New mama and all around #LADYBOSS, Lauren Bush Lauren currently serves as CEO and Founder of FEED Projects with a mission to create good products to help feed the world. In 2004, Lauren was an Honorary Spokesperson for the UN World Food Program, in 2009 she was named one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, and she is also a 2013 Advocacy Award recipient from the World of Children Award. To date her company has provided more than 90 million meals to children and families in need and she’s already hard at work for the next 10 million!
How’s that for #FEELGOOD work? We were a little nervous to meet the super inspiring mama for coffee, but her sweet and gentle disposition totally put us at ease and we were laughing and swapping baby stories in no time! James and my little River are birthday twins and we can’t wait to find out if they are going to have similar dispositions.
Read on to learn more about FEED and this gorgeous mama who epitomizes the meaning of beauty both inside and out.
How many meals has FEED funded today?
I am so proud to say that we have been able to provide over 90 million meals and counting to children and families in need, thanks to the amazing FEED community. Every time someone purchases a FEED bag, that number increases. While 90 million is awesome, I’m blown away when I think about the impact of just one meal for one child. Each one truly makes a difference.
How many members are on your team? How do you manage to create such a widely successful and extremely generous business with so little people?
We have an amazing remote customer service and operations support team, but there are about 10 of us at the FEED HQ. The women who make this giving machine turn everyday are rockstars at what they do. I’m blown away by how much we have been able to accomplish with a relatively lean team, but I am also excited by the plans we have for the growth of the team and the business this year.
Tell us more about the FEED suppers and how our mamas can get involved. What is the Feed tool kit?
The short answer is that FEED Supper is an invitation to “truly share a meal.” What that translates to are some very special gatherings for good. From September 16-October 16th (World Food Day), everyone is invited to host a FEED Supper where hosts ask guests to make a donation instead of bringing the typical bottle of wine or dessert. Hundreds of FEED Suppers take place in those 30 days—it’s really fun to watch them unfold every night on Instagram with #FEEDsupper. I couldn’t be more excited about our third fall of FEED Supper, and want everyone in the heymama community to know they are each invited to host their own Suppers. We’ll be opening host sign up later this summer on feedprojects.com. After signing up, hosts can download or purchase a FEED Supper toolkit, which comes with great dinner party pieces like placemats and banners. We’re reiterating the toolkit a bit this year, but I’m not allowed to unveil any of our marketing team’s surprises just yet.
How exactly does FEED work? Once you raise the money what are the next steps to getting the meals distributed? Can you walk us through the whole process?
To answer this question, I’m going to give a little backstory. I founded FEED nine years ago as a way to support the World Food Programme’s school feeding initiative, which provides free and nutritious lunches to children in 63 of the poorest countries. I had been fortunate enough to travel with WFP in college and see firsthand the power of the school meals they were delivering to vulnerable children. I returned from my travels hungry to find an accessible and tangible way to get my peers involved in the issue of hunger. That’s when I had the idea for the first FEED bag. To this day, WFP is still our biggest giving partner. We know that by investing in school meals, we are also investing in education, and in the futures of little ones all over the world.
Beyond WFP, we also fund initiatives through the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Feeding America here in the U.S. There’s an entire section of our website dedicated to the full story of our giving for anyone who’s curious!
You’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with many people over the years, like Judith Leiber and Whole Foods Market. Can you speak to how you choose collaborations and some the benefits of collaborating with other brands/people?
It’s true we have been very fortunate to have worked with some amazing people and partners over the years. Our approach to partnerships has evolved a lot since we started out. Early on, partnerships were the vehicle we used to get the word out about FEED– being in Whole Foods really put us on the map. At this point in our business, however, awareness isn’t as much the goal delighting our customers. The FEED community loved it when we launched a tabletop collection with west elm, for example, because it provided another way for them to incorporate FEED into their everyday lives beyond the products we sell on our site.
What are your top three tips for women, or individuals in general, who are looking to start a “give-back” company of their own?
First and foremost, find a cause you really care about, and identify a way you can help and truly make a difference. Second, identify what type of business model you think would solve the problem best. (There’s a reason FEED is a social business and not a non-profit.) Once you have identified this cross-section of cause and business model, pour your heart and soul into it. Starting anything takes a lot of time and passion, but I have found that centering your startup around giving back is not only a motivation for founders, but also for employees and customers.
What has been the biggest milestone thus far? Anything that has made you feel truly accomplished?
This might sound cliché, but I am being completely honest when I say that the moment I felt most accomplished was when we hit the milestone of having given over 90 million meals this January. It took me aback when I stopped to think about what that meant to the many lives around the world who, just because of they are born, don’t have access to something as basic as food. It makes me and my team want to work even harder to reach and surpass 100 million meals.
You’ve spent years feeding other people’s children around the world, and now you have your own. The feeling of having your own child is truly indescribable, but how has it affected your feelings about your mission.
As a mom, I know how much love and care goes into feeding my baby the best nutrients possible so he can grow and develop to his fullest potential. My heart breaks for all the mothers around the world who struggle to provide something as simple as a meal for their babies. Becoming a mom has definitely put the mission of FEED into a new perspective for me. I have never been more resolute to ensure every mother has the nutrition she needs to provide for herself and her children.
In light of Mother’s Day can you share the best advice your own mother ever gave you?
To not sweat the small stuff and to have fun with your baby, because it goes by so quickly. All so true!
Biggest surprise about motherhood?
Everything has been a surprise – mostly in the best of ways – from the rapid pace in which babies develop and start showing their personalities to the amazing bond you feel immediately with your child. Motherhood is a magical experience, and one that continues to evolve and unfold in the most unexpected and beautiful ways.
Any traditions or favorite memories you had with your own mother you are hoping to share with James?
My mom would often make us cookies after school and we would catch up in the kitchen before going off to do homework or whatever else we had to do. Having some time during the day that is set aside for relaxed catching up is something I hope to share with James as well.
What are you hoping or planning to do for your first mother’s day?
Sleeping, brunching, and lots of baby snuggles.
The FEED Supper program allows amazing mamas and individuals around the world to “truly share a meal.” From September 16th through October 16th FEED invites people to host a FEED Supper where the hosts request that their guests make a donation instead of bringing a hosting gift (aka vino). In order to host, sign up on feedprojects.com and then download (or purchase) a FEED Supper toolkit, which comes with fun dinner party decorations for your #GIVEBACK event! Happy hosting!