Ep 113: Organic Krush Co-Founder and Concerned Mom, Michelle Walrath, Creating Community to Combat a Corrupt Industry & Keep Our Children Eating Healthy
Michelle Walrath is an entrepreneur and restaurateur who has also Executive Produced several critically-acclaimed Documentary Films, including Tapped, Fed Up, The Devil You Know and Under the Gun through her Atlas Films. But behind every endeavor she's tackled as an adult is her fierce Mom protection mode. Unsatisfied with the choices she had to feed her children over the course of a summer of road trips, she teamed up with a friend to bring healthy, organic choices to the fast food space with their successful chain of restaurant, Organic Krush. Two days prior to our conversation, they added to their four Long Island locations with a fifth location in Richmond, Virginia where she attended college with her husband.
The origin of Michelle's relationship to food, from a big Italian/Irish family and how it led to studying health in college, (9:00). "I started to see these pieces to health that, then contributed to the whole person", (9:55). Michelle's evolution to being involved with documentary films that seek out hard truths, (11:37). Tapped: doc film about plastic and the water bottle industry, (12:50). Katie Couric's interest in the Tapped doc leads to a collaboration examining Obesity in America in the critically-acclaimed Fed Up, (13:40). "That's been a big part of all of our Atlas Films is 'what's going on that people aren't telling you and how are we going to get to the truth behind it and share that?'", (15:00). Body Burden concept: the thread that led from her kid's health to the documentaries to Organic Krush, (18:55).
"I found myself working backwards over the years. It really is a deep, upsetting question to me: 'Why are we getting so sick in society? What's happening? Why are so many people having health problems so early on in life?' And when you start to work backwards, there actually are triggers and reasons why", (21:02). The Organic Krush restaurant chain, (21:55). The origins of Organic Krush - two decades in the making, (23:00). Lack of experience leading to trying to offer too many things, (26:55). How being the first to offer organic options rallied the Long Island community to support the store, (31:00). How satisfying customer demands dictated the direction of the restaurant to being costumer-centric, (32:55). Why, despite some demand, Organic Krush will resist major meal plan prep to stay focused on community, (36:45). The rewards of having a purpose-driven business: hearing the stories of change and improvement, (39:30). The role of being the oldest in a family of 5 girls and the benefits of watching parents grind to make a living while also caring about health and spirituality, beyond just making a dollar, (40:50). "I had a very connected upbringing where you did things because they mattered", (42:50). Coming from big family, having a big family and now creating a "family" through the community-driven restaurants, (48:30). Bearing the weight of everything that can go on in business all the time, (51:50). The challenges of scaling a business, (54:20). When you are driven by a calling, (57:40). The challenges of following your own heart and bliss, (1:00:20).
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