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Made in Chicago.

KLUTCHclub comes in handy with a monthly health box

KLUTCHclub comes in handy with a monthly health box

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Eating healthy and staying fit, on top of the necessary exercise routine, can involve a tedious amount of resource gathering each week. For those who only need that extra little push to get health food into their daily diet, Chicago-based startup KLUTCHclub has a service tailored precisely for you.

For about $15 each month, KLUTCHclub will send you a healthy care package in the mail, filled with some of the most innovative brands in healthy snacks, supplements, beverages, personal care items, and fitness accessories around. Each month’s package has a special theme -- energy in November, healthy resolutions in January, and February brought a handy immunity package to keep the flu season at bay. Every KLUTCHclub box packs a whopping guaranteed $50 value; paying under $20 each month for a slew of brand new healthy items is a veritable steal.

We sat down with KLUTCHclub founder Julie Bashkin, who shared her story of eating out of airports during 80 hour traveling work weeks, the excitement of taking her first vacation in a year and a half, and her passion to bridge the consumer-customer gap that started KLUTCHclub nearly a year ago.

What was the inspiration behind KLUTCHclub?

There are two portions that led us to start KLUTCHclub. One was a personal passion for health and wellness; about 10 years ago I was about 30 lbs overweight. I’m 5’1’’ and I weigh a little over 100 lbs, so 30 lbs on me was almost obesity -- it was a third of my body weight.

I was struggling to lose weight because I didn’t know what kinds of products to use. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to not knowing what omegas and flax seed and chia is all about and where they’re supposed to get it and which brands manufacture it.

So that was the personal story. The other story was that I was a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Company and I was leading our innovation practice in consumer package goods and I was noticing that all the innovation was coming from the small brands because they were the fastest to get truly innovative products out to the market, but they were also the ones that couldn’t access the consumers because they didn’t have marketing and sales capabilities.

There was this inefficiency in the market where the consumers were looking for the products and the manufacturers didn’t know how to access those consumers. We wanted to be the matchmakers and marry those two groups.

When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Always, right? The way I defined entrepreneur was not always starting my own company. I always thought being an entrepreneur meant starting something wherever you were, whether you were at a big corporation or you were off on your own.

I didn’t start KLUTCHclub until about a year ago. Our first box that was sent out was in April.

As a busy entrepreneur, how do you like to wind down and relax?

So I’m at the pool right now but I haven’t had a vacation in about 16 months, and that’s because as soon as the KLUTCHclub idea struck me I spent all of my time developing it. This is my first vacation since I launched KLUTCHclub and it’s only a weekend vacation -- Friday through Monday.

Unfortunately as an entrepreneur and as a founder there really is no time to unwind. When I do get a little bit of time I unwind through yoga.

What was the first job you ever had?

My first real job was at McKinsey & Company before launching KLUTCHclub and that’s because I spent a year in Eastern Europe after college on a Fullbright helping launch new businesses in a dictatorship. Then I spent four or five years in grad school in a Ph.D. program. Then I spent five years at McKinsey & Company, so that was my first real job, if you will, before launching my own company.

A lot of the KLUTCHclub values and culture are actually based on principles that I learned and that some of my team members brought with us from McKinsey. One of our values is analytical problem solving, meaning that all the decisions that we make are fact-based.

We gather data and measure everything that is worth measuring or that is possible to measure, which is not true for most startups. We gather a lot of feedback from our customers, our brand partners, marketing partners, and anyone else that we ever deal with. We make all our decisions based on the data we gather from them.

What would be in your ultimate KLUTCHclub box?

A lot of the products are ones that I was using before launching KLUTCHclub and a lot of the products are ones that I now use after having discovered them. We tried to put a product in every category in the box -- a snack product, a beverage, a supplement, etc.

For me, the ultimate box was something that I struggled with at McKinsey. I was traveling every single week, Monday through Thursday, and working 80-hour weeks. For me the ultimate box would be one that would carry me through that workweek. I wouldn’t have to worry about where I was going to get my next meal or my next snack, because I was essentially eating out of airports.

That ultimate box design is what we try to curate every single month.

What advice would you give to any beginning entrepreneurs out there?

I would say a lot of entrepreneurs are really worried about giving away equity, and that’s a legitimate fear, but I think that the biggest problem is failing because you’re not willing to give equity away. My biggest advice would be to find people who are good at whatever that entrepreneur is not.

In my case I found team members that complimented my skill set and gave equity to those people. I’d rather give up a piece of my company and have their skill set and have them be on board than owning it all myself and not be able to execute because there are certain areas where I’m not as good as other people are.

What does 2013 have in store for KLUTCHclub?

We’re scaling fast and growing faster. We have a new category rolling out in April just in time for Mother’s Day, which is KLUTCHmom. That’s the immediate next one. Parallel to that is KLUTCHshop, which is where we are featuring products that our members love most and they’re going to be available for sale, not just through the subscription service.

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