How an FDA threat made me a great op­er­a­tor

Hay­den Slater opened Pressed Juicery in 2010 with two friends who shared his de­vo­tion to fresh juice. Each put in $30,000. They set up in the back of a Bev­erly Hills cup­cake shop. Just as the com­pany be­gan to ex­pand, things got sticky with a visit from th

Inc. (USA) - - LAUNCH - As told to Lindsey Blakely

We got overly am­bi­tious and de­cided to start both lo­cal de­liv­ery and na­tional ship­ping. I didn’t do a whole lot of re­search; we just started tak­ing or­ders through our web­site. I reached out to the FDA and said I wanted to make sure we were do­ing ev­ery­thing by the book.

At the time, our pro­duc­tion was in­con­sis­tent. We learned quickly you can’t just take a recipe and scale it us­ing the same pro­por­tions. We’d have these crazy vari­a­tions in fla­vor pro­files. We didn’t re­al­ize how cru­cial the cold chain was—from where you store the fruit to where you press it to how you de­liver the juice. You need a con­sis­tent tem­per­a­ture.

When the FDA in­spec­tor ar­rived, I as­sumed that I’d just tell her about mak­ing juice, who I was, the his­tory of the com­pany, etc. I walked her through the pro­duc­tion line. At every sta­tion, she took notes fu­ri­ously but didn’t speak. At the end she said, “What you’re cur­rently do­ing re­quires me to shut you down.”

It was like a bomb had dropped. My plea was “I called with truly good in­tent—I want to make sure that I’m do­ing ev­ery­thing the right way.” I asked if she’d be will­ing to work with me in­stead of just forc­ing us to close. She agreed to give us 30 days as long as I kept her in the loop every step of the way.

We ad­dressed the cold chain first. It was a mas­sive investment, but it al­lowed us to stay open. With our sav­ings and $50,000 from friends and fam­ily, we rented a re­frig­er­ated truck un­til the one we pur­chased ar­rived. We also turned the en­tire back of our fa­cil­ity into one huge re­frig­er­a­tor so we could con­trol the tem­per­a­ture dur­ing the press­ing process. Af­ter sev­eral months of back-and-forth— it felt like years—we got word that ev­ery­thing we had done was ac­cept­able. I fi­nally felt like we were play­ing with the big boys. More im­por­tant, though, it changed the way we did busi­ness. Every step in the process be­came about qual­ity.

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