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. To celebrate the career changes that can come at any age, we’re debuting a new series, Second Life. Each week, we’ll hear from women who got over their doubts and fears and made the biggest changes of their lives.
When Jody Levy, an innovative artist with a passion for the environment, discovered that a staggering 200 million pounds of watermelon are discarded every year simply due to aesthetic imperfections, she decided to do something about it. Enter: WTRMLN WTR, a cold-pressed bottled watermelon juice made exclusively from the misshapen fruit.
Brimming with electrolytes and boasting less sugar than coconut water, the Beyoncé-backed beverage has garnered something of a cult following among wellness enthusiasts and has even earned coveted spots on the shelves of stockists such as Whole Foods. But beyond the bottle, Levy aims to educate consumers about why clean eating is so important for not only their health but also the sustainability of their communities.
In this edition of Second Life, we talk to Levy, the co-founder, CEO, and creative director of WTRMLN WTR, about everything she learned while making the transition from artist to entrepreneur, including the mantra that keeps her motivated and why she doesn't believe in mistakes.
Tell us about your first career path.
I'm an artist and a designer. When I was 21 years old and just out of The Art Institute of Chicago, I joined as a founding member of my first company, an experiential design firm. I've been designing experiences for companies, brands, and products for many years. The philosophy behind the work has always been (and still is today) about appealing to as many senses as possible and telling stories that engage and connect people. I'm a maker, a producer, a director, a strategist, and a storyteller.
How does your experience as an artist influence your work at WTRMLN WTR?
With WTRMLN WTR, we aim to emotionally connect with our consumers as often as possible. Any time we think of ways to communicate about our products or our mission, we aim to connect in ways that impact people on a personal level and invoke memory. We have buses out in the fields that we call our "Liquid Love Rides" that raise awareness about WTRMLN WTR and how important clean healthy living is to our happiness.
Our teams are well educated and help people understand how to make healthy lifestyle choices. Our brand ambassadors (who we call babydolls—a type of watermelon) wear full-body athletic suits that look like our package, and have all of the functional benefits and nutritional facts running up and down their limbs. We pass out seedpacks—cards filled with plantable watermelon seeds so people can grow their own WTR. Everything we do connects to our philosophy of giving back and inspiring people.
Tell us about your current career path and business.
I'm the co-founder and CEO of WTRMLN WTR, a company committed to redefining how and what we drink to nourish our bodies and sustain our ecosystem. WTRMLN WTR is a hot-pink juicy drink packed with electrolytes, vitamins, lycopene, antioxidants, magnesium, L-citrulline, and more. WTRMLN WTR consists of nothing but raw watermelon and a drop of organic lemon juice. No added water and no added sugar. WTRMLN WTR is cold-pressed with no additives, no preservatives—absolutely nothing artificial! The mission of WTRMLN WTR is to educate people about why clean, healthy eating is so important for the health and sustainability of our communities.
What have been the biggest challenges in your different careers, and why?
There are challenges every day. The biggest one is staying positive and being open, present, and flexible to respond to each and every ebb and flow. In order to accomplish a lot each day while being efficient and responsible, and most of all, to be different and maintain the integrity of the product, brand, company, and mission with every detail and decision.
What triggered your need to change career paths to start WTRMLN WTR?
In 2013, my WTRMLN WTR co-founder, Harlan Berger, shared this crazy fact that there are hundreds of millions of pounds of ugly, misshapen, but perfectly nutritious "waste" watermelons in the United States annually. This is what set us on our trajectory for WTRMLN WTR. As a designer and strategist, it's my expertise to take never-before-created ideas and find ways to execute them.
When I heard about the millions of pounds of ugly, unsellable melons in the U.S. each year, my ecologically obsessed mind lit up. My co-founder and I came up with this idea to create a beverage out of this upcycled waste stream. Watermelons are 92% water, so we cold-pressed the WTR out of the melon and squeezed the delicious nectar from within. This is what set us on this wild adventure in the WTRMLN Patch.
Why is your current path suitable for your personality?
I love the unknown! My favorite way of being is in surrender and flow. Building and running entrepreneurial companies are very much that—being a catalyst and surrendering to the wild adventure laid out before you.
What's the most important thing you've learned by making a major career change?
My career has always been full of many projects and endeavors at one time. It's the variety that keeps me inspired and connected to all different people, places, and challenges, which in turn keeps me very happy.
What's the biggest risk you took that paid off?
After 10 years at my design firm, I left to sink my teeth into more mission-driven projects and collaborations. It was a hard choice, but once I stepped out into the world, my wings took me on an epic flight that continues each day.
How did you move past the fear of change to pursue your passion?
I'm pretty much fearless, for better or worse.
What are some mistakes you made along the way that ended up helping your success?
I don't really believe in mistakes. I believe in flow, and sometimes that means things end up with unexpected outcomes. I find whenever I think in terms of a "mistake," it ends up delivering something full of beauty and wisdom and connectivity that would not have otherwise happened!
When you look back and reflect on your previous career do you have any regrets? Or are you still really happy with your decision?
I don't have regrets. Again, I totally believe in how life unfolds, and the gifts and connections and people and places I have been so lucky to explore. I try to stay in gratitude for all that I have, and it seems to keep delivering goodness.
What advice do you have for others who want to take a leap but fear the change?
Follow your heart and be very discerning. Come from a place of curiosity, do the work to go deep, understand your what you're really good at, and when you don't know something, find people who do and receive their support. Try to love the flow, and allow yourself to shift with the wind. In more grounded words, be nimble.
Find ways to stay healthy and inspired, and have as much fun as possible. Most importantly, try to love the process of getting to where you are going; because the moment is all that is real, and building and sustaining a business takes a lot of forward planning and consideration of where you are going. But in order to thrive, try to love the process and find ways to be as present as possible.
What mantras or affirmations do you use often to keep you motivated and inspired?
I use this mantra often: Only this moment is life. It reminds me to enjoy the moment I'm in no matter how difficult, frustrating, and intense it may be.
What's one thing you didn't know before you started that you wish you knew?
The list is too long and extensive. However, I believe it's my ignorance and persistence that's most responsible for where many of my companies are today.
For more inspiring stories from successful women who’ve made major career changes, tune into MyDomaine’s Second Life podcast.