Introducing Leslie Zinn…
In an inspiring interview with Leslie Zinn, the visionary behind Arden’s Garden, we delve into her personal journey from addiction to recovery and how it has shaped her approach to building a successful business. Leslie shares her insights on transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, the health benefits of juicing, advice for single mothers aspiring to build their own businesses, and the importance of sustainability in Arden’s Garden’s operations.
Q&A Interview With Leslie Zinn
Unfinished Man: Leslie, your personal journey from addiction to recovery is incredibly inspiring. How has your own experience shaped your approach to building a successful business like Arden’s Garden?
Leslie Zinn: So I would say, going from being, let’s say, unable to leave my apartment for 72 hours at a time, or actually staying awake for 72 hours at a time and then not leaving my apartment, but except for one day a week, to being a productive human being is a huge transition. And there’s no doubt in my mind that going to treatment, learning how to stay sober, and learning how to take things one day at a time absolutely transformed me as a human and made me the leader that I am today.
So, for example, I always tell my team this, you know, we suit up and show up no matter what, and that’s half the battle right there is showing up for whatever comes in that 24-hour period and being present and doing your best even if you make a mistake. You can always backtrack and do your best the next day, but just take things in very small chunks, 24 hours at a time. There’s nothing that I can do today, and Doing my best for today is one of the mantras that I use daily in growing the business and moving forward.
Plant-based living has become a growing trend in recent years, but many people still find it challenging to adopt. What are your top tips for those who want to transition to a plant-based lifestyle, and how has it transformed your own health?
So my top tips are to watch three or four movies. My favorites are Forks Over Knives, Game Changers, and What the Hell. I personally watched Forks Over Knives and went cold turkey. From being a regular eater, anything goes to being plant-based. I don’t know if that’s great for everybody. I think that I’ve seen other people that have transitioned. One of the easier ways to do it is to crowd out bad food with good food. So, for example, we make a cruciferous smoothie. That’s one of the most densely nutrient things that you can put in your body. You can make it at home; you can buy it from us, it’s very easy. It’s basically cruciferous vegetables with fruits, bananas and, strawberries, flax seeds, which have omega threes and water. And it tastes pretty good. And it’s just easy.
So you get this powerhouse of nutrition. Let’s say that’s your breakfast, and then you eat whatever you normally eat the rest of the day until that becomes second nature to you. And then for lunch, let’s say okay, now I’m going to eat a salad and soup. It’s going to be plant-based, and you can crowd out the second meal and adjust your eating that way, which I have found to be most helpful, so I transformed my health. I lost about 40 pounds. But more importantly, I eliminated or reduced drastically feeling depressed or anxious. Mental clarity was amazing. My daily energy was transformed.
So for so many years, I thought what I ate affected the way I felt just because I would be depressed if I had gained weight or happy that I had lost weight. And what I’ve learned since then is food. The food that I put in my body directly affects the way I feel daily. So if I happen to really like sugar, it is one of my weaknesses. If I eat a lot of sugar, I feel more anxious. There’s a direct correlation. So I try to be more aware of the choices that I make and not just how it will taste right now, but more so how it will make me feel down the road, and plant-based living has transformed my family. My daughter has lost over 100 pounds transitioning to a plant-based diet. My husband changed his health. It’s really amazing how much you can alter your health and your optimism with a plant-based diet.
As a single mother and business owner, you have overcome numerous challenges. What advice do you have for other single mothers who aspire to build their own successful businesses while maintaining a healthy work-life balance?
So when I found out that I was going to become a single mother, it was a very, very difficult time. For me, I never planned to be a single mother; I didn’t know any single mothers. And there was nobody in my community that was a single mother. So I had a lot of shame about being a single mother. And that was a big hurdle for me to overcome. And I wouldn’t even honestly say that during the nine months, I totally overcame it; it got better with time. But I remember the very first thing I thought when they handed my daughter to me after I gave birth was that I couldn’t believe I didn’t enjoy every second that she was growing inside of me. The feeling that I had being a mother was there was nothing attached to shame at all. And I had all been my preconceived notions of what people expected of me and what I expected of myself. And so my advice to single mothers would be to rejoice in the miracle of birth and the miracle of being a mother. And if you want to be going to business, find people that can help you with the things that you need.
So whether it’s in business or the things that you’re not good at getting help with, I was very lucky when I gave birth; I had two friends that were single, both loved children and didn’t have any children. And so they willingly and joyfully helped me with my child because it was fulfilling for them. So I was very blessed. After time later on, after I had more children, I did end up hiring au pairs to help me, and they also transformed my life, allowing me to focus on the work that I needed to get done and allowing me to enjoy the kids in a manner that I wouldn’t have been able to if I hadn’t had that extra support. So you know, just seeing what your resources are plugging into people that can work in your in the areas that you’re needing help. It’s just been so helpful to me. And the other thing I’m gonna say about Being a single mother is people used to say to me, oh my gosh, it must be so hard to be a single mom. But when that’s all, you know, it was not all that hard for me. It was beautiful. It was joyful for me. It was really, really… having a child transformed my life for the better.
Juicing has gained popularity in recent years, but there are still misconceptions and debates about its benefits. Can you share some of the specific health benefits you’ve experienced personally through juicing, and how do you address skeptics who question its effectiveness?
Okay. So, there are a lot of different schools of thoughts around juicing. One of the schools of thought is that it’s true that digestion is the most energy-requiring process that our bodies go through. So when you drink fresh juice, it’s absorbed through your abdominal wall, and it goes right into your bloodstream. So what it allows your body to do is to receive a tremendous amount of nutrients very easily; it doesn’t tax your system to add the nutrients to your blood supply. And so if you are wanting a huge burst of nutrition, so for example, in a 15.2-ounce bottle of juice, fresh pressed juice, there’s over two pounds of produce, you’re not going to sit down and eat two pounds of produce, it’s very challenging. And it’s hard on your system to take the nutrition out of the fiber. Okay?
So if you want to heal your body, our bodies are incredible machines. If we give it good nutrition, it responds beautifully. It’s just like a car; if you give it good gas, it runs much better than if you give it junk gas. So the other school of thought is that you need the fiber. Okay, so when you juice you, cold, press it, the juice drops to the bottom, and the fiber stays in the bag. And there’s some truth to this as well. Fiber is a huge part of health and nutrition. Our guts need it for good gut health. And so our answer to that is we also offer fiber. So you can have a cold-pressed juice with no fiber, or you can have a smoothie, which is made with whole fruit or vegetable. So, for example, our cruciferous smoothies, which are my favorites, right now, we have one called the Kale Inator. So it has a huge amount of whole kale not pressed; it is blended along with whole fruit, bananas, strawberries, flax seeds that are ground up, and water.
So you’re getting all the fiber that you need, in addition to the tremendous nutrition that you’re getting in each one of those fruits or vegetables. So whatever your school of thought is, there’s an answer for you. And I personally use both because I found it to be hugely beneficial. So if you do a juice fast, for example, you’re eliminating digestion, the two-day detox, which is so popular, you know, for two days, yes, you’re not getting fiber for two days, but you’re putting so much nutrition into your body for those two days. You’re eliminating digestion, and your body responds in the way that you want it to, which is to lose weight, gain energy, and have mental clarity.
Your daughter, Delaney, has undergone an incredible weight loss journey and has adopted a plant-based lifestyle. How did her transformation inspire you, and what advice would you give to parents who want to encourage their children to prioritize their health?
Well, when you have a child that is suffering from addiction, whether it’s food, drugs, or any type of addiction, it is absolutely one of the most soul-crushing difficult things to do as a parent. And we tried so many ways to help Delaney with her food addiction. And I’m a big believer and if my way is not working, to go ask someone else for help, namely experts, and so we went to many places to get her help. And none of those places aligned with my values, which my values were plant-based. But hey, my way wasn’t working. So they said, Do ABC, she did it. And sometimes, she would be successful, but it would never last. And I feel very blessed that when we found a program for her to go to in 2020 that was aligned with our values. I was more equipped to support her because I already believed in it. And what I learned from her was, prior to her going to adopt a plant-based lifestyle, the program that she went to emphasized, it’s not so important what you don’t eat, which is when you’re vegan or plant-based, you don’t eat meat and dairy. But what is more important is what you choose to eat, and focusing on very dense nutrition.
So that you are giving your body the absolute most fuel, and I just, I went there with her for the first five days; I didn’t know this place; it was the middle of COVID, and I wanted to make sure that she was safe. And it was a good place for her to be. And in those five days, they transformed my diet, and I had been plant-based for a decade. And I realized that I needed to make better choices for what, and when I made better choices, my life was elevated. So her transformation changed our entire family. I came home, and I showed my husband what I had learned, and he changed his diet. And so yes, it’s what I would say to parents with children that are suffering from food addiction, to please find someone that can help your child that aligns with your values. It may not be plant-based, but for us, it was, and then we were able to support her. We adopted everything that they taught at home. So when she came home, we were able to support it fully. And that’s super important for people coming home no matter what your addiction is to come home to a safe environment because people, places, and things will get you in trouble very quickly.
Arden’s Garden operates in areas often referred to as “food deserts.” How do you ensure that your products are accessible and affordable to the communities you serve, and what steps are you taking to educate and promote healthier choices in these areas?
Okay, so when we purchased our very first plant, we purchased it in 2002. And the only place that we could afford to purchase it wasn’t an area right outside of Atlanta called East Point. And East Point is a food desert. And at the time, we didn’t know much about East Point; we just knew that we needed to purchase a plant. And this is where this building had everything that we needed for manufacturing. And with an SBA loan, we were able to purchase the building.
So what happened subsequently, totally, unbeknownst to us, was people we did not have a sign-out front, anything. We had our trucks in the parking lot. And people would just come up and bang on our door, our door; the building we purchased came with a lot of front doors because it was, you know, an underserved area. And people would just say, Hey, can we come in by Jesus here and we would say sure, and we would buzz them in, and we would have a little cookie tin. And we would run to our cooler and get them whatever they want. And it was totally disrupting our office day. And so then we made the big move of bringing a cooler up front. And eventually, we got a cash register. And before we knew it, we had a full-fledged store in that location. And the community taught us that they needed access to healthy food. We didn’t know it was coming in there. But we were an amazing partnership between our community and us. They supported us at a time when we were young, growing up, and poor. And we supported them when nobody else would come into their community. So the synergy was just amazing. And that store continued to grow over the years, and by the time 2014 came around of all of our stores, it was the number one location. And so since then, we have opened another store in another area not too far from the East Pointe area, and it has quickly jumped to our number two store for the same reason that underserved areas need access to healthy foods. And if you are willing to take the chance on that community, the community will support you.
So the next location that we are opening will be in another underserved area, maybe five miles from our current East Point location, and we’re just so excited to be able to serve our community in a way where we see a direct impact. And people show up. And they show us how much they need us to be in their area. And we feel honored to serve these areas because other people are not showing up around here. And it’s just been a great partnership all the way around. So we’ve learned from our customers that these underserved areas really do need to have access to fresh food.
Yoga plays a role in your personal health routine. How has the practice of yoga contributed to your overall well-being, and what advice do you have for individuals who are interested in incorporating yoga into their own fitness regimens?
Okay, so I probably started, I think, for 20 years, I used to say to myself, Oh, I need to start doing yoga. But I would only have 45 minutes to exercise, and I’m a runner. I like Runner’s High. And so I would only run, and eventually, about three or four years ago, I got introduced to hot yoga. Not that I’d done Bikram previously, but not very consistently. And this I went to, it’s a hot yoga flow place. And they had an amazing $30 introductory offer. And I love introductory offers. And so, my husband and I attended 30 classes in 30 days; they didn’t make a dime off of us, but we loved it. And it really transformed us. And what yoga has done for me has made me me. First of all, it’s an hour where I think only about what I’m doing. Like yoga, I don’t think about anything else. It gets me very centered. I like to set intentions, intentions, you know, that helped me throughout the day.
So yoga has helped me become really centered, and not just mentally but with an emphasis on flexibility. I think that for myself, I was a gymnast growing up, and I was very flexible. And then, being a runner for 30 years, I became very inflexible. And so it has helped me immensely with my flexibility and letting go, and I think when you slow down, and you allow it’s sort of a gift that you give to your body, it resets my mindset. So I’m a huge proponent of yoga. And I would urge anyone that has a type A personality to give it a try, especially hot flow because it feeds that sort of need to sweat but at the same time slows down.
Can you share some unique and exciting flavors or ingredients that Arden’s Garden has incorporated into its cold-pressed juices and smoothies? How do you come up with new recipes and ensure a balance between taste and nutritional value?
Yep, so we have a lot of exciting new flavors and ingredients coming out very soon, and Publix, we’re going to be offering two brand-new flavors. One is passion fruit turmeric, which is absolutely delicious. And Turmeric is one of those superfoods. That is for longevity, anti-cancer, and anti-aging; it’s just that everybody needs to be drinking Turmeric daily, I’m doing it, and the passion fruit is delicious. So it is absolutely a win-win combination. And my team also came up with a really unique and innovative yuzu current, so use it as a citrus fruit that comes from Japan. And the current is just a very unique flavor profile. It is water-based, so it is not high in calories, and it’s just a really fabulous flavor profile. We love it. The other two smoothies that we’re coming out of our retail stores right now are my personal favorites, which are cruciferous smoothies. That is where you’re talking about where the balance is between flavor and nutrition. So these lines are called dedicated, and it’s for people that are dedicated to their health. So cruciferous vegetables are the most dense nutritional foods on the planet. And so we’re trying to give you a way to have a lot of cruciferous vegetables in a way that’s palatable to you with very low sugar; it’s a water base. Cruciferous cabbage is mixed with strawberries, bananas, and flaxseed, and the kale inator is mixed with strawberries, bananas, flax, and ginger, so you have that nice extra ginger kit. So we’re offering something for everybody, and the flavors are super unique, and the nutrition is a powerhouse.
Arden’s Garden has a strong focus on sustainability. Could you tell us about your company’s initiatives to reduce waste and promote environmentally friendly practices and why sustainability is important to you as a business owner?
So we recently purchased an urban farm, which is located about three miles from both of our plants. And the reason that we purchased the urban farm was twofold. One was that it was going to be sold to developers on the urban farm. And we, as we talked about, are in a food desert. People don’t have access to farms; they don’t know how food is grown. Most people are buying food that comes out of a package. And so, it’s crucial for adults and children to see how food is grown and have access to fresh food. So that urban farm was so important in our community we did not want it to be sold. And so we bought it to keep it around. The second reason that we purchased it is that we formed a partnership with the woman that owns the farm. And what is happening is the pole which is the byproduct of our juices, is being transported over to the farm where they are going to compost it and use it to grow the organic vegetables that they grow at the farm. And they’re also, and then we are going to purchase the vegetables from them. And we’re going to make plant-based foods. So the entire circle is within three miles of creating the pulp composting, the pope growing the vegetables, and creating the food from the fresh vegetables. So it’s super exciting. We are very committed to sustainability because we’re committed to our Earth. Part of the reason that we promote plant-based living is because it’s easier on our environment. And we want people to have access to plant-based foods because it’s difficult to be plant-based. It’s very hard to get healthy plant-based foods. And so we’re trying to make it easier for people for their health and for our community and for the sustainability of the earth.
Leslie Zinn’s remarkable story and her dedication to transforming lives through plant-based living and sustainable practices make Arden’s Garden a beacon of inspiration. From overcoming personal challenges to providing accessible and affordable products in underserved areas, Arden’s Garden is making a positive impact on communities. With their commitment to sustainability and innovative flavors, Arden’s Garden continues to lead the way in promoting healthier choices and a greener future.