Healthy To A Hundred: Steele Smiley of Crisp & Green and Stalk & Spade On 5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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To be clear, I would never claim to be an authority on anything. I am a passionate person though — certainly around healthy living, anti-aging, and making the best decisions for your body — and I have a lot of advice that I am happy to share on the things that have helped me stay very young at 45 years old. I’ve had the opportunity to serve customers in two different categories of wellness: fitness and healthy eating. Through my career, I’ve had the opportunity to serve millions of guests in 25 countries and I’m thankful that my products and services have reached a global audience more than once. Crisp & Green is well on its way to being a global brand, which we’re very excited about.

The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Steele Smiley.

After selling Steele Fitness in 2013, a Midwest-based mobile personal training company that was scaled substantially from 2002–2013, entrepreneur Steele Smiley — who has built, sold, managed and invested in successful business entities worth $300 million over the past decade — opened the first Crisp & Green location in 2016 in Minnesota. It’s a fast-casual restaurant that specializes in scratch-made and customizable salads, grain bowls and smoothies. Today, the wildly popular healthy food chain has spread across the Midwest and Southwest, with over 225 locations open or in development across 25 states, including Texas, Colorado and Florida. The brand provides its valued customers with holistic programming and complimentary fitness classes including yoga, bootcamps, and more.

Smiley’s latest healthy food eatery, Stalk & Spade, opened its debut location in Minnesota in April 2021 and is the first all- plant based franchisable burger chain in the country. Over the past year, the Stalk & Spade franchise saw two additional Minnesota storefronts open doors, with nine additional locations — including Miami and New York — to open in late 2022/ early 2023.

Through The Steele Smiley Foundation, the entrepreneur prioritizes efforts to give back to a variety of organizations such as Every Meal, No Dog Left Behind, and Angel Foundation by donating meals, funds, and wellness programming to local communities. Smiley’s motivation to work hard is driven by the ability to give back to others which brings him the most joy and satisfaction in life.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Honestly, I never believed I would be a consumer-based entrepreneur. I was a classically trained investment banker, so my entire background was prepped to spend time on Wall Street, but I ended up running two large consumer companies — one in the fitness space and now one in the fast-casual restaurant space, Crisp & Green. I also recently started a healthy, plant-based eatery, Stalk & Spade, which has been very exciting to see come to life. It’s all been quite a departure from my initial vision in life, but life is always full of curve balls. The key is just to keep rolling with it and embrace every opportunity that comes your way.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Over the course of 20 years, there have been a number of wonderful stories in my career. I would say the way in which the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the restaurant sector is a major one, though. Instead of recoiling, surrounding the business with protection and being less aggressive, we pivoted in the other direction. My executive staff came together to create new product and we pivoted our business to be more takeout oriented in order to give ourselves the opportunity to be competitive, not knowing what would happen the next day or even the next week. The restaurant and takeout business, specifically in the fast casual sector, went up 10x — which we had a hunch might happen. Instead of looking at a difficult situation as the end, we thought of it as the beginning. We went from being a small company with less than 10 stores pre-pandemic, to having 225 stores in 25 states post-pandemic. That macro event that changed the earth in so many ways was also the beginning of what my restaurant business would become today.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

For me, it’s my father. My father started as the editor of a newsletter for a small company and 30 years later became a senior leader of US West, which divested from a company that everyone knows today as AT&T. I watched him achieve great success over a 30-year period, growing from a very modest position to a very successful leadership position. So, although he is not an entrepreneur, his experience in dealing with different types of situations and challenges has been invaluable for me to observe. As my own business has grown, I look to him for advice often — not just business advice, but personal advice. For me, without him, there’s no chance I would be where I’m at today.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The first trait is certainly honor and doing the right thing. There are many ways to cut corners in business, but ever since I was a young entrepreneur, I held a very different perspective. To this day I believe there is no such thing as cutting corners. You need to do the right thing, no matter how hard it is. Ultimately, I believe there is a ledger being kept and those who do the right thing will end up with a better result.

Loyalty is another very important trait, not just with people you work with but with family members and the people you love. True success in life is about being loyal and making sure the people you care about know they can count on you through the good and bad.

The third trait that is critically important is humbleness. As an entrepreneur, you can have a really good week, a really good month, a really good year — but always cyclically. There are times when things aren’t as great, so it is very important to not be so high on the high moments, or low on the low moments, and truly stay humble along the way. This is imperative not just with your public-facing persona, but with your value system and making sure you’re appreciative of the things you have.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about health and longevity. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

To be clear, I would never claim to be an authority on anything. I am a passionate person though — certainly around healthy living, anti-aging, and making the best decisions for your body — and I have a lot of advice that I am happy to share on the things that have helped me stay very young at 45 years old. I’ve had the opportunity to serve customers in two different categories of wellness: fitness and healthy eating. Through my career, I’ve had the opportunity to serve millions of guests in 25 countries and I’m thankful that my products and services have reached a global audience more than once. Crisp & Green is well on its way to being a global brand, which we’re very excited about.

Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests in search of the “elixir of life,” a mythical potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has your search for health, vitality, and longevity taken you on any interesting paths or journeys? We’d love to hear the story.

The path is individualized by each person’s unique journey. When it comes to my personal health and running a successful business, the same rule applies: make adjustments all the time. It is critically important to make any adjustments needed on a dynamic basis — and as fast as you can — to fix anything that may not be headed in the right direction. What most people have a hard time with is information about their health or business that may not be positive but is vital in order to make real changes for the better life you want to live. Energy levels in your forties are not the same as in your twenties, but that can be mitigated by making simple lifestyle changes. If you’re willing to make sacrifices, you can live a high quality of life in your forties and fifties, just as you did in your twenties. In my case, I have more energy now than I did in my twenties simply because I’m making educated decisions with what I put in my body, the timing of when I eat, and how foods react in my body. If you’re willing to do the work, you can certainly have the highest quality of life possible.

Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? (Please share a story or an example for each)

The first is love. It’s very important that you not only have family but someone in your life — a partner, a friend — that you love and who loves you back. The second is community. Whether it’s a social group or a club, you need to have some level of interactivity with other people. Thirdly, you need some sort of belief in a higher power. For me, I have a very strong faith, so it’s very important that I keep that front and center in everything that I do. Number four is optimism. It is very easy to be jaded in life as you have curve balls thrown your way, which, as an entrepreneur, I experience almost every day. You must have an optimistic view on the world and whatever challenges come your way, try to find a positive outcome. Number five is health and wellness. You have to make sure to take care of yourself and your body. When you nurture your best self, you’re able to show up best for the people you love. It all goes full circle.

Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?

SS: It’s been said that happiness lies in your ability to reconcile with what is, versus what you expected to happen. If you have the ability to accept the reality of what is actually happening, versus the plan that you had in mind, you’re going to live a much happier life. I am just as guilty as anyone else who does the opposite — you have an expectation and have a hard time accepting an alternative outcome. But true happiness lies in the ability to adjust to unexpected outcomes, whether it’s plans with business, your health, your love life, or family dynamics. It’s all about making those adjustments and being content and grateful for whatever the outcome may be.

Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this nature vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?

What a great question. I honestly believe the answer is both. There’s no doubt that genetics do have a level of impact on not only your body, but your potential quality of life. But you also have a large amount of control over how you choose to live your life. I’m a big believer that you’re born with whatever you have, but the choices you make along the way have the ability to shape your outcome more than anything else. Those who are willing to make substantial, impactful moves to create a better life are going to have a better life. Those who don’t are going to have a much lower quality of life. It’s that simple.

Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?

As an entrepreneur, I have a setback every single week. I can’t remember a week where there was not a negative impact on something. That “negative impact” though is based on things going according to my plans, versus the reality of what actually happened. People tend to get caught up in a negative mindset when things don’t go their way. I always try to remind myself of this, and the people I love and trust will remind me as well. Timing isn’t always linear and things aren’t always going to work out in the “perfect way”. It is very important to readjust your expectations, make the proper adjustments where you can, and keep marching forward. It’s all about continuing to move down the path of life with optimism rather than letting the challenges of life beat you down.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“The biggest hurdle is rejection. Any business you start, be ready for it. The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is the successful people do all the things the unsuccessful people don’t want to do. When 10 doors are slammed in your face, go to door number 11 enthusiastically, with a smile on your face.” — John Paul DeJoria

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Give back. Quit looking at items as if you’ll be able to take them with you into your next life. Enjoy the things that make you happy. Surround yourself with whatever it is you love and give the rest to people who need it. There’s a greater intention set in one’s life — and therefore a greater result — when you wake up with the idea that you’re here to help others. I strive to work on that every day and it’s something I think about often. People who wake up daily with a gratitude mindset and the intention to help others are going to be more successful in life than those who wake up with an ungrateful, selfish mindset.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

My love and passion are largely spread through my brands and their social channels, which you can keep up with best on Instagram: @CrispAndGreen, @StalkAndSpade. I also have a large presence on LinkedIn, where I post on a regular basis, and through the press, which has allowed me to share the story of my work in really great ways. I’m very grateful for that.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head, heart, and gut— in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor