The Zaca story begins with our childhood. We’re Mark and James Aleks, two brothers from East Longmeadow, a little town outside of Boston, where everyone knows one another. And because it’s a farming town, our lives naturally revolved around food, which was bought from farm stands or pulled from our home garden as frequently as from the grocery store. From an early age, thanks to our mother who was a dedicated health teacher, everything we ate was fresh and natural. It was Mom who drilled into us that “what you put into your body will either build your health or take it away — so choose wisely.”
As brothers, we’d always been close. By the time we were in high school, we began experimenting with business ideas. We formed a winning dynamic with Mark’s great sense of logic, and James’ continuous stream of fresh ideas. We also shared a common vision and abided by our small-town integrity and conviction that what each person does in a community has a ripple effect. Responsibility colored our aspirations.
Denver was everything we wanted and more, but we were met with an unexpected challenge — the altitude gave us intense pressure headaches; we felt exhausted every time we exercised; and happy hours made waking up a misery. Trying to deal with this issue sent us rummaging through pharmacy shelves, considering painkillers and wondering how, or if, we could kick this problem. It didn’t take long before we realized that every so-called solution led to a new set of problems —potentially bigger and more permanent issues.
This is when the light bulb went on, and we immediately turned on the creative juices, searching for natural solutions to functioning at high altitudes. Starting simply, we decided our first mission was to figure out how we could have a glass of wine at 5,280 feet without hating life the next day. We opened medical books, scoured the recesses of the Internet, and talked to countless vendors at natural-foods trade shows. We ordered herbs and amino acids, and we tested exotic fruits from rainforests and dense jungles.
As we inched closer to success, eagerly experimenting on ourselves, we never lost sight of our long-held philosophy: Whatever we were going to come up with couldn’t just be safe — it also had to be good for you.
This is when we came upon our solution. We discovered ingredients that would soothe the aftereffects of alcohol, as well as the symptoms of strenuous exercise and altitude sickness, but that actually support liver, respiratory, and other physiological functions.
It seemed like wherever we went, we met people like us, who had moved to the area and were struggling to acclimate. Their eyes would light up when we explained how we were tackling the same problems they were facing. They asked if they could get in on testing our prototypes, and we were delighted to oblige. Everyone who participated came back to us with overwhelmingly positive feedback, asking us for more — for themselves, their friends, and their families, who wanted to come visit the Mile High City.
We named our company Zaca. When we finally put our recovery supplements on the market in late 2008, we already had a fan base of people just like us, who didn’t want to pay the price of their health to have awesome days and nights, as well as bright-eyed mornings.