Kroma Wellness’ Lisa Odenweller
While many entrepreneurs see “failure” as a sign of defeat, Lisa Odenweller saw a wealth of opportunity. Even in the middle of a pandemic.
As a fourteen-year wellness industry veteran, Odenweller saw early success with the launch of California-based superfood cafe Beaming in 2011, but it had already taken a few decades working in e-commerce and tech to get there.
“During an annual physical at the age of 38, I shared with my doctor that I was experiencing some significant health challenges,” she explains. “I had gained weight despite eating healthy and exercising every day, was often bloated and inflamed, exhausted, had unexplained body aches and pains and my hair was falling out.
“I will never forget my doctor’s response when she laughed and said, ‘Oh honey, welcome to getting older’. This did not resonate well for me and I knew there had to be something I could do besides take medication or, worse, surrender to ‘just getting older’.”
At the same time, her daughter, then 12, had been on ADD medication for three years, which Odenweller found unsettling.
“As I was educating myself on how to take health into my own hands and heal my body through food and nutrition, I learned how inflammatory foods like sugar, gluten, dairy, processed foods, too much caffeine and alcohol were negatively impacting my hormones, gut health and overall well-being. I also realized that removing these inflammatory foods and eating more plants might also be able to help my daughter.”
Within three weeks of removing these foods from both her and her daughter’s diet, she not only felt—“and looked!”—better but was able to take her daughter off of all ADD medications.
“It was then that I knew I had to share this information with others.”
But that wasn’t going to come easy. Particularly while going through a divorce and raising three young children.
“It was a very intense time personally,” she admits. “I had only $100K to my name and no other financial support to help pay rent or buy food but, much like many entrepreneurs, my mission was so strong that I couldn’t not build it, so I risked everything to bring Beaming to life.”
While she couldn’t afford to pay anyone an appropriate salary at the time, two hopeful employees agreed to move into her kids’ rooms to cover their living costs, and her kids moved into hers.
“We worked day and night while I juggled my new life as a single parent.”
To start, the three-person team did beta trials of the ‘Beaming 5 Day Superfood Cleanse’ with nearly 1000 people over the course of a year and generated over $240,000 in sales.
“The cleanse became so popular. People became obsessed with the foods and beverages and wanted them all the time, which was my goal,” she admits.
By December 2012, she had proved her concept well enough to not only pay her employees, but raise an additional $640,000 from early adopters to open the first Beaming Cafe in Del Mar, CA.
Inside Kroma Wellness’ 5-day reset package
“Our first cafe was so successful that we quickly outgrew it,” she says. “I raised another $3 million after achieving unprecedented revenues our first year, hoping to accelerate our growth and expansion.”
Three more locations followed in the first two years (one in San Diego and two in LA), as well as a dedicated production kitchen.
“Despite the craziness of what we were building and how fast we were growing, I loved Beaming and was so committed to the work we were doing and the lives that we were changing.”
Unfortunately, she lost control of her company shortly thereafter.
“I had never built a business of this magnitude before—let alone raise outside capital. I also had never had a Board of Directors before so when some of my larger investors asked for a seat on the Board in exchange for a large check, I naively agreed.”
As she handed out more seats, she found her hopes for the business grew further and further apart from those with of her other Directors.
Tensions rose and, feeling frustrated and outnumbered, Odenweller left the company.
Beaming specialized in superfood-packed smoothies, acai bowls and more
“Walking away from Beaming was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made,” she admits. “There was about a two-year period where I took the necessary time to reflect on my learnings and gain the courage and confidence to create again.
“It was a powerful experience that forced me to grow up as a business leader and prepared me for my next venture. I was also able to identify the mistakes I had made, which became my greatest teacher for how I would build my next company differently.”
And that she did.
When I asked Odenweller how she started thinking about her new business, Kroma Wellness, it was nothing short of a love letter to lessons learned.
“When I started Beaming, I always knew the business model would only work if we also built a strong online presence selling healthy non-perishable foods so we could expand our reach,” she says.
“The economies of scale you could get from also creating an online business were necessary to counterbalance the low margins of a bricks and mortar perishable food business.”
This vision was never carried out, of course, but she knew it could be with the right business partner. Most importantly, a business partner that would excel in the areas she doesn’t. Operations, in particular.
“I knew not having a solid operational partner really hurt us at Beaming so finding a strong business partner that could fill this role from the onset was critical.”
And with that secured in co-founder Alex Rodal, Odenweller decided it was time to start raising money to launch Kroma Wellness. At the start of a global pandemic.
“I knew I had to take a non-traditional approach because it was such a challenging time to raise money,” she says, “so we decided to focus on raising money from Angels that were passionate about what we were building and could add value in many ways beyond capital—whether it be business expertise or just helping us tell the world.”
The end result has been attracting a passionate group of investors, 90% of whom are women, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Amy Schumer.
“What’s unique about our celebrity investors is that they were genuine fans of me, the brand and our products before choosing to invest,” says Odenweller.
“They experienced the results of our unique 5-Day Reset program through our beta trials which led them to want to engage with us in a greater way.”
A year after the brand’s official launch (and $3.8 million seed round), Odenweller is to be back at the helm of both her entrepreneurial and wellness journey.
“We have a big vision for Kroma and this is just the beginning.”
The Kroma Wellness reset wheel
Kroma Wellness’ Lisa Odenweller