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Meet Leah Kemerling of Totem Nutrition in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leah Kemerling.

Leah, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I moved to LA from Chicago about a year ago. Prior to moving here, I spent a lot of time working in various tech startups. Most of them fizzled, but one of the startups I worked for was eventually acquired by Twitter. After that, I took some time off from tech work. During this time, I got really into fitness and nutrition. I shed about 55lbs and started doing functional movements and weightlifting with kettlebells. Optimizing my health really became a passion of mine.

Moving to LA really sparked my entrepreneurial interest. The city is just alive and buzzing with creative energy, and I wanted to be part of that. Because of my tech background, I started off my entrepreneurial journey with a B2B tech consultancy, Hawkwood Group (https://www.hawkwood.group). We help small to mid-size businesses with digital marketing, social media, getting their websites out to the world, and mobile/web app development. We’re a one-stop shop for all things tech.

As Hawkwood Group was gaining its footing, my sleep started to tank. Client demands, day to day stressors, and the pressure of running a business began to take its toll on me personally and professionally. I would lay in bed for hours each night trying to fall asleep, but my mind wouldn’t stop racing. Then, when I finally fell asleep, the sleep was restless, stressful, and anything but refreshing. I started reaching for over the counter and herbal sleep aids, but nothing was working in the way I wanted it to. These sleep aids would either knock me out and make me feel like I was hit by a truck the next morning, or they were so ineffective that I might as well have not taken anything. It was really frustrating to try to figure out what would make me feel good and get the rest that I desperately wanted and needed and I wasted a lot of time and money trying different supplements to no avail. At this time, because of my poor sleep, my diet and exercise were also totally off kilter. Nothing was working right and it all was feeding back into itself.

So, I got fed up and instead of wildly trying to find a sleep supplement that helped me sleep well and wake up refreshed, I made my own — Lucid (https://www.totemnutrition.com/shop-totem/lucid). Given my passion and interest in all natural products and food, I had a blast researching ingredients and making it exactly what I needed. Each ingredient in Lucid is specifically chosen to help you get an excellent night of sleep by gently ushering in feel-good neurotransmitters that calm you down and ease you to sleep. Then, while you sleep Lucid helps your body get to work restoring and regenerating itself. The final stage is where Lucid wakes you the next morning so that you don’t feel groggy or like you have a hangover. You wake up clear-headed and excited to start your day.

Totem started with sleep because of my experiences with poor sleep and because we believe that the sleep you get sets the tone for your entire day. We’re starting to branch out into other fun areas of life too. We have two new products debuting for the summer: Revive, which is pretty much-bottled youth. It improves your joints, skin, energy levels, and metabolism. The other product is Pulse, this is a fun one for us ladies. It’s a mood and libido enhancer. It also tastes like decadent dark chocolate.

All of our products are all-natural, non-GMO, and herbal ingredients that have been used for centuries by traditional practitioners. I truly believe we’re making a huge positive difference in our customers’ lives. That is what keeps me going.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
So far, things have been pretty smooth and our customers tend to really love our products. It’s cool too because we have data that shows people’s sleep is improving. Customers will email us their FitBit or Apple Watch data that shows that Lucid gives them about an hour of extra deep sleep each night. It’s really gratifying and fulfilling to know that we’re making peoples’ lives better through healthy, all natural, and excellent product.

Probably the biggest hurdle that we’ve had to overcome is that a lot of sleep aids and supplements have a pretty bad reputation. Prescription sleep aids are known to do some pretty rough things to peoples’ minds and bodies, but our products are non-habit forming and all natural. We’ve also seen a lot of fear around the “snake oil/miracle cure” supplement that’s too good to be true. It’s understandable why people would think such things with skinny teas and waist trainers dominating Instagram feeds, but I think our products speak for themselves. Customers who know what’s good for their bodies can take one look at our ingredients and literally rest assured that they’re being taken care of.

Please tell us about Totem Nutrition.
Totem Nutrition provides folks with premier supplements that improve their sleep, sex and help them regain their youthful exuberance. Our supplements are all natural and each ingredient is explicitly selected to bring more of a sense of well being into customers’ lives. We base our formulations on traditional healing modalities, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine, that have been scientifically shown through peer-reviewed research to work for their intended purposes. We think that there’s a lot to be learned from traditional cultures and knowledge, and we think that it’s important to verify and understand what we’re putting into our bodies with solid science. I think one thing that we’re missing from our current societal health paradigm is the blending of the old and the new. We write off traditional knowledge and rely on the newest fad or trend to bring us health solely because its newness somehow makes it “better.” I think we do a great job of balancing traditional and modern knowledge.

In the last couple of years, it’s come to light that a lot of supplement companies were literally filling capsules with sawdust and a tiny amount of herbal ingredients and passing that off to consumers as a key to their health. That made me really upset. I think that violating a person’s trust when it comes to his or her health is a pretty terrible thing to do. As sovereign individuals, I believe that we have a right to know what we’re putting into our bodies to make them healthier and stronger. It’s important to me that Totem’s customers are empowered with information about our products so that they can make the best decision for their health. I think this approach sets us apart from other companies who will say anything to get you to buy their product. We make sure that you know what’s truly in our products and why we included it in a formulation, so that you, as the consumer, can make the most informed and empowered decision about what’s best for you. You might decide that our products are not the best for your health and wellness, and that’s ok. We want you to make the best decision for you – whether that’s with us or another company.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Oh, man! So many come to mind. The one that’s standing out right now is summer camp at Camp Mowana in rural Ohio. Each summer, I’d head to Camp Mowana for Outposters camp — where a bunch of awkward 11-15-year-olds would run around the woods like Bear Grylls wannabes. We made shelters, learned how to start fires with sticks, cooked our meals over the fire, learned how to navigate, didn’t shower, learned survival skills, and we’d tell scary stories on night hikes. The best part was that Outposters was usually the same week as the Perseid meteor shower peak, so we’d sleep out under the stars and watch the meteor shower.

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