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Sep 20, 2018

Bringing Convenience to Good Nutrition: Q&A with Anique Russell, Too Good Eats

Anique Russell left her job teaching special education in Columbus Schools to turn to social entrepreneurship dedicated to teaching parents about good nutrition through providing healthy snacks and nutrition education. With her husband she launched Too Good Eats in 2016.

Targeted at families and moms in the 25 to 35 age group and operating out of 1400 Food Lab, they sell ice pops and smoothie pouches made from fresh fruits and vegetables with no added sweeteners, additives, or water. Sold online in subscription boxes with varying combinations of flavors, their 100% real fruit and vegetable nutritional pops and pouches to help parents sneak in fruit and veggie combinations frozen to lock in optimal nutrients, freshness, and taste.

We caught up with Anique as she began orientation to begin the MBA program at Fisher College of Business at OSU.

What inspired you to start a social enterprise rather than a conventional business?
Growing up, many of my family members suffered from chronic health issues primarily from bad eating habits. Snacking is a huge part of our everyday lives. When I became a mom, my husband and I were determined to give our son a healthy start and influence others to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

How do you promote healthier lifestyles?
Obviously, our products are intended to show that nutritious ingredients can taste as good or better than junk food. We do demonstrations at farmers markets on how to make homemade, healthy baby food and I am a guest chef for Local Matters in their healthy cooking classes. Working with a licensed nutritionist, we have created a web site that provides s recipes and resources intended to create an informed consumer.

Starting a social business is hard. What adjustments have you made since you started?
First, I had to learn patience and to give myself permission to let my vision change. We started with offering only our ice pops and mostly at farmers markets. While ice pops are still our main product, farmers markets are summer events and the retail market for frozen products during the winter months is too weak for ice pops to sustain our business. So we started selling online subscription boxes to create recurring, year-round sales and we expanded our product line to offer our fruit and vegetable pouches, which are a “smoothie” in a convenient squeeze pouch.

Did you also find you had to change how you created your social impact and delivered on your mission?
Our mission is to change the nutritional value of the snacks families choose by providing delicious, high quality, and convenient naturally organic foods that will be enjoyed by the entire family. Our original model was a BOGO (for every ice pop or pouch sold we would give one away to a family suffering from food insecurity). That model didn’t quite reach the impact we wanted because the cost and complexity of distributing the free products prevented us from giving away the amount we wanted and still survive as a for profit business.

Our subscription model is still strong and we’d like to improve our giving in that area but we are still brainstorming on how to do it. We are looking for a partner, likely a nonprofit, that can be the distributor of our products to needy families so that we have just the cost of providing the product for free.

Until you find that nonprofit partner, how are you delivering your social impact?
I thought back to how I used to sell novelty items as a kid with my parents and how I am an entrepreneur today because of watching my parents be their own boss and employ others. That motivated me! We have an amazing healthy snack company and my husband and I can use our voices to teach entrepreneurial skills and healthy living while offering our products to prove that healthy is delicious! So this summer we hired our first two Columbus City School interns who worked with us over the summer selling fruit & veggie pops and learned about goal setting and what it takes to operate a company. Using my experience as a teacher, we gave them exposure to what entrepreneurship entails and offered intense coaching on setting and achieving goals, how to tell a mission story, how to encourage customers to buy, and the soft skills required to be a reliable and productive employee anywhere. We would like to triple the number of interns in 2019.

How do you know you are making a difference?
We know we are empowering families to make healthy choices and they love the convenience and the education we provide. We have to be healthy individuals first if we are to genuinely give to someone else. That is why we say “Eat and Live Too Good.”

Learn more about Too Good Eats by viewing the social impact profile in SocialVentures’ online Marketplace.