J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 52.
L: I just tried to push that fear so far away and I just say that like I deserve and I'm excited to go after my dream life.
Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.
J: Hey there, Jen here, and welcome back to Vibrant Happy Women. On our last episode, I spoke with Carol Egan all about getting healthier. And amazingly enough, she is joining us in the Vibrant Happy Women Academy starting today for the 2-week ‘Get healthier challenge’. And she has some levels so if you don't feel up to something really hard, she has a level 3 and level 2 and then all the way up to level 1 where it will be really eating healthier for 2 weeks. So we'd love to have you join us; that's at vibranthappywomenacademy.com. And today, I'll be talking with Loren Brill and she is the founder of Sweet Loren's, a natural cookie company and her story began, you know, over a decade ago when she developed Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of 22 and she was cured a year later, but the whole thing shook her up (which of course it would) and she decided to grab life by the horns and live fully; and she really does. She's a hatha yoga instructor and she has some great tips throughout this episode about really living the life you want. And one thing that struck me is that she even said she doesn't have room for negative people in her life, she has zero tolerance, and I thought that is a healthy boundary; zero tolerance for negative people. So let's go ahead and dive in and listen to Loren's story.
Loren Brill is a 32 year old New York City born and bred foodie and healthy lifestyle entrepreneur. She's the founder and CEO of Sweet Loren's, a cookie dough company founded on the promise of delicious taste and better-for-you ingredients. Loren is also a certified hatha yoga instructor and blogger for the Huffington Post. In free time, Loren loves to travel, laugh, have spontaneous adventures, swim in warm water (not cold, right?), and cook with friends, try new restaurants, do triathlons, paddleboard, wakeboard, ski, spin, paint, and drink good wine. Wow, you are eclectic, Loren, way to go.
J: Well, welcome to the show.
L: Thanks so much, great to be here.
J: We always start off our show with our guests’ favorite quotes, so which quote would you like to share with us today?
L: I think one of my favorite quotes, inspires me all the time is that, “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.”
J: Mm, so how have you applied that one in your life?
L: I apply it to everything I do really. I think that fear is really what holds us back most of the time from following our dreams or doing things that… you know, most of us when we sit down and like really focus on what… what our dream life could be. You could imagine it, you can tell it, but we're scared for some reason. So I think I just try to push that fear so far away and I just say that like I deserve and I'm excited to go after my dream life. And so I know for sure, if I don't go after it, there's no way it's going to happen, so I'm going to go for it and give it 100%. And every time I've done that, I've gotten my dream. So I just think, you know, dreams are out there and you're able to catch them, but you have to put the hard work in.
J: Yeah, that's right. And do you feel like the fear grows less over time or is it always just there and you have to keep pushing it away?
L: I do think that the fear is always there. I think that when you do something for the first time, it seems so scary and then you realize that you can do it and then that… it builds a confidence and then it's easy to do it a second time and a third time, but then you want to try something new and the fear comes up again. So I think that the fear is always there and I think… I do think sometimes your dreams get bigger and bigger. So even though, you know, you can have a proven track record that you can go after big things, you know, if you want bigger things, you know, that fear creeps up and I think that you have to let it empower. You have to be excited about the journey of going after your dreams.
J: Right, and let it empower you like you said. Well, let's dive into your low point; something hard for you that you've struggled with in the past, but you're still vibrant and happy despite it.
L: Sure. I mean, I think I can talk about really the catalyst for starting my business, Sweet Loren’s. I went through a really hard time, but it actually became the seed from which my business started. So I was a hatha yoga instructor when I was 18 so I've always been interested in health and wellness and kind of led this lifestyle. And then right after I graduated college, just 2 months after I graduated college, I was 22 years old, the lymph nodes in my neck got very swollen and I woke up one morning and it just didn't feel right and I went to my mom's doctor, who was an oncologist. And at 22 years old, I think you feel pretty invincible and I looked very healthy on the outside, and my doctor said to me, “Either you have nothing at all or you have Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
L: And I didn't even believe that I could possibly have Hodgkin's or a type of cancer. I didn't even Google it because there was just no way in my mind that that was my life. That's not how I ever envisioned my life, that's… you know, it just… it wasn't a fear that had even crossed. So I basically realized that, you know, took a month of testing, they found out that it was Hodgkin's lymphoma stage 2 and I would have to start chemo treatment immediately. And thankfully, I was totally cured after a year of treatment and doctor's appointments, but it changed my life forever. I started to look at the world in a much different way. I realized how important it was to really live life to the fullest every day and that it was our responsibility to kind of go after our dreams because life is so precious, and that food was in a huge part of the healing and energy process. And I realized that you really should take your life into your own hands too. My doctor who was amazing was, you know, really… nutrition wasn't what he taught and so I had to go on that journey on my own. And so the second I started treatment, I started to study nutrition and cut out anything processed or refined or hydrogenated, anything artificial, anything that really wasn't whole and natural. And I have such a sweet tooth. I've always had a huge sweet tooth and I eat a really healthy balanced diet, but a sweet tooth is the balance in that, but I don't want to eat anything processed or artificial when I want to indulge; doesn't mean I wouldn’t want that in my body anymore.
L: And so I really it's just out of a personal need, just going to have to create my own recipes if I wanted delicious cookies. And that's really how my business began. So I started to create my own recipes, other people started buying it, and I just realized that everyone I spoke to wanted healthier, delicious, conscious cookies. And so I created a cookie dough company so that anyone could buy our products in a supermarket and bake it fresh at home and have a great experience where they don't have to compromise on taste or ingredients.
J: Yum. So we're recording this close to dinnertime and of course, now my mouth is watering.
J: So we could find Sweet Loren's in any grocery store.
L: We're in several grocery stores, not any single one yet.
L: But we're in… sold in the refrigerated dairy section where other cookie dough's are sold in all Publix, Kroger supermarkets, Wegmans, Shop Right, Harris Teeter, Hannaford, The Fresh Market, Whole Foods in Southern California and Northeast area, and many other supermarkets. You can go to our website at sweetlorens.com…
L: … and punch your zip code into our store locator, and wherever supermarkets are close to you that carry our products will pop up. So it's s w e e t l o r e n s.com.
J: Wow, amazing.
J: So you're huge, so I'm trying to piece it together. I know you're 32, now so in 10 years, you battled cancer and overcame that and then you started this business, how did you grow it so fast? (Laughs)
L: That's sweet of you. I feel like it's actually taken eternity.
L: Well, it's a combination of happening organically and also just really finding something that I was passionate about and that I really wanted to turn into a business. So 22, got sick, the seed for Sweet Loren and started to grow, 23, it was cured. And worked in other companies for a couple years trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life; that's really what I say because…
L: … you know, I didn't know I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I didn't jump into Sweet Loren's immediately. But I did take some other jobs and realize how miserable I was working for someone else and how really precious this life is and how big of a story I felt like I had to tell. And then I had these gifts, these recipes, that it was almost my responsibility to find a way to get them into the marketplace and improve our food industry and create a brand that was reliable and conscious that the next generation could grow up on, you know, that people could rely on, that women could buy, that men, whoever has a sweet tooth could really trust. And so at 26, I entered a baking contest and won. And the judge came up to me and said, “You need to do something with this,” and this switch just went off in my head where I felt like this was what I was supposed to do with my life. And I quit my job and I started Sweet Loren's the next week and immediately, you know, I just realized that, in order to build a business from the ground up, you were going to have to hustle your butt off. And I don't think you can even explain that. I think it's like, you know, it's… imagine going 150 miles an hour, you know, 7 days a week; just it's all you think about. And so, but when it's something that you love and it's something that it starts growing and has the legs of its own and something that makes people really happy, it just is this magical combination that has its own driving force and you're just kind of there to guide it along and keep up with it and make sure that it stays on course. So I just emailed everyone I knew and I was like… my mom emailed everyone that she knew and, you know, it was like, “Loren’s starting a natural baked goods company, does anyone have any contacts?” And, you know, immediately some people replied and my first customer was a company that made healthy food for schools, and so I started making some cookies for them. And then I started to really study supermarkets in the food industry and I just got set up on a meeting with Whole Foods way before I had a packaged product, but I just wanted to pick their brain and to see what they were looking for. And they loved my tasting and they placed an order for cookie dough the very next day.
J: Yes, that's great. (Laughs)
L: Yeah. And that was awesome because that was a turning point to like having a real business…
L: … and being considered, you know, very trustworthy and I just jumped in. I learned how to work with factories and produce packaging and how to brand products. And a month after I launched in Whole Foods, I want a contest called ‘The Next Big Small Brand For Food’, and it was this big New York City food contest, and I won ‘The People's Choice Award’ and ‘The Next Big Small Brand’ and that was very validating because it showed a need in the marketplace and it showed that I could do it. And I think I needed to feel that because, when you're starting something at the very beginning, of course your family and friends are very sweet but, you know, I didn't want it to be about everyone just… you know, the people closest to me loving it, I wanted this to have a real impact on the industry.
L: And so… and the second I won that contest, we got national press. And I never realized that the story would be so important. I kind of never thought I'd even talk about being sick again because, “Why would anyone want to talk about a hard time? You know, it's not very appetizing when you're talking about cookies.” But I quickly learned that it was really authentic and it's what people really wanted to hear and it's the reason why I started the business and so I have to tell it.
J: Awesome. Well, that's quite a story. And so now, are you still growing and… and how's your business, you know, moving forward?
L: Yeah, absolutely. So we are super excited to be growing into more supermarkets across the country and introducing new products as well.
J: Oh, really? Like what?
L: We can't reveal yet.
L: But in the next couple months, we'll let you know, but some really exciting products. And if you sign up for our newsletter on our website, you'll be the first to hear about it.
J: So cool. Well, let's move forward, and what advice would you give to others who are struggling maybe with something similar or maybe with growing a business; any advice?
L: I think the best advice I can give is, you know, it's not about anyone else, it really is about you. It doesn't matter what you're going through, you have to find… I think you have to use that time where things aren't flowing maybe, you know, you feel like you're going through a hard time, use it a positive way to really get to know yourself, to really dig super deep (which some people never ever do in their life) and find out who you really are, what your dreams are, what your dream life is, what you're passionate about. And once you have that really clear vision, I think create really positive attitude and do everything you can and just surround yourself with uplifting good things. And that positivity and energy will create a life of its own that will help ride you forward I really think put you in, you know, your happy place. And I think that as long as you use the hard times as lessons learned, life becomes so much more delicious and interesting and can really put you on the right path. I mean, I can't say that I would want to wish, you know, the things that have happened to me upon myself, but I can say that my life is so much richer and deeper because of what's happened. It taught me so many lessons and put me on the path that is so authentic and feels… you know, I'm just very intentional with how I spend my time and what I want to do; and I think that that's a gift.
L: So I think it's really important though to surround yourself with positive energy and a positive attitude and… and be gentle on yourself; be gentle on yourself. Give yourself all the things that make you happy and really take care of yourself.
J: Mm-hmm, that's great advice. And are there any people that are still in your life that are kind of negative? Do you just limit those interactions or how do you handle that?
L: I really don't use anyone who's negative in my life.
L: I have zero tolerance.
J: You are my kind of girl.
J: I'm with you; I am with you (Laughs). But I knew I had to ask that question because I am asked that question all the time and I wondered what you would say. Zero tolerance; zero tolerance, people. (Laughs)
L: Yeah, I don't even know anyone like that anymore. (Laughs)
J: Perfect. And so what's exciting you or how are you living a vibrant and happy life today?
L: I'm super excited about a lot of things in my life. I think that what's helped me have a vibrant happy healthy life is really looking at life like it's a whole wheel, it's a whole pie, it's not just one thing. If I only focus on my business and ignored everything else, I wouldn't feel full and happy. So, to me, happiness is really having balance and fullness in every slice of my life. And so I take the time to give 100% to my business, then to my friends, then to myself. You know, the biggest thing that I think I'm working on this year is like finding my romantic partner. I haven't really put energy and time into that because I've been so focused on other things, but feels really good to be in a place where I'm like, “Oh, now I get to focus on that and put energy into that direction.” And I think that as long as you keep looking at all the aspects of your life that are important to you, then… and keep feeding it and nourishing and making smart decisions in it, then you can lead a really vibrant happy full life.
J: And do you feel like as you make one area of your life more balanced and vibrant happy that all the other areas come along for the ride?
L: Oh, in a certain way. I think everything takes work and things aren't… they're not… you know, it's not a copy and paste. So I work very, very hard on my business, on motivating our team, on finding the best people and creating the best products. That doesn't mean that my romantic life just like magically follows. I think you need to really make space and time for, you know, all the other parts of your life. But I do think that once you start growing parts of your life that are really amazing, like my business, like my friends, my family, travel, all the things that I love to do, you realize what makes you happy and that you're not going to sell for anything less. And so it becomes very easy to say yes a no to opportunities.
J: Right, you're not going to settle. Well, tell us something you're currently struggling with.
L: Right now, I would say we're currently struggling with… does it have to be business, personal, doesn't matter?
J: You personally, yeah.
L: Personally. Personally, I would say it's finding the right person to date.
L: I would say that I've had a lot of fun dating and it's been great because I've grown a lot, but it's the one area of my life that I haven't found my partner; like, my partner in crime. So I would say, I wouldn't call it a struggle in that it's something that's… you know, it seems unattainable, I think it's just… it's something that you can't just build yourself, right? Like, I'm trying to connect with another human being who also has dreams and a lifestyle and, you know, you have to find someone who you gel well with and create a lifestyle together with. And so I think that's been the one area that it doesn't matter how hard I like… you know, I can't build that; it has to come from someone else and we have to connect.
J: Right, right.
L: So that's the area I'm working on this year.
J: Yeah, where you're focusing. I just have this feeling that someone's going to email you from listening to this.
L: Well, you'll be at my wedding them.
L: I would be glad for that, more than anything.
J: Well, if they want to… no, I'm just kidding.
J: Where could they find you, Loren? (Laughs)
L: Yeah, email us. Email us at email@example.com if you have any suggestions of eligible bachelors.
J: This is great. Alright, tell us a habit that has contributed to your success.
L: I would say, waking up every day and really being grateful and having a clear head, whether that's like a really good workout for you or meditation, but really starting the day grateful with a clear head and strong, and then being able to prioritize. Every day, I do a priority list of what is most important that needs to get done that day; whether it's personal or business, whether it's about me or something I need to do with my team. And I really find that that is what helps get so much accomplished every day and it's a really great pattern, habit to get into. And every day just when you start off really strong and happy and healthy, you can kind of handle whatever comes that day, especially the really great attitude, and it makes life super enjoyable.
J: And a favorite easy meal.
L: Favorite easy meal. What I've been really into lately is making plantains; I love plantains. And baking them until soft and then kind of cutting them in the middle and then it's kind of stuffing them with whatever you'd like; so shredded chicken or shredded vegetables. And it's just a really easy and delicious and interesting meal.
J: Yum. I mean, I can't even imagine, but that sounds really good. So…
J: … I'm going to try it .
L: I love it; healthy and fresh and all the things that I love.
J: And your favorite kitchen gadget.
L: My favorite kitchen gadget would probably be a cast-iron skillet because I think it can cook steaks unbelievably, and then also, you can actually put our cookie dough in skillet and bake it in the oven and it turns into like a warm cookie cake.
J: (Gasps) Ooh.
L: And I serve that at dinner parties all the time, and just take it out of the oven and put like a scoop of ice cream on top and some berries, and then everyone just gets a spoon and can dig in and it's just… it's just pure happiness.
J: So fun, I love that idea; I'm going to do that. And your favorite book.
L: My favorite book would probably be Steve Jobs’ biography; it really inspired me.
J: Yeah, he had a vision, didn't he? I mean, he knew 30 years ago what the iPad would look like. (Laughs)
L: He was so, so dedicated. He was so dedicated to his vision and to really having no excuses to having an excellent, excellent product. And, you know, I super… and he was a hippie and on the inside.
L: And he had a hard childhood; he went through a lot of struggles. And so I just… I was very inspired by him.
J: Yeah, and the best advice you've ever received.
L: The best advice I think I've ever received, I'd say there are 2 things. One, my mom would say to me, “You've got to be strong.” And I didn't realize it at the time, but it really is the best advice. If you're strong mentally and physically, you can really get through anything; life becomes really a joy, you feel very empowered. And I also would say that Hoda Kotb once told me, “You don't scare me,” and that's just like the way she looked at life, like, “You don't scare me.” And I find that so empowering too because truly, we all deep down know what would our dream life would look like, what would make us beyond happy and grateful to be alive, and it's just fear that holds us back. And so, you know, I think we have to laugh at fear just like absolutely take on the responsibility of going forward with, you know, making our dreams come true.
J: And… and you said that was Hoda…?
L: Hoda Kotb, K o t b, she’s…
J: K o t b.
L: … on the Today Show.
J: Yeah, that's what I thought you meant, okay.
J: Well, you mentioned you got to be strong, I know people are just wondering, but what do you do to be physically and mentally strong? Is there just one little thing you do each day that helps with that?
L: I think it's really a training. Like, I've been… you know, I was the yoga instructor when I was 18, I've always been interested in… I've always been an athlete. And so I think that it's really important to take care of your body and to make it happy and healthy and work at its optimal level. And so everyone has a different body type and different… enjoys different types of exercises, so it's not one size fits all. But personally, I love being on the water; I love like waterskiing and paddleboarding and swimming. I also love triathlon so I really love to run and to bike. And I think that, you know, it's fun just for me to try different things and be physically challenged in different ways, but I think that if you can find something physically active that really you get excited about, you only get better than what you do.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
L: And so it becomes, I think, really enjoyable over time.
L: And, you know, I always try to meditate and just really clear my head or really connect with my gut and with my instincts and where I'm at at the moment and just try to honor it and take care of it, you know?
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
L: And I think that's the best thing you can do.
J: I agree with both; very good. Well, I want to tell our listeners they can find links to what we've been discussing, to Loren's website and those delicious cookies and also her favorite book and other things by going to our show notes page at jenriday.com/52. And now, my favorite question, Loren, the happiness formula. If you had to create a 3 to 5 part formula of things that really make you the happiest, what would you put there?
L: I would say firstly, digging deep and listening to your gut; combine that with honoring your dreams, going for it 100% with a great positive attitude and making sure that your life is full.
J: Hmm, that's great; perfect. Well, one final thing before we say goodbye, give our… our listeners a challenge; a parting challenge.
L: I would say, I challenge anyone listening to let go of fear, to really dig deep and look at their life and see if there's any area where they would want to change. And wake up tomorrow and have zero excuses to not go after it, to really just throw fear aside. And I think you'll be really pleasantly surprised with what you find.
J: Great advice. Well, thank you so much for being on the show, Loren. This was really inspiring for me and I appreciate it.
L: Awesome, thank you so much.
J: I love how Loren's living her dreams and spending time on the things she loves and I was especially impressed, like I said at the beginning, about her zero tolerance policy for negativity; pretty cool. And it made me think of a meditation I created all about having healthy boundaries, and I want to give you a copy of that. You can get that by going to jenriday.com/meditate and that will come in an email, and enjoy; it's 10 minutes long and you can do it any morning. And, you know, why do we need healthier boundaries? Well, you know, batteries protect our energy and there are always those people in our lives that leave us feeling drained or frustrated or sad. And establishing that boundary will help us in those interactions. Now, granted, we can't cut off every negative person in our lives, especially if they're family, but we can establish those boundaries to preserve our energy. So, again, grab that free meditation at jenriday.com/meditate. Alright, make it a great week and I will see you next time. Take care.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com.