot of kids that come out of school and some are successful, but like in general, you know, they think they can start a business right off the bat without kind of kind of getting their feet wet a little bit. And so I just wanted to see what your, what your opinion is.

Kiri (09:34):

I think experience is always useful, not necessarily indispensable. I mean, you can't get experience without going out there and getting it. So, you know, you've got to start somewhere. So I think that it's helpful to have a knowledge of business generally, if you want to start one, my undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, you know, gave me an understanding in finance and marketing. That's been very valuable in launching this new venture, but then there are successful entrepreneurs who didn't even go to college and we certainly don't have business backgrounds. So I really think it comes down to the person, whether or not they can figure it out. You know, you have a lot of gumption and you've got intestinal fortitude and, and you've got passion and you're driven. I think most people can probably figure it out. And then for those areas where they don't have the expertise, they can get assistance. So experience is helpful. Education is helpful, it's all helpful. But if you really have a dream and you want to pursue something, I don't think not having those two things should stop you per se from pursuing it.

Mimi (10:39):

No, I agree. I always tell my kids, like if you have an idea or go for it, because you don't have any overhead at this point, like you don't want the family with kids, the risk is a lot like less for you to take on. Right? And so if there's a chance to succeed, if not, you, you learn as you go. And I guess it comes down to cost analysis, right? Like if you can afford to, to do it and to not make money, cause you're not as entrepreneurs, right. You're not making money right off the bat. So you gotta be willing to.

Kiri (11:07):

Yeah, exactly. I mean, you have to take that into consideration to be smart about it, you know, but it is easier now than ever to start a business because you can do it online. I mean, when I was, when I was a kid there wasn't online, so you couldn't start a business like this. If you wanted to publication, you needed something you could hold in your hand, which is printing a newspaper or a magazine is incredibly costly. But now because every, you know, we have the internet it's driven costs down considerably. So just about anyone can pretty much start a business, but I think it's important to, you know, before you launch anything to think, if you're really fulfilling a need, you know, I mean, are you going to meet, someone's need and be able to meet it? So I think that's something to consider as well.

Mimi (11:53):

And that's a good point. I like that. Well, that's a good piece of advice. So, but my next question was, is there any other advice that you would give to someone who is starting out either in your industry or in any industry for that matter?

Kiri (12:05):

Well, in my industry, in particular, my path is a little bit different where my degrees focus on business, but yet I've been in the health and wellness space for over two decades. So I have extensive exposure and experience in the industry. And so this publication, that health examiners basically bringing together my passions and health and in business, but this is also an industry that values degrees in the field. So if you are someone who wants to do something in health and nutrition, unless you were exposed at a young age and had the opportunity to partake in the industry, like I've had the chance to, I think it is probably easier to get a degree or some sort of, you know, credential in field. But I think to a certain extent that is, I'm sure there are other fields like nutrition, health, and nutrition, but I know that there are a lot of other fields where, you know, you really don't need that degree behind your name per se. So I think it's industry specific what's the best path. But for my field in particular, I do think a formal degree in the field can help you potentially.

Mimi (13:24):

So that's funny that you bring this up because I follow the Balanced Blonde and she lives in LA as well. And she's in the health and wellness space and she's a blogger and she, I got something in the mail this morning that literally was an email exactly about this. Like for anybody who's thinking about starting, you know, a brand or a blog or a website, it's really good to have some kind of credential, either some kind of holistic, I have my holistic health license from Institute of integrative nutrition. Like getting something like that or like what you have, it's your master's or, you know, like, so having some kind of accreditation, some kind of certificate that would say that you're kind of valid in that space for health. So it's funny that you brought that up because it was just in my inbox this morning as well. And she made the same point.

Kiri (14:08):

Well, absolutely. I have to say though, um, I think people in the field are shortsighted to a certain extent. Many folks don't feel comfortable getting health and wellness advice unless it can make them an MD but truth be told most medical doctors don't know anything about health and nutrition. That's not what they're taught in medical school. I have so many doctors in my family and at best I've had one told me that they had one course on unhealthy nutrition and it wasn't about prevention. Doctors are trained to address the symptoms, to prescribe the medication and if necessary, how you open on the table and take out whatever's causing the problem. But you know, so going to your MD for health and nutrition advice, isn't really the way to go. The health examiner, like 80% of the content is coming directly from medical doctors, from naturopathic doctors, from nutritionists and so on. But these people in particular, these doctors and physicians and, and so on, they have studied health on her own. And, you know, they're practicing functional medicine or alternative medicine. So they understand how to get to the root cause of disease and how to not just address the symptoms, but, you know, actually help you overcome whatever sickness or ailment from what you're suffering. So getting back to my point of people, kind of being shortsighted, I've actually, you know, in the past, when I've had a health concern, you know, I've actually received the most useful guidance from folks who didn't have degrees in the field, but just had extensive experience in the field. But I understand that people feel more comfortable when they're getting the advice from someone who has a medical degree or a PhD researcher or a scientist. And so that's what the Health Examiner brings to the public, but we're bringing it from doctors and researchers and academics who have taken it upon themselves to focus on nutrition and health and prevention, so on and so forth. But your general physician out there that you might go to for X, Y, and Z condition, isn't really going to have the expertise to give you proper health and nutrition advice. And I think it's important to be aware of that as a, this, the public, the public should be aware of that. Understand the limitations of their practitioners.

Mimi (16:33):

Yeah, exactly. That's great. I mean, I go to functional medicine doctors, so I definitely, I agree with that.

Kiri (16:39):

And they're a total different breed of doctor from probably the kind of doctor that you grew up going to.

Mimi (16:45):

Totally. Totally. So as you, as you grow, where do you see yourself monetizing? Is that through ads or other sources of income?

Kiri (16:54):

So we will be monetizing by ads and we also will eventually roll out, you know, newsletters and things of that nature, where there could be a small fee, but you know, just like other online publications, newspapers, and other health and wellness sites, most of them monetize a lot of them monetize SEO. Right. But online ads are definitely a big portion of the business model.

Mimi (17:24):

So obviously starting your own company is very time consuming and there's not really an on and off button to the day. So I'm curious, like how you stay organized and on track, are you like a paper person or do you have digital apps that you use? Any insights you can share? Everyone loves this kind of stuff to stay organized, like just getting ideas from sharing with eachother. Right.

Kiri (17:45):

I wish that I had something really fancy to tell you that I do, but I'm, I've always been, I'm a type A personality. I've always been exceptionally organized and it's not just about my work. It's about everything. I don't even feel comfortable working in an environment that isn't absolutely organized. So for me, it just is second nature. I don't need anything, you know, I don't need a tech gadget or something to, to help me. So I basically just use my calendar and I used to do lists and I love checking things off of my, to do list, but I start the new day with a new list, but I just use my phone calendar. And it just, like I said, it just kind of comes naturally to me. I think other people where it's not as instinctive, I'm sure they would, you know, there are apps out there that would be very helpful, but I don't, I don't have anything too impressive to say in that regard.

Mimi (18:38):

But the common theme I feel like is everyone always has a good to do list. And then how often are you bringing over the, to do's that you didn't do from today to tomorrow?

Kiri (18:46):

Yeah. Yeah. I tend to overbook. So I generally, every day I have things that are rolling over to the next day, but you know, as long as you're keeping track and if you're making steady progress every day, it's, it's so challenging in our current society to, to stay balanced. And it is vital for your overall health. I mean, it's not just about what you eat, although that is like the huge component you have to consider sleep and stress, and it's important to have positive relationships in your life and community. And there are all these exercises and, you know, there are only 24 hours in a day. So you have to really strive for balance. And sometimes striving for balance means that something gets pushed to the next day on your, to do list because you need to stop. You need to regroup, we need to recharge so that the next day you can come full force and give it your all. So that happens to me regularly.

Mimi (19:49):

So that's funny. That was leading to my next question. Which is, do you have any special way that you distract?

Kiri (19:54):

Honestly, I feel like health and wellness is so simple. I don't think there's anything special out there. We've all heard it before. It's just incredibly difficult to implement, but I've always worked out and, you know, exercise, exercise, exercise. That's what I say. It is so incredibly helpful for you mentally, physically, and every which way. I think it's also very helpful to get out in nature and spend some time, you know, hiking or doing something like that, where you can be active and you're out and you're outdoors. I mean, being out in nature, it's amazing. So I try to, I try to do that too. I wasn't an avid runner and no longer am due to knee issues. And because of what's currently going on with COVID my husband and I actually decided to invest in the Bowflex max trainer. And it's going to sound like I'm advertising for these folks, but I love this machine. It has an incredible workout. It certainly is more intense than like a long distance run, which is what I used to do all the time. And even doing like even sprinting, doing sprints like this, this machine is like a mix of it's StairMaster and an elliptical. And it, it's just an incredible workout. So I, you know, I'm, I'm doing that. I'm getting outside, I'm going on hikes. And I know that for me, a lot of people like to meditate and do yoga and things of that nature. That's not my natural go-to, but working out and getting out in the sunshine, vitamin D it works wonders to help you reduce stress. Those are my go tos, the exercise, getting outside, getting vitamin D during that sort of thing is what really helps.

Mimi (21:28):

Yeah. I agree with that. I'm not a huge yoga. I wish it was. I try it and I just can never settle in my brain and I do enjoy walking so much more too outside.

Kiri (21:38):

Um, actually something else that I think is worth mentioning is that it's really important to, to have fun. Like you need to have a day where, like, you're not bogged down. I work by errands by chores, by, you know, whatever you you have to do. And you just give yourself the opportunity to spend time with your loved ones to just have fun. It is so invigorating. And I think, I mean, it certainly lowers stress, you know, and kind of, we do that on a weekly basis. It kind of gets you rubbed up for the week and another actually excellent way to de stressed is sleep. Sleep definitely helps to lower your stress levels. So, you know, maybe sometimes you need to take a little nap. You know, I don't, I'm not a napper personally, but I know it's a, it's very useful to many people. So sometimes just pausing and taking a nap and then even six minutes research has found even at, even as much as a six minute nap can help you recharge. So I think those, those are helpful as well. Those are great tips.

Mimi (22:42):

That's very true. Okay. So the last question is, what do you think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?

Kiri (22:51):

Well, I don't want to tell anyone what they can and cannot do. I think anyone is capable of doing just about anything. If they put their minds to it that's any kind of personality too. But if I was to come up with a few things that I think are particularly helpful from my vantage point, I think that it's really important to have passion, determination, to have thick skin. Because every time you come across an obstacle, you have to find a way around it. And if you fail, you can't be discouraged. You have to possess the utmost conviction about whatever it is that you're doing. And then every time it doesn't work out, you need to figure out an alternative and keep going. So I think it's imperative that you have that mindset. I think that's really helpful. I think it's really helpful. If you can surround yourself with people who are positive and supportive and try not to be phased by people who are unsupportive. Professionally, not just in this, not just with this venture, but in other things that I've done in my life, I've come across people who have been absolutely negative and discouraging, and you have to just tune those people out. And as I mentioned before, just grounding yourself with people who are supportive. It's very comforting. And I think for your mental health, it's vital. And if you're a person who has some sort of religious conviction, I would encourage you to pray to pray a lot. That's what I said. No, that's great advice.

Mimi (24:28):

I mean, did you ever watch the Michael Jordan documentary series? No. No. Okay. It was really, I mean, watching, it was so enlightening for me because first of all, that's like when I was living in New York city and with the Knicks and the Bulls at the height of that, but you came away both Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin didn't make their varsity high school basketball team.

Kiri (24:51):

I'm aware. I'm aware of that. As far as Michael Jordan is concerned.

Mimi (24:54):

Yeah. And Scottie Pippen was the same way. And like both of them, Scotty Pippin when he went to college was the water boy, you know what I mean? Like these people like, and then look what they want to become, like two of the best players ever. So it goes to show you like, right. It's like your determination, practicing, keep going, whatever it is that you love and your passion, you just have to just don't take no. I mean, there's so many examples, right?

Kiri (25:20):

You just don't take, no, you absolutely cannot.

Mimi (25:22):

I mean, I think the Peloton bike, I'm not, maybe I'm wrong, but Peloton, I think went in front of shark tank and they turned him down. I think it's, I mean, there are so many examples of people that getting turned down and look where it has gone. Right?

Kiri (25:34):

When you experience failure, you can usually get something positive out of it. You know? I mean, you, you learn something valuable. You take what you can learn from it. And then you continue on maybe from feeling at some aspect of whatever you're pursuing. You figure out a better way of doing it or, you know, whatever the case may be. I think that it's just, like you're saying, it's just vital that you just keep on that. You're just persistent and you just keep, keep going.

Mimi (25:59):

Right. This has been amazing. I thank you so much for coming on and I can't wait to watch the Health Examiner continue growing. And I just want to let everyone to know to go to Instagram and follow you @healthexaminer, and then to go online to Thank you so much for coming on. This has been great. I appreciate it.

Kiri (26:19):

Thank you.

Mimi (26:21):

Thank you for joining me on the badass CEO podcast. If you enjoyed today's episode, please leave a review and see you next time. Thank you.