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Dr. Angela Zeng’s Karuna empowering consumers to make better choices for happier, healthier lives 

Dr. Angela Zeng is the CEO and founder of Karuna Beverages. With a Ph.D in Pathology and over fifteen years experience in the functional beverage and juice industry, she has a passion for natural healing that is rooted in her strong belief in traditional Chinese medicine and herbal sciences.

Karuna Beverages was founded in 2017, when Angela combined her love of Eastern Medicine with her entrepreneurial spirit. As a Chinese immigrant who moved to the U.S. about two decades ago for her Ph.D studies and training in medical research, Angela focused on topics ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer. Following her research training, Angela went on to earn her MBA at Washington University in St. Louis then worked in business development in a pharmaceutical company. 

It was while working in the pharmaceutical industry evaluating the commercial potential of many products, that Angela began to notice something that made no sense to her: while we are getting better at diagnosing and treating diseases, people are getting sicker. 

“Many disease prevalence rates have kept rising despite the improvements in healthcare. I started to look for answers, and I found the root cause has to be our modern lifestyle, in particular,  industrialized food production,” said Angela. “I was able to see the connections of regular  consumption of high sugar, high salt, and deeply processed food and chronic  inflammation, which then lead to many diseases, including diabetes, arthritis and even  cancer.” 

Upon this realization, Angela combined her knowledge of Eastern Medicine, science, and entrepreneurship to launch Fulfill Food & Beverage doing business as Karuna Beverages in 2017 with the belief that Food is Better Medicine. 

“The first thing that came to my mind is to develop a line of tonic as traditional Chinese medicine believes liquid forms have the strongest potency in improving health, and I chose juices and smoothies as I love fruits and I also have experience in the juice industry,” said Angela. 

She created her first five drinks under the brand name, Karuna—which means compassion—and launched her product inside her local Whole Foods Market store in Missouri. 

“I was very fortunate that a local Whole Foods Market store manager believed in me enough to allow me to come into his store, talk with customers myself and explain my products. Some of the ingredients in my drinks might be unusual to people who aren’t aware of the benefits of say goji berry – which has been used since the ancient days to strengthen immunity, improve eyesight and promote skin and hair health.” 

mykaruna Our Detox Whole Plant Juice earned the World Beverage Innovation Award and offers more antioxidants than three and a half cups of blueberries. At only 70 calories per bottle and filled with prebiotic fiber, this is the perfect drink to cleanse and fortify the body. (Photo via Instagram) 

Since its start, Karuna has grown from a local brand in a single store to an innovator in functional beverages with a presence in stores and online nationwide. As a brand, Karuna is fueled by a strong passion towards finding innovative ways to empower today’s consumers to make better choices to live healthier and happier lives. 

Karuna Beverages now also includes a line of healthy recovery drinks for athletes and a line of alcoholic-free wine replacement juice. For athletes, Karviva ACE drinks combine antioxidants, collagen, and electrolytes and unlike other popular sports drinks, Karuna Recovery is low in sodium and calories and has no added sugar. Karviva Unwined recently launched this holiday season exclusively on Amazon and created a brand-new category as a functional alcohol-free wine replacement juice made of super-berries that help fight inflammation and relieve stress. 

Karviva Unwined has already become a success and has been selected as a finalist in the World Plant Based Awards – Best Beverage 2022. 

Karuna Beverages

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Overcoming hurdles and measuring success 

Anglea has fond memories of walking through an herbal medicine shop at age 5 where she found the aroma and experience to be absolutely magical. From that point on, she developed a deep curiosity for Chinese herbal remedies and started collecting and experimenting with herbal recipes to learn about the ancient healing art that uses the power of plants. Her own experience taught her that the journey to self-compassion should begin by feeding the soul, caring for the body, and stimulating the mind. Karuna strives to cultivate harmony for all three, by combining the simplicity of wholesome, plant-based ingredients with the innovation of modern science. 

“My experience growing up in China and my education here in the United States have offered me a wonderful view of both ancient wisdom and modern medicine. I  have combined the years of knowledge I received about Traditional Chinese medicine with the lessons I acquired through my studies.”

Over the years, Angela has worked to surround herself with people who believe in her products and mission. Initially, some advisors wanted her to market her products solely to the Chinese community. However, Angela felt strongly that her health-focused drinks were for anyone seeking good health and she was determined to provide a better plant-based functional beverage than what was out in the market. 

mykaruna picnic essentials 🤩🌻🍁(Photo via Instagram)

Competing with other competitors who are backed by powerful legacy brands in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) market is not easy. Angela quickly learned that the war on the shelves can be fierce and sometimes it is not quality that wins shelf space but rather the money behind it. 

“This can create strong hurdles for young emerging brands, especially  those owned by minority women, to overcome due to the perception that women of  color lack understanding of the culture and needs of mainstream consumers,” said Angela. “My advice is to have strong faith in yourself, be a constant learner and listener, work hard, and  believe in the consumers you serve.” 

One of Angela’s personal strengths that has served her well on her entrepreneurial journey has been her ability to seek out and form partnerships with those who will help her achieve her company’s mission. She has grown her network of supporters through social media and other channels, putting in the hours traveling and seeking opportunities to get the word out about her company, its mission, and the work they are doing in the community. 

And the hard work has paid off. Karuna Beverages has been recognized with a variety of innovation awards within the food and beverage industry from the Expo West NEXTY Awards to the World Food & Beverage Innovation Awards. Recently, the Higher Education Channel did a profile on Angela which won a 2021 Regional Emmy Award, and she was also featured on the PBS show “Food is Love.” 

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These recognitions are markers of success, showing how hard work, passion, and dedication have helped grow a brand that started in one Whole Foods store to be recognized nationwide and an innovator in the world of food and beverage. Still, the true success is measured beyond awards, in the brand’s mission to cultivate harmony in mind, body, and soul and empower consumers to make better choices to live healthier and happier lives. 

A ‘lost in translation’ moment as a new immigrant inspired Elisabete Miranda to launch CQ fluency

Elisabete Miranda is the President and CEO of CQ fluency— a translation and language services company specializing in cultural adaptation with a focus in healthcare and the life sciences. 

CQ fluency was born from Elisabete’s own experiences navigating the healthcare system through language barriers when she first immigrated to the U.S. in 1994. A serial-entrepreneur, Elisabete owned twelve small businesses at different periods of time in Brazil. Eventually, she and her family decided to pack up and move to the “land of opportunity.” 

“We arrived in the U.S. with very little money, not speaking one word of English, and the hope of providing a better life for our family,” said Elisabete. 

The biggest challenge they soon faced was not only the language barrier but the cultural differences, especially in healthcare spaces. 

She experienced a literal “lost in translation” situation when her six-year-old daughter received a false positive tuberculosis diagnosis. Due to a lack of cultural knowledge, the school nurse did not know that in Brazil children are vaccinated against tuberculosis. Luckily, Elisabete found a physician who luckily understood the family’s cultural profile and the situation was resolved. However, had her daughter been given treatment for tuberculosis, the remains of the vaccine could easily have been reactivated, infecting her with the very thing they were trying to cure. 

This situation was an eye-opener for Elisabete on the challenges people face in the healthcare system when there is a cultural and language barrier. This experience is what ultimately inspired CQ fluency’s focus on healthcare. 

Today, CQ fluency is a purpose-driven, certified woman-and minority-owned and operated, award-winning company with global operations servicing Fortune 500 companies. CQ fluency partners with the world’s leading life science and healthcare organizations to supply culturally relevant translation solutions in over 170 languages.

 CQ fluency nimbly responds with leveraging the best platforms and harmonizing them to work well together for a truly customized language tech stack for each client. This focus on customized language technology is what has helped drive their growth.

CQ Fluency

Elisabete shares the story of CQ fluency’s origins and the ‘lost in translation’ moment that sparked the business. (Photo courtesy Elisabete Miranda)

We are on a mission to improve lives by leveraging Cultural Intelligence (CQ) by translating meaning and feeling to cultivate real human connections that ultimately improve health outcomes,” said Elisabete. 

Being an underdog and following your heart as a Latina entrepreneur

As a woman-and-minority-owned company, CQ fluency is ‘people-centric’ and passionate about diversity and inclusion. Elisabete attributes the strength and success of the company to their people. 

“We exist to improve lives, every life we touch – our people, clients, vendors, and partners, this is the strength that drives us to do what we do every day. You cannot grow a company alone.  I hold myself to the same standards to which I hold our people, and there is not a single thing that I would ask them to do that I wouldn’t do myself,” she said. 

The diversity and inclusiveness of our people contributes to our success. I bring my true self to work every day and encourage our team to do the same.” 

Elisabete’s true self is one who is passionate, unconventional, and a bit of an underdog. Working since the age of twelve, Elisabete developed an incredible work ethic early on. After immigrating to the U.S. she quickly learned English and finished her Business Degree. Along every step of the way, Elisabete has pushed past obstacles and succeeded. She believes that hard work, persistence, and passion are the keys to success. 

“It’s less about the eagerness to achieve success and more about the commitment to serve that resulted in success. I always want to be the best I can be so it was also very important to me to focus time on my own personal development. You can’t grow a company if you don’t grow yourself.” 

While being an ‘underdog’ against competition continues to be a challenge at times, Elisabete’s unconventional approaches have often led her to triumph over competitors. 

“For me, it’s more important to follow my heart and be true to myself.” (Photo courtesy Elisabete Miranda)

“It’s not that I don’t know the traditional way of doing business, it’s just that sometimes I decide not to follow it. For me, it’s more important to follow my heart and be true to myself,” said Elisabete. “I believe that we are ‘one person,’ professionally and personally. I know that suggesting you lead with your heart might sound crazy to some, but against all odds I can say that I have achieved success, and it worked for me.” 

Recently, CQ fluency had a request for proposal (RFP) opportunity, but lacked some of the global presence the client required. To increase their chances of success, they partnered with one of the largest translation companies in the world. Despite providing a very solid response to the RFP, they were initially eliminated and told they would not be moving on to the presentation phase of the process. However, Elisabete followed her heart and took the unconventional approach. 

“You can ask anyone that knows me, one of my favorite sayings is ‘you don’t get what you don’t ask for,’ so we politely asked them to please reconsider to at least allow us to present,” said Elisabete. “Next thing we knew, we were given a date and were among one of the three finalists.” 

Up against two of the largest translation companies, Elisabete and her team were once again the underdogs. Still, they found a unique way to stand out. What really set them apart was their ability to truly listen to the needs of the client. 

“We asked the right questions and clarified information they were looking for during the presentation, and in the end-that is what won us the business,” said Elisabete. “Business is not always about the money. This client for sure will not be our largest but is one we will be most proud to serve as they share our mission of improving lives especially for the most underserved populations in the world.”

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“Learning to think big and be bold were catalysts to my success” 

With hard work, persistence, and passion Elisabete has grown her business into an award-winning global company. Her story is an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs everywhere that you too can follow your heart and make your business a reality. 

Elisabete Miranda

From underdog to award-winning global company, Elisabete Miranda followed her heart to success. (Photo courtesy Elisabete Miranda)

“Being a woman and a business owner is not easy and many women think they can’t have it all, but that is false! You absolutely can have it all if you surround yourself with the right support system of people who have your best interest at heart and want to see you succeed,” Elisabete advised.

Organizations that sponsor and promote women-owned businesses, such as NMSDC, WBENC, EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women, DA4S, and even Latinas in Business, are great places for women entrepreneurs to get started and find like-minded women.

“I love the concept ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ Getting involved in those organizations solved that for me – I met plenty of successful women who became my role models and some of my friends,” Elisabete shared. 

Lastly, Elisabete encourages aspiring women entrepreneurs to step outside of your comfort zone. 

 “Learning to think big and be bold were catalysts that converted the hard work, persistence, and passion to my success as an entrepreneur!  Henry Ford said: ‘Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right!’ – just believe you got this, because you most certainly do!”