Canadian Entrepreneur Highlight Jillian Mariani

Company: Niyama Wellness

About Niyama

Niyama Wellness is a 100% female founded, owned and run, Canadian wellness brand, based in Toronto.

In Sanskrit, niyama loosely translates to good habits. And we believe that good habits and self-care practices build healthier, happier lives.  Good Habits are so much easier to create and sustain when they are enjoyable, and when they yield positive results. That’s why Niyama Wellness creates products that are super effective, (so you know they are working) and delightful to use (so you actually enjoy them).

Niyama supports your self-care from head to toe, supporting an active lifestyle and nourishing your overall well-being. All Niyama wellness products are vegan, non-GMO and made in Canada. Free from gluten, soy and sugar with no artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners or preservatives.

Tell us your journey and how and why you started Niyama?

I was incredibly lucky to spend my whole corporate career in the natural wellness and supplements category, with access to lots of fantastic products and ingredients.  Yet even with all the amazing products available, I was still self-combining lots of single ingredient products, and mixing up my own powder elixirs to get exactly what I wanted to support my own lifestyle, without any of what I didn’t want – namely artificial sweeteners, flavours, preservatives and also less optimal forms of nutrients. It was doable, but expensive, complicated and not terribly convenient.  As a type A woman, biological and bonus mom, with a busy career and family life, I am no stranger to stress; and I knew my desire to manage my wellness naturally was not unique.  Niyama is really the embodiment of a wellness & self-care line of products that meet my own exceptionally picky standards for myself and for other like-minded consumers.  Wellness products that make creating and sustaining good habits for a healthy, happier life, easier and more enjoyable – with no guesswork!

What does it mean to you to be a female entrepreneur?

That is such a tough question to answer – on two levels really.  I never ever imagined or yearned to be an entrepreneur – I had a really exciting corporate career, working in a category that I absolutely loved and completely resonated with my own lifestyle.  Very few people get to have that. But the universe works in funny ways, and when I left corporate, I took a yoga teacher training at Downward Dog – something I had wanted to do since I started practicing back in the 1990’s.  it was amazing and I loved it, but it was physically hard and even though I was 20 years older than most of the trainees, I totally kept up.  And realized that all the little combinations of nutrients I was taking were not common knowledge, and many of the products on the market did not appeal to the group. I realized I could create products that could beautifully support the wellness goals of active, mindful women (and some men of course!) trying to live full, optimized lives.  And then the path was in front of me, and it was a matter of buckling down and starting.  I love the entrepreneurial journey – not every day of course, but the ability to create products that meet my own exacting standards has been so rewarding.  And hearing from our community that they are finally sleeping better after months or years makes even the not so good days worth it.

As for being a female entrepreneur, I think we are really having a moment.  For the longest time, being a female business woman was all I knew.  It was like breathing, but knowing in the back of my mind that just being a woman meant that in some situations it would be harder to breathe than if I were a man.  But there was no acknowledgement of that; at least that was how it felt.  Now, it feels like change is happening – and women, especially entrepreneurial women – are trying to lift each other up.  By sharing learnings, mentoring, supporting one another’s businesses through collaborations, through our own purchases as consumers – suddenly being a female founder and business owner feels like something to be very proud of, and to shout about.  We have a very long way to go – in 2021 women-led start-ups received only 2.3% of venture capital funding, while women own almost 40% of privately held businesses.  As a woman, I’m proud to say I’m an entrepreneur, and I do some mentoring as well and really try to share as much as I can of what I have learned, even though Niyama is still very small and new.

What are you trying to achieve in life aside from having a successful career?

Five years ago, I would have said “balance” was what I was trying to achieve, between work and personal, and of course being more present.  And I was totally failing at that balance  BTW– I’m not sure it was ever possible for me and who I am.

But now my answer is different.  As an entrepreneur, that line between personal and professional is completely blurred, if it’s even there at all – because it’s yours, and it’s you.  Now I aim for an integration that feels good most of the time.  And I try to take the time to enjoy the moments – with family, with friends – to stay present and appreciate the journey.  I want my kids (3 bonus kids and 1 biological) to feel proud of what I do, and to know that I do it for them, but also for me.  I want my husband and I to always be grateful we chose each other, and to keep choosing each other.  I want to give back to my community, especially other women. I guess at the end of the day, I want to look back and see more joy than sadness, and know that space and time I took up on this earth made life better in some way for someone else.

Can you give some advice to female entrepreneurs in Canada? Any tips or resources you’ve used you can share?

  1. There will never be a perfect time – it will always feel like a leap of faith – the important thing is to just start. It might be on the side for quite a while, and start really small, but you will learn what works and what doesn’t, and will refine as you go.
  2. Watch your cashflow like a hawk. You’ll need more $$$ than you think, and it creates a lot of stress. 
  3. Know that it is absolutely an emotional roller coaster unlike any “job” you’ve ever had. The highs are extra awesome but the lows can absolutely wreck you.  Everything feels so personal, because it is.  And all entrepreneurs are feeling this way – it’s not just you! The “imposter syndrome” is always looming.

Make new friends – join founder’s groups on linked in or other social, and connect with other founders.  I have found female entrepreneurs so incredibly open and transparent and willing to share their learnings.  This allows you to short-cut a lot of things and avoid pitfalls.  And it’s amazing to be able to connect with others going through the same thing.  I’m in two groups, one is an all-female Accelerator program run by Lisa Mattam of Sahajan Skincare, which is incredible, and I’m in a natural products group run by Suzie York of Love Good Fats. Our WhatsApp and Slacks are always active.  You can randomly post a question and get answers from other founders in minutes – we all help each other and cheer each other on. Find those groups and also look for collaborations with other complementary brands or services so that you can tap into each other’s communities. 

What’s next for Niyama and for you? 

Niyama has two new products launching in November – Goddess Greens: a seriously awesome organic greens and superfood powder that is incredible – think Athletic Greens but completely upgraded -all organic with way more nutrients and made in Canada.  And Immune Warrior: a next level immune boosting powder that contains functional mushrooms, clinically proven beta-glucans, aminos, vitamins and zinc.  Both have been in the works for a long time so I’m very excited to finally be sharing them. 

And we hope to partner with more specialty retailers, clinics and movement studios across Canada.  I love working with other small businesses and it feels incredible to know that my products actually make a difference in people’s lives.

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