I vividly remember a team meeting at the start of a new year with one of my very first managers.
"Let's share our New Year's Resolutions!"
It intended to be a team bonding moment. But for me, sent my brain scrambling. As everyone else seemed to have preprogrammed, pre-crafted, perfect answers. I sat toward the end of the table pondering what I could quickly make up. Because I had no resolutions.
Is this the time to proclaim that I would email less? That I would do more 'walking meetings'? Is this the time to proclaim that I would drink less Diet Dr. Pepper? That I would say 'no' more often to projects I was randomly assigned? Probably not the best timing for that last one.
"Eat better, more vegetables… maybe baby carrots?" I mumbled when it was my turn. My manager nodded. She seemed to be sufficiently satisfied and moved on.
I always wondered. Why do we even have New Year's Resolutions? Who started this anxiety provoking tradition?
According to my go to source Wikipedia, Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to Janus, after whom the month of January is named. And finally, in the medieval era, the knights took the "peacock vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
So I had the Babylonians, the Romans, and the Knights to thank for this tradition of failed attempts at New Year's Resolutions.
One year. A roommate told me to use eye cream. That lasted a month until I lost the tube she gave me.
Another year, a manager gifted us Swell bottles to drink more water. My bottle was a bright zebra pattern; everyone else had more muted colors. I wasn't too sad when I lost that bottle.
The following year, I bought a beautiful journal to be more organized at work. But I couldn't up end reading half of my writing. Went back to taking notes on the laptop.
Just about every year I vow to get back on the treadmill. Needless to say, I now have a rich history of mixed results on that resolution.
Last year, my friend Christy and I each chose a power word to represent the New Year both at work and at home. Her word: determined. My word: focused. Christy became determined about everything and lived the word. And in the end, I seemed unfocused, unclear on almost everything.
Maybe I should just try again this year. A start of the new decade could do the trick. I started to peruse list after list online of "achievable" New Year's Resolutions for living a happier, healthier, Instagram-able life.
And none of them seemed to quite work for me:
- Explore new hobbies.
I have a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old. Therefore, I have no hobbies.
- Keep clutter out of the kitchen.
Again. I have children. Their hobbies include creating clutter. Lots of clutter.
- Read More Books. This one might work. Do BOB books count? Books for Developing Readers?
- Delegate More Chores. To who? To me? Or my 4-year-old who still needs help in the potty?
- Drink Less Alcohol. Actually, this might be my only hobby. So maybe this won't work after all.
Why do we seem to wait until January to reset, restart, redo? Maybe because we are constantly being sold that the beginning of the new year is the start of something new. When new chapters and new beginnings can happen any day, any time throughout the course of the year.
Back in February, I decided I wanted to join a board. And my friend Cate Luzio asked me to join Luminary's Advisory Board. Back in April, I decided I wanted to start writing again. Luminary introduced me to both SWAAY and FairyGodBoss and I have been fortunate to be a contributing writer for both.
Back in June, I decided it was time to start running again to improve my mental health. And I have been consistently running ever since. Back in September, I decided we needed more of a sense of community. And we have been with intention connecting with more families in Jersey City.
More to do in the next decade, but this is a good start.
And then the longer list of vices, bad habits, self-improvement urges start to creep in. All the things I should just really stop. All of the things that should become 'New Year's Resolutions'.
Why do I drink so much Starbucks. Why do I keep going back to watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Why do I keep saying yes to projects I don't have the band with for. Why do I eat so many Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream Chips. Why do I say I'll give my kids a timeout and never do. Because on some days, I am just too tired to do it and can't get off the couch.
If I flip my perspective, some of these vices, aren't vices at all. I am grateful for the caffeine treat from time to time on my super early mornings. I am grateful for a momentary break from the news cycle, to eat a bowl of chips and to watch if Kourtney will come back to film next season. I am grateful for my comfy couch - and for my kids to resolve their own fights and not be forced to sit in the corner. And I am grateful to be inspired by my work, and have the opportunity to work on a lot of great things. Sounds like the makings of a gratitude list - something that I am currently thinking about doing more consistently.
So please don't ask me about my New Year's Resolutions. Because I have none. And if I find myself watching the Kardashians again, it's okay. I'll just watch this one last episode…
Organic growth has made all the difference for my company. Since its start in 2010, Fresh n' Lean has delivered more than 7.2 million organic meals that are free of pesticides, hormones, GMOs, and other additives. The business itself has grown organically, too, without the help of any outside capital. Over the past decade, Fresh n' Lean's bootstrapped operation has grown into a 220-employee company with nine-figure revenue.
Here's how I've been able to successfully build my business without taking on a penny of outside funding.
1. A Hard Decision
The decision of whether or not to take on outside capital is a difficult one.
I was lucky— I relied on personal savings to fund Fresh n' Lean at the company's onset. I thought Fresh n' Lean was a meaningful endeavor, and I believed in myself and my vision.
Not every business owner would be financially able to make the same decision I did. Either way, it's important that your company's growth happens gradually and naturally.
2. Start Small
I was an 18-year-old college student when I launched Fresh n' Lean.
I would regularly work upwards of 20 hours a day— cooking dishes, arranging the meals in tupperware containers, handwriting the labels, and personally delivering them to some of our earliest customers.
Pretty soon we were shipping meals nationally, and I began renting a commercial kitchen space.
We generated a ton of enthusiasm from our customers, and that support prooved that we were on to something. But the early days featured lots of trial and error. We made mistakes and learned from them before scaling the business.
3. Rely On Your Network
Fresh n' Lean started with a team of five people. My friends and relatives chipped in, and my brother Thomas joined Fresh n' Lean as co-CEO.
Relying on those close colleagues was so meaningful in helping me get the company off the ground. I often look at Fresh n' Lean's employees as a family, and that mentality was especially true in those early days.
As I ramped up the hiring, my experiences with every aspect of our operation made me sharp at understanding the company's needs— and helped me to hire employees with the right skill set and mentality to drive the company forward.
4. Hold Firm
Fresh n' Lean embodies a lifestyle choice, a chance for everyone in the United States to have access to nourishing meals amid their busy lives.
We probably could have driven more sales by offering non-organic meal options, but I wanted the company to remain true to my mission.
A decade later, I'm so proud to see the impact Fresh n' Lean has made in redefining fast food.
5. Capitalize On Industry Trends
We live in a society of instant gratification— we want everything now, and our world is completely focused on convenience.
When Fresh n' Lean was launched, the idea of receiving ready-to-eat meals on your doorstep was a strange concept. But a decade later, we're used to having everything delivered to our homes. Recognizing and capitalizing on those changing consumer habits was a big part of our growth.
6. Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
For years, I wanted to open our own kitchen facility— it was a top priority.
But building the space was a difficult and extensive process that could have financially devastated us if we attempted it too soon. In those early years, the project would have left the company too vulnerable.
Instead of moving forward with the project, we waited. In the meantime, we continued renting commercial kitchen space. One day a week turned into two, and then three and four, and eventually we were renting the space five days a week.
In time, we had no other options but to build our own kitchen facility— and our restraint before moving forward with that project was crucial, even if it was frustrating for the short-term.
7. Focus On You
As you build your company, it's easy to try to compare it to the growth other companies experience.
But headlines and press releases don't reveal the full story, and outside funding can mask structural and foundational problems. One example is the online ordering and meal delivery service Munchery, which secured more than $125 million from lenders before closing in early 2019.
Every company's story is unique! You can't judge your company's success based on the ups and downs of others. Focus on making your company the best you can.
8. One Thing At A Time
Our meal offerings have expanded through deliberate, strategic planning and extensive customer feedback.
Building the recipes takes time— we want to be sure to get it right. And our customer feedback ensures that there's built-in interest before rolling out new meal options.
9. Be Resourceful
Building the company without outside capital forced me to be more resourceful. I couldn't throw money at everything I wanted to change— I had to be patient and find alternative solutions.
It's similar, in a way, to cooking a dish without having every ingredient listed in the recipe. You must have the key ingredients! Our executive chef was one of our earliest hires.
But you can adjust and improvise on some of the secondary ingredients, using whatever alternatives you have available and relying on tried-and-true methods to fill in the gaps.
Who knows? Through experimentation, you just might find a better way to cook your dish or guide your company forward.