Q&A with Mia WilliamsWritten by Gemma S
Cancer researcher Mia Williams of Tizzy Shots discusses her immune-boosting shots that combat inflammation.
Scientist and cancer researcher Mia Williams compares her test tube-sized shots of ginger to a healthy version of the classic tequila slammer. After a busy 4 months since launching her brand, Tizzy Shots, Williams calls on her background in pharmaceutical research to explain why Hong Kong is the perfect location to launch a health-orientated startup.
Growing up near Boston, Mia spent a year at medical school before deciding it wasn’t for her, “If that was the first year, what will the next 6 be like,” she recalls. Instead, she studied Biology and Economics, and after graduation, she worked as a researcher in pharmaceutical companies across the globe, including Cancer Research.
With the move to Hong Kong, Tizzy Shots was launched in June 2017 after Mia noticed a gap in the market for easy-to-consume products with natural, anti-inflammatory ingredients. After 1 year of researching and tasting, this has resulted in immune-boosting shots in test tube sized bottles – a feature that was inspired by Mia’s past work in pharmaceutical laboratories. “There are 3 flavours and you can try them all,” she tells us excitedly.
Tucked away on a busy side street of Wan Chai, the co-working kitchen that Mia shares with other food-orientated startups is an oasis of calm, a sharp contrast to the hectic scenery outside. As she offers a refreshing, ginger-based drink to the Hive Life team, we sit down with Mia to discuss why inflammation is scientifically proven to be the ‘root of all disease’ and how she plans to expand her business based on a product made of simple ingredients.
How do you begin your day?
With Tizzy’s Classic Ginger shot and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar- it gets my body going.
What gave you the idea to start Tizzy Shots?
The timing was right for me to get back into science. After the birth of my second daughter, I wanted to do something that would have a positive impact on people’s lives. Throughout my pregnancy, I was looking for something to help with nausea and to boost my immunity.
I made a tea with ginger, lemon and honey which became my cure. At first, I dismissed the idea of this becoming the basis of a business because I felt it wasn’t new or innovative enough – Chinese medicine has used ginger and turmeric for thousands of years. I started to think about how I could offer these ingredients to the market in a different way. I also noticed how Hong Kongers needs to incorporate these ingredients into their busy schedule.
What are the health benefits of the key ingredients of Tizzy Shots?
Ginger, turmeric and charcoal form the basis of our recipes. Ginger and turmeric are roots that come from the same plant family, they both have anti-inflammatory qualities but work in different ways. Ginger is alkalising which means that it can restore the body to an optimal PH. It is an antihistamine so reduces swelling, and it also boosts immunity.
Some key attributes include its ability to metabolise fat, lower blood sugar and reduce joint pain and muscle soreness. For this reason, it is particularly beneficial after a long run, gym or a hike. Studies have proven it to be a more effective pain than Aspirin. Turmeric is one of only two herbs with the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and for this reason, it is used medically reduce swelling in the brain. Charcoal is very good at reducing the impact of MSG, pesticides or sulphites on the body.
What is inflammation and how can we reduce its effect on the body?
Chronic inflammation is the body’s internal response to environmental stress, things such as pollution, poor diet and lack of exercise. The impact is long term and can be difficult to identify – heart disease is caused by inflamed arteries, migraines can be caused by inflammation and cancer can be the immune system responding to foreign bodies.
Essentially inflammation is the ‘root of all disease’ – no pun intended! Meditation, yoga and physical detoxes allow your body a break from stressors during which it has the chance to heal itself. Regularly incorporating natural anti-inflammatory foods – such as ginger and turmeric, into your diet is also very important.
How important is it to choose organic foods?
It is important that food is grown in the organic soil because they absorb everything around them. It is slightly less important for fruits and vegetables grown above ground – things like berries, leafy greens and some vegetables. I wash everything – organic or not in water and white distilled vinegar as this reduces the amount of chemical.
Would you consider yourself to be a natural ‘risk-taker’?
As an entrepreneur, there is always an element of risk involved because you can’t predict the outcome. I am familiar with this from my work as a scientist where we would test our hypotheses. I don’t expect what I do to be perfect and I’m very comfortable with receiving feedback.
Do you think that Hong Kong is a good place to launch your brand?
Hong Kong is a great place to launch Tizzy Shots. Our main ingredient, ginger, is a big part of the cooking here so people are familiar with the flavour.
Also, it is a place where people are on the go – there is the saying, ‘A Hong Kong second is like a New York minute ’ and for this reason, an easy to consume health product appeals.
What has been your biggest challenge in launching Tizzy Shots?
Logistics was a big problem for me since delivery in Hong Kong is expensive and my options are limited because the product needs to be refrigerated. My deliveries cost more than the price of a shot so I had to adapt my sales model to suit this.
My next challenge is working out how to increase my customer base – the logical step is to get Tizzy Shots into the big supermarkets in Hong Kong but convincing them to stock a raw product with a shelf life of 5 days isn’t easy.
Tizzy Shot retails from HK$50, how do you price your product and what are people getting for their money?
On a basic level I say that each of these bottles provides 3 servings – a third in the morning, a third as an afternoon ‘pick me up’ and a third in the evening – in a healthy cocktail, tea or soup. Juices in Hong Kong retail between HK$30-70 and many of them are bulked out with water whereas every gram in a Tizzy shot is packed with karmic health benefits. The bottles are small but the ingredients are organic, raw and fresh meaning they go a long way regarding flavour and health impact.
Are there differences in the way that Eastern and Western cultures approach the concept of ‘a healthy lifestyle’?
Absolutely, people in the East approach health in a far more holistic way and they are more geared towards the prevention of illness. You can see from the presence of medicinal soup shops everywhere in Hong Kong and the incorporation of things like yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi into daily routines.
In the West people tend to wait until they get sick and then take a medicine to treat their symptoms. In the US we have adopted yoga and meditation but sometimes the underlying reason for these practices can be misinterpreted.
What one defining moment altered the course of your life forever?
My move to Shanghai – moving to China and diverting from the path of medical science was brave, crazy and stupid but it felt right.
Finally, what would you say to your 18-year-old self?
I would say get diverse work experience, try lots of different things as early on as possible and then focus on what you love doing the most.