When Sonia Hunt faces an obstacle, she builds a solution that helps others overcome it.
Growing up with food allergies, Sonia noticed the lack of information for herself and others who love food but need to be careful about what they eat. Sonia filled this gap by creating her own food and wellness blog, where she shares her experiences traveling the world and indulging in rich foods.
Aside from the food space, Sonia is also innovating wearable technology. Her company Neyya is a ring that gives you control over your laptop, phone and other devices. In our interview, Sonia shares the idea behind Neyya and how her team created the product in an unlikely place, her passions for building relationships and how she stays inspired.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA by immigrant parents who left everything they knew in India to make a better life here in the US. The journeys they experienced and shared with me and my siblings have resonated deeply: always count your blessings, work hard and on things that matter, use your talents to pump goodness into the world to help make life better for others who are not as fortunate. If I only get one chance on this Earth, I want to make sure it really counts. So I really ‘live’ every day, smile and laugh a lot, and make sure I always have time for my tribe.
That’s my essence. I’m a dreamer. My life is about building soulful relationships for a greater good. Aside from that I’m an engineer, a gadget girl, a middle child, a global traveler, a world citizen, a beautiful soul, a very proud Mommy to pup named Kassius, a TEDx speaker, an athlete, a chef, a hostess, a relationship builder, a hard-core foodie with too many food allergies, champagne lover, hug giver & receiver, dangly earrings girl, super silly and so much more.
You run a powerful blog on health and wellness. What’s most gratifying and/or challenging about managing a blog?
My blog started off because I was tired of all the same content from the food magazines and food TV.
I grew up reading food magazines and watching a ton of cooking shows, but it became a business to make chefs into celebrities or celebrities into chefs – rather than focusing on subjects that people in this country are dealing with and need help with on a daily basis. I’m a child and adult of severe food allergies, and none of these outlets are ‘talking’ to me nor all the other 15M+ people suffering with dietary restrictions.
Living and eating healthy was always my priority, so thus was born soniahunt.com. I found that both people who did and didn’t have dietary restrictions started connecting to me via my website and social media to find out how I traveled globally and ate with such severe allergies and stayed safe? Sharing my life experiences, talking about what I have to go through on a daily basis was freeing and very helpful to so many out there that are in a similar situation. I also share recipes on my website; I’ve been cooking since I was five and being able to cook and maneuver through a kitchen needs to be back with a vengeance.
Wellness is not just about food. It’s body, mind, spirit & emotions aligning together for an existence with intent and purpose. Early on in life I realized I may not be able to control every situation, nor it’s outcome. But I can control my attitude and how I deal with it. So I discuss these aspects of Healthy Living with Food Allergies on my site. I like to find and promote others doing amazing things in the healthy living and food space to help others. In 2015 I was selected and gave a TEDx Talk on how to ‘Stay Safe, Live Healthy & Eat Well with Food Allergies’. It was a dream and such an amazing platform to be able to share my personal story.
When someone tells you that your story has moved them and they see you as an inspiration…well that just about makes my life. The hardest part for me is finding the time to continue to write. I push a lot of content out through social media, but with blogging, I believe it takes peace and quiet to write a story that is worthwhile to read. There’s too much junk out there. I am focused on stories that touch someone’s heart and soul and makes them want to get fired up to make change. The connection and love that is received from your audience in return is priceless.
What drew you initially to the eCommerce business? How do you keep up to date on trends and new technology?
I’m an engineer by degree who loves thinking about issues and figuring out how to fix them – but then actually going and doing it. Essentially I build things – relationships, products, businesses, dreams. I’ve always been into techie gadgets with my first Commodore 64 computer to my Atari. So working in Digital Media Tech is a natural fit. Consumer behaviors and trends fascinate me and I like to learn about the psychology around why people do the things they do and then build something to help make their life easier.
Keeping up is non-stop in this era where every week there are products and technologies coming out. I have a huge pile of books by my bedside. But sometimes I just need to peace out, relax and think. ☺
Tell us about Neyya.
So have you ever been in a situation where you’re driving and realize you need directions or have call/text someone to let them know you’re running late? Or you’re at dinner and want to focus on connecting with the friends at the table, but are waiting for an important call? Or you’re at work giving a presentation but have to deal with the figuring out if the remote control and projector will work or not?
Welcome to neyya, a digital companion that is reliable, intuitive and frees you from having to look at your devices because it allows you to control your laptop, mobile phone and other connected devices. Neyya is Form + Fashion + Function, which gives you the freedom to focus on what really matters. So in the scenario where you’re driving, by a simple press of the neyya ring, you can access Siri to open Google Maps or call your friend to tell them you’re on the way. If you’re waiting for an important phone call but don’t want to be rude by constantly staring at your phone, neyya can give you a buzz when that someone is calling or texting you. In the case of presentations, when I gave my TEDx Talk earlier this year the first speaker realized the remote didn’t work. We had to quickly find another remote controller and download the drivers…it was a nightmare. Neyya out-of-the box is reliable and hassle free, so all you have to do is connect to Bluetooth and with a simple touch and swipe you can move through slides on Keynote, Powerpoint and Prezi.
Neyya has an incredible story. It was incepted in the Startup Village in Kochi located in Kerela, India by a young team of super talented engineers. Our interest was in gesture technologies and we wanted to build something that actually helped people in their daily lives rather than being just a pretty trinket. Hardware startups in India are pretty much non-existent because India is more of a software country. Not only was neyya selected to present at TechCrunch Hardware Battlefield in 2014, but in less than two years we’ve raised money via an IndieGogo campaign and then VC funding, pivoted the product, rebranded, signed on a bunch of high-end retailers (including Donna Karan’s Urban Zen, Brookstone, Bloomingdales, Selfridges and Amazon) and launched!
Now that’s an amazing story to tell! The goal of neyya as a company is to build soulful products that help the world, so we think about each feature and function diligently and differently so that you can focus on what really matters.
How do you stay motivated and inspired?
I mediate everyday in the morning and before bedtime. I work out a lot – started boxing this year which I love, I cook a ton, always have friends coming in and out of my house for a great meal and some champagne. It’s very important for me to stay connected and have time for loved ones – and especially my dog. All of this keeps me grounded and stress-free as I try to live with a higher level of consciousness.
What’s your experience been like using about.me?
I believe a simple photo can paint the essence of someone’s story. It can captivate and leave you wanting more. That’s how I feel about About.me. I love browsing through the individual pages, I’m drawn in by a picture which makes me want to know more about the person, their interests, what they are on this Earth to do. It’s hard to encapsulate that in general, but About.me gives users a simple way to pull it together and share with the world. Gratitude to About.me for building an incredibly easy and intuitive platform to people to share a bit of themselves with the world.
Anna Lizaur is a Marketing Manager with about.me. She graduated from the University of Virginia. Anna is fluent in Spanish and can count to 100 in Chinese.