People to Know 2018: Jennifer Ross
Jennifer Ross was attending Harvard Business School in 2014 when she grew tired of ordering boring vodka sodas to shave calories and carbs on nights out. She had an active social life and would frequently go out with her business school buddies for dinner and drinks. But Jennifer (pals call her Jen) had to do more planning than her friends did. “When you have [type 1] diabetes, you’re trained to think in terms of ‘How many carbs are in this? How much insulin do I need? What is the healthier choice?’ ” she says. When she couldn’t find a zero-sugar, no-calorie mixer made with natural ingredients to replace her go-to drink, she did what any true entrepreneur would do: She created it.
Fast forward four years. Jen heads up Be Mixed, a line of drink mixers she cofounded with a business school friend. The mixes avoid sugar and calories while serving up more flavor than the watered-down vodka sodas of her past. “I thought it was silly that this didn’t already exist and people were making compromises in celebratory and social moments,” she says.
It may sound similar to Skinnygirl Cocktails’ low-calorie alcoholic beverages, but Be Mixed is calorie free and doesn’t include alcohol, sugar, or preservatives.
Dealing with the liquor industry wasn’t easy, says Jen, now 32. “We were told that people don’t care about sugar and it was just ‘a diabetic thing.’ ” The truth was, Jen’s insistence on zero-sugar ingredients, such as stevia extract, is what made the mixers take off. “It helped us be on the forefront of that healthy movement,” she says.
Perseverance is an important quality for any business owner, but as an entrepreneur with type 1 diabetes, I know how challenging it can be to meet demands at work while also managing diabetes. Jen and I agree that today’s technology makes it easier to balance the two. She uses a pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and says the latter is a game-changer for discreetly checking her blood glucose during meetings. “I can check at any second on my phone,” she says.
For all the business-minded young adults with diabetes, Jen says diabetes management puts you one step ahead. “You are trained from when you are very young to be very thoughtful and to be able to juggle a lot of different things at one time,” she says. “You may think it’s a hindrance, but it really sets you up for success in anything you do.”
Emily Imblum is the cofounder of Pump Peelz, a company that creates customizable graphic stickers to add style to diabetes devices. After she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2010 and began using an insulin pump, Emily and her now husband, Scott, realized that the options to customize and decorate diabetes devices were limited. A year later, Pump Peelz was born. Their products are worn by people with diabetes all over the world.