Lauren Benbassat is the co-founder and CEO of mēle – an all-natural meal replacement created by her and her husband, Adam to solve the problem of poor eating during busy work and travel days. With 8+ years of marketing experience, business development, design & branding, Lauren took the reigns on this side-hustle turned full-time venture to help develop the recipes, create the packaging, design, and brand voice, and now oversees all operations and strategy for growth.
A former ballerina and grew up with an active lifestyle in Florida – with a family of golf enthusiasts, Lauren spent her summers out on the course and was raised knowing the importance of fitness paired with balanced and healthy nutrition. Benbassat believes in fully embracing the core mission of her company – to live, and to eat happy, wholesome, and healthy.
THE BENBASSAT STORY
I’m so lucky to have grown up in a healthy and active household, which forever set the tone for my future career and love of fitness. My brother and I spent summers out on the golf course with my dad and grandfather and were always taught the importance of fueling our bodies with natural foods to sustain our non-stop activity. After graduating from the University of Florida, my first job was working for the Tavistock Cup Golf Tournament, where I had the opportunity to be surrounded by many professional players and golf enthusiasts. While my career path didn’t continue in golf, I’ve always maintained a passion for a healthy and active lifestyle.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
My family, my health and need to create good in the world. But also an ever-present feeling to “do” and to “move”. Typically, if I’m not up and moving by 7am, I feel like I’ve already fallen behind in my day – I thrive on purpose and direction.
What was the genesis for the creation of mēle?
As fitness enthusiasts, my husband Adam and I would work out almost every morning before work, but with our long and demanding schedules with corporate jobs in NYC, we lacked the time in our days to get in the proper amount of nutrition needed to maintain our active lifestyles.
The products out there really fell short in providing proper nutrition, with clean, balanced and great tasting ingredients, so we just decided one day to make it for ourselves.
How long did the process take from idea concept to actual rollout of product?
It took about 9 months of R&D before we had a product we were comfortable with launching. Originally, we just wanted to create it for ourselves, but after numerous friends and family tried it and loved it, we were driven to share it with the world. It was a pretty big risk for us as a young couple – we took a chunk of savings and decided to give it a go with a small run in September 2016. Things have really evolved since then and we now have some big plans for the brand in the coming year.
Where can interested golfers get the product now?
We currently sell on our website, meleshake.com, as well as amazon.com and anthropologie.com. We are gearing up to roll out retail packaging in addition to our plant-based line and hope to have it in more local stores soon.
Plenty of companies tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach you take in doing it as a company?
Honesty and transparency. We try our best to put as much information about our products, ingredients and nutritional benefits all on our website. I often still field customer inquiries personally and really take the time to go into detail on any health/dietary related questions, often asking health professionals for guidance as well.
How did the relationship commence with Ian Poulter?
I actually had the opportunity to first meet Ian many years ago when I was working for the Tavistock Cup. He recently saw our product at Lake Nona that another player was using out on the course and loved it.
Suggested retail price for the product is what?
Our current product retails for $10/pouch. We have 2 servings in each pouch of 250 calories each. We are working on developing our single-serving line which will retail for $5.
Biggest pet peeve you have is what?
Snobbery. We are all human and all the same. Treat everyone with respect and be humble.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
I grew up around amateur and professional golfers and spent a lot of time in the community. I personally don’t play much anymore, so I probably can’t offer too much expertise on this, but I do remember not loving the strict dress codes and feeling entirely unfeminine in the clothing I was required to wear on the course.
I also have a distinct memory of playing at a course in college with a guy friend – the man working in the pro shop assumed I would not be playing at all that day. He asked me to pay a fee to just ride in the golf cart and when I quickly corrected his assumption, I was still met with a look of skepticism. The sexism — while it’s changed a lot in recent years — really turned me off, but for the most part I ignored it and played when I wanted to — and had less strokes than my guy friends.
The major golf organizations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, LPGA — are all looking for ways to attract new players. This is especially so for Millennials, women and minorities. If you were counseling them what would you suggest needs to be done?
The main issue I’ve run into personally with continuing my golf game is the high-cost, the time commitment and the intimidation factor. I found even during college when I had a bit more free time, it was really challenging to find a course I could afford, find at least 4 hours of my day to spend on it, and find friends wanting to join me. I’ve loved seeing facilities like Top Golf & Drive Shack expanding recently – it’s really helped build up the social aspect of golf some more, and made it more fun and approachable for people of all levels.
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