Oak City Hustle representative SPCLGST sat down with Sherif Fouad & Leslie Woods to talk about Raleigh Raw, their up-and-coming company that specializes in cold pressed organic juices distributed through innovative vending machines throughout the city. Oh baby we like it rawwwww!
Tell us a little about yourselves.
We are a raw food company specializing in cold pressed organic juices. Much of the stuff on grocery shelves can barely even pass as food these days. It is killing Americans and making us sick and overweight. Our mission is not only to support local agriculture but also to create real food – living foods, the most potent superfoods that fuel the body, make it taste amazing and then make it convenient and accessible to our community. “Who you know fresher than me? Riddle me that!”
What made you get into cold pressed juice.
I noticed a need when I moved to Raleigh from NYC and saw that there wasn’t a way to get healthy food or raw juice without doing it yourself at home. (Aint nobody got time for that) Coffee shops and fried food was, and still is, everywhere. Not to mention Southeast Raleigh is a food desert which Raleigh Raw is actively working to relieve in partnership with Erin of Community Food Lab and Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation. Around the same time my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer so I was already helping to manage his cancer by regulating is PH levels through highly alkaline, raw, plant-based foods. (Happy to report he’s now in remission no chemo no radiation) With many years experience under my belt as a bartender is was easy making these plant based concoctions taste amazing. So as the saying goes, “where your skills/passion cross with a need, therein lies your vocation.”
Who is inspiring to you right now?
The other person inspiring us right now is good friend and owner of Jugo Fresh in Miami, Matthew Sherman. In a superficial town like Miami, he’s helped shift peoples focus from their outer body to their inner body. And his juices are DOPE! When the inevitable day comes that you are hungover in Miami, he’s got 6 stores to cure ya’.
Tell us about the cold pressed process and unpasteurized juices.
Companies pasteurize juice so they can add weeks to the shelf life to increase profit. It is not for the customers benefit. This process kills off contaminants but also kills all the live enzymes that actually make juice beneficial to the body. The natural flavors and colors of the juice is destroyed in the process too so juice companies add artificial flavoring and coloring back in to make it feel look and taste real/raw again. So when you drink pasteurized juice you’re drinking empty calories… sugar water.
Cold pressed juice only lasts 3 days. Admittedly It’s not the most lucrative business because of this short shelf life, but the reward comes from the fact that we are making the community healthy. Cold pressing is simply grinding up the raw organic produce and pressing the pulp in between 2 press plates packing 2 tons of hydraulic pressure. No heat, no air = no oxidation.
Do you guys have a favorite combination/flavor? If so, would you be able to share the recipe?
Only for you Joe. My favorite is the kale me maybe…
- *large handful of green or Dino kale (we use green)
- *large handful of spinach
- 3 sprigs of parsley
- half a large cucumber w skin
- 2 celery sticks
- half a lemon keep the rind but lose the yellow peel
- half a Granny Smith apple
- half a Bartlett pear
- thumb size (or less) ginger root
***skin and rind have the most nutrients so use organic so you don’t have to peel
Tell us about the vending machines and why this became the obvious choice to sell your product?
Two months after launch we were wholesaling our juice to local businesses. A competitor notified the FDA that we were wholesaling and had them place an embargo on our product. I was unloading 3 pallets (thousands) of plastic bottles into my apartment when I got the call! Our product was pulled off the shelves of all of my accounts. Apparently wholesaling raw juice was illegal but selling it directly to consumers is legal. Raleigh Raw was crippled. I built a business around a wholesale model and wholesaling my product was illegal. I had two choices. Go out of business or change the entire business model. Each day without sales meant more expenses and no income so we were scrambling to stop the bleeding. In 4 days my partner Leslie reworked the website, incorporated a payment portal, and converted our business to an e-commerce model. Sales suffered at first but we slowly climbed back to hit, and then far surpass, our wholesale sales numbers. But here’s the thing, now our juice was not as accessible. And making healthy food accessible (providing“real food fast”) was one of our core values. I wanted so much to provide local raw juice to people in a cafe setting so we were brain-storming to come up with a workaround for the wholesaling regulation. I had no capital to open my own store and no banks would loan to a first time business owner. Then the solution came to us. Custom temperature controlled vending machines placed in each store. This way the money would go straight from the consumer to Raleigh Raw thereby qualifying the transaction as direct sale, not wholesale. It’s interesting to see that your biggest dilemmas are your biggest blessing in disguise. I never would have thought to go the vending route had we not gone through that. We turned shit into sugar. Pretty cool. Today, we sell our juices at those same accounts (cafes, yoga studios) we were pulled from but through custom designed juice vending machines. We are expanding rapidly and making real food available everywhere through juice vending kiosks.
What is your ultimate goal with Raleigh Raw?
To help pioneer a movement that will make real unprocessed, organic, non-modified, unadulterated food as accessible as “fast food” one day.
What has the feedback been like? Has there been a positive reception to your product?
The reception has been great! Our fans love the flavors and are so happy to have healthy options that are packaged and ready to go. People also seem to dig the fact that we have infused some hip hop culture into the brand. Its seems to strike a chord with the fellow 70’s and 80’s babies. Being immersed in hip hop culture from a very young age, it felt appropriate that our brand had that feel. Some artists like Nas and ?uestlove might argue that hip hop died or doesn’t stand for today what it did in past decades. We are another example of how Hip hop culture still represents growth, soul, and positivity.
Speaking of hip hop culture. I know you’re a sneakerhead. Tell us your favorite Jordans in number order – least to best.
Man I’m a minimalist so I like the vintage J’s the best for their simplicity and function.
- 3. The Air Jordan 5’s with the 23 on the outside (had ’em in 3rd grade when they dropped in 1990)
- 2. The Air Jordan 3 and 4’s…. it was the Spike Lee/Nike commercials that made me fall in love with those
- 1. My favorite would have to be the Air Jordan I …. in red, white and black. They look so dope they inspired Nike to launch a whole new line (dunks) don’t get me started on Dunks
You guys have any last words?
I just gotta say I’m grateful to the Raleigh community for supporting Raleigh Raw. These savvy folks here in the Triangle are no fools. They know good food, good music/Djs, good craft beer, good art, and good entertainment and they call “bullshit” on the fluff. If that wasn’t the case, we would have already gone out of business. Its true that game recognizes game. And thanks to Oak City Hustle for gathering all that goodness and putting it in one place.