GOOD Spotlight: Vanessa Phillips, Feel Good Foods
It's not everyday we come across someone who has built an empire by biking homemade lasagnas all over NYC.
But Vanessa Phillips is that woman.
Having grown up with a passion for food and an underlying entreprenuerial spirit, Vanessa catapulted into business ownership after a Celiac diagnosis left her missing the foods she once loved. Together with her chef husband, Tryg, Vanessa launched what is now Feel Good Foods out of her own NYC kitchen - creating healthy, gluten free versions of the foods she so desperately missed.
Feel Good Foods is now a nationally known brand with a full line of gluten free potstickers, egg rolls, empanadas, taquitos, and full meals, and is available in thousands of grocery stores throughout the country - pretty impressive, huh?
Vanessa will be joining us at The GOOD Fest Philly on our incredible female founders panel, but we wanted to chat with her and ask a few questions to get to know her PRE fest.
What was it like being diagnosed with celiac disease as a teenager?
That was a tough time for me in my life. When I was diagnosed with celiac it was not a common condition; my doctor at the time told me he had previously only diagnosed one other person. I was 19 years old when I got the diagnosis and the diet felt very restrictive. At 19 years old, the last thing you want in your life are restrictions! I was in my sophomore year of college, living on campus, and in a very rural setting. I carried around a very long list of foods I needed to avoid. It was intimidating and at times I felt socially isolated.
Did you always know you were destined to be an entrepreneur? Being from a family of restaurateurs, did you always envision yourself working with food?
I was born with a innate passion for food. I grew up with a brother only a year older than me and my parents fondly tell stories of what it was like eating with two very different kids so close in age. At 2 years old, I was requesting soft shelled crabs in a black bean sauce for dinner while my brother was happy with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Eating always brought me joy and it was inevitable that I would wind up in the food industry. I don't think the idea of being an entrepreneur clicked until after I launched my company. With that being said, from a young age I was always very determined and believed I could manifest anything I wanted. My parents described it as me being stubborn, but in retrospect I think I was just an entrepreneur whose wings had not spread yet.
What is your biggest piece of advice for females looking to launch their own business?
I would tell anyone who wants to start a business to ask themselves how badly they want it. If the answer is "more than anything" then fight until it happens. It may not happen when you want, or the way you want, or even how you envisioned it, but it will happen.
Entreprenuer life is tough. What do you do to keep yourself grounded?
Entrepreneur life is definitely very tough. At times it feels like you're living inside an emotional blender. I wish I had a secret weapon that keeps me grounded, but the truth is I often struggle with this today. I try to unplug when I can and find consistent exercise is key to me staying present and calm. My favorite tool when I get stressed out is to imagine my business in the most perfect state. I picture everything running smoothly and it operating exactly how I dream for it to be in 10 years. Practicing this visualization usually helps calm me, especially if my business is in a turbulent state.
Which Feel Good Foods product is your favorite?
Hands down- the chicken potstickers. The potstickers were our flagship product and hold special meaning to me. As a kid I loved eating potstickers from my dads Chinese restaurants. I used to tell my parents, before my diagnosis, that if I find out that I was forced to eat potstickers for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of my life I would be ok. So needless to say, I was crushed to learn that traditional potstickers were a no-no after going gluten-free. Even 6 years into my business, I still relish every time I eat a Feel Good Foods potsticker. They are just so good!
We can't wait to hang with Vanessa at the GOOD Fest - not only will you hear from her on our panel, you'll also get to check out Feel Good Food's products in our wellness marketplace.
Hope you come hungry :)