B.Untethered offers midlife women solutions for nutrition, fitness, and positive challenge
A graduate of both the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Anissa Buckley ’89, MBA ’98, is the founder and CEO of B.Untethered, a midlife women’s wellness and adventure startup that offers a science-based solution for nutrition, fitness, and positive challenge for midlife women.
A serial entrepreneur with a passion for helping people transform their lives through purpose, motivation, and challenge, Buckley also founded (and later sold) a nutrition company and the retail industry’s leading nutrition database, healthyAisles, which scores grocery items for health claims. In addition to her Cornell degrees, Buckley holds certifications in health coaching, nutrition counseling, and personal training.
Learn more about Buckley and B.Untethered in this Q&A.
What does B.Untethered do? What problem or opportunity does it address?
B-untethered is focused on midlife women’s wellness and adventure. We take the latest science on hormone changes and translate it into usable information and products that will help minimize the issues women face in midlife (menopause) in both their bodies and their minds. There are three pieces to the product line: Food, Fitness, and Frame of Mind offerings:
- Food: We created an app that a woman can personalize with her biostats, including age, height, weight, activity level, and more, that will guide her toward the right macronutrient profile (carbs, fats, protein and calories) for her. Our macronutrient ratio and timing needs change with midlife hormone changes since our ability to manage carbs post-menopause declines and our need for protein increases. The app also sends alerts and recommendations for foods at certain times to help maintain our best body composition and brain function.
- Fitness: Our app also tracks exercise and includes education for strength training and high intensity interval training (HIIT) activities, along with our weekly, team-based challenges. In midlife, HIIT and strength training are more important than endurance. Most women are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with strength training, so we offer weekly training and education in a team format.
- Frame of Mind: Not only do the body and brain change in midlife; our overall vision, values, and purpose change, as well. B.Untethered offers an eight-week course in re-evaluating vision and values that results in a roadmap with milestone goals for later years. Within the Frame of Mind platform we offer weekend retreats and adventure travel—we call it “Train & Travel”—where we come together each week with a training plan for between 12 to 20 weeks, then take an epic adventure trip together to accomplish our goal.
What inspired you to launch B Untethered?
I took a few years off after three impactful events in my life all occurred within and eight-month time span: Both of my parents died, I sold a company, and I went through a divorce. I decided to travel with a former pro cyclist and ended up training for a few epic events, including summiting Kilimanjaro with no porter and 40 pounds on my back, traversing Thorang Pass (140 miles; elevation 18,000 feet) in the Himalayas, and completing a few Ironman triathlons. This was all around the age of 50.
Turns out, I was in the best shape of my life and felt incredible, and I wanted other women to experience this, too—and not get bogged down with the “old world society” message that you’re over the hill after 50.
I then became interested in finding products, services, formulas, and methodologies for maintaining health and enhancing longevity. I’d always been interested in this and, in fact, back in my undergrad days, I had taken a Spa and Wellness course at the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration, taught by Professor Mary Tabacchi (now emerita). That was a pivotal course for me and stayed with me throughout my career (and through three startups).
I was seeking other companies and solutions that address that feeling of “being too old” and found a few interesting ones, but none seemed to address both the mental state (still trying to do more with your life, aspiring to great things) and the physical, providing solutions for how perimenopause (which starts in your mid-40s) can affect your body and brain and helping to reduce the impact of this.
What are some of the most memorable moments in your startup journey?
My very first startup was a database, now called healthyAisles. We created one of the first retail grocery nutrition databases that scored products for hundreds of claims—like gluten free, heart healthy, and more. We were just in the beginning phases of working with grocery retailers to display shelf tags using our claims to guide shoppers in finding healthier products when the opportunity presented itself to pitch our database/health and wellness idea to Supervalu, which then owned 2,400 grocery stores under 11 different banners (including Albertsons and Acme). I remember pitching the idea for two hours to a roundtable of 20 people at Supervalu, and at the end of the meeting someone said: “We want it.” The next moment was blank. Then there was this simultaneous feeling of: “Wow, awesome, they want it!” blended with “OMG, help, they want it!” We then spent four literally sleepless months figuring out how to deliver the solution to that large of an entity with immensely complex requirements. We ended up (eight years later) becoming the leader in the grocery nutrition database field, managing 33 different grocery retail programs. I was even lucky enough to receive an invitation to the White House to meet with President Obama’s chef!
There’s always an “aha” moment when the product just comes into view. Prior to that, it can feel like San Francisco on its foggiest day. It’s so hard, because you know there’s an idea there, but there are typically so many directions you can take with it. Is it B2C or B2B? How is it delivered? How limited is the target audience? Too limited? If it’s just you in your own head, thinking about this product or solution, you can drive people crazy with constant talk and noodling ideas—and I have done this. It can be relentless in your mind and that is not necessarily healthy for relationships. I would just say that it’s a part of the territory: continuously thinking about the business and refining, refining, refining, until you finally have that light bulb go off and you know what your product is and who it’s intended for.
What obstacles did you face and overcome in your startup journey?
Start small to make it to big. Financing and staying “close in” on the first iterations of the product is always a challenge. It’s the typical cash-flow concern, the balancing act of having enough revenue coming in to cover what’s going out.
For most entrepreneurs, the beauty of the entrepreneurial mind is the vision: You can see down the road where this product can go and all of the iterations it can evolve into. But that is also the curse, because to actually be successful, you have to be okay with starting at the very beginning—the MVP (minimum viable product)—and selling that first. It’s not always as exciting as “thinking big” and the ego can come into play when you want the whole world to know about your “long-term genius roadmap,” but for the sake of success, you must start with the basics and know that customers are not where you are. They need to understand your very basic offering first.
This has always been hard for me, as I prefer the big picture and like to lay it all out there for the first customers I’m pitching. You have to be smart about your money and know that you can only support so much initially with the funding you have and you need to prove out that first product iteration.
Did you draw on any Cornell resources to help launch B.Untethered?
Bright-minded contacts: I have friends from business school who have been helpful in talking through product strategy, providing business development connections, and identifying funding opportunities. I think the Cornell network is extremely beneficial in the success of any business.
Is there any particular faculty member at Cornell who influenced you on your path to becoming an entrepreneur?
Professor Mary Tabacchi! When I first took the Spa and Wellness course back in 1987, not everyone understood the intention of the word “wellness.” Imagine that! I left Professor Tabacchi’s course knowing that I wanted to own a wellness consulting firm one day. The funniest thing is that both Professor Tabacchi and I were on a call together just a month ago for the Blue Zones! She is amazing.
I loved Professor David BenDaniel’s entrepreneurship course. At the time, I had no idea I would start three companies; I just loved understanding the basics of startups because they’re relevant to any business. Whether you work in a large company or your own startup, you are going through many of the same processes in launching a new product.
Professor Jerry Hass’s finance class was also very beneficial. I had been in marketing prior to b-school and felt that I understood the basic concepts of marketing. My finance background was weak, though, and Professor Hass’s general finance class taught me how to think about the markets and financing a business.
What are the most valuable things you learned at Cornell that helped in launching B.Untethered? And what’s most helpful now, in running your business?
- Networking: Honestly, I think networking is so key. Be open to talking to anyone about your business, because you never know who that person might know that might be the perfect connection for you. Because Cornell offered such a diverse student (and faculty) body, I became comfortable talking to anyone about anything. That has proven valuable.
- Diverse Mindset: Cornell’s diversity also generated a curiosity and is much of what drove my travel to Nepal, the Canaries, Brazil, Peru, and so many other places. There are so many interesting ways to view the world and to live. There is not just one way of thinking about a problem and its potential solution. Keeping an open mind and listening to how others (and other cultures) have solved similar problems is always top of mind for me. Despite our differences, there are basic human needs across the globe and much can be learned from others.
What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
- It takes a village. Be careful of being so myopic that you think your way (or product) is the only way. Even Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Oprah didn’t do it alone. Be respectful of others’ opinions early on. Like a tree, an idea starts as a seed, but then requires all sorts of nutrients for it to continue to grow. You, as the entrepreneur, need to continue to weed the garden and eliminate tweaks and changes that won’t allow it to grow in the direction intended. You must also provide for that growth.
- Love what you do. If your heart isn’t in what you do, it will be difficult to stay the course. It has already been said a million times, but for me it was the truth: Your entire life becomes the business. You must have passion for what you are doing or you’ll never have enough fortitude to stay with it.
- Good Luck! And call – I’m always willing to listen and help.