MaryRuth Ghiyam on Getting Out of Debt and Making a Profitable Wellness Brand

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

MaryRuth Ghiyam
Courtesy of MaryRuth Ghiyam

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, founder and CEO MaryRuth Ghiyam talks about her family-friendly wellness brand, getting out of $700,000 in debt and the advice she gives about life.

MaryRuth Ghiyam began her journey into the health and wellness industry after two traumatic events. She lost her father at 12 years old and her brother not long after when he was 17, both from similar heart conditions. That experience sent her on a course toward becoming a health coach.

“I was 20 years old at that time, where it was just my mom and I and I had lost my dad, but also losing a child or losing someone very young is a different experience. And so I'm definitely the person that cries during every movie. I really have a lot of empathy for things that people go through all the time,” said Ghiyam.

Ghiyam’s father had left them with a successful lumber business that her mother helped build into a 300-employee powerhouse, but the 2008 financial crisis—and the slowdown in housing construction that followed—deeply hurt the company. They had to close the business and were left with $700,000 in personal debt, Ghiyam said. It took her and her mother seven years to pay back that debt with interest that reached 8% or 9%.

“I was able to get out of debt from taking care of people in the business I have today… I care a lot about what I was saying about women's financial empowerment, and no better experience than those seven years of my life and starting this business and allowing this business to be profitable from day one,” said Ghiyam.

Ghiyam started her private nutrition business in 2015, working one-on-one with clients to improve their health. As she struggled to find supplements to recommend that wouldn't cause her clients nausea on an empty stomach, Ghiyam decided to try to concoct her own.

She made a small batch of a sugar free raspberry liquid morning multivitamin, which became the basis of her brand: MaryRuth Organics.

Her mom and husband were the company’s first employees, Ghiyam also made a point to not hire any employees for the first four years. Her struggle with the lumber business informed how she started her company.

“My mom and I never hired any employees, instead of spending, you know, $50,000 in an employee, we took that money and then launched another product and then launched another product. And that really allowed us to have that financial freedom and stability of not spending any money that we didn't have,” said Ghiyam.

Her experiences with debt and loss have given her a unique perspective on starting a business. Ghiyam said she often gives colleagues and friends going through challenges one key piece of advice:

“Everyone overestimates what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years,” she said.

Want to hear more of the Behind Her Empire podcast? Subscribe on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.