4min readBusiness 18 November 2019
When I look back on my journey as an entrepreneur, the path has been filled with many twists and turns, including moments of sheer panic, grounded calm, enormous fear, painful failure, utter exhaustion, exhilaration, pride, incredible fun, and huge joy accomplishing a goal. Amidst this adventurous path, what stays with me is a love for birthing and building a brand and company. You can actually watch the spirit of the company grow and flourish along with its revenues.
People ask me all the time…how did you start a pretzel company and now a juice company…what inspired you?
It all started with choosing courage over fear…and a chocolate chip pretzel. I had read an article about a woman selling soft pretzels at a farmer's market, and the idea came to me for a chocolate chip soft pretzel. I was truly obsessed and couldn't get this twisted vision out of my mind. I also was miserable in my job and felt like I was stuck in quicksand. I met Scott (now my husband) at a bookstore in Chicago, and we started playing with recipes in my studio apartment. I chose courage and quit my job in advertising to take a leap of faith. One thing led to another, and a marriage, three kids, and through lots of twists and turns, Kim & Scott's Gourmet Pretzels eventually became a frozen pretzel brand on the shelves of grocery stores around the country, on QVC, in Starbucks and more.
We had this incredible opportunity to take this ancient twisted dough (over 4000 years old) and transform it with ingredients inside and on top to create an 'anytime' meal. There was such fulfillment in building something out of nothing but a dream, enthusiasm, and a credit card. And as we transformed the pretzel, I discovered that the most powerful experience was how the business transformed me.
Through all the challenges, learnings, failures, victories, and struggles, I found resilience, grit, creativity, courage, strength, inspiration, and most importantly, I found my voice. I found a place where I could bring more of myself, and create a company with authentic leadership that resonated with the "ME" I was becoming.
Being an entrepreneur can be a powerful "personal growth" boot camp if you live it fully. The experience calls on all of your being to build the dream. You need to evaluate your values, who you want to be, how you show up with each move, and whether or not your business reflects that.
In 2012 we had the chance to sell Kim & Scott's to a public company, and we wanted to start over. This time, two decades later, it was Scott's obsession with fresh lime juice for a margarita that was the inspiration for Twisted Alchemy.
With cold pressed juices for inspired mixology and culinary arts, we have the opportunity to work with bartenders, mixologists and chefs at some of the country's best bars, restaurants and hotels. We help cocktail & mocktail enthusiasts and party hosts at home with our special samplers and party kits, including a mimosa juice sampler to create an amazing mimosa bar. We source our fruits from around the world, in flavors including pineapple, watermelon, grapefruit, blood orange, passion fruit, orange, lemon and lime.
We're also elevating spirits of team members at companies and organizations with our Twisted Alchemy experiences, "A Toast of Inspiration." We craft custom cocktails/mocktails and themes to guide conversation and impact teams and meetings with inspiring and engaging dialog.
Photo credit: Margaret Pattillo
I like to call this entrepreneurial journey a "juicy revolution." It's an opportunity to disrupt, transform, and elevate spirits, both at the bar and out in our world community. This brings me to Purpose, the heart of any successful company.
When you build your company with purpose, it propels everything forward. It's your North Star. When we discovered our mission, "Elevating Spirits", it gave us a compass to navigate for building Twisted Alchemy. Despite hurdles that come about, I always come back to why we are here in the first place.
Here are a few twisted tips to help you build your dream:
Reach out for help.
From incubators and accelerators to industry groups, mentors, and coaches, gather your support community to help you navigate the ups and downs. Also, women business networks and circles have been a great influence and support for me. Build a team of advisers who can be there through the challenges and cheer you on.
Seek inspiring podcasts.
The words and lessons of others teach and inspire me every day, including two of my favorites, "Oprah's Super Soul Conversations" and "How I Built This" with Guy Raz. Seek the words and experiences of others to inspire and energize you.
Build with purpose and intention.
When we discovered our mission to elevate spirits, I knew it had the meaning and energy to propel us in big ways. Building with purpose and intention enables you to take a cause and focus on doing something that improves your community in some way.
Let things get messy. Fail.
I'll never forget one night when all our pretzel rolls were exploding in the oven. We stayed up all night trying to figure out how to get 300 beautiful rolls for Starbucks. In that fit of failure we discovered some key baking tactics that impacted us greatly moving forward. Out of the mess and trials are birthed amazing new discoveries that often can be the heart of your success.
Innovate. Explore. Tweak. Twist.
Turn things upside down to see another angle and another perspective. Take breaks, and give it time to simmer and develop.
Every night before I go to sleep, I like to sit with a blank piece of paper next to me. I allow all the noise and chatter to flow through. I call it a Brain Dump. It allows me to clear it all out, hear my intuition, and enable inspiration to flow.
Create your juicy revolution.
Take the courageous step, stake your claim on a mission that resonates at a heart level, and create your own juicy revolution. Disrupt, shake things up, and do it in your own unique way.
5 Min Read
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.