- Habit offers customers DNA and nutritional testing, tells them about their individual needs, and offers them personalized recipes.
- CEO Neil Grimmer is the founder and former CEO of baby-food company Plum Organics.
- Grimmer’s entrepreneurial success has taught him that every company you launch should have a personal meaning.
Neil Grimmer was a walking paradox.
A former Ironman triathlete, he was the founder and CEO of baby-food company Plum Organics. The startup was born out of Grimmer’s desire to provide his two young daughters with the best nutrition possible — and as it turned out, plenty of other parents wanted the same for their kids.
Now, Grimmer was overweight, pre-diabetic, at high risk for a heart attack, and sluggish, a victim of what he calls “CEO disease”: “too much travel, too much coffee, too much bad food in airports, too much alcohol, not enough sleep, exercise, meditation.”
Grimmer sold Plum Organics to Campbell’s Soup in 2013. Shortly thereafter, his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It was this huge wake-up call,” Grimmer said. Prior to founding Plum Organics, he’d been a designer at IDEO, and was almost wired to solve problems wherever he saw them. Rather than feel sorry for himself and his family, he saw the situation as an “amazing opportunity to collectively get healthy again.”
Grimmer went to visit Leroy Hood, one of the fathers of the Human Genome Project, to have his genome sequenced and learn more about what he could do to improve his health. He also consulted TNO, an organization in the Netherlands working on innovations around personalized nutrition.
Though he says he wasn’t thinking explicitly about starting another company at that point, Grimmer admits “that mindset always was in the back of my head,” adding that it was about knowing that “I’m not alone in trying to figure this out.”
Grimmer found his ‘tribe’ of people who were just as passionate as he was about personalized nutrition
Fast forward to today, and Grimmer is the CEO of Habit, which offers customers DNA and nutritional testing, then sends them personalized recipes based on the test results. He’s also back to a healthy weight and all his blood work checks out. His wife is cancer-free.
Habit customers go through a multistep process. First they swab their cheeks and prick their fingers to provide bio samples. Then they drink a high-calorie shake and take their blood again, so the lab can see how their body responds to the different nutrients in the shake. They ship those samples to the lab, and four weeks later, they get a biology report and a personalized eating plan.
This “Core” package costs $299; the “Ally” package, which provides more tools and guidance, costs $399. Habit also shares personalized recipes with customers.
If there’s one thing Grimmer has learned from his entrepreneurial success, it’s this: “Whenever you’re thinking about starting a company, it’s got to be personal,” he told Business Insider. In an email, he added: “Starting a business requires long hours and personal sacrifice, and can be tough on you as an individual so it has to be meaningful and something you believe will transform lives.”
Another takeaway is the importance of “finding your tribe,” or the people who share your passion for the business you’re creating. Ideally, the people in said tribe will have different expertise than you do.
When Grimmer was launching Habit, he teamed up with scientists like Joshua Anthony, the vice president of nutrition at Campbell’s Soup (Campbell’s has invested in Habit). It was, Grimmer said, “a beautiful combination of core expertise and personal passion.”
This is also how Grimmer hires at Habit: He said his current staff is made up of CrossFitters and yogis who also have the necessary technical expertise.
“It takes a rippling of that same ethos that you have individually to a group of people,” Grimmer said. “I do believe that that is an X factor for any company’s success.”