What’s the meaning behind the name Lupii?
Isabelle: When I was telling people that I was vegan, the number one question I kept getting asked was, “How do you get your protein?” This really stood out to me, so I looked at the plant-based protein options currently on the market and realized they were all super processed. I started researching high protein plant-based ingredients and became obsessed with lupini beans.
Lupini beans are, in my opinion, the #1 protein out there. Lupini beans are a complete protein, which is pretty rare in the plant kingdom. They have the highest concentration of protein and fiber of any bean, by far. We see Lupii as a platform for the lupini to help people learn about this amazing bean.
How did you meet your co-founder?
Isabelle: I was actively looking for a co-founder for Lupii when a former co-worker of Allie’s introduced us. When we first met, we instantly connected! We are certainly different in many ways, but we share a deep passion for the plant-based food space.
What inspired you to go meat-free?
Isabelle: I went vegan in 2013 after I moved from Europe to the US. I grew up in a pretty traditional European household with a French grandmother, so abstaining from eating animal products was kind of absurd. I believe that there are some beautiful things related to cultural identity around food, but there's also a lot of pressure that stems from tradition, which sometimes makes us blindly accept and justify things. Long story short, I decided to fully align my diet with my beliefs when I moved to NYC and started living with Noah, my now-husband. I realized that I had many choices when it came to the food that I put into my body, and it made me feel fulfilled to eat in a way that is good for me and the planet.
Alexandra: Around ten years ago, I started having some inexplicable health issues. The allopathic medical system didn’t seem to have the answers. In fact, treatments were often making me feel worse. I started to discover more holistic practitioners and various health modalities, and eventually, I was able to connect the dots between what I put in my body and my health.
Alexandra, what inspired you to make the jump from PepsiCo to Lupii?
Alexandra: I spent most of my career leading up to Lupii working on the Marketing and Innovation team, and then the Global Transformation Innovation team in the Global Foods department at PepsiCo. My time spent working in the food and beverage industry had me regularly thinking about health and the environmental impacts of food. I then met Isabelle and the rest is history.
Isabelle, tell us more about your podcast!
Isabelle: When I went vegan in 2013, it was still a bit of a strange thing to do. The trend was starting to shift, but there weren’t nearly as many resources available as there are today. I kept feeling that vegans were seen as extreme (and, quite frankly, a bit weird). I wanted to find a way to share different stories from vegans to debunk some preconceived notions around veganism.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenge(s) you’ve faced while launching your company?
Isabelle: The biggest challenge has definitely been launching Lupii just two months before the pandemic was declared. We were making solid progress in our retail-first strategy, growing into almost 80 accounts by the end of February 2020. With lockdowns in place by March, we had to quickly adapt and shift our resources to the direct-to-consumer side of the business.
What’s your team culture like?
Isabelle: We care about building a culture of trust and “yes and-ing” each other. We also strive to create an environment where we can find a balance between our work and our personal lives. In full transparency, at this stage, this balance can be hard to achieve, but being in it together and having a teammate at all times makes it so much more manageable.
What is your superpower?
Isabelle: Resilience. I like running analogies and I like to think that building a business is similar to training for a race. It takes showing up every single day, pushing forward even if things become difficult at times, not giving up when there are setbacks, and not getting distracted by discomfort and temporary pain. The goal is not the actual race—it’s the journey.
Alexandra: Empathy and seeing things from many perspectives. These skills are what allow me to often connect disparate dots, partner well with different types of players, and find solutions to challenges because I can assess a landscape outside of just my own worldview.
What’s your kryptonite?
Isabelle: Not enough sleep. It makes me less creative, less energized and I can’t really problem solve in the same way.
Alexandra: Bad coffee! I’m a terrible coffee snob and starting my day with a bad cup of coffee can really get things off on the wrong foot.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
Isabelle: I’m obsessed with endurance running. It’s been hard during the pandemic as there are no races to train for right now, but I have kept up with the running practice. Growing up, I was absolutely not into sports, but things shifted over the last 10 years and I find running to be very meditative. I also love improv. I used to be in a theater group in high school and picked up improv classes again over the last few years. I can’t wait for those to open up again.
Alexandra: Spending my spare time studying and practicing yoga and meditation is a very important and grounding force in my life. It’s a great asset that gives me a steady approach to building Lupii. Like Isabelle, I am someone that naturally likes to push myself and face bigger and greater challenges, often competing against myself to do more and constantly grow and improve. I've found that yoga and meditation have helped me harness those desires.
What’s your experience been like as a female founder? Any advice for women looking to start their own company?
Isabelle: It’s important to remember that women today still face a ton of challenges, even if we live in a world that is more actively trying to create equal opportunities. My biggest advice for women who are starting their own companies is to go into it with eyes wide open. Commit to building work environments that elevate other women and support their ambitions to be successful in both their careers and personal lives.