Annie Lawless may have a name like a villainous Bond girl, but she’s all about spreading the love.
The co-founder of elevated liquid wellness company Suja—that’s organic cold-pressed juice to you!—first discovered juicing as a teenager with Celiac disease. It’s effectiveness moved her to further investigation. The resulting love affair with holistic nutrition and wellness led her to become a yoga teacher and eventually launch her now thriving business with partner Eric Ethans.
Founded in 2011 as a home delivery service and established in its current incarnation in summer 2012, Suja is already in 900 stores including Whole Foods Markets. Lawless and Ethans most recently launched a new offshoot line of smoothies and more fruit-based juices called Suja Elements and established The Elements Cause Collective through which one of nine nonprofits receives 20 cents for each corresponding bottle sold.
Here, Lawless, who remains instrumental in the development of each Suja flavor, describes her juicing journey and explains why seeing food as medicine and spreading the goodness changed her life forever:
Live The Process: How did your experience with food sensitivities as a teenager spark an interest in health and nutrition?
Annie Lawless: I had terrible eczema growing up as a result of Celiac disease, but was not diagnosed until my early teen years. At that time, I was using goopy steroid creams all over my body twice a day and had never heard the words "gluten" or "Celiac" before. I saw my eczema disappear within weeks of removing gluten from my diet though and was fascinated by that. The direct correlation between what you put into your body and how you look and feel was amazing to me and, from that point on, I made it my business to learn everything I could about food as medicine—the different ways it could harm or heal you.
LTP: When did you discover juicing and how did that impact your life?
AL: I discovered juicing as a teenager in an attempt to help my body heal from years of consuming gluten and the intestinal damage that resulted. I knew I was not absorbing nutrients properly because I was not digesting well. I also couldn’t eat enough to satiate me no matter how much food I consumed, I couldn’t gain weight and I had very little energy. I read Dr. Norman Walker's books about fruit and vegetable juicing as a great, gentle way to easily absorb and assimilate nutrients when digestion is compromised. I got a Jack LaLanne juicer as a gift from my parents and never looked back. I felt so much better after just a few days of juicing spinach, carrot, apple and lemon before and after school. It was miraculous to me!
LTP: What inspired you to start your “liquid wellness” company, Suja?
AL: When I was 21 and moved from Phoenix to San Diego for law school, I eventually graduated from the Jack LaLanne juicer of my teenage years to a Norwalk Press. Meanwhile, I realized that law was not the right path for me. I struggled to put so much time, energy, monetary and emotional investment into something I didn't love, so I became stressed, anxiety-ridden and depressed. I decided to drop out and started teaching yoga at a nearby studio, which is where I met Eric Ethans, my partner and co-founder in Suja. He walked in with a green juice; I also was drinking one that I had made. I asked him where he got his and he said he made it at home too on his Norwalk Press. We became instant best friends and talked for hours on end about all things juice, organic food and health related. He has a background as an organic nutritional chef and is the person who really inspired me to share cold-pressed juices with others. We began selling the juice throughout San Diego as a home delivery service and caught the attention of two investors, who saw the potential for a real business. There was strong demand for truly pure, unheated, natural, organic, cold-pressed premium juice on a larger scale.
LTP: Do you have a favorite juice combination?
AL: Yes! I love Suja's Twelve Essentials green juice. It’s made from ten different greens with lemon and ginger. It is our greenest green, as it has no apple, but I have really grown to love that pure, earthy plant flavor.
LTP: You're also a yoga instructor. What is your personal wellness routine?
AL: My wellness routine is comprised of three things: what I eat, what I think and how I move. Most days, I do a gentle workout for an hour first thing in the morning to get a positive start and have some quiet alone time. I was a big runner in my teens and early twenties, but have completely shifted from long-distance, high-intensity workouts to more gentle and relaxing forms of exercise. I now prefer yoga, hiking, long walks, Pilates and shorter, slower runs. It's also really important for me to meditate in the morning. I do this every single day and it is nonnegotiable "me time" that my loved ones don't question because they know how much I need it. I use this time to fire up my positive mind and silence the negative. This helps me have positive thoughts and feelings all day because I've honed in on them in my meditation and flushed out everything else. I also pay close attention to the foods I consume and make sure I consider and feel good about every single thing I eat. This means nothing processed, refined, allergenic (dairy and gluten) or genetically modified. Each day, I consume greens, avocados, Suja juices, coconut oil and raw nuts and seeds and regularly enjoy quinoa, organic free-range eggs and wild salmon.
LTP: What are your guilty pleasures?
AL: Coconut Bliss ice cream and dark chocolate! I love both of these things and never feel bad for enjoying them occasionally. It's easy for me to stick to my regimen because it makes me feel so good and satisfied; I'm never left missing anything or wanting more. I also eat a big breakfast, lunch and dinner, so I'm not a big snacker. I just don't let myself get that hungry. I usually find myself eating more than others at meal times, but that works for me. If I want a little coconut milk ice cream, I have it, but I'm usually pretty full from a large meal and don’t have the desire or room to go overboard.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
AL: Doing something I love every day. Being inspired and making something new to share with others. Loving others and being loved. That stuff makes me happy.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
AL: To me, “Living The Process” means constantly pushing forward and improving. Never settling or becoming stagnant. I do this each day by stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing through new walls, even when I don't want to, because I know it's good for me. I put in the extra sweat to make things extraordinary because they can be.