10 Questions with Amber
Some questions we asked Amber Lewis, founder of modPALEO.
We're asking Amber Lewis, co-owner of modPALEO, a few questions.
We also turned these same questions on her business partner and husband, Carter.
How did the idea for modPALEO first come about?
I started having some friends over for Sunday dinner. I would shop and prep for my week on Saturday - then I would cook all day Sunday for the week. This would allow me to have dinner easily made for Sunday evening. When we had friends stop by - they were surprised by the fact that the dinner was healthy and flavorful. Everyone was always skeptical when Carter and I would start talking about Paleo.
It’s funny how much that has changed these days. But, once friends started getting used to the idea of Paleo and realizing that Paleo didn’t mean diet food - they were hooked. I had a couple of friends offer to pay for ingredients. I would cook a little extra; put it in a Tupperware container and they would pick it up on Sunday night.
When word got around that I was doing this, more people showed interest, so I decided to rent some commercial kitchen space and make a go of it! We bought a small vacuum machine to improve the shelf life of the product. And that was that. modPALEO was born!
What is your background? What were you doing before mP?
I was in sales/marketing, but I didn’t really love anything I was selling. I was bored, feeling that I hadn’t found my career niche. Well, now I have! I am anything but bored. Everyday is challenging and different. Sometimes I dream of a quiet day - but then I would probably be bored! HA!‚Ä®
Who were your first customers? Are they still customers? How did you ensure they stayed with you through mP’s growing pains?
Our first customers were our friends and fellow CrossFit peeps. Actually, we still have a lot of our original customers and we’re almost 4 years old.
We try to make customer care and service our main priority. For example, if we mess up, we accept full responsibility. I think that’s what our customers really like about us - we’re on their side!‚Ä®
What was the scariest moment of your first year (or your biggest mistake) and what was the solution?
The scariest moment was signing a 5-year lease on our commercial kitchen space. Once we outgrew our shared space, we had to move – quickly! That was a HUGE leap for a company in it’s first year. Especially since we did it without any significant capital that wasn’t revenue from modPALEO.
Our biggest mistake stems from that time - I spread myself too thin. I think I am still catching up on sleep from the first year in business. It’s a lot to take on, but I am truly thankful for this company and what we’ve been able to accomplish. Still, I would not recommend the food business for the faint of heart. LOL!
What was the smartest thing you did Year One?
The smartest thing I did was talking my neighbor into building an online ordering system. Honestly, I still don’t know how I managed to talk him into it. But I did. And, it was AMAZING. It improved our entire system 10 fold, and allowed us the flexibility to grow really quickly.
Your team has grown quite a bit since you first started – how have you known it was time to add more hands on deck over the years?
When I cry. It’s usually an indication that we need help. Kidding, sort of.
We’ve tried to be really smart with adding resources. It’s been a delicate balance and a huge learning curve. At the beginning, it seems like you’re just putting bodies in positions because you need hands to do the work. But you quickly learn that you need the right bodies in the right positions.
Everyone that has worked with modPALEO has been amazing. The common thread is the passion. You can’t work here without passion.
Describe how different your first order was compared with an order made today.
HA! Our first orders were in small cryo-vac bags, delivered to a local gym in Trader Joe’s paper bags, with names written in sharpie. Everyone had to order 10 meals. You couldn’t choose.
Now, the sky is the limit! Meals are cryo-vacced in trays, and shipped in insulated boxes with ice packs across the country. Plus, you can choose your meals, from a large variety and if you order by 3pm your order is received the next day!
What part of building your business has been the most difficult?
I would say the toughest thing is separating Amber Lewis from modPALEO. As a small business owner, it becomes all-consuming. We eat, breathe and sleep our business. It’s always brought up in social situations. You’re always selling it. Even if you promise yourself you’re not going to talk about it on a particular night.
You’ve built a lot of partnerships in your responsible sourcing of ingredients – how do you choose your farmers?
We work with people we know and love. When we meet a farmer or hear about a farmer - we go check them out! That’s the fun part of the job, going out and learning about someone else’s passion. Everyone is unique in how they execute their dreams. It’s so cool to hear the stories and see their living/breathing business. That’s what I geek out about. But mainly we choose farmers based on their production methods. We want them to be as stoked about the environment and healthy food as we are!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t exactly have a typical day… but I’ll give it a shot. I start each day with meditation. I’ve never been a sit quiet kind of person, but out of self-preservation I’m learning. I usually check my email and get some responses at least drafted before I leave the house, I check into our ordering system to make sure everything is moving forward. Then I head out to the kitchen.
On a slow day, I have about 10 minutes to get myself settled before the questions start rolling in. Our business and processes are literally different day to day. We’re in such a state of flux with growth that everyday is different. But, we have a great team assembled. With a great team comes new and exciting things! Stay tuned!