Monday Motivation with Denise Woodard, Founder of Partake Foods

#PEIntensive17, female founders, food startup, Monday Motivation

Mondays can be rough, and sometimes we can use some motivation. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from industry leaders and some of the most creative entrepreneurs out there.

Helping to get us feeling motivated today is Denise Woodard, Founder of Partake Foods, a company that makes foods free of the top eight most common food allergens. Denise chats with PE about what motivated her to start Partake, the challenges of growing her company with a small team, and why female founders should talk about their businesses with anyone who will listen.

What inspired you to start your business?

My daughter, Vivienne, is nearly three years old and suffers from multiple food allergies: corn, cashews, pistachios, eggs, and bananas. When I couldn’t find convenient meal and snack options that met her dietary restrictions and my nutritional standards but still tasted good, I started Partake—an invitation for her and anyone on a restricted diet or looking for better for you snack options to fully partake!

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Balancing it all! For the first year of Partake Foods (pre-launch), I was still working full-time at Coca-Cola. It was really difficult to manage getting Partake off the ground while being a mom, wife, friend, and having a career. I’m now working on Partake full-time, but with such a lean team (I’m the only full-time employee) and lofty goals, it’s a mad dash every day to get as much done as possible.

What’s been the greatest reward?

I was demoing my product in-store the other day, and a woman literally told me that I’d changed her life. She has multiple food allergies and was so thankful to have a product that tasted great and was safe for her to eat. That’s why I’m doing this—to remove any stigma from “allergy-friendly food.” I want to create great-tasting, better-for-you meal and snack options that happen to be allergy-friendly.

What’s the biggest thing you’d like to see changed in your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?

I think there’s often a “health halo” that’s given to products that are gluten-free or vegan, but in reality, those labels don’t automatically mean healthy. At Partake, we are working to make better-for-you gluten-free and vegan products, but also working to educate consumers about the benefits (and sometimes disadvantages) of the common ingredients they see in gluten-free and vegan products.

Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?

My daughter. As she gets older, I see firsthand how many social events, from play dates to birthday parties to science projects at school, are centered around food. It’s so important to me for her to have safe, tasty snacks that she can enjoy and feel proud to share.  Studies have shown that food allergies are linked to elevated social anxiety and fear of social rejection and humiliation in children, and if the little piece I can do to improve that statistic is make cookies and snacks, I will [keep] making cookies and snacks!

Can you provide a few updates on what’s new with your business or what you’ve accomplished since you attended the PE Intensive in April 2017?

Since attending the PE Intensive in April 2017, I’m proud to share that we launched Partake Foods to 60 stores in the New York City market, as well as Amazon and the Partake Foods’ website. We plan to expand distribution in the Northeast this year, as well as launch in Whole Foods’ Southwest Region.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?

Don’t be afraid to meet new people or to share what you’re working on. I feel like I’ve met more people in the past 18 months I’ve been working on Partake than I’d met in my previous 18 years of life. I [also] find that I meet the most helpful people in oddest of ways—including in a coffee shop line, or through a friend of a friend of a friend. People [tend to be] supportive of those who are stepping out on a limb and following their entrepreneurial dreams and genuinely want to help, so don’t be afraid to say hi, or speak up, or share what’s going on with your business (the good & the bad). You never know from where your next investor, tip or recommendation is coming!

What do you do every Monday morning to prepare and motivate yourself for the coming week?

Monday mornings are an absolute zoo in my house with my daughter heading to school and my husband heading to the office, so I carve out a couple hours on Sunday morning to enjoy a cup of coffee, review my calendar and prioritize for the week [ahead]. In general, my perfect morning routine is to be up at 5:00 AM, get a workout in, and get some work done before the (fun) madness that is my family waking up!


For more #MondayMotivation, check out our interview with Tina Gong, Founder of Labyrinthos Academy, an online tarot school that aims to bring the ancient ritual of tarot for a modern practice. Tina discusses pushing through feelings of self-doubt, why you should say ‘yes’ to new opportunities, and why alpacas are so motivating.