Functional Nutritionist Pauline Cox, Co-founder of Sow and Arrow

Lessons From Launching A Successful Wellness Startup, with Pauline Cox of Sow & Arrow

Episode Overview

Episode Topic: In this episode of NutraPreneur, explore the world of health and wellness with the visionary functional nutritionist, Pauline Cox, co-founder of the esteemed online and high street low-carb specialists Sow & Arrow. Discover her remarkable journey from being a functional nutritionist to an entrepreneur and delve into the core of Sow & Arrow’s commitment to health and sustainability. Learn about their innovative approaches as a functional nutritionist-led company, dedicated to educating and empowering customers on wellness.

Lessons You’ll Learn: Throughout this enlightening conversation, functional nutritionist Pauline Cox shares key lessons on aligning business success with wellness values. She emphasizes understanding customers, staying authentic, and being purpose-driven as a Functional Nutritionist. Pauline highlights the transformative power of education and outreach in building loyalty and empowering clients. She offers guidance on navigating nutraceutical industry regulations while upholding innovation and sustainability. Discover the promising future of Sow & Arrow, driven by Pauline’s vision to promote women’s health and well-being.

About Our Guest: Meet our exceptional guest, Pauline Cox, the co-founder of Sow & Arrow and an industry-leading functional nutritionist, a trailblazer in the world of health food and holistic wellness. Pauline’s extraordinary journey from physical therapist to functional nutritionist culminated in the creation of Sow & Arrow, a brand renowned for its unwavering dedication to quality, sustainability, and its relentless drive to empower customers to prioritize their health, all under the expert guidance of functional nutritionist Pauline Cox.

Topics Covered: Functional nutritionist Pauline Cox guides us through a multifaceted exploration of health and wellness with Sow & Arrow. Her unique perspective as both a functional nutritionist and entrepreneur shapes Sow & Arrow’s health food mission. Education and outreach, led by functional nutritionist Pauline Cox, empower customers and advocate for women’s health. She drives technological advancements in health and wellness. Pauline imparts valuable advice to emerging leaders, and we glimpse the promising future of Sow & Arrow with upcoming projects.

Our Guest: Pauline Cox: Your Guide to Holistic Well-being with Sow & Arrow

Pauline Cox is a highly experienced and influential functional nutritionist in the domain of health development and holistic well-being, boasting over two decades of expertise in the field. As a co-founder of Sow & Arrow Ltd, she has played a pivotal role in establishing this innovative online and high-street low-carb specialist, demonstrating her commitment to promoting healthier lifestyles.

With a Master’s degree in functional nutrition and Public Health from the esteemed University of Bristol, Pauline possesses a profound understanding of metabolic health, hormonal health, women’s health, gut health, and emerging health trends. She is also an accomplished author, a regular columnist for publications in both the UK and USA, a sought-after media writer, and a captivating speaker. She leverages her extensive knowledge as a functional nutritionist to contribute to national newspapers and BBC Radio, sharing insights and advice that can positively influence countless lives.

Pauline’s mission as a functional nutritionist is clear: to empower individuals with the information necessary to reduce suffering, enhance health, and prevent chronic illnesses. An appearance on ITV’s “This Morning” is just one example of her dedication to providing valuable insights to the wider public. Her multifaceted career reflects her unwavering commitment to holistic well-being and her drive to challenge conventional health narratives. With her wealth of knowledge and passion for improving lives as a functional nutritionist, she continues to inspire positive change in the world of health and wellness.

Functional Nutritionist Pauline Cox, Co-founder of Sow and Arrow
Sow and Arrow founded by Functional Nutritionist Pauline Cox

Episode Transcript:

Pauline Cox: The feedback we get from people just from skin health and nail changes and hair, because it’s also used in the equine industry and the horses coats become super shiny and glossy, so we are all able to get the amazing benefits from this plant that isn’t going to be disrupting the biodiversity of the oceans and taking from the oceans when it’s unnecessary to.

Bethany Jolley: Welcome to NutraPreneur, the Nutra Industry Podcast. I’m your host, food scientist and nutraceuticals consultant Bethany Jolley. Each episode we’ll be exploring what it takes to thrive in the nutraceutical industry, from conversations with successful nutraceutical entrepreneurs to venture capitalists to tech executives whose innovations are reshaping the nutraceuticals industry. We explore the innovations and trends that are shaping the next generation of nutraceutical businesses.

Welcome back to NutraPreneur, the podcast that dives deep into the realm of nutraceutical innovation and business transformation. I’m your host, Bethany Jolley, and today we have a remarkable guest joining us. It’s an absolute pleasure to introduce Pauline Cox. She is the brilliant mind behind Sow and Arrow, a pioneer in the health food industry. Pauline’s wealth of experience and functional nutrition, women’s health, and entrepreneurship brings a unique perspective to our conversation. Welcome, Pauline, it’s so great to have you.

Pauline Cox: Hi, Bethany. Thank you so much for having me.

Bethany Jolley: First, I’d just like to dive into the inception story of Sow and Arrow. How did your journey as a functional nutritionist and entrepreneur lead to the creation of this health food haven?

Pauline Cox: It seems like slightly a fairly convoluted story, really. I started my career many years ago as a physical therapist and have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, ran my own health clinics with a number of associates that I enjoyed training. We had a large team of a multidisciplinary team. However, it was through my own health challenges that I began to recognize the power of nutrition in impacting our day-to-day energy, sleep, women’s health issues, and started exploring nutrition and food as medicine, which led me down to my more recent training in a master’s in nutrition, then a further master’s in integrative medicine. So during this training, I recognized that I was learning so much about the power of food and specific eating habits, grain-free, grain free low carb. But where could I get all of these things?

I really couldn’t find a high-street shop or even an online presence that housed everything I was looking for. So whilst I was gaining all this knowledge, there was a kind of an end to that journey from where do I go from here and how do I make this really accessible to other people? And that was where Sow and Arrow was born. I decided to end my career running clinics and working as a health professional within a clinic and instead started to focus on using food and nutrition as a means of empowering people with good health, opening a high street and an online presence, and then online courses and educational courses for people.

Bethany Jolley: A lot of people don’t really understand food and nutrition and how it really does impact your overall health and wellness. So that’s great that you’re providing resources to consumers and education is fantastic. And Sow and Arrow is really known for its emphasis on high-quality, nutrient-dense products. In a market that’s just cluttered with options. How do you stay committed to your promise of health optimization and sustainability?

Pauline Cox: Yeah, that’s such a good question because you’re right, there’s a lot of greenwashing in our industry. There’s a lot of challenges with selecting high quality, doing your due diligence on specific companies to make sure that the supply chain is as you’d like it to be. And with that comes a cost. It doesn’t always mean that you pay more for the best product, but it does mean investing your time in understanding a company, the ethos of the company, the values of the company. And we at Sow and Arrow work really closely with the brands that we champion. So it’s rare that we would supply our customers with supplements and nutraceuticals and bone broth powders and collagen without having a working relationship with that company. So we don’t see companies as competition. We see us as all a movement moving forward together in our attempts to create more balance with the David and Goliath, big food, big powerful companies, and us, the companies that are looking at planetary and human health.

Bethany Jolley: I like that you’re trying to bring everyone together that really you all have the same mission. So that’s really neat. And I think the concept of finance and business might not always come to mind when you’re thinking about health foods, but how have you navigated the financial aspects of your business while staying aligned with your mission?

Pauline Cox: It’s been challenging, particularly with the global pandemic that we’ve all experienced. We’ve had to flex and pivot many aspects of our business, particularly the high street side of things, was challenging for a while with the enforced closure with rising energy costs here in the UK. For us, it was thinking outside the box How can we, rather than accepting rising costs and shrinking margins and potentially closure, because a lot of the companies who supply us unfortunately experienced enough challenges that some of them did have to close. We really focused on finding a solution because when something is so important to you as a mission, spreading the message of how important food is for your immediate and long-term health, it felt too important for us just to accept that we couldn’t carry on the way we were. So we looked at how we would increase our footfall, but also how we’d increase our traffic online, how we would improve our margins with our courier service, how we would work more collaboratively with larger brands who we sell on their behalf, and how that collaboration benefits the company as well as us.

So we constantly look for win-wins and we constantly look to align ourselves with companies where we might have the in-depth knowledge. With my training, I have two degrees and two masters. I have a great deal of training in this area, but the resources might lie with the larger companies. So it’s putting together those two very important foundations for success the knowledge, the skill, and the communication as well as the resources, the the ability to reach larger audiences, the ability to have a larger email list, for example. So that collaborative work has been really important for us working with the companies, even things like extending our credit for a month where it might be quiet during the summer, having a very flexible relationship with companies, doing more trade shows, creating more exposure for us as a brand, but also the brands we’re working with. So we’ve had to think outside the box. However, that actually makes your business far more robust and it makes you look at all the small little intricacies that can make a big difference.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah, I think a lot of companies had to pivot during the pandemic and just figure out how to restructure things. But I think those that did survive and found solutions are better for it. So that’s great. What I really like is that Sow and Arrow’s approach resonates with women’s health and hormonal balance. How does this focus influence your product selection and your customer engagement strategies?

Pauline Cox: It definitely has an influence on our product selection because we do find that a huge proportion of the demographic we talk to online and also who visit the store are female. They do tend to be the purchasers for the family, even for the husband and wife duo the partnership, women will come in and buy supplements for the men of the family, but they do tend to be the main drivers of the wellness and the holistic wellness that we see that is growing globally. So we tend to select products, particularly supplements that are important for everyone men, women, and children, magnesium, essential fatty acids, Vitamin D, zinc, all of these very high-quality nutrients.

However, we also then have more specific supplements that are geared towards men and then more specific supplements that are geared towards children and women also. So, my work as an individual out slightly outside of Sow and Arrow is my first book was Primal Living in a Modern World, which is for everyone. But then my next book honed in more on women’s health. And the reason I went down that route was because I felt there was not enough information out there for women to empower themselves to ease the transition through perimenopause to menopause. And so I suppose that additional training and my writing has influenced the type of audience that we attract via our social media and in-store because of the strong messaging I put out about women’s health.

Bethany Jolley: Yeah, those are all great points because I think women do need more resources to understand their health and what’s happening as they transition through the different stages of life. And then also, like you said, I know I myself or my family, I’m the one shopping. I’m the one promoting wellness in the home. I want to prepare healthy foods, provide the supplements that are needed. So I’m always the one doing the shopping. So you’ve touched on this a bit, but the wellness industry overall has just really seen a lot of technological advancements. So could you shed some light on how so and Arrow has embraced these innovations, especially in areas that might not be immediately obvious to customers?

Pauline Cox: Yes, I think for us, we’ve really looked at how certain supplements, for example, one I’ll touch on, which I think has been really important to us in the last 18 months, is a product called Ahiflower. Now we I as a scientist, understand the importance of getting omega-three fatty acids and how deficient many people are in this very important nutrient. It’s important for our brain health, our longevity, immune function, heart health, cardiovascular health. However, there really isn’t enough fish in the ocean to sustain the entire global populations. Omega three needs. And so looking at new technologies and new discoveries to support planetary health as well as human health is incredibly important to me and it really fits with the ethos of Sow and Arrow when it comes to sustainability, regenerative farming, planetary health, and minimizing our negative impact in any possible way that we can, and supporting companies that are looking to benefit human health as well as planetary health. And so finding this plant Ahiflower it took me a while to look at the science and the research behind this unique plant and how it could replace in many ways fish oil. And it came down to the unique fatty acid profile. So when you have, for example, linseed or hemp, which has it’s rich in a particular type of omega three. Humans don’t convert that well into DHA and EPA, which are our intelligent fats.

That’s because there’s a rate-limiting step in the middle. Ala needs to be converted to something called SDR, which then gets converted to EPA and DHA. Now that Ala to SDR conversion is very poor in humans, so finding a plant that’s very rich in SDR, meaning we can make our own EPA and DHA from this very unique plant was really quite significant for me in terms of the excitement around finding something that didn’t need to take fish, farmed fish, wild fish out of the environment to use to get the omega three, the fish oil for our human benefit. Finding a plant that’s regeneratively grown, sustainably grown within the UK that could really benefit our health and in many ways not just our EPA and DHA levels, but also our gut health and our insulin sensitivity and produced in such a way was it really was. It took me 18 months to really get my head around the science. But once I did, taking on a product like that to sit on the shelf next to fish oils for us was a big step in that forging forward with something that’s very innovative in the fish oil world that could really be an industry disruptor in terms of finding an alternative that works equally as well, but has also benefits for the planet as well.

Bethany Jolley: Wow. I feel like we could just have an entire conversation on that. Omega threes are so important, but like you said, there’s individuals out there that have been looking for an alternative that’s possibly plant-based, but typically the options out there aren’t really as beneficial. So that’s really interesting. It’s really neat.

Pauline Cox: Yeah, and it’s available in the USA as well as the UK now, so it’s making great waves over in the USA. You can Google Ahiflower, Ahiflower Ahiflower. And there’s some incredible statistics and information about the product and the feedback we get from people just from skin health and nail changes and hair because it’s also used in the equine industry and the horse’s coats become super shiny and glossy. So we are all able to get the amazing benefits from this plant that that isn’t going to be disrupting the biodiversity of the oceans and taking from the oceans when it’s unnecessary to.

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Pauline Cox: Yeah, you’re right. You can get very bogged down, let’s say, in the nuances of a business such as this. But I think as long as you’re looking to research and science and that’s my area, it’s what I enjoy doing and I enjoy looking at. Things that move the needle the most. And when you really look at those products and innovations, rather than getting too targeted on very specific areas. So I’m a big believer in picking the low-hanging fruit. First, let’s look at the main common deficiencies and why we’re deficient. You can’t out-supplement a bad diet.

So let’s look at diet. First, let’s look at minimizing stress, optimizing sleep, getting outdoors, going for a morning walk, checking in with your circadian rhythm. So we don’t just recommend supplements. We focus on people as people, as beings interacting with nature, as beings, interacting with each other, checking in with the relationship they have with themselves. And then supplements become exactly that supplemental to a great diet. Now, one supplement, as you will very well know, is not equal to another. So whilst we might recommend magnesium and that’s a fairly safe broad supplement to recommend. A magnesium oxide is highly different to a magnesium glycinate with peroxide five phosphate added.

So you’re looking at the quality and you’re choosing something that’s very well formulated on behalf of someone coming in who has no idea that taking a magnesium oxide will do very little for them versus 200mg, potentially even 300mg of a magnesium glycinate is going to be absorbed. It’s going to impact their collagen, their glutathione, their core body temperature at night. The active B6 in there is going to impact their serotonin levels. The B6 and magnesium working together is a perfect duo because of the B6 influencing the intracellular levels of the magnesium boosting serotonin. There are multiple reasons why I select certain supplements for the store and that’s where the skill comes in of something that may come across as fairly simple magnesium. But when you understand exactly how you want to help someone target all these different boxes, finding one that is going to move the needle the most.

Bethany Jolley: A lot of consumers feel that way. They’re overwhelmed when they get to the stores because they see magnesium, but they see all of the various forms and they aren’t really sure what they should be taking. Should they go with the cheaper option? Should they go with the more expensive? So it’s really great that you’re able to educate consumers on what they actually need and from online courses to speaking engagements. Sow and Arrow’s outreach has really expanded. So could you take us through how your brand extends its educational arm to really empower customers beyond the physical store?

Pauline Cox: Well, firstly, through my books, my first book was a self-publication that I produced just before Covid, and it was really a desire to help people have a manual of sorts to show the importance of gut health and liver function and the adrenals and the kind of basics of how to live well, and then some recipes in there. And that became almost a calling card really, that my agent sent out to publishers and then was fortunate enough to get a publishing deal, which allowed me to write my second book. And that has really signposted a great deal of people to me as an educator to some extent too, Sow and Arrow. But what was really important was so being able to create platforms that make health accessible. As a private practitioner in the UK, you can pay a lot of money to see someone privately, but I felt strongly that there shouldn’t be a barrier to health and there shouldn’t be a financial barrier to accessing high-quality health care information. In the UK we have the NHS.

However, that tends to focus on firefighting. It tends to focus on people when they’re already sick and there isn’t such a great emphasis on preventative medicine. So for me, having platforms like Instagram, Facebook groups, then even having memberships, I offer a very affordable £999 a month where people can access all sorts of content that I record on a weekly basis that just takes them through the simple steps of understanding your hormones and understanding the impact of stress. Various series that just talks people through in a really simplistic but practical way. The information that they might struggle to find online for all the noise in front of them. So I suppose it’s a mixture. There’s a mixed medium of content in the book on social media, Instagram, Facebook and then also some paid low-cost information in a more broad setting or in a membership. And then obviously I do my one-to-ones, which is pretty limited these days due to my capacity. Yes.

Bethany Jolley: And I believe there’s a website, Healthy Live-tv, that includes some videos of Pauline and you can go there for various resources and to learn more about the various topics that she discusses or Instagram as well.

Pauline Cox: I do, yes. Long live I do reels regularly. Last week I did an hour-long special for a live because I’d had so many questions on supplements. So I will now and again just sit down for an hour and share and I had a great deal of engagement in that live. So when you know the difference something can make to someone’s life, if you can help someone sleep, for example, and they are not sleeping, sleep is the cornerstone of health, in my opinion. And if you’re not sleeping, it’s difficult to make any good decisions. Going out for a walk, choosing nutritious foods, mental health becomes an issue, tiredness. So you’re looking for sugar and caffeine. So if we can get great sleep, that is a game changer. So I often will focus on sleep as the first port of call when I’m working with a client or teaching broadly to a group on stage, on a Zoom lunch and learn connect. So I will talk about why people don’t sleep.

The nutrients that make a difference. Different supplement stacks. It could be magnesium to start with a really high-quality bio glycinate and then maybe adding in some l-theanine with lemon balm, maybe even an ashwagandha in there if someone’s really struggling. So it’s looking at really good sleep hygiene patterns and then the supplements and adaptogens and nootropics that can really focus someone’s sleep depending on how much they’re struggling and where’s the sweet spot for them. So I’ll come back to it again. It’s all about educating people and helping them help themselves.

Bethany Jolley: Yes. And so is your Instagram handle. Is it Sow an Arrow or do you have a personal one?

Pauline Cox: Sow an Arrow do have one, but I have my own. It’s Pauline Jaycox. So it’s Pauline Jaycox. And on there I talk extensively about. My story every day because I feel like that really helps people to see and have insight into what you eating and the kind of daily habits that we all have. And just a little snapshot throughout my day gives people that insight. But then I also share reels, my top three supplements for women’s health, my top three supplements for sleep support, all the different things that people just like that snapshot information too. So yeah, my Instagram is something that I find a really great platform for helping people to access information and I’ll very frequently get DMS saying, Oh, can you tell us a little bit more about this? And then I’ll get back on and do another reel on that specific. So I’m always flexing and supporting my followers via the questions they’re asking and providing the information that they’re still seeking.

Bethany Jolley: That’s great. Instagram Lost Over the last few years. I’ve really seen it evolve into this great resource for health and wellness and fitness, and it’s really neat to see that.

Pauline Cox: I agree. I know social media gets a bit of a bad rap at times, but I also feel it’s such a good tool for those who, let’s be honest, health literacy varies from the within the different demographics, but also individuals. And with health literacy being a barrier, we want to try and share information that reaches everyone. And if that’s on TikTok or Instagram or on Facebook, it’s doing its job if it’s getting the information out there.

Bethany Jolley: And Sow an Arrow really embodies health optimization. So how do you maintain your store’s authenticity and uphold your values, particularly when faced with some of those shortcuts that are often prevalent in the industry?

Pauline Cox: I ask myself if this was me consuming this or we make we have a commercial kitchen, we make our own sausage rolls, we make our own scotch eggs, we make our own quiches and biscuits and cakes. We select products that sit on our shelves that we get from other companies. So all the products within the store, on the shelf in the front counter from our kitchen, the supplements, they are products that fit with my values. And if I would consume them and I feel happy that they’re on the shelf and I’m proud to see them there, then I feel happy that I made that choice. It’s not always an easy choice because, as you say, there are many shortcuts that can be offered. But as a health professional, I’ve trained for many years to put the care of my clients and patients first. As a physiotherapist, as a functional nutritionist. And so it’s ingrained in you to not look at profit, but to look at the health of that individual. And so as a business owner, it makes it very easy to not focus on the profit, but to focus on the purpose. And at times it’s at the detriment to the company. But I always feel long term, if you’re doing the right thing and your care and attention is on the people coming to you, trusting you, knowing you’ve done the due diligence, then you win in the end.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, I agree and I think from this conversation it’s obvious that you’re a successful entrepreneur and I’m sure you’ve encountered many triumphs and probably some challenges along the way as well. So what advice would you offer to emerging business leaders that are really looking to harmonize financial management with their wellness mission?

Pauline Cox: I would say always focus on your purpose. You need to understand your margins, your business model. I think you also really need to understand your avatar, who you’re talking to. You need to understand your customer, what they’re seeking, what their pains are. If someone feels understood and they feel that you have their best interest at heart, you have a customer for life. So you don’t need to concern yourself about customer retention and customer loyalty. If you help that person transform their life, they will be forever grateful to you and they will shout about you and your business. To all their friends and family. They become the change that you’re helping to see in the world. So focus on your vision and what you’re looking to achieve.

Don’t focus on what you’re not good at. I employ people to do the bookkeeping and the accountancy and all of the things that are not my area. And that allows me to focus on how we get the message out there, how we increase our platform, how we show our followers, customers, clients that we care for them and that our interest is in showing that you can thrive while still enjoying the trappings of modern living, but living in congruency with modern life rather than fighting it, which is what tends to happen with our physiology and modern life. Blue screens and convenience foods and not getting enough outdoor time, too much time at a desk in front of a computer. So it’s showing people how we can’t remove ourselves from the life that we live, but we can live more harmoniously with those lives. And when people see that, you truly care. That in itself is putting the heart into your business that helps your business beat and thrive.

Bethany Jolley: Yes, that’s great advice. And the journey of Sow and Arrow is undoubtedly impactful. So what do you envision for the future of your brand and are there any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re excited about?

Pauline Cox: We envisage more education, so we are doing more trade shows this year. We’re doing some interesting equine shows, which I love. The idea of going to shows where people are very active, they’re very much into outdoor living and planetary care, animal care. So we’re going to be doing some slightly different shows for us. We often do food shows and health food shows, but this will be a slightly different tack for us, excuse the pun. I’m also doing some more science-based teaching, so teaching those who already have a lot of science-based knowledge. I’m doing more book signings, which I love because you get to go out and meet the general public and help answer those burning questions that they have. And next year, my focus is on doing a lot more outdoor courses. So I’m going to be collaborating with a company called Challenge the Wild, where we will be doing outdoor pursuits and adventures with some training threaded in there for nutrition, well-being, looking after yourself. So it fits with my values of spending time outdoors and helping people to thrive.

Bethany Jolley: That all sounds really exciting. I’m super excited for you and Sow and Arrow in the future. So this conversation today, I have enjoyed it so much. We’ve really tapped into the essence of wellness through Pauline’s incredible journey with Sow and Arrow and to explore more about Sow and Arrow and dive into their offerings, make sure to check out their website, all links will be provided. And for those of you listening, don’t miss an episode. Stay connected with NutraPreneur on your favorite social platforms. And remember the world of nutraceutical innovation is always evolving. Keep seeking, keep pioneering until next time, stay curious, and stay ahead. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of NutraPreneur. If you enjoy the show, please subscribe and better yet, leave us a review as it really helps us grow the show.