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Bootstrapping to 9 Figures: Meet The Founders of Fresh n’ Lean

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Bootstrapping to 9 Figures: Meet The Founders of Fresh n’ Lean

To say the home food delivery space is competitive would be an understatement. In the past few years, many top brands like Munchery and Maple have struggled to stay afloat. Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to getting healthy food shipped to your doorstep…

Despite the challenging market, Santa Monica based startup Fresh n’ Lean continues to thrive. Starting from scratch, sibling duo Laureen and Thomas Asseo bootstrapped their organic food delivery brand to nine-figures, and since 2010 they’ve served more than 4.7 million meals across the United States.

Today, we’re looking at how they were able to grow when others fell, and some of the key lessons they picked up on the way. Let’s take a look.

Inspired to Make a Difference  

Like many great success stories, Fresh n’ Lean was inspired by something close to home. In 2009, whilst studying for a degree in Apparel Manufacturing and Business Management, Laureen received the devastating news that her father had developed serious health issues.

Inspired to help him regain control of his well-being, the siblings began preparing nutritious, home-cooked meals based on wholesome, organic ingredients. After their father was successfully able to lose 85 pounds and turn his life around, friends and loved ones became increasingly interested in receiving their own healthy meal plans.

This sparked the business idea of creating a food delivery service and the possibility of making a difference in the lives of people all across the nation.

The Growth of Fresh n’ Lean

Although Fresh n’ Lean is now a successful 9-figure company, it wasn’t plain sailing from the get-go. The brand was truly built from the ground up, with Laureen making home-made meals in her one-bed apartment. Alongside meal prep and schoolwork, she handled packaging, shipping and customer service too.

That persistence paid off, however, and after six months of hard grafting and trial and error, Fresh n’ Lean moved to a commercial kitchen. They also hired a small team who were truly passionate about the message and mission, which allowed for further expansion.

Fast forward to today, the brand now operates out of a 55,000 sq/ft building with a state of the art, gluten-free kitchen. As well as delivering healthy, organic meals to millions of people across the nation, the growth of Fresh n’ Lean has allowed them to team up with numerous charitable organizations, helping to provide nourishment to those in impoverished areas.

Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

One of the big challenges Fresh n’ Lean faced was growing the business without financial backing. While many startups turn to investors to get their idea off the ground, Laureen and Thomas chose to bootstrap their company with their own savings. It was a big risk and meant getting the ball rolling was a challenge at first, but it soon paid off.

In this case, the restricted budget and limited options meant fewer distractions and less decision fatigue for the Fresh n’ Lean team. This resulted in more focus, efficiency, and innovation. And as the brand continues to grow, their choice to bootstrap means they have the freedom to choose their own path, as opposed to having to answer to investors before making a decision.

Time was another big factor that came into play. In the early days, Laureen logged countless 20+ hour days for Fresh n’ Lean, and spent several nights sleeping on a couch at the office.

The flipside of this is that the duo has been in the trenches. They know intimately how the operation works from the bottom up, and because of this have been able to create a well-oiled machine, all whilst staying true to their roots. It’s still the same, healthy, homemade food – just produced on a bigger scale.

Key Lessons for Budding Entrepreneurs

There are many lessons we can learn from the Fresh n’ Lean story, but here are three of the most important:

  1. Taking risk can pay off

Risk taking is a scary deal. We’re often taught to weigh up the cost to benefit ratio and make a calculated decision. Whilst this holds true in many cases, sometimes we need to step away from the numbers, go with our gut and take that leap of faith.

The truth is, had Laureen and Thomas decided not to take those first steps to expand the business, Fresh n’ Lean wouldn’t be where it is today.

  1. Cultivate grit and determination

A determination is key, but it isn’t about putting the blinkers on and ignoring any potential fires threatening to erupt around you. It’s about finding that balance between good old fashioned grit, but also being open to change. For Fresh n’ Lean, that meant being on their toes and always on the lookout for innovative solutions to keep things moving forward.

  1. Have a vision that’s bigger than you

As we touched on above, Fresh n’ Lean grew from the seed of an unfortunate event – the health challenge of a loved one. Inspired by the transformation their father was able to make, Thomas and Laureen were driven to help others to take charge of their wellbeing.

It’s a perfect example of the power of a strong ‘reason why’. In many cases, when the goal is bigger than you, it becomes much easier to slog out those 20+ hour days and keep showing up when times are tough.

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Founded in 2008 by brother-sister duo Thomas and Laureen Asseo, Fresh n’ Lean is an organic food delivery service. Their mission is to bring healthier choices and better ingredients to homes all across the USA. Started from scratch in a small home kitchen, the brand is now a 9-figure company and has delivered over 4.3 million meals nationwide.

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