20 in Their 20s: Simone Zienna


Simone Zienna, 27
Company: Meta Nutrition
Title: Co-Founder
Founded: 2019
Business: Nutrition app developer
Location: South Pasadena
Employees: 2
Funding to Date: $150,000

What led you to start this business?
I have been passionate about nutrition and fitness from a very young age and always enjoyed helping friends and some family members out with developing a tailored diet plan. After obtaining my certificates in personal training and nutrition, I started working for USC’s campus gym as a personal trainer while finishing my studies. Since all my clients were struggling with their diets and no other app told them what nor how much to eat based on what their food habits were, I had the idea of building a mobile app that would create a daily personalized diet plan for students who ate at the campus’ dining halls based on their goals, restrictions and menu of the day.

How are you funding the business?
(My co-founder Austin Marks and I) raised funds from friends and family and are currently raising another round.

Are there advantages and disadvantages to starting a business in your 20s?
I’d say the biggest disadvantage is the limited network. We know of various startups raising millions without any proof of concept or showing market fit, but only thanks to the founders knowing the right people. However, I believe there are also several advantages, such as not having as many responsibilities compared to later in life, being able to take more risks and (having) higher energy levels.

How has the pandemic affected your business?  
We were used to expanding our network with other professionals at events or contests, but that had to stop. Additionally, part of our growth strategy was to attend fitness expos across the state to advertise our nutrition app to the health and wellness community. We had to find other means to network and find new investors via cold outreach, competing on Product Hunt or building a strong social media presence on Facebook.

Where is your team working?
Currently, we are all working remotely, but we can’t wait to be back in the office. We believe in having strong team relationships, and we just overall enjoy working together in person as working 12 or more hours a day at home can be quite challenging.

Where do you go for advice regarding your business?
We often turn to our USC Incubator and Bixel Exchange advisers who have helped us tremendously before and during the pandemic with any business or technology-related issues. I personally also read many books on management, growth and startups; however, they often only address later life stages of startups, so having our advisers has really made a difference.

Where do you go for professional services such as legal help, accounting, etc.?
For any professional service we need, we usually turn to the incubator first as the university has many connections with professionals that can assist with these matters.

Does social responsibility play a role in your business?
Despite the limited resources we have as a young company, we do everything we can to help the community and improve people’s lives. For instance, at the start of the pandemic we organized a fundraiser for Friends In Deed, a nonprofit food bank, to help the community of Pasadena where we were previously located.

Do you feel that your business is particularly tailored to the Los Angeles market?
I believe it is strongly tailored to the Los Angeles market with L.A. being the international capital of health and fitness.

What do you do for fun?
If the weather is good, I like spending time at the beach. Otherwise, I enjoy staying indoors watching Netflix or playing chess online.

Keep reading the 2021 20 in Their 20s Special Report.

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