September 24, 2013
Andrea Talley’s San Francisco-based Greenlid Smoothies company is on the fast track growth-wise. She officially started the company earlier this year and has already created a strong revenue stream by delivering to businesses, is about to open a kiosk location, is gaining new customers daily through numerous pop-up shops, and is looking to add more stores in 2014. How has she done all this – by working to create a business that has “significant social impact.”
What’s your background? Did you come from a culinary background or did you have a different career track before starting this business?
Before GreenLid, I helped small to medium sized business owners transition their marketing efforts from the Yellow Pages to the Internet. The company I worked for was a small, family owned business in Bethesda, Maryland. I learned a lot about entrepreneurship in that position- mainly, juggling a lot of high priorities, creating and perfecting processes and collaborating with team members.
Since I worked directly with clients, I also learned how to provide high quality service, clear communication and the concept of under promise, over deliver.
Before working in Bethesda, I was a field organizer for President Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign.
What drew you to the idea of creating a green smoothie company?
GreenLid was born out of my desire to purchase high-quality food at an affordable price and eat it on the go. When I started my professional life, my diet consisted of quick to prepare, starchy, processed foods. By year four I was emotional, overweight and struggling to fight off a recurring infection. I overcame my suffering by taking control of my diet. In 2011 I was either making fresh juice or a green smoothie every day for breakfast. I’d lost the weight and was back to my healthy, happy self. Since then, I’ve stopped making juice daily (mainly because it was too time consuming) and continue to drink at least one green smoothie everyday.
GreenLid is a continuation of my journey toward health. Our mission is to make healthy food fast and affordable. That’s why we deliver to folks around the city– to make eating health as convenient as possible.
For those who don’t know, can you explain what green smoothies are?
Green smoothies are fruit smoothies that start with a green leaf base like kale or spinach. The greens add powerful nutrients like Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Zinc, Iron, Calcium and more. At GreenLid, we only use fresh (local whenever possible) produce in our smoothies. No added sugar or preservatives. Just natural deliciousness.
Because of your focus on freshness, the drinks are essentially made-to-order, right? That type of just-in-time production can add a layer of complexity. How have you managed to make that successful for you? Does you have staff to help you with production?
At pop-ups, we occasionally veer away from the menu and make smoothies to order. Doing so allows us to chat with customers about each ingredient that goes into the smoothie. I’ve found it’s important to be somewhat flexible to provide excellent service. Although we suggest customers order one of the five set flavors. Each flavor has various levels of health to accommodate a wide range of customer preferences.
Levels of Health
Beginner Level – Our beginner smoothies are an introduction to greens. They’re sweetened with juice (no added sugar) and fruit is the most prominent flavor your taste.
Intermediate Level – This mid-level smoothie contain the same amount of nutrient density as the beginner but with less juice (sweetness). Along with the fruit flavor you may detect a hint of greens.
Advanced Level – The advanced smoothie contains no juice, it’s simply the greens and fruit blended together with water. Therefore, the flavor of greens come through. Advanced smoothies are also enhanced with superfoods like flaxseed or chia seeds.
Obviously the quality of your ingredients are of paramount concern to you. How did you find ingredient providers you trust to rely on?
The quality of our smoothie is closely tied to the quality of produce we use. Since freshness is so important to us, the process of ordering and picking up produce does require a lot of detailed attention. Early on, I was very lucky to work with amazing chef’s who pointed me to great farmers and restaurant suppliers. Now, I have a process in place to purchase high-quality produce twice per week.
In order to show customers at the kiosk (opening 10/1) the freshness and quality of their smoothie, we source ingredients locally when possible and proudly put everything on display. When a customer orders a smoothie here, they can watch us put all the ingredients into the blender, similar to the way you watch your salad being made at a salad shop. The organization of ingredients and quick assembly allows for easy staff training and fast service. Our goal is to get customers in and out of the door in under 4 minutes.
You have an interesting business model in that you’re targeting companies and corporations, right? Can you tell us more about your strategy?
At GreenLid we strive to make healthy food available to everyone. We’ve been fortunate to enter the market by delivering to working professionals. This adds an extra level of convenience! Starting mid-late October, we’re expanding our model to include a small kiosk in Bernal Heights. This allows folks to come into the store and order a single 12 oz serving or the 43 oz bottle (three-day supply) that we currently deliver.
Do you sell your green smoothies outside of that corporate model?
Since June, we’ve popped up at various coffee shops and venues around the city. Starting in October, GreenLid will begin selling smoothies at 331 Courtland Marketplace in Bernal Heights. We’re excited to creating a home at this location and at the opportunity to build our first store.
How long did it take for you to go from business idea to actually producing Greenlid products and selling them to customers?
Since it’s inception, GreenLid has been on the fast tract. I moved to the Bay Area at the beginning of this year and started working on this venture full-time. Before then, I was selling green smoothies to households in the greater Washington, DC area.
The last three months of 2012 I was selling smoothies as a hobby. 2013 has been all about creating a strong business model.
What was the hardest part of the start-up process for you?
One of the most challenging parts of starting a business is creating a team. I’m fortunate to have worked with a lot of incredible people so far but I’m still looking for a business operations person, a food scientist and a chef to come on board full-time. Perfecting our operation and constantly making healthier and more delicious smoothies will always be important goals. I need the best and the brightest to take GreenLid to the next step.
How did you finance the start-up (self-funding, investors, bank loans, crowd funding, other?)
Self-funding and an early advisor/investor. The great thing about the Bay Area is there are so many foodies! My friend and early investor is just as passionate about the concept of healthy food fast as I am. And he’s helping me bring GreenLid into fruition.
Currently you’re selling to companies in the SOMA area of San Francisco. Where do you hope to grow the business to in the next year or two?
Starting in October we’ll expand to Bernal Heights and I’d like to focus on the Mission and Noe Valley soon after that. I also have some friends in the east bay who occasionally give me the side-eye for not delivering across the bridge. So figuring out how to expand past the city limits is also a priority for me.
In 2015, I hope to have not one but two GreenLid stores in the area. My goal is to create a franchise that is dedicated to providing healthy food fast. In two years, I hope to be surrounded by a great team and moving aggressively toward that goal.
Any words of advice for other aspiring food entrepreneurs out there?
Create a venture that has significant social impact. We live in a time when big corporations try to dictate consumer behavior. As an entrepreneur you have to offer consumers something better than anything else on the market and stick to your standards.
To find out more about Greenlid Smoothies, check out their website here.