In The Boss, women share how they became successful and the lessons they learned along the way.
When my daughter was six months old and just starting solids, I was overwhelmed, sleep deprived and trying my best to learn day by day. Preparing homemade meals for her took hours — hours that I just didn’t have as a working mom.
On more than one occasion, I had no choice but to buy shelf-stable baby food in jars and pouches. As a PhD in nutrition and a registered dietitian, I was nervous about what was in them, and even though I never intended to cook all of Sophie’s baby food, I felt the constant tug of mom guilt. Giving her the absolute healthiest food possible from the very start was important to me. I soon learned that many commercial baby food pouches contain more sugar and sodium than homemade meals. The manufacturers of jars and pouches also often use purées and concentrates.
I’ve spent years researching the link between the foods we eat and brain functions in kids and adults. And with 57% of today’s kids projected to be obese by the age of 35, I knew giving Sophie quality meals was imperative for both her mental and physical development, and to set the stage for healthy eating habits later in life. But, making homemade food was too time-consuming. I needed out of this trap.
That’s when the idea for Raised Real was born. I set out on a mission to create a way to feed kids homemade, real food that would actually fit into the busy lives of today’s parents. I began talking through the problem with two acquaintances who were also passionate about the intersection of food and technology. Santiago Merea was having similar baby feeding issues as a new father to twin boys Nico and Sebastian. Together with Steven Kontz, who has a background in environmental science and operations, the three of us set out to use our skills to come up with a solution.
After many months of brainstorming, often with children running wild around us, Santiago, Steven and I decided to combine frozen produce, advancements in logistics and an innovative SMS platform for an idea that would change how parents think about homemade baby food. Raised Real would send parents ready-to-cook flash frozen ingredients that were ready to steam and blend to whatever consistency a child was ready to eat. Fresh, made at home baby food was now only 10 minutes away.
With Sophie strapped to me in a baby carrier, I visited farmers markets and local stores to find the fruits and vegetables I needed to prepare the initial rotation of recipes. I developed a nutrition framework based on recommendations from the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics, choosing each ingredient carefully to support the developing brain, vision and immune systems of infants. Paired with fruits and vegetables, these recipes also included ingredients like turmeric, sacha inchi oil and even quinoa to help introduce new flavor profiles, and provide the benefits of a fully balanced, nutrient-rich meal. It was also important that our recipes be low in sugar, on average 100 calories, contain two to three grams of protein and have 30% healthy fat.
Six months later, we shipped out our first box to a small group of families on the West Coast. The shipment included twenty meals, with organically sourced ingredients, tested and developed to help parents provide nutrient-dense food to their tiny humans. Instinctively, we knew that in addition to the food itself, our parents were craving one-on-one encouragement and support. Sometimes being a parent can be a pretty lonely experience. Our proprietary texting service, The Babyfood Hotline, gives Raised Real parents direct access to someone who can help answer their questions around child nutrition and baby food. We’re also there just for emotional support.
Less than a year from the time we received our starting capital, we raised a Series A round that brought the total fundraised amount to over $5 million dollars, allowing us to go national in 2018. The idea that I would become the co-founder of a company that ships baby food around the country in 48 hours or less seemed crazy a year ago. The idea that I would do this while raising Sophie? Impossible. But I had a great team that made it all possible. If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that the secret to making your dreams a reality is caring a lot and then finding a tribe of people who care just as much as you do. The idea of the “lone entrepreneur” is false. As it turns out, building a business— similar to rearing a child — takes a village.