Gwyneth Paltrow, actress and founder of lifestyle brand Goop, is joining the board of directors at Rent the Runway, the clothes-rental service. The news was first reported by The New York Times.
Paltrow told The Times that she’s never actually used Rent the Runway.
Rent the Runway started in 2009 as a way to rent one-off items for special events. It’s grown into a platform for people to rent everyday clothes instead of buying new ones. It has also added kids’ clothing and homeware rentals, via a partnership with West Elm.
“What’s fascinating is that, in my own way, I’ve been renting the runway for years,” she told The Times. “Borrowing a dress from a designer for a single moment at a premiere or an awards show, then giving it back afterward. Now I guess everyone is doing it. But I’ve got my welcome code in my inbox, so I’ll soon be trying it out.”
“Gwyneth’s keen understanding of consumer psychology and unparalleled ability to tap into and define the cultural zeitgeist will play a key role in propelling Rent the Runway forward in a post-pandemic world,” Hyman said in a LinkedIn post this week, adding that the two have known each other for longer than a decade.
Rent the Runway started in 2009 as a way to rent one-off items for special events, and it’s grown to become a platform for renting everyday items as an alternative to buying new clothes. It has also added kids’ clothing and homeware rentals, via a partnership with West Elm.
Pre-pandemic, CEO Jennifer Hyman was prepping it to become the “Amazon Prime of rental” by diversifying into new areas. But when the pandemic hit, people went off the idea of renting clothes. It wiped $250 million from the company’s valuation, and Hyman was forced to close its stores and lay off or furlough half of its staff.
Danielle DuBoise and Whitney Tingle, two 20-something NYC transplants at the time, were charging friends “admission” to their apartment soiree.
The year was 2012 and the party was a trial for their young business: Sakara Life, an organic food-delivery service offering plant-based, chemical-free, prepackaged meals.
The dinner raised the pair just $700 in capital, which they used to buy a domain, make business cards for distribution at cafes and yoga studios, and test out healthy, organic recipes on friends and neighbors, hand-delivered door-to-door on bikes.
What began as a dinner party turned into a multimillion-dollar business in less than five years.While DuBoise and Tingle, now 35 and 36 years old, respectively, declined to share Saraka’s revenue for the past year with Insider, they said that as of 2020 it had 2 million subscribers and 200 employees.
Nearly a decade in, what they call the “Sakaralite community” has grown wide and diverse, they said. But along the way, the brand has garnered a cult following among models and celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen and Lena Dunham, becoming the go-to health detox for wealthy millennials in particular. It’s a staple among both Victoria’s Secret models like Lily Aldridge and “the fashion flock,” as Vogue puts it, and even caters backstage at runway shows.
The cofounders, who served as co-CEOs while each had a pregnancy in 2020, told Insider about how Sakara took flight, how it’s still growing, and how its community of fans is transforming the company. What’s taken shape over the past decade is a lifestyle brand that sums up the wealthy millennial.
Organic meals for young professionals on-the-go
A Sakaralite may find on their doorstep for lunch something like Sakara Cobb Salad with coconut “bacon” (seed-crusted avocado) or Golden Pineapple Un-Fried Rice with tempeh and red cabbage. For breakfast, that might look more like a Sacha Inchi Pumpkin Scone with apple butter.
The meals arrive in intentionally shareable packaging that characterizes the millennial aesthetic, with clean and minimalist type, bold hues, and nature-inspired prints, ranging from colorful cacti to pink and purple petals.
Pricing starts at $80 a day for three days of meals for $240, or $70 a day for five days of meals for $349. A separate five-day detox runs for $400, and a four-week, 20-day program for brides is $1,395.
A healthy, outsourced, Instagrammable meal seems to be the ultimate recipe for the young professional long on money and short on time. Sakaralites often seem to be women similar to DuBoise and Tingle, two chic blondes who exude an effortless cool girl aesthetic. They’re women who want to eat healthy but lack the time to figure out how, which DuBoise and Tingle were themselves, before that dinner party in 2012.
Like many young adults, DuBoise and Tingle had relocated to New York City in their 20s from their hometowns (they are both from Sedona, Arizona) to pursue careers. But their lifestyles didn’t align with good nutrition.
The long, high-stress hours of Wall Street left Tingle eating quick, low-nutrient food that wrecked her gut health, while yo-yo dieting put DuBoise, then a student modeling part-time, in the hospital with pneumonia.
The health scare prompted DuBoise to switch from studying medicine to nutrition for alternative healing methods. She and Tingle educated themselves on every nutritional theory they could find, slowly transforming their relationship with food and overall health.
“I decided that my mission would be to share that way of plant-rich eating and mindful living with the world in hopes I could help others have a similar transformation,” DuBoise said.
Sakara’s wellness mantra made it a millennial status symbol
Millennials take a holistic approach to wellness, viewing it as something that can be incorporated into every aspect of their lives, Kenya Watson, Intelligence Analyst at CB Insights, told Insider. She added that millennials are influencing the health and wellness industry by breaking down traditional boundaries around product categories.
“Different aspects of physical wellness like food, fitness, and beauty are no longer compartmentalized,” Watson said. To millennials, she said, “it’s about how these products work together, which is why food products can be viewed through a beauty and wellness lens.”
Sakara has tapped into this shift with offerings beyond meal deliver. There’s Clean Boutique, an online marketplace with everything from beauty chocolates to metabolism super powder (raw cacao that promises to “fire up” metabolism); S-Life Mag, a digital magazine that dives into happiness and spirituality, touting headlines like “Heal Your Headspace” and “Strengthen Your Pranic Body;” and a cookbook, “Eat Clean Play Dirty.”
The cofounders have also hosted Sakara Sessions, panels across US cities featuring health and wellness leaders (the panels went virtual during the pandemic).
Balancing quarantine, their simultaneous pregnancies, and continuing to grow Sakara in 2020, DuBoise and Tingle aren’t slowing down. In March 2020, they launched a podcast that harkens back to their spiritual Sedona roots, billed as a mind and soul counterpart to Sakara’s food and science. They’ve spoken with everyone from Arianna Huffington on burnout culture to star astrologist Susan Miller on purpose in the planets.
The cofounders said they believe Sakara has been able to carve out a durable niche because its philosophy is rooted in both emerging nutrition science and ancient healing practices. A Sakaralite, as they describe it, is a “person looking to take their health in their own hands, feel good in their bodies, and invest in their health, whether as a one-time reset or permanent lifestyle.”
It’s why DuBoise and Tingle have touted Sakara as more of a wellness company than anything, preaching lifestyle over diet and nutrition over calories. When asked to concisely describe the brand, they responded with “transformation and self-actualization.”
A hands-on approach
Sakara’s foothold among wealthy millennials signals just how far the brand has come since its beginning, when one of DuBoise and Tingle’s first clients was DuBoise’s boss, who they said was suffering from a variety of health issues. As they tell it, they knew they had something worth sharing after seeing his transformation upon eating their meals.
By the time their client list hit 25 people in the first year, they had begun hiring and managing a team. In 2019, they diverged from their grassroots approach to increase their marketing budget by 60%, Glossy reported, with the majority allocated toward offline marketing.
Throughout all of Sakara’s journey, DuBoise and Tingle said, they’ve remained involved in everything. In the early days, they juggled everything from finance and customer service to recipe development and cooking.
Today, each targets certain business areas best suited to their strengths. DuBoise’s medicine and nutrition background enabled her to lean into scientific research and product development, while Tingle focuses on education and community.
Sakara has a grip on a competitive industry
In a time when eating out is more nostalgia than hobby, meal-kit delivery services have seen a surge. But that’s also meant the space has become more crowded, with restaurants foraying into the industry to compensate for the losses of their temporarily shut doors.
The growing meal-delivery space is expected to reach nearly $20 billion by 2027. Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and HungryRoot are just a few of Sakara’s competitors.
Industry experts question whether this uptick will last once indoor dining and regular grocery trips become widespread again. Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at Publicis, previously told Insider Intelligence that he views meal-kit services as more product than standalone service.
Looking toward the rest of 2021, DuBoise and Tingle said they’re focused on hiring and “building out Sakara’s tool kit” by expanding the brand’s product offerings, enhancing technology, and creating new platforms.
“We make it a priority to give people the tools to nourish, build a body they love (and feel good in), and understand that we should all enjoy that glass of wine or fries if it brings us joy,” Tingle said.