When you first meet Karen Odierna, 46, she exudes that radiant glow, youthful vitality and sustainable energy that is the envy of working mothers everywhere. She is instantly likeable, knows everyone she meets by name, and is passionate about changing the way people think about juicing, not just as a cleanse or fast, but as also part of a healthy diet.
Just one year after opening its headquarters on Gulf Gate Drive in Sarasota, CROP Juice is expanding to four stores in the Sarasota/Bradenton area by next year. Funded by her own savings and no prior business experience, this single mother seemed an unlikely player to succeed in an industry that is worth $5 billion.
Her unlikely rise in the juice kingdom came in an attempt to curb her sweet tooth. Like most of us who try to eat healthy, Odierna admits she had a weakness for sweets. In fact, her childhood dream was to work for Willie Wonka in his chocolate factory! This former registered oncology nurse and fitness instructor for over 20 years tried juicing as a way to end the sugar cycle and stay healthy, but nothing worked. Then a friend who was recovering from breast cancer introduced Odierna to a Norwalk cold pressed juicer that changed her taste buds forever. Using a variety of nutrient rich, dense leafy green vegetables, the method extracts cold pressed, pulp-free juice that Odierna says subsided her daily cravings and gave her more energy. Armed with this raw energy juice, this budding entrepreneur set out to mix cold pressed, raw, organic juice (better known as CROP Juice) for everyone and the rest is juice history.
In her own words, this Riverview High School graduate shares her secrets behind creating CROP’s tasty concoctions and how she successfully navigated the challenges of launching her own business.
What prompted you to create a product that was different than anything in the market?
I wanted to create a product that I couldn’t find anywhere. I have tried “green juices” from coast to coast and have always been disappointed when I cannot get an answer to the question, “How many leafy greens are in this juice?” Though there may have been a few kale leaves in these juices, most are loaded with cucumber and celery. Leafy greens have some of the most nutrient dense (most nutrients for the fewest amount of calories) foods available!
You had no business experience but were determined to make CROP Juice work. How did you do it?
My business partner and significant other, Keith Campbell, has been my mentor and strongest supporter. Though he didn’t know much about the process of juicing, he’s owned many businesses in the past and believed in my passion and me. Our commitment to crafting the very best juice possible combined with hiring the most passionate and talented team members has truly been our recipe for success.
What were some of the challenges you faced as a woman entrepreneur?
I think one of the biggest challenges facing women entrepreneurs is being taken seriously, especially those without business ownership experience. My recommendation would be to align with someone who has operational business experience.
How do you measure success?
I personally measure success by the feedback and interactions we have with our clients every day.
You have a natural ability to relate to people’s lifestyle and the need to be health. How do you tap into what people want?
In many retail businesses, people don’t listen to their customers and quite frankly, don’t really care about them. We personally engage anyone and everyone in an effort to not only determine their needs and wants, but develop a relationship as well. We strive to remember the name of each of our customers so when they walk in there is instant rapport.