The entrepreneurs are shaking up the meal replacement and wellness industry, literally.

By Megan Falk
November 20, 2019
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Credit: Mele

Back in January, while you were buckling down on your New Years' resolution to hit 10,000 steps a day, Lauren Benbassat and Elise Tresley were working to fulfill an even bigger wellness goal: to give busy, on-the-go women like themselves the nutrients they need, when they need it.

To power through her non-stop workday as a wine industry professional, Benbassat ran off coffee and protein shakes, and tech entrepreneur Tresley would skip breakfast when she was tight on time. But the solutions for their all-too-relatable problem—meal replacement shakes containing synthetic ingredients—weren't up to par for the duo. So by the end of the month, the friends-turned-founders launched Mēle, a company dishing out single-serving, meal-in-a-shake packets made with freeze-dried, real ingredients (think: no preservatives, soy, GMOs, or added sugars). Each shake is made from fruit, nuts, and whey, pea, and brown rice proteins, and boasts a healthy balance of macronutrients, an ingredient list you can understand, and most importantly, a taste you'll actually enjoy.

This may be the first time the businesswomen have worked in the wellness world, but they're fully embracing it both personally and professionally. Read on to find out how Benbassat and Tresley are making healthy living and eating accessible while infusing self-care into their daily routines—plus, the advice they have for fellow entrepreneurs.

Why They're Focusing on Wellness Accessibility

Benbassat: "We're just trying to make [wellness] accessible. Day-to-day wellness shouldn't be, 'OK, before it's 7 a.m., I've meditated, I've drunk my matcha, I've taken my prebiotics, I've drunk my 10 million ounces of water and journaled about what I'm grateful for.' That's all good in theory, but most of us don't have time to do that, and this is accessible, simple, basic stuff."

Tresley: "We tried to pick a price point that we felt we could function as a business, but that is accessible. I think there's frustration in the wellness space because it shouldn't feel just for that upper percent. [Mēle also donates a portion of its profits to the Food Bank For NYC to provide New Yorkers with meals and nutrition education.] Plus, there are so many companies throwing out these buzzwords—superfoods, adaptogens, etc.—and they're great, they've been around for 5,000 years, they're definitely tools in the toolshed. But what I think there needs to be more of (and something we're really passionate about) is the education component. If you're putting something out there that has a superfood, I think making people understand that you can overdo it, or that you maybe don't need it, or here's what the functionality is and why. We're very focused on this back-to-the-basics concept: macro balance, real food, and being able to educate people on that and make sure they understand what a true clean label is. I think it's our responsibility as a food business, especially as an up-and-coming food business, is to redirect the path that the larger conglomerates have really messed up."

A Morning Routine of Champions

Benbassat: "I typically wake up between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and I try to do a mindfulness practice; I sit down and write a few things I'm thankful for, or a goal for the day, or a vision, or some sort of affirmation. My routine used to be to kill it with the workouts first thing in the morning. Now, it's sitting down to a little bit more 'me time,' and I've really appreciated that. But every day is slightly different, which has been an evolution, because I'm very type A, but I've been trying to allow a little bit more fluidity."

Tresley: "My staple is warm water with lemon—dietitian recommended. I think it's a game-changer. One thing that I've been trying to do—and I've noticed a huge difference when I do it—is meditate for 10 minutes. I know it sounds so cliché. I hate when people are like, 'oh, meditation fixes all my problems.' But it really does set the tone. It's tough because what I immediately want to do is check my email. I used to be in bed, and grab my phone before I even got out. I've tried very hard to just give it a second. Do the warm water, then just a quick like five- or 10-minute meditation. My new thing has been doing a Google or YouTube search of the Tibetan sound bowls."

How to Relinquish Perfection (and Some of the Reins) As an Entrepreneur

Tresley: "Every great founder's story starts with, 'I didn't know what I was doing.' You go into it not knowing. And I think one of the biggest fears to get past is that it's okay to have a major lack of visibility. It's okay to not have the answers and make mistakes and learn from them."

Benbassat: "You don't have to be good at everything. You have to admit where your shortcomings are so you can bring in a business partner who complements you and challenges you and pushes you to evolve. What's the point in starting a company if you're not looking to grow with yourself?...I also want to empower women, because you can absolutely do it on your own, and some people do. But you need your whole tribe. It's more than just support, and it's more than just your founding team. It's your husband, it's your friends, it's your family, it's your nanny, it's your dog walker. The whole system has to operate to support you."

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