How healthy do you really eat every day? Are you ever too busy to grab something good (or just anything to eat at all)? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a convenient, reliable solution? Perhaps you need a little Daily Harvest in your life. Started by Rachel Drori, Daily Harvest is a home delivery subscription service of superfoods for your freezer—smoothies, soups, chia parfaits, overnight oats (and a newly launched treat). Before you crinkle your nose at the idea of frozen superfoods, I suggest you read on. Apparently they are more nutrient dense than most of the fresh fruits and veggies you’re currently buying. I was introduced to Rachel by a prominent VC who is a woman who invests in women’s businesses (breakthrough companies like Glossier). I trust her judgement on thinking Daily Harvest is the next big thing. (It seems to be on its way.) And I trust my taste buds, which thoroughly enjoyed my Daily Harvest smoothie. I want more. Here, Rachel discusses what cauliflower has to do with ice cream, the two hardest things about starting out (which are probably the two things she loves most), and just how off-the-radar she likes her travel.
Why did you start Daily Harvest? I started Daily Harvest to solve a personal need. It came from my desire to always eat a certain way and just simply not having enough hours in the day to do that. I found a way to solve the problem for myself and decided that it was something I wanted to solve for other people.
What were you doing before? I started my career at Four Seasons hotels in marketing and branding. I wanted to work for a company that was the best in marketing and customer centricity. I learned a lot about the customer being at the center of any service business; it’s something that’s really helped throughout my career. I got into business school at Columbia where I focused on marketing and entrepreneurship. Then I went to Amex to get the big box, corporate experience under my belt and spent almost two years working on marketing and loyalty acquisition. After that I went over to Guilt Groupe where I was one of the team members on Jetsetter. I did everything from sales to acquisition to loyalty to business development–the full range on the marketing spectrum. While I was at Guilt, I came up with the idea for Daily Harvest. I always had the entrepreneurial bug, and knew at some point it would all come together and make sense.
Have you always been into food? Growing up, I was an athlete and always knew a lot about health and nutrition because I needed to fuel my body efficiently. I knew what I should be eating. Also one of my quirks is I’ve always been a tinker. I like to deconstruct and reconstruct. With food I had this weird ability to find something that looked delicious, that I wouldn’t necessarily want to eat because it was heavily processed or the ingredients were really yucky, and I would remake it in a healthy way. I would use almond and coconut flour–all these wonderful things that are becoming more common. In the heat of this I started Daily Harvest.
Daily Harvest has a narrow scope of products—soups, smoothies, overnight oats. Why that focus? It started with smoothies. And it was really because there’s a misconception of frozen food. People associate frozen food with a dinosaur shaped chicken nugget or a microwave dinner. But frozen is actually a huge opportunity. Let’s take a blueberry for example. When you take a blueberry that’s picked from the farm that you’re buying at say Whole Foods, it’s picked green before it reaches it’s nutritional peak. Then it goes on this journey to the grocery store where it ripens over time, but it never has time to develop the concentration of nutrients that you and I think of when we think of a blueberry. By the time you eat it, six weeks off the vine, most of those amazing nutrients have degraded.
In contrast when you buy something that’s farm frozen, it’s picked at it’s nutritional peak and then frozen within hours. All of those amazing nutrients are contained by the freezing process. So when you’re eating something frozen it’s not a compromise. It is often times better than what you’re buying fresh in the grocery store.
When you say something’s healthy for you, people wonder ‘What’s being hidden? What does “healthy” mean? Is this real?’ When you open one of our cups you see whole pieces of mango, whole pieces of papaya, whole nuts. That’s why I started with a smoothie. As a trust builder. Our soups are the same thing. You can see every single ingredient in it’s whole form. We launched ice cream on Monday.
Oooh. Can you talk a little bit about the ice cream? So it’s all whole fruits, vegetables …
Vegetables? Yes. The bases are banana, coconut, avocado, cauliflower, chickpeas. We have a strawberry cheesecake that’s made out of coconut, cauliflower and strawberries, with apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. There are six flavors and each comes with a topping. We have brownie batter, a chocolate hazelnut that tastes like Nutella, chocolate chip cookie dough which has a topping of cookie dough balls made out of chickpeas and cacao nibs that are fantastic, strawberry cheesecake, coffee crunch and salted caramel. You blend them up and they taste like ice cream. It’s pretty remarkable.
Are your products vegan? Yes.
Are you vegan? I am not. But my thinking with Daily Harvest being vegan is you choose your own base. [Daily Harvest provides the fruits/veggies; you provide the liquid.] We have people who make our soups with bone broth and add shrimp and I think that’s wonderful. We provide this blank slate that allows you to have whatever you want in 30 seconds.
Beyond your product, what sets Daily Harvest apart? What do you want the customer experience to be? At the end of the day I’d like people to think differently about their daily nutrition. What I like to say is we offer convenience without compromise. Usually the two don’t work together very well. The ultimate goal is to have people get deliveries of Daily Harvest where they fill their freezer and think about their freezer as a place to go for their daily nutrition.
What was the easiest thing about starting Daily Harvest? What was the hardest? The easiest thing was just the drive to do it. I am so passionate about it and I love what I do every single day. That’s really important because being an entrepreneur can be really hard. There are ups and downs everyday and you’re on a crazy roller coaster. The hardest thing is, I’d say there are two things. One, when I started the business I was eight months pregnant. Then, when I had just raised our series A, I had my second child the day before. We closed the day I came home from the hospital. It was insane. Having life happening in conjunction with building my third child, it’s been hard but it’s worth it.
One of your attributes that helps you succeed: I tend to be very resourceful. I believe if there’s a will there’s a way. And in a start up environment you have to be a scrapper. I enjoy finding ways to make things work with limited resources.
Best career advice you’ve received: From a entrepreneurial point of view, it’s to aspire for the upwards slope. Because every day is going to be filled with ups and downs, and you never know what you’re going to face in any given week, but on average if you’re heading towards that upward slope, that’s what you have to focus on.
Advice you’d give somebody starting out: Don’t be deterred by haters, especially when raising money or looking to others for opinions. Something we tend to do is to look for others to validate an idea, especially in the early days. I think you should let the market validate your idea, not individuals. When you’re trying to raise money early on, the people who you’re raising money from are not always your target market. It can be a little demoralizing to go to meeting after meeting where people are saying, ‘Why doesn’t this taste like Jamba Juice?’ Nothing against Jamba Juice, it’s just a different product. If you really believe in what you’re doing, let the market be the judge. Get it out there.
Role models: Okay I’m going to be really cheesy and say my mom.
That’s not cheesy at all.
My mom was an entrepreneur. She built a business and had a family at the same time. Having a mother who was doing that gives me peace of mind when I think about, ‘Oh, I’m not home with my kids I’m at work’. You can’t have it all. There are sacrifices that have to happen somewhere. Having been on the other side of that, I feel like I’m stronger because my mom did it and I didn’t suffer. Also my mom did it on her own. She built a business and it’s been incredible to see. I call her with unique problems, she’s so helpful.
Biggest success to date: Selling our millionth smoothie. It was a number that we were gunning towards, and once we hit it, it was a pinch me moment.
Biggest dud, or one thing you failed at and what did you learn from it? We had a lot of duds. Every business does right?
Yes. People just don’t like to talk about them.
We have 14 smoothies right now. If you aggregate all of the ones we have had, we probably had 28. Some things work. Some things don’t. Again, you let the market decide. If people don’t like something you move on or you make it better. You never really know til it gets out there.
What motivates you? The passion of the mission. I love what I do every day and I’m so excited to be bringing something that changed my life to everyone.
How hard would you say you work? I don’t even know how to quantify that. I don’t not work.
How do you keep focused? I make my own schedule which allows me to feel good about all the parts of my life. I’m home every single day at 5:30. No matter what. Everybody knows not to call me at 5:30. 5:30 to 7 I do family. Then I’m back on at 7 til midnight. My kids wake up at 6 and I rinse and repeat the next day.
Three words that describe Daily Harvest: Convenient, uncompromising, innovative.
Three words that describe you: Resourceful, passionate, untraditional.
What’s next? We have a lot but I can’t talk about it yet. If you think about this concept of convenience without compromise or superfoods super fast, and think of all the foods that we want to be eating and how we can use frozen as a vehicle to make them, the opportunities are limitless.
Life goals: Raising good humans, family, and all that goes along with that. And realizing the big picture goal that I’ve set out to achieve with Daily Harvest.
Daily goals: To be a good leader. To help everyone on my team succeed.
Daily rituals: Spending that quality time every day from 5:30 to 7 with my family is sacred. I also always try to take at least 30 seconds out of my day to think or talk about what I’m grateful for. I do it with my kids every night. It’s a practice I think is really important. And I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.
Favorite motivational/inspirational read: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. One of the many reasons I love the book is that Dr Kalanithi leaves us with an eloquently simple lesson … make life as meaningful as you can in the time you have as life is truly precious and fragile.
Hidden talents/hobbies: I haven’t done this since kids, but a big part of my DNA is traveling to uncharted territories and hiking and climbing. I’ve been to some pretty uncharted places–Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Ethiopia, North Korea, Kashmir, the top of Kilimanjaro….
Do you want to take your kids someday? I cannot wait til they are old enough to have all their travel shots!
Do you collect anything? I have a travel journal of all these adventures that I go on. I don’t want to say I collect memories but I collect adventures. I have a photo wall in our apartment that has at least one from every trip we’ve been on.
Favorite small indulgence: Kombucha. I like GT‘s–I’m obsessed with it. We have it on tap in the office. It was my treat for closing our series A.
Album currently on repeat: Anything David Bowie and Jay Z’s new album 4:44.
Scent that brings back memories: The smell of silk. My mother wears an Hermès scarf every day, it’s her signature thing. Growing up, that smell of hugging her when she’d come home every day. It brings me right back to childhood.
Lucky charm: My husband. Because we’re better and stronger together. I talk through everything with him. I feel like when we come to decisions together, even if they have nothing to do with him, things seem to go in the right direction.
Favorite hour of the day: 5:30-7. What else would it be?