SDH 198: Side Hustle to Full-Time with Lauren Benbassat
How has your business bettered your lifestyle? Improved your mental and physical health? Or motivated you to put yourself, and your well-being first?
For Lauren Benbassat a health scare prompted her and her husband to create Mele, which offers all-natural meal replacement smoothies loaded with ingredients like real fruits, nuts, vegetables, and whey protein. These ingredients are freeze-dried and crushed into a powder, and when you add water, you have a filling smoothie with all the benefits of a perfectly balanced nutritional meal.
Her inspiration for Mele came about when she moved to New York from Florida to pursue a career in marketing. With nothing but her bags and determination, she grinded her way up the corporate ladder, and while success became the pay off, her health declined. After her early morning workouts, she would run head first into work, with only a coffee and office snacks to nourish her for the day. She said she became constantly exhausted because she never stopped to properly refuel her body with the nutrients she needed to sustain her active lifestyle. She noticed her husband, who was a corporate attorney, experiencing the same fatigue as he tried to cram a “healthy” lifestyle into his long and unpredictable work schedule, too.
She started to feel her body changing and began gaining weight in her stomach and hips. She knew it was probably due to her poor diet and went to the doctor to get some blood work done. When she was told her cholesterol and triglyceride levels were through the roof, it gave her the jolt she needed to finally take action in correcting her diet. She started researching the ingredients inside her food, and found that a lot of products and ingredients were synthetic, didn’t meet any of the macro and micro nutrients that our bodies needed, and the foods that did weren’t flavorful. Committed to the goal of improving her health, she and her husband decided to take it upon themselves to create healthy meals that fit into their hectic world, and started to build Mele.
Initially building their company for themselves, they were extremely dedicated on making a transparent brand with high quality ingredients. This mindfulness can be seen in the smallest of ingredients like their decision to include the powerful and natural brain food, sunflower lecithin. Most food products contain soy lecithin because it's cheaper. However, Lauren didn’t want to spend a dime on it because it is bad for our thyroids, which was a health issue for her mother. Another careful measure they took was making sure the protein used was grass-fed, hormone-free, and an isolate protein. The benefits of using isolate protein is that it's casein-free, so it doesn’t cause indigestion and irritate people who are lactose intolerance.
They were also particular about sourcing, and created all of their recipes from scratch because they wanted their meals to have their personal touch. They contacted different produce manufacturers, and played with fresh ingredients to create balanced macro-nutritional meals that had the perfect carb-fat-protein ratio. This was a process that her husband took the reins of, while she focused on correcting the taste like suggesting peanut butter to add smoothness, or pineapple to cover up earthy flavors created by wheat and barley grass.
Lauren also used her expertise in marketing and design to create the logo, website, and packaging, while also handling the company’s social media presence. As Lauren took charge of the creative, her husband handled Mele’s finances, inventory, as well as the liability and insurance aspects of the company due to his job as a corporate lawyer and his CPA in accounting.
To see if their side passion had legs, they sent out anonymous samples and surveys to their family and friends as a form a market research. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and they gained the confidence to release their product on the mass market. After taking some of their savings and investing in a small product run, they found that they public loved their brand, too, and they quickly sold out. Since then, they have continued to grow as a business, and expanded into a company whose wholesome brand and packaging have attracted the likes of Anthropologie and Amazon!
Though Mele has turned into a success and Lauren’s new full time job, it was painful for her to transition from corporate employee to entrepreneur because she truly loved her job. Mele wasn’t intended to become anything more than a hobby or side hustle, so the level of responsibility it began to demand was unexpected. Even though she was honest with her job about Mele’s conception from the beginning, she saw that they were sadden by her departure. Her coworkers became her family, so to say goodbye to them was emotional.
What got her through that tough transition was remembering the chance her father took when he started his own business, too. Their family had to make several sacrifices when he left his corporate job, but as an adult she became inspired by his passion and belief in his dreams. With him and her husband as her support system, she knew she had to take that leap, and see what road her brand would lead her down.
Her first day as an entrepreneur was overwhelming and daunting as the reality of her decision kicked in, but she picked up the phone, started asking questions, and figuring it all out one project at a time.
Learn more about how Mele changed Lauren’s health and gave her confidence in her abilities to do something scary and succeed!
In this episode you will…
Learn how to break up the steps involved in starting a business
Know how to leave a corporate job that you love to grow your company
Learn how to launch and run a business with your significant other
See how to add your own personal touch to your product
Learn how to sell your brand to big companies and manufacturers with your story
Find a way to produce a professional looking brand and product with a small budget
“You can’t compare yourself to brands that are already there, and you can’t look at this huge, massive picture of where you want to be. It’s good to have goals, but you still have to take one step at a time…” – Lauren Benbassat
“Through the process my passions were pivoting…of course I can…keep this job that I know is there and I enjoy parts of it…but I think in the back of my mind, I would of always wondered what if my company could of gone somewhere…I’ll never know if I don’t try.” –Lauren Benbassat
“I’m so much more capable than I realized. I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome where I think I don’t make qualifications, and I’m not good enough…but in launching a business it was just such a confidence boost that I think I really needed to prove to myself that I was able and I could figure anything out.” –Lauren Benbassat
“Tell your story. I think a lot of our initial partners have just been really drawn to the story of the brand, and the concept, and it being something a little bit more innovative and new.” -Lauren Benbassat