THE BLOG
09/23/2014 08:09 am ET Updated Nov 23, 2014

Women in Business: Q&A With Shanna Israel, Celeb lifestyle expert and CEO/ Founder of Vertical Wellness

Shanna Israel is a professional lifestyle expert in the intersecting worlds of health, wellness, fashion and entertainment. Shanna has immersed herself within the health care industry after her near death experience battling West Nile virus followed by Graves' disease and Hashimoto's. Fearing for her life and mistreated by top professionals, Shanna conducted immense research on conventional and nontraditional methods of treatment and learned how to heal her weakened body and regain strength through a mixture of natural, environmental, integrative, and holistic treatments.

Shanna, now a health advocate and wellness professional, created Vertical Wellness as a platform for people to learn about viable treatment options and preventative care. Combining her expertise in wellness and health, as well as nutrition and dietary restrictions for various diet plans and conditions, Vertical Wellness collaborates with health professionals and A-list celebrities to deliver invaluable information to help readers achieve optimal health, regardless of dietary restriction or limitation. It is a leading innovative lifestyle, health and wellness brand that focuses on topics for optimal health ranging from eco-fashion, organic living, healthy recipes and preventive medicine. Shanna's work with health-conscious celebrities such as Madonna, Kevin Hart, Steven Tyler and Grant Hill positions her as a prominent contact among dynamic and credible opinion leaders across the celebrity sphere.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I've seen a lot and been through a lot. I've been exposed to a variety of topics, people, places, world events etc. I've always paid attention to the X factor in life. What makes people tick, why they are motivated to do certain things, what doesn't motivate them, etc. Understanding our surroundings is one of the key ingredients to becoming a successful leader in my opinion. Overall, the challenges in my life have made me stronger and have been my motivation to keep pushing ahead. Also, trying new things, listening to my gut, being open to the road ahead and welcoming constructive advice have been great lessons for me.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Vertical Wellness?
I've worked for corporate America, as well as for myself owning a small business. Corporate life taught me about being professional, sometimes not being professional, real world politics, expectations, people's sense of entitlement, perseverance, hard work and team playing. I have brought all of the positive lessons I learned from all of this to my own business and am grateful to have all this experience. Even though you own a small business, you still need to adhere to the practices of big business if you want to excel. I feel fortunate that I know both sides of the fence, so I can meet in the middle!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Vertical Wellness?
I was diagnosed with Graves Disease and Hashimoto's Disease when I started Vertical Wellness. I had to delay things because I was sick and lost good people who were working with me at the time due to the delay of this journey. That was tough for me because once I get started I want to push forward. I had to find patience. After I got my health back, Vertical Wellness became an open book. My vision came to life. The biggest highlight for me is creating something/adding something to the planet that has not been there before. I pinch myself every time I set a goal and then reach it - whether it's seeing a new logo, meeting a new metric, making a new relationship - I hope I never lose that pinch because it keeps it exciting. I'm really happy that we've accomplished a lot in a short time with Vertical Wellness.

Why did you want to start your own business?
Freedom and having the ability to create under my own vision is like air to me. I need it. The journey with Vertical Wellness is a bit different though. The information I provide can possibly save a life. I never thought I would ever build a health/wellness business. My life journey took me to this topic and I wanted to create a platform that was a need for people, yet still have the ability to make it creative. This journey became more about providing key content for people than my own goals.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
Do it! However, keep the reality in mind. What other parts of your life do you attend to - home, family, kids, hobbies, etc? These all factor in. Starting your own business takes a lot time, effort and money. If you don't create a business plan and a life plan, a business can become an expensive and draining hobby. Also, don't expect miracles overnight. Like anything, a new business will take time to develop, market and promote. I always say try to find people that are smarter than you in a field that you are not familiar with - this will make the journey a lot easier! Also, make sure you have sound financial advice. A good idea can only be great if it works! No margin, no mission.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I'm still working on it. I'm trying to make up for lost time. I love to work. It helped me stay alive and get back to daily life. I know what goals I want to reach personally and professionally and if I keep my priorities in place, I know things will get done one way or the other. I used to be a perfectionist, but life is not perfect and I was reaching for unrealistic goals. One of my favorite books is called 5: Where Will You Be Five Years From Today? by Dan Zadra. He outlines a life plan that includes business, family, spirituality, etc. This gave great insight to get balance in my life. Having harmonious balance all the time is sometimes unrealistic, but I take life as it comes and know when things are supposed to happen they will. My job is driving the car in the right direction and focusing on my happiness first and foremost. That energy will attract what you want and need in life.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I hear "it's a man's world" a lot. I also see women trying to become men. I don't try to compete with men or be better than them. That's a waste of time and a waste of being a female. I admire smart businessmen and those are the people that I learned from originally. If anything, I try to understand them the best I can. I never wanted to beat them, just join them in a complimentary way. I have seen both sides and there's hypocrisy sometimes, but there's also room for women. I just saw the list of Fortune's top women's list and it's impressive! We've come so far. Anyone climbing the ladder has to start climbing somewhere and if you stay steady and consistent you will eventually reach the top. If you keep looking at the people next to you or above you and focus on what you don't have you will lose focus. Sheryl Sandberg came out this year with the "ban bossy" campaign but there's the word "bitch" used the same if not more right around the corner. There's always going to be a word for us. We are multitaskers by nature - we can take the heat and still get the job done! You just have to be smarter than the situation. Be savvy ladies - don't lose time or focus on issues that you can work around and gain from. Be realistic and practical. We have to enjoy the journey as best as possible - nothing great comes easy. Be yourself, stay true, be confident and boundaries will break as you keep living your dream.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I had mentors in my life and could not be here today without them. I was an intern, I assisted without pay to learn, I took the open opportunities whenever I could. They all made an impact whether learning something new or making a new contact that opened a door. I try to mentor people daily when I can. If I get the chance to share vital information that could help someone, I will be the first to discuss it with them. We are here to pay it forward. I can't say thank you every five minutes, but I can show gratitude by helping others when so many people have helped me.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Funny, as I was reading my 5 book I thought of whom I would like to model my life after and Arianna Huffington is the first person that came to mind. She always is keeping life interesting, seems like a good mother, daughter, sister, and is not ruled by paparazzi - she can still live like a free citizen. She also is innovative, keeps it fresh/young, helps educate and provides answers for people looking for a healthier life and takes time for herself first. I admire all of those qualities. Other women that I admire are Melinda Gates for using money for good, Madonna for pushing boundaries, Golda Meir for being fearless, JK Rowling for overcoming obstacles and believing in herself and staying true to her vision, Maya Angelou for keeping it real, Jane Goodall for showing compassion towards animals, Condoleezza Rice for achieving above all odds. However there are women that are leading everyday that are not in the public eye that I truly admire - Dr. Terry Wahls for looking outside the box to heal her MS, good moms, women in the military, humanitarians, animal rescuers, adoption advocates, etc.

What do you want Vertical Wellness to accomplish in the next year?
My goal with Vertical Wellness is to be one of the leaders in health and wellness. I came to play, but I also came to win. My life's struggle will be someone else's answers. People shouldn't have to suffer the way I did. I want to make sure people know about this vital information to improve their health and wellbeing. Your job, your hobbies, your joy is not possible without your health first. I want to make sure the content is out there for people to receive and enjoy.