Dawn Russell on 8Greens, Wellness and Family
I am grateful and proud to be able to bring more greens into people’s lives and hopefully improve their health and general wellbeing.
Dawn Russell, is a working mother who understands that life is busy and wonderful, but it can also be stressful. In the real world of work, family and deadlines, it can be hard to eat healthily. A shocking 87% of Americans don’t get the minimum recommended daily allowance of greens. She started 8Greens, a nutrient-dense supplement made from real greens, to help you get there.
What led you to create 8Greens?
I never set out to be a businesswoman. When I look at where I am and what got me here, I realize how incredibly lucky I have been and how great things can happen against great odds.
When I was 25, I was diagnosed with stage three cancer. During a surgery I got a bone infection which meant I couldn’t have radio- or chemotherapy. I had to look at alternative therapies to help me on my journey back to health and spent four years travelling the world trying integrative therapies. Little did I know that after all my years of searching, I would end up back in my NYC kitchen going back to the basics of nutrition. Greens were the first thing to get me to 10AM without needing a nap.
I was very fortunate and ended up healthy. I knew the impact food had on me and my continued health. Even my husband who had seen what I had been through, refused to eat kale and other greens in his diet so I had to find a solution. After five years and 263 prototypes, I created 8Greens. It is an effervescent tablet that dissolves in any liquid and contains the eight greens that I found had the most impact on my body when it was so in need. It’s portable, affordable and tastes so good even my kids love it – it’s definitely a family business. When we launched in 2015, I had no idea of the overwhelming response it would get.
I live in London with my husband and two boys. 8Greens is continuing to grow at an amazing rate so I am constantly on the go. I am grateful and proud to be able to bring more greens into people’s lives and hopefully improve their health and general wellbeing.
Walk us through a day in the life with Dawn Russell...
Although I am a New Yorker at heart, my home is now London with my husband and my sons. At least a week a month I will be in the US working with our team, suppliers and retailers, but when I am home I cherish mornings walking my boys to school.
When I launched 8Greens I had no idea that it would explode and, probably naively, thought it would just be me and my assistant handling everything but we now have teams in the UK and the US to keep us afloat.
After school drop off, I work through the agenda with the UK team and then I’ll have a few hours clear to workout, do big picture thinking and work, and then I’ll eat lunch. 8Greens is a US business and everyone wakes up at 2pm London time and stays online until well after my midnight so getting some rest is vital. I try to take a nap before the afternoon when I catch up with my husband who runs the business part of 8Greens. Jamie’s got the McKinsey and Stanford business school background, so he does everything I never want to do, and vice versa.
In the evening, I give my a boys bath and bedtime. These moments are my most important of the day. Being away so much is the toughest part of the job. My day will then really kick into action as all of America is awake. I’ll be checking in with our PR team, discussing the latest launches or working with our designers on marketing materials and packaging. I’ll then either have a bath or just crawl into bed.
I wanted to make getting greens easy, tasty and affordable.
What makes 8Greens unique?
8Greens is unique because it tastes great, has zero sugar and just 10 calories. I created it because I wanted to make getting greens easy, tasty and affordable. Not everyone has time to make a green juice, a smoothie or make healthy choices with their nutrition. 8G is a convenient, tasty way to boost everyone’s daily green intake. All you need to do is drop it in water, watch it fizz and drink, perfect for late morning starts, the 4pm slump and the days you don’t eat right – easy to carry in handbag, backpack, lunchbox or luggage.
The reason 8Greens is an effervescent tablet rather than in pill or powder form is that it is so easy to travel with a tube of effervescent tablets. There is no excess powder spilling anywhere. One simply drops in a glass of water and drinks. No need to stir, no need to measure, no need to do anything other than enjoy.
What are the benefits of 8Greens?
I hope the biggest benefit is that it makes these greens accessible for anyone. What puts a lot of people off including these greens in their diet is a combination of the effort, the cost, the time to prepare them and their taste. A tube of 8Greens can be wherever you or your kids are.
Why eight greens and these specifically? What makes them special?
I lost count of how many greens I researched and tried, my recovery, and all my research showed me how important these particular greens were to internal health. When I was sick these were the greens that I noticed had the greatest impact on how I felt and my recovery. They were life-changing and I do not say that lightly. I felt particularly strongly about blue-green algae (BGA). It’s one of the most powerful greens there is, especially in terms of anti-inflammatory properties (and so much of what we put in our bodies in Western industrial life causes inflammation to our system) it is the only 100% non man-manipulated green. It added a lot of complications and cost to making 8Greens, but I was adamant it be in there. Nearly all the human-grade BGA available comes from one lake in the US, making it very hard to source and expensive, which along with its fragility is why it is in so few products.
What resources have you discovered over the course of your journey that you would recommend to anyone who’d like to start their own journey toward holistic healing and inner wellness?
We Care in California, The pH Miracle book, Alicia Silverstone’s oatmeal, walnut and dried plum cookie recipe from The Kind Diet, Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy and the chocolate chip cookie recipe from Babycakes.
Always stocked in your fridge?
It’s not what is stocked in my fridge, but on a tray I constantly have stocked in my kitchen. It has all my family supplements. They are always out because otherwise I have found they just sit hidden in a cabinet. This way my kids sprinkle probiotics and omega oils (Barlean’s has kid friendly oils that actually taste great) into our family’s food.
Do you have a go-to comfort meal you love to cook? And favourite recipe from the 8Greens cookbook?
I have a huge sweet tooth, so the fruit cobbler is my favorite recipe. It came about when I was in a very serious medical center and they nicknamed me the ‘cookie monster.’ I needed something to satisfy my sweet cravings so they gave me this recipe. Everyone asks me for this recipe and friends have told me how they use different fruits making it their own. And that crispy delicious topping. I just can’t resist.
Cocktail of choice?
For the cookbook I worked with Juan Santa Cruz at Casa Cruz in London to create 8Greens cocktails and these are hands down my favorite. Not only do you get a delicious cocktail but you know you are taking something good at the same time. I love the vodka soda with fresh mint – so refreshing but with a good kick. One of the stories that I love is Miley Cyrus throwing 8Greens in all her friends’ cocktails at a party.
What’s your favorite part about cooking?
With me it’s all about family and I love cooking with my boys and experimenting with 8Greens smoothies. Some have been not so good. The best contain bee pollen, probiotics and omega oil as all are amazing for skin, fatigue and inflammation.
What is your favorite restaurant and your favorite meal there?
Dinner at Osteria Basilica with my husband. My first stop in NYC is Ben’s Pizza in Soho, and in LA it’s an In-and-Out burger.
Wellness is not going on extreme diets or denying yourself, you just need to listen to your body.
Favorite wellness destination?
It is far from my favorite but it works: I go to We Care Spa to detox and work on my leg. I do not have sensation in my left leg due to four cancer surgeries, so my part time job is keeping circulation in my leg and minimizing lymphedema. My We Care tip is go for the week but go a day late, and leave a day early. And request two smoothies and salad daily – the no eating is not for me. But the knowledge of the Argentinian founder and the treatments are second to none. My other tip is do not buy everything they offer when you leave. Get home and see what really sticks long term for you, then buy the equipment.
What does wellness mean to you?
Everyone thinks I must be super healthy because of the business, but I am like anyone else. I have a sweet tooth and would eat pain au chocolat every day if I could. Wellness is not going on extreme diets or denying yourself, you just need to listen to your body. If I’m feeling run down I make sure I have massage, acupuncture, cupping and yoga. I also read a lot to give myself headspace and spend as much time with my family as I can.
What’s your morning routine? Coffee? Tea? Juice? Workout?
I always have an 8Greens after school drop off when I sit down and collect myself for the day. In the winter months when everyone is getting ill, I’ll have it in hot water with cinnamon, apple cider vinegar and lemon. I am definitely a coffee girl though as well: my husband would tell you that a soy mocha with an extra shot is a non-negotiable part of making me human in the morning.
Describe a perfect night on the town:
I am away so often that whenever I get free night, I just want to be with my husband. A glass of red wine and an early night. Not glamorous I know, but it’s the reality of having a business and young kids. Or, I am the pro at eating solo at the Nobu bar being in and out in under 30 minutes.
What are your beauty must-haves?
Homeoplasmine: I pick this up every time I am in Paris as it works for literally anything. Cuts, dry skin, eye crème, sunburn. I love when a product works for many uses.
Heritage Store Rose Water and Glycerin: When I first tried it, I thought it was some “lady who lunches” high-maintenance, completely impractical extravaganza. But I can say it really does help face creams sink deeper into the skin.
Klorane Dry Shampoo: The less you wash your hair, the less oil it produces, the healthier your hair. I use this dry shampoo in between washes.
Do you have any low-maintenance routines that help make life easier?
I do not own a brush or blow dryer. As soon as I come out of the shower I twist my hair into two buns and leave them to dry naturally. I then take them out and I’ve got natural waves. It’s easy and relaxed.
Describe your personal style:
What are your wardrobe and style must-haves?
I have a different uniform if I’m on a work trip or if I’m in London running around with my boys. In London the weather pretty much lives up to the stereotype so I always make sure I have some good knitwear. I love Bella Freud jumpers and pretty much lived in my Gucci fur loafers this year. For business meetings or appearances, I’ll wear a simple, well-cut dress or masculine trousers, shirt, and loafer look.
List 5 things you always have in your handbag:
What was the last thing you Googled?
I’ve been moving around so much recently that I haven’t been exercising enough. I love a burst of intense training in the morning, it’s good for the mind too, so have been searching for some good sportswear on P.E. Nation.
If you are determined you can push yourself through situations you never thought you could deal with.
Any advice for those who are aspiring to follow your career path?
While I wouldn’t wish my illness on anyone, I would say that it made me realize that the most important thing is determination. If you are determined you can push yourself through situations you never thought you could deal with. When I was ill I could dramatically see the impact food had on my body. The result of the great challenge I have ever been through in my life is a successful company, a vocation and the most gorgeous family.
I would also say it is so important to surround yourself with the right people. People you can trust, who can teach you and who are brutally honest. 8Greens is a small start-up so we make sure that everyone who works here is as passionate and hard working as we are. Find the right team and your company can manage anything.
What’s your secret to a happy, healthy life?
I don’t think that anyone has all the answers, but for me my family is absolutely my first priority (much to some executives’ dismay), and I have a few very, very dear friends I can go to for anything, anytime.