I am so excited to kick off Here For A Few’s new interview series today (read more about it here). To put it simply, the goal is to create a bank of role models at different levels and in different industries and fields, so that my readers can discover someone they truly connect with to look up to and gain career/life inspiration.
Our first role model is Lauren Lampert, founder of Aukalife, a company which supplies organic superfood blends. She's currently located in Boston, Massachusetts.
How I know Lauren
I met Lauren in middle school. We were both homeschooled and part of the same co-op group, which is basically a small school of 20 kids or less that homeschooling parents put on together. We would attend classes (Spanish, Science, History) and social activities together. This was our main source of interaction with other kids – we knew each other pretty well! We eventually lost touch because she moved to Singapore with her family for a few years. We both experienced fast-paced change in our lives after that (new schools, new friends, new jobs, new cities) and our paths never crossed again. That is, until I started my blog and sent out an invite to my entire FB social network to like my page a few months ago! She messaged me that she was excited about what I was doing. I quickly stalked her, found out she was starting a nutrition company, and got super psyched about what she was doing too! We’ve been offering suggestions to each other and keeping up with each others’ progress since (because #womenhelpingwomen). It only seemed natural to feature her on the blog at such an opportune time as she’s preparing for her first big production run and needs to educate people about her brand!
Getting to know Lauren
Where all have you lived and how has it shaped you as a person?
Answer: I’ve lived in California (San Diego), Michigan, Indiana, Singapore, and Massachussetts (Boston). Moving around has shaped my personality a lot. It’s taught me to adapt quickly and develop a well-rounded view of other cultures and lifestyles. I definitely appreciate and cherish the fact that I have had all of those amazing experiences.
We met when we were being homeschooled in middle school – not a typical experience. How do you think being homeschooled changed you and affects the way you approach things today?
Answer: Being homeschooled for a few years when I was younger greatly impacted my personality and education. I didn’t have a ton of social interactions with others. The people that I did interact with, I interacted with very often and became very close to. Now I don’t have a lot of friends due to lack of time and not having lived in Boston my whole life. But the friends I do have, I have a strong bond with. I have learned to really cherish deep friendships.
I believe that creativity and openness spur innovation which goes hand in hand with entrepreneurship. Have you always been creative or is this something that developed later on in life?
Answer: I’ve always been creative. When I was younger it was directed toward music. I played piano growing up for years and even majored in piano in college. So I’m very musically creative, but it led me down a different path. Because I was doing it all day every day for school, it wasn’t as enjoyable anymore, and became like work or homework. So I decided I did not want music to be my career. Even though music was a big part of my life, I was still missing creativity in forms of innovation and building something, which has led me to where I am today.
Awesome, so has there ever been a time in your life where you took a risk despite a bunch of unknowns and then everything kind of just fell into place?
Answer: Moving to Boston. I basically picked up and left everything in Indiana, including my boyfriend of 5 years, to be closer to my family. I was like I’ll find a job when I get there. It was tough but things did fall into place perfectly.
How did you meet your husband in Boston?
Answer: Our parents were next door neighbors. When I was in college I would come home for Summer vacations and internships. We interned at the same company. Our parents knew each other and recommended we carpool. We were never really more than carpooling buddies until I moved here full-time after college. We started spending more time together and things just fell into place!
What do you and your husband do for fun outside of work?
Answer: We are definitely foodies who love to eat, which is why I’m so interested in the wellness industry. Because I love to eat so much I need to find ways to not overindulge. We like to cook new things and scope out the newest restaurants. We also enjoy entertaining people at our house and spend time with each other’s families almost every weekend. Our parents still live next door to each other which makes that pretty convenient. We spend that time grilling out and catching up. I have 2 younger sisters and he has 3 younger brothers so it’s always a great time!
You work at CarGurus and you’re also running Aukalife at the same time. Do you consider Aukalife your side project or full-time job?
Answer: It’s a side project for now. My full-time job is CarGurus. I am on the display advertising team managing our relationships with programmatic partners and advertisers including Ford, Toyota, Lexus, and dealerships, selling them ad space on the website.
Have you always been in advertising since you got out of school? Yep, pretty much!
I saw you’ve worked at a couple of different companies since you graduated. What have you learned from each company that you’ll be able to bring with you to Aukalife?
Answer: The advertising knowledge has definitely been helpful with Aukalife, but also by jumping around companies, you’re opening yourself up to more challenges. It’s much more common now to move on to a new company or role once you’ve hit a ceiling with career growth or challenges. If you’re not challenging me then I’m going to move on. Also working with different teams with various skill sets has help me bring lessons learned to Aukalife. Being an entrepreneur requires strengths in several areas while requiring you to face your fears, overcome challenges and sell yourself.
You’re a very beautiful girl who is business savvy as well. Have you ever felt pressured to hide your femininity in order to be successful?
Answer: I never felt pressured to hide my femininity but I have felt pressure to not be myself. The advertising/tech industry can be challenging as a woman to move ahead. In order to be successful and ‘climb the ladder’ I realized it required a different set of skills than starting my own business. I admire the women that are successful in larger corporations, but that’s not my personality which is why I’m really drawn to starting my own thing. I like taking my own pace and setting my own goals rather than being aggressive and pushing my way to the top. That’s the only thing I can think of when it comes to dealing with femininity in the workplace.
Obviously your company is very focused on nutrition. What was the first thing that got you really interested in health?
Answer: A few years back I heard about juicing and that it was healthy for you. I heard it was good for getting the nutrients from vegetables that aren’t as delicious as some other foods to eat. I got a juicer for Christmas and started experimenting with recipes and making my own juice. They were so good that friends and family started asking if I’d make juice for them. So I started pumping out tons of juices from all these different recipes. I did a lot of research on different cleanses and tested them out on myself. Then I eventually created my own cleanse. I didn’t like the 3-day juice-only cleanses because I would have these sugar highs and lows and be totally hangry. So I created my own cleanse which allowed me to have a dinner. This interested others, so I started making and selling cleanses to people. It was a lot of work and I was starting to get kind of tired of it. It would take me an entire day to make 4 or 5 cleanses for people and when I realized that I was no longer enjoying it, I knew I needed to find the next thing. I then started getting interested in superfoods. I did a lot of research on them and realized there was an opportunity to make a company out of it and capitalize on what I thought the superfood industry was lacking, which are single-serving conveniently packaged blends which have no added sugar.
Have you always been a healthy person?
Answer: I wouldn’t say I was ever unhealthy, but I have definitely taken a much bigger interest in the wellness industry over the past three years. Being very results driven, I was energized by seeing transformations in my own body and mind after making some healthy decisions. That piqued my interest and drove me to understand and learn more about healthy eating and how it impacts my mood and energy.
How do you handle having a social life and making healthy decisions?
Answer: Everything in moderation. I will chow down on a big fat juicy hamburger or have one too many martinis on the weekend, but I’ll also have weeks where I cut out dairy and gluten and hit the gym 4 times. Do what makes you happy with balance. I’m not going to be hard on myself by not going out on weekends or making every meal from scratch to avoid certain foods. I’ve learned to listen to my body and compromise where I need to with things that I really enjoy.
Getting the DL on Aukalife
Are you ready at all times with your elevator pitch?
Answer: Yes! I just filmed my video for the crowdfunding launch on Saturday. I think we went through 20 takes, so I’m definitely ready for this question. It’s funny I actually hate being on that side of that camera so it was so embarrassing editing my video, but you have to do uncomfortable things in order to be successful! By the end I was like alright I’m ready, give me something else! I learned so much through the process of watching myself over and over again.
Ok, let's hear that pitch!
Answer: Aukalife is an all-natural organic custom superfood blend startup with products designed to enhance smoothies, juices, teas, and really any meal. It’s conveniently packaged in single-servings for busy schedules but also in a bulk month supply to easily add one scoop to your smoothie or meal at home. I started the company for 2 reasons: (1) I found it very time consuming to individually scoop several different ingredients into my smoothie each morning and having to buy 5 - 1 lb bags of each ingredient. (2) I found that similar products contained a lot of added sugar and unknown ingredients, and wanted to provide a natural product with few ingredients that people are familiar with and no added sweeteners.
Are you starting Aukalife with any partners or is it just you right now?
Answer: It’s just me right now. I have some mentors and friends that are helping me out here and there, but from a legal standpoint it’s just me.
Cool! What’s your favorite flavor of Aukalife?
Answer: My favorite is Energy. I love maca powder and I swear that it really works! It balances my mood and provides a nice consistent energy boost. I also absolutely love the taste of it!
What are you the most worried about in the next 6 months with Aukalife? What’s that daunting task that you’re like oh no I’m gong to have to tackle this next?
Answer: Probably the crowdfunding event that’s launching this Saturday. If that doesn’t go well then it will be back to the drawing board. I’ll have to make some changes and figure out the next step. So I’m asking for $20,000 in my crowdfunding campaign. It’s a lot and I have faith that it’ll be fine. If I am successful, I’m going to get my first bulk manufacturing run with 5,000 units of my product made. The next 6 months are going to be pretty big for Aukalife.
Ok great... but what is crowdfunding??
That’s great! So if you were explaining to a family member that’s never had an experience with starting a company or raising money, how do you describe crowdfunding – how does it work?
Answer: Crowdfunding is a way to ask your potential customers to pay for their product before it’s ready. I’m not just asking for donations, I’m asking for pre-orders. It’s also a way to get insights into demands before my product is even made, which is very helpful to show potential investors down the road. Crowdfunding is nice because it’s not a small group you’re relying on and you’re not giving them equity. You’re relying on actual customers and giving them product in exchange for their support up front.
How can people reading this participate in your crowdfunding round?
Answer: Just head over to my fundraising site! I can ship globally. Obviously any pre-orders would be wonderful, but spreading the word just as helpful to gain more exposure within the wellness community and raise awareness for my product. My ultimate goal is to educate everyone on the benefits of superfoods and how they can really help balance your mood and energy and overall well-being.
Is there a time duration on it?
Answer: Yes. My crowdfunding round will only last for 30 days total, until the end of April.
How did you decide that it needs to be a month? Is it always a month? What determines that parameter?
Answer: The most successful rounds tend to be a month long. You can run up to 60 days, but the shorter it is the more successful it is historically because you’re maintaining initial momentum and keeping up with socializing of it. Most campaigns will have a spike at the beginning, a dip in the middle and another spike at the end. The most successful ones have a shorter gap in the middle with the dip.
How are you getting the word out about your crowdfunding round? Are you using something like Kickstarter or doing the PR on your own?
Answer: I’m using Indiegogo which is similar to Kickstarter to provide an interface for my fundraising round. As far as getting the word out, I’m starting with friends and family and asking them to share it. I'm also reaching out to PR companies and editors for local news outlets. I hosted a launch event on day 1 to kick off the campaign and spread the news within the Boston fitness community. I collaborated with a Boston-based fitness professional, a local juice bar, and nutritionist to bring different areas of wellness together all with female founded startups! The event was super successful!
That’s awesome! I can’t think of a better event to kick it off with.
Answer: Yes! I’m really excited and it’s just amazing how willing everyone is to help out. So hopefully we have a good turnout there! From there I have a couple of other bigger influencers set up to help promote the campaign.
What it's like in the early stages as a founder
How did you find your manufacturer?
Answer: Just searching on the web! It took a couple months of reaching out to many companies. Then I finally heard back from one that sounded like it would be a good fit.
So who are some other startups or founders that are at your level or even a few steps ahead that you draw inspiration from?
Answer: Nutty Life (@nuttylife.boston) is another startup in Boston. The founder has been absolutely amazing when it comes to helping me identify areas to avoid, connecting me with the right people, and telling me what certifications I need. She’s started a cashew milk company and her product is delicious! She just opened her first brick and mortar in the town that I live in which is so inspirational. She’s definitely someone I look up to and draw many learnings from.
You mentioned earlier that you’ll have one week where you’re crazy busy because you’ve packed so much in and then you’re like ok I need to scale back, I’m getting really stressed out. What are the immediate measures you put in place to keep yourself grounded in those moments?
Answer: I have learned not to be afraid to cancel plans. I’ve always been very apt to over-commit and I never want to say no to people. I’ve realized my time is precious and I’m not going to commit to things unless I really want and need to do them. I’m also learning not to be afraid to postpone or reschedule plans if I need to just have a night to recuperate and relax.
How do you split your time? How do you fit in all the work you have to do on Aukalife with your full-time job?
Answer: Good question. Depending on how much is on my plate, my energy level, and my overall mood, I’ll balance work on AukaLife with social and relaxing time. I like keeping myself busy, but have learned when to listen to my body and take a break. Eventually the table turns and I get bored which is when I get back into it. If you’re not loving what you’re doing, something’s not right. Everything in moderation and do what makes you happy.
What does a typical day look like?
Answer: It’s pretty crazy – I got married, bought a house, and started my own business in the past 8 months while working 9 to 5, so I’m definitely packing a lot in. A typical day for me is working at CarGurus. I try to get to the gym 3-4 times a week after work, then go home, cook dinner, and spend an hour or two on Aukalife. I don’t spend that time every day, but the past two weeks it’s really ramped up and gotten busy which is exciting and energizes me to work on it every night. If I don’t go to the gym I’ll go out and catch up with friends 1-2 days a week. Then weekends are a mix between lounging/relaxing and spending time on Aukalife.
Don’t push yourself more than you can handle. When I first started I was thinking holy shit this is overwhelming, crazy, and seems impossible. But it’s just taking small steps a little bit at a time. When you feel comfortable to take on more, take on more. When you need to carve out an entire day, carve out an entire day.
I understand you’re making something that is food grade and there could be a lot of requirements that come along with that responsibility which could be daunting to a new entrepreneur in the industry (ex. FDA certification). How are you going about understanding and fulfilling those requirements?
Answer: Talking to a lot of people. Boston is great because there are a ton of other young, female entrepreneurs who have basically been able to quit their full-time job and do what they love. Many of them are involved in nutrition. There are people at every single step of the way, and everyone is always very willing to share knowledge and help out where they can. So I’d say talking to a lot of people has been very helpful.
Imagine a girl is reading this interview and thinking about starting a company but has no idea where to start. What are some key groups or events that you were a part of at a time when you needed to network a lot?
Answer: Honestly the gym...I have met so many people from different gym classes that I go to. It’s really fascinating. I don’t know if it’s a Boston thing, but there are so many pop up workouts that you can go to here. Through those events I’ve met like-minded women who are either wanting to do the same thing, wanting to help out, or already doing something similar. That’s been huge for me.
How do you filter who you should have a 1:1 with? Personally I’m really interested in networking with women of all sorts – creators, makers, corporate bad asses. I feel like everyone has something inspiring to say so I’ll get coffee with anyone. You’re limited on time with all the other things you have going on, but you need good connections, so how do you choose who to pursue?
Answer: Through social media you can kind of get a pulse for what someone is doing and what they’re interested in before committing to getting coffee or something. I also place a lot of value on personal connections – friends of friends. Everyone has their own network and someone will say “oh hey I know this person, they’re doing this, you should really connect with them, and they’ll make that happen.” I like to take people up on those offers!
Isn't Lauren such an inspiration?
Support her first production run with a pre-order, right now so you don't forget! I've tried all of the flavors and they're truly amazing. I don't promote things I don't believe in. My favorite is detox :)
Thank you Lauren for sharing your story with the Here For A Few community, but also for sharing these amazing bloopers – nice to know we are all human!