Bringing Healthy Home: Featuring Gunnar Lovelace, Fierce Man + CEO of Thrive Market

Gunnar LovelaceFor a month that includes Father’s Day, it’s perfectly fitting we feature a Fierce Man, instead of the usual line up of women we designate the space to! Protecting women’s health, our rights, and our access to healthy menstrual care products are all critical to the continued growth of our mission. While women have been leading the movement, our male counterparts have been brewing up some disruption as well. Gunnar Lovelace, serial entrepreneur and most recently Co-CEO of Thrive Market, is such a man who’s been leading the fight in his own way — by bringing healthy products into people’s homes at an affordable price.

The startup has been described as offering ‘Whole Foods-type products at Costco-like prices.’ Thrive Market, an online, wholesale buying club (which requires a membership and annual fee of $60) aims to make healthy living affordable. It currently offers 4,000 of the most popular natural and organic products in the world at 25-50% off retail. For example, you can find Maxim’s organic, bleach-free, hypoallergenic ultra thin sanitary pads on their site at an every day low price of $4.49! By only passing on the charge of fulfillment and shipping, and making the majority of its money from membership fees, the company is able to offer products at a fraction of their market retail costs. Additionally, with each new paid membership, the company donates a free annual membership to a low-income family, teacher, student, or veteran.

Thrive Market

Every year, 80% of low-income families resort to buying food they know isn’t healthy just to make ends meet. Meanwhile, more than 23 million Americans today still live in “food deserts”—low-income neighborhoods without healthy food or options. Thrive Market aims to close this gap; it provides educational content to users ranging from how to be healthy while living on a budget to nutritional information and recipes and gives them a one-stop shop for alternatives to their basic needs with pretty much free shipping, making healthier options infinitely more accessible to everyone, regardless of their location. Members also have the option to donate a portion of their savings at checkout and every dollar donated goes directly into the shopping cart of a low-income Thrive Gives family.

We had the opportunity to interview Gunnar, veteran of the software world and non-profit founder; here are some of the highlights —

Other than signing up for a membership at Thrive, can you give our readers 3 tips on how to eat well on a tight budget?

–  Eat as many whole foods as you can – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.
–  Avoid processed foods whenever possible.
–  Try to abide the five-ingredient rule – if something has more than 5 ingredients, don’t eat it.

What was it like growing up on a farm and how can we continue to ensure farm-style living and farms in general will not fade out as we become more technologically advanced?

Growing up on an organic farm and food co-op is the driving force behind Thrive Market, as I saw firsthand the power of group buying as a way to make food more affordable and build community. Small farms are disappearing in favor of massive industrialized farms. Nearly 66% of all agricultural sales in the US come from only 5% of our farms. Industrialized farms rely on chemically intensive production practices that are destroying our soil and freshwater systems. Experts estimate we have fewer than 60 harvests left if we don’t shift to more sustainable agricultural practices.

The most impactful thing that we could do would be to shop organic, thereby supporting organic farms and sustainable farming practices. According to research published by the Rodale institute, if we shifted all of the world’s farms to organic we could sequester 100% of the carbon emitted today. Voting with our dollars could have a major impact.

What is the proudest moment of your professional career thus far?

Our mission at Thrive Market is to democratize access to healthy food, and part of the way we make good on our mission is for each membership we sell, we donate one to a low-income family, teacher, veteran or student through a program we call Thrive Gives. Our Thrive Gives members, many of whom are SNAP recipients, expressed their desire to use their benefits online, to create a pathway of health and wellness for their children to follow. In response, we launched a national campaign in support of the USDA bringing SNAP online, aimed to increase access to healthy food in vulnerable communities. We assembled a broad coalition of influencers, brands, media partners, NGOs, celebrities, bloggers and elected officials (Senator Cory Booker, Congressman Tim Ryan, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Ted Lieu) to drive a synchronized conversation nationally around this issue. As a result of our campaign we gathered 325,000 signatures in support, generated 400 million media impressions, and received a promise from the USDA to roll out a pilot program a year ahead of schedule in 2017.

You’ve certainly found a way to “make a difference” for many people, pursuing both professional and passion projects. What is your advice to young people who want a career that allows them to help people, but aren’t sure of how or when to make that happen?

Given we’re living in a time of intense political dysfunction there are a seemingly endless number of worthy causes one might align themselves with, leveraging their expertise to help make the world a better place. That said, we recognize not everyone will be able to replicate the set of dynamics we’re very fortunate to have created at Thrive Market. So while it’s important to be realistic about the dynamics in whatever organization you’re in, the following have been very helpful to me personally:

–  Be creative in how you structure your business and consumerize issues you’re passionate about.
–  Work with value aligned people you understand and want to collaborate with
–  Don’t accept no, or a lot of no’s. We were turned down by the top 40 venture capital firms in the US before we launched, and it was the best thing that ever happened to us.

At Maxim Hygiene, we define a Fierce Woman as a “glorious female creature whose idea of beauty is hinged upon the idea that she can change the world with each choice, each moment and each breath of her life.” Are there any special Fierce Women or Men in your life that you’d like to acknowledge and who made a significant impact on your journey possible? If so, what made them so fierce?

My mother Adriana has always been a shining example of persistence, creativity and generosity. When we lived here as poor immigrants, as a single mother, she worked incredibly long days to provide for us. Regardless of her financial challenges, she has always supported herself and me through her creativity and jewelry. I attribute my work ethic to her indomitable spirit and I am constantly blown away by the generosity she shows to others even when she herself lives a humble life.

………

Gunnar is a shining example of a man whose work is inspired by the divine feminine energy that can be found in all men and can be cultivated to create positive change for women, the leading keepers of a healthy home. Man or woman, whatever gender one may assign to themselves, as we continue to discover the #tampontruth and create healthier alternatives for women and all, let’s not forget the great men in our lives and the divine masculine spirit they contribute to the movement.

Tomorrow, on Father’s Day, we get a chance to celebrate the men in our lives that spend every minute of their waking hours making sure the ladies in their lives have the very best. Let’s make sure to provide them with the same. If you haven’t yet gotten Dad a Father’s Day Gift, consider giving him a membership to Thrive Market so he can live healthy every day at an every day low price and keep his ears clean with nothing other than our organic cotton swabs! From our Founding Father to yours, we wish you a very Happy Father’s Day!

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