Why Raised Real Founder Dr. Michelle Davenport Is On a Mission to Simplify Baby Food
Photos: Michelle Davenport
As a clinically-trained dietitian, Dr. Michelle Davenport knew the important of feeding kids fresh, nutrition-packed foods. But after becoming a mother, she quickly realized that whipping up healthy baby food at home was much easier said than done — so she decided to start a solution of her own that would help other busy mamas in the same conundrum.
Davenport (who earned her PhD in Nutrition from NYU) co-founded Raised Real, a kids food delivery service that brings flash-frozen, pre-portioned meals (which keep their nutrients until they're thawed) directly to families' doorsteps every two weeks. Every dish contains raw, plant-based ingredients, which can be pureed for babies or steamed and fed as finger food for tots.
Here, get to know the Fashion Mamas SF member and read on to find out what it's like to live a day in her shoes, her favorite up-and-coming designer, her best advice for budding entrepreneurs, and more.
What has been your career journey thus far and what led you to co-found Raised Real?
While I was training for my PhD in Nutrition at NYU, I spent years researching the relationship between food and the brain in kids and adults. After grad school, I went on to train clinically at one of the best medical institutions in the world, the University of California, San Francisco, where I became a registered dietitian. Meanwhile, during all this training, I'd get sick to my stomach every time I heard that today's kids are so unhealthy that they're the first generation in two centuries to have shorter life spans than their parents. Because store-bought baby food is low in nutrition but high in sugar and empty calories, it sets the stage for this early on. Instead of hiding in academia, I knew I had to find a creative way to solve this problem.
Once I had my daughter Sophie, I discovered first hand after struggling to make my own baby food that the solution was Raised Real. Babies need real food and Raised Real delivers that to parents in pre-portioned meals (that I designed myself) with no added preservatives. Our vision is to make farm fresh food easily available to all children and fundamentally change how busy parents feed their kids. I embarked on this mission and haven't looked back since.
What's the name and age of your little one?
Sophie, my spirited two year old, is a curious little girl who loves to sing, tell stories and read books (or pretend to read). She's a natural storyteller.
What's a typical workday like for you, from the moment you wake up?
No two days are ever the same. I'm up early, usually around 6am. Most mornings I'll whip up a green smoothie for myself (always add a dash of turmeric with black pepper to kick up that anti-inflammatory power!) and get Sophie's food ready for her caregiver by popping in a Raised Real meal into our meal maker. She's two and mostly eating table foods, though there's still a few meals that she loves for breakfast, like our sweet potato, mango, lucuma, coconut milk, and chia meal. She's our little taste tester, so this morning she tried out a new recipe with strawberries and beets that I just developed. When Sophie wakes up, she usually screams"MAMAAAA!" until I get her. I love starting my mornings with snuggles.
Some days I'm completely focused on product development. When I'm working on product, I'm in the zone with my food scale, obsessively adjusting ingredients to the gram. I won't leave the scale until we have the perfect nutritional balance of calories, protein, fat, and less than 6g of sugar. When I finally get it to where I want, I send the recipe off to our R&D team.
My days are a mix of research, product development, meetings with R&D and ops, our marketing and customer experience team, answering customer inquiries, writing and reaching out to communities. This morning we had a photo shoot with the cutest baby and his mom. Every so often I'm traveling for an event or speaking opportunity. Every day is different.
Nighttimes are for my family, and I try really hard to stay present by stashing my phone away until Sophie is asleep. I usually catch up on emails later in the evening, like right now!
Favorite organizational tools/apps that help you balance work/mom life?
Slack is our favorite communication tool at RR. My co-founder Santiago got me started on Google Keep and now I can't imagine my life without it. I keep all my notes, important photos, links to papers, basically everything there. And I do a lot of thinking and planning on my gold Leuchtturm notebook. It's also handy for whenever I need to distract Sophie with a pen and paper.
We've all had those frustrating moments in motherhood — what's one memory that you can laugh about now in retrospect?
I remember wanting to cut Sophie's hair for the first time when she was about 6 months old. I was so excited about it and spent all this time collecting photos on Pinterest. I even purchased some fancy baby hair cutting equipment (which I learned are just regular hair clippers, but more expensive). When the time came to cut her hair, I had my mom filming and my husband Josh taking photos. Right when I put the clippers to her hair, Sophie turned her head and I clipped off a whole section of hair in the back. It left her with a huge bald spot on the back of her hair that didn't grow out for months. That's when I realized some things are better off left to the pros and not to Pinterest.
Current favorite kids clothing brands?
I just learned about a Barcelona company called Tiny Cottons from my friend Janel's company The Dopple and the clothes are adorable. For a baby photo shoot we got our hands on a onesie that had the words Tiny printed all over and we're obsessed with it.
Current favorite grown-up clothing brands?
My favorite designer is Stephanie Gancayco, an apparel designer in NYC who is about to debut her brand HALIYA this fall. She's incredibly talented and has such a deep love for the communities she's supporting with her brand. HALIYA a beautiful collection of hand-embroidered pieces that celebrate her heritage. Stephanie is one of my closest friends and after hearing about this for so many years, I couldn't be more excited to see this come to fruition.
Beauty product you can't live without?
Glossier boy brow. Don't know where my brows would be without it. And coconut oil, because it's coconut oil.
Best advice for women who want to succeed in your field?
Always focus on your purpose, and you'll never get lost. Don't get fixated on your current job, role, or training. It'll all come together if you continually hold on to your mission. If you told me 10 years ago that I'd have a baby food company today, I wouldn't have believed you because I wouldn't have been able to connect the dots. But life is funny that way, in that you'll always end up where you're supposed to be even if you can't see where you're going.