Guest Blog by ELP Student Westley Hoffman – LSA Economics – Class of 2019
Jump into the deep end! On my first day working for DROUGHT Juice, it was clear ideas (and acronyms) were constantly flowing. I was introduced to every person on the team, and each proudly explained their role at this rapidly growing company. “You’re at an exciting point in our company’s history,” a James sister said, “We have always wanted to do these things—to innovate—but we haven’t been able to dedicate the time or resources until now. With you.”
It felt like a big statement. I quickly realized, it was. DROUGHT Juice, a company founded by four sisters, is truly an entrepreneurial dream come true. Essentially created in their father’s basement, the James Sisters’ Midwestern juicing company has succeeded despite everyone telling them it never could.
The team had a quick morning meeting, and it was clear every person had many agenda items on their plate this week alone. The pace was fast. One team member was getting up to date on food compliance labeling. Another was working with a landlord to prepare for a new retail store opening. After a tour of the office space, I sat down with one, two, and then all four of the sisters to discuss my role and their vision for the summer. Although my position’s title is Sustainably Product Development Intern, the bigger picture came into focus.
I was originally drawn to this opportunity because I could learn more about nutrition and agriculture, combining my personal interests with entrepreneurship. While it’s very clear I will have an opportunity to grow my interests in the food and nutrition space through this summer internship, my mind has already opened up to the other challenges: logistical supply chain, and, brand marketing aspects. Even the smallest changes or challenges are things all start-ups must consider. Already, I feel like I have a lot of responsibilities. This feels a bit intimidating. It also feels energizing.
On my first day, I learned more about how a start-up company operates. I learned how to face, real challenges. As a student or even an investor, could one realize such scope? This was the first workplace I’ve ever been a part of where every person is part of the same team. With no divide between owners and employees, DROUGHT has a single uniting mission and clear message: we couldn’t succeed without every person here.
The company unmistakably places value on transparency and ethical business practices. Every person, keyed into what others were working on. Almost all of their projects overlap in some way. The timeline, quick! It allows for a healthy sense of urgency and excitement to fill the workplace. A coworker’s challenges, your challenges. This daylong energy, much like the energy of a team fighting for a win on the field.
Clearly I needed to learn. First, familiarizing with the product. Second, familiarizing with the brand. Then, familiarizing with production. Each piece of the company closely connects to another. From food safety compliance acronyms, to the names of retail employees and delivery drivers, the “family” extends beyond the four sisters. This is what I believe is—and will continue to be—the secret to the success of this company.
At DROUGHT no idea can ever be considered off limits. Even ideas I may think “too lofty,” “too expensive,” or “nearly impossible” I’m encouraged to bring to the table! By bouncing ideas around, DROUGHT comes up with creative solutions to every roadblock. Principled methodology behind their success as a company, a truth to their product and their goals. Even more so, faith and trust they have in their people. Every hire has a purpose. The success of one member is reliant upon the success of another.
There’s a lot on my plate this summer and I can’t wait to hit the ground running every day. Beyond the excitement of learning about an emerging industry, and hopefully making a positive impact, I’m getting to do it alongside teammates. We feel the company growing as the phone constantly rings and people dart in and out of the office all day. It’s a small business on its way to being big.
What I thought was a simple process—“it’s just juice”—has quickly evolved into an exciting logic, strategy, and feasibility puzzle. I have a lot of questions, and I’m sure I’ll uncover many more. I need to learn more about food compliance, storage, and customer relationships, just to name a few topics. What’s exciting is that there isn’t necessarily an answer waiting for me everywhere I look.
I’m glad I jumped into the deep end, because that’s the best way to learn if I’ll sink or swim.