From an early age, some people know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. For instance, the freshman in high school who knows right away they want to go to medical school. Or the student who confidently proclaims a major years before applying to college and sticks with it.
I was not one of those people.
As a kid, I had eclectic dreams and ideas about “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” As a college student, I studied different subjects, changed my major, and worked in various industries. The only constants during these years were my curiosity about the unknown, my openness to new possibilities, and the excitement I felt when posed with risk-taking opportunities.
At times, this boundless explorative nature was frustrating and exhausting, for me and, I’m sure, my parents. A single-minded and straightforward career seemed like a more efficient path toward success, in comparison to my constant searching.
Discover What You Love
While dabbling in different job roles over the years, I began to explore the wellness industry. Not because I considered it my career path, but because I loved learning about the different facets of health. While working full time, I spent my weekends earning certifications in various wellness-oriented fields, such as yoga, Pilates, The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM®, and Integrative Nutrition Consulting. I began coaching others about my new interests, which soon evolved into something far bigger than I had anticipated, even as I continued to work full time. As my clientele grew, I found myself conducting up to 12 private sessions a week, plus group classes. Exhausting as this schedule was, teaching served as a creative outlet for my passion about health.
In 2014, I was introduced to The FruitGuys and founder Chris Mittelstaedt. I was intrigued by The FruitGuys’ story, its mission, and the dynamic way its products, digital content, and giveback efforts support service to countless communities. Its underlying essence of innovation, creativity, collaboration, and doing good in the world inspired and attracted me.
I joined The FruitGuys family in early 2015, taking an enterprise sales role. Not long after my start date, Chris asked if I’d be interested in creating health and wellness content for the company. Specifically, he had a workplace video series in mind. My position within the company shifted, and I spent the next couple of years building what is now The FruitGuys video program. This shift not only changed my career path but had a huge impact on my life’s direction.
Mentorship and Growth
While developing this program, I worked directly with Chris, who is a big-picture thinker and risk-taking visionary. Having built his family business from scratch during the late 1990s, Chris demonstrated vigor and grit, while prioritizing mission-driven business ethics. He grew a successful company through strong leadership, a commitment to making a positive impact on the world through fruit donations to those in need, and grants for small farms.
After working at many different companies, I was particularly impressed with The FruitGuys’ efforts to encourage growth and development internally. Chris nurtured my entrepreneurial spirit. He taught me how to organize and execute a creative vision by breaking down large action items into organized systems, such as operations, creative voice and style guidelines, publication, and distribution. During weekly meetings, we connected and hashed out accomplishments and missteps from the week prior, as well as possible next steps and future goals.
Leaving Fear of Failure Behind
As I began to grow as an entrepreneur in my own right, Chris taught me the importance of starting wherever you are and letting go of the fear of failure. While learning video production, I welcomed feedback from my peers, even though at times it could be hard to hear. Chris taught me that when creating something new, not everyone will be an instant fan. Being encouraged to try, gather feedback, and take risks has helped shape and guide me throughout the process of developing my businesses.
The FruitGuys also taught me the importance of ethics and upholding a clear mission by creating a model that financially supports the whole, while also taking care of those in need and doing good in the world. These values have influenced the direction of my own businesses, moving me away from private coaching and toward digital platforms and community events that will allow me to do the work I love—helping people feel their best—on a larger scale. To further this mission, I’ll incorporate a giveback component as part of a digital product I plan to roll out in 2019.
Through this process, my curious, risk-taking nature has been honed in a way that helped define my path as an entrepreneur—and I’m not the only one who has benefited from the opportunities for growth provided by The FruitGuys. Other employees have been nurtured in this way as well, eventually embarking on their own start-up endeavors, including Skyler Hallgren, who helped develop what is now The FruitGuys Thoughtful Snack Box and went on to create The Earthquake Bag; and Christian Morabito, who managed distribution for The FruitGuys headquarters before opening a sustainable seafood shop in San Francisco called Hook Fish Co.
Now, as bittersweet as it is, I feel ready to transition from my role at The FruitGuys to one focusing on my own businesses, Showga and WellFests. Over the years, Chris mentored the development of Showga, a multisensory yoga, live music, and aromatherapy event.
Showga is held in music venues, museums, and other alternative spaces. Each session revolves around a custom theme, making it a great addition at retreats, team-building activities, and other corporate events. Private Showga can be booked as a standalone experience or as part of a WellFests event.
WellFests provides companies with single, weekly, monthly, or quarterly on-site sessions that offer a selection of experiences including movement and bodywork with health seminars, and/or food and beverage services (and yes, The FruitGuys will be my exclusive vendor for fruit and snack needs!).
Thank you to The FruitGuys—an organization committed to growing healthy companies and mission-driven entrepreneurs! I look forward to the expansive possibilities to come as we continue to grow together.
Shannan Slevin is a program and video producer for the wellness industry. She is the founder of WellFests and co-owner of Showga. A California native residing in Oakland, Shannan loves fresh air and dance floors.