In 2009, Jason Wachob ’98 could barely walk. Two extruded vertebral discs pressed on his sciatic nerve, causing excruciating lower back pain. Multiple doctors told the former varsity basketball player he needed surgery. Six months later, he was healed — by yoga.
“The reason ‘mbg’ is one word is because it’s all connected,” Wachob says. “If you’re reading all the self-help books but you’re eating [poorly], you’re not going to be happy. And if you’re meditating and doing yoga all day, but you’re throwing toxins into your body and home, you’re not going to be happy.”
The content — new-age-Oprah meets The Huffington Post — features self-help inspiration and expert-based advice separated into five pillars: Eat, Move, Live, Breathe and Love.
Building a media company with no media background was far from easy. The former Wall Street trader told his wife — and founding partner — Colleen, who was supporting them at the time, that profitability should take only six months. It took three years.
“We didn’t know then how hard it is to grow traffic or ramp up advertising,” says Colleen, now chief branding officer. “These were definitely hard conversations. We couldn’t have gotten through it without my corporate job and its benefits. We were just extremely passionate about wellness and realized that no one was making these ideas accessible to a more mainstream audience. Remember, this was before the world of green juice and yoga took over the zeitgeist. It seemed like a big opportunity.”
Their hunch paid off. The website currently has 12 million monthly unique visitors, revenue in the eight figures and almost $5 million in raised capital (thanks to new lead investor Lew Frankfort BUS’69).
“Jason lives the values of his brand,” says Frankfort. “He is authentic, transparent, curious and determined. He demonstrates a willingness and desire to be better, and he displays a humility and vulnerability that motivates others to work with him.”
The website even inspired a book. Wellth: How I Learned to Build a Life, Not a Résumé is based on Wachob’s viral blog post “39 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 39 Years.” “Wellth” stands for a new kind of currency representing happiness, health and purpose — not money.
“Wellth” stands for a new kind of currency representing happiness, health and purpose — not money.
Part self-help, part memoir, the book features easily digestible pieces of advice, from inspirational quotes to expert advice by mbg contributors like integrative medicine specialist Dr. Frank Lipman and couples therapist Sue Johnson Ph.D. Wachob addresses everything from poor nutrition (modify your diet based on different stages of your life) to work burnout (stress becomes physical and can ravage your body). The Long Island native does not hesitate to show vulnerability: He describes first loves, family deaths and even financial failures.
Though he is successful now, Wachob needed 10 years to find his calling. Hoping to pay off student loans, he spent the first five years out of college in equity trading. One year he earned $800,000, but the high-roller lifestyle didn’t bring him happiness, especially in the soul-searching months after 9-11, so he decided to work for himself. He was an investor at a Washington, D.C.-based healthcare company that folded; a founder of a low-carb, low-sugar cheesecake business that couldn’t grow; and the CEO of a cookie company that was undercapitalized in the recession.
Despite three failed start-ups, Wachob never gave up. “I don’t think everyone’s made to be an entrepreneur,” he says. “Can you work all the time? Would you do this for nothing? It’s amazing. I love it. But it’s all-consuming. For me, there’s no separation between work and life.”
The former athlete attributes coaching from former Lions coach Armond Hill (currently assistant coach of the LA Clippers) for teaching him perseverance on the court and in the start-up world.
“I learned that it’s easy to win but hard to lose. It’s easy to point fingers when you lose, but it’s a lot harder to stay together and get through it. When you start losing, you can get demoralized and become complacent. And he wouldn’t allow us to do that.”
Wachob was so inspired by Columbia that he gave $25,000 to the basketball program as soon as he made money on Wall Street. Hill honored the donation by creating the Jason Wachob Award, which goes to the player who never gave up on his teammates or himself.
To this day, helping others drives Wachob forward through his 70-hour work weeks. He keeps every handwritten letter he receives from readers about mbg changing their lives.
“I was envious of people who were clearly passionate about what they were doing,” he says. “I went on this 10-year search for that and finally found it with mindbodygreen.”
Yelena Shuster ’09 has written for The New York Times, InStyle, The Moscow Times and more. She runs TheAdmissionsGuru.com, where she edits admissions essays for high school, college and master’s program applications.
Published quarterly by the Columbia College Office of Alumni Affairs and Development for alumni, students, faculty, parents and friends of Columbia College.