Welcome to Fit for Business, a new column from Well+Good’s co-founder and publisher Alexia Brue. Each week, she’ll take you behind-the-scenes with the most successful healthy-living entrepreneurs around the world, so you can learn what inspires them, what challenges them, and what it’s like to work in the (booming) wellness space.
This week she’s sitting down with Rachel Drori, founder and CEO of Daily Harvest, a ready-to-blend smoothie delivery service.
Rachel Drori’s on a mission to restore respect to the freezer aisle. The founder and CEO of Daily Harvest, which launched nationally in April, explains, “The freezer aisle has a bad reputation. It’s actually a great place to provide nutritious, convenient, preservative-free food.”
Daily Harvest is a essentially a smoothie subscription service; the ingredients arrive cleaned, prepped, and farm-frozen in a Cup-of-Soup style container. Currently there are 14 different blends on the menu, which were created in partnership with a Michelin-trained chef, Jessica Young, for taste and a nutritionist, Sara Jane Mercer, for maximum health benefit.
Drori, a former college rower, has always had a passion for performance nutrition (she can geek out on the microbiome with the best of them), but it wasn’t until she started bagging smoothie ingredients for her husband that she realized she’d stumbled onto a scalable business idea.
Even though a smoothie is arguably pretty darned easy to make even for the culinary-challenged, blending up a delicious eight-ingredient smoothie can feel overwhelming and messy when you’re rushing out the door in the morning. Clearly there’s a need for this smoothie sous chef service: Daily Harvest has shipped over 500,000 ready-to-blend smoothies to date, and Drori is out raising her Series A round of financing, so expect more disruption of freezer foods from Daily Harvest.
Read on for highlights of my conversation with Drori: how to build a great team, advice on tackling an entrepreneur’s endless to-do lists—and how frozen produce can be better than what you get at the market.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I did! My mom was an entrepreneur, and the seed was planted early to be the master of my own destiny. I definitely crafted my career knowing I eventually wanted it to lead to starting my own business.
How did you go about doing that?
Initially I knew I wanted to get experience in marketing and branding, and I wanted to work at the company that was the best at it, so I joined the Four Seasons. After getting experience there, I wanted to have a big corporate experience. I’d never worked for a huge company and I graduated from business school in 2009, so it wasn’t a great year to do anything entrepreneurial. I joined American Express and learned there how to move a big ship. When you’re in a huge ocean like Amex, you learn how to get people to make decisions on things that aren’t all that important to them. After that I wanted to do smaller and digital. Ecommerce was a skill set I wanted to learn. I joined Jetsetter and created a role for myself building an exotic travel business because I’ve always been extremely passionate about travel. My husband and I love to visit places that are rapidly changing, and we’ve been to Kashmir, Ethiopia, North Korea, and so on.
“When I was eight months pregnant with my first child, I was literally delivering boxes of smoothies myself.”
Where did your inspiration to start Daily Harvest come from?
As a New Yorker and working mom, I founded Daily Harvest after realizing the difficulty in finding time to shop, chop, prep, and create nutrient-dense and delicious foods. I layered on the pricey must-have superfood of the moment and the bunches of wilted kale sitting unused in my refrigerator, and knew there had to be an easier way to get my daily dose of nutritious goodness.
I began bagging up ingredients on Sunday nights for instant smoothies during the week. It was a game-changer for getting out the door in the morning and feeling energized throughout the day. I knew others would appreciate the convenience of a 30-second whole food smoothie without compromising on whole unrefined nutrition.
What differentiates Daily Harvest from everything else out there?
There are convenience foods, and there are healthy foods. These two qualities rarely overlap. Farm-freezing our produce is our secret sauce because the produce is picked at its nutritional peak, whereas stuff in the grocery store is picked before it’s actually ripe. Frozen allows these two coveted qualities to come together in one nutritional powerhouse that fits into every lifestyle. Freezing fruits and veggies on the farm means they are super high in nutrients (higher than most “fresh” you buy in the grocery store), free of preservatives, wilt/rot guilt free, and ready to blend into a frosty mouthwatering smoothie in 30 seconds.
Attracting talent is always a challenge. How did you convince people to join Daily Harvest when it was little more than a dream?
I always hire based on talent but also culture fit. One spends more time with colleagues than with anyone else. You need to make sure they have the right attitude and spirit. Also, instead of fitting people to roles I try to fit roles to people. If I meet someone great, I prod them to find out what their talents are, what they want to learn and how they want to stretch and grow. I find people excited about the roles and possibilities this way. The one challenge is you create a puzzle that needs to be solved—but in my experience it’s worth it.
“Farm-freezing our produce is our secret sauce because the produce is picked at its nutritional peak, whereas stuff in the grocery store is picked before it’s actually ripe.”
How did you decide whether to bootstrap the business, seek angel investors, or take VC money?
This was a very hard decision for me. I bootstrapped for as long as I could until I felt I was choking off growth. (When I was eight months pregnant with my first child, I was literally delivering boxes of smoothies myself. I eventually hired my nephews and now we obviously ship nationwide.) I wanted to be sure I had a positive collaborative relationship with anyone involved in Daily Harvest. Luckily, I was able to find like-minded angels and VCs who shared my vision.
Can you tell us about a key decision you made that was a turning point for Daily Harvest, but that frankly could have gone either way?
Raising money. As I said, I didn’t want to for the longest time. I was afraid of pressure to change my vision because [I was concerned that] investors not in my target demographic didn’t understand the appeal of organic unrefined food. I finally decided that I couldn’t execute my full vision without a raise.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Not advice per se, but whenever things get rough I go back to something Scott Belsky shared. It’s best illustrated on his Instagram feed. Short, simple and honest.
A business owner’s to-do list is always long. Please share your favorite efficiency hack.
I’m all about micro in the day and macro at night. I spend my days executing, problem solving, answering emails and meeting with my team. At night, when it’s quiet and my son is asleep, and I have time to reflect on the day, I strategize and think about the big picture.
Everyone wants to know: Does Daily Harvest have any open positions?
Yes! We are looking for part-time marketers in key cities to help us get the word out. If you are in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, or Austin and are self-motivated with experience in sales, please apply here.