We sat down with Reso Health Co-Founder, Ken O’Shea to learn more about his career in the pharmaceutical industry, launching Reso Health during Covid-19 and what you can expect from Reso Health in the future.
Together, Ken O’Shea and Co-Founder Dermot O’Riordan are working to fuel the future of work by applying their learnings from working in the pharmaceutical industry for over 20 years. With an enthusiasm for health and wellbeing they want to bring a level of science and technology to the nutraceutical sector which is somewhat lacking at present.
Can you tell us more about your background?
My education includes primary degrees in both Environmental Science and Pharmaceutical Science, a Post Grad in Business Management, an MBA from Smurfit UCD and a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.
I started my career in the pharma industry scrubbing pots in the kitchen of Leo Pharma in Dublin back in 1999. This was my summer job while waiting on my final year college results. After everybody had their lunch, I had to clean up, which meant I had my lunch a little later. It just happened that the HR Director at the time also took a late lunch – probably to avoid being bombarded with everybody’s problems while he was trying to enjoy his food. We ate together and as we got talking, he realised I was going to be a science graduate, so he helped me secure a job in the penicillin manufacturing facility. Once in this role the penicillin manufacturing facility manager put me forward for a job in the penicillin laboratory, and the rest is history.
After Leo Pharma, my next move was to Australia where I worked as a Development Chemist in Pharmaxis Sydney producing inhalation products and then Niche Generics producing oral solid dose products. After gaining experience in Australia, it was time to return to Ireland where I become a Development Chemist at EirGen in Waterford.
At EirGen, my career really took off and I went from being a Development Technologist and Formulation Scientist to establishing an R&D function. Initially the R&D function was just myself, but this quickly grew to the point where I was Site Lead of the R&D Centre with a headcount of 120 people.
Where did the idea to launch Reso Health come from?
Reso Health is a new start-up company offering precision nutrition for professionals at work. It was founded in July 2021 with my Co-Founder Dermot O’Riordan. Together we’re working to fuel the future of work by applying our learnings from working in pharma for over 20 years developing cancer treatments.
Initially we were thinking about the future of medicine and what the solutions might look like. We had several ideas around how a business might be built in this area and were sure that key considerations would be precision, personalisation, convenience, and quality. To begin with we designed a device to deliver precision medicines in the home but decided that the current regulatory environment did not lend itself to this idea just now. So, we looked at applying the idea to the nutraceutical industry, where the regulatory considerations to bring products to market are less restrictive.
A big driver for us is that most problems in the workplace start with someone having a bad day and there’s nothing more contagious than a bad day. Research by the WHO shows that people who are poorly nourished are 66% more likely to demonstrate poor productivity at work. In the US alone lost value due to poor productivity is estimated at 25% of GDP. Just this morning we found a report by Meta about what’s being termed “the productivity plunge” and the difficulty it’s causing the massive tech companies.
We are solving a huge problem that exists in employee wellbeing by developing a platform for companies who are serious about employee wellness. Reso Health is reimagining the role of nutrition in workplace wellbeing, making functional nutrition as easy and convenient as your morning coffee. As Snickers said in their recent ad campaigns ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’, and this is true. Proper nutrition is important as it has a direct impact on our performance. By providing an alternative to vending machines and building healthy habits into workplace routines we want to fuel the future of work. Our dispenser is a proprietary device specifically designed for vitamin supplements, and will be located in the canteen area, preparing personalised drinks to fuel happier and healthier employees resulting in more attractive and productive workplaces.
What is the question you are asked most by our customers?
At Reso Health, our customers are mainly large multinationals with Employee Wellness programmes. They are companies who are serious about their employee’s wellbeing and are looking for a way to ensure that their employees are healthy and performing at their best while they are at work.
Our research shows that two in three corporate employees believe that it is not easy to maintain a healthy diet in work. Maintaining a healthy diet requires thought and focus, and this can be difficult when there are so many life stresses competing for a finite amount of mental energy. We believe this presents the perfect opportunity for employers to help tackle this problem. At Reso Health we want to help companies invest in the health and wellbeing of their employees by fuelling their workdays with precision nutritional supplements.
In recent years we have seen massive growth in the adoption of corporate wellness programs. Previously, these programs were adopted as a reaction to the growing preference for work-life balance and seen as corporate social responsibility initiatives. While many companies focus on physical activity in their corporate wellness program, they often don't prioritise or even address a key element of corporate wellness, namely nutrition.
According to research conducted at the Institute for Health Metrics at University of Washington (1), poor nutrition has nearly three times the impact on health as low fitness. In fact, poor diet was found to be a greater risk to health than smoking and high blood pressure.
Proper nutrition in the workplace can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being. Good nutrition can improve concentration and cognitive function, boosting an employee’s workplace performance, and it is well documented that employee wellness leads to higher creativity and productivity. The World Health Organization has found that optimal nourishment can raise national productivity levels by 20%, and that healthy employees are happier, calmer, more engaged, sleep better and get sick less often.
Providing targeted nutritional supplements in the corporate setting is an effective way to get employees to stick to smart nutrition habits, benefiting both the company and the individual.
What does a typical day look like for you in Reso Health?
Get up at 6am and drink too much coffee! My first task is to run through my daily schedule and check my emails for any urgent matters. I’m then in the gym for 7am and at my desk for 8:15am. Luckily the gym is right next door to our office which is great.
On days that I have the kids I’m in the office for 9 and will usually squeeze in a workout at lunchtime – I need it for my head. If I can’t get to the gym, I’ll make sure I get a dip in the sea at some point during the day.
Once in the office I take my daily supplements which I have prepared myself, and then touch base with my Co-Founder Dermot. We have a 15 minute stand up meeting on a pre agreed daily topic and prioritise actions. I’m a big fan of Mark Twain’s philosophy on frog-eating and completing the task you’re least looking forward to first. So, I’ll “Eat that frog” whatever that happens to be on that day, and there are many. Essentially when the first thing you do in the morning is complete a task you’re not looking forward to, you master the courage to face the day, because that is probably the worst thing you're ever going to do.
On a typical day I’m:
Talking to customers and potential customers
Conducting market research and competitor analysis
Working on product development (device, formulations and platform)
Dealing with the never-ending admin!
Usually, I leave the office at around 5pm and head home to Tramore. I speak with my wife about the day, how the kids got on etc and anything that needs to be done that evening. Most evenings I have dinner with my family and then play taxi driver for a couple of hours. It’s a busy household with 3 kids playing multiple sports!
After the kids go to bed, I’ll do an hour or two on the laptop to get ahead and prepare for the next day. Typically, I’m in bed with a book by 10 before repeating it all again the following day.
So far, what is the best thing about being part of Reso Health?
It’s good craic, a little stressful but fun at the same time. I really respect and enjoy working with my Co-Founder Dermot. We compliment and challenge each other, and it helps that we can go for a pint together now and then too.
Reso Health has taken us out of our comfort zone. A good example of this is a recent marketing exercise we undertook at WellFest. Across the weekend we spoke to over 600 users and got 250 survey responses on preferences and behaviours. This was all completely new to us.
Some key milestones for us include:
Validation of the business idea through conversations with nutritionists, MDs, HRDs, recruitment agents and employees. Our conversations with HR directors, along with extensive secondary research confirms that nutrition is absent from employee wellness programmes. Our conversations and surveys also validate a desire to engage with such initiatives if they were available.
Developing our website and back-end platform for data capture
Developing relationships with several key suppliers
Getting to this point by consulting with no debt or investment and still owning 100% of the business.
Securing a number of grants to help up build our prototype
We’re almost at minimum viable product (MVP) and are ready to field test. Later this year we are looking to start fundraising in preparation for a product launch.
How can you add Reso Health's personalised supplements to your healthcare package?
Contact us or visit our website homepage to learn more