Various dietary and nutritional supplements have been proven to help alleviate illnesses, by supporting immune system function. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is imperative, to ensure your body can best combat infection – a fact made very apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic. Sona Rubinchik¸ Biomedical Scientist and co-founder of KEPTA, talks to The Businesswoman Today about her journey as an entrepreneur, which has led her to create quality food supplements to promote overall health and happiness.
You were born and raised in Baku, Azerbaijan and moved to the UK in 2004. How did your early environment shape your ideologies? Is there a cultural difference between Baku and London?
I was brought up in a family of doctors and scientists. Seeing both of my parents study, work and discuss clinical cases made my choice of career easy for me, as I also decided to dive into medical science. Baku is a large cosmopolitan city, therefore the move to London has not shocked me culturally, however it was not all plain sailing. I love living in the UK now, but when I first moved to London with my husband it was tough.
My English was quite basic, my husband worked long hours and I did not have any friends. It was quite a change from my life back home, where I had my circle of friends and lots of things to do. What helped was my passion for learning. I started taking lessons at an English language school next door and once I was able to see improvements, I began taking classes at the university. I met some wonderful people along the way, and my life became interesting and exciting once again.
As a Biomedical Scientist, you have many accomplishments. How has this experience been?
I enjoyed my career as a Biomedical Scientist in the UK. As for everyone, there were ups and downs which we all experience in our jobs. Although, I always felt that I was learning and getting better and, as a person obsessed with learning, this was all that mattered. If I had to single out my biggest challenge, then it would be the management of people. As a Laboratory Manager, I must make some tough decisions. Some years ago, I read somewhere that “If it is easy for you to sack people, you should not be a manager. If you cannot sack people, you should not be a manager.” I think that these words sum up the required attributes of a good manager quite well.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur? You and your cousin Aybeniz established KEPTA together. How was the experience of becoming first-time entrepreneurs?
Aybeniz is a practising medical doctor with over twenty years of experience. She presented the idea for us to set up our own business – KEPTA – a company making premium natural food supplements. Her idea resonated with me as, being a very health-conscious person, I was not able to always find quality supplements designed for specific health concerns e.g., liver function support, digestion etc.
For the last year, Aybeniz was the main driving force behind the business, while I was continuing with my full-time job. I was doing my best to contribute after work and on weekends, but with two boys to look after, my contribution was limited. As the company was growing, we both felt that our business required more of my time, thus I decided to join the company on a full-time basis. I have read about many disadvantages of working with family members, e.g. loss of leverage, bringing business to family functions, difficulty of being objective etc. I agree with many of these points and only hope that our relationship may be an exception to this ideology.
We are very different people. Aybeniz is a high-energy optimist, always full of innovative ideas and plans, whereas I am more of an introvert and a cynic; always ready to pressure-test her latest ideas. We complement each other and therefore we get along well. We also believe in KEPTA products that we use every day and, as scientists, both of us are confident that our products make people healthier and happier, and this is what matters to us the most.
After Covid-19, there has been an extreme value placed on health. Why is it important for KEPTA to produce premium natural food supplements?
COVID-19 was clearly less dangerous for the people that were generally healthy. Whereas individuals with the various gut, liver, immune disorders were at much greater risk. Our products such as KEPTALIVER, KEPTABIOM and KEPTAIMMUNE target such disorders and help people stay healthy and as a result, more resilient to various diseases. The idea behind the business was to make the products for us and our families. Therefore, somehow selfishly, we had to select the best quality ingredients, formulas, and manufacturers. We are happy with the results and our families take our products every day.
You are currently a COVID-testing laboratory manager at King’s College London. How do you successfully manage your time between working and running your business?
I have been combing a full-time job with running my own business, and I must admit that it is difficult. There are some benefits in combining the two, e.g. time restriction forces you not to procrastinate and become more efficient and a full-time job provides a financial safety net. However, every time my full-time job required extra effort, I prioritised it over my own business. Therefore, I am quite sure that being short of time has limited KEPTA’s growth. As successful as I have been, I cannot wait to commit to the business 100%.
“I think that it is important to avoid treating your business as An unimportant hobby.”
What advice would you give young women in full-time work, who are aspiring to become entrepreneurs?
I think that it is important to avoid treating your business as an unimportant hobby. Therefore, it may be beneficial to list some activities for the first six month with some key milestones. If you reach those milestones, you may want to commit to the business full time and if you do not then you might want to give the full-time job your entire focus. We are in the beginning of our journey, as our business is yet to become a profitable business. I am sure that there will be both challenges and opportunities on the way, however, the business journey to date, has been interesting, exciting, and most importantly for me – very educational.