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This Co-Founder Learned the Hard Way That Scaling Is Hard (He Almost Got Shut Down by the FDA)

The learning curve in entrepreneurship is short. Here’s how one founder beat the odds.

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BY Lindsay Blakely - 24 Jul 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Hayden Slater opened Pressed Juicery in 2010 with two friends who shared his devotion to fresh juice. Each put in $30,000. They set up in the back of a Beverly Hills cupcake shop. Just as the company began to expand, things got sticky with a visit from the FDA.
--As told to Lindsey Blakely

We got overly ambitious and decided to start both local delivery and national shipping. I didn't do a whole lot of research; we just started taking orders through our website. I reached out to the FDA and said I wanted to make sure we were doing everything by the book.

At the time, our production was inconsistent. We learned quickly you can't just take a recipe and scale it using the same proportions. We'd have these crazy variations in flavor profiles. We didn't realize how crucial the cold chain was--from where you store the fruit to where you press it to how you deliver the juice. You need a consistent temperature.

When the FDA inspector arrived, I assumed that I'd just tell her about making juice, who I was, the history of the company, etc. I walked her through the production line. At every station, she took notes furiously but didn't speak. At the end she said, "What you're currently doing requires me to shut you down."

It was like a bomb had dropped. My plea was, "I called with truly good intent--I want to make sure that I'm doing everything the right way." I asked if she'd be willing to work with me instead of just forcing us to close. She agreed to give us 30 days as long as
I kept her in the loop every step of the way.

We addressed the cold chain first. It was a massive investment, but it allowed us to stay open. With our savings and $50,000 from friends and family, we rented a refrigerated truck until the one we purchased arrived. We also turned the entire back of our facility into one huge refrigerator so we could control the temperature during the pressing process. After several months of back-and-forth--it felt like years--we got word that everything we had done was acceptable. I finally felt like we were playing with the big boys. More important, though, it changed the way we did business. Every step in the process became about quality.

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