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IWD Female Founders: Daily Harvest’s CEO Rachel Drori

Thanks to our friends at Daily Harvest for partnering with us on this post.

This International Women’s Day we’re celebrating seven amazing female founders who’ve started companies based on the idea of helping out other women. Whether it’s a business for women, or to help support women (or both!), each one has a mission Team SN stands behind.

So many great companies we know and love today started when someone couldn’t find something they wanted—and when that “they” is a woman, it’s likely something we’ve been hunting for too. And that’s exactly what happened with Daily Harvest‘s founder, Rachel Drori: When she realized she was sacrificing nutrition for convenience—a super-relatable busy-lady problem—she founded her healthy meal delivery system. And thank goodness for her, because now we don’t have to reach for the nearest bag of overly-processed-artificial-salty-thing when we realize it’s 3 p.m. and we’ve forgotten to grab lunch. Instead, we can whip up a cucumber and greens smoothie in literally 60 seconds.

We made a ton of mistakes, but learned quickly and kept our heads high.

Something Navy: How did you come up with the idea for your business? What was the journey like?

Rachel Drori: I was hustling at work and like many, I didn’t have enough time to plan, prep and cook three healthy meals every single day. At 3 p.m., I’d grab whatever was available for convenience sake—usually a bar, or stale birthday cake—instead of nourishing my body with the good, clean food I knew I should be eating. I was determined to find a way to make real, clean and delicious food—built on fruits and vegetables—accessible and realistic for today’s insanely busy world. So, I began meal prepping on Sundays so I could have the food I actually wanted to eat throughout the week. And while this solved the problem, it was time consuming—and I wanted my Sundays back! With that, Daily Harvest was born. 

In the early days, I was packing up ingredients in a commercial kitchen in Long Island City and delivering smoothies from my car. I was also pregnant at the time so would pay my nephews $20 each to help me haul the boxes! After launching nationally in 2016, Daily Harvest quickly took off and became one of the fastest-growing e-commerce brands in the U.S. Today, we’ve expanded to more than 65 Harvest Bowls, Oat Bowls, Chia Bowls, Soups, Smoothies, Lattes, and Bites. 

SN: What were some of the roadblocks and how did you overcome them?

RD: One of our biggest roadblocks was building out our logistics and supply chain. We are meticulous about the ingredients we use and work directly with farms to ensure every fruit, vegetable, leaf and legume is as good as nature can grow it. We harvest our produce at peak ripeness, allowing fruits and vegetables to reach their full nutritional and flavor potential by ripening on the vine. Then, we freeze ingredients on the farm within 24 hours of harvest to lock in nutrients and taste. 

All of this was very tricky in the beginning before we had scale. But our team worked to establish strong relationships with our farmers, and build the infrastructure for supply alongside them. We made a ton of mistakes, but learned quickly and kept our heads high. If we wanted to do something bold and different, do things the way we thought they should be done, and challenge the status quo, we had to get dirty

SN: Did you find that you encountered more challenges getting your business off the ground as a woman as compared to men in similar positions?

RD: From a biological perspective, yes. I was in my third trimester when I raised my seed funding, and had some bizarre questions thrown my way. Everything from, “How do you plan to be a good mom and run a good business?” to “Do you plan to breastfeed?” I don’t think it would have been quite so interesting if I weren’t growing a human and a business at the same time. I knew I had to prove objectively that the business had all of the markers of success, and remove any space for subjectivity….and that’s exactly what I did.

I do think as far as product market fit though, I had a huge advantage. Women make up over 80% of consumer purchasing decisions, but so many of the products and services out there for women are created by men in boardrooms who, frankly, miss the mark. 

SN: How did you go about getting investors, or the “right people” to believe in your vision?

RD: It’s all about persistence and believing deep to your core that your mission is worth it. Heading into the fundraising process, I was confident in Daily Harvest’s mission to take care of food, so that food can take care of all of us. I knew that this mission was worth investment, and sought support from those who could both financially and strategically add value. I met way more “wrong people” than I did “right people,” but I didn’t give up. Through trial and error, I eventually found investors who understood the mission. I asked them what a business would need to look like for them to invest, and then built the business to hit those markers. I focused on fundamentals and stayed incredibly disciplined not to spend my time on things that didn’t matter to get the round done.

SN: What have been the most validating moments or milestones along the way?

RD: Some of our most exciting milestones include very early on when we sold our one millionth smoothie, hiring our 100th team member in 2019 (we’re now over 185), and moving to our new HQ in Tribeca this past February. 

However, the greatest reward of starting this company has been hearing people talk about how Daily Harvest has made a meaningful impact on their lives. We hear from people daily from around the country talking about how amazing they feel and how “doable,” even “crave-able” their experience has been. People are shocked by what a difference eating more fruits and vegetables has made to them every day. 

SN: How do you balance your work and personal life? How do you self-care?

RD: I don’t! In the past, like many women, I would strive to “have it all.” But in my experience, there are real trade-offs between work life and home life that have to be weighed. You simply cannot be in two places at once. Once I let go of this societal ideal and gave myself permission to prioritize and not just try to be everything to everyone, I was able to be better at my multiple roles. 

I believe that food as a form of self-care is foundational. Living good starts with good food. Hippocrates was right when he said, “Let food be thy medicine.” When I eat better, I feel better and can perform at my peak. I love helping other people nourish themselves to feel their best, and this gets me out of bed every morning. 

I also spend a lot of time in the test kitchen crafting recipes with our team of chefs and nutritionists. This sparks so much creativity and passion, especially during stressful days!

SN: Who are your female role models?

RD: My mother is the most inspiring woman in my book. She ran a company and raised me and my siblings. She never missed the important things and was always there when I needed her, but was also a badass in the boardroom. I am also so impressed by fellow founders like Gregg Renfrew, who didn’t just create a clean beauty brand with BeautyCounter, but is leading a movement around clean beauty.

SN: What do you wear when you need to feel powerful?

RD: A bold maxi dress! The bolder the pattern, the bolder my attitude.

SN: What’s the best advice you ever received?

RD: I’ve received so many incredible nuggets of wisdom over the years. One in particular that has stayed with me is to take a step back. We’re often so busy working towards the next goal, that we forget to celebrate wins or really understand why something went wrong. It’s important to think about and absorb along the way, so you can take what you learn with you into the next thing you do.

SN: What advice would you give to women who have a great idea but don’t know how to turn it into a business?

RD: You have to trust your instincts, but not be dogmatic. If you want to bring your vision to life, you have to have a clear idea of what you want it to be at every stage, while at the same time using data and performance to validate the journey. 

Check out Daily Harvest here.

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