In Conversation With Elizabeth Stein

In Conversation With Elizabeth Stein

The founder of the superfood-forward company, Purely Elizabeth, this female force of nature shares what prompted her to forge a new path, her non-negotiable ingredients and a five-minute practice that makes her day flow with gratitude.

I was first introduced to Purely Elizabeth founder/CEO Elizabeth Stein when she invited me to be a guest on her podcast. Funnily enough, I was eating her delicious granola at the moment she emailed me. I guess you can say it was fate. I was fascinated to learn her business started with a simple, thoughtful intention. She wrote, "Start a natural foods company” with a singular goal: Provide healthier, better-tasting alternatives to what was currently on the market using the power of superfoods like quinoa, hemp and chia seeds.

A decade later, Elizabeth is a powerful advocate for whole health through her delicious oatmeal, granolas and dozens of other products. She is a kindred spirit with her passion for sourcing ingredients based on superior quality and nutritional benefits. Her company, like Vintner’s Daughter, is committed to unparalleled excellence and dedicated to staying one step ahead of the curve.

As you will see, she has fostered an incredible mission-led company with a dedicated focus on health and wellness. I have been a fan for years and am excited for you to get to know her journey below.

xx April

Tell me how and when Purely Elizabeth started? What was the impetus?
It was 2009 and I was living in New York City. I was working in sales and marketing for a handbag company. I met my boyfriend at the time, who was a personal trainer, marathoner and triathlete. He really got into health and wellness. I was always relatively healthy, but it was a shift of starting to take it into my own hands. I started competing in marathons and triathlons myself.

So you needed performance, nutrient-dense food. 
I did. And I started to realize personally that completing a marathon is so much more than the physical and what you're putting into your body. There's the mental part. I started developing my own sense of a holistic view. I decided to find a career that was more aligned with this passion. I ended up going back to school to study holistic nutrition at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.

What was that experience like? 
It was totally life-changing and is really what got me to start a business. In a foundational sense, it put me in the mindset of a super-confident, go after your dreams, life is too short to do things you don’t want to be doing. Initially, I started working with clients and teaching cooking classes. I attended a local triathlon not only to participate in the race but attend an expo to get clients to sign up for my practice. This was 2008 and I had decided it wasn’t the sexiest thing to be talking about holistic nutrition and nutrition counseling. So, I decided to make blueberry muffins to bring to the race and have them at my booth. I figured they would entice people to come over and chat with me. In the end, nobody was interested in signing up for nutrition counseling. They wanted to know where they could buy the muffins. It was the light bulb moment. I realized I had this captive audience. Why don’t I create some mixes to sell while still running my nutrition practice?
I thought it would be a side project. A friend of mine posted my website on Facebook and someone she knew worked for Daily Candy, a popular email newsletter at the time. They ran a feature on my products and after the email went out, I had $10,000 in orders in three hours.

Was that the moment where you thought, “Oh, this is a real business”?
Absolutely. I vividly remember being on the subway that day headed down to my sister’s apartment downtown and hysterically crying. I had such a strong feeling in my gut that my life was about to change and that this was going to be massive. I just knew it.

Are there certain ingredients that you absolutely have to have in there just because they’re so performance oriented or healthy?
I would say that we don’t have one certain ingredient that we always use. It’s more about guardrails. And I think about those guardrails, mostly around what I personally eat. For example, we had been vegan for over ten years. Then I started using collagen so we came out with products that contain collagen. It was a big thing. We wondered if customers would be upset that we were no longer vegan.  But I thought I’m just staying true to my nutrition principles and how I eat. We didn’t have any consumers upset or questioning anything. It felt like it was truly authentic to the brand.

Do you feel like your values in the food industry have always been accepted?I do. I think there have definitely been moments here and there. I’m so fortunate to have had so much control from an ownership perspective of my business. At this stage, I’ve really been able to be the one making the decisions and not being pushed to step out of my comfort zone in a negative way. Stepping out of your comfort zone can sometimes be a really good thing, but I think being able to stay true to who you are is too. Ultimately, the brand is me. So it’s nice to always be able to go back to me when trying to figure out what is right.

With such a busy work life, how do you recharge? Do you still do marathons?
I’m definitely not doing marathons or triathlons. It’s so funny because I lived in New York for 12 years and I was doing triathlons, which is crazy in New York City. I used to run in Central Park and then try to get out of the city on the weekends. Now that I live in Boulder, Colorado, I have a mountain right in my backyard. And to be able to literally be a mile from a trail ahead and start the day that way is amazing. So I have definitely learned over the last several years that I need a lot of downtime and self care. I really do prioritize that to make sure that I’m balancing myself out. I definitely didn’t do it in the beginning, but for me, my kind of morning routine and that quiet time are definitely non-negotiables.

What is your morning routine? 
So I sit at my computer. I have the supplements that I take. I would say a COVID silver lining has definitely been better at taking my daily supplements. I take a mushroom drink from Om. It’s kind of an energy blend. I don’t drink coffee so that’s my energy supplement. I also do the mindbodygreen probiotic and their cellular beauty. I take a D, omega3, and those are the main ones. And a vitamin C packet as well.

Why only omega3?
So, omega3 is great as an anti-inflammatory. And I think one that most people can get on the bandwagon of not arguing whether it’s keto or paleo or something in between, but the idea of an anti-inflammatory diet seems to resonate with most and really is the root of, or inflammation being the root of so many of the problems in the body.

Stepping out of your comfort zone can sometimes be a really good thing, but I think being able to stay true to who you are is too.

And skin, by the way…
Yes. It is definitely important for my go-to and the one that I feel like if you could just do a couple things in the morning, that’s a great one to add to your repertoire.

Like you said, it's the cause of so much. Inflammation is most often the cause of skin issues: Irritation, sensitivity, even acne. So it’s one of the things that both Active Treatment Essence and Active Botanical Serum address in a really big way. Because we start with whole plants, that’s what we’re feeding you and your skin.
I love that. I love your products.

Thank you. When you think about beauty, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind?
I think feeding and nourishing your body from the inside out. For me personally, I have always been a healthy eater. I was never someone who drank soda or liked chips. And I feel like I always had a relatively positive relationship with food. That being said, not until going through the nutrition program did I really understand the why and how everything interacts. Then I became so much more intentional about what I put in my body. Things like leafy greens are one of the things that are non-negotiables in my day. I think about each meal, trying to add that in my diet. That sums up my mentality. It’s about adding to rather than breaking out.

How do you find beauty in the world around you? Is it in nature? In your community? 
I would say really since moving to Boulder, it’s about trying to get into nature every morning. Maybe it’s not every morning, but that is my moment of taking the time to just be so thankful and have these beautiful moments. So I do a five-minute journal practice in the morning where I do gratitude as well. Being in nature and having a few moments of connection to feel the beauty. I also love to travel. Anywhere new. I like seeing four different walls. For me, that is also my time of really feeling inspiring and beautiful as well.

I love that. Tell me about your journaling practice.
I’m not perfect by any means. But I try to write in my journal five minutes each morning. For me, it is an easy template to walk through the things that I am grateful for. I also use it to not only put down what I’m grateful for but also as a tool to set my intentions for the day. And so when it asks, “What would make today great?” It’s a great moment to sit and say, “What do I want to get out of today?” “What do I want to accomplish?” “What do I hope will happen?” I think it serves as purposeful grounding work each morning. I definitely feel that when I don’t do it, my day doesn’t flow as beautifully.

I think that it is a form of meditation in a way. What would you write today?Having a great conversation with you.

Is there any bit of wisdom that you would share with your 25-year old self?
I would probably say, “It will all work out and don’t be so stressed.” I remember around that time, there was a blackout in New York City. Actually, I wasn’t 25—it was after I graduated college and I had moved to the city that summer. I remember being so stressed out looking for a job. The blackout happened and I couldn’t send my resume out because the internet went down. I remember not realizing that it was a problem bigger than in my apartment. I completely stressed out and thought, “What am I going to do the rest of the afternoon?” “How can I get my resume out?” It was like the world had fallen, literally. Then I walked outside only to realize that the entire city had shut down and the problem was way bigger than me. I think that stress out of college, not knowing what my future was going to be. Looking back now, I would like to say, “It’s all going to be okay.”

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
 I’m a total introvert.

What is your dream holiday destination?
Sailing around the Greek islands.

What are some of your most beloved and cherished things?
That’s a good question. I don’t know if this counts, but I just got a puppy—a Portuguese Water Dog. Her name is Charlie. But other than that if my house was going up in flames, I would probably save my computer.

Is there anything you are coveting right now? 
Some great boots. 

What is your favorite charity or non-profit organization?
I love anything having to do with nutrition and helping kids with nutrition because it all starts there. We recently partnered with Whole Kids Foundation to support their Salad Bar programs and are looking to do a bigger partnership with them next year where we can really customize the program and not only help bring better food into the schools, but also educate kids on the why behind it. That’s a big initiative for us for next year, which is really exciting.

If you could have anyone’s singing voice, who would it be?
I would say Jennifer Hudson because I saw her singing at Dolce & Gabbana’s fall show recently.

Related Reading: Feed Your Skin Its Vitamins