On her childhood: I grew up in New York City. My parents were both accountants and worked with clients in fashion and media, so our house was always busy and full of interesting people. Although I was an only child, I was never lonely – my days were packed with school, gymnastics, sports and summer camp. From an early age, I had my heart set on becoming a vet or doctor so I studied medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans but, after struggling with chemistry, I switched to the business school and ended up majoring in marketing. That felt like a much more natural fit for me and I spent the holidays interning at publishing giant Hearst.
On her early career: After a brief stint as a buyer for Bloomingdale’s, I took a job (and a pay cut!) as a marketing assistant on Marie Claire magazine. I absolutely loved it – and that was where I cut my teeth in branding. Eighteen months later, I moved to Conde Nast. Working under David Remnick as editor and David Carey as publisher, I was part of the crack team that revamped New Yorker and brought it into profitability. I was still just 25. I went on to work for titles including House & Garden, Men’s Vogue, Wired and Traveller.
On her toughest moments: A decade working as a director on big consumer brands took its toll. I was constantly jet lagged and exhausted from a hectic travel and event schedule, and battled with recurring strep throat. I felt physically and mentally low. Frustrated by doctors who kept prescribing more antibiotics and anti-depressants, I turned to a nutritional therapist. She taught me that 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract and 80% of your immune system lives there so what you eat has a huge impact on your mood and health. I came off the meds, did a five-day juice cleanse and swapped my “beige” convenience meals for a plant-based diet. That healed me – and gave me a new respect for what you put in your body.
On starting her own business: My husband and I moved to the UK in 2009 and I spent the first couple of years running my own marketing communications and events firm. Unable to find any cold-pressed juices here, I’d whizz up my own in the kitchen; it was while I was on maternity leave in 2011 that I decided to turn blending into a business. I knew absolutely nothing about food firms, supply chains or working with supermarkets – but blind faith (and naivety) kept me going. Plenish officially launched in 2012 and our first supermarket listing was with Ocado, which was pretty mega. The buyer took a chance on us and said: “I don’t want to be the one who didn’t sign The Beatles.” Plenish now turns over £7m and our plant-powered health drinks are stocked in the likes of Sainsbury’s, Whole Foods and Waitrose. Gwyneth Paltrow called our products “the best juice cleanse and one of Britain’s coolest brands”.
On her go-to style: It’ll either be a long skirt with a jumper and trainers, or a jump suit with boots. My style is very casual; I’ll happily rock up to a board meeting in jeans. I used to wear heels but now they feel plain wrong. They’re just so restrictive – and you can feel the impact the next day. You might as well wear a lace-up corset.
On staying sane: Each week, I’ll try and do a yoga session, a fitness/strengthening workout and a run. Leaving my phone at home is a mini digital detox, and the fresh air clears my mind. I’m currently training for a half-marathon.
On her passions: Small moves can make a big impact. That’s why I gave up meat and dairy; animal agriculture is having a catastrophic effect on the planet. The University of Oxford recently published research showing that the single biggest thing we can all do to save the planet is switch to a plant-based diet. It’s become my absolute passion to make that change as easy, delicious and healthy as possible. Every person that swaps dairy milk for our oat or almond milk reduces their fat intake by 83% and reduces their carbon emissions by 66%. That’s the equivalent of taking a car off British roads for 17 days.
On her advice to other women: Be your own best friend. Celebrate your strengths and understand your weaknesses. Feel proud of what comes easy to you – but work even harder at what doesn’t.
Interview: Kate Bassett
Photography: Harry Borden
Kara wears: Hepworth Blouse, Le Marais Tailored Trousers, Dorrington jumper, and Palazzo jumpsuit
Accessories: Kara’s own
Shot at Plenish head office
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