Andrea Talley is the founder of the recently crowd funded, green smoothie startup, GreenLid.
Since founding GreenLid, Andrea moved to San Francisco from Washington DC, found a temporary home at food startup incubator 331 Cortland in Bernal Heights and is working on expanding her offerings to include salads and wraps. For now, Andrea wants her green smoothies to be to tech startup employees what Gatorade is to athletes.
The Local Food Lab team visited Andrea last Friday, and as we enjoyed a green smoothie, she shared with us her challenges as a fledgling food startup, helpful business resources she has found along the way and stories of the people who have helped her get to this point.
What compelled you to become an entrepreneur and start GreenLid?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a little kid. I used to round up my sisters to make big batches of cookies and caramel popcorn balls and sell them around our neighborhood. Later in college, I was president of the Entrepreneurial Society where I created a marketplace that connected student-owned businesses to customers.
The idea for GreenLid came from my personal need to eat healthy food on the go. When I was working in an office setting, I used to eat fast food because it’s convenient. But I grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, surrounded by farms. We ate really healthy in my mom's house so I saw a clear need to make high quality, nutrient rich food as convenient as traditional fast food.
What have some of your biggest business challenges been?
Beverage packaging is a big obstacle to tackle as a startup with limited funds. Unlike food startups that have the fortune of stamping their logo on a box or bag, beverages have to think about durable, leak proof packaging that’s scalable and sets your product apart. Package labels in general require a lot of creativity and posed an unexpected challenge for me.
What business resources have been most helpful for GreenLid and how have you used them to grow your startup?
I’ve found building relationships with people to be the best resources. I was fortunate to meet some of the best chefs, CEO’s, designers and Food Scientists in SF. During conversations with them, I always strive to enroll people into my vision for GreenLid and ask a lot of questions. These kinds of conversations make me grow as a person. They also help create momentum for my company because more times than not, they know of a resource that I haven’t tapped yet.
Some of the good ones I’ve found are San Francisco SCORE, Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, La Cocina, Women’s Initiative, Friends of Alemany Farm and the Alemany Farmers Market. I used SCORE to figure out my initial fixed and variable costs. I also found their class on Opening and Operating a Restaurant to be helpful. I volunteered at Alemany Farm for a few months to re-learn how the produce I use is grown and harvested.
Which individuals did you lean on the most when growing from idea stage to launch and how?
I had the good fortune to reconnect with a family friend who also owns a company in San Francisco. He helped me believe in the potential of GreenLid enough to give it a shot. Before moving out here, we agreed—if at the end of six months the idea hadn’t caught on then I could throw in the towel. Having an out made it comfortable for me to push really hard during those first six months, and it turns out I created some good momentum.
In addition to my business mentor, I also constantly bounce ideas off of my friends. Two of my friends are corporate chefs. They help me think through everything from sourcing to packaging to recipes. Chefs have an intimate relationship with food and they think in terms of producing large quantities. I found their insight to be incredibly helpful in bringing an idea to fruition.
Also, I leaned on my family a lot during the early stages because quitting your job and moving across the country to start a business requires a lot of encouragement and support.
What have you learned from your customers that surprised you the most?
My customers showed me that there is a demand for smoothies! It sounds silly but I still get surprised and flattered by their response after taking an initial sip.
I’ve also learned that customers/the general public are kind. One time, at the store, I ran out of bananas and a customer jumped out of line to go grab me some! That sort of kindness and support astonishes me.
What's next for GreenLid and what is your vision for the future of GreenLid?
2014 is gonna be a fun year for GreenLid. We’re revamping the delivery system to be able to deliver to companies with 100+ employees. Also, In January we’re releasing a new post-workout smoothie that is equivalent to a nutritionally balanced meal (and it tastes good!)
Long-term I envision GreenLid as a national fast casual restaurant chain providing smoothies, juice, salads and wraps. I’m looking forward to building out a location where customers can choose to take food on the go or sit down and eat in peace.
What advice do you have for food entrepreneurs who are just getting started?
Set big goals and meditate on them everyday. Fight hard to achieve your goals and when you do it’ll be a testament to your ambition and drive. Celebrate small victories and laugh at mistakes. Surprise yourself by the amount of work you’re able to get done everyday. And remember to enjoy the ride.
Anything else you would like readers to know?
I’m Buddhist and have deep faith in my spiritual practice. I carry my faith into the work I do everyday. I think as an entrepreneur it’s vital to have some sort of spiritual practice that enables you listen and be guided by your intuition/inner wisdom. It’ll also help you be a business person with integrity- which is our generations way of doing business.
Andrea Talley is the Founder & CEO of GreenLid, which provides over 100 gallons of smoothie per month to corporate clients in San Francisco. She moved to the Bay Area from Washington, DC at the beginning of 2013 with the desire to provide fresh healthy food to people on the go. Her long struggle to balance work and eating healthy resulted in discovering green smoothies and sharing them with hard working professionals who share her struggle. Ten months after moving to San Francisco, she’s expanding her delivery operation to include a storefront retail model.
Follow GreenLid on Twitter.