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Simple Green Smoothies
Jen started Simple Green Smoothies in 2012. They detail the beginnings of their company in their Starter Story interview: 
Q: How did you get started on Simple Green Smoothies?
In 2011, we moved here from California to Florida so my husband, Ryan, could help start a church with a friend. He was a brand new pastor and the job didn’t come with a salary. I was a stay-at-home mom doing any random design job I could to scrape together money to help pay for rent and groceries.
> Being an entrepreneur was never my dream. I wanted to get married, raise a family, decorate a cute house, travel a lot as a family. I started my own business out of necessity— it was my way to help feed our family and pay our rent when things got real tough.
One day, I got the mail and opened a letter that said, “You no longer have health insurance.” We knew this was coming. But we couldn't avoid it and sorta lived in denial that it would happen to us. Well, it did and I felt like a safety net had been pulled out from under us. What if one of the kids gets sick? Or one of us gets sick? Our small savings would be wiped out and we'd go under.
I Googled for hours "how to not get sick" and stumbled upon an article about “Boosting your immune system by drinking green smoothies”. Back then, I thought “Ugh! They look awful!” But I knew my friend, Jadah Sellner, had just started drinking these green smoothies to lose her baby weight. So I decided: "if she can do it, I can too."
A couple of days later, I went to the grocery store with my kids to grab a banana, a bag of spinach (the last one I bought went bad in the fridge before I had the courage to open it!), blueberries and the strawberries that were on sale. We got home and I dragged out the blender, dusted it off (literally) and threw everything in it with some orange juice and blended.
Ryan and the kids are staring at the blender… unsure if it’s safe to consume. I poured that chunky smoothie into sippy cups and glasses for us all. And at the same time we all gave it a taste. Surprisingly, we ALL loved it! Clare, my 1 ½-year-old, was literally holding out her cup-like “Mommy give me more!”
That was the moment I felt like I won Gold at the Olympics. My kids were happy to drink healthy green smoothies every day and we could stop getting sick. We'd actually be be okay without health insurance. The only hurdle was: those fresh fruits and vegetables cost money and it’s getting extra tight. Yet I knew there had to be a way to make this work. I heard about a government program called WIC that helps women, infants, and children afford nutritious groceries. Based on our income, we qualified for government help so I set up an appointment for us.
A couple of days later, Ryan and I were sitting in the WIC office with the kids waiting to hear if we’d qualify and I started thinking…. Wait a minute. I don’t belong here. I have two college degrees. My husband has a bachelor's and master's degrees. We grew up middle class in the Los Angeles suburbs with the stay at home moms and breadwinner dads. Our parents would be shocked to know we’re here… about to get government assistance. It just wasn't where I ever thought I would be.
But sitting across me, I see a woman. She has two toddlers and a newborn. The little girl is playing with her little sister’s hair. I instinctual know we’re in the same boat. We’re both moms. We’re both exhausted. We’re both worried about our families. Trying to keep them healthy and happy. Neither of us is here for a handout. We’re just going through tough times and need a little help to help us get our families over this bump into a better place and back on our feet. So we went forward when they called out names and walked out the door with government grocery checks.
A part of me couldn’t stand using those $6 WIC vouchers to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the grocery store every week. But the other part of me was so grateful to be able to keep buying the fresh ingredients to make our daily green smoothies. I was embarrassed to get them out in the grocery store line, as eyes would roll behind me and people would sigh at the amount of extra time it would take to check out. It was a long humbling process every single week at the grocery store. I started going first thing in the morning to avoid seeing people I knew— I was embarrassed. Yet I was driven to keep my family healthy and I could sense that green smoothies were the golden ticket to get us there.
After a couple of weeks of drinking them, I noticed: Wow, we haven’t been sick (while everyone else around us was coughing and hacking) and I’m feeling good. Real good. I have way more energy than usual. I’ve been a runner my whole life, yet had stopped for almost a year because I was so tired. Yet with a daily green smoothie, I had more energy than I knew what to do with— so I began running again. I had more energy to put into my blog. More energy to chase after my kids and play with them on the monkey bars. I was beginning to feel like my old self with energy and dreams— the college version of myself!
Jadah and I talked about writing a recipe book of the smoothie recipes we’ve been making for our families. We started sharing the recipes on a mommy blog and on Instagram. Then on our brand new website I designed after watching lots of YouTube videos. And before ya know it… it turns out other families like green smoothies just as much as mine does! Women from around the world write in to tell me how they’re keeping their families healthy with the smoothies and how this one simple change in their lifestyle is inspiring and empowering them to make so many other changes in their lives, too.
It really is kinda crazy how it turned into a business. It was a ton of luck AND a ton of hard work. There was no clear plan, it was more of us following the momentum and building as we went. I had no clue it would turn into anything half as cool as it is now, but I definitely did the work to get it there. I remember getting the kids to bed and kissing my husband goodnight and then turning on my computer to work on the website until 3 am. I didn’t sleep much in the early years because we couldn’t pay people to help us — we had to do it all ourselves. Jadah would spend hours glued to Instagram and Facebook replying to people's comments. I learned how to build a Wordpress website, take professional-ish photos, make smoothie recipes and send emails from Mail Chimp. I learned as I needed to and didn’t let myself get overwhelmed at all that was ahead. I conquered one task at a time and overtime we had a robust website, an email list of 200,000 and a social media following to over half a million.
We've even been able to expand into the retreat space, which is my new favorite thing. I take small groups of women on 5 days adventures to places like the Grand Canyon or the Nature Coast to kayak with manatees.
It's still crazy to think that just 7 years ago I was on WIC. Today I’m CEO of Simple Green Smoothies and helping millions of other women get healthier and happier... just like me. All of this started by drinking a green smoothie. Now, just imagine what you can do if you started drinking a green smoothie?!
Contributors to this article:
- Pat Walls, Founder of Starter Story
- Wiki Updater