Women With GRITT: Jessica Sepel On The Power Of Proper Nutrition, Her JSHealth Community And The Challenges Of Formulating Vitamins

“Every single formulation is created because our customer asked for it or told me they were struggling with something. My community and my customers can always feel my care and it’s because of my consideration that we are able to produce the purest and most effective vitamins on the market.”

Content warning: This piece discusses eating disorders and issues of mental health and may be difficult for some readers. If you, or someone you love, is in crisis right now please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. You can also contact the Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673.

Welcome to Women with GRITT: a series where we interview the resilient, hardworking women who have kicked in the glass ceiling and inspire us to do the same.

If you were to look up the word ‘tenacious’ in the dictionary, we can almost guarantee that a picture of Jessica Sepel, the founder of JSHealth, would pop up. Building her (not-so) small health and wellness empire over the last 10 years, Sepel is the blueprint for how to turn struggles into successes. 

Immigrating from South Africa to Australia as a teenager, Sepel has always been surrounded by a healthy lifestyle, crediting her parents for her love of wellness and all things healthy living. But it was her own relationship with food that initially spurred her to create her JSHealth blog in 2012, documenting each week as she left diet culture behind and found peace with food. Almost 10 years later and the Sydney-sider now has countless cook books, an app, a vitamin offering and an incredible digital platform under her belt.

In this interview, Sepel speaks to Gritty Pretty about the power of proper nutrition, her JSHealth community, the value of transparency online and the challenges of formulating vitamins.

Hi Jess! Thank you so much for making the time to chat to us today. Before we jump into your not-so-small empire, we would love to know a bit more about you. You grew up in South Africa and immigrated to Australia when you were a young girl. What was that experience like?

It definitely wasn’t easy. I immigrated as a teenager and it was right in that awkward stage of puberty and growing up and trying to find independence. There wasn’t a lot of education around that period of time and how my body and hormones and mood might change so I did feel quite lost. It was during this time that I developed disordered eating and negative body image and for the next 10 years, I was trialling every fad diet there was. While this was definitely the worst period of my life, it was also what led me to starting JSHealth. For the last 10 years I’ve been on this journey for myself which has been about healing my relationship with my body and that’s the premise I built JSHeath on. 

 

Thank you for being so honest and sharing your story so openly. In terms of your early career, you studied a Bachelor of Health. How did this shape what would later become JSHealth?

During my degree was when I really started transitioning from the fad diet mindset to becoming more aware of how food fuels your body. I started to learn how powerful and important nutrients and minerals are for the human body to thrive. Once I learnt about that and was making those changes in my own diet it became very motivating to see the changes that were happening. I was sleeping better, my weight wasn’t going up and down, my mood was stable, I was less anxious, my skin was clearer and my hair was growing. I was so impressed with how much better I was feeling that I wanted to share that with people. So, that’s when I started documenting my journey on the JSHealth blog.

 

You started your blog in 2012, which was right when the blogging era was taking off. Why did this seem like the right step for you at the time?

It was more just as a personal outlet at first. Almost like a digital diary of how I was feeling and what I was leaning in my degree. But then, once I’d graduated, it became a place for people to come and consult with me. I remember committing to doing one blog post a week where I would either share something I was learning during my university life or share a more personal anecdote about how I was going that week. I was very candid and vulnerable about how confused and overwhelmed I felt about the health industry and diet world and I think that a lot of my readers related to that which is why they kept reading.

 

Do you remember the point when you realised that your blog had legs to stand alone as a fully fledged business?

It was right when I launched my first e-book. The JSHealth community was flourishing and I decided to release this e-book that I’d been working on for about a year which solidified the JSHealth philosophy and gave my readers almost a step-by-step guide to healing their relationship with food and finding balance again. This book had quite a lot of success and sold much more than I expected and that’s where things really started to change. I had publishers starting to approach me and I had also managed to set aside enough funds to create this eight week programme to help teach my community to live the JSHealth philosophy every week. The release of that eight week programme was the first time I felt I could financially step away from private practice and is how the business was born.

 

From there, you have since launched your own line of vitamins which are arguably some of the most popular in the health space. Why did this seem like the natural next step for JSHealth?

During my years of studying health and nutrition I developed an obsession for vitamins and supplements. I was obsessed with going into pharmacies and asking the pharmacists what they liked about each vitamin and how they were formulated differently. And then, when I was practising privately as a nutritionist, I really saw the power of nutrients and minerals and would prescribe brilliant brands to my clients. Now that I’m smack bang in the middle of the vitamin industry, I can tell you that when you find a good ingredient that is backed by research and delivered at a therapeutic dose, it is medicine and it can do a world of good to your body and your health. 

 

How long did the product development process take for that first vitamin?

It was long! At least two and a half years. There were a lot of challenging moments because we found two people who we thought would be our vitamin manufacturers and they just weren’t able to execute the project for us. We also didn’t have endless funds to spare. So, my husband and I had to really think carefully about where we were going to spend the money. We actually lost quite a lot of money on the previous manufacturer who just wasn’t producing or getting the job done. There was a lot of failure, a lot of rejection but we eventually found the right vitamin manufacturer and once we did, it was around two and a half years until I was able to hold the physical product in my hands.

 

That definitely goes to show that you have really put your heart and soul into the product and that certainly translates into the dedication of your customers.

That is such a compliment! My community and my customers can always feel my care and it’s because of my consideration that we are able to produce the purest and most effective vitamins on the market and I say that with a huge sense of pride. Their love of our products is what pushes me through the day to create the best products and I refuse to release a product until it is the best of the best. They deserve as much. I also love the fact that we are a listed medicine because it shows our customers that they can really trust us. The regulations are no joke!

 

And your latest release was the Hair and Libido formula. Can you tell us a bit more about why you felt this formulation was an important one for women?

Every single formulation is created because our customer asked for it or told me they were struggling with something. When we were initially conceptualising this vitamin, it was going to be for men. But as we got further and further into the process I realised that women were also suffering with low libido, even more so than men were. So, I realised that it needed to be for both men and women. It took a year for me to find research-backed ingredients that would help with libido but once we nailed the formula I was so excited to help women gain back that confidence. I also wanted to make sure that the communication around the launch was honest and transparent. I spent a lot of time talking about how the stress of our everyday lives can really lower libido and that, if you are suffering from a lower libido, you aren’t alone.

 

Incredible! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today Jess.

Hi Jess! Thank you so much for making the time to chat to us today. Before we jump into your not-so-small empire, we would love to know a bit more about you. You grew up in South Africa and immigrated to Australia when you were a young girl. What was that experience like?

It definitely wasn’t easy. I immigrated as a teenager and it was right in that awkward stage of puberty and growing up and trying to find independence. There wasn’t a lot of education around that period of time and how my body and hormones and mood might change so I did feel quite lost. It was during this time that I developed disordered eating and negative body image and for the next 10 years, I was trialling every fad diet there was. While this was definitely the worst period of my life, it was also what led me to starting JSHealth. For the last 10 years I’ve been on this journey for myself which has been about healing my relationship with my body and that’s the premise I built JSHeath on. 

 

Thank you for being so honest and sharing your story so openly. In terms of your early career, you studied a Bachelor of Health. How did this shape what would later become JSHealth?

During my degree was when I really started transitioning from the fad diet mindset to becoming more aware of how food fuels your body. I started to learn how powerful and important nutrients and minerals are for the human body to thrive. Once I learnt about that and was making those changes in my own diet it became very motivating to see the changes that were happening. I was sleeping better, my weight wasn’t going up and down, my mood was stable, I was less anxious, my skin was clearer and my hair was growing. I was so impressed with how much better I was feeling that I wanted to share that with people. So, that’s when I started documenting my journey on the JSHealth blog.

 

You started your blog in 2012, which was right when the blogging era was taking off. Why did this seem like the right step for you at the time?

It was more just as a personal outlet at first. Almost like a digital diary of how I was feeling and what I was leaning in my degree. But then, once I’d graduated, it became a place for people to come and consult with me. I remember committing to doing one blog post a week where I would either share something I was learning during my university life or share a more personal anecdote about how I was going that week. I was very candid and vulnerable about how confused and overwhelmed I felt about the health industry and diet world and I think that a lot of my readers related to that which is why they kept reading.

 

Do you remember the point when you realised that your blog had legs to stand alone as a fully fledged business?

It was right when I launched my first e-book. The JSHealth community was flourishing and I decided to release this e-book that I’d been working on for about a year which solidified the JSHealth philosophy and gave my readers almost a step-by-step guide to healing their relationship with food and finding balance again. This book had quite a lot of success and sold much more than I expected and that’s where things really started to change. I had publishers starting to approach me and I had also managed to set aside enough funds to create this eight week programme to help teach my community to live the JSHealth philosophy every week. The release of that eight week programme was the first time I felt I could financially step away from private practice and is how the business was born.

 

From there, you have since launched your own line of vitamins which are arguably some of the most popular in the health space. Why did this seem like the natural next step for JSHealth?

During my years of studying health and nutrition I developed an obsession for vitamins and supplements. I was obsessed with going into pharmacies and asking the pharmacists what they liked about each vitamin and how they were formulated differently. And then, when I was practising privately as a nutritionist, I really saw the power of nutrients and minerals and would prescribe brilliant brands to my clients. Now that I’m smack bang in the middle of the vitamin industry, I can tell you that when you find a good ingredient that is backed by research and delivered at a therapeutic dose, it is medicine and it can do a world of good to your body and your health. 

 

How long did the product development process take for that first vitamin?

It was long! At least two and a half years. There were a lot of challenging moments because we found two people who we thought would be our vitamin manufacturers and they just weren’t able to execute the project for us. We also didn’t have endless funds to spare. So, my husband and I had to really think carefully about where we were going to spend the money. We actually lost quite a lot of money on the previous manufacturer who just wasn’t producing or getting the job done. There was a lot of failure, a lot of rejection but we eventually found the right vitamin manufacturer and once we did, it was around two and a half years until I was able to hold the physical product in my hands.

 

That definitely goes to show that you have really put your heart and soul into the product and that certainly translates into the dedication of your customers.

That is such a compliment! My community and my customers can always feel my care and it’s because of my consideration that we are able to produce the purest and most effective vitamins on the market and I say that with a huge sense of pride. Their love of our products is what pushes me through the day to create the best products and I refuse to release a product until it is the best of the best. They deserve as much. I also love the fact that we are a listed medicine because it shows our customers that they can really trust us. The regulations are no joke!

 

And your latest release was the Hair and Libido formula. Can you tell us a bit more about why you felt this formulation was an important one for women?

Every single formulation is created because our customer asked for it or told me they were struggling with something. When we were initially conceptualising this vitamin, it was going to be for men. But as we got further and further into the process I realised that women were also suffering with low libido, even more so than men were. So, I realised that it needed to be for both men and women. It took a year for me to find research-backed ingredients that would help with libido but once we nailed the formula I was so excited to help women gain back that confidence. I also wanted to make sure that the communication around the launch was honest and transparent. I spent a lot of time talking about how the stress of our everyday lives can really lower libido and that, if you are suffering from a lower libido, you aren’t alone.

 

Incredible! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today Jess.

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