A true pioneer in the health industry, she launched the brand in 2012 at the age of 26 with her best friend Whitney Tingle, creating their unique nutrition philosophy which merges modern science and ancient healing wisdom. Since inception, Sakara has transformed millions of lives through its Signature Meal Program, Functional Snacks, and Supplements. In 2019, she launched the first Sakara cookbook, EAT CLEAN PLAY DIRTY, becoming a national bestselling author, and has been honored in Forbes' 30 under 30, MindBodyGreen's 100 Women in Wellness, Goldman Sachs ‘Most Interesting Entrepreneurs’ and Oprah's SuperSoul 100. Passionate about wellness, she shares how we can connect with our audience and live a healthier lifestyle.
You have a business that involves delivering fresh food. How did you get started?
I started the company about 10 years ago with Whitney, my best friend. It was born out of us using food as a tool to change our lives. Eating this way saved my life. So we made it our mission to share this knowledge with as many people as possible. We're best known for our nutrition program that's delivered all over the country. The meals are plant-based, organic, fresh, never frozen, and cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Were there specific functions where COVID opened up spaces for you to hire?
No, we planned to hire regardless. Wellness wasn't quite cool when we started. People told us, "I don't know what you're doing. Nobody's going to want a salad delivered. People want pizza delivered." We were ahead of the time. Now, I'm grateful that wellness has become trendy. I don't think it's going anywhere either; it's become quite mainstream.
I think where it missed the mark is self-care became this nice to have lifestyle. If COVID has done anything for us, it's shown us that self-care is not a luxury. It's not a 'nice to have.' It's essential.
Do you have the same customer base you had when you went into COVID?
Yeah, I think we have the same customer base overall. The more I talk to our customers, the more I hear things like, "I am not just looking out for my health, I'm also looking out for my loved one's health." People are ordering for not just themselves but their families.
Our consumer base opened up and shifted into a broader place when we released a cookbook and magazine. Eating is the quickest and most transformative way to heal yourself. That's why we are doing everything we can to make healthy eating accessible for everyone, not just for those who can afford it.
Eating is the quickest and most transformative way to heal yourself.
How are you speaking to people through your marketing? And how are you spending your marketing dollars?
We haven't changed how we talk to people. I've noticed brands that do, and it doesn't sit right with me. We've always been here to boost your immune system. We're not just here to boost your immune system during the pandemic.
Consumers can see through marketing ploys. To founders and CEOs out there listening, it's the time to be our most authentic. People see through things and are demanding honesty and transparency.
What ideas are you exploring?
We share something called Sakara Stories on our podcast. Whitney and I often talk about the stories that brought us here. My story is I had a terrible relationship with food. I counted calories, carbs, pounds, points - everything. And I never felt good. Whitney, she was dealing with cystic acne. She tried everything for a decade, and nothing worked until she changed how she ate.
Our stories lead us to our mission. Then we thought if this started with our stories, what could we do if everyone who felt a transformation got to share theirs? Sharing stories on the podcasts helped spur connections within the community because people related to those around them.
Our stories lead us to our mission.
How do you look at customer acquisition?
We certainly have the traditional efforts behind Facebook, Instagram, etc. But we also have something called the Sakara Circle. That has not only shifted our business but helped us align with our mission of empowering others to sit in the driver's seat of their health. Instead of always waiting for the next piece of advice or the next person to finally change their bodies and their lives, we teach them how to fish so they can do it for themselves.
The circle is a community of people who have felt the transformation from eating this way. They believe in this mission so much that they go out into the world and share their stories with others. It's the grassroots version of a digital world where everyone gets to share their stories. I think people are often scared to talk about grassroots impact and grassroots effort because it is tough. It's person to person, it's not, here's $1,000, to spend on ads, and you can wait for the results behind your computer. It's get out there, meet people, listen to their stories, and get uncomfortable in a really nice, authentic way.
Do you think that being sustainable is also a challenge?
If I could get rid of all the plastic that we use, I absolutely would. And I think that's often the elephant in the room when it comes to food delivery. We're always looking for alternative packaging. We use post-consumer recycled (PCR), meaning we're saving plastic from going into landfills and oceans and repurposing it. Plastic is a problem and something that I think we have to really start to ask ourselves about as a species.
That said, there are so many things impacting sustainability and the health of our planet. I don't think those get enough press. I don't think people understand how every choice they make, especially about their plate, impacts the planet. Mainly eating plants very much helps decrease your animal-based products. Animal-based products greatly diminish our Earth. It takes a lot to grow cattle and chickens. It takes a ton of water and causes a lot of deforestation.
We support a lot of organic farms, regenerative farms, conventional farming. Plants are often exposed to harsh pesticides, herbicides, fungicides. People can't just wash those off; it's within the flesh of the food. It's in our soil, which means it gets into our waterways, which means it impacts the insects - everything's connected. As much as we want to have one villain, there's no one villain. That means as we think about sustainability, we have to think about how every decision we make impacts our future.
No matter what you do, as a company, if you can't connect human to human, you will face real challenges, especially when you promise transformation.
How do you keep up with the flexibility required to grow the Sakara Circle?
It's personal relationships. So it takes a lot of time. But that's a theme across our company. No matter what you do, as a company, if you can't connect human to human, you will face real challenges, especially when you promise transformation.
You can't just put a product in the mail and expect people to fall in love and send you all these testimonials - that doesn't happen. In order to feed the fire and keep the fire of your community roaring, people need to feel connected to your brand and your product in a personal way. There's no shortcut to human connection. You have to take the time.
What is your advice for businesses that have shipping and delivery costs?
What is my advice? There's no way to make it cheap or easy, but the more you can get a flat rate, the better. That way, you can plug the cost of shipping into your cost.
There are weird things that keep consumers from buying, and it's almost illogical. For example, a customer is willing to buy a $250 perfume, but not if they have to pay $10 for shipping. There are buttons and switches to help consumers say yes, instead of no. Free shipping is one of them.
I would say find other places to save money by asking your consumers what matters to them. For a long time, we spent so much money on our packaging, beautiful packaging mattered to me. However, sustainability is what mattered to our customers.
Any parting advice?
Americans eat processed meat at every single meal. Over 90% of us aren't getting the daily recommended amount of vegetables. We're low in nutrients, in fact, we're starved of nutrients. We're not getting enough fiber. Our microbiomes are dying off; the diversity of our microbiome is dying off. This is not to say that I need everyone to be vegan. We put our customers in the driver's seat of their health, and there are many different ways to do that. My parting advice would be to put more plants in your diet. That change will make a huge difference.