Caroline Rasmussen is not your average wellness entrepreneur. A Harvard trained lawyer, she spent ten years working on Wall Street before her father’s sudden dementia and Parkinson’s diagnosis compelled her to leave toxic corporate life and return to her hometown to study herbal medicine, meditation, and how to keep the brain healthy, naturally. Then, Antara was born: a research-backed nootropics brand brought to life from personal story. Read below on Caroline’s lifestyle transition, wellness routine, and what nootropics mean to her.
How do you define what you do now?
I would describe myself as working in the mind wellness space. I run a company that supplies herbal remedies for the brain, and I’m also a meditation teacher passionate about helping people improve their lives by exploring and developing their minds.
Describe the role you held previously – are there any glaring differences between the two and the lifestyle you lead with each?
Previously, I was a corporate lawyer and worked in the financial sector, so the answer is definitely yes! The work culture in those industries on the sellside is a stressful one of long hours and doing whatever it takes to get the deal done. If you really are passionate about the deals, that’s great, but if you’re not, it will end up taking its toll. As a Type A perfectionist, the role ended up exacerbating those tendencies in an unhealthy way for me where sleep, real food, personal time, and my overall wellness fell by the wayside. Entrepreneurship definitely comes with its pressures, but the intrinsic motivation of doing something you love is hard to beat, and being in the wellness space, it’s much easier to remember to prioritize my physical and mental health. I may work as many hours as I did before, but having more control over my schedule also lets me better tailor those hours so I’m operating at a higher energy level overall.
What made you decide to transition into entrepreneurship?
The immediate catalyst was my father’s early onset dementia and Parkinson’s diagnosis. It woke me up to the fact that I had lost any sense of purpose in what I was doing, and that continuing down the corporate track in the way I had been wouldn’t be a good use of time for me personally. I didn’t immediately decide to transition into entrepreneurship – instead I took some time off to just disengage from the treadmill, reassess what was important to me, and restore my health. In this process I discovered the original analog means of self improvement back in Asia, herbal therapies and consciousness therapies, and they had such a powerful effect in my life that it I knew I wanted to work in this area in some way. That organically evolved into starting my own business because I noticed gaps in the market in terms of what was being offered in these areas to support the mind.
What was the hardest moment of the transition?
Probably the period right after the diagnosis. I was very burnt out physically and mentally by this point, certainly depressed, and the diagnosis was obviously really discouraging for my family. We were struggling with how this had happened, how we would deal with it, and while I knew I didn’t want to be a corporate lawyer anymore, I had no idea of what I did want to do. I had been fairly risk adverse in my life up to that point, very focused and driven by external validation and the expectations of people around me, and there was some fear and struggle in letting go of that mindset and facing the uncertainty of how I would support myself in the future.
What did you do or tell yourself to get through this period?
Discovering meditation is what got me through this period. Luckily I had the presence of mind and the means to take a step back for awhile, and this space allowed me to establish a strong meditation practice as well as start to healing myself in complementary ways, like learning about and using herbs. These things allowed me to understand my depressed, anxious, and generally unmoored state and eventually create a new one. Often you have to hit rock bottom before you gain the next insight. Meditation and getting in touch with your inner compass is the best way I’ve found to get that insight.
Can you speak to the rewards of this transition?
For the first time in my professional life I can identify reasons for what I’m doing that matter to me, beyond the paycheck or building my resume or trying to impress others or myself. It makes it so much easier and fun to get up in the morning – there are certainly aspects of running my own business that are less fulfilling than others, but overall when you’re pursuing an activity as a form of self-expression, it replenishes you instead of draining you. I keep up a strong mind practice of my own as part of both my business and my personal life, it’s such a bonus and a pleasure to have that intersect.
Was wellness always a priority in your life, or did this come afterwards?
It came afterwards. Like many people, sometimes it takes a health event of your own or with a loved one for wellness to become a priority.
What are some of your wellness staples in your self-care routine?
I take my anti-inflammatory supplement Amrita Anti-Aging Brain Food every day. Among other things, it contains a super powerful, highly absorbable form of curcumin that several studies have shown to be very effective in counteracting inflammation and oxidative stress. I also take a green juice supplement called Athletic Greens as insurance for if I don’t end up eating enough fruits and vegetables that day. Every morning I meditate for 45min to an hour, and before starting, I use Bios Apothecary’s Third Eye Chakra Balancing Oil as a cue for my brain to shift into a more reflective state. And I’m always buying flowers and plants – I like to have living, natural beauty around me to stay inspired.
Words of advice to other people wishing to transition into the wellness or entrepreneurship sectors?
Whatever product or service you’re considering, it should be something not only that you’re passionate about, but that solves a problem and you see a real need for that’s not already met. The wellness space is very competitive and you need to be prepared to explain how what you’re offering is differentiated and why it’s important.
More broadly, for each of us there is a place where our passions and the skills that come most naturally to us intersect. Take the time to triangulate that space because it’s the place where professional and personal success will come most easily and where work will feel the least like work. It inevitably takes some trial and error, and it may be in wellness and entrepreneurship or it may not, but if you’re after sustainable happiness, it’s worth the effort to do this.
I would also say, get your financial house in order before you take the plunge. Being an entrepreneur inevitably comes with some financial pressure and you want to be in the best position possible ahead of that. When you’re anticipating what your capital needs will be, skew conservative. It’s not to say that taking risk and financial risk is a bad thing, because that’s what it’s all about, but if you’re in a situation where you feel like your back is against the wall not only will you be dealing with that extra stress but you’re much more likely to lose sight of the bigger picture of what you’re doing. In my opinion, being only focused on the bottom line isn’t a good way to run a business. In particular, its not great in the wellness sphere especially if you are working with people 1:1 in any capacity because in that situation you have a responsibility to them to be fully attuned and focused on their needs, and having to be worried about making your rent is going to get in the way of that.
Feature Image via Jessica Golightly