Good Food is Good Medicine is one of Naturally Chicago’s sister programs. So we were inspired when Kailey Donewald — founder and CEO of Sacred Serve, a plant-based gelato — spoke to our Friday Morning Mingle December 6 about how the personal health journey behind her fast-emerging brand.
A 2019 graduate of FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Accelerator, Donewald on November 6 won the Audience Choice Award at the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference‘s Naturally Chicago Pitch Slam. It was the second consecutive year that she won that Pitch Slam award, and it entitles her to share in a prize package valued at more than $100,000 with Judges’ Choice winner Parks and Nash (which produces instant soups made with bone broth).
Just a few years ago, though, Donewald was working as a business consultant and struggling with chronic asthma and allergies that doctors had persuaded her were incurable. So she spent time at an ashram in India learning yoga and Ayervedic medicine, and a liver cleanse diet enabled her to start feeling better. Then she went to Bali, which has a culture of holistic eating — and according to Donewald, Good Food magic happened.
“After two weeks on that raw food cleanse, my body has completely healed itself, both asthma and allergies, and truly for the first time in my life, I felt what it felt like to get a full breath of air,” she said, continuing, “And when I could breathe, more oxygen went to my brain and it really came alive, and I started to realize this incredibly powerful connection between our food and the way we feel.”
Donewald’s first step was to set up a business as a holistic healing coach, first in Bali and then back home in Chicago. But she soon realized, “This information is so powerful, and I wanted to tell more people and have a larger impact. Working one-on-one just wasn’t really doing it.”
This thinking led her, in 2016, to start Sacred Serve, a delicious treat with very clean-label, health-conscious ingredients — including young Thai coconut, a food she learned about during her Asia sojourn, which has much lower fat than mature coconut. She adds small amounts of coconut sugar, along with adaptogenic herbs and truly natural ingredients that produce four delicious flavors: Coconut Salted Caramel, Chaga Chocolate, Saffron Chai Spice, and Matcha Mint Chip.
Sacred Serve is gaining freezer shelf space quickly, riding some of the hottest trends in the Good Food space, including plant-based grab-and-go convenience, and healthy indulgence. The product is in many Whole Foods Market stores in the Chicago area. But Donewald has done plenty of shoe-leather product development work by herself, including more than 200 in-person sampling events to gain consumer feedback
Donewald says her participation in the Good Food Accelerator’s 5th entrepreneur cohort, from November 2018 through April 2019, also played a major role helped her scale up her business. She pointed out Joel Warady — who recently stepped down from his longtime executive position with Enjoy Life Foods — in the Mingle audience, stating, “Without a doubt it was getting paired with Joel Warady as my [Accelerator] mentor… Joel has really helped in every way and every corner of the business, and has stayed on after the Accelerator. So we’re really grateful to have him.”
If you haven’t sampling Sacred Serve yet, give it a try. And join us for the Friday Morning Mingle on December 13, featuring guest speaker Jason Lovelace, Chief Sales Officer at SPINS — the leading data and insights company in the Good Food and Natural Products Industry, and a co-founder of Naturally Chicago. Morning Mingles are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at LYFE Kitchen, 413 N. Clark in the River North neighborhood, and are free to attend.
— Bob Benenson, Naturally Chicago