I constantly struggle from impostor syndrome, but the more I continue down this path, the more I realize that nobody ever really knows what they are doing until they actually do it.”
Lauren Benbassat is the co-founder and CEO of mēle, an all-natural meal replacement created by her and her husband, Adam to solve the problem of poor eating during busy work and travel days. After years of corporate life in NYC, she and Adam realized there was a key ingredient missing during long work hours and hectic days – a quick, filling and nutrient dense snack and meal alternative – so they worked tirelessly after work hours, through weekends to perfect a delicious, nutritionally balanced smoothie mix, launching their brand to share with the world on September 2016.
With 8+ years of marketing experience, business development, design & branding, Lauren took the reigns on this side-hustle turned full-time venture to help develop the recipes, create the packaging, design, and brand voice, and now oversees all operations and strategy for growth. With only a year in business, the brand has successfully built eCommerce sales, selling on meleshake.com, Amazon & Anthropologie and has started to create a name for itself in the wellness and CPG space.
In her spare time, Lauren is a fitness enthusiast and an artist, and enjoys wine, cooking & travel – she believes in fully embracing the core mission of her company – to be (and eat) happy, wholesome, and healthy.
Where did the idea for mēle come from?
My husband and I simply created our product, mēle (pronounced “meal”) after our own frustrations of finding healthy and balanced snacks on our busy work days. After years of burnout and poor snacking at the office and on travel days, we wanted something we could quickly mix and make that would truly keep us full, taste delicious and be made of real ingredients. We searched the web for a meal replacement like this, but it didn’t exist – so we set out on sourcing natural fruits, veggies, nuts and proteins to created our own perfect nutrient-dense smoothie mix! We now have 3 flavors of our product which are all complete balanced, keep you full, and can be made quickly by just mixing it up with water. Personally, we still use the product almost daily to keep our healthy eating on track!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I find that each entrepreneur I’ve met structures their day very differently depending on how they work best and are most efficient. For me, early morning is when I can be very focused and task oriented, and my creative-streak is best suited for the afternoon. I wake up by 6:30am each day, enjoy a warm cup of water (jump start digestive system and hydration) and sit down to set my tasks for the day, and answer any priority emails. Each week, I have a task list set (using Google Docs so I can access anywhere) of my high-level projects – so each day I start with deciding which of those I can tackle, and add any additional projects that pop-up. My new business partner and I share this document to keep on track and to know what each person is tackling that week, as well as a list of our long-term projects and ideas. Most importantly, from a mental and physical health perspective, it helps me to schedule time to go to the gym/yoga/ballet and I make this an event on my calendar, blocking off specific times each week to have “me time.”
How do you bring ideas to life?
Depends on what idea. If it’s something creative (I designed our packaging and website), I will typically start sketching concepts, mapping out structures, and then start playing in design programs, saving multiple versions, and making small adjustments (sometimes for hours) until I get to a comfortable place, then breaking and coming back to it with a fresh mind the next day.
My work style also tends to be more of a “just do it” and “exploratory” mentality – if there is any idea or direction I want to head, I often times jump in head first and bump it to the top of the priority list. By using more structure in my weekly/daily and long-term goals though, I am able to find a balance of both impulsive ideas and thoroughly thought through ideas.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Plant-based! We are currently finalizing details to launch our dairy-free, plant-based line extension and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s so important to us to be flexible as a new business, listen to our customers and deliver what the market needs, and plant-based is calling our name.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Adaptability. Someone told me before we started our company that the most important thing you can carry through the entire business journey is to be adaptable – if something isn’t working, change it, don’t be afraid to admit something isn’t working and find a better way to do it, and don’t expect your first idea to be the final and correct one! We have made so many changes in our business in just the first year, and I believe this ability to quickly pivot, try new things, and adapt (even though its hard) has kept us growing. Genuinely listen to your customers, constantly be looking for efficiencies, and get real comfortable with constant change in all aspects of your company.
What advice would you give your younger self?
“You’ve got this!” I constantly struggle from impostor syndrome, but the more I continue down this path, the more I realize that nobody ever really knows what they are doing until they actually do it. I never imagined when I was working in a corporate job just last September, that I would ever be a founder of a company, but each challenge that comes along, I just start putting one foot in front of the other, ask for help from the experts, and continue to absorb everything like a sponge. There is no secret, it’s just a matter of wanting it and trying over and over again.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
We generally eat shitty foods and are just beginning to scratch the surface of what it takes to properly fuel our body.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
EXERCISE!!! As many days in the week as you can, even if its just going for a walk or bike ride. Movement for me helps open up my creative side, but most importantly gives me a daily endorphin high and stress relief. Our core beliefs in starting our company is to be happy, wholesome and healthy – and that involves not just eating well, but also moving well, and in return we can work & think well.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Get involved with other brands, local businesses and events. In bootstrapping a company, you don’t exactly have much of a marketing budget, so I’ve had to get pretty creative in how we do our outreach. We love sharing our product and handling out samples at local businesses and events – it’s the perfect way to get consumers trying your product and to also build relationships with other amazing small (or big) businesses!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Just one?! Failure is constant as an entrepreneur and you have to quickly get comfortable with being a little uncomfortable. This ties perfectly back into my core belief in being as adaptable as possible – there are always mistakes (or failures), but I look at them as learning lessons to make an important change or pivot in your plans. When you have those, what we should call “learning moments”, of course be upset at the error, but then quickly pick yourself back up and figure out how to fix it going forward – each time this happens, your business will become stronger and more efficient.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I believe that all companies are headed more and more toward remote work positions, and career paths that allow you to live/work wherever you want. I’d like to see more apps, programs and efficiencies built around running a business or working as an employee from a remote location.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
An hour and a half facial – I’ve been really focusing on a bit more “me time” lately. Running my own business is easily one of the most stressful situations I’ve been through in my life, and more than anything this past year, I’ve learned how important it is to prioritize spending time on feeling good in my own skin, and taking time out to decompress.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Shopify! We use this to host our website and manage our inventory – the customer service is outstanding and there are hundreds of apps tied into the platform that help to make your business even more efficient.
Google Drive & Drop Box is key as well for organizing and sharing documents, to-do lists, and notes to access from just about anywhere.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Alchemist, Paul Coelho – always follow your heart and everything will be okay.
What is your favorite quote?
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” ― Cynthia Occelli
• Be adaptable — be willing to admit when something isn’t working and be open-minded enough to explore other options to improve your brand
• Always refer back to the core business beliefs — why did you create this brand or business? What is your mission and how does this make the world a better place?
• “You’ve got this” — there is no secret, it’s a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, asking the right questions and learning constantly
• Work (play) well with others — partner with other brands, give back to local businesses or events by sharing your services/product
• Take care of yourself first — prioritize your own physical and mental well-being so that you can be at your best (“you can’t pour from an empty cup”)
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.