Entrepreneur. Investor. Media personality. Farmer. Jen Boulden has had many careers but all focus on one thing: the environment.
She co-founded Ideal Bite in 2005 to cater to “light green” people—those interested in making small changes to be more green. During its hayday, the company had more than half a million subscribers on its email list.
In 2008, she sold to the Walt Disney Company. Since then she has appeared on numerous television shows. The former Los Angeles resident moved slightly north to Santa Barbara County where she now has some land to farm.
Crain’s Los Angeles spoke with Boulden about her love of nature.
When I was young I was always outside. That developed a natural proclivity toward nature and feeling at home outside and using that as my playground and classroom.
When I was in high scool I was able to choose my own research paper in my 11th grade literature class and I chose destruction of the Brazilian rainforest. It got me off and running on the green direction as a child.
In undergrad I was an economics major. I took some environmental economic classes [too]. I believed that economic forces could pivot things in a better direction.
After, I took a job at IBM. It had nothing to do with green and everything to do with making the green. That was a great adventure. It taught me how to mange my time, success and goals. I did a lot of amazing things as a young person. I had opportunities given to me and I devoured them.
When I was in New York working in the startup bubble I thought it was cool and fun and I was making tons of money, but [ I thought] how do I get back to my roots, how do I combine my business ability with doing something good for the world? When the NASDAQ crashed in 2001 I was in the middle of a tech startup and we lost all our funding. I thought it was a sign from the universe that it was time to recalibrate.
I wanted to bite off the next challenge and combine green and business which was a fairly new concept in 2001. I didn’t really know what to do. So I decided to clear my head from the startup craziness. I went and managed a horse farm in Ireland I basically took a working sabbatical.
Then, I decided to apply for a few green MBA programs. I got a full ride to George Washington’s green MBA program.
Lack of jobs
When I graduated there were really no green jobs to have and I didn’t want to go to one of the big consulting firms to help make environmental regulations. So I started a consulting agency that helped these smaller green businesses get off the ground.
I found that there was a need for a place for them to place adverting to attract the right market without spending a zillion dollars. We started to collect a depository of eyeballs. That was for about a year and then we started with the business plan for Ideal Bite.
We decided to sell to Disney in 2008. The market was in a downturn again. Also we were wined and dined by Disney’s top executives. They were very serious about taking our message and pumping it through their global distribution channels.
We took it as a way to get our message far and wide quickly.
I’m happy we had the opportunity to do what we did and to sell. In a dream scenario I would have loved to still be in business. In 2010, we got the news that they weren’t focusing on green anymore. We were an anomaly. We didn’t nicely fold into any of the divisions. They were focused on acquisitions like Marvel Comic Books that they could spread out into movies and at the parks.
The first weekend after Ideal Bite ended I was home and able to sit. I went to Esalen, a hippy resort in the Big Sur area and tried to deal with it and figure out my next step. I was also in the middle of a home renovation.
I ended up becoming an advisor to a lot of entrepreneurs and companies and helped them focus on what mattered, how to prioritize. There are so many things to do and some get hung up on the details. They basically become paralyzed by all of it.
In Santa Barbara County we have a beautiful piece of land and we want to be an example of the things we hold near and dear and sustainability and sustainable animal farming. The world’s not all going to go vegetarian but we want to end animal suffering at animal farms.
Factory farms are horrible for the environment and they are horrible for your health. The waste they are producing and how it is discarded and the amount of natural resources it takes is astounding. Ideal Bite was light green.
We now have started a nonprofit related to animal welfare and sustainable animal farming. This is my next and last thing. It is going to take the rest of my lifetime to see change. With the foodie movement and people now knowing what’s up with the benefits of organic it should be an easier sell. The name of the nonprofit is Anavo Ranch which is Celtic for harmony. I came up with this idea when I was in Ireland back in the day. We will have an Airbnb on the property so people can stay and be inspired and start to shift their habits.