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Success Spotlight with Kaitlin Mogentale: CEO & Founder at Pulp Pantry
Kaitlin Mogentale is a Chicago-native, food waste warrior. After graduating from the University of Southern California with an Environmental Studies degree and minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Urban Policy & Planning, Kaitlin set out to combine her interests in food justice and sustainability into what has now become Pulp Pantry. She believes that local entrepreneurs have an opportunity to provide the pathways for better connection with food, community, personal and environmental health in the midst of a broken food system.
How do you define success?
Success for Pulp Pantry can be largely measured by social capital and the ecosystem the brand creates. How large and expansive is the community that Pulp Pantry is able to reach? How deep and meaningful are these connections? I love collaborating with groups outside of Pulp Pantry, finding ways that we can join together to create change and inspire others. As a packaged consumer good, there’s a lot of opportunity to use packaging as a medium for storytelling and idea exchange.
On a personal level, simply waking up feeling that: a) my work translates directly into meaningful impact, b) others value what I’m doing and c) I’m continuing to address a real and important need.
Everyone has his or her own journey and story to tell. Can you talk about your journey up to this point?
The idea behind Pulp Pantry materialized as I was at a friend’s house, watching her juice a carrot. The poor carrot produced hardly any liquid, with a good 75% amounting to a heap of vibrant orange pulp. At that point, I was already passionate about all things zero-waste living and sustainability - my friend admitted she usually threw out the pulp. I couldn’t let this happen… so I took it home to make my first carrot pulp cookies. The next day (back at USC) I was in the library and thought, what are all of these juiceries doing with their pulp? Right there, I called about 10, most of which replied plainly - we throw it away. I asked the juicery on campus if they’d let me come to pick up the pulp produced during the day. Class projects and school pitch competitions became the crucial testing grounds for how this idea might expand into a real business, and after graduation I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do. So, here I find myself today. I am still fully invigorated by the work, and believe that this can make it big - with the help of the right (juicery) partners. Right now, I’m focused on that- proving there’s a valuable market for my products and that this would be a worthwhile collaboration for a large commercial juicery. I want to leverage the existing resources of juiceries to expand on my idea as a real scalable (and replicable) business.
How did Pulp Pantry come to be?
I have to say it’s due to unrelenting perseverance (I’m a stubborn Taurus), real authentic belief in a larger vision for what Pulp Pantry can (and will!) become, passion and desire to connect with others, and then largely finding the right partners.
There have been many obstacles and trials along the way, but by setting my sights on concrete goals, somehow forces have aligned and there I am - finding the right partner who will help drive my process to the next step. I’m so thankful for the people who have invested time and resources into me and Pulp Pantry, especially my first partnering juicery, farmer’s market managers, the guys who I share a commercial kitchen with.
What has been your biggest challenge?
In the beginning, convincing myself that I had the power, ability and the tenacity to build this thing alone. I had never held on to a vision of myself as an entrepreneur, and at first I didn’t fully believe in myself. No one was going to hold my hand through the process and I was afraid of the path, mostly because I had no idea what it was going to expect. Everything up until that point had been so linear! I went on the John Muir Trail a month after graduation, where I spent almost a month backpacking in the Sierras. There, with no distractions and no one telling me what I could or couldn’t do - I came to the realization that I had the energy and passion to take on this endeavor, and that I was fully capable of accomplishing whatever I set my heart to.
What is your biggest goal with Pulp Pantry?
My goal is to travel around the world to help juiceries everywhere create product lines that utilize the pulp, or find other ways to creatively reduce their waste. I want to figure out a way to tie everything back to the idea of bridging the gap between food waste and food insecurity. I envision cheaper product lines that will allow healthy food to reach malnourished, or a percentage of profits going back to help build food access in areas lacking resources and investment. My hope is that Pulp Pantry will become a resource to improve the efficiency and sustainability of some part of the food system.
And then of course, to move beyond juiceries and to create product lines that utilize a whole mess of previously discarded, but still valuable, foods. I am always reading about brilliant food entrepreneurs who are targeting issues like food waste and food access, and I dream that one day we’ll all band together and collaborate to fix these issues once and for all.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Professor Adlai Wertman (Brittingham Social Entrepreneurship Lab at USC) gave me some calming and empowering advice in the beginning of my journey. He helped me to understand that to be a successful business, you don’t have to compare yourself to other companies and measure your success against what other people are doing. He invited me to define, for myself, what success would look like for Pulp Pantry - is it a localized business that creates meaningful impact in its direct community? He suggested I start out small - figure out how much I would need to sell in order to sustain the business and myself. Of course, I always want to hold on to the larger vision for what I’m doing - that’s what drives me forward. But I find that when I lose site of the small victories that will get me there in due time, I get overwhelmed and frustrated in the process. By redefining what success meant for Pulp Pantry in my own terms, I was able to think more creatively about how I might achieve my goals.
If you could have lunch with 3 people, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
One would be Tim Ferriss, because I love his podcast and I think he’s brilliant in the way that he asks questions. He’s interviewed some of the most genius people (in so many different industries and professions), and his conversations are so engaging and insightful. He is a wealth of knowledge! Someone I would genuinely like to hang out with.
Another would be Michael Pollan, a brilliant food writer. He is well researched in the food space and has strong opinions about many topics I’m interested in. If you haven’t watched Cooked on Netflix, that’s an easy start.
Last would be John Muir. Except we wouldn’t do lunch. We’d be hiking in the Sierras along the John Muir Trail. And maybe that’d be enough time to convince him to get married… Or just to thank him for his role in protecting our national parks.
The Fundamental Round
Favorite food: Ethiopian, Indian, Mexican, depends on the week
Favorite book: Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
Favorite movie: Samsara by Ron Fricke
Favorite athlete: Serena Williams (what a queen!)
Favorite sports team: Chicago Bulls
Favorite song: so many from different genres hmmm... For now I'll say Diamonds on the Soles by Paul Simon.
Favorite quote: Man in the Arena poem
It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly;
who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat.
Biggest role model: I have so many role models! I am inspired by all of the vendors I meet at the farmer’s markets, and their originality and creativity. Especially the women entrepreneurs and their amazing stories. Every week I meet a new role model, I swear. They’re the everyday heroes.
Animal you most resemble (looks or personality): Friends say golden retriever or a lioness (that’s because of my hair) but I think of a wild bunny rabbit.
You can connect with Kaitlin here:
Pulp Pantry Facebook
Pulp Pantry Twitter
Pulp Pantry Instagram
Kaitlin Mogentale LinkedIn
Final Words: To anyone reading - please feel free to reach out with more questions or ideas or anything! I am always excited to connect with new people about Pulp Pantry, and to share ideas.