After beating cancer in her early twenties, Loren Brill Castle made it her mission to eliminate processed foods from her diet. When she couldn’t find great tasting cookies made from clean ingredients, she set out to make her own – and it led her to create Sweet Loren’s, now Americas #1 natural cookie dough company. Sweet Loren’s is a clean food company whose first product line is refrigerated cookie dough that is non-GMO verified, plant-based, gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and free of compromise. And while it’s free of many things, you can be sure, it’s full of delicious taste and joy. Loren is an entrepreneur, visionary, and true changemaker working toward a brighter future for the food industry.
Loren is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a BA in Communication. She is a certified Hatha Yoga Instructor, attended the New School for the Master Class in Cooking, and attended the Natural Gourmet Institute. Loren was born and raised in NYC, and now lives in Los Angeles, California, truly living the healthy lifestyle.
Where did the idea for Sweet Loren’s come from?
When I graduated college, my life took a turn I could have never anticipated. I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 22, just at the time I was about to go out into the world and start a new chapter. I was incredibly fortunate to have access to the care I needed. The doctors were tremendous in helping me beat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but I was surprised that we never discussed the importance of nutrition and the role of food, exercise, and meditation in getting and staying healthy. This led me to take a close look at what I was putting into my body and do my own research into nutrition and wellness. I believe in intuitive eating, which includes allowing yourself foods that satisfy your sweet tooth. I could not find any sweet snacks and treats made with good, clean, recognizable ingredients and were also delicious. So, I decided to try to make my own —and Sweet Loren’s was born!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Every day is different. I spend time looking at the day, week, and weeks ahead each day to be sure I am prepared and setting myself up for what needs to be done, short term and long term. It helps me make sure we are setting agendas for meetings, we are maximizing those meetings, we are hitting deadlines and keeping focus on all the right things.
I also maximize productivity with a healthy mind and body. First, having healthy delicious food around to feel nourished helps me focus. Eating crappy food doesn’t fuel me to be productive. Second, working out makes me feel energized. I get great ideas when I am working out. Things also become clearer when I release energy.
It’s also interesting how much more productive I am now that I have a newborn. There’s simply no time to waste, so I am really making each minute count. I’m thoughtful with how I spend my time. When you are shorter on time you can find yourself really being more intentional, multi-tasking to the extreme and that just makes you more productive.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing an idea to life for me requires two critical steps.
My first step is to get the team on board that’s going to help me bring an idea to life. They must be invested and aligned. Having your team see the opportunity and be passionate about it is key because ultimately so many people across the organization must be involved to go from an idea to execution. There are tons of ideas and opportunities and to be able to focus on the right ones isn’t something you can do alone. You need to move the company forward with the team in sync with the vision.
The next way to bring the idea to life is the input of your customer. I certainly know what I like and want to bring to market, but people are vocal about what they want and like too. When I first started with cookie dough, I tried every kind of sugar and flour, but it was more about ensuring others liked it. I can understand the consumer need, but the idea is nothing without feedback. I couldn’t have predicted how my first recipes were going to be perceived – I heard “make it less sweet”, “add more chocolate”, “needs more salt”, etc… All of that helped me tweak and bring the idea to life. We can all love it internally at the company and be passionate about what we make, but it is really about making sure we solve a need. Getting input at every stage helps bring that to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Plant-based food is a hot trend right now. But one category I am particularly excited about is plant-based ice creams; they are delicious, and some are very close in comparison to dairy. I’m lactose intolerant and so I’ve never been able to eat lots of ice cream. Now I can love it and feel good about it emotionally and physically. I’m excited about this trend because it shows how different food is today than when I started out in this industry. Plus, nothing is better than a warm cookie with ice cream 🙂 It’s getting to the point where the alternatives are just as good as the traditional brands, and in some cases, even better tasting AND better for you. That’s so inspiring for us. It shows it’s possible to have both. The more acceptable that becomes, the better for all of us in the space; it moves us from a specialty, niche brand to normal and expected. In the end, we all win – because we get better-for-you food that’s delicious.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Focusing on having a full life. I am a 150%, ‘give it your all’ person. When I first started my business, I channeled that. As an entrepreneur you can make up your own life because no one gives you a schedule, so I chose ‘all in’. However, I was getting stressed out, and that kind of habit isn’t sustainable. It’s very demanding and makes you feel like a slave to your own work. And while I still give 150% every day, it’s different now. I focus on a well-rounded, full life. I work out, I meditate, I check in with myself, I eat good, clean food and I focus on spending time with my husband, daughter and close family and friends. My personal life is filled up with the things that are important. I don’t waste time on things that don’t fill me up or feel like a waste. It makes me much happier because it’s intentional. And I find when I am happier, I have my best ideas and am happy to work hard or long. I realized if you aren’t happy, all you think about is being unhappy. It’s toxic and negative. I created this routine where I check in with myself, because no one else can answer these questions for you about what you want and need in your life. It’s constant – I keep asking myself these questions and working on myself. Only you can know how to fill your own cup and have a happy life, and that ultimately gives you the energy and focus to be more productive and give more to others and your business.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to hire the best team possible, much faster. When I started, I did so much on my own for 4 years. In looking back, I believe I would have moved faster if I had experts around me to move smarter and faster. I like lean and mean, but you need the right team to push you forward as well.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Dessert can be good for you!! It’s about intuitive eating – sometimes you need a treat or a certain kind of food to satisfy you and that is OK! I believe everyone should feel empowered to make food decisions not based on “good” or “bad” but instead based on what makes you feel good, happy, fulfilled and satiated. I believe it is a healthy mentality to have a sweet treat occasionally, or when you crave it, as long as it’s part of a balanced diet.\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Make sure your day includes some laughter and joy. Try not to take things so seriously, you can still have a sense of humor and enjoy the ride even if you are a serious person or focused on a serious business/mission.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One thing I did at the very beginning of the business was find a mentor I could trust. At that point I was a one-woman show and didn’t have a team with the strengths I needed. Once a week, I met with an incredible female business mentor, Daniella. Not only did she give me insight and experience I had not yet learned, but she also helped me get out of my head, see things differently, and set and keep goals. She helped build my confidence as a first-time entrepreneur. The mentor was really an important piece of my growth and the company’s growth.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I think we all know how hard it is to hire, but also that building the right team is critical. For me when the hiring didn’t work out, it was really hard. We had invested so much and it was exhausting. It made me feel fragile in the beginning. I have worked to overcome that by realizing there are so many reasons for a hire not working out and it’s important to learn and not get frustrated and upset. I’ve overcome this by being better at vetting the right people. We’ve looked at different recruiters to help us, we’ve used a more rigorous interview process to make sure we are asking the right questions. I have learned that it takes a lot of work to make sure we are finding the right people. When it works out, its magic.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Creating a virtual assistant for everyone. It should be easier and more affordable to hire a virtual assistant (that knows you well!) so everyone has someone to help them with smaller tasks that need to be done. When you think about machine learning and AI, it really should be easier to personalize and have an assistant. I remember I went to a personal coach in my earlier days. The coach said, “If you don’t have an assistant, then YOU are your assistant!” Someone needs to come up with a business that creates a way for each of us to have a virtual assistant that helps us make our valuable time more productive by removing the smaller things we just need done so we can focus on the priorities.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I just ordered socks for my best friends and myself, that have pictures of our babies all over them. It will make us laugh and smile and we can keep them forever. I believe doing things that make you and your loved ones happy and celebrate the small and big things is a good use of money. How can you not love socks with a baby on them??
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Zoom, to connect with people and google drive for organization –they give me easy access wherever I am.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Steve Jobs’ Biography – it inspires everyone to keep thinking big and crazy and know you’re not alone. Also, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. It’s a of memoir by the creator of Nike that will blow you away.
What is your favorite quote?
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
- It’s not about how much time you spend, it’s how you spend it. Give 150% each day, but ensure that time is well-rounded and filled with the right things to create positive energy and productivity.
- Productivity requires intentionality. Check in with yourself. You have to ask the hard questions of yourself all the time and be intentional with how you spend your time, where your focus is and what things makes you happy and unhappy. No one owns this but you, but it’s also one of the hardest conversations to have and act on.
- Gain perspective and focus early on There’s rarely a shortage of ideas and opportunities. The key is to be able to focus on the right ones, and you can’t do it alone without the perspective of the right people. You need to move the company forward with the right team on board and customer input to make the best product that really solves a problem.
- Alternative brands are becoming mainstream brands – a win for all. The food business is changing in a really good way. It’s getting to the point where alternative brands, offering claims such as plant-based, gluten free and non-GMO, are just as good as the traditional brands, and in some cases, even better tasting AND better for you. This is a win for everyone.
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.