Krista Anderson – Rebuilding the Dream an Entrepreneur’s Winding Journey of Success
By Meline Beach
Krista braced herself against the wall as she listened to the voice on the other end of the line tell her that her business, founded six years ago at that time, had come to an abrupt end. Time spent planning, devising a strategy, finding allies, navigating sales, and executing to plan, came crashing down when her trusted distribution partner had not only pulled the plug on their partnership but also stole her business model – a business based on offering healthy food snacks for on-the-go consumers at standalone food stations displayed at convenience stores across the United States. It was her American dream, yet at that moment, it felt more like a nightmare.
“They wiped out my brand at over 200 stores, stole my merchandising displays, put a different sign on them and cut my company out,” says Krista, who sold everything she owned and lived in a tiny garage apartment for three years to build the company. “I lost 80 per cent of my business in what felt like overnight and what was once my dream quickly became my greatest despair.”
At that moment, her belief in the American dream, achieved through hard work, courage, and determination, shattered. She believed her business was a stepping-stone to help change the health of America.
As founder and CEO of ESSTAR, an organic food brokerage and distribution company, Krista’s entrepreneurial journey has been a winding road, stemmed from a personal crisis and fueled by passion.
Her mission is to make the healthy choice the convenient choice by providing customers with healthy options in places they’ve never been available before, through “Healthy on the Go” food stations across the country. Called to action by a long but victorious battle with stage 2 kidney cancer in 2007, and stage 4 cancer in 2009, when she was given only three months to live, Krista became passionate about healthy eating.
“I quickly made a plan to do what I could to fight the disease through a healthy lifestyle alongside modern medicine,” says Krista. “One of the greatest challenges I faced during that time was to find healthy foods when I left home. I needed nutritious, plant-based organic foods to help keep my body healthy.”
Krista often packed her own snacks to take with her wherever she went but was deeply plagued with the question: “Why is there never anything healthy in a convenience store?”
In 2014, when Krista was healed from cancer, she decided to create the change she desperately wanted to see.
“My life mission became to help create a preventative healthcare system by making healthy foods accessible to people,” says Krista. “The first step was to start in convenience stores because they are on every corner and this would be the quickest way to give access.”
All she had was one big idea and a believing retailer.
I shared my story of overcoming cancer and my idea to have a healthy snacks section in convenience stores with a local retailer in Nashville, Tennessee. They were inspired by my mission and offered me six retail stores to test the concept.”
She set off to research America’s top healthy snack products for transparency, ethicacy and ingredient profiles to ensure of their nutritious value. She ordered merchandising displays and within six months, Krista’s Healthy on the Go was launched in its first six convenience stores.
“In the beginning, it was an uphill battle that I was able to overcome through marketing and advertising strategies, and the power of storytelling – to change consumers’ perception of our convenience store partners that they are now a healthy destination for people to rely on.”
Within three years, Krista was at the height of her professional success when ESSTAR was nominated by Michelle Obama’s non-profit organization, Partnership for a Healthier America as a “catalyst for change” for America’s health. Krista recalls the victorious feeling, a moment of honour as a small female-owned business and having the opportunity to meet the former first lady of the United States and speak at her organization’s conference.
Euphoria crash-landed with one phone call and her dreams unravelled with the news that her largest distribution partner had taken over her merchandising solution and changed it to something similar but different, under the guise of “Better for You” snacks that were not necessarily healthy.
That betrayal based on power and greed, and the fear of a long and legal battle with no guarantee for justice, took its toll on Krista and made her question everything. “Who can she trust – if not partners that became friends? Why get up and rebuild? What is to stop this from happening again?”
It took two years of self-care, reflection, and a relocation to the South of France, for Krista to find her passion again, thanks to the European culture she says emphasizes work/life balance and prioritizes well-being. A key learning outcome she realized is a shift in perspective in achieving personal balance.
“While promoting a company based on personal health, I was not a living example,” says Krista, who recalls working non-stop and taking little time for herself. “It’s so easy to get caught up in chasing the American dream, conditioned to believe that success is based on a job title or how much money we make and that the things we own bring satisfaction. We get wrapped up in the illusion and forget that the most joyful moments in life are the simple ones – out in nature, sharing a meal with friends or making memories with family – we are better people and employees when our life is balanced. As a cancer survivor, I’ve realized the most important accomplishment in life is living and enjoying life.”
With a greater sense of self-awareness and confidence, combined with grit and determination, Krista is back on track to rebuilding her dream. This adversity has served as an opportunity to demonstrate resilience and tenacity, and to learn from mistakes while surrounding herself with people who can help. A lesson learned and piece of advice she shares, as she takes control of her dream, builds a bigger story, tells it louder and seeks stronger relationships than before, backed by contracts, is this: Build the cost of failure into your business, budget for loss and build a safety net. While no one plans to fail in business, sometimes good comes out of bad and resilience is what bounces us back to achieve our objectives.
“I have come to realize that I cannot do this alone at the capacity I was before,” says Krista. “To make great change happen there must be unity in partnerships. This is a big mission and there is much work left to do.”
Krista remains true to her purpose and is looking for companies that want to join the movement, cause, and catalyst for change in creating a preventative healthcare system. More than just a healthy label, she is looking for functional snacks with transparent manufacturing and supply chain processes, and brands with a story of their own that fuels their passion for making an impact.
“Every partnership every day is my greatest victory,” says Krista, who is grateful for the people who believe in her mission. “The journey is real; you’ve got to be passionate and always of service.”
ESSTAR is now an international company that represents a growing number of functional snacks available in hospitals, universities, airports, and other retail settings. To learn more about ESSTAR, visit www.esstar.us, or connect with Krista directly on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.
Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience & Carwash Canada. In addition to freelance writing, Meline provides communications and public relations support to businesses across Canada. She can be reached at www.mlbcomms.ca