Derek Oh and Faraz Nomani, Founders, Szio+
In today’s modern world, many of our systems are organized in a way that separates the different facets of health. While a doctor may recommend antibiotics, a nutritionist might suggest healthy eating habits, and a therapist might suggest stress-relieving techniques. However, there is no structural guidance for fitting the pieces together as a whole. In a world that has normalized the use of pharmaceutical drugs and surgical interventions, Canadian healthcare professionals Derek Oh and Faraz Nomani founded Szio+ in 2017 to provide high-quality options to naturally improve health and reduce the need for prescription medications. Today, Szio+ has become a trusted physician-approved Health Company across North America.
The Inception Story
With a combined healthcare industry experience of over 40 years, Derek and Faraz have experience spanning various functional roles within surgical devices, pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods. Derek was propelled into healthcare by his desire to make a positive impact on the lives of patients through medical interventions. After working in the industry for many years, he discovered a passion to help patients live healthier lives to reduce the need for more complex solutions. On the other hand, Faraz, an engineer, was exposed early to the problems in the healthcare system which fuelled his passion to find innovative options that could be trusted by healthcare practitioners. He decided to pursue a career in the healthcare industry and began working at Johnson and Johnson (J&J). The pair worked closely with leading surgeons and scientists in Toronto and across Canada and witnessed first-hand how chronic conditions could debilitate patients and cause a burden on hospitals.
Derek says, “Through our experience and passion to improve health, we believe prevention to be the best offense against various health conditions. The development of natural products, or dietary supplements, that work and have clinical data to back them up, is where we felt our experience could help serve those in need.”
Derek and Faraz met each other while working together at J&J within their surgical device division. Their passion for healthcare was a strong catalyst in the formation of their partnership and journey to starting their own business. Through their own experiences with family members, they knew that Urinary Tract Infections were a very common problem, but one that could be prevented.
With the drive to find effective solutions other than antibiotics through a clinical network of specialists, the duo founded Utiva, as a brand focused on this area with natural products.
The company strived to develop a brand that could help patients self-screen their symptoms with UTI Test Strips and also help improve their quality of life by taking natural supplements that reduce doctor visits and antibiotic usage. Initially, Utiva started with two products and now has grown to over 7 products which all naturally help with UTI Prevention, Overactive Bladder, and Prostate Health. Faraz asserts, “A strong value we provide is that our products are all carefully sourced, locally produced, and now trusted by over 7,000 healthcare practitioners across Canada and the USA. We also provide a UTI Tracker App and lots of education on social media to empower consumers to proactively manage their health.”
Overcoming Challenges as a Team
Initially, when Derek and Faraz formed a partnership, there was a lot of skepticism as typically ‘partnerships don’t work’. Derek says, “In our case, Szio+ Inc has thrived on the fact that we are both super passionate about what we are doing, and have a lot of respect for each other’s opinions!” Derek and Faraz worked together to develop the company’s mission and vision with the shared goal of ethically introducing clinically proven natural products to market that could be trusted by physicians and sold directly to consumers.
Perseverance and hussle are the two words that strongly resonate with what Szio+ does. The company’s sales increased from $70,000 in the first year to seven figures in just 2 years. Faraz shares, “In the eyes of start-up brands, that may not seem like a lot but consider that this started self-funded, there was no large VC funding. The basis and start was accomplished with only two of us! It wasn’t until about 2 years in that a small group of investors joined our company. Being strategic about our decisions and standing behind what we created allowed us to build the brand up with physicians and consumers.”
According to Faraz, the biggest challenge is leaving corporate careers with strong income to zero income for a couple of years by believing in themselves.
The Secret to their Success
Derek and Faraz are result-oriented and share the same mindset, if an idea or concept makes sense they work on it immediately. Derek states, “We both share the passion of launching clinically proven solutions across different disease states.” Derek’s leadership and skillset are working relentlessly to research manufacturers to meet regulations and standards of quality. This requires diligence, attention to detail, and negotiation to bring these ideas to life. He also brings his leadership and sales skills in organizing a professional sales team that educates physicians on the solutions.
Meanwhile, Faraz complements this by researching the market potential, scanning competitors, the value proposition, and pricing, and connecting with physicians and consumers to validate whether the solutions meet their needs. He works primarily on the consumer side, building a team that simplifies the customer journey and makes it easy for consumers to find the knowledge and solutions that meet their needs from the website.
Derek and Faraz have a perfect co-leadership of the divide and conquer approach. Faraz says, “We have clear, transparent communication at the core of what we do every day. It keeps the trust between us and the foundation strong. We are fans of partnership and co-leading our business.”
Derek and Faraz aim to expand the Utiva portfolio to ensure there are natural options that focus on any pelvic and urinary tract-related concerns. In the coming years, the duo aspires to increase its growing team in a respectful, challenging, and fun work environment. Their objective is to establish a company that has strong moral and ethical values in the natural space and to ensure the teams are proud to work at Szio+ utmost importance.
In his advice to aspiring leaders, Faraz says, “I believe that if someone wants to do something, it is possible, but you need to have the passion, drive and support of the right people. Together these elements build the foundation and gives one courage to push beyond boundaries towards success”