The Moms

Neka Pasquale

Urban RemedyCorte Madera, CAStory & Photos by Lauri Levenfeld

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” – Marc Anthony

For Neka Pasquale, founder of Urban Remedy, the path to success came from a single, core desire to help people experience food as healing. Driven by passion and intention, Pasquale worked for years as an acupuncturist impacting the lives of her patients through education, treatment and cutting-edge nutrition. And when those individuals (and their family & friends) saw results, they asked for more. It was through this recognition that Pasquale began to understand the value of her creations and the need to bring this lifestyle to the

mainstream. Her program had become a way of living for a community and her core values a celebration for her new business. In 2009, Neka found her ultimate calling and UR was born. Neka is the first to admit the path to success wasn’t always easy, but she followed her gut, stayed true to her heart, and had a few stumbles along the way. This is a great read for any passionate entrepreneur looking to stay true to themselves while making a sustainable living. 

 

1. Who are you? What were you like as a child?

t with Mother, cook, free spirit, healer, always in the kitchen, avocado and chocolate lover, with a little sprinkle of activist on top. I was a hippie kid. Lots of curls and little boundaries. My mom used to be a street artist at Fisherman’s Wharf. I would hang out there making friends of all ages and eating lots of Ghirardelli ice cream sundaes. I got to travel a lot with my dad where I was exposed to other cultures which helped with perspective growing up in Marin. It was an interesting childhood growing up in the Trinity Alps/Mendocino and Marin with crazy hippie parents. I used to wish I had a Betty Crocker mom and my name was Lauren. But now I am grateful for all the funny memories, travels, and characters I met along the way.

 

2. You grew up with hippie parents and eating food grown on your land, how did this help shape your belief that food is healing?

Yes, we lived in Mendocino county up in the Trinity Alps with no power in the middle of nowhere. I am so grateful to have had this experience. Nature was my playground. I would spend days catching frogs, building stick houses and playing at the Eel river. This experience deeply connected me to nature and the cycle of life, planting seeds and enjoying bounty of a garden, collecting fresh eggs from the chickens, making homemade ice cream and helping my mom bake fresh bread. Celebrating the simple pleasures of life.

 

3. Tell us about your path to Urban Remedy.

I am trained in Chinese Medicine and had a private practice for over 11 years where I practiced acupuncture, herbal therapy, combined with cutting-edge nutrition and lifestyle modifications for optimal wellness. I also began leading wellness retreats

where I would take my patients away for 3-5 day with live raw food, juicing, saunas, detox foot baths, intention work, yoga, and meditation. After my first retreat, I saw incredible changes in my patients and that was how Urban Remedy was born. People kept reporting they didn’t have the time, energy and know how to shop, wash, juice, chop and prepare plant based foods full time. I started UR to make the cleanest, healing food easily accessible to more people to empower them to be their best selves.

 

4. What have been your biggest challenges / rewards in moving from nutrition and Chinese medicine to a food and entrepreneurial space?

It was very difficult for me to stop my acupuncture practice as your patients after 11 years in some way become your family. With my acupuncture practice, I was able to intimately work with people which was incredibly rewarding while with UR I am able to reach many more people in a different way. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into starting a food/juice business. My intention was to have my one sweet little location in San Rafael and deliver locally but within 6 months of opening that store we ran out of space and it’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since. I have made many mistakes along the way but they were all excellent learning experiences. I still pinch myself when I say we have 15 stores now and over 300 employees. How did that happen?! When I spend time in one of our stores I love hearing how grateful customers are to have our food offered in their community. That’s what it’s all about! And I love the Urban Remedy community of employees who share my vision of food as healing and are excited about changing the way people look at food and their ability to vote with their dollars for organic, sustainable, clean, Non-GMO food. It’s the only way we change big food.

5. Tell us about a day in the life for you with UR.

It depends on the day. Some days I have back to back meetings (not my favorite day!) while others I get to do my favorite thing creating new recipes. On those days I create food, juice, or snack recipes and then taste test them with a few employees. If they are a hit they make it to the next round of development until ready to launch in store. This process takes around 3 months. I am always trying to come up with new exciting flavors incorporating functional ingredients.

 

6. You are a single mom- working, traveling, and caring for your son, how do you balance/merge?

I wish I had the perfect answer for this one. It’s a question I ask myself a lot. I don’t have perfect work/life balance. My son is just 6 ½ so still needs a lot of my time and attention. Since he is my #1 priority, most of my free time is spent with him and all the rest is spent at UR! Luckily, I get to be with my 2 babies (my son and UR) and watch them both grow and thrive. I am very grateful to do what I love and be able to be a good mom. I look forward to the few days in between where I make it for a spa day, pilates, or a hike on the mountain.

 

7. What’s been the best advice you’ve received? Who have been your mentors?

Surround yourself with people smarter than you who believe in your mission.

My mom is one. She has had a business for over 40 years. Growing up watching her expand and sustain her business showed me a woman can achieve whatever she sets her mind to. And my CEO Paul

Coletta. He has been such a gift as he truly believes in the mission of UR and is not willing to compromise the integrity of our product or values which is amazing. He has helped us create a beautiful culture which is the foundation on which we make all of our decisions.

 

8. Funding female founders is a big topic these days and yet there are still so few women being backed, can you tell us how you built your ideas, found investors/ money and scaled?

I think timing is everything. I started UR before there were juice businesses on every corner. When I was looking for my first round of funding I was introduced to an incubator in LA who was super excited about what I was doing and the authenticity of my background and natural progression of using food as healing. I didn’t start with an idea it was more of a natural progression of people loving the food and juice I was doing and wanting more. I think there is a natural flow that happened because I was doing something I loved and investors can sense that. Over the last few years there have been lots of ups and downs in proving our model and getting more funding. It is challenging but once I built a team with an amazing CEO who believed in our mission things became easier. The momentum of the business attracted potential investors. We chose to work with investors who aligned with our core values. I am happy to report our board and investors are very aligned in our mission and vision. This is very important for our company. If you have investors that aren’t in alignment you risk everything. I have heard many stories of woman founders ending up with the short end of the stick, that’s why it’s incredibly important to work with a team you trust.

9. What’s on your bucket list?

Travelling with my son and eating our way through Italy. World tour of best spas/healing sanctuaries. Writing more books. Living on a farm with lots of animals, big garden, pond and community the way I grew up.

10.Where do you see yourself in five years?

On that farm drinking a fresh juice made from the freshly picked veggies from the garden getting ready to prepare a big meal surrounded by friends and family. Full heart.

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