Episode 71
September 14, 2021

Slow Up for Fast Growth

with Leland Whitehouse, Co-Founder and CEO of Slow Up

About this episode

Leland Whitehouse is the Co-Founder and CEO of Slow Up. Based in Brooklyn, Slow Up is the first chef-crafted fresh food bar made with healthy whole food ingredients and delicious spices. In this episode, Leland shares with us his journey from growing up as a kid being able to identify spices by their scent at just three years old, to studying at Yale, to working as a buyer for Fresh Direct, to moving to Alaska, where he worked at a salmon fishery, to working at a food startup where he got the entrepreneur bug to venture off and start his own company. Leland talks with us about how he debated getting an MBA, how the pandemic changed the direction of his business, and how he's creating a new category in the refrigerated food bar space.

This episode is sponsored by

In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • What it was like to grow up in a great family that valued homegrown food and home cooking
  • How he found his way into a passion for sustainable food while at Yale and had opportunities to not only be a part of farming but also part of helping others enjoy good food
  • How he got a lot of experience and education working as a buyer for Fresh Direct and had a few light bulb moments noticing some gaps in the industry, and then came back to the Northeast to work for Happy Valley Meat
  • How his roommate had been learning a lot about the food industry as well and became the perfect person to co-create a solution to the healthy snack options conundrum
  • What the product development process was like and how it all came together in a unique way with a final product that provides the answer to the problem they set out to solve
  • How they went to market and how they dealt with COVID coming at about the time they were set to fully launch 
  • What challenges Leland and his team have overcome and continue to work through What advice he has for aspiring entrepreneurs and what’s next for Slow Up in both retail and in the DTC space

To Find Out More:



“There was a real live and interesting tension between staying completely committed to like really strict set of rules and values and ethics and growing quickly.”

“We thought about what is the deal with the distance between how satisfying and exciting meals are and what we're living on in between meals?” 

“We heard over and over again that options that were healthy weren't tasty, and that options that were tasty weren't particularly healthy, and that everything had too much sugar. A lot of dissatisfaction and the nature of the dissatisfaction was pretty clear. So that smelled like a business to us.”

“We just turned Chef Caroline loose and said, "Make something healthy and delicious that feels like a recipe, not a formula, and feels like it came to you from a chef.’”

“The nucleus is that breaking that healthy/tasty compromise, using fresh ingredients like you would at a restaurant or in your own kitchen and coming up with a product that felt like a recipe, not like an extruded lab product.”

“This has been an education for me in not saying, here's a delicious thing, how do we take it to market? But instead, like, here's a market, how do we make something to address it?”

“We really think of ourselves, despite riding on the refrigerated bar coattails, as creating a new category. It's an unfamiliar product that really only resembles a bar in its shape, really not in its experience.”

“Getting creative around where we belong in the grocery store, who the right buyer is, and who the right distributors are is part of the project.”

“We like to say good food goes bad.”

“Get a handle on the business first and then get a handle on what you think you can deliver, then take that and make the slide deck.”

“You just got to jump in the cold water. I think that's the big advice. Hard to feel prepared, and with a little bit of the benefit of hindsight, pretty impossible to be prepared unless you've done it before. So just send it.” 

“There's always another hill to climb. Another problem to solve. Problems shift or grow or shrink, but they don't disappear. So once you've jumped in, recognizing that you just got to get comfortable in that. There's always another hill to climb.”

Read the transcript

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