When having no idea what you’re doing is the best plan

Green juice changed Carly de Castro’s life.

After moving home to Los Angeles to take care of her mother, who was suffering from terminal cancer, she met up with two childhood friends: Hayden Slater and Hedi Gores.

She had been using green juice to improve her mom’s quality of life, and simultaneously turned her own health around.  At the time, Carly says, “There were very few options for pressed, bottled juice.” And so the three set out to open a local juice company, with the mission of making health affordable and available to everyone.

Follow Ladders on Flipboard!

Follow Ladders’ magazines on Flipboard covering Happiness, Productivity, Job Satisfaction, Neuroscience, and more!

Pressed Juicery served its first customers in 2010.

“I really wanted to spread the message that one small healthy habit could have a ripple effect,”  Carly says, “and change your whole life.”

The flagship spot was a tiny walk-up in the fountain courtyard of Brentwood Town Center. It ignited a West Coast juice revolution. Eight years later, the company now employs over 500 people and is serving its signature cold-pressed concoctions in over 30 locations.

We chatted with Carly about being green, not having any business experience when she started, and why she’ll always pay attention to what competitors are doing.

What was the scariest part of opening Pressed?

Having no experience! Neither my partners nor myself had any business experience. In fact we all came from production and agency work. Nothing could have prepared us for the long nights of juicing, learning how to run a retail business as well as food manufacturing. We sort of went into it blindly and it was the best and worst thing we ever did. Being naive kept us optimistic and open, and it also was a very humbling experience.  

Do you remember the first day Brentwood opened? What were you feeling?

I remember it vividly. I had been up most of the night with my partner, Hayden. I stayed with him juicing until about 1am, and he kept going until 4 or 5 so that I could go home and get my rest for our first day open. I worked the shop all day, inviting friends and family to come for free juice samples so that we could make sure the space was full and energized. I felt a lot of things that day- mostly exhilaration that we had managed to open, but also a little fear having people try our product for the first time. Surprisingly, what I remember most is how little people were familiar with pressed juice and how much explaining we had to do about the product.

Did any of those emotions stick around even as you headed into double-digit locations?

I always feel a pang of nerves when we enter a new location and especially new markets. While we have gained so much great experience with the logistics of opening a store, I still hope for customer satisfaction and want the stores to feel like they fit naturally into their new neighborhoods. The biggest change has been that we have an incredible team of over 500 employees behind us, supporting our mission and making sure that we can have a successful opening every time. That puts my mind at ease (as much as it can be!) and makes it easier to sleep than in the beginning.

Did you ever think that Pressed could become the phenomena it has?

Honestly, no. I didn’t really think that far ahead, and certainly when we opened no one was doing this exact product on this scale, so it didn’t occur to me that we could ever get to this size and maintain quality. Luckily I was proven wrong, as our incredible team has grown and made this possible. Our goal was to be the best quality, best tasting pressed juice that we had ever had, and if it was good enough for us, then we felt it was good enough for customers. That is still our standard today, and it’s really exciting that it is able to reach more and more people than I ever imagined possible. It really has validated my belief that this is a product that can help change your life. We didn’t invent the wheel, we just decided to make accessible something that we believe should be available to everyone.

Can you talk about a few mistakes you made in the beginning?

Like I said, we started this business very green. We had no prior experience, so we definitely made some decisions that we thought were “best” for the company but which did not turn out well because ultimately they didn’t follow our intention and our model. One example is that for our third location, we decided to introduce smoothies without doing any research into whether customers wanted them. We thought that maybe we needed to offer more to customers, but ultimately they didn’t really work. We lost touch with who we were a little. Ultimately, we made a decision to focus on our core competency which was making the best bottled, pressed juices around, knowing that if people want smoothies, they could find them somewhere else, and hopefully they would still come to get juice from us, which we find that they do. Learning to focus and hone in on a very clear mission was a great lesson and has allowed us to scale our business.

How do you handle competition in the juice space?

For me, as I mentioned it’s important to stay true to our mission and remind myself why we started this company – to make high nutrition a realistic option for everyone.  We are always going to pay attention to what other brands are doing, but we also have to realize we are not going to be everything for everyone and be okay with that too.  At Pressed Juicery we aim to make every decision with our mission in mind, and while I’m not going to say that we’ve never been intrigued or distracted by something a competitor has been doing, the last five years has really helped us realize that staying true to our core values is one of the most important parts of our brand’s success.

Do you think it’s important to build community while building a brand?

Absolutely, the communities that surround our stores are what have truly created the Pressed Juicery lifestyle.  Each of our stores draws inspiration from the surrounding community while remaining true to the brand. We are also extremely dedicated to giving back to our communities.  We regularly participate in local charitable initiatives and are actually launching a larger concept that we will be introducing later this year – I can’t share all of the details at this time but I’m thrilled to be working on such an amazing project.

Looking to the future, what’s next for Pressed? How do you continually evolve the market trend?

Last year we expanded to New York, New Jersey and Las Vegas and this year we’ll be opening additional stores in New York and more locations in existing and new markets including Hawaii and Washington to further support our mission. We’ll also be expanding the availability of Freeze, our vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free frozen treat that is made from only the ingredients in our juices.  It’s the perfect guilt-free summer (or anytime!) treat and is also a great healthy option for kids. I’m so excited for more people to have the chance to try it.  We’ll also be continuing to introduce new seasonal offerings to our menu.  We try to maintain the balance of experimenting with new products while also sticking to our core values and doing what we do best – creating delicious cold-pressed juices. As I mentioned, while our smoothies didn’t work, Freeze did and it’s important to us to continue to experiment but to never lose sight of who we are.  We’re fortunate in that because we are primarily a retail brand, we get so much face time with our customers, so we can really interact with them and get their feedback firsthand in our stores – their input is constantly influencing our new product offerings.

What does “Living Well” mean to you?

Pressed Juicery and The Chalkboard are an extension of myself. The whole idea around “Living Well” is this notion that none of us are perfect, but that all of us have so much to learn and also, so much to teach. If we each opened ourselves up to a little knowledge and self-improvement in all areas of our life– mental, physical, spiritual- the possibility for health in the most whole sense of the word would be limitless.

“Living Well” is really a simple concept. It’s about spending a few moments each day to set intentions, to make plans or cultivate small habits and ideas that make you feel good. It’s not about comparing yourself. No one’s life is as perfect as it appears. Our challenge isn’t to be complete, but to be kind to ourselves. A green juice a day changed my life in huge ways, but I recognize that that’s not the secret sauce for everyone– maybe it’s a mindfulness practice, going on a hike with your dog, a poem a day, cooking a beautiful meal, making thoughtful gifts for friends– whatever it is that makes you feel full– DO IT. It can be simple and not stressful, it just takes being gentle with ourselves and remembering that this is a ride full of ups and downs and the best we can do is to challenge ourselves to live honestly and gratefully.

Mom and business woman. What does the concept of ‘having it all’ mean to you?

Having it all is a myth– I always feel like I’m searching, which is part of the impetus to reach higher, to be better. Being a mother is the most life-altering, fulfilling thing I have ever done. It is my greatest teacher by far, and I always will put that first no matter what. But having this business makes being a mom a really interesting experience. Sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways.

The thing I’ve learned is that you can never be everything to everyone, and you do need to choose sometimes. For me that has meant calling on family, friends and colleagues to step in and help boost me up when I’m struggling in one area. They don’t say “it takes a village” for nothing. And I don’t take it for granted that I am blessed enough to be able to be involved with my children and to be involved in my business in ways that work with my life. It didn’t happen overnight – it takes constant compromise and flexibility. It takes a willingness to ask for help. I feel more powerful now than when I was trying to do it all on my own. It just never works.

Has this concept shifted from your early twenties till now? 

It’s constantly shifting, but to put it most simply, all of the things I’ve learned about balance and flexibility since that time were pretty much the opposite when I was in my early twenties. My main priority was proving myself, even if it meant being stressed out most of the time. In fact, in my mind a stressful lifestyle equaled ambition, so you can imagine how UNwell I felt. I left New York City when I was 25 and coming back to California, losing my mother and starting Pressed Juicery was all a part of my process in learning to live a more authentic, balanced, healthier life.

I had my first child just after my 27th birthday, and I had no idea what to expect. No one can prepare you for the joy, the all-nighters..the sacrifices you will make in the name of parenthood and just how much it redefines who you are. At the time, the company was young, not even a year old, and it was a roller coaster ride at home and at the office. But like I mentioned earlier, I had to learn how to ask for help, to delegate, and to make some pretty major choices about how I wanted to live my life. I still make those choices every day, but as I get older what changes the most is how much I continue to learn about myself. I’m finding that I take self-knowledge very seriously. Self-care, self-awareness, self-love – these things can seem selfish but they allow me to be a better wife to my amazing husband, a better mother, sister, daughter, business partner, friend. And since I’ve started doing the work, my first realization was that we are all doing the best we can, and that is enough. That is plenty.

This article originally appeared on Create and Cultivate.

You might also enjoy…