Women Who Grow: Morgan Pieper and Marcee Lohner
We hope it’s clear by now: we think growing is an important part of living a happy, full life. This week, we interviewed two outstanding women who have centered their lives in and around growth.
Morgan Pieper and Marcee Lohner are the beginning of our new series that highlights women who grow — and not just the gardening kind. Their stories help inspire us and others to participate in growth. Because growing, however and whatever that looks like to you, feels good.
Entrepreneur and founder of Feed Me Pronto
So, you’re obviously the mastermind behind Feed Me Pronto, which, as per your website, is “the convenience store reinvented.” What, in your own words, is Feed Me Pronto?
It’s like my dream food place. We have prepared, healthy, clean food. Modern convenience means you should be able to buy a good meal. And it’s not diet focused — it’s just clean food. It’s the millennial convenience store.
Every major chain in the convenience industry looks the same now as they did in the 50s and 60s. It’s one of the only industries in the US that hasn’t been adapted to the millennial generation’s wants. Grocery stores, dating apps…every major industry has been updated for what millennials consume and the convenience store has not. We’re updating it.
What can I expect if I walk into a store?
We source almost 600 products that are clean, eco-friendly, and sourced from female-owned, minority-owned, or family-owned brands — all single serving size. Everything has to be single serving size. We’re not trying to be the neighborhood bodega.
I hired the executive chief from Snap Kitchen to design and curate our menu, and he’s done all of our food. We don’t source anything with preservatives, artificial flavoring, or coloring. Most of our products are USDA Organic and non-GMO. We’re primarily focused on a clean ingredient list — you should be able to read the ingredients in English and know what they are.
The eco-friendly part is that our packaging is made by a company who uses recycled plastic water bottles to make the packaging. We’re not adding more plastic to the environment. Our entire sundries section — eco-friendly baby wipes, eco-friendly toothpaste, eco-friendly tampons that are unbleached — are all in travel size.
We’ve also gone to food shows in every major region in the U.S. to try and source the best products in that region. Our third party brands are female-owned, minority-owned, or family-owned. They’re the best products on the market from that region.
What inspired you to begin growing your own business?
So, I used to be in the corporate world. I worked at Ernst and Young for 5 years, and then I was sent to London. In London, they have all these amazing prepared food concepts that I ate all the time. When I came back, I wanted to bring this to the United States. (At the time, Pret a Manger wasn’t in NYC or D.C.)
A couple years went by, and I was really heavily involved in this global competition in Monte Carlo — a sort of Grammys for entrepreneurs. I was so inspired by these people that I finally gained enough confidence to just walk away from my career and start Feed Me Pronto. I ended up officially beginning the business in April of 2017, and our first store opens this fall in Dallas.
What has been the hardest part and the most exciting part of growing all this?
The hardest part of this process has been getting the real estate side of it. The real estate industry is primarily male-oriented and getting people in the industry to take me seriously in the business was difficult — even though I had the experience and education. They just couldn’t wrap their head around a 30-year-old girl starting a business and needing a valuable piece of real estate. But, they’re trying to attract people like me to your shopping centers, so why not have someone like me running a business in your shopping center?
The most exciting part about it honestly hasn’t happened yet. I am really really excited to feed everyone good food and teach them about those products! I think consumers care about the experience in every industry. We’re going to be using technology to teach consumers about products they might never have had before but they should be consuming. Most major grocery stores go after an item only for the margin. And yes, margin really matters, but at the same time, younger consumers really just care about the experience.
In our eyes, growing a business is a lot like growing anything. Why do you think growth is important?
I guess…as humans, we’re constantly evolving. And it’s better for you to have some control over how you evolve instead of just letting your environment dictate how you evolve. If you can dictate how you change and grow in life and really choose your own path, then hopefully you’ll grow into something that you admire.
What advice do you have to growers out there—entrepreneurs, mothers, gardeners, etc.?
For other growers, just know that things happen all the time. You hit roadblocks and doors get slammed in your face. Leaves die, you have to constantly trim plants down to get it to grow taller, etc. You have to just believe in what you’re building and have confidence knowing that you see something that other people aren’t seeing right now. Even when you get pushed down, you have to know that taller growth is coming.
Mother, violinist, and interior designer
How do you grow?
Well, obviously, I’m a wife and mother — and those are the most important to me. I do service in our world through my church and other things. I also feel like it’s really important for me to find a way to be creative and create beauty — obviously, interior design is one of those ways, gardening in my yard fits into that category, and also just using my creativity. Then there’s music. You know, I fill my life with music, whether it’s singing or playing my violin in the chamber orchestra and orchestra or attending concerts.
You said you were most proud of your role as a mother. Tell me about your family!
I have a husband who is amazing and a businessman. He’s driven and works really hard, but like me, puts our family at the forefront of everything we do. I have a daughter who’s a writer, a musician, is married, and has two children. I also have two other daughters — one who just graduated from NYU and lives in NYC as a writer and dancer and another who is a student at BYU. And I have a son who works full time and lives in Dallas with us.
One of the things I love about our family is that all of our children are super creative in one way or another (and not in the same way). They all find joy in simple things — good conversation, walks in the park…they don’t need a lot to be entertained. And most importantly, they all find joy in each other. But I do love that they’re all creative and they all want to put their stamp on the world by creating things to make the people around us better or happier. That makes me really happy.
How have you centered your family around growth?
We tried to expose our kids to a lot of different things from the time they were little. If my husband and I took trips, we took the whole family. We signed them up for as many lessons as we could, we read to them a ton, and we encouraged education endlessly. And then, if they were interested in something, we almost never discouraged it, unless it was just physically impossible. Drive across the city for dance? You bet. We felt it was important to encourage them to try and experience and see new things.
Why is a life focused on growing something important?
There is an unbelievable satisfaction that comes from creating something from nothing. You plant a tiny little seed, you love it, you give it what it needs, and it blossoms. Growing is a labor of love. You get true, deep satisfaction of seeing something become more than what it once was, whether it’s your interior design (you create an atmosphere that is warm and exciting) or a business (creating a product that makes others’ lives better) or a family. It’s all about making something more. There’s something extremely joyful in that.
What advice do you have to growers out there—entrepreneurs, mothers, gardeners, etc.?
I think it’s always important to find ways to create growth — whether it’s your children, other people’s children, service, or the community garden. If you want to be fulfilled in life, you need to be creating some kind of growth around you. I don’t know what kind of life it would be without it.
We’re so grateful to be surrounded by women who grow great things every single day of their lives. Share your stories of growth with us by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org! @gardenuity