As human beings, we developed the useful skill of labeling long ago. Labeling is an evolutionary advantage that helped our species survive. They’re what helped us differentiate between poisonous berries and edible ones or a fellow tribe member versus an enemy – a crucial tool for survival.
Now, it’s an inherent trait that we’re stuck with and, just as society has evolved tremendously since our days of hunting and gathering, so has the way implement our labels. While we still use labels in a useful way to make sense of our surroundings, they have also become detrimental to us as individuals.
We not only utilize labels to help us intuitively ask a sales associate where to find products in a store rather than approaching another shopper, but also categorize ourselves. In the process, we unwittingly strain our identities and apply undo pressure on ourselves to find an arbitrary category that we might fit into. This complicates our decisions.
Many people naturally find their passions and know what careers to pursue. But for so many others, like me, it’s a challenge within itself to figure that out, let alone know how to start striving toward it. Starting from early childhood, we’re asked what we want to do and who we want to be when we’re older. We begin instinctually assigning ourselves to categories.
Though our imagination tends to run wild as innocent kids, when we start to experience life, what we envision for our careers change drastically. When I was five years old, I wanted to be a veterinarian. As an adult, I studied to become a surgeon before shifting gears and pursuing careers in marketing, psychology, and finance. It felt like a monumental choice – one that I felt would ultimately limit my options and permanently force me into a category for the rest of my life.
I’ve spent the great majority of my life chasing an ever-changing goal. Whether that goal came in the shape of a specific degree, award, or job, I never seemed to feel accomplished or happy even after attaining it.
Eventually, running full speed toward a vague finish line that never seemed to get closer, caught up to me. Persistent dread and a looming fear overtook my life. At the time, I didn’t understand mental health or have the vocabulary to describe what I was feeling. I now know that I was suffering from anxiety and depression.
Getting to this point was difficult. I had grown so accustomed to taking my next step before my feet even hit the ground from my last, and, for the first time, I know where to go. So, I took a long pause for introspection.
During that pause, I pieced together my life and processed my experiences. In the process, I came to understand that all along, I didn’t really know what I was striving for. I just knew that I wanted to be successful in a prestigious demanding career. Out of my own insecurities, I feared failure and mediocrity. I never took the time to think about who I am and what would bring me happiness.
This realization also motivated me to figure it out on my own, without the pressure I’d internalized all my life. For two years, I worked solely on my wellness, pausing to process my experiences for the first time, and living in the present. Finally, I felt that cliché spark that people talk about when they know they’ve found their purpose.
You’d think that once I knew what path I wanted to go on that everything would be smooth sailing. Unfortunately, having that clarity opened the door wide open for an entirely new set of worries. All around me, my peers were reaching new milestones in life and there I was starting fresh. It was disheartening and discouraging to feel like I was trailing so far behind them.
Then, amidst my own personal existential crisis, I came stumbled upon Julie Bednarski’s story. Her experience seemed to speak directly to me and addressed my anxiety about breaking free of my own aimlessness.
Julie Bednarski is the founder and CEO of Healthy Crunch. The company sells a variety of healthy food snack lines from Granola Bars, Rice Crispy Squares to Chia Jams and Seed Butters in the US and Canada. Though the company was only founded in 2014, it’s become wildly popular.
Julie’s success as an entrepreneur is undoubtedly impressive. But how she came to build her healthy foods empire and what drove her to do so, is incredibly inspiring. She’s a role model for people like me who haven’t quite found their calling or feel like they found it too late.
To ultimately become the founder and CEO of a leading healthy snack company, Julie had to overcome an eating disorder that she developed in adolescents. At that time, Julie was training to become a professional athlete until an injury stifled her dream.
When Julie turned thirty years old, her eating disorder reached its peak. She halted her work and committed to her own health. After years of recovery and rehabilitation, she emerged stronger and more driven than ever with the idea to utilize her knowledge and experience to create healthy and delicious snacks for herself and others. Despite all her previous endeavors and struggles, Julie started from scratch and founded Healthy Crunch.
I got to sit down with Julie. She shared valuable insights and wisdom about how she became the CEO of such world renown snack brand.
How did you figure out that you wanted to launch your own company?
When I was young, I decided to go to school as a dietician. I always had an entrepreneur spirit, and I started a lot of companies. First it was Juices by Julie, then I had a catering company – it goes on. I was in an experimental phase, but nothing really stuck for me. Finally, I took some time off to take care of my body and myself. I was tired of feeling tired, I was tired of feeling sick. I didn’t know how to get better. I knew there was better out there for me, but I didn’t know what it was. That’s when the idea for Healthy Crunch was born.
Starting your own business, even after finding your passion can be a lot to handle. What helped you maintain a positive mindset to keep striving toward your goal?
When I got overwhelmed and wonder how I was going to do it, my dad would say, “How do you eat an elephant? One chunk at a time,” understanding that when you have many things to complete, breaking them down into smaller tasks or “chunks” is much easier. I find great joy in seeing people enjoy our Healthy Crunch products, and interacting with our customers which keeps me going. I ultimately created Healthy Crunch for everyone to enjoy better for you foods that you can feel good about eating.
What advice would you give someone who feels like they finally know what they want to do, but also feel like it might be too late in life to pursue it?
Everyone’s journey and everyone’s path is unique. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Stay in your lane and don’t worry about others. Sometimes you don’t know other people’s struggles and what they’re going through. Once you start thinking about other people it distorts what you’re doing.
Taking care of wellbeing is so important, especially when you’re running such a successful company. Do you have any daily rituals that keep you grounded?
Some important things to me are grounding in nature. My dogs got me into nature. For me its important to get out in nature a few times a day. Connecting with nature puts you in a good mindset. There’s something so powerful and calming about being in nature and seeing trees. Fresh air for the mind, exercise, and connecting with nature.
Stillness of nature is what’s calming. I think when you have noise and concrete and fast-paced can get you anxious. It’s hard to settle your mind. When in nature its complete silence, stillness, just hear the birds chirping and wind its grounding. In my office looking outside all I see is forest.
Your company hasn’t stopped growing and releasing new product lines since you launched it. How do you stay focused and plan for the future?
It’s all about mindset. On the regular that so important to me that excels my mental health. Having a vision board and meditating. Mindset – what you want in life you can create it if you have it in your mind and work toward it. I take 5-10 minutes a day to visualize what I want today, in a year, future. I take time to think about and plan out my goals.
Have your challenges and your journey leading up to founding Healthy Crunch helped you become a strong leader? If so, how?
Being an entrepreneur, the highs are really highs, and the lows are really low. Being an entrepreneur can be very lonely, but the highs get you through the lows. I’m really resilient. Every time I’ve conquered a challenge it’s made me more resilient. I know that I can take everything on. Getting through my eating disorder showed me that I can get over anything. My past, all my struggles made me who I am today. I live by compassion and understanding for others. A part of my recovery was trying to find food that made me feel good about eating. That struggle lead me to create Healthy Crunch and to bring better-for-you foods to other people.
You began the process of launching Healthy Crunch in your mid-thirties. What did you have to learn to build your company?
My training was limited to culinary school, nutrition, and dietetics. I never learned about the business side, but I learned as an entrepreneur. I’m not an expert but I learned enough with the ultimate goal of succeeding. I’m constantly trying to evolve and develop a business. As a woman in business it’s challenging, especially for a self-funded business.
I constantly ask myself: “How far can I take the business especially as a sole owner? What different categories can we go into to evolve? How do I know what the next innovation is?”. We don’t always know but we analyze trends, look for gaps in the market, look at what the competition is doing, etc. It can take two years to release a new product from development to shelf. We first made kale chips, then snacks, and now spreads & bars. I see and appreciate the growth we’ve already made and seek out new ways to evolve every day. That’s my biggest personal goal and what drives Healthy Crunch.