Joining the Juice Society
By Katherine Cox
Photography by Leslie Hodge
It may sound like a contradiction to hear that a woman who owns a health-conscious wellness brand that hocks healthy juices and nutrition as a medical cure is also a fan of pizza. But if you follow Danielle Sobel, founder of Juice Society on Instagram, it will be no surprise at all.
“It’s not about restriction,” Danielle explains; “it’s about doing things that make you feel good, and if that means a slice of pizza sometimes, then that’s okay.”
Danielle started creating juices as a way to integrate healthier choices into her own lifestyle after college. From a young age, she suffered from debilitating eczema on her skin, and even worse migraines starting at the age of 14. She recognized that her diet had an effect on both conditions, often to a negative degree, especially in college when she was partying and making poor food choices. She was on a slew of medicines to control both conditions, although it didn’t always work.
After a particularly difficult migraine, she started researching nutrition to see if she could try to manage her conditions through diet rather than pills. She decided to make a small change to see if she could add in one healthy addition to her diet: juice.
Using her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Evan’s juicer, Danielle started blending the juices of different fruits and vegetables to see if adding anything made her feel better. Eventually she also started eliminating foods and cutting things out, but never in a way that felt too restrictive.
“That’s actually a big part of Juice Society now,” she says. “Wellness does not equal perfection.”
Continuing on her own wellness journey, she took a yearlong course at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, hoping to learn more about how she could help heal her own medical issues through diet. The program was meant to teach students how to be life coaches for others, but that wasn’t Danielle’s original aim.
“I went through this long process and during that time I started feeling a lot better,” she says. “I slowly started seeing my symptoms diminish and I wanted to go back to learn more about it.”
At the time, very few people were using Instagram, and she started posting images of her juices. Her classmates and followers started to notice and ask for recipes. And that was when she realized she could not only help others through the vessel of beverages and juice; she could possibly make a living off of it, too.
She bought a new cold press juicer, built a website with the help of a former colleague, and started selling organic, glass-bottled, cold-pressed juices via subscription plan from her own kitchen, using Instagram as her main marketing tool.
“We slowly started gaining a lot of traction and people were really excited about it,” Danielle says, attributing the excitement to Juice Society’s novel approach to wellness. “I think it was very different than what you see right now.”
Although Danielle knew that she wanted to start her own business, and had an inkling she could help others through her knowledge, she was slow to start launching Juice Society. “When I first started I created recipes for six months before I launched it,” she says, “because I was trying to price them out to make sense in a business.” Making small batches of juice for yourself at home is relatively simple, she says; but when you start doing it for a business, organic fruits and vegetables can get expensive fast. “You have to be smart,” she says.
Danielle had a lot of business experience to build on, thanks to an undergraduate education in advertising and marketing and several years spent in the start-up lifestyle. She had helped a small exercise studio in their marketing and had worked with them to set up a retail segment as well. She asked lots of questions about every aspect of the business, learning everything she possibly could. “I was like a sponge,” she says.
Looking back, Danielle realizes that most of her adult life had been preparing her to be an entrepreneur. She had known since she was a teenager that she wanted to start a business, although it wasn’t because she had seen any sort of entrepreneurial spirit in her parents. While she knew owning your own business could be a grind, she didn’t think she could handle the 9 to 5 lifestyle that her parents had.
“I just knew it wasn’t for me,” she says. “I was very rebellious. I was always asking a lot of questions. I was always challenging authority.”
Even though she knew she had the drive within her to succeed as an entrepreneur, she says she was still terrified to launch Juice Society. “There's a part of me that was confident in it because I believed so much in the product and in the overall mission of what I wanted to do,” she explains, “because I saw how it could affect me and I thought: ‘This could really help a lot of people.’”
Even with that confidence and the drive to help others, there was still the lingering fear that no one would buy her juice or, worse, the healing message and lifestyle that drove her recipes. “I think that's why I spent so long testing recipes,” Danielle says.
Luckily for Juice Society and health-conscious people in Austin and everywhere, Danielle had a very supportive husband and friend group to push her to move ahead.
“I think it's really important, especially in those early times, to surround yourself with people that are pushing you forward,” she says. While it’s good to have people being realists and asking if you’re sure you want to do it, the ones who tell you to go for it are the most important to getting your dream off the ground.
It helped that Evan was financially-minded, too, and kept reminding her that she had to pay some attention to the numbers. “You want to make sure the experience is good, the product is on point, that you have sales coming in the door,” Danielle says. But you make the sure the price point makes sense, or none of that matters.
Evan was working a traditional office job when they met, and Danielle’s experience inspired him to start his own business and get away from that same 9 to 5 grind she had run from. “It's very fun because we support each other,” she says about being married to an entrepreneur. “We both know everything about the other person’s business so we can have intellectual conversations about it.”
Still, Danielle started the company mostly on her own, because she felt she could move faster that way. She bootstrapped most of the financing, using several thousand dollars she had saved up to invest in the original assets and adding in funding from friends and family to build her first brick and mortar store. The iconic, adorable branding that Juice Society is known for was completely her design as well. She also did all the business and marketing research herself from the start, using that same questioning attitude that got her in trouble as a regular employee at other businesses.
“I wasn’t afraid to ask questions,” Danielle says, admitting she even called the FDA at one point to ask for the rules for bottling and selling beverages. It worked. “Instead of spending hours looking online, call people directly,” she advises, “and most people will be willing to help you out.
She also says she wasn’t afraid to tell people her idea, which was another advantage of her journey. A lot of entrepreneurs, she says, could benefit from this openness, even if they think their idea is crazy or they’re afraid someone may steal it. “You should always be feeling uncomfortable when you're an entrepreneur and in a business because that means you're moving forward,” she says.
From her kitchen, Juice Society expanded to farmer’s markets, and then moved into their first retail space in 2016. Now, Juice Society has a wholesale line, including strong partnerships with group hotels, and the company is opening a second space in summer 2018. They also maintain a direct-to-consumer brand online. “It's grown a lot since my kitchen,” Danielle says.
The biggest tenet of this growth, she says, is community connection. “We try to create experiences for our community,” she says, and not just so people can sample their juice. Juice Society is about creating a lifestyle. “What I'm the most excited about is taking that and bringing it to new cities,” she explains. Her goal is to find creative, fun partnerships, add in creative events and experiences, and find ways for people to connect to the Juice Society brand, as well as their values and how they view wellness.
Her final takeaway is that you need to love what you're doing. “And not just like it a little bit,” she says, “not just oh this is fun for me on the side. You need to imagine yourself doing this all day, every day. Waking up at 2 A.M. or working 20-hour days to get things done for it. You need to love it, because if you don't, I don't see how the business will work.”
You can pick up Juice Society’s juices for yourself at their brick-and-mortar location at 1100 S Lamar Blvd Suite #1116, Austin, TX, at one of the many retail locations they distribute to around Texas, New York, Tennessee, Chicago, Florida, and more, or order online at juice-society.com.