In The Boss, successful women share how they reached the top and the lessons they learned along the way.
Danielle and I grew up together in the spiritual mecca of Sedona, Arizona, which instilled in us a strong mind-body-food connection from a young age. But when we each moved to New York City to pursue our careers that connection was lost. I was working in finance and the long hours, stress and culture of convenience took a toll on my body. My banker diet of quick lunches, fried calamari and after-work cocktails resulted in a 15 pound weight gain and my face was covered in terrible cystic acne that no pill, cream or laser could cure.
Danielle was pursuing acting and modeling as a way to pay her tuition as she studied medicine. Those industries put an emphasis on body image and took her relationship with food down a rocky path. She tried every diet under the sun, leading her to fixate on and see food as the enemy, where less is always better, and restriction was a way of life. The yo-yo cycle continued until she landed in the hospital with pneumonia after a 21-day retreat where she participated in a seven-day fast in another attempt to quickly lose weight.
We were both low on energy, self-esteem and were barely making rent. We wondered: “What are we doing?” We couldn’t live in such extremes anymore. We knew there had to be a better answer than crash diets and harmful medications to heal our bodies and achieve the results we were looking for, and set out to take our health back into our own hands. Danielle’s scary hospital visit was our “aha moment.”
We started visiting and studying the theories of every doctor, nutritionist, food scientist, yogi, shaman and healer we could find. We read books and tested out recipes and concoctions on ourselves like guinea pigs. Danielle decided to go to nutrition school instead of medical school and we started incorporating the nutrition science she was learning into our meals. We discovered the science around the microbiome and why eating for gut health matters; it’s not just about calories, but rather consuming foods that truly nourish your body. As we changed our diets and mindsets, our physiques, along with our self-confidence, quickly changed too. We called what we developed our Pillars of Nutrition, and it revolved around eating organic, wholesome meals free of chemicals and processed foods, something the American diet has become far too reliant on. These pillars are the bedrock of what came next, Sakara Life, our plant-based home delivery food service company.
Our first clients were our friends and neighbors who saw the changes in us firsthand. Most of our time was spent researching nutrition labels, grocery shopping, dreaming up new recipes and in the kitchen preparing them. We realized how hard it would be for someone with a full-time job to embark on this journey by themselves and that’s why we decided to deliver ready-to-eat meals directly to people’s doors. We were able to handle a client list of approximately 25 people before the business outgrew our Soho apartment and we had to start hiring and managing a team.
We didn’t pay ourselves for the first two and a half years, and we’ve each rotated through every job in the company — including delivering the meals on bicycles at 4 a.m. We initially self-financed before raising $4.8M of outside capital to build out our operations and expand our business nationally. Now we have 85 employees, service thousands of clients all across the country and have delivered over a million meals.
While we’re grateful for our success, rapid growth and amazing customers, we know that it’s still just the beginning for us. We’re on a mission to help people experience the life-changing effects of living the Sakara Life, and have a goal of one day feeding lunch to every person in America. Ambitious? Yes. But if we didn’t dream big, or believe that we can truly make a difference in people’s lives, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Danielle Duboise and Whitney Tingle are the co-founders of Sakara Life, a fresh, organic and plant-based nationwide meal delivery service.