Outer Boro Broad sits down with Lauren Howery Benbassat, business owner, wife and Brooklynite who launched health and wellness shake brand mēle with her husband and her business partner. She candidly shares her journey from being a woman in business to a business owner as well as the joys, triumphs and struggles that go along with it.
Q: mēle: Tell us about your story from how you and your husband had a concept and turned it into a business.
A: The concept of mēle stemmed from pure necessity! We were both working corporate jobs in New York City with long and predictable hours, rushing to meetings and in between calls -- we’d find ourselves eating poorly or even worse, forgetting to eat altogether.
With a passion for fitness and nutrition, we knew something had to change and needed a product that we’d actually enjoy, would keep us full, and most importantly, wasn’t loaded in artificial ingredients.
The idea started as we were running out the door one morning, wishing we had a healthy, whole-food meal replacement to have with us in our work bags and at our desks. We decided that had to change. So we began researching, asking the experts and sourcing any dried ingredient we could get our hands on.
It started a passion project – we’d spend weekends and weeknights mixing and blending ingredients, tinkering with the nutrient profile, and taste testing. We probably tried hundreds of recipes and ingredients. After about eight months of this, we realized we might have something real, something that others may really want and need.
I’ll be honest. We didn’t start the journey with the intention of starting a business, but once we had such incredible supportive feedback from family and friends, we decided to give it a shot.
Then began the real planning – co-packing, supply chain, manufacturing, FDA research, printing, writing a business plan, and dreaming big (all while still working full time jobs). Even after we launched the brand, we’ve still continually made improvements – from package design, to perfecting our ingredients, to listening closely to customer feedback and creating a plant-based line! We’ve already evolved so much as a business!
Q: What’s something no one ever tells you when you start your own company?
A: This really is specific to each company. There are so many more intricacies about each space and I am still learning and growing constantly - and that is exactly how it’s supposed to be. It’s easy to often compare yourself to other businesses or owners, but in reality, we all were just figuring it out at some point.
Those that are honest with themselves would admit they are still figuring it out. The most important thing I wish I had been told (and still need to be reminded of), is that curiosity, desire to improve, and feeling like you’re never doing enough is a GOOD thing. That’s the fuel for your fire, and what keeps you moving and evolving and questioning. Don’t be intimidated to ask the questions, talk to the experts, want to improve and let others help you!
Q: What are the harder obstacles you’ve had to overcome in the start-up world?
A: Manufacturing and scale. As a boot-strapped start-up, it’s really hard to be taken seriously by manufacturers and to convince businesses to take chances on you. We’ve been incredibly blessed to find amazing partners that took the risk to work with us at very small levels. But before we found them, we had hundreds of conversations and closed doors. Often times it wasn’t necessarily at their fault, the equipment wasn’t mechanically able to work with our start-up size – we simply couldn’t hit the minimums at the beginning. It just takes one to say yes though and change the course of your business forever.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about being a fempreneur?
A: Pride. Never, ever would I have imagined that at 30 years old I’d be founding a company, and at age 32 still growing that company and growing a baby at the same time (little boy due August)!
There are days that I can be incredibly hard on myself and feel like I’m never doing enough for my business, but at the end of the day, I’m so damn proud for creating something out of nothing. Women have an innate ability to create – literally anything we set our minds to (a baby, a business, art, music, a delicious meal - sure why, not?).
We are a force and it’s empowering to see support for female founders grow. But I couldn’t have done it without my co-founder, my husband (and without my business partner and all of our families and friends). So while I’m prideful in being a woman and running a business, we truly all need each other.
Q: How are you connecting with other female business owners and women in business in your local community?
A: Through Outer Boro Broad! Also through We Are Women Owned and The Wing and Morning Mingle with Bloom. I’ve made it a point to go to networking events, even when I know no one and really put myself out there (yes, I’m absolutely nervous and intimidated sometimes too, but we are all in the same boat). Additionally, by going to trade shows or industry events, you meet some amazing female founders. I’ve met women through Instagram that way, too that has led to incredible partnerships and collaborations!
Q: What would you like to see happen in today’s wellness revolution?
A: Let’s get back to the basics. Not to go on a rant, but I’m so sick of all the diet trends (keto, paleo, intermittent fasting, so on and so forth) and superfoods and magical powders that will get you skinny fast or cure all. You’d think we’d learn by now. Not to mention, it creates more stress – it’s exhausting to keep up with all of these new, fancy products or trends or workouts, it feels like we have to spend half of our days just on self-care. We need to reign it in and get real.
Being healthy comes down to 3 simple pillars (1) eat natural, eat clean, eat more fruits and veggies (2) move your body! Consistency is key (3) bring joy into your life with love, hobbies, travel, anything that eases your heart and mind. Simple as that.
Q: What’s next for mēle?
A: That’s up to the universe really! But in all reality, we are working on some very exciting partnerships right now with key leaders in the wellness space, working with expert advisors in nutrition, fitness & health, and expanding our direct to consumer community.
Q: You’re originally from Florida, but currently live in Brooklyn. What attracted you to living in the Outer Boroughs of New York City?
A: Coming from Florida, I’m used to big spaces, lots of green and ocean. Adam and I have always said, no matter where we live in the city, we need an outdoor sanctuary. Manhattan, while absolutely incredible and full of energy and opportunity, can be limiting to find your own space. We frankly were tired of small living spaces and paying ridiculous rent and with a baby on the way, we really needed a comfortable place to spread out a bit more. Moving to Brooklyn gave us more space, more green, more sunlight (bigger windows, yas!), and a beautiful view of the East River.
Q: What do you love most about living in Brooklyn?
A: The food and restaurant culture! This may be biased, but we’ve found that the service and quality of food in Brooklyn is really impressive. In Manhattan, you tend to feel rushed, hurried by your server so they can turn the table for the next guest. Yes, there are insanely good restaurants in the city (we love them, too), but we’ve really enjoyed the slower pace, and attention to detail and care we’ve found in Brooklyn.
Comments? Questions? Want to order some mēle shakes ASAP? Check out their website HERE.