The Healthy Surprise Story - How it started


Started in a weekend in 2011, Healthy Surprise was launched at a weekend 'start a business' contest called Startup Weekend. I was just starting to take eating healthy seriously, and I was having difficulty in between meals. Sure, it was easy to cook meals at home (I mean, it's not easy, but I at least had control over the meals), but when I was on the go or traveling ... that's when things got tougher. I needed to start planning my food ahead a bit more. I had started eating at some of the healthier cafes and restaurants in Santa Monica and most of them had little boutique sections where they sold various snacks and potions. While the novelty and experience of finding these new items was great, it was impractical and expensive to have to seek out these high quality foods. Couldn't I just have an assistant that would go around to all of these wonderful places and  as an idea about how to make it easier for people to eat higher quality snack food.

So that was the idea: a service that would go out and find snacks I could bring with me on the go, that met my high quality standards.

So this Startup Weekend event is coming up, and I decide to give it a go. It takes place at an amazing co-working spot, Coloft in Santa Monica, CA. Here's what happens: about 100 people meet at Friday night at 4pm. There's some appetizers and beer for everyone to mingle. A couple of ice-breaker exercises loosens people up. Then they open the floor to 'pitches'. Anyone with an idea for a startup gets in a queue by the stage. Timer on the iPad is set for 1 minute. GO! At 60 seconds sharp you're yanked off stage.

After the pitches, you're handed a red cup and everyone's given two tickets (think raffle tickets). I go back into the crowd and have to hustle votes by getting people give me their tickets.

After about 5 minutes the red cups are returned and tallied. The top ten pitches with the most tickets are chosen. I now have to back into the crowd and this time recruit people to my team. I'm blessed to get Ed Wu and Mike Bracco.

And then it 'starts' at about 8pm. I tell the guys my vision and together we develop the idea and come up with a basic plan that night. We reconvene the following morning. Mike and Ed start working on the website, and I head out to get some snacks and boxes. My plan wasn't just to come up with a 'website' - I wanted to make and sell actual boxes! What better way to start a company than to actually get some customers and make a profit!

Our website is up and the first transaction comes through the transom at 11:04am. It's one of the SUWE participants, but we're live and money is in the bank! Our first customer in 15 hours :)

I head out and buy some boxes and go to all of my favorite snack boutiques and try to negotiate a discount off of retail. End up buying out every healthy snack in a 5 mile radius from Coloft.

Pencils down at 6pm on Sunday. Each time gets 5 minutes to present their idea and what they've built to the judges. I put together a Keynote presentation and start to get a little nervous.


I gave my presentation, explaining the problem and our value proposition. I went on to talk about how we actually had customers, revenue and turned a profit (the only one of the group to do so)! It was one of the most pivotal weekends of my life.

At first I packed the boxes at Coloft, at night in their back room. I'd stay late past when everyone had left and would monopolize the conference rooms.

It started as a side project - I was working on a different business idea at the time. But the customers needed new boxes each month! So I'd have to find all new snacks, order boxes and pack them. Easy to do for 20 or 30 boxes, much more difficult as you get to 100+.

Healthy Surprise needed more space, with a small budget. My great friend Kyle Hill let me rent his one car garage. This would be Healthy Surprise's home for a while.

It just continued to get bigger and bigger. We outgrew the garage and got a loft in downtown Los Angeles. Outgrew the loft and ended up getting an even larger facility! Orders continued coming in from all over the world. We were even sent this amazing photo from some of our clients all the way across the world, in Afghanistan!

And here we are today! We've continued to expand from just our subscription boxes to gift sets, personal care and more! Thanks for reading our story and taking the time. We look forward to helping you live a healthier lifestyle :)

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  • Joseph Winke
Comments 1
  • Allison Medoff
    Allison Medoff

    Really cool story. I love start-ups that make it. Thank you so much for your generous donation to the Last Call Foundation and my Boston Marathon fundraiser!

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