We hope it’s clear by now: we think growing is an important part of living a happy, full life. This week, we interviewed two outstanding women who have centered their lives in and around growth.
Morgan Pieper and Marcee Lohner are the beginning of our new series that highlights women who grow — and not just the gardening kind. Their stories help inspire us and others to participate in growth. Because growing, however and whatever that looks like to you, feels good.
Entrepreneur and founder of Feed Me Pronto
So, you’re obviously the mastermind behind Feed Me Pronto, which, as per your website, is “the convenience store reinvented.” What, in your own words, is Feed Me Pronto?
It is my dream food place. We sell prepared, healthy, clean food. Modern convenience means you should be able to buy a good meal. And it’s not diet focused — it’s just clean food. It’s the millennial convenience store.
Every major chain in the convenience industry looks the same now as they did in the 50s and 60s. It is one of the only industries in the U.S. that hasn’t been adapted to how the millennial generation consumes. Grocery stores, dating apps…every major industry has been updated for how millennials consume and the convenience store has not. We’re updating it.
What can I expect if I walk into a store?
We source almost 600 products with clean labels, eco-friendly packaging, and products that have a story behind the founder — all single serving size. Everything must be single serving size. We’re not trying to be the neighborhood bodega.
I hired an executive chef from a major prepared food chain to design and curate our prepared food menu, which accounts for about 20% of our inventory. We believe modern convenience means you should also be able to buy a meal. We don’t source anything with preservatives, artificial flavoring, or coloring. Most of our products and prepared food are USDA Organic and non-GMO. We’re primarily focused on a clean ingredient list — you should be able to read the ingredients in English and know what they are.
Being environmentally conscious is important to us. We use sustainably sourced packaging made of recycled water bottles. We’re not adding more plastic to the environment. Our entire sundries section — eco-friendly baby wipes, eco-friendly toothpaste, eco-friendly tampons that are unbleached, etc. — are all travel size.
The story behind our third-party brands is one of the factors that differentiates Feed Me Pronto from any other healthy food concept. We care about the experience. We want consumers to learn where their products come from, who makes those products, and why they make those products. We traveled to food shows in every major region of the U.S. to try and source the best products from that region. Our third-party brands are primarily female-owned, minority-owned, or family-owned. We didn’t source products from major corporations, and we didn’t source products locally. We sourced the healthiest products in the market from any region that we also think will create an experience for the customer.
What inspired you to begin growing your own business?
I used to be in the corporate world. I am actually an accountant — a CPA. I worked at Ernst & Young for almost 5 years. During my time at Ernst & Young, I participated in the Global Student Exchange program in London. Prepared food in London is a way of life. Urban consumers buy prepared food for every meal instead of grocery shopping. These prepared food concepts are on the first floor of office buildings, in tube stations, at the airport…everywhere in London. I came back to the U.S. eager to bring European prepared food to our major cities. (At the time, Pret a Manger had not expanded into the U.S.)
A few years went by, the economy recovered, and I was in a place in my career where I was constantly surrounded by clients and entrepreneurs. I was heavily involved with Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year program — a sort of Grammys for entrepreneurs. I was inspired by these entrepreneurs and their stories and finally gained enough confidence to walk away from my career and start Feed Me Pronto. I launched the business in April of 2017. We’ve grown a lot from the idea that we would just sell European prepared food. We’d rather take on the big guys and disrupt the entire convenience industry. After a year of planning, our first location will open this Fall in Dallas, Texas.
What has been the hardest part and the most exciting part of growing all this?
The hardest part of this process has been getting the real estate side of it going. The real estate industry is primarily male-oriented and getting people in this industry to take me seriously was difficult — even though I have the experience, education, and corporate background. They just couldn’t wrap their head around a 30-year-old girl starting a business and needing a valuable piece of real estate. But, they’re trying to attract people like me to their shopping centers, so why not have someone like me running a business in their shopping center?
The most exciting part of this journey honestly hasn’t happened yet. I am really really excited to feed everyone good food and teach them about our products! I think consumers care about the experience in every industry, even food —especially food. We’re integrating technology into our stores to teach consumers about products they might never have had before but that they should be consuming. Most major grocery stores go after an item only for the margin. And yes, margin is important, but at the same time, younger consumers consume for the experience (and to share that experience on social media). When deciding whether we should source a product, we asked two questions: (1) does this product make money, and (2) is this product cool enough that someone would want to take a picture of it and show their friends?
In our eyes, growing a business is a lot like growing anything. Why do you think growth is important?
As humans, we’re constantly evolving. And it’s better for you to have some control over how you evolve instead of just letting your environment dictate how you evolve. If you can dictate how you change and grow in life and really choose your own path, then hopefully you’ll grow into something that you admire.
What advice do you have to growers out there—entrepreneurs, mothers, gardeners, etc.?
For other growers, just know that things happen all the time. You hit roadblocks and doors get slammed in your face. Leaves die, you have to constantly trim plants down to get it to grow taller. You have to just believe in what you are building and have confidence knowing that you see something that other people aren’t seeing right now. Even when you get pushed down, you have to know that taller growth is coming.
Mother, violinist, and interior designer
How do you grow?
Well, obviously, I’m a wife and mother — and those are the most important to me. I do service in our world through my church and other things. I also feel like it’s really important for me to find a way to be creative and create beauty — obviously, interior design is one of those ways, gardening in my yard fits into that category, and also just using my creativity. Then there’s music. You know, I fill my life with music, whether it’s singing or playing my violin in the chamber orchestra and orchestra or attending concerts.
You said you were most proud of your role as a mother. Tell me about your family!
I have a husband who is amazing and a businessman. He’s driven and works really hard, but like me, puts our family at the forefront of everything we do. I have a daughter who’s a writer, a musician, is married, and has two children. I also have two other daughters — one who just graduated from NYU and lives in NYC as a writer and dancer and another who is a student at BYU. And I have a son who works full time and lives in Dallas with us.
One of the things I love about our family is that all of our children are super creative in one way or another (and not in the same way). They all find joy in simple things — good conversation, walks in the park…they don’t need a lot to be entertained. And most importantly, they all find joy in each other. But I do love that they’re all creative and they all want to put their stamp on the world by creating things to make the people around us better or happier. That makes me really happy.
How have you centered your family around growth?
We tried to expose our kids to a lot of different things from the time they were little. If my husband and I took trips, we took the whole family. We signed them up for as many lessons as we could, we read to them a ton, and we encouraged education endlessly. And then, if they were interested in something, we almost never discouraged it, unless it was just physically impossible. Drive across the city for dance? You bet. We felt it was important to encourage them to try and experience and see new things.
Why is a life focused on growing something important?
There is an unbelievable satisfaction that comes from creating something from nothing. You plant a tiny little seed, you love it, you give it what it needs, and it blossoms. Growing is a labor of love. You get true, deep satisfaction of seeing something become more than what it once was, whether it’s your interior design (you create an atmosphere that is warm and exciting) or a business (creating a product that makes others’ lives better) or a family. It’s all about making something more. There’s something extremely joyful in that.
What advice do you have to growers out there—entrepreneurs, mothers, gardeners, etc.?
I think it’s always important to find ways to create growth — whether it’s your children, other people’s children, service, or the community garden. If you want to be fulfilled in life, you need to be creating some kind of growth around you. I don’t know what kind of life it would be without it.
We’re so grateful to be surrounded by women who grow great things every single day of their lives. Share your stories of growth with us by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org! @gardenuity