Lauren Bush Lauren
AGE || 35
COMPANY NAME || FEED PROJECTS
JOB TITLE || Founder & CEO
YEARS LIVING IN NEW YORK || 12
SOCIAL HANDLES || @FEED, @laurenblauren
COMPANY WEBSITE || FEED PROJECTS
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a judge or a professional ice skater.
What’s the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting FEED?
To trust your gut, it will generally steer you in the right direction.
Where did the idea for FEED stem from?
As a college student, I had the unique opportunity to travel as an Honorary Student Spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme. During these travels I witnessed firsthand the realities of poverty and hunger that 1 in 9 people around the world are faced with everyday. In particular, I was so moved by the impact and success of the School Meal program. When I returned, I was looking for a way to fuse my love of fashion and design, with the desire to make a difference in the world, specifically in fighting childhood hunger. FEED was born as a tangible, shareable way for people to engage with a large-scale issue like global hunger and make a difference through their everyday purchasing decisions.
How do you define success?
Given that FEED is a social business, we define success not just by our sales metrics, but also by the number of school meals given.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned since starting out?
Hard to boil it down to one thing, as there are still constant learnings even 11 years in. One thing is how much of a team effort it takes to build anything meaningful and sustainable. A good, unique idea is only the beginning, it takes a lot of vision and persistence to see it become more than just an idea.
How do you ensure the partners you work with on the ground are reputable?
We have worked primarily with the same partner since day 1 – the UN World Food Programme. Having traveled with them all over the world at this point, I’ve seen firsthand the incredible, groundbreaking work they are doing. Over the past few years, we’ve also delved into the hunger problem right here in the U.S., by teaming up with No Kid Hungry, Share our Strength’s campaign to end hunger using tactical and proven solutions like free school breakfast, as well as Feeding America, through our FEED Supper activation. In this case too, we’ve visited schools and food pantries and seen the work in action. We’re very active as a team, volunteering and communicating with our giving partners to share impact stories and get updates from the field, so in that way we are able to see and verify the impact in action.
Do you have a personal motto?
The golden rule — treat others like you would want to be treated.
Which women inspire you?
I am inspired most by the women in my life, my family, my FEED team (which is all women), and the moms I have met on giving trips who are working so hard to care for their kids and give them a better life.
How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?
I try and focus more on the overall WHY of what FEED is about, which is much bigger than me. It’s about being a conduit for good and engaging people in our mission of helping feed kids. Putting things in perspective generally helps me move out of self-doubt and into action.
What is the hardest part about being your own boss?
Besides the obvious responsibility that comes with being your own boss and leading a team, I have found it hard to let go of things that I probably should not be doing. When you are a founder you generally start by doing everything big and small and over time you realize that is not beneficial to the organization — or for your sanity!
What do you wish people knew about the child hunger crisis around the world?
That it is completely solvable. Access to something as basic as food, or enough food, is something many of us take for granted. Across the globe, and right here in our own towns and cities, children are born into a situation where they do not have enough access to food. Hunger is an issue that feels massive, but it can be solved. We’re making it our mission to do so.
How can people work to help end child hunger?
It is a core belief of ours that even the smallest actions, when multiplied, have the power to change the world. Make smarter purchasing decisions by supporting brands who are fighting hunger, fighting food waste, and otherwise using their power for good. Support your local soup kitchens and food pantries. Host a FEED Supper, get involved, volunteer and educate yourself about the issue, there’s so much we can all do.
How do you handle situations where you feel overwhelmed?
In the past I think I would keep things to myself more and try to come up with a solution on my own, which inevitably makes you feel more overwhelmed. The longer I have been an entrepreneur, I have become a lot more open about sharing the challenges I am facing and getting advice from folks inside and outside our organization.
What has been the most rewarding thing since starting FEED?
The impact we’ve been able to make will always be our most rewarding accomplishment. To date, we’ve provided over 107 million meals (and counting) and we couldn’t have done it without the incredible community we’ve built and fostered. I really feel like we’re building a movement for good.
How have you worked to keep female empowerment at the core of your brand?
I feel so lucky in that I don’t feel like I’ve had to work for it — equality and female empowerment are so central to our ethos and truly who we are as a brand. We are an all-female team and our customers are primarily women. As a mother, and knowing that many of our best customers are moms as well, I know how strongly our mission resonates with mothers and nurturers. Additionally, our giving uniquely impacts young women and girls, who often are the ones who eat last, or do not eat at all. In cultures where a girl’s education is not as valued, or not possible because she is the one to stay home and take care of the family, the guarantee of a meal at school incentives her to go to school and stay in school longer.
What is your creative process like?
I really love problem solving and I think a lot of creativity comes out of problem solving. I also find that I am most creative when I am on a plane or somewhere else a bit disconnected from email and can get headspace out of the day-to-day.
What advice would you give to other women trying to strike out on their own?
I would say to trust your gut and find a community of other entrepreneurs or like-minded friends who will be a sounding board for you and your ideas.
What are some of your goals moving forward for FEED?
To further establish ourselves as a lifestyle brand that our customers can come to and rely on, from the bags they carry, to the places they gather, to the food they eat. And as we grow, our central goal is always to be able to provide millions more meals.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.