Back in 2012, I became concerned about my health. It started when I noticed the knuckles on my hand begin to ache for no reason. Next, it was my elbow. I mentioned the symptoms to my doctor, who referred me to a specialist.
In the four months that I waited for that appointment, things seemed to go downhill. My joints became swollen. My knees, elbows, hips and shoulders throbbed and I was exhausted. As a single mother, I wondered, How am I going to take care of my kids?
I tried to stay active. I wanted to coach my younger daughter’s basketball team, but quickly discovered I couldn’t run up and down the court to keep up with the kids. It was painful to even walk.
Though I tried, I knew I wasn’t eating the way I should. My Vitamix was collecting dust. To be honest, most of the time I felt so crippled by pain and fatigue I had no appetite. And when I did eat a standard diet—with wheat or sugar—I suffered from what I could only describe as a food hangover.
There were other troubling symptoms too. I was losing my hair. And my skin was so dry I had red, inflamed patches on my elbows, knees and armpits.
My condition put me 100 percent in a situation where I never expected to be at my age: Unable to take care of myself and my family. The truth was, my two girls, ages 10 and 13, had to take care of me. I slept a lot so they were the ones who made dinner most nights. Thankfully, my parents were nearby and could chip in.
Needless to say, I was not myself.
TAKING A FRESH DIRECTION
Finally, my appointment came and I was diagnosed with the auto-immune disease, rheumatoid arthritis.
My rheumatologist, Charles Huebner, MD, encouraged me to adopt a plant-based diet to reduce the symptoms and potential joint damage that were occurring. He emphasized the need for more antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, and less sugar and processed foods.
To try to get the most nutrients into my system each day, I started juicing. I focused on consuming fresh, raw, cold-pressed fruits and veggies.
Immediately, as if by magic, I felt better. And within 30 days, my symptoms had all but disappeared. So much so, my doctor dramatically cut my dose of prescription medicine. Until then, I never realized how much my processed diet had been dragging down my health.
I kept drinking fresh juices and I lost 20 pounds unconsciously. My energy came back—even more than before I developed RA. It was a life-changing experience. I could even ride my bike with my daughters!
For me, juicing wasn’t just about curing my rheumatoid arthritis. It was a cure for a sedentary lifestyle.
SHARING MY DISCOVERY
I knew I was on to something—and not just for myself. I wanted other people to feel their best too. I saw a wonderful business opportunity to make my juice blends accessible to others.
As anyone who has juiced before knows, juicing can be a time-consuming and frustrating task for home-juicers. Expensive machines sit abandoned on pantry shelves because of the challenge of keeping fresh fruits and vegetables on-hand and using them before they spoil. Plus, the activity requires time and clean-up.
I’d been a business owner before. After spending a few high-powered years in Chicago pursuing my career in sales, I owned a Chicago-based IT firm before moving back to my hometown of Traverse City. So with the support of my family and many business-savvy girlfriends, I decided to found Press On Juice.
I started by spending a few months in my kitchen experimenting with different recipes and types of juicers. (My girlfriends and family were happy to help with taste testing!)
From there, I started working out of a commercial kitchen in Traverse City, where I could religiously maintain a sanitary production environment. I invested in expensive commercial hydraulic press juicers, multiple refrigerators, coolers and stainless steel everything.
I chose 30 different juice recipes, ranging from sweet and fruity (Bunny Brew) to rich and creamy (Rejuvenation) and earthy and green (G-Force and Harvest). I used a wide range of fresh ingredients including carrots, apples, pineapple, oranges, kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley, beets, celery, limes, lemons and ginger. The ingredients were simple; nothing but fresh fruits and vegetables added. Plus, I was dedicated to using locally grown produce and employing people in our community.
As Press On Juices are not pasteurized, the FDA requires that we control our inventory and sell directly. So I began selling POJ at farmers markets in Suttons Bay, Lake Leelanau, Glen Arbor and Northport.
So far I’ve also had great success in selling via phone and taking online orders for home/office delivery and pick-up at our kitchens. For direct orders, we are happy to develop custom recipes and cleanses that are made to order.
Health-conscious customers came for all sorts of reasons: to gain great nutrition, lose weight, treat or prevent diseases or just enjoy a refreshing beverage.
FINDING SWEET SUPPORT
My previous business experience was invaluable in allowing me to understand my own limits. I knew I needed to build a team to help me succeed.
So I formed a women’s business group with my local friends Karin Chung, Shawn Burnside, Lynn Rodenroth and Mariah Manning. We have learned from each other’s entrepreneurial experience and have provided wonderful support for each other.
I also called upon the great people at SCORE and the NW Michigan Council of Governments. Charlie Bump and Walt Muellenhagen have been incredible resources for sage business planning advice and they have worked at keeping me focused and accountable. Lori Sorenson at MDARD has also provided excellent guidance to help assure that POJ operates to the highest standards.
I know Press On Juice is my calling. It is a vehicle for me to serve multiple passions simultaneously. As any woman who has attempted to start a business will attest, it is a challenging, scary, humbling, broadening, consuming and exhilarating process.
Today, I’m not the same person I was a couple years ago. Before, I would have gone to bed at 7 o’clock. Now I’m able to ask my daughters, “What do you want to do tonight? We can do anything?” Recently, we stayed out late every night for a week, going to Handz on Art, hitting the movie theater and riding our bikes. I never could have been that kind of mom before!
Perhaps the only thing I can say for certain about my future is that raw juices will continue to make me feel healthy, I will never regret not trying this venture and I will encourage others to press on!
- Kris Rockwood is a Traverse City native, and a graduate of Traverse City Central High School. She now lives in Peninsula Township and is the mother of two daughters, Olivia and Abigail.
This article was originally published in the September/October 2014 edition of Grand Traverse Woman.