Elevate Your Brand

Elevate Your Brand with Martha Carlin or BiotiQuest

May 19, 2022 Laurel Mintz / Martha Carlin Season 3 Episode 32
Elevate Your Brand
Elevate Your Brand with Martha Carlin or BiotiQuest
Show Notes Transcript

Martha Carlin, is a Citizen Scientist, systems thinker, wife of Parkinson’s warrior, John Carlin, and founder of The BioCollective, a microbiome company expanding the reach of science. Since John’s diagnosis in 2002, Martha began learning the science of agriculture, nutrition, environment, infectious disease, Parkinson’s pathology and much more. In 2014, when the first research was published showing a connection between the gut bacteria and the two phenotypes of Parkinson’s, Martha quit her former career as a business turnaround expert and founded The BioCollective to accelerate the discovery of the impact of gut health on all human health, including Parkinson’s. Martha was a speaker at the White House 2016 Microbiome Initiative launch, challenging the scientific community to “think in a broader context”. Her systems thinking background and experience has led to collaborations across the scientific spectrum from neuroscience to engineering to infectious disease. She is a respected out of the box problem solver in the microbiome field and brings a unique perspective to helping others understand the connections from the soil to the food to our guts and our brains.   

Laurel Mintz, founder and CEO of award-winning marketing agency Elevate My Brand, explores some of the most exciting new and growing brands in Los Angeles and the US at large. Each week, the Elevate Your Brand podcast features an entrepreneurial special guest to discuss the past, present and future of their brand.

You're listening to the Elevate Your Brand podcast, where we talk to some of the smartest entrepreneurs and fastest growing brands in the market, today. I'm your host, Laurel Mintz, a reformed corporate MAA attorney who founded award winning LA based marketing agency Elevate My Brand. We've elevated some of the world's biggest brands from Facebook, Paw Patrol and Verizon to innovative startups you haven't even heard of yet. Are you ready to elevate your brand? Keep listening.

Hi, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of Elevate Your Brand. Of course. I'm your host, Laurel Mintz. And I'm joined today by Martha Carlin, who is the CEO and founder of BiotiQuest. Martha, thank you for joining us today. 

Thanks so much for having me, Laurel. 

So tell us what BiotiQuest actually is. 

So BiotiQuest is a really unique probiotics company. I know people are familiar with probiotics and there are many in the market, but we actually developed the brand from our parent company, the BioCollective, which is a microbiome research focus. So really looking at data and science behind the microbiome, which is our gut bacteria and how that contributes to health and disease and building computational models of how bacteria work together in teams to either help or hurt our health. And so we took that technology that we developed in the parent company forward into bringing a unique line of products that actually work together as a system. They're designed to be teams that produce specific things or restore certain specific functions to your gut. 

I think it's so interesting and it's obviously got a lot of science behind it, which we will talk about. But why is this such a big conversation right now? I feel like for the podcast on the marketing side of our world, we are getting reached out to you by so many companies in this space. Why is now why is it such a hot topic these days? 

Well, it is pretty interesting given how long probiotics have really been in the market. But it used to be like super hippie, right? Like everyone was like, okay, whatever. It's like kombucha and stuff like that, right? 

Exactly right. But really, in the last decade, the term microbiome, which ten years ago probably nobody had ever heard of, has really become mainstream. And people, if you ask them, do you know what the microbiome is? More and more people every month, every day, every week, know what the microbiome is. And it's the trillions of bacteria that live in and on our body, and they function really as our internal pharmacy to maintain our health. And people are really starting to connect the dots between gut health and overall health and its connection to every chronic disease. Really we're seeing on the rise today, whether that's metabolic dysfunction and insulin resistance or anxiety, depression, autoimmune disease, all of these IBS have some connection to the ecosystem that is living in your gut. And so that I think you're starting to see more health influencers, more doctors really embracing this connection to the gut and starting to connect our food, our nutrition, and how all of those play together to feed the bacteria in our gut and make us healthy or unhealthy.

It's such a fascinating area of science, and to me, it feels very Western and Eastern medicine connected. Is that true, or that just me making this up in my head? 

No, I think that really is a great analogy. So much of the Eastern medicine looks more holistically at things and at how the body is a whole system. And Western medicine has been very targeted and focused on acute things or really reductionist in its approach. And the microbiome kind of pulls all those pieces together and starts to connect the dots. Well, I think as individuals, as humans now, we've been in our homes for a couple of years. We're really acutely aware of what's going on in our bodies and our minds and our spirits, energy levels. And gut health is really such a big piece of that. I think that we as just a human race are so used to the Western medicine conversation of how do we fix something that's broken? And really what we need to be talking about is exactly the conversation that you're having. And exactly why this line of products is so important is how can we prevent these issues from arising and solve for them prior to them becoming major concerns? Is that a fair statement? That is a fair statement. And so while one thing in Western medicine which has been helpful in acute infections, antibiotics saved many lives, but the overuse of antibiotics over the last 50 years has really had a terrible impact on our internal ecosystems and wreak havoc on what we have in our guts to be able to work with. 

Right. Because naturally our body has all these immunities, has really great balance, and then we mess it all up with too much alcohol or not enough fiber or all the stress and anxiety that has been put into our lives every single day. So we're basically not giving it a fighting chance. And that's exactly why you created this product line is to help realign all of those internal initiatives. 

Yes. And actually the first product that I made, which is called Sugar Shift, I originally designed that product for my husband. My husband has Parkinson's, and I founded the BioCollective, really, to bring the microbiome science field forward with a focus to some degree on Parkinson's. 

But there's no cure for that at this point, correct? 

No, there isn't. But there's increasing evidence of the connection to the gut microbiome and Parkinson's, and there's also this connection with insulin resistance. So about 65% of people with Parkinson's disease present some aspect of insulin resistance in the published research. And I attended a conference where they were actually showing research that the sugar alcohol manatoll could stop the aggregation of the proteins that were a hallmark in Parkinson's. And I came back from the conference and started studying Mandal chemistry and seeing what an amazing molecule manitol is and working with a fermentation chemistry friend of mine to see can we restore function to the body? Manitol is a sugar alcohol that is produced by some bacteria and some of these bacteria we have in our guts or you find them in fermented foods. And so we started looking at how we could make a working system because the production of mandolin by the bacteria in the gut is actually converting glucose and fructose, which we have way too much of in the Western diet. And so that whole concept kind of came into play. And we prototyped a product in about 90 days and started giving it to my husband and measuring his microbiome and seeing this remarkable change in his internal ecosystem by really reshaping the sugars and how they're used in the body. Man Atolls eliminated by humans. It's not used by humans. Interesting. From that, we said, okay, this is a really interesting product. And then we started having more people try it, and people with metabolic issues started reporting back to us how much better they felt. So then we were like, okay, that was really the idea of let's bring this to market as a brand, which, strangely enough, the whole Cobid thing. We got an economic injury disaster loan from the impact that it had on the other parts of our business. And we were able to pivot into launching this brand with that money. 

Wow, that's amazing. And tell us, when is it right to start taking these products? Is there something that presents? Are you having specific issues? And that's when it's a good time to think about maybe taking supplements like this to help realign your microbiome. What does that present? Like, typically? 

Sure. So we have a number of products. One we actually made for people who have had to take antibiotics. And it's called antibiotic. Antidote. There was some research that came out showing that some probiotics or this one particular combination of probiotics in a study actually made people worse after they had taken antibiotics. And we looked at that and we said, well, what's happening here is the combination of organisms that they've put together has made the body too acidic. Ph is so important. The PH has made it so that you can't repopulate a broad group of organisms. And so we designed the antibiotic antidote initially so that people could, for a month after they've taken antibiotics, start to restore the terrain. And the PH with this particular formula, the Sugar Shift formula that I talked about that I made for my husband that has worked in people with both chronic constipation and IBS, chronic diarrhea or alternating combinations of that where it helps restore some balance to the gut and regularity to the whole system. But I don't recommend it to people who are on a low FODMAP diet, and they'll have issues a lot of times with any probiotic. But certain of our strains actually come from fermented foods. Good to know that. Yes, if you have FODMAP issues, then you would want to avoid the sugar shift formula. But that formula is actually in a clinical trial right now with diabetes. So we recommend people try it if they're having people on a ketogenic diet who are still having some level of insulin resistance. We found that it helps them be able to get into ketosis or just generally people who have some level of insulin resistance. In our early small studies, we showed that fasting blood glucose could be reduced by about 14%. And so we're looking at that in the clinical trial to provide more robust statistical evidence of what we've seen and heard from our customers. We have a product called Ideal Immunity that was really designed for people who if you're doing foreign travel or you eat out a lot at restaurants or salad bars, it has a particular strain of bacteria that is very effective at killing foodborne pathogens. So it's kind of a nice tool to have in your toolbox when you're traveling. 

I get sick every time I travel, so I'm going to have to take that with me. We're going to take a really quick brief forward from our sponsors. We'll be right back. Stay tuned. Today's episode is brought to you by Mexicraft Tequila Seltzer. It is a top shelf Tequila seltzer made with craft tequila from Jalisco, Mexico Real juice and sparkling water. Each can contains a shot and a half of premium Blanco tequila, which you all know is my favorite and no more than 3 grams of sugar. For those of you watching that, you can get it in Whole Foods in Southern California or order it online@mexicalcer.com, call them on IG at Mexico and use podcast 20 for 20% off your first order. Thanks for sticking with us. And if you're just tuning in, I'm chatting with Martha Carlin, who is a CEO and founder of BiotiQuest. We were talking a little bit about the history of the brand and how you created the first line of products to help your husband because he's battling Parkinson's. Take us back in time. Where is your background from that you decided to go down this path of creating these lines? 

Well, I have a pretty unusual background for coming to this space. My degree is actually in accounting. It's a great skill to have as an entrepreneur, though. 

Totally just like being I'm a lawyer, but it's not what I do my day to day. Everything helps. 

I actually spent 25 years in the apartment industry, in commercial real estate operations for real estate investment trusts across the US. And in 2002, my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's. And I kind of took my training from accounting and my business turn around expertise and said, okay, this is a systems problem much the way business is and started applying that to going back and learning science. I mean, I had taken a lot of science in high school, but not in College. And so I am a self trained scientist. I'm like minorly famous, I guess as a citizen scientist. I have a Ted talk about that journey and came to the microbiome in 2014 reading a book called Missing Microbes by Martin Blaser, talking about how antibiotics was contributing all these antibiotics for the last 50 years is contributing to this rise in chronic disease. And that was really a Eureka for me. And a few months later, a paper came out where they showed they could look at the gut bacteria in people with Parkinson's and divide them into their primary symptom profiles. So I quit my job, we sold our big beautiful house, and I started the BioCollective. I'm the poop lady. We started collecting fecal samples from across the population with some focus on Parkinson's, but getting those samples and sequencing the genomes of those and starting to look at function and really also trying to tie things back to the food supply and what we're doing to our food supply and how that's impacting the microbiome. And then just along the way, as I got deeper and deeper into the science with my wonderful PhD scientific partners who taught me so much, starting to pull all these pieces together. And our original concept, we said collect a quality fecal sample, connect the dots through robust data, and then correct the problem through quality formulas. And we originally thought that we would just be helping other companies do this until we sort of stumbled into the idea of the sugarship formula for John, and people who tried it were just thanking me so much for changing their life. I was like, okay, I'm going to bring this to market. I didn't know anything about consumer products, but I've learned a tremendous amount over the last two and a half years since we really started working on it as a product. And people from the industry have actually been tremendously helpful in sharing their knowledge and helping me bring it to life. 

Well, I think that there's so much to unpack there. First of all, how the heck did you know that you could bring a product to market given your unique and very not misaligned, but very different background from what you're currently doing now, was this just faith or was it like you said, the team you have around you? I think we have a lot of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs that listen in, and they are maybe looking for some career shift advice, things like that. So what made you feel like I could do this? 

Well, I think sometimes ignorance maybe. I say that all the time. The best thing about that because you don't know how difficult it is. I actually had a consultant come in and look at the whole BioCollective business and he was like, oh, you need to stay away from that probiotics business because it's crowded. There's so many big companies in there, you'll never be able to compete. And I looked at them, I was like, but that's where the opportunity to help people. So I kind of tabled all the other stuff and started to work on this because that's really where my passion was. I wanted to help people. And all these scientific research tools really weren't helping the man and woman on the street, which is the person that I really feel that compassion for. So my ignorance and how difficult it would be is really what helped me. 

I totally get that. And so now, looking back, what advice do you have for someone that is looking to shape shift into a new role, into a new career? Any words of wisdom?

Well, I think one of the things I learned from seven years of being an entrepreneur to get to this point in the early days, I chased a lot of and spent a lot of time talking to investors and spending time on things that wasn't really driving revenue. So my biggest learning was find those passionate individuals about your product and start to work with them and figure out how can I sell this product and start to demonstrate that it really does work and that I have people who are passionate about my product, because then little by little, it starts to build on itself. And if you focus every day when you get up on selling, how am I going to sell this product? How am I going to get people to understand how good it is as opposed to chasing all these other side things? 

So the takeaway I'm hearing from that is just stay focused and heads down in the work, improve the model and build your revenue there before you go chasing growth dollars before you're ready. 


Love it. Anything else? 

Well, I think another thing that I've learned is the importance of influencers, and I think that's grown a lot as I've learned from marketing people over the last three or four years. It used to be more formula driven, I guess, in terms of how you put your ad dollars out and what you do. And the pandemic changed that a lot. People being at home has shifted so much of sales to influencers. And I was really very fortunate early in the process of this development to get an introduction to Dr. William Davis, who wrote The Wheat Belly Book. And he had a new book coming out called Super Gut. And we started talking to him, and he spent a lot of time with my chief scientific officer because of the unique approach to how we design these formulas. And he just became a super fan of ours. And so the impact that one influencer who really believes in your product can have on you has just amazed me because his new book came out in February. And as he's promoting his book, people ask him about probiotics and he talks about the difference in the way that we make our products compared to everybody else. And so that's been a big learning for me how much an influencer can have impact on your business. 

I love that you're saying that because it is a conversation that on the agency side we have all the time. And you're in such a technical, scientific health field, really, the fact that you recognize the value in that really is remarkable. So I hope everyone's listening. It really is an important and impactful creator economy, and there is so much value in creating those relationships. Thank you for bringing that up, Martha. We're going to take another quick break. We'll be right back. Who says you've got to be big to get things done? We know that size matters in some things, but in other things, like marketing a small and scrappy team like Elevate, my brand can really take your brand to the next level. Our job is to create visibility so you can create profitability. Give us a call today and let's smooth. All right. Chatting with Martha Carlin, the CEO and founder of BiotiQuest. So you talked about the sugar product that you have created first, and now you've got a whole line. So tell us about the other products and what they do in this unique kind of recipe that you've created to realign your gut biome. 

Sure. So I told you a bit about antibiotic, antidote and ideal immunity. We have a product called Heart Centered, which is focused on cardiovascular health and increasing nitric oxide. We have a product coming out at the end of the month called Simple Slumber, which is actually a community of probiotic organisms that produce bacterial melatonin. So not everyone knows that bacteria can make melatonin, but they know that that's fascinating. So the formula actually is designed to make melatonin and tryptophan for about 7 hours. So you take it before bed and it will wear off by the time you wake up in the morning. And it's just a natural boost to melatonin in your gut. Later in the year, we have a product called Perfect Peace coming out that is designed for mood to help increase scabbard production and kind of calming anxiety. I don't have any of that. I don't know what you're talking about. Why does anyone need that right now? Actually, in partnership with my chief scientific officer, Dr. Rocano has a separate company called Paleobiotica, and we worked together with him just to kind of test the waters. On the consumer side, they're doing work in the agriculture and land bioremediation. And I've always kind of well, not always, but I've come to the conclusion that it's very hard to fix the gut without fixing our whole food supply, and that's with the soil. So we have a limited time offering for a couple of months. This summer, a product called Yielding Shield, which is actually a probiotic for your garden or yard that it breaks down glyphosate. So if you have a house where somebody sprayed weed killer, it also breaks down other herbicides and hydrocarbons and things like that. It's also being used in oil field bioremediation, but it will boost the ability of the plants to get nutrients from the soil and help your plant growth and the yield of your backyard tomatoes or whatever you're growing.

It's so fascinating. I think this might be one of the most technical conversations I've ever had, one of the most scientific approaches and products that I've had on the podcast. How long did it take you to learn this whole new lexicon? I mean, this is like a whole new world. 

So I founded the BioCollective in 2015, and it was really early days for all the microbiome research. So in a lot of ways, I benefited from this emerging and growing industry in going to conferences and the rapid increase in the number of publications that just enabled me to learn things pretty rapidly and make connections and relationships in the industry that helped me learn. But it's been about a five year process. 

Yeah, it's fascinating. Well, why don't you let people know where they can find the product? And then we'll talk about some quick fire questions about you as a founder because we want to get to know you a little bit more as a human being. So where can people find your products if they're interested in trying them? 

Sure. So you can find the products on our website. We are direct consumer only right now. In about two months will be on Amazon. But currently we just sell direct consumer from our website. And that is www.biotiquest.com, and that's spelled B-I-O-T-I-Q-U-E-S-T. 

Love it. All right, so these are the quick Fire questions. So just top of mind whatever comes up. What is the one thing that you could not live without during the pandemic and you can't sell your own product? 

Wow. Quality water. 

Okay. Is there a water, particularly that you are into? Are you a bottled water person or you just have a whole house filter? 

Well, I have a whole house filter. I have a lot of different filtration systems and kind of strange contraptions. But living here in Colorado, I do buy El Dorado Water, which is pure mountain water. That's some of the most incredible water, I think, on the planet. But we do have those last bottles, right? Yeah. Well, they're in the large five gallon, like the water cooler that you get at the office. But I think that's an underappreciated thing is the quality of water and that you're drinking plenty of water. 

Yeah, I agree with that. I use the hydrate bottle if you heard of these. They're app connected and they glow when you haven't had enough to drink. So it actually reminds you to stay hydrated, Which I definitely need.

Oh, that's interesting. I did just get a hydrogen water bottle that will hydrogenate your water. It's called the Echo, something that was pretty interesting I got at a conference a couple of weeks ago. 

Yeah, I'm into it. All right. What is your vice of choice? 

Oh, chocolate. 

Okay. What is your cocktail of choice? If you drink? 

Well, that's an interesting story, too, Because I have a long family history. I grew up in Kentucky, and my great great grandfather was one of the pioneers of the bourbon industry, which is fermentation by microorganisms. So I actually like a bourbon and water. And there's a bourbon name for my grandfather called George T. Stag. So George T. Stag on ice. 

Nice. What is your favorite word and wine? This could be something that has had meaning to you over time or something that really just pops up in your head today. 

Oh, wow. That's my favorite word, empowerment. 

What does that mean to you? Well, one of the things that we feel like our brand is doing Is empowering people to take control of their own health, and I think especially over the last two years, there's been a lot about what's happened that has made us feel disempowered. So for me, regaining our own power and helping to empower people is really important to me, and I think it's important in the world for us to step back out and feel confident in moving forward. 

Yeah, for sure. Other than your products, what is the one thing or maybe two things that people can do to balance their gut biome quality? 

Fiber. I tried a lot of different kinds of fiber. I do think it's good to have variety Because different fibers feed different organisms. 

Like a soluble fiber or like vegetables. 

Well, vegetables, absolutely. But both soluble and insoluble fibers kind of mixed. And oddly enough, back to my preference for chocolate. Cocoa powder is actually a good fiber that most people don't know I have from time to time make myself a fiber shake and put a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder in it. It's not sweet, but you get that chocolate fix, and it has a nice fiber content to it. 

That's a great note. And lastly, if you could waive a magic wand, what is the future of the biotic quest look like? If I could waive a magic wand, I would be fixing the guts of 100 million people in the United States. 

Wow. Well, you heard it here first. I hope that that does, in fact, come true. We're sprinkling some fairy dust on that on the podcast for you and Marla, it's been such a pleasure having you on the podcast today. Thank you so much for having me, Laurel. It's been really fun. And thank you to everyone who tuned in. Stay tuned for more from Elevate Your Brand. Coming up next.