Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Heather Emerson, Founder of Prep To Your Door, located in Austin, TX, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Prep To Your Door delivers organic, plant-rich meals in zero waste packaging to Austin and Houston, Texas. We serve high-powered individuals who value their health and time.
Tell us about yourself
I was raised in the ’80s in a small Texas town, eating boxed, frozen, or fast food. Not because my parents didn't care about my health, but because they thought processed food was perfectly fine. This was during the height of “Milk, it does the body good” campaigns, followed by “got milk?” ads featuring celebrities wearing white milk mustaches. Needless to say, I was utterly shocked and offended when the raw vegan at Whole Foods in 2005 told me that milk was for baby cows, not humans (gasp)! He also told me the food pyramid only contained dairy because it was created by the USDA, which was highly funded by the beef industry. I never had a bad reaction to dairy, but so many people I knew, including my dad, had to take lactase pills before consuming a milk product. It got me thinking...
I was working at Whole Foods at that time, surrounded by food activism. This was nearly 20 years ago, before the Amazon takeover that changed the culture. Back then, Whole Foods' leadership and staff took their food mission very seriously: composting, tracing sourcing, active against the exploitation of farm workers, the importance of organic foods, lobbying for Non-GMO labels, and much more. Working there was akin to ‘food boot camp.'
I had been out of prison less than a year and desperately sought community, purpose, and focus. Upon release, I had a small duffle bag of items: letters, select toiletries, a couple of items of clothing, and a gallon-size ziplock bag of medications ranging from antidepressants to sleeping pills to antiviral medications because my brain, body, and immune system was shot. I was fatigued and depressed and ate processed foods because they were cheap and convenient, and I hadn’t considered any other course of action for my health. A pizza for dinner and an Egg-McMuffin for breakfast was standard. I remember going to different doctors for anxiety. Their solution? More medications.
No one had ever told me that my health was within my control. No doctor recommended that I change my diet. I was made to believe that my health problems and psychological disorders were not my faults: it was genetics and/or illness, a sad, unfortunate diagnosis due to no fault of my own. I was almost completely broken when I exited incarceration. Most of my dignity had been stripped away at that point. It was the perfect time for me to hear a new message because, quite frankly, I needed a miracle. When this same raw vegan (the one who informed me about the dairy conspiracy) looked me in the eyes and told me that if I went vegetarian, my body and health would change, I heard him.
I couldn’t bear to take another medication or use alcohol to numb myself another day. I was overweight and felt lifeless. Within 30 days of my vegetarian journey, my entire life changed. I noticed that I could think more clearly. For someone on as many medications as I was, thinking more clearly was pivotal. I also noticed my senses heightened. I could see, smell, and hear things more easily. Over the next few months, I lost 30 pounds and got off my entire bag of medication—every single one. In hindsight, I believe my weight loss and a newfound sense of mental clarity resulted from reducing inflammation in my body, specifically my brain.
Learning about the power of real food gave me a new way of seeing myself and the planet. From that point forward, I knew that food could change the world. It could heal dis-ease, reverse illness, change people, reverse climate change, and replenish our soils – if the food was grown responsibly. This food knowledge never left me. I later moved to NYC and had to figure out how to feed myself nutritious, organic, plastic-free food without spending $100 every time I crossed the street. I started making meals in jars and throwing them in my oversized purse before hopping on the train to work. I remember my coworkers’ eyes ogling at my layered organic ingredients as I dumped them into a bowl next to their hot processed food they had delivered in styrofoam.
All I could feel was gratitude in those moments because I couldn't unlearn what I knew: that food touching chemicals and plastic meant food in our bodies. And that meant potentially more dis-ease. Today, I still take zero medications. When I’m feeling “off,” I usually know it’s because I need a workout, a healthy meal, a supplement, or time in nature. Very rarely do one of these things not cure whatever is going on with me. Food is by no means a cure for everything, but it’s certainly an effective and empowering place to start. And as I look around, I can see that real nutrient-rich food is not as available as I'd like it to be.
I realize change is not easy. You’ve got a million things going on, from work to kids to a fast-paced lifestyle to juggle. I had that, too, in NYC. That’s why I started PTYD. I knew I couldn’t be the only one in the world who thought good food was important. No plastic. No pesticides. Responsibly sourced, packaged, and reused. You shouldn't have to choose between living your life to the fullest and eating high-quality, nutrient-dense food, ready in less than 5 minutes. This is the beginning of PTYD.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Being named Forbes Next 1000 and Austin Under 40 are my top two!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The relentless commitment to self-improvement. It's also the most rewarding.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- I always say that if you know your "why," you can accomplish anything. What do you think the world needs? Don't worry about the "how"; that will come later.
- Surround yourself with people that inspire you. If the five people you hang around the most aren't doing things that make your jaw drop regularly, go meet some people who are. It will rub off on you.
- Success stories are often a game of "who can hold out the longest." Figure out a way to hold on and keep going. Success will come.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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