Spend time with people you care about. Make an effort to have that conversation, even if it’s via phone call or text. Be present in your day-to-day interactions — life is short, and while positions and jobs may come and go, your family and friends are foremost.
As a part of my series about women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nancy Ramamurthi.
Nancy White Ramamurthi is the co-founder and CEO of Proper. She is a veteran of leadership, growth and the military with over 25 years of experience in marketing the world’s most recognizable brands. Nancy earned a BA from Georgetown University and a Kellogg MBA.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Of course! Adaptability and comfort with change, a desire to give back and make a positive impact on the world, and the drive to continually learn, grow, and challenge myself are core tenets of my “backstory.”
I spent my childhood between Japan and Okinawa, moved to the U.S. when I was 12 years old, and moved to Michigan and New York. I attended somewhere between 7 to 8 schools before I went to college because of all the moves. As a result, I became very comfortable with change, landing in new environments, and quickly adapting. This comfort with change, and recognizing the benefits of change helped me in my personal and professional life.
My family also had core values around integrity, honesty, and contributing to make the world a better place. I recall one colleague describing me as a “truth seeker”…relentless in understanding and identifying the best solution — not the politically favored one. This “backstory” influenced me to make education, career, and life decisions that were not grounded in the pursuit of wealth or status but were more about mission, purpose, and how I might become a better and stronger person as a result of that experience.
I have an insatiable curiosity, a desire to learn continually, and a natural tendency to steer into, vs. away, from tough problems and challenges. Being comfortable has never been my modus operandi. Once I climbed one proverbial mountain or milestone, I found myself looking ahead and thinking, “What’s next? What’s a large and meaningful problem I can help solve.. .how can I push myself, yet again, outside of my comfort zone.” Ironically, in some ways — I find living outside my comfort zone IS my comfort zone.
The mountain I’m climbing now is, “how do I devote myself to helping people get better health and happiness through better sleep,” and how do we use the best of data, science, and technology to achieve this?
The desire to solve this problem manifested in dedicating myself to our new business, Proper. Proper is on a mission to help solve a complex issue that affects almost every person on the planet at some point: sleep. We aim to use the best of science, data, and technology to create a more personalized and holistic solution for better sleep and, ultimately, better health. Our approach is modern, natural, safe, science-and evidence-backed. We’re not about one-off quick fixes, negative side effects, and one-size-fits-all solutions that proliferate in the sleep aisle today.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Funny enough, there is not one seminal moment that qualifies as the most interesting story. I think it’s the series of choices and decisions I made over time, where I took the less obvious path that delivered me to where I am today. The main lessons and takeaways:
Don’t be afraid to take what looks like the more challenging path. You are better than you give yourself credit for. 🙂 But always do what feels right, deep inside. Don’t take that harder path as defined by society — pick your own.
Surround yourself with the best people — people with shared values of integrity, honesty, commitment to the truth, carving new territory, and forging a better path. Find people who are unafraid, seek new challenges, and can share your impossible dreams. People that are humble, always eager to learn and evolve. The ones who respect others and the dignity of all people.
Listen and be open to change. Listen and get diverse perspectives, but make your own decisions. I’ve had people tell me I could or should never do x, y, or z. Well, I did, and they were wrong — honest from their perspective but didn’t fully know who I was. I also had people who encouraged me to do far beyond what I thought possible, and they were 100% right. In day-to-day interactions, if you are lucky enough to be surrounded by the best people — listen to them!! Evolve with your decisions and co-create with them. Everything will be better, as a result, I promise you.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve thankfully not made a disastrous mistake, but I’ve learned from mistakes and based on that, suggest these two lessons:
Determine, for yourself, what constitutes success. Don’t let others or society define that. I found that doing things outside of my value system and adopting what society might have perceived as “better” (more money, more prestige) — was the wrong decision and one I had to quickly course-correct.
Trust your gut. Especially around cultural fit and values, when you evaluate new opportunities.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m going to sound like someone getting an Oscar, too many people to thank, and I’d be deadly afraid of missing someone…but the person I’m most grateful to is my husband. He keeps me humble, laughing, loved, and enjoying life.
What’s that old phrase, behind every successful man, there’s a strong woman?
Well, in this case, it’s lovely for me to say that, like many of today’s professional women, I was successful on my own and paved my path with the help of good friends and colleagues. But now that I’ve been married for close to 18 years, I can say that being married to my best friend and supporter has been an essential part of my “success,” — which is about having a balanced personal and professional life.
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you’re doing with Proper helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
This is what makes me the most excited! Getting good sleep is one of the best ways to achieve better health. The effects of a good night’s rest are immediate, and the impact of multiple nights and years of good sleep go even further.
Proper can literally help people live longer. There is no better mission that the Proper team and I, along with our amazing group of medical and scientific advisors, can dedicate ourselves to.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Get outside every day for at least a 10-minute walk. Clear your head. Feel the sun on your body. Take a deep breath.
- Spend time with people you care about. Make an effort to have that conversation, even if it’s via phone call or text. Be present in your day-to-day interactions — life is short, and while positions and jobs may come and go, your family and friends are foremost.
- Drink water. Drink water!!
- Disconnect at night. Have a wind-down routine away from your work and the news, etc.
- Of course — get a proper night’s rest!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Get Sleep. (But there is probably some trademark issue with that!)
5 pieces of advice for those looking to start a new company?
- Bring your best to your work and your team. That means taking care of your health. Eat well, drink that water, and yes — get that sleep. You’ll be clear-headed and rested as you absorb information and make critical decisions with your team. People are counting on you.
- Listen, learn, and adapt. You will be inspired by and get fresh ideas by continually reading, talking to others, and more. Don’t ever think there is nothing to learn from X meeting or Y article. There may be that one spark that changes everything.
- Know, love, and respect your customers. Stay close to their problems and needs. Understand them deeply. Always be looking for opportunities to improve and delight customers with the absolute best in your products and services.
- Listen and learn from your detractors and enthusiasts — If you satisfy the most exacting customers, you’ll please almost everyone. Set that bar high for yourself. When I first heard, “feedback is a gift,” I didn’t fully understand it, but I now thoroughly embrace it.
- People, people, people. Surround yourself with the best team — those in the company, agency partners, formal and informal advisors (you know who they are!), consultants, board members, and investors. That’s how you’ll win, be better and stronger, and ultimately be able to deliver against your mission.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Sustainability — from an environmental, social, and economic perspective. Let’s save the planet for our future generations; let’s have a social framework that allows all people to be healthy, happy, and secure. Let’s be sure that all people have access and the ability to enjoy financial security to be healthy, happy, educated, and safe.
At Proper we have embraced sustainability in our packaging (you get your first shipment in a glass bottle, subsequent shipments are sent in a recyclable, food-grade safe pouch). Our five-night sample package is also recyclable. We’re also working on a give-back program and evaluating becoming a public benefit corporation.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I doubt anyone wants to know what restaurant I ate at, so the best place to follow me is on LinkedIn. I’d also check out our Proper handles for Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter– that’s where you can see the progress the Proper team is making on our mission to help people get a better night’s sleep — for the long term.