10 Year Anniversary Q & A with Elizabeth Stein
It’s the Purely Elizabeth 10 Year Anniversary and to honor this momentous occasion, we interview Founder + CEO, Elizabeth Stein, to touch on big achievements, how she has seen the company evolve and where she sees it heading these next 10 years. We also hear from Purely Team members who have been with the company since the beginning. Happy 10 Year Anniversary Purely Elizabeth!
What has been your most memorable moment since starting PE?
There are two most memorable moments since starting Purely Elizabeth and they are both oddly related to the New York subway. The first moment was the morning the DailyCandy email blast went out featuring our muffin and pancake mix (about a week into being in business). I was heading downtown to my sisters apartment and as I got on the subway I saw the stream of orders rolling in. I started hysterical crying. I was overwhelmed with this emotion of joy as I had a very clear feeling that my life was about to forever change.
The second time I cried on the subway was in 2013 when I was scrolling through emails and read an email from Whole Foods Global. It stated that they were pushing out our granola nationally, from the 4 regions we were currently in (something that rarely happens at WFM). I vividly remember tears starting to stream down my face, as I realized this was going to absolutely change the trajectory of the business.
What has been your biggest achievement as the founder of PE?
Celebrating our 10 year anniversary feels like a pretty huge achievement given that most businesses fail in their first few years. But, the biggest piece of that achievement is having the foundation of an incredible team. I feel so much gratitude in being able to employ and create the office culture that we have.
What advice can you give someone who is looking to start their own company/business?
One of the luckiest aspects of starting Purely Elizabeth was that I got thrown into the launch immediately by getting great PR. I didn’t have a business plan, I didn’t delay because all my ducks weren’t in a row and I didn’t allow myself to get in my own way. When I talk to other entrepreneurs I remind them of this. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect in order to start. Ask a million questions from people in your industry and, step by step, you will figure it out.
What do you think has made Purely Elizabeth so successful?
I think there are two main buckets that have made Purely Elizabeth successful since launch. First is the product. We’ve always created innovative products that taste delicious; they aren’t “me too” products. Second, we’ve stood out as a brand, with an authentic voice and a real person behind every piece of the business.
Where do you see PE in the next 10 years?
I’ve always envisioned Purely Elizabeth as a lifestyle brand – extending to additional products and categories, and fully supporting our consumers along their wellness journey.
How has PE evolved as a company in the past few years?
The past few years have been such a crazy growth phase for the business. Since moving from NYC to Boulder 5 years ago, we’ve outgrown two offices spaces, increased our head count from 3 employees to 24, went from one co-manufacturer to four, took on investment from an incredible partner and went from the #9 granola brand in the Natural channel to #1. We grew from regional retailers to being national in Whole Foods, Sprouts, Kroger, Target, Walmart and everything in between.
How has the PE philosophy changed since you first started the company?
When I first started Purely Elizabeth I knew I wanted the brand to be more than just a food brand. I wanted to educate and support our consumers and employees on their health and happiness. This was on our packaging from day one. With our recent rebrand we’ve brought what I call my “Purely Pillars” to life on our packaging, which gives the consumer more tangible support on their unique wellness journey. As we continue to grow, I look forward to making this an even more important aspect of what we do.
Purely Elizabeth wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of a strong team, and we wanted to hear from a few team members who have been with the company since the early days and ask them a few questions about their experience working at Purely Elizabeth.
David Dusza – VP of Sales
David (far right) has been working on the Purely Team for 8.5 years.
What has been your biggest achievement for the sales team so far?
In May 2013, Purely Elizabeth was selected for a national plus out for our four Ancient Grain Granola Skus at Whole Foods Market. Six months later in October 2013, Purely Elizabeth was selected for a national plus out for our three ancient grain oatmeal bags at Whole Foods Market. These two national plus outs placed all 7 of these skus into every UNFI distribution center nationally and put Purely Elizabeth on the map. At the time, and even to this day, I have not heard of two national plus outs within a six month period for a brand.
Mark Dusza – VP of Sales
Mark (upper left) has been working on the Purely team for 8.5 years.
What has been the most rewarding part of being a part of Purely Elizabeth, specifically being a part of the sales team, for the past 8.5 years?
The most rewarding part of being on the Purely Elizabeth sales team has been watching the sales growth year over year. And especially the generous celebrations that Elizabeth hosted after each landmark.
In my first three years Purely Elizabeth experienced 230-260% YOY growth; not that unusual for a hot trending brand. Most “experts” thought we would soon drop to single digit growth. On the contrary, from 2014 to 2018 we continued to grow at an average annual rate in excess of 65%.
The most rewarding sales event for me occurred in 2013. I believe this was the breakthrough for Purely Elizabeth and complete validation that Elizabeth had created a winning product.
During the Whole Foods Round 8 Granola Review we were notified in May that we were getting a national ACV gap fill into all stores on 3 SKUS (Original, Pumpkin Cinnamon and Cranberry Pecan). What this meant was that Whole Foods corporate was forcing all of their stores nationally to carry those three items. At the time that was an additional 160+ stores per SKU; more than doubling our distribution at our #1 customer. To put this into perspective, during the 10 years leading up to this event I had been involved in over 1000 Whole Foods reviews with 100 different brands, and only one other brand had ever received a national ACV gap fill. By the end of 2013 this single event propelled Purely Elizabeth into the top 10 granola brands nationally in the natural grocery channel. By the end of 2014 Purely Elizabeth was #1.
Garrett McBride – VP of Operations
Garrett (middle left) has been working on the Purely team for 5 years.
What has been your favorite product to create and why?
My favorite product to create was probably the grain-free granola family because of the challenges involved in making those elevated ingredients come together in a harmonious balance to make an extremely tasty and clustered product. The proof of that challenge is in the fact that no other brands have been able to do it well!
Julie Lengton – Quality Assurance Manager
Julie has been working on the Purely Team for 8 years.
What has been the most memorable/crazy experience for you since starting at Purely Elizabeth 8 years ago?
The craziest and most memorable experience in my 8 years working here has to be moving out to CO. I had only visited Boulder once before agreeing to make the move but the little I knew about this town made me so excited for a big change. 5 years later it’s very clear that this was a great decision for the business and I still personally feel so lucky for the opportunity!
Caroline Caligari – Creative Design Manager
Caroline (left) has been working on the Purely Team for 8 years.
After 8 years of working for Purely Elizabeth, how have you seen the brand evolve and what has been your favorite project?
When I first started at Purely Elizabeth the brand was very much in its infancy. With a total of 3 people in the company and next to no budget, we had to learn to navigate the natural foods world with an incredibly scrappy marketing strategy!
Over the last 8 years, I’ve been lucky to be a part of Purely Elizabeth growing and finding its personality. I’ve loved helping to dial in our brand aesthetic and voice and to see that executed across our packaging and marketing. While we still have a small team and excel at being scrappy, it’s really fun to be able to execute on big ideas.
My favorite project was our limited edition holiday granola that we launched in 2018. We had always wanted to do a limited edition product, so it was really exciting bringing it to our fruition!
Happy 10 Year Anniversary Purely Elizabeth!
Look out for exciting updates and new products coming soon!