You spent your 20s working toward building your dream career, but now that you’re in your 30s, what do you do when you’ve, well, changed your mind? Or maybe you never quite figured it out, and you’re now ready to commit to something you’re passionate about, whether it’s a job, a city, or just a new way of life? Our new series called Second Life celebrates the career changes that can come at any age. Each month, we’ll hear from women who got over their doubts and fears and made the biggest changes of their lives.
Courtesy of Meryl Pritchard
We all want to find our true calling in life. To dedicate our ourselves to something we're so insanely passionate about that we couldn't possibly call it work because we love doing it so much. But would you put your fears aside to quit your job and pursue your dreams? It's not an easy decision, and the path to success is a windy, unknown, and tumultuous one, but from speaking with Meryl Pritchard, celebrity fashion stylist–turned-nutritionist and founder of luxury meal delivery service Kore Kitchen, the leap is totally worth it.
After assisting for years in New York, Pritchard felt disenchanted by the industry. Her "negative" experience sent her on a hunt for a higher purpose and even with the many challenges she's met (and conquered) along the way, she's never looked back. Ahead, Pritchard shares her story and how a chance encounter with Alicia Silverstone's book at Barnes & Noble triggered the major career move that changed her life.
Courtesy of Meryl Pritchard
MYDOMAINE: Tell us about your first career path.
MERYL PRITCHARD: I started my career in the fashion industry. I went to FIDM and my first job out of school was working in the buying office of Ron Herman at Fred Segal Melrose, where I ended up assisting celebrity stylists. I was in my early 20s and had just moved to L.A., so this was really exciting and fun for me. At the same time, however, I was still figuring out who I was as a person and how to take care of myself on my own. My body changed a lot after high school, and despite being raised in Boulder, Colorado (one of the healthiest towns in America), I didn't really know how to nourish myself properly.
The fashion industry, for me, was very negative and not conducive to living a healthy lifestyle. Most of the people I was surrounded by (and had to interact with) were running on coffee, cigarettes, no sleep, and a lot of stress. They were very critical and judgmental of everyone, especially of themselves and the people we would be dressing (who to me, were flawless). This judgmental thinking started to bleed into my personal life and affect how I thought and spoke to myself. I didn't like what I saw in the mirror and would criticize myself harshly for it. How was I supposed to feel about myself if I was witnessing models and actresses being criticized for the way they looked on a daily basis?
One time I was dressing a male actor in his 40s who wasn't quite fitting into the pants we pulled for his movie premiere. He assured me he would be able to fit into them in time for the premiere because he was on a special diet—seven raw almonds a day. I was a young, impressionable woman, but I had a good enough head on my shoulders to know that this was absolutely crazy. I had experimented myself with not eating, trying different fad diets and food delivery systems, then getting frustrated and binging, getting mad at myself for binging, and then forcing myself to throw up or use laxatives. I was on a roller coaster ride and had to find a way out. The problem was, I didn't have any nutritional guidance. I kept hearing conflicting theories about what was "healthy," and I was so confused.
MD: How did you make the transition from fashion design to food?
MP: It happened while I was assisting a stylist in NYC. It was New Year's Eve, and I had some time to kill before heading to my party that night. I went to Barnes and Noble in Union Square and was browsing the new releases when I stumbled upon The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. It's a vegan cookbook and includes information about the vegan lifestyle. My negative thinking kicked in, and my first reaction was, That's embarrassing that she wrote a book. I picked it up out of curiosity to see what she had to say and started flipping through the pages.
I learned about things we should have all been taught in school, from the food industry to how animals are raised for food production and how food affects our body. At first, it made me really angry. I was angry that I was just learning this information now, in my 20s. Then I was excited because I knew I needed to share this message with the rest of the world. I slowly started doing more of my own research about health and wellness based off that book. My roommate and I also committed to going vegan. I quickly learned that veganism was not just a diet change, it was a lifestyle change. We did it the wrong way for a while, eating a lot of processed foods that were technically vegan, like bread, but that didn't mean it was healthy. Twizzlers and Airheads for example, are also "vegan." I didn't feel great eating this way, so I started experimenting with different diets such as the macrobiotic diet.
At this point, I made the decision to leave New York, move back to L.A., and change my career (and my life). I emailed every holistic nutritionist I could find in L.A. who had a legit website (and wasn't too out there). My email basically said "I'm new to the industry and would like to assist and learn from you in any way." Almost all of those nutritionists wrote back to me (something I wasn't used to coming from the fashion industry) with positive feedback and motivation to keep spreading the message. That made me feel like I had made the right decision.
One of them told me she needed an intern to write her blog posts, and, in exchange, I could sit in on all her client sessions and learn directly from her. She also required that I enroll in nutrition school so I had some credentials. I signed up for the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the largest holistic nutrition school in the world. In her client sessions, I would watch as she helped diagnose and cure people who would come to her as a last resort, after trying traditional Western medicine. I was able to directly see the power that food and whole food-based supplements had on the body. Those sessions were truly invaluable to me.
MD: Tell us about your current career path/business?
MP: I worked for a few people in nutrition before I started my own business, and I realized early on that I could do what they were doing, but better. As an assistant to someone, your job is to do what they ask you to do. You don't want to overstep any boundaries. It was hard for me to sit back and watch someone continue with unorganized systems and low-quality products (I'm a Virgo, if anyone can relate). So about three years ago, I started my own business, Kore Kitchen. I didn't plan on ever owning a business; it just sort of fell into my lap. It was like a baby that really wanted to be born, and it was my job to raise and nurture it.
I was assisting a friend who was a chef and ran a small meal delivery startup. After a while, it got too stressful, so she took another job. She told me I could take on any clients that contacted her for more business. I, of course, said yes. The only problem was I didn't know how to cook (minor detail). So I had to teach myself on the spot. Siri actually taught me how to cook even something as chicken breast for example. It was definitely a process, but all my clients seemed to be enjoying the meals because they kept placing orders.Then something really cool happened: One of my clients loved the meals so much they told Gwyneth Paltrow about it. She tried the service and loved it. She had really nice feedback, but I assumed it was a one-off and I'd never hear from her again.
A couple of months later, her food editor reached out to me and asked for some smoothie recipes for their website, Goop. I didn't read Goop at the time, so I had no idea how strong her following was. So I sent along some recipes and thought nothing of it. On January 1, 2015, while I was out hiking with my boyfriend, my phone was flooded with new orders. I had no idea what was going on. Then I discovered they included my recipes in their Annual Detox Guide. I rushed home and started getting organized because I now had all these orders to fill on my own. It was pretty overwhelming, and I remember not sleeping a lot, but I was able to get everything done that first month, with some help from my mother who graciously flew out from Colorado for a week (and she's actually a really good cook).
Since my overhead was so low that month, and I was the only employee, I made enough money to sign a lease for a brand-new commercial kitchen space at L.A. Prep, hire a professional chef, a delivery driver, an assistant, order supplies, and hire a branding firm so we looked professional. I was ready to take this business to the next level. We've been going and growing ever since. Kore Kitchen is now a luxury meal delivery service local to Los Angeles that offers whole, organic foods that are locally and sustainably sourced. We offer both vegan and sustainable meat programs, as well as a whole food–based Kore Cleanse.
"Then something really cool happened. One of my clients loved the meals so much they told Gwyneth Paltrow about it." — Meryl Pritchard
MD: What have been the biggest challenges in your many careers, and why?
MP: There are a lot of challenges as an entrepreneur, but these are what help you to learn and grow. I think the hardest thing for me is not having the funding to run and grow my business properly. It really restricts what I'm able to do each month. I need a lot of help because there are so many moving parts in a meal-delivery service. Our overhead is very high now, and without the funds to hire more help, a lot of that work falls on me, which means I am forced to wear many different hats.
One day I'll be in a meeting with medical doctors in Beverly Hills; the next day I'll be in our kitchen washing dishes. I'm always busy, and even on my one day off a week, I'm still working. This makes it hard to have a social life. It gets old telling people you're too busy to hang out with them, and wedding and baby shower invitations really throw a wrench in my schedule, unfortunately. One of the biggest issues is that you can never really turn off. If you do, the business stops, and you are the only one who can keep it going. I've gotten really good at making lists for myself, and it's essential to plan ahead so you don't get overwhelmed. Even though I've made a lot of sacrifices for this business, I have never compromised on the quality of the meals.
MD: What triggered your need to change this time around?
MP: I felt so uncomfortable in my own skin and was tired of being negative toward myself. I think that's the worst feeling in the world, and I don't want anyone to feel that way. We can't escape our bodies. It's where we have to live for the rest of our time on earth, so we need to learn to accept and love ourselves the way we are and treat ourselves kindly. I've done a lot of deep work on myself, and I'm putting time into my personal self-care and growth every day. If you don't take care of yourself properly, you cannot properly help others.
MD: Why is your current path suitable for your personality?
MP: I love helping people, so much so that I sometimes put others before myself (which isn't always a good thing). The work that I do is really meaningful, and it brings me so much joy to give someone helpful advice or a meal that will make them feel better. It's a gift and a privilege to help someone change their life and find happiness. I think there are a lot of different ways to do that; I just chose to do it through food.
MD: What's the most important thing you have learned in making a big change in your career life?
MP: I've learned that we are capable of so much more than we think. You really can do anything you put your mind to. I didn't know anything about business or cooking when I started, and I now own a food business. Start saying yes to things that make you uncomfortable, even if it's a total disaster at first. Public speaking makes me nauseous, but I agree to do it every time I'm asked. The reason for that is because I know I have an important message to share, and if I'm given the opportunity to share it, it would be selfish to say no.
Also, start before you're ready. You'll figure it out along the way. I had our Kore Kit on the website ready to sell before I had even written the booklet and put the kit together (I only had a general idea). When I got my first order, I wrote the booklet that day and shipped the box out the next morning. It definitely wasn't perfect, but it was done. I edited it after that and eventually got my designer to create a gorgeous printed booklet, but it probably would have taken me twice as long to get it out into the world if I had waited until it was perfect. I think most people struggle with just getting started and taking action.
MD: How did you move past the fear of change to pursue your passion?
MP: I didn't really have any fear, just excitement for what was ahead of me, and I was willing to put in the work to get where I needed to be. I'm not saying it was easy, it was definitely a struggle to get to this point, but in the end [it was] totally worth it. I think it's hard taking the leap into the unknown, but you can either decide to continue down a path that doesn't make you happy or take a big risk and see if there's something else out there for you. You just have to trust that it will work out.
It may be a struggle at first (or for a little while), but you'll never know what could be unless you try. If you're not happy, it's important to take a step back, reassess your current situation, and make a change, big or small. Sometimes all you need to do is shift or pivot in a small way. We're only here for a short time on this planet, so why waste any more time being miserable and doing something that you don't enjoy?
"I think it's hard taking the leap into the unknown, but you can either decide to continue down a path that doesn't make you happy or take a big risk and see if there's something else out there for you." — Meryl Pritchard
MD: What are some mistakes you made along the way that ended up helping your success?
MP: I made a lot of mistakes that were costly, but I learned a lot from them. I hired a really expensive branding firm when I started, and they assigned a really inexperienced freelancer to handle my account (because I was such a small account for them). It took forever for her to get on the same page as me and cost me a lot of money. I told her I wanted a triangle logo, and she kept sending me hexagons and other shapes encouraging me to go with something else. Now I have an amazing designer who I don't need to give any direction because she has great personal taste and a clear vision for my brand (it's actually the same designer for Clique Media Group). Finding the right people is key. It's important to find people who believe in your brand as much as you do and can support you in different areas like that.
Don't make life harder for yourself; there is always a way to simplify a task. I am constantly reminding myself to simplify, simplify, simplify—Henry David Thoreau. Think outside of the box, take the time to meet with other people in your industry and find out what's working or what can be improved then learn from their mistakes. It's a great way to share different resources. Embrace the competition, don't fight it.
MD: What do you love most about your current role, and why?
MP: I take my job as a healer very seriously. I want to make sure I'm providing the highest-quality meals that look good, made with intention, and taste amazing. My chef is literally singing and dancing while he's cooking, which makes me so happy because I know that his energy is getting infused into the food. I want to make eating healthy enjoyable and easy so that people can stick to it and see results. There are a lot of brands out there that get into the health industry for the wrong reason; they see it as a trend and want to capitalize on it.
It's easy for me to spot companies like this that are not authentic, but I don't think it's as clear for the consumer because the companies have the funds to pay influencers on social media and celebrities to promote it for them. That's why I collaborate with brands as wellness partners and include their snacks in our programs. Not only does this help to elevate the brands we work with, but it also introduces our clients to products we approve of; something that will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle long after they've finished their program with us. I don't think anyone should eat our food all the time, so it's important to give them the tools that are sustainable.
MD: When you look back and reflect on your previous career do you have any regrets? Or are you still really happy with your decision?
MP: No regrets! I have never looked back unless it was to say Thank god I'm not doing that anymore.
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Have you been thinking about a career change? Does hearing someone's story help you take the leap? If you recently made a major job swap or started your own business, let us know all about it in the comments below.