Hilary Metcalfe and Anna Cave-Bigley

Founders Hilary Metcalfe and Anna Cave-Bigley experienced their fair share of hormonal issues, from migraines and painful periods to infertility and postpartum depression.

They discovered they are not alone and that around 80% of women experience a disruptive hormonal imbalance in their lifetime and as little as 10% of women understand the root causes of their issues. Convinced women need better solutions, they set out to create the offering they wished they’d had; information, guidance and all-natural products that leverage the power of nature for hormonal balancing and recovery.

The SABI’s plant-based skincare and intensive herbal infusions incorporate ancient wisdom, adaptogens and dermal prebiotics to nurture the dermal microbiome and to support hormonal balance and recovery in key moments like postpartum, burnout and painful periods. They are medically vetted and approved by an ObGyn, Dermatologist and Microbiologist and free from any chemicals, preservatives or endocrine disruptors that negatively impact hormonal balance.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role

Hilary: We both do a bit of everything because we are a small team but I’m responsible for The SABI aesthetic and all product development. As the acting CEO (though we plan to rotate the role between Co-Founders annually) I take a strategic lead, but I am more introverted and creative. I worked in Sustainability, Strategy and investment before striking out as an entrepreneur. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Los Cabos, Mexico, I’ve lived in a lot of places from San Francisco bay area to Boston, Amsterdam and Zurich, where I first met Anna. It was a chance encounter that would lead us to create The SABI 15 years later!

Anna: As the extrovert and natural organiser, I’m the acting COO in charge of logistics, sales and strategy. I’m a true networker and problem solver who talks to everyone and believes there’s a solution to everything.  Born in the UK, I have lived in Colombia, South America for the past 8 years. I’ve worked in everything from crisis management to strategic comms, investment and business development and love bringing my extroverted can-do energy to The SABI. I have two beautiful (yes, I am biassed) boys who force me to enjoy the moment. They inspired me to develop The SABI when Hilary approached me with an interesting business proposal that we built out over two years to what you see launching now!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

Hilary: I love lists and plans so yes, I did it many times over in many stages! Only to revise expectations with reality at several different junctures. There has been so much that was unplanned, from exiting the corporate world and moving into food as a Plant-based Chef and Entrepreneur, to taking my cheffing skills into the clean beauty space and growing into women’s health and community-building with The SABI. It’s been a journey of refining, adjusting and learning to go with the flow.

Anna: Gosh, never! And it’s taken so many amazing twists and turns. I graduated in 2009 right after the crash and after over 30 applications (and almost no responses) I totally landed on my feet. I met my first boss in a wine bar in Covent Garden. After 5 years in strategic comms, a lunch inspired me to move to Colombia where I worked for the UK Government, renovated Colombia’s oldest coffee farm and worked across a number of businesses. Years later, Postpartum Depression pushed me to end my comfortable career at the British Embassy to start The SABI, a business dedicated to helping other women understand and navigate hormonal crises like PPD.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

So many. Some challenges have been professional and investment related, like starting a business during a global recession or, re-branding four (!) times before launch. We’ve also had our share of personal challenges on the way too, Anna was going through Postpartum Depression when we started and then birthing her second son. I had a long-awaited pregnancy then a miscarriage and a terrible accident with an ankle injury and broken arm along the way.

The challenges brought incredible learning, even though it was difficult to see it as such at the time.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Hilary: in my career, it’s definitely been in creative concept development and building a strong business. I really surprised myself when I left the corporate world. I had never owned my own business or been trained as a Chef, but within 9 months of leaving a comfortable role at a large Media Corporation, I built out a plant-based food concept and founded what would become a 6-figure high-volume food venture within 12 months’ time. We broke even in 3 months, had a return on investment in 7 months and were out-competing a Michelin-star chef’s place and a well-known burger chain in the same venue as us. I am so proud of it! It’s what gave me the courage to try something new again during the pandemic with The SABI.

Anna: probably giving up a very comfortable London life and great job, to move to Colombia where I didn’t speak the language, didn’t know anyone, didn’t have a job and had zero savings… At the time everyone challenged my decision to ‘give it all up’ and try something different. 8 years later, with 2 beautiful boys (3 including the husband!), and having had the opportunity to renovate one of Colombia’s oldest coffee farms, travel the region with the British Government and now creating The SABI, this decision very much feels like a sliding door moment in my life.

The SABI products

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

Hilary: I think success is momentary, it’s not a state you maintain in perpetuity and true success for me is about mindset. A growth mindset allows me to take the perspective that failures offer learning and opportunity, failures don’t define you. I define who I am and what my path is and will be. I can acquire new skills, take a different perspective or start a new business. It’s ok to try new things and to start over.

Anna: Trusting my gut! I believe in the power of calculated risk: yes you need to carefully analyse and review a situation, but often fear of failure holds us back. There are so many unknowns in this world. If you’ve evaluated a situation, and it feels right – then it probably is. If it doesn’t work – there was probably a lesson you needed to learn.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

It’s so, so important. We’ve both had mentors in our careers and are building an amazing team to mentor us now on The SABI advisory board. What we missed were mentors and advocates surrounding our hormonal journeys. Intergenerational and woman-to-woman knowledge transfer is something lacking in the health and hormonal crisis space and in western culture, we have lost it over the last few hundred years. We live in more siloed ways, urbanised and more disconnected than ever, unfortunately.

It’s part of why only 10% of women understand the hormonal roots of their issues, like Postpartum Depression or the symptoms they experience when entering perimenopause. There is a lack of awareness and understanding and women often feel blind-sided because many of the issues are still taboo and under-discussed. We discovered through our research and testing that many felt just like us, that a hormonal crisis is something to grin and bear and we are often alone in the struggle. This is our inspiration to build out a robust community offering articles, recipes and guidance for navigating these toughest moments.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Parental leave shared equally by the couple and good child care that is more affordable and accessible.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

You are stronger than you know and nothing on your path is more than you can handle. Trust the process.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future? 

Our number one challenge is our mission with The SABI: to connect women with their bodies and hormonal cycles and change the narrative that being hormonal is a negative thing.

We believe our hormones are a superpower. They are fundamental to our health and have the power to make us feel amazing, in love and energised or tired, hot flushed, moody, weepy and depressed. Women have a unique ability to connect with their bodies through their hormonal cycles and functions, making our hormones worth understanding, appreciating and balancing.

Though we may have been called hormonal in a negative way, we both choose to see being hormonal as part of our highest good. We are hormonal, and proud.

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