It’s morning and Annie Lawless is getting down and dirty in her kitchen.
While experimenting with recipes may seem unremarkable, the first time the 28-year-old did this years ago, it led to her co-founding the Suja Juice Company, now worth $300 million.
Lawless laughs and says, "Yes, it completely blows my mind that we've come this far."
Lawless grew up like a typical kid, eating pizza, burgers and mac and cheese. But she also dealt with years of asthma, allergies and eczema until a doctor diagnosed her with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that makes her highly sensitive to gluten.
“That was a huge light bulb moment for me," says Lawless, "that what I am putting in my body is directly correlated to how I look and feel."
Eating clean and free of symptoms, Lawless set off on a course to stay healthy: learning and teaching yoga in La Jolla and making organic, cold-pressed juices, which became her passion.
She started selling her juice to folks in the yoga community, and its popularity grew. Then she teamed up with a young chef named Eric Ethan.
They started a home-delivery system, which took off, so they enlisted two additional partners with business backgrounds. Together, the group expanded the line of juices to grocery store chains.
Suja Juice became a national hit. Last year, the company's revenue hit $45 million, and that number is projected to double this year. Forbes ranked Suja Number 2 on the list of America's most promising companies.
If that's not enough exposure, Annie co-penned a book on The New York Times best seller list called "The Suja Juice Solution: 7 Days to Lose Fat, Beat Cravins and Boost your Energy."
It may not hurt that Lawless is smart, has movie-star good looks and personifies a healthy California lifestyle consumers like.
In many ways, she is also her own brand — one reason she is growing a blog called Blawnde, on which she shares good recipes and bad days, fashion and even struggles.
That connection with readers goes two-ways. Lawless says some of her most gratifying interactions come from young women who have been helped by information or feelings Lawless shared.
That is the real payoff for Lawless, she says. While her business success and all the attention have been nice, she considers it an indirect payoff for having followed her passion to share with others.
"I really do believe that if you love something and are passionate about it, and you let yourself do it and go with the flow and go where your interests are taking you, you will be successful," Lawless says.