How can we help overcome the national health crisis and allow people access to nutritious food on a regular basis?
It's a question I've been driven to answer since 2009, catalysed by one of the scariest scenarios a daughter can imagine - the health crisis of a parent.
Determined to help my father overhaul his lifestyle and overcome the sudden obstacles he faced, I began prepping healthy, homemade meals. When friends and family members noticed the remarkable recovery he made, they became interested in the plans too.
This inevitably led to the birth of Fresh n' Lean, my organic meal delivery service. What started as a solo 19 year old student cooking meals out of a one bedroom apartment in Redondo Beach, CA, has since evolved into a 9-figure brand, with 100+ amazing employees operating out of a state of the art facility.
I'm often asked why Fresh n' Lean has continued to grow while other food delivery services struggle. I believe it comes down to many interacting variables that I wish to share with you today, with the hope that they might someday help you as you embark in your entrepreneurial journey too.
Know Your Values: Fresh, Convenient + Delicious
Whenever you pursue something in life, whether it's a scary fitness goal or starting your own company, it's important to know your values, and to stay true to them. This is something I was taught from a young age, and was super aware of with Fresh n' Lean.
Our mission has always been to achieve three things: to make food that's healthy, accessible and delicious. It's about getting that balance between each component. If any one of them is missing, the formula doesn't work.
Sure, it would be easy to cut corners with the quality of our ingredients to save money, but that's not the point! I have a strong desire to impact people's lives in a positive way - a 'reason why' that directly ties into the work we do. I'm also surrounded by a tribe of inspiring individuals who believe in the vision, which helps massively.
The collective understanding of our value system helps us stay true to the mission and to be completely transparent with how we operate the business. This creates trust and brand loyalty amongst our customers - a key component for future growth.
Taking Risks: Bootstrapping to Nine-Figures
Anyone who has started their own venture can attest that the early days are a little shaky. There are always going to be problems that pop up (usually at the most inconvenient times), and key decisions that need to be made.
One of the latter that I was faced with at the very beginning was whether or not to turn to investors for capital, or to bootstrap Fresh n' Lean. I went with the second option and committed my life savings to self-fund my venture. Looking back, it was a bold move. I put it all on the line to make my dream a reality, and thankfully the risk paid off.
Sure, initially it meant that we had certain restrictions when it came to funding, but I like to think those restrictions lead to innovation. Because we had limited options, we were forced to be creative and to come up with novel solutions to challenging problems.
It has also meant we've had a much easier time when it comes to choosing the direction of our business. Because we don't have to answer to a board of investors, we're able to explore various avenues with a degree of freedom - like our recent move from online to in-store.
Be Creative: Leaping From Online to In-Store
The latest evolution of Fresh n' Lean has been a dive into the brick and mortar sector, with the recent opening of our first On The Go store in Santa Monica.
Though many people believe brick and mortar is dying, we still feel that there are various opportunities to pursue. Grab-and-go healthy food near business centers is still something that's lacking in many areas. We're also in the process of partnering with Hak's Foods to bring ready-to-eat meals into grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Gelson's, and Costco.
As well as being a viable business venture in itself, having food in stores also gives people a chance to try our product before signing up for an online subscription. We're always trying to think outside the box when it comes to business growth, and this is just another example.
Sue, we could have listened to the naysayers, played it safe and stuck to what we know. But if we always take the comfortable route, how will we ever know what we're truly capable of?
If I could sum up the main things I've learned over the past ten years, it would go something like this: the key is to never stop learning, growing or innovating. Know your mission, keep moving forward, and always be ready to adapt.