What a great time for female entrepreneurs. We are delighted to share with you features and essays written by super women with inspiring careers and businesses that are reshaping our economy and the way we consume. They share their journey, the process it took them to get to where they are now and what they’ve learnt along the way. Welcome to Modern Mentors.
I grew up in San Diego, California in a small, conservative community near the beach. My mom introduced me to baking at a young age. This was a different time, and the concept of baking being “better for you” hadn’t really picked up and we baked with butter and granulated sugar all the time. My love for animals also began as a child and I remember how much I begged my mom to become a vegetarian. This was the 1990s and my mom being Polish honestly didn’t understand the concept of vegetarianism at the time. Her main issue at the time was not wanting to cook two meals for dinner. But the moment I moved into my college’s freshman dorms in 2006, I decided to become a full on vegetarian. My college cafeteria made it easy with plenty of options and I didn’t have to learn how to cook until I left.
After college, I moved to San Francisco to work for the largest solar installation provider at the time (SolarCity) and then eventually spent several years working at a distributed energy storage startup. San Francisco opened my eyes to a variety of different lifestyles and diets and my stepmom, who had recently taken Dr. McDougall’s seminar in Costa Rica and committed to a plant-based diet introduced me to the concept of vegan baking with whole food ingredients.
The birth of an idea
After a visit to my stepmom and dad, I grew more conscious about what I bought from the grocery store. I saw a lot of vegan treats, but none that emulated the recipes that my stepmom taught me while baking. I decided to create my own products based off these recipes and told myself that I would try to convince at least 10 stores to sell my products within San Francisco- if my products couldn’t create enough interest then I would quit and go back to working in tech.
I spent over a year formulating my recipes in my kitchen and fortunately had plenty of help – I was able to reach out to other CPG entrepreneurs in the space for advice, my stepsister and stepbrother had some experience working with co-packers (contract manufacturers) and the community came together to fuel the process. I was very fortunate- my friends were very supportive of my business and were always around for tastings. They also helped me design the initial CompletEats branding. Behind the early days of any entrepreneur, there are always friends, family, and a community and I will always be grateful to them all.
Finally, I was able to launch my product – a delicious, grab-and-go plant-based cookie available in just 2 flavors.
My first customer was a small independent grocery store located in the Castro district- they still carry my products until today. I literally walked into the store and asked for the buyer and then I did the same with 9 other customers. For me, being scrappy was essential for getting my business off the ground. It was this moment when I felt like my business was no longer a “science experiment” and that I really truly felt passionate about the CompletEats mission – to make plant-based eating easy and convenient for all and that eating plant-based can be for anyone whether you’re vegan, gluten-free, or flexitarian.
For me, being scrappy was essential for getting my business off the ground. It was this moment when I felt like my business was no longer a “science experiment” and that I really truly felt passionate about my business mission.Lauren Chew from CompleteEats
Fast forward to today, we now offer 5 flavors of cookies, we have relaunched our packaging and are available in almost 100 stores as well as various company cafeterias, conference centers, and vending machines.
The media loves to paint a picture of “overnight success”, but as an entrepreneur myself, I now know that there is no such thing, or if it does exist, it is very, very rare. Behind every “overnight success”, there are late nights, supportive friends and family, a team that has put in so much of hard work and determination, and many doubts circling around the success of the company.
My greatest challenge in starting a CPG brand was not having a background in sourcing ingredients or partnering with baking facilities. It was definitely a learning curve. One of my greatest challenges was when I had to move baking facilities because I felt that my old facility’s values weren’t in line with my brand. It was stressful to find a new partner but I was able to find one through mutual friends. And I am glad that I did, because our current facility is fantastic and I have full faith in them.
My greatest takeaway from this journey is how I was forced to push myself outside of my comfort zone at times, which in turn made me grow as a person both: professionally and personally. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even today, every day continues to be a challenge but it is also extremely fun and oh so rewarding!
I firmly believe in what Marc Anthony once said, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life!”
CompletEats is an all-natural, non-GMO, gluten-free, and dairy-free cookie company. Their individually wrapped cookies are great as a post-meal dessert, healthy office snack, or even an on-the-go breakfast! Their cookies are made with super simple ingredients like almonds and dates, and are tasty yet indulgent. The company is founded by Lauren Chew, who is an avid yogi and has been dedicated to a plant-based lifestyle for over 10 years. Prior to founding CompletEats, Lauren worked in the startup and renewable energy industries for companies like Tesla and Stem.
If interested in trying Compleats,
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