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No-nasties health shop a breath of fresh air for Islington

Frustrated at the volume of items in health shops containing “nasties”, two London-based entrepreneurs have launched their own store selling only the purest products.

After more than a decade managing health shops, Ivana Vyravcova kept encountering products with labels that made her uneasy – additives, binders, fillers and other synthetic ingredients.

A year ago, she and fiancé Ivo Aulik decided to launch their own shop ‘EpicZen’ in Islington’s Camden Passage with everything free from nasty ingredients.

It’s a labour of love for Ivo, who was born in Estonia, and Slovakia-born Ivana. Soon after signing the lease they discovered they were expecting their first child – they worked day and night to get the shop open and, just a month after its launch, baby Oliver was born.

“Ivana was amazing”, recalls Ivo. “We did all the design and building work ourselves – it was very hard work - she was merchandising and stacking shelves when she was seven months pregnant!

“When we signed the lease, we couldn’t believe we’d managed to get such a unique and iconic spot – there are very few car-free streets in London. It’s a lovely community here and we have a very friendly clientele.”

The shop used to be a market area, with space for a few stalls.

EpicZen sells around 2,500 products including natural supplements, nasty-free cleaning products, drinks, natural dental products like charcoal toothpaste and bamboo toothbrushes, natural deodorants free from silver or aluminium and aromatic essential oils.

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They offer advice on a range of ailments and Ivana has a knack for working out which nutrients customers are deficient in and finding the supplement to help.

Ivo, 39, added: “It’s shocking how many products in health shops contain nasties – if you can’t understand the name of an ingredient when you check the label, it’s probably best avoided. We’ve rejected some of the health industry’s really big brands because of hidden nasties.”

The couple knows all about health and wellbeing: 33-year-old Ivana learnt through years in the industry but for Ivo the lesson was more personal. Eight years ago, having put on a lot of weight and, with feelings of anxiety and depression creeping in, he went on a health-kick and lost 30kg. Now he takes part in triathlons.

He added: “Until then I really didn’t live the most-healthy life, but as I lost the weight, I quickly began to realise what a difference it makes when you concentrate on health. My message to everyone is ‘it’s never too late.’

Ivo, who first came to London 18 years ago in search of adventure, worked for a few years for a restaurant chain. He also runs a chauffeur business in Canary Wharf, which was recently voted third in the UK for customer service.

EpicZen is about to launch its own product line – pure CBD hemp oil which is said to help reduce anxiety and depression, help with sleeping issues and pain relief and also said to be beneficial for conditions including arthritis and eczema. If it goes well, they hope to follow it with new products.

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