I'm so excited to introduce you today Jen Hansard from simple green smoothies! You guys know that I have been on quite a health journey myself and I can't wait to share what her business is all about. PLUS to hear how she's grown such a large empire as well. Let’s dive in to some Q&A with Jen!
Before we had connected about doing the podcast I had already heard about your brand and your business. I'm sure a lot of people listening aspire to get to that place where somebody says a name and they think of you and the company that you built. So just a huge congrats to you for having that happen because we all know how hard business can be!
Jen: “Yeah, thank you! I mean I still work out of my home office in my pajamas half the time and it's amazing what you can do with small situations, low circumstances and where you can take it!”
Can you talk to us about before simple green smoothies was a thing, what did it look like? How did it start? What made you decide to do it?
Jen: “So I grew up in Los Angeles, that's where I'm from, that's where I met my husband when I was 16. In 2011 we had our two little kids and we just moved to Florida from Los Angeles and pretty much took this leap of faith and moved up there. My husband's a pastor and so it was to start our first church and we have no clue what we were doing but we were so passionate about it we felt like this is what we're supposed to be doing.
But it was the hardest thing I've ever done and there's another one to talk about later but going through that just took so much faith because we had no money. We had to fundraise our own salary to where we had $800.00 a month which couldn't even pay rent. So we're so thankful for unemployment which is a government program that helped us buy groceries for our kids and also we didn't have health insurance. So it was very stressful and hard but we've just felt in our hearts we were where we were supposed to be.
I was trying to figure out how do we make this work being where we're supposed to be even if it looks nothing like we thought it would. As uncomfortable as that was, I started doing more work on the internet. My background is in graphic design and print journalism so I can write, I can design and I know a little bit about website coding and I started doing website work and helping people with newsletters and things like that.
A friend reached out, her name is Jordan, and she wanted to start a parenting newsletter for moms. I said, that's a cool idea I'll help you design some headers for it. As we are working on it my brain is just already thinking about other projects I want to do and one of them was that I wanted to be a mom blogger and so I was always dreaming about being the next design mom and she was huge at that time.
So that was what I wanted to do and so Jada had this marketing background in her and I could tell she was going to try to go somewhere with this potty training parenting newsletter idea, so I asked her one day I said you know what, I know I'm helping you just design stuff on this but what if we partnered and made it bigger than just the newsletter? What if it actually becomes a website or a blog? This whole thing that we can scale up together because one on one we can only focus on a small piece but together you can really expand.
She thought long and hard about it and didn’t want to at first but she said it’s probably a good thing and we did that for a whole year, we busted our butts for mommy bloggers all the way! We would do giveaways where we'd have to buy our own products to giveaway. No one sponsored us because we were no one.”
When you came to her, did anybody ever say to you, partnerships are hard…do you really want to do this or do you feel like nobody was really recognizing this as a real business yet?
Jen: “Yeah, I mean my dad had his own company but no no one ever warned me that it'd be hard. I mean, I knew it would and it's like a marriage. We went into it with that same mentality and we never had a contract but we did say this is what I can bring to the table what would be a good fit for each other. We really felt like those pieces were better together than in apart. So we agreed to build it together.
The funny thing is a lot of people want to start businesses with their friends because they love hanging out with them and they're so similar and they're like this would just be so fun to work together. But a lot of times you are TOO similar to actually bring value to the whole business idea because you have the same skill set. So for us we were not super close friends. We were more in the business friends and maybe that's why that was completely different. I was into branding and visualization with it and writing and she was into the marketing. So it was really black and white different.”
That's probably a huge reason why it could take off because you guys weren't trying to take on the same role which is important. So now you guys decided you're going to start. What does this look like? How long until it kind of took off and how did you change from mommy blogger to simple green smoothies?
Jen: “So a whole year of doing this and we did get featured on Design Mom which was a home tour of my house which I bought everything on Craigslist! You talked about how you can look cool for cheap. The first year we made it we counted our losses and what little income we made and we had made nothing. So that was the wakeup call where it was like if we keep doing what we've done this past year we're gonna be right where we're at this year.
So you have to realize that and pause and look at it instead of keep just staying in the trenches and keep going and so that's what we did because we looked around and said is this really what we want to do? At the same time, we were actually both drinking green smoothies. So for me I needed them because we had no health insurance and if we got sick, if anyone got a flu, whatever would take us to the doctor like I was so scared that it would put us under financially.
I was doing anything I could to be proactive with our health and green smoothies were pretty much a vitamin in a glass and we were like religiously drinking one a day. It was the only thing that was healthy that my kids would drink. So I was just like hooked on this thing and Jada was drinking them to lose weight after her daughter. We both were trying to be mommy bloggers drinking our greens and then we realized our business idea was not working but the thing that was working was how great we felt.
We decided why don't we take this one thing that's working for us personally and start sharing that with the world even if it looks different than we ever thought it would, so we started putting recipes out there and blogging about them. No one cared! Mom's still weren’t going to care, but we cared enough. We felt like this was something that made a difference in the world and that people needed to know about.
We had to go banging louder and get the people we wanted to hear us and so that happened on Instagram. We went into Instagram which was a brand new platform, very few people were on it but that's where health and wellness people were. We got on that platform and Jada was the first one, she signed in, got us set up and we started sharing our recipes there. We're the only green smoothies pretty much out there and people were falling in love with it and all of our recipes taste amazing, so people would tag their friends because they're like you know what this looks green and gross but this thing is good! You need to try it! So it just took off virally that way.”
You just said Instagram was small but your people were there and I want people just to hear that for a moment because you know, right now Instagram is small and it might not be the place for you to go. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but they took a leap of faith and a place that they felt that their people were going to be there and their audience was going to be there and that's probably a really big reason it took off!
Jen: “Absolutely. If we did not go to that place at that time I don't think we'd be a business and we were so tired. I will say this like we were so tired then we put ourselves in this box of being mommy bloggers and creating content and sharing it and doing all of that through newsletters, and Facebook. To go into a whole new platform when you're already strapped for time with your family alone and your business, but I was resistant of it and I will say that I was like I do not want to do anymore, but Jada did the breakthrough.”
Did you feel like you couldn't do any more on other platforms or you just felt like you were kind of overworked with what you were doing in general?
Jen: “I was overworked because I had to supplement that with doing design work too and so I was building websites for people, doing a personal branding on top of trying to do this too. It was a lot like I was burning myself out but I don't think that was good which is why I did the green smoothie for my health journey.”
A lot of times some people are explaining what you're doing and they're calling it a side hustle. In your mind did you think Simple Green Smoothies was a side hustle or were you thinking this is my #1 thing and the rest of the stuff kind of your thing to compliment it? What was your mindset?
Jen: “Yeah. In the beginning my design business was my side hustle to starting a church like that was not started and then the more money I was making with it the more credibility I got with my design. It kind of took over in a way, that was my focus and we needed to provide but I also wanted to do this parenting thing and the green smoothies and I felt like there was a lot of potential to it.
I was straddling like crazy and I'm an achiever so I want to do everything really well in all the ways otherwise I can't sleep at night. So I was doing that where Simple Green Smoothies was my side hustle to my design business and the church.”
I love hearing this because I think people look at just successful entrepreneurs and they think, oh it must be so easy for them or look at how they're doing this or that. You know I'm doing this now and you're seeing me with my kids now but 16 years ago, that's not what it looked like. It's completely you doing a little bit of everything just trying to make it work and I love digging into the back story because people need to see it's not as simple and easy as it looks right now. So you just felt like this is it, this is the thing I have to leap for
Jen: “Yeah. Well I set a goal. I said once the business is able to pay me X amount of money in a month, you know it's not much but it was that there was potential for it. I think it was $1,000-$2,000, once I could do that then I was going to step away.”
I also want you guys to see how Jen took that leap where I think a lot of times I hear people say things like, well, when I get successful, when I make this much money then I'll do this. But that's usually not people's success stories. It's usually I feel it, I think I'm going to go for it and they kind of jump and hope the net appears. So if you're somebody who is waiting for that big moment to happen so you can quit your job or you can start this business or whatever it is just reassess the situation now. I'm not saying quit your job tomorrow or go do this because Jen's saying she wanted to see that potential, she wanted to see it was there. I just I love, love, love hearing your story!
Jen: “Yeah it's kind of like a calculated risk. That's how I do it. I don't just jump without any planning. I want to know that there's a good possibility it's going to work out especially with family too.”
Now you have kids and they were babies when you were first starting this. I've been in it with the little ones too. Were you struggling with all of this plus having the kids at home or the kids at daycare? What did that look like?
Jen: “That is one of the blessings in disguise. Right before we started Simple Green Smoothies my husband's church plans fell apart. The other pastor got sick. Things just weren't working out to where they dissolved the church and we just moved all the way to Florida, we left our family, our friends, he had a job in Hollywood before he was a studio projectionist, so we left great money and all of this for a church that is now no longer here.
We were so devastated because this was our dream and it was gone but the blessing is that during that time he didn't have a job and so he came out right when this all happened we were thinking about where would he get his next job at a church. For me I was like I don't ever want to pick a job because of the money. I want to pick it because it's where my heart calls me the same as with church too. The passion and the purpose of it. We prayed that there'd be a way that it didn't matter what any church paid or job for him and that my salary alone would provide and we could make it because our hearts were calling us.
So that's when Simple Green Smoothies took off. He was at home doing playdates with the kids, taking them to the park, I'd be working on stuff and then late at night too when they'd go to bed I literally set up on the desk right by my bed and said good night honey and then start my second shift.”
Wow, so incredible! Now you had said Instagram was the one thing that took off but you tried many other things besides that. Is there anything that sticks out in your mind that you thought we should try this and it's going to work and it didn't?
Jen: “I mean I remember my partner was interested in Periscope and I just said no that's not gonna be it! I can guarantee you that’s not where we're going now!”
Let's talk about the good times, the bad times. What's one of your most exciting stories or most memorable stories from Simple Green Smoothies, whether it's in the beginning or recently just anything that popped out to you!
Jen: “Yeah for sure and it's recent! This past year has just been the most incredible year of my life and it's not just in the business, it's personally where I finally feel like I kind of woke up and realized that as hard as you hustle and keep your head in the business you’re missing the life that's around you. The one that you came here to create and it's so funny how we can forget that the drive in the beginning like I'm doing this to provide for my family so I can stay home, work from home, be there for them and then some days I'll wake up and I'm like glued to my laptop and they're playing by themselves and I'm just like what am I doing?!
So this past year was really about my own personal self-growth and our tagline at Simple Green Smoothies is fuel your passion. So everything you put in your body should help you go after the things that matter most to you. It's not about a diet, it's not about looking a certain way, it's about doing what you're called to do. For me I just feel called to push my body beyond its limits and me and a girlfriend we decided just the two of us, we were to fly to Vegas, rent a Jeep Wrangler and do a road trip on Route 66 to the Grand Canyon and then we were going to run the entire Grand Canyon from the south rim down to the bottom up to the north rim and all the way back in one day.
So 47 miles, that was our goal and it did end up taking us a day and a half to do it but it was the most incredible thing to me to have a body that allowed me to do that and the friends in my life that were on board with it and just the community too. I was sharing along the way when I'd get up to cell phone reception and people were just so encouraging and I realized like so many said, this is like a bucket list item for me. I'm helping them figure out their passions too and that's when it kind of all kind of came full circle was it's not just about the green smoothies, it's about what you can do because of them.”
I love that! Now let's talk about the opposite which I know it's sometimes hard to talk about but there are ups, there’s peaks and there's valleys. What is something that stands out to you that was a really hard time that you got through but now has probably made you stronger now?
Jen: “They all have! You know with absolutely every scar makes us better and more beautiful in some way. One of the hardest things that I went through was the business buyout. So the partner that started this with me, we got to a point or a place in 2016 where it just wasn't the right direction for the business anymore. It was not thriving the way it should and so we came to an agreement where I would buy her out of the company and do it on my own. And it's hard. There were so many times where I mean it was risky, I didn't have that much money to even do the buyout but I realized if I didn't do it what would happen?
For me there was so much left in this business and I love what I do and the people I get to work with in the community, so I took that risk. It was a calculated risk of course and went for it and bought her out. As soon as it was done, that's when the fear set in for me where I was like what are people going to think when I tell them that my business partner is not here anymore it's just me??
We were like two new friends. But I knew I had to step up and if I wanted the company to still have this presence and do great in the world I had to become that face of it by myself. I think it's like a divorce too. When you step out with the kids at school or something if you're going through that first time like yeah it's scary. I literally thought in 2017 we'll lose half of our social media following just because some of our visual presence was gone and the truth is it didn't happen. We dropped a little bit. Not much. I mean it was like .001%, but we gained hundreds more that I would show up as myself and only fully excited like people were relating to that people wanted more of that. I just made myself do it for the sake of the business and it's cool because I've learned a lot too and I've grown because now I have this new skill set like I'm here talking with you on camera and a microphone and can't believe I'm doing it still!”
So was there a part of you when you separated that felt like I'm not enough?
Jen: “Yeah I mean she was the half of what we did for the first few years at least. By the time she was gone it was like, how do I do this on my own? Do I bring in someone to help? But the truth is, once you go through a buy out you don't want anyone else in it with you. At that time you just need a break. I felt like I needed to just reset and figure this out on my own. I pretty much took on two roles and I was back in the thick of it again.
I had to cut the pay of most people on my team because the business was not in a good place. I had to do double the work and I talked to my husband and I said I'm going to be in the trenches for a while. We both agreed that this was the right call to do and he supported it. So he was helping take the kids to school more and we dug ourselves back out to now where we're in a really good place as a company.”
I think it's so important that you had the talk with your husband. Whether or not your spouse is in your business is so important. It's so good to give him that heads up and to say, ok, here's where I'm at, here's what's happening and I'm going to need your support. I'm so happy to hear you say that you had that talk and this is where it happened and now you've gone through it like you're you're at the light at the end of the tunnel, you're here, things are amazing, things look great for you! What does it look like for Simple Green Smoothies moving forward?
Jen: “We're working on a membership site! I'm excited about it because we're going to integrate a meal planning software into it. It's going to take all of our smoothie recipes, all of our meals from both of our books and more and put them into the software, that's all plant based! So you can really create the diet that you want through that and then you can add in meat as a side or whatever you want but I think it's something that I need in my life and pretty much that's how I built every piece of the company. It's like what do I need and I need to create that so others can have it.
I’m going to start leading retreats. So I’m planning on doing one to the Grand Canyon and see how many crazy people I can get to join me! There's at least quite a few that are up for the challenge. I'm just doing more in-person experiences and really pulling in that passion piece to help people figure out what that is for them at this point in their lives.”
I can only imagine how that has transformed your business for 2019 having that happen in 2018!
Jen: “I think that's one of the hardest things as people we feel like we have to keep working for a business to grow and we have to step away and take a deep breath and recharge in order to even take that next big step. You can be in the trenches and go slowly uphill but take a break from it and you can take a step up like that. That's what I do now. So every once in a while I give myself permission to take a week or two off and go on an adventure and come back and I'm ready to go again.”
I want to ask you, I actually don't drink green smoothies but I want you to convince me right now what I'm missing out on and I know you have a 30 day challenge coming up in January and I want to challenge myself to take it!!
Jen: “So I recommend drinking it first thing in the morning! What we put in it is just a cup of leafy greens. So any kind you want, spinach is the most mild. When I first started drinking smoothies I was literally eating bowls of lucky charms and talk about lifestyle and so I don't want anything to taste nasty, so start with spinach, add some tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, banana, blended up and have that for breakfast.
First thing in the morning so before anything else is in your stomach and then all those vitamins like there's Vitamin C and there's even fiber to help get your digestive system going and it's all absorbed right into your body. So it's really a vitamin in a glass and I start with that. Then you can eat whatever you want the rest of the day. But if you do this for 30 days, just in the morning, start there!
Your taste buds begin to change naturally and that's what got crazy to me because I didn't just want this anymore, I've always loved the taste of these and I got to where I actually started wanting more salads and soups and healthier foods and I wasn't craving the carbs so much. Instead of forcing myself to have those things it was something I actually wanted and that's when I was like, this is working!
You benefit from all of that because you have more energy and way more energy with smoothies than any cup of coffee, your skin looks better because the fibers pushing everything through your system, you get Vitamin E and as we get older I just want to keep looking good!”
Now tell us about your 30-day challenge! What does it look like? Where can they find it?
Jen: “You can go to our website simplegreensmoothies.com and there's a challenge tab at the top. That’s where you can sign up for it and it starts January 1st. If you sign up a little late that's OK too! We will send you a shopping list immediately! How we're doing it is every week you get a shopping list so you can go shopping that weekend, get your ingredients and there's usually between 7-9 ingredients you buy per week, not too much, it's going to cost about 30 dollars a week to do this challenge. You're going to get 7 green smoothies out of that. Then every day we'll give you the recipe to blend so we'll give you a variety! You'll do berry smoothies, you'll do tropical, there's chocolate ones too! We want to give you the whole spectrum of what they can taste like.”
I like that because I want to find what I'm going to like and then I'm kind of that creature of habit when we get one I'm going to stick with it. So I'm excited, I'm here to do it!!
If you are loving this conversation with Jen, be sure to check her out on social media, @jenhansard and @simplegreensmoothies and if you want to listen to this episode check out the podcast with Jen!