Women in Wellness: Follow your Interests and Make a Change, with Jen Berliner
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jen Berliner, CEO of Medlie
I believe that people are here in order to make a bigger impact in the world — and with my book, ‘Make an Impact’, I had the chance to prove that hundreds of people are using their influence to improve other people’s lives.
As the founder of the Health Bloggers Community, my mission is to support people with growing their passion into a business — and so many women are building businesses empires all over the world.
This series is a chance to spotlight some of these women.
“I’m super grateful to my parents for instilling the belief in me from an early age that I should follow what I was interested in, and that being good at a related job would naturally follow.”
Jen Berliner, CEO of Medlie, a leading fresh vegetable snacking brand working to make truly healthy food more convenient and more accessible to all. Berliner joined Medlie (formerly ZÜPA NOMA) in late 2016 from PepsiCo, bringing strong experience in growth strategy and insights-driven innovation from her work across multiple beverage brands. She has also consulted for Google Food, and earned a B.A. in Political Science and French from Vanderbilt University and an MBA at the Yale School of Management.
Hello Jen, thank you for joining us! Could you please share with us when it all began?
I’m fascinated by how people make choices around food, and passionate about offering delicious, affordable, truly nutritious options that will get people excited about making healthy decisions for themselves and their loved ones — even as our lives all seem to get busier and more complicated.
Prior to building Medlie, I worked at PepsiCo, managing and launching innovation for multiple massive beverage brands, but I always knew I wanted to do something much smaller, more agile, and with a product (and nutrition facts) that I really believed in.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
- Stay active throughout the workday: my favorite way to do this is by walking outside during conference calls!
- Give up on the idea of inbox zero: I do my best to stay on top of it, but also know that an empty inbox isn’t what drives success for me personally or professionally. I try to respond to the most important stuff, and in batches, so that it doesn’t totally take over my day!
- Get veggies in as early and as often as you can: I like to have a Medlie Veggie Drink or Veggie Shot with breakfast on work days so I know I’ve done something nutritious for myself, no matter how crazy the rest of the day gets.
Can you share the interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I made a huge transition a few years ago when I quit my job at Pepsi (one of the biggest food and beverage companies in the world!) and moved to San Francisco with the goal of getting into the food startup world. It was a big, scary jump, and I was really worried about finding not just any job, but one that felt really perfect and fit the many criteria I’d been mentally building out over the last few years.
I had an intense spreadsheet where I was tracking lots of companies I was interested in, as well as contacts I had in the space, which was helpful as I had a million coffee meetings and little by little began to learn more about the startup world and where I thought I could fit within it.
A few months later, I did wind up with my dream job — as the first employee of Medlie, when the company was just a few months old!
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I guess I’m fortunate that I don’t have any big mistake that I can point to in my career — I think everything has been a series of testing and learning, always trying to do a little bit more and reach into areas that seemed interesting. If anything, my biggest mistakes have revolved around taking on too much and overcommitting to too many exciting projects, leaving me scrambling for time to get them all done well.
When it comes to health and wellness, how are you helping people making a bigger impact in the world?
Towards the end of college, I discovered the field of behavioral economics, which involves understanding why we make the (often irrational) choices that we do. I’ve been obsessed ever since with how this applies to things like the choices we make about whether to exercise, and how to eat, and that has really led me into my current role — where I couldn’t be more excited to be building a healthy food brand working to make some of these small daily choices a little more fun, delicious and easy for people!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It might sound cliche, but I’m super grateful to my parents for instilling the belief in me from an early age that I should follow what I was interested in, and that being good at a related job would naturally follow. I wouldn’t have guessed ten years ago that I’d be where I am now, but in hindsight, the path is perfectly clear!
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
A movement for morning movement — whether it’s a five-mile run or just some quick stretching, I’m a huge believer in the idea that this activity has a lasting positive impact all day long. I’m also a huge fan of acupuncture and think everyone should try it!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I hope that what we’re doing at Medlie is bringing goodness into the world by spreading delicious, organic veggie love! I have also been lucky to have many fantastic mentors in my career so I ensure that I’m always prioritizing spending time with people who have been on my teams in the past or who reach out to me for guidance, particularly female MBA students also interested in the natural food world.
What is your “I Thing I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Early in my career at Pepsi, a boss told me to “always assume best intentions” — a simple idea that has really resonated with me ever since. Pepsi is a massive company where the marketers running brands need to work in close partnership with other functions like R&D and Finance.
It can be easy to take it personally if someone doesn’t agree with your approach, but this idea always allowed me to reframe the debate and assume that they’re providing feedback grounded in their expertise which they think will ultimately make the project most successful, not just trying to throw a wrench in your plans!
And this lesson also really applies in my current world — startup life. Even though my team is much (MUCH) smaller, we work with many outside partners like agencies, other brands, and influencers, and I always come back to this idea when it feels like someone is being negative about plans we’ve worked hard on, or a partner is trying to change course last minute.
Do you have any “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would they be?
I have so much admiration for what Katerina Schneider is building at Ritual, particularly with her focus on ingredient integrity, simple efficacy and transparency. Plus, the brand is gorgeous! I also really love that the majority of the team and board are female.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Sustainability is incredibly important to me personally, and to Medlie — and I view it as very closely linked to environmental changes. I feel very strongly about the impact that small changes can have in aggregate, while we all continue trying to work towards more systematic, large-scale change. At Medlie, we use biodegradable shipping materials and buy imperfect, organic vegetables (to reduce food waste) as much as possible.
About the author:
Fab Giovanetti is a business mentor, published author, influencer-specialist, best known as the founder of the Health Bloggers Community and co-founder of the Register of Health and Wellness Influencers. Serial start-up founder and professional troublemaker, she is obsessed with avocados and helping people making an impact in health and wellness. Sounds like you? Get daily tips on how to grow your influence via the HBC magazine.