life lately: pups, smoothies, and lots of work

puppies!

I was once part of a turtle rescue in Prospect Park. It was a Friday and I walked the length of the park when I encountered a large turtle crossing the bike pathway, making its way to the street. Right before the encounter, I saw a man shove another turtle in a bag and I shouted at him as he walked out of the park. All of this was odd–the man in a cloth hat, a random turtle in Brooklyn–and I paused, unsure of what to do. As luck would have it, a woman riding her bike stopped and told me that she’d just a job at an animal reserve, and we stood as she tried calling her boss to find out what we should do with said turtle. For an hour, we guarded the creature amidst catcalls from boys on bikes and strange looks from passersby. Finally, the woman got through to her boss and promised she would foster the turtle for the night until proper arrangements could be made. The woman and I exchanged numbers and she walked, turtle in tow, back to her Coney Island apartment.

I followed up with the woman on the bike and she sent me photos of the turtle at the reserve. Safe. Seemingly happy.

I love animals, irrationally so. My pop and I used to joke that we preferred animals over people because animals don’t know artifice–they’re primal in their wants and honest about their affection. I’ve always had a pet, cats mostly, and I regarded every one of them as part of my family. Long-time readers know how devasted I was when I lost my Sophie in 2013. Even though she paw-swatted, hissed and had her way with my carbs, I adored her. At the time, I couldn’t fathom having another pet, and then I met Felix, my sweet boy, and I often joke that he’s a dog in a catsuit. Lately, I’ve been thinking about getting him a companion. The shelter, from where I adopted Felix, warned me not to get another cat because Felix experienced early trauma in a multi-cat household and became an alpha feline. I couldn’t imagine Felix hurting anyone (he doesn’t even hiss!) until a dog entered our home (long story), frantic, and Felix made sounds I never conceived he could make. Recently, I’ve been talking to local shelters and animal behaviorists, and it is possible to introduce a new pet, but the integration would have to be mindful, slow and it’ll require a great deal of my time. I’m saving $ for a money to a small home where I could have a little yard so that Felix would roll around in the grass (#goals, etc), and I’ve been thinking about adopting a young dog.

So when my friend Alexis text’d me with a photo of a puppy pile and a message that she was fostering 7 pups and one mom until Sunday, I replied back, inviting myself over. Alexis is this incredible human, and she’s been working with Social Tees NYC, an animal rescue, to foster dogs–even from Los Angeles! If you’re one of my unlucky followers on Instagram or Snapchat (I’m @felsull!), I spammed you with an endless stream of puppy videos, because when you’re with cuteness for three hours you tend to cuddle with one hand and snap photos with the other.  I actually fell for the mother, a pup with fox ears and a mean little strut, and I told Alexis that I would be interested in adopting her when she’s ready to be weened from her pups in three months time. And even if I don’t get this pup, at least I’ll have time to research how to acclimate Felix with a new friend without him going on rein of terror. (Any thoughts/advice are welcome)

I’m still baffled that these pups were in a kill shelter. They’re so sweet and beautiful and if you don’t fall in love after feeling their small hearts beat in your hand, you’re the worst kind of animal.

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I arrived in California, fit and healthy, and over the course of seven months, all of my hard work from the past year went asunder. I ate baguettes slathered in butter. I ordered personal pizzas on the regular. Cheese became my primary food group. A bottle of wine a day was par for the course. And then I went into therapy, got on meds, regained my sanity, got off the sauce, re-entered the world, scored two amazing projects, and decided to get my health back on track. After enduring a skin blitzkrieg (raised burning hives, anyone?) and a skin reaction that followed as a result of the medication to alleviate the hives, I made some rapid changes in my diet and life. I nixed gluten and dairy from my life (although I do have small amounts of cheese a week), I resumed blitzing my morning protein smoothie, replaced all my household cleaning products and skin products with ingredients I could read. Greens resumed their role as the headliner rather than the backup dancer on my plate, and I’ve returned to my meditation and exercise practices. Again, this is not about being skinny or depriving myself of food, this is about making it to 90 (isn’t this woman INCREDIBLE?) and still be spunky and aware, and have the ability to punch people in the face if I needed to. So I’m returning to healthy eats and I’ll be sharing recipes on this space.

Want this yum recipe? Get it here.

blueberry smoothie
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built by women: jenna tanenbaum, founder of green blender

jenna-smoothie Today I’m chatting with Jenna Tanenbaum, founder of Green Blender, a service that delivers organic ingredients and recipes for superfood smoothies–right to your doorstep. Enjoy!

First off, congratulations on closing a round of seed funding! I’m in awe of Green Blender, and how you’ve transformed a genius idea into a fully-fledged business. Can you tell us about how Green Blender came to be, and what you envision as its future?

Jenna Tanenbaum: Thank you! The idea really came out of a frustration I had around health and wellness. Obviously what we eat is very important to our health, but in our society, when people decide to improve their health, often times, they go down a path of extremes and deprivation. We decide to give up carbs or go on a very restrictive diet and exercise plan where “no pain, no gain” becomes a mantra. I, myself, have gone on countless diets and cleanses where I am literally ticking off the days until I can have fro-yo and pizza again. This is not a sustainable approach to health and does not build healthy habits that last. Food becomes the enemy in these situations where guilt and restrictions run rampant.

I wanted to start a company that let people indulge in their health. If you love the food you are eating and it also taste great and is easy to make, then that’s sustainable. Investing in health is one of the smartest placed bets you can make.

I love that I am helping people start their day with a healthy decision and I’m ultimately helping them form not only a healthier lifestyle, but also a better relationship with the food they eat.

It’s so clear from your background that you’ve a passion for start-ups. How did you make the leap from working for companies that have such a strong, passionate vision to forming your own venture? What lessons did you learn from the meteoric rise of ClassPass?

JT: I have had a pretty eclectic career to say the least. I went to school for business and finance and started off as a consultant working in anti-money laundering and consumer compliance. I quickly realized that working in the regulatory industry wasn’t for me.

I remember reading a piece about the culture of Sales Force on a flight back from a client’s site and realized that I had to get into a company that had a strong culture. This is what spurred my career in start-ups. I was a product analyst at a real time data company, Chartbeat, and then went into marketing at ClassPass.

I learned two main things working at high growth start-ups. 1. The founders have to be passionate about the problem they are trying to solve and 2. The team needs to be passionate about the problem the company is trying to solve.

The first point flows into the second. How can you expect your team to be passionate about something if you are not?

What has surprised you most about launching your own company? What didn’t you expect? More importantly, what were you (or not) prepared for?

JT: Running a company, especially a health and food company, is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I was prepared to help people but I didn’t realize how deeply rewarding and satisfying I would find it. Food is so emotionally charged. Hearing how Green Blender has helped customers combat obesity, high blood pressure and lethargy while at the same time repairing the relationship they have with their health and with their food is truly an amazing feeling.

Who has inspired you along the way and why?

JT: My co-founder, Amir Cohen, inspires me all the time. Not only are we partners at Green Blender, but we are partners in life. He was the person who ultimately convinced me to quit my job, take a risk, and work on this idea with him. He inspires me because his approach to work and problem solving is so different than my own. I tend to be more of a work-aholic and he is constantly showing me that I can enjoy the process and I don’t need to be glued to my computer to be productive and effective.

I love working with him because I love observing how he executes ideas. He is very thoughtful and meticulous but he is a playful leader. He loves fun and really cares if others are having fun around him. I think this mentality really brings the most out of the people who interact with our brand. His approach is contagious and I can’t help but enjoy the process when I’m around him.

What are the three things that people who are interested in launching a start-up should know? Are there specific lessons you can share regarding food-related ventures?

JT: The three things I’ve learned:
1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable – this is my mantra. I am constantly pushing myself out of my safe heavens and getting out there to try something new. I truly believe that’s where you grow and learn the most. I am extremely camera shy when shooting videos but I recently committed myself to making a new Green Blender smoothie every morning on our Periscope channel. I seriously get a little shaky every time I hit start broadcast.
2. Get a product out there as soon as you can – Before we launched we had a lot of theories about who our customers might be and what they might want. We spent a lot of time thinking about them and designed our theoretical product with them in mind. Once we launched, of course, all that work went out the window and our actual customers took shape. One of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can do is wait to launch the perfect product.
3. Nobody will solve your problems but you – This is a big one. Core business problems must be approached head on – no consultant, employee or software will be able to solve the key problems in your business. Of course delegate as much as possible, but you must find the answer to the issues core to your business.

What are the three essential tools (or resources) you rely upon to get through your day?

JT: My blender – This goes without saying. I drink the Green Blender kool-aid hard core and will make a smoothie from that week’s box for breakfast. I’m then usually at my blender a few times a week testing new recipe ideas.

Rapportive – Rapportive is a Gmail extension that uses email address to pull LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Green Blender is building a strong following and I use this tool to help identify potential leads for brand ambassadors and business development deals.

MeetEdgar – there is no way around it, brands must maintain a presence on social media platforms. Consistency (along with great content) is king and MeetEdgar let’s Green Blender categorize and rotate a lot of our evergreen content so my team doesn’t have to waste time republishing and writing content we can use again.

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All images courtesy of Green Blender.

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