Black Business Month: An Interview With Marc Washington of Muniq

Published on August 27, 2020

Keeping up with your health can be stressful at times as it can be one quite the task to keep up with. Whether you may be trying to eat healthier or keep with illnesses like diabetes, mental health, or other health conditions, watching out for your health is a top priority that people try to maintain every day.

Marc Washington thought that no one should have to suffer from underlying health conditions, so he founded Muniq to provide a way for people to take care of their bodies.

Marc Washington, Founder& CEO of Muniq

Grit Daily: What made you want to start this business? 

Marc Washington: My little sister, Monica, was my inspiration for launching Muniq. Monica was full of personality, incredibly warm, colorful, and hilarious, and she lived life fully.  Her story is similar to so many others when it came to her health, though, as she struggled over the years with her weight, diabetes, and blood pressure. Monica tragically passed away 5 years ago due to health complications during childbirth. 

I was inspired by Monica to create a business that empowers others who are dealing with chronic ‘underlying conditions’ like she dealt with to regain control over their health. Many of these conditions have for too long have held too much control over people’s lives. I know Monica is smiling down at the prospect of helping people as a way to continue building on her legacy, as she had a warm and giving spirit. At Muniq we are creating products that Monica would have loved and that could have made a difference in her life.

GD:What is Muniq? 

MW: Muniq is the first consumer brand for my company, which is called Uplifting Results Labs. Through Muniq, we are bringing our mission to life which is to increase hope, health, and happiness through the science of the gut microbiome. We are addressing prevalent chronic health conditions by offering breakthrough nutrition solutions that transform your health, which are based on deep scientific research and work through your gut. Our brand name is an ode to my little sister, Muniq = Monica + unique.

Our first line of breakthrough products for Muniq are balanced nutritional shakes powered by resistant starch, a unique class of prebiotic fiber, designed to promote gut health and significantly improve your body’s natural ability to control blood sugar levels. 

GD: What are the health benefits of using muniq?

MW: Scientific developments have proven the critical role of your gut on most physiological conditions in your body. At Muniq, we research proven technologies that work through your gut to drive specific health outcomes, starting with blood sugar control.

Muniq shakes are formulated with our proprietary blend of prebiotic fibers, featuring resistant starch. These ingredients have been proven effective by over 300 clinical studies in transforming your health through your gut. The initial benefit is a strengthened gut microbiome, which is your foundation for good health overall. The primary health benefit from Muniq shakes is to significantly improve your body’s natural ability to control blood sugar levels. Prebiotic resistant starch helps you avoid frustrating spikes and crashes, improves insulin sensitivity, reduce fasting glucose levels, and even helps reduce average blood sugar levels (aka A1C) over time.

In addition, Muniq shakes provide other powerful health benefits including effectively satisfying hunger – which supports weight loss, boosting and balancing your immune system, and improving digestive health and regularity. 

GD:As a business owner, what are your three top priorities?

MW: My top priority is to fulfill our mission of truly empowering people to transform their health, starting with improved gut health and blood sugar control. Ensuring that our products live up to the promise is fundamental to our ethos and to our business model. We will not be successful in positively impacting the world unless our products are effective at delivering on the intended health benefits.

Secondarily, I believe it’s critical that we create an amazing all-around experience for Muniq customers. We are obsessed with the customer experience and want customers to feel heard and valued when they interact with our brand. A significant aspect of this is our private Muniq Lifers community, which is our platform to engage customers who are on a journey to improve their health and are looking for a community to support each other in a collective and uplifting way. 

Finally, while our overall aspiration is to help as many people as possible in addressing chronic health conditions, I feel a personal obligation as a Black founder of a health and wellness business to play an important role in transforming the health of those who need it the most, in particular Black and Brown communities. Practically all chronic health conditions have a disproportionate effect on minority communities. It’s very important to me that Muniq be a part of the solution to help close the pervasive health disparities for minority communities.

GD:What separates your business from others?

MW: Unlike most health & nutrition products on the market, we take a science-based & research-driven approach to product development (more akin to the process typically followed by pharma or biotech companies). This is how we create products that are proven through scientific research to transform your health in a targeted way.  Another central theme to our products is that they work through your gut microbiome, which has been proven to be the control center for your health affecting most aspects of your health. 

Despite our strong scientific foundation, Muniq is an intensely consumer-driven brand. I know from experience that one of the most significant challenges for people to improve their health is when “healthy” solutions are difficult to sustain or not enjoyable. That’s a recipe for a solution to be a passing fad and not result in enduring benefits. We focus intensely on ensuring our products are not only highly effective, but are also enjoyable and delicious. Creating products that work through your gut to fundamentally transform your health, and doing so in a way that consumers actually look forward to indulging in as part of their everyday lives is how we will have a lasting impact on public health.

In regards to our initial line of breakthrough nutritional shakes, they are formulated with a highly efficacious dosage of prebiotic fibers featuring resistant starch. Very few products on the market include resistant scratch, which has the power to be a game-changer for many individuals looking to improve blood sugar control. For example, most shakes targeting glucose control only include a few grams of fiber while Muniq shakes contain 15 grams of next-generation prebiotic fibers to transform your blood sugar control. 

GD: Can Muniq be used with workouts? (Pre and post) 

MW: If you’re an avid fitness enthusiast, Muniq can be a helpful addition to your workout routine, particularly for post-workout. It’s a great way to energize and refuel your body with nutrients which may have been depleted from exercise. So Muniq can be helpful as a source of nutrition to provide sustained energy after workouts, based on the healthy combination of high-quality protein + prebiotic fiber + health fats.

We typically don’t recommend using Muniq as a pre-workout shake given the satiation effects of our shake.

GD: What do you mean by a scientific approach to nutrition? 

MW: As described earlier, we take an evidence-based approach to research and product development by conducting deep research into technologies proven effective through clinical studies. This is how we create products that are proven through scientific research to transform your health and work through your gut microbiome. Our scientific approach to nutrition results in products that modulate your gut microbiome to deliver targeted health outcomes with therapeutic-like efficacy as opposed to just being generally “better for you.”

GD: I saw the blog about the prevention of certain diseases — if a person has high blood pressure, can Muniq work to keep a persons’ blood pressure low? 

MW: I created Muniq to help people effectively address prevalent ‘underlying conditions’ and regain control of their health and lives. As a nutrition business, we cannot claim that our products will prevent, treat, or cure a disease. Instead, we focus on formulating products that directly address the key precursor health conditions that are important for all of us to maintain within healthy ranges in order to support better health.

Muniq shakes were specifically designed to improve gut health and blood sugar control. While there are additional proven health benefits of Muniq shakes and some customers have indicated improved blood pressure after consuming them, blood pressure reduction is not a specific health outcome that our shakes were formulated to improve. That being said, we do know from the research that a diet consuming high levels of prebiotic fibers including resistant starch has far-reaching health benefits and new insights are constantly emerging around the additional health benefits beyond those that are currently known.

GD: People who have the conditions you mentioned on your blog, can Muniq help them through their diseases (for example maybe lighten up or somehow help control/maintain it)? 

MW: The primary health benefits of Muniq are around healthy blood sugar control. It has been clinically proven that the prebiotic fiber ingredients used in Muniq can have a transformative effect on a person’s natural ability to manage blood sugar levels. This is important for ALL of us to take steps to pay more attention to our blood sugar levels, is exemplified by the fact that nearly 50% of US adults have blood sugar levels above the normal healthy range.

The blood sugar benefits of Muniq shakes are extensive. Resistant starch is a powerful prebiotic fiber that resists digestion and feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut responsible for keeping you healthy and keeping your blood sugar under control. Since the prebiotic fibers in Muniq shakes are slowly digested by the beneficial bacteria in your gut, this helps you avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes. They also improve your body’s insulin sensitivity, which can significantly improve someone’s fasting glucose level, a leading indicator of blood sugar control. What’s most exciting is that consuming lots of prebiotic resistant starch, like included in Muniq shakes, has been clinically shown to help reduce average blood sugar levels (called A1C) over time. A1C is the key measure of blood sugar control.

GD: How many times a day should you drink muniq? 

MW: Muniq shakes were designed to provide transformative benefits on your gut health and blood sugar control with only 1 shake per day! Each Muniq shake contains 15 grams of prebiotic fiber, which is enough to satisfy 50% of your daily recommended fiber intake.

That said, Muniq shakes only include the highest quality ingredients which have all been proven safe, so you can drink 2 shakes per day if you really want to significantly boost your daily fiber intake and get an additional super-healthy meal to satisfy your hunger and further support your weight loss goals. We just recommend starting slow and building up tolerance over time, so that your gut is prepared for such a significant dosage of fiber before consuming more than 1 per day.

I personally start my mornings off with a glass of Muniq, and sometimes have another shake for an afternoon snack.

GD: Besides Muniq, what other ways would you recommend improving your gut health along with your product? 

MW:The good news is many of the suggested actions to improve gut health are things you should ideally be doing anyways to improve your overall health. Research has shown that since your gut is connected to most every physical and mental bodily function, the things you can do to improve your overall health also have a positive impact on the strength of your gut microbiome.  This includes:

Exercise:  It’s more important than ever these days to make extra efforts to remain physically active to keep your body moving and avoid being sedentary.  This is key for your physical and mental health as exercise has been shown to improve your mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. Scientific research has shown that your gut microbiome and your brain undergo chemical changes when you exercise.

Fiber focus:  I suggest incorporating more plant-based fiber-rich foods into your diet (as opposed to highly processed foods with limited fiber). Although fiber is critical for health and lowers risk of diseases like diabetes, practically none of us get enough in our diets. Close your fiber gap with more veggies (generally the darker the better), whole grains, beans and legumes (and of course Muniq shakes!)

Rest and stress relief:  As you’d expect getting plenty of sleep has been linked to improved gut health. Also activities to keep your stress levels under control – like meditation and connecting with friends and family – are also important ways to sustain gut health.

Probiotics: Lastly, probiotics – which are live bacteria found in food & supplements – can be helpful to improve your gut health.  HOWEVER, you need to choose wisely as most widely available probiotic foods & supplements aren’t very effective at transforming your gut health. One of the reasons why is that ALL beneficial bacteria – including probiotics – need to be fed the right nutrients to boost your gut health. And most of us don’t get nearly enough prebiotic fiber in our diets.

GD: Could this help with those who have stomach aches and nausea? 

MW:Research has shown that a strong gut microbiome is the key to healthy digestion, and that resistant starch is one of the most well-studied approaches to improving gut health. So yes, Muniq shakes can have a significant positive effect on digestive health which can help alleviate issues like stomach aches and irregularity. In fact, in an internal test ¾ of consumers with pre-existing digestive issues reported improvements after drinking Muniq shakes. 

Could this help with weight loss? 

MW:Yes. Muniq was designed to serve as a satisfying and delicious meal replacement, and our customers tell us all the time about how they stay nourished and full for 4+ hours after drinking our shakes. This is due to the combination of slow-digesting prebiotic fiber + protein + healthy fats. As we all know, hunger and sugar cravings can lead to unhealthy eating habits. So yes, drinking Muniq shakes as a replacement for a traditional meal can be a great aid in supporting your weight loss goals.

GD: I saw recipes on your blog, can you make different treats with the shake mix as well? 

MW: We designed Muniq shakes to be a delicious and convenient way to indulge while transforming your health. This is why we made it simple to fit into your everyday life without much work or hassle. That said, I know from experience that everyone loves some variety in their lives which is why we provide a number of delicious, low-glycemic recipes on our blog.

In addition to shake recipes, we also offer baking recipes on our blog and have more in the works for OTHER ways to enjoy your daily dose of Muniq in low-carb baking recipes. One example is a delicious recipe for pumpkin chocolate-chip protein muffins, which is on our site.

GD: Have you ever thought about branching into the food realm with your product? 

MW: For sure. Our Muniq shakes are just the beginning. We are actively exploring additional product formats as extensions of our resistant starch-based product platform to support health blood sugar. That includes exploring additional food formats to support the transformative health benefits across other usage occasions. We are doing our research first, though, to ensure that we create products that are the highest quality and live up to the standards of Muniq shakes.

GD: Have you ever thought about adding more products in general? 

MW: Definitely. I created Muniq as a platform brand that creates solutions to transform your health through your gut microbiome. Our initial shakes are focused on improving gut health and blood sugar control. We are already actively developing future product platforms that target other prevalent health conditions which can also be significantly improved through your gut.

My vision for Muniq in the future is that we will offer consumers a suite of products that are targeted to address a range of specific health conditions, offered in a personalized way for a consumer based on his/her individual needs. Our products will share a common theme of transforming your health through your gut. 

We’re excited about expanding and creating products that can continue to help people on their health journey. Stay tuned! We can’t wait to reveal what we have in store for Muniq.

GD: What most do you enjoy about your business and doing what you do everyday? 

MW: First and foremost, I am incredibly passionate about helping people improve their health and lives. It’s incredibly rewarding to hear from our customers sharing their life-changing experience with Muniq. We focus on helping one person at a time, and for me hearing their success stories is the ultimate reward.

I especially appreciate the community that we have built to support customers on their health journey. It provides me a way to interact directly with our customers and watch them support each other. 

I am really driven by our aspiration to be a force for good, especially for multicultural communities. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to leverage my background and experience to build a mission-oriented business that is at the critical intersection of diversity and public health. This is such an important way for me to continue to honor the legacy of my sister, Monica.

GD: What is it like being a black business owner?

MW:Most of the challenges I’ve faced as a Black man working in health and wellness are common challenges among Black professionals across industry sectors. Unfortunately I’m all too familiar with being “The Only One” in many professional environments. We all know that lack of representation and senior role models that look like us presents an additional barrier for career development and advancement. I’ve been fortunate to work with some great leaders during my career, but I definitely could have benefited from having more Black mentors and leaders to show me the ropes and provide additional personal guidance over the years.

The challenges of being Black in the nutrition and wellness space are somewhat exacerbated, though, as the industry is lacking diversity even relative to other industries. The lack of diversity in nutrition and wellness is especially ironic given the populations that need our health-promoting products the MOST are those dealing with most significant health issues. And as we all know, Black and Brown communities are struggling with chronic diseases at significantly higher rates than the general population, leading to vast disparities in health outcomes.

Being a Black executive in the wellness space can at times feel like a lonely existence. It’s a rare occurrence to spot someone that looks like me while walking the halls of an industry conference or symposium, or while meeting with supply chain partners and vendors. There are times where I’ve felt like I was carrying the heavy weight of representing an entire culture, and pushing for more representation and inclusion somewhat single-handedly. All that said, I’d be remiss to not also mention that my experiences as a Black executive in this industry have also afforded me a platform to speak openly about the importance of diversity and representation in our industry, and to help support positive change.

GD: What advice would you give those in the black community who are wanting to pursue a business?

MW:My initial advice is to begin with your “Why.” Be clear about what your intentions are, and what is driving your specific interest in starting a business. This is important to ensure that your anticipated venture aligns with your greater purpose and motivation. Launching a new business as an entrepreneur is HARD, so you need to make sure that this journey is one that will bring you energy and joy (regardless of the potential future outcome) before diving in headfirst.

Secondly, I suggest being very clear about what problem your business will solve for consumers. Clearly this includes sizing the total addressable market, understanding the specific needs your solution will fill, and what makes your solution unique.  

Beyond that, you also really need to deeply understand the consumer mindset and validate that your venture will align with their interests and needs. Some of this can be conducted via research and market studies. But the most valuable consumer insights are usually gained by talking to people who represent your target consumers. 

I also suggest that you speak with as many people with relevant experience as possible, especially entrepreneurs whom you respect and would like to emulate. That includes professionals with specific experience in the wellness vertical that you’re interested in, as well as others who operate outside of your specific targeted space. I try to be a helpful resource for those who reach out for counsel who have clear and positive intentions and respect the value of my time. 

And finally, you should take a deep breath and reflect on everything you have learned to ensure you are ready before diving in. Being an entrepreneur is NOT for the faint of heart. And there are extra challenges you must be prepared for as a Black entrepreneur, given the limited historical minority representation in the industry, and long-standing preexisting relationships that can be challenging to break into coming from the outside. 

GD: Was there a struggle building up your business because of the color of your skin? 

MW:Of course there have been challenges getting my business off the ground due to systemic issues related to race. But these challenges haven’t necessarily been “new” issues that I haven’t faced previously in my career. 

At the same time, these are unprecedented times with the heightened public acknowledgment of the many structural inequities impacting the Black community, and the recognition of the need for greater social equity. This has resulted in unanticipated calls to support Black business owners, which is long-overdue but welcome nonetheless. It will be telling to see how much of the increased emphasis in supporting Black-owned businesses will endure and translate into continued actions as opposed to transient pledges of support that fade away amidst reversion to ‘business as usual.’ I’m hopeful that the ripple effects of the social justice movement that we’re experiencing will persist over time and result in a more just society.

GD: Do you believe that the black business community has a harder time when it comes to starting a business and building it up than others? If so why? 

MW:Of course. It’s impossible to ignore hundreds of years of racism and social injustices that still have a pervasive impact on our society today. The recent examples of devastating racial injustices against Black Americans exemplify some of the structural issues we face today, and the business community is not exempt from these effects.

There are many factors that put minority communities at a disadvantage when it comes to starting and scaling new businesses. The lack of diverse representation and pre-existing relationships within most traditional industries puts aspiring Black entrepreneurs at a structural disadvantage relative to the general public. It is challenging to start a new business in an environment that is devoid of others who look like you, who may share common experiences, and where you have a network of pre-existing connections. Consider as an example the lack of diverse representation in the venture capital world and the corresponding lack of venture investments going to minority-led businesses. This is just one example of the many challenges that the Black community faces in starting new businesses.

If you want more of Muniq you can check out their products here!

Jori Ayers is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily based in Tampa, Florida. She was formerly with the editorial team at Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.

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