From make up artist in San Francisco to certified raw food chef, author of the soon to be released Raw and Radiant: 130 Quick Recipes and Holistic Tips for a Healthy Life, and Co-Founder/Owner of the Local Juicery, Summer Sanders had quite the journey to not only entrepreneurship but also to healthy living. Feeling disconnected from her true self and struggling with disordered eating, Summer made the sudden shift to a plant based diet that then led to her now optimal health.
In pursuing a healthy lifestyle with her family, she felt the calling to make healthy food accessible and available to everyone. In 2014, the Local Juicery was born with this in mind.
Working with world renowned Chef Matthew Kenney, experiencing a wake up call, and overcoming challenges are all topics that we covered in our conversation with Summer.
On your website, you briefly mention the state of being you were in before your journey to optimal health. Could you share with us a bit more about where you were at in life before being inspired to take on healthy living?
Well in short, I was a mess. Right before my big “wake up” (because there were many of them along the way), I was 23 and living in San Francisco working in beauty industry. I was 20 pounds heavier than my natural weight and emotionally stagnating. I was unhappy and unhealthy from drinking too much wine and not treating my body and spirit with the love it needed from me. I suffered from disordered eating and had what I now call a skewed sense of self. I was sick more often than not and just felt like I couldn’t motivate myself. I had this sense of guilt, too, because I knew better. I knew what good felt like but couldn’t get myself to make the much needed change.
Health was something that was always in the backgrounds of my life. I grew up in Sedona, Arizona (a very hippie and health conscious town) with a mama who was doing wheatgrass shots and taking coffee enigmas way before it was hip. She was also doing her self-work! She was reading all the books and talking to me about “spiritual bypassing” when I was 12 but at the time I didn’t care. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have her influence.
In September of 2009 I got really sick. No one could figure out what it was and I was completely drained. They wanted to put me on medication but I just knew it wasn’t right. How could that be the answer? I remember a moment of surrender and in that moment I felt it was clear that I needed to start this self-care overhaul with a cleanse. I began with a juice cleanse. Two weeks later my life had changed forever. I lost 20 pounds, I gained incredible energy, and literally felt motivation flowing through me. I know it sounds so simple, but it really was just as simple as deciding to change. Once I made the decision, everything was easy.
It’s pretty huge that you worked closely with Chef Matthew Kenney. How did this opportunity present itself?
Matthew had been an inspiration to me since I was 17. I worked at a little raw food cafe in Sedona during high school and was fascinated by all the treats and beautiful foods he created. I would ask my boss if I could make a dessert using his recipes and they would sell out so quick!
Seven years later when I was wanting to go deeper into health, I went to his school and then ended up working for Matthew in LA. I helped open the Los Angeles school which is now called PlantLab and then worked online to help bring the online school to life. Matthew taught me a lot, mostly by just observing him. He is a very deliberate, graceful and dedicated man.
What are some of the biggest takeaways you learned from this experience of working with raw foods?
1. Don't be dogmatic. It never works to be overly strict. I believe in eating for our full bodies! This means all parts of ourselves, including the part that likes chocolate and wine.
2. You can add raw food to any diet! I talk about this a lot in my book Raw + Radiant. You don't have to be 100% raw to enjoy the benefits of a plant inspired diet.
3. I learned so much about my body and what it wants. Even just doing a five day raw cleanse can totally change your understanding and relationship to your body.
4. When you cleanse your body, you cleanse your mind.
5. Plants really are the best medicine.
Was it from there that you were inspired and decided to open up your own juicery? Or how did the idea for the Local Juicery come about?
When I was eight I decided I wanted to open a cafe called the Lost Avocado (maybe I still will!). The dream had always been there. After my son was born, I felt reborn. I had a confidence and willpower that hadn’t been there before. I wanted him to see me doing something I was really passionate about. I wanted to inspire him. I’d say when Henry was born, the dream became so much more than that. It became a fixation. I lived a really unique lifestyle and I really wanted to share it with more than just my husband and kiddo. I felt pulled to share it on a larger scale.
What would you say differentiates you from other juiceries?
What I know about us at Local Juicery is that we’re a family. Truly. And this matters because families hold each other accountable, they trust each other and they build together.
I don’t know what other juice bars are like and I don’t put too much thought into that.
Our standards are incredibly high! I’m feeding my family from this place! My son lives on this juice and food. I don’t budge on quality or organic because I know we’re helping create the future by what we’re choosing to do today in practice and in our kitchen.
What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered when starting this business and how’d you overcome them?
Having a nine-month-old son and a husband who was still in the Navy over in San Diego was by far the hardest thing. My husband is the reason Local is alive. We cleaned out our savings to open it and he supported that. We were living in different states for the first year of Local Juicery's life. That’s kind of crazy when I look back on it. I remember I was still breastfeeding and my mom would bring Henry to my work like three times a day because I didn’t want to pump. My husband would drive to Sedona every weekend to help me. He’s an amazing man. So yeah… it was hard. The whole first year was a blur.
Being that you’re very health focused, how do you personally practice self-care as a business owner?
By taking it one step at a time. I support my body with green juice, Chinese herbs, bone broths, lots of greens and good water. I take deep breaths, enjoy saunas, practice yoga here and there, laugh with friends, travel when I can, share letdowns with other female business owners, forgive myself and sometimes drink a nice glass of organic wine.
What would you say are the three biggest lessons you’ve learned in this career journey of yours that’d also serve as advice to someone wanting to follow a similar path?
1. Choose inspiration over imitation. It's tricky in a saturated health and wellness market and I think we've all copied before but it's so much cooler to bring your own spin on things.
2. Get everything in writing. MAJOR lesson for me.
3. Shit is going to happen and you just have to face it and trust that you got it. Failure is inevitable and the sooner you accept that, sooner you can find the successes.
Click here to pre-order Summer Sanders' soon to be released book Raw and Radiant: 130 Quick Recipes and Holistic Tips for a Healthy Life!