#ZYNISLIFE is not just a hashtag for the Milwaukee-based company started by brothers Asim Khan and Qasim Khan, it embodies the fundamental foundation of their personal philosophy.
In their business and their lives, the Khan brothers aspire each day to demonstrate their beliefs. Their broad mission encompasses a drive for goodness, fair and equitable treatment of people, charitable contributions, community engagement, social justice, and protecting the environment.
Q&A with Asim Khan and Qasim Khan
Wisconsin Muslim Journal: What was your fondest memory growing up in Pakistan? And, who influenced your formative years the most?
Asim Khan: Our fondest memory of growing up in Pakistan was spending time with our families, particularly our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Our parents have influenced us the most throughout our lives. We sincerely appreciate the hard work they did and the sacrifices they made to provide better lives for their children. They literally gave up comfortable lives and respectable careers in Pakistan to move to the U.S. in 1984 so that we all could get the best education, careers and start our own families. Their compassionate sacrifices then and to this day continue to inspire and guide us to give back to people in need and strive to be better human beings, each and every day.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal: How did you settle in Wisconsin, and why do you remain in the village of Shorewood?
Qasim Khan: We ask this question of ourselves from time to time. Although we love Wisconsin, we had no intention of ever living here after we graduated from Marquette University. In-fact the three Khan brothers each moved to the West Coast and East Coast after college. It was partly by chance that career opportunities brought us back to Wisconsin, along with the fact that all three of our wives are from Wisconsin. Shorewood and Milwaukee are great communities to raise families. Our children go to great schools, they have great friends and our communities are diverse and welcoming. Plus, we have a good amount of family now living in Wisconsin, including our parents, our in-laws, children’s cousins, etc.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal: Does anyone in your family suffer from a medical condition? And, how has that affected your life?
Qasim Khan: We have been blessed with good health. Our father does have diabetes and he has managed it primarily with his diet and being careful about his health. We have learned from him and others that life is truly a blessing and we have to take care of health.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal: How did you switch gears from the banking/investment industry to becoming an entrepreneur?
Asim Khan: Although we are thankful for our finance careers, we have always had a passion and respect for entrepreneurship. We have always admired people who take risks and in doing so have the potential to create new jobs and create wealth for themselves and their communities. Also, entrepreneurship energizes the mind as every moment is a new learning experience / opportunity. There are no set playbooks to follow; you have to constantly work hard, use common sense to figure out problems and create new opportunities. Entrepreneurship pushes us to develop as business people like no other experience in our past.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal: What was the experience like to develop a curcumin-based health drink? And, what was the biggest obstacle in the process?
Qasim Khan: Our amaZYN journey started in November 2016 when we were visiting family in Pakistan with our parents. Our father, who is 80+ years old and has had diabetes for 30+ years, experienced excruciating diabetic nerve pain in his foot. The pain was so severe that our father was no longer able to stand. His younger sister massaged ground Turmeric powder, blended with Olive oil, to our father’s foot and less than an hour later his pain was completely gone. This was the “ah-ha” moment from which we started a 1-year long research and development journey that resulted in the official launch of ZYN (from “zyn-dagi,” South Asian word which literally translates to “LIFE” to over a billion people) in November 2017. Holistic healing/wellness, known as Ayurvedic Medicine, has been practiced by our family and ancestors and in that part of the world for over 5,000 years. Our mission is to bring, ancient, time-tested wisdom from around the world to modern consumer in engaging packaging, with ZYN CURCUMIN (from Turmeric) Holistic Health & Wellness Beverages (16 fl. oz. bottles) being the first product line. Interest in Turmeric / CURCUMIN in the US is up 400+% over last five years, which is helping ZYN grow rapidly. In our first twelve months, we have succeeded in launching a first-to-market innovation and have penetrated over 500 retail locations (expanding to East Coast next week), over 50 corporate and healthcare cafes, and dozen professional sports teams (NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB) whose athletes consume our healthy and refreshing beverages for post-workout/post-training recovery.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal: What was the most surprising thing that you learned about yourself after creating a health drink?
Asim Khan: Prior to launching ZYN, we had no experience in food & beverage and consumer packaged goods industries. We had no relationships, no sales experience and no consumer behavior expertise in the industry we are now in. It has been all a matter of working hard, learning by trial and error and common sense and networking with good people, for which we are very thankful for. This experience has taught us that with determination, what seemed like an impossible undertaking was in fact worth the journey, risk and sacrifices.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal: How does your faith play a role in your work?
Asim Khan: Faith is a very important part of our journey. It grounds us in our mission to take care of people and planet while making a profit. Our faith gives us re-assurance when we deal with difficult issues or if something doesn’t turn out as we had planned for. There are significant ups and downs with start-ups and lots of uncertainty; faith helps to keep us grounded, focused on the positive and to keep striving to do good, even when times get tough. Our faith is also part of the reason that we worked hard at ZYN to become a Certified B-Corp, which are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal: Have there been challenges in launching and promoting products in Milwaukee that are not considered indigenous to the city’s segregated culture?
Qasim Khan: Health & Wellness trends don’t generally start in Milwaukee, which is better known as the brew city, or for its sausages. Establishing ZYN in Milwaukee first and foremost was necessary to prove to ourselves that if ZYN can make it here, ZYN can certainly make it in other markets, many of which are certainly more progressive with their attitudes for Health & Wellness. We are very thankful for the many retail and foodservice partners (Sendik’s, Outpost, Health Hut, Festival Foods, Hy-Vee, Woodman’s, Willy Street Co-op, Aurora Healthcare, Palermo’s Pizza, Bartolotta Restaurants, etc.) that believed in us from the beginning and provided us the opportunities for placements of ZYN in their stores or café coolers.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal: What are you most proud of accomplishing in your life, and what achievement are you still reaching for?
Asim Khan: Our most important achievements are and will always be our children. As our parents did for us, we work hard to ensure that our children are good and caring human beings, they are properly educated, enjoy their lives and someday make important impacts to society as we strive to do.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal: Is there a common misunderstanding you find that Milwaukee people have about Pakistan culture and beliefs?
Asim Khan: Most people we meet are extremely friendly and open minded. However, as with any other place across the world, there are some people who don’t have the proper understanding, background or openness to people from other cultures, faith or background. We do our best to connect with people from all walks of lives and political and religious backgrounds in the hopes that we can positively impact people’s understanding of one another.
Wisconsin Muslim Journal: What is your hope for the future of the Pakistani community in Milwaukee, and how have you seen it change over the years?
Asim Khan: Broadly speaking, we are hopeful that the Pakistani community, and more importantly the Muslim community of Milwaukee, becomes more involved in politics and outreach in Wisconsin. We need more influential voices in our community, to help better educate people who particularly may not know all the shared values we have in common for other Americans.