It has long been discussed that the cavalier nature of some of the food chains in this country, with their deep-fried commercials, and their ridiculously high, and artery-negating, fattening and calorically-debilitating fare, why they should even be allowed to continue advertising is beyond most of us. Essentially they are like legal drug dealers, and they have a massive group of customers who are also adding to the collective tipping of the country-wide scale, as it were, and where obesity is really reaching pandemic status.
Finally some clever college students, who grew tired of the nutritionally-subpar options around their campus, took action. Nicholas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru and Jonathan Neman all decided to start “Sweetgreen,” a farm-to-table startup that celebrated its first store in Georgetown, even before these founders left their dorm rooms! They realized that most “salad” options are very unhealthy, ladled with fattening dressing, vegetables that have been trucked across numerous state lines, leading to a confluence of events where even a healthy choice was somehow dubious. All they wanted was easy access to truly healthier food, and so they set out, all sons of entrepreneurs, to do just that.
They are not just about making a nice salad, but they are also about sustainability. Their business plan has not changed since its inception, however they have added to it. The fact remains they have not gotten away from their original mission: fresher, healthier food and supporting local farmers. They way they treat their employees, the way the treat the farms where they buy their produce, and the communities where they build their stores, are all benefiting from their clever and nutritionally-sound altruistic venture.
Nathaniel Ru lives a type of nomadic life, moving around quite a bit as his company grows. Having an apartment that he shares with the another cofounder of Sweetgreen, Jonathan Neman, in Washington, D.C., they also have shared apartments in Los Angeles and New York. One of the things Mr. Ru likes about his apartments are the plants, which seems terribly congruous! In addition, the New York apartment, where they like to have meetings with their teams, in addition to throwing great parties, has a dining room table that comfortably seats 8, allowing enough space for all of their guests. They like having others around, and having open exchanges as their company grows.
Mr. Ru and the other founders have likened their business model and company to the Apple business model, in that they think about the “why” before they think about the “what.” The idea was to make things that are beautiful and simple to use. For this reason, with each additional store, Mr. Ru is committed to making sure they live up to the company’s core values.
Keeping it real, and creating stores that typify a lifestyle brand, is what Mr. Ru saw with his vision for Sweetgreen. Mr. Ru also thought that having an annual music festival, bringing together supporters, customers and investors, was a nice way to celebrate their success. Starting from a few speakers in front of their D.C. flagship store on weekends, this musical connection grew to what is now a festival. Mr. Ru seems to be blessed with the ability to give the people what they want, and to definitely give them what they need. Hopefully they will eventually have more stores than leading fast-food retailers, and at this point, Mr. Ru is well on his way to seeing that happen.