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Member Spotlight | Garden of Life

on December 2, 2019 / by Nancy Dahlberg ,


Business: A health and wellness company specializing in science-based, Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified nutrition. The company offers more than 330 branded supplements.

HQ: Palm Beach Gardens

Founded: July 2000

No. of employees: nearing 300 nationwide

President: Brian Ray

Website: gardenoflife.com

 

Garden of Life, a health and wellness company, was founded in 2000 in a garage. Today, the Palm Beach Gardens-based company employs nearly 300 and is the market leader in nutritional supplements.

Matthew Cousins

“We develop, formulate, sell and market nutritional products. We also develop health and wellness content and publish a quarterly magazine for people who are trying to get or stay healthy,” said Matthew Cousins, part of the sales team in the company’s eTail division.

“In the earliest days we sold probiotics to practitioners and we grew from there. We developed into the top brand in every health food store nationally,” explained Cousins, who joined the company in 2002. “And it all started right here in Palm Beach County.”

The health and wellness industry is very fragmented, but Garden of Life is the market leader with nearly 11 percent market share and that’s across a number of popular categories such as probiotics, protein, multivitamins, and most recently CBD, he said. The company is also the leader in certifications, such as Certified Organic, non-GMO Verified and Dual Certified.

Leveraging eCommerce Technology

Christy Poe Garden of Life

Christy Poe

Christy Poe, Garden of Life’s Senior Director of IT, joined the company in 2014, when the company numbered just over 100 people. At the time, the tech team was just four people.

Now her tech team is 15 strong, yet still lean and mean, and Poe also contracts with local tech companies for projects as needed. “It’s is not a place for a lot of bureaucracy or a lot of formal heavy project management. The company moves very quickly. We bring in two new product lines a year and extensions of product lines so you can imaging the innovation required,” she said.

The tech team, an Oracle shop, support 11 different departments. The challenge is trying to get the right skills sets to keep up with a fast-moving business, said Poe. For example, the team recently opened a warehouse to pack and ship its CBD products, a new line for the company, she said. “We had 12 weeks to do it – we had to put in network wireless, scan guns, scales, etc., and it is usually a 6-month project. Some companies would take that long just to decide what they are going to do.”

Before joining Garden of Life, Poe worked at Office Depot for 15 years in a variety of IT roles. In the last role there, she worked with the PMO doing test management and capital planning in IT. It was a good stepping stone for coming to a smaller company. “I had never done the infrastructure side and it’s been great. The company is very supportive, it is not a company where IT is in the back — we try to stay business relevant.”

And a small team has to be scrappy. “Sometimes it’s kind of sink or swim, we have to figure it out. We are doing a supply chain project now we haven’t done before. You just dig in and learn it,” Poe said.

Building a Team

In hiring, in addition to technical skills, Poe looks for the willingness and ability to learn and interact with people well as well as communication skills. “We like to hire recent college graduates who are hungry and eager to make a difference.“

“We used to say it was hard to source IT talent, but that is changing and Palm Beach Tech has been able to make that more visible,” Poe added. “There are a lot of skilled workers, you just have to look for it – you don’t have to go to Fort Lauderdale or Miami.”

The benefits package is an attractor as well, including gym memberships, an in-house gym and time on the clock to do healthy activities. The company also brings in free, healthy lunches three days a week. And then there is the famous slide …

A good culture starts at the top, said Cousins. “It starts with strong healthy leaders, and it is expected from the top down that we are going to connect with each other and treat one another with respect.”

Garden of Life President Brian Ray recently announced four new holidays, and time off includes school holidays to help working parents. He sends out company-wide emails asking people “what stresses you?” Because many said laptops were not working optimally, that led to a refresh across the board.

“It’s a very flat company, leadership is very involved in all aspects of the company,” she added. “And it’s a very healthy culture – you don’t bring in McDonald’s, you don’t bring in donuts.”

Member Spotlight | Garden of Life