Leading a business through growth
As co-owner and creative director of Juice Press LLC, Erica Karsch ’94 (human development and family studies) helped her company navigate the challenges of the pandemic by focusing on innovation, customer experience, store design, and doing whatever needed to be done.
“I'm often stocking groceries and cleaning the shelves,” Karsch said, “that's just what you do when you're an entrepreneur. It's like having a child; you are never off duty. You walk in and if the store doesn't look right, you clean it, you fix it and reorganize it.”
After Karsch and her husband, Michael, purchased Juice Press from the founder in 2012, they expanded the menu from organic, cold pressed juices to smoothies, soups, prepared foods, snacks, and a range of other products that fit the company’s mission of offering healthy, accessible food choices. The company grew from four stores to over 85. Though most of their locations remained open during the pandemic, reduced capacity due to social distancing and the rapid rise of the delivery market required pivoting at every level of the business.
Our goal is to make better-for-you food options more accessible to more people.
In 2020, Juice Press branched out into the grocery store market, offering same-day delivery, and an online “super wellness market” that delivers to customers nationwide.
“Our goal is to make better-for-you food options more accessible to more people, and we had to figure out how to stay afloat during the pandemic," Karsch said. "That’s when we started to make our stores and website places where people could get a one-stop, holistic experience.”
As part of the push to make Juice Press a national name in the health and wellness market, the company participated in fellow alum and Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena’s new reality television show “No Retreat: Business Bootcamp,” which premiered this spring on CNBC. The Juice Press episode aired March 29.
“It was an amazing experience being able to take a moment to step back and articulate what we do,” Karsch said. “You don't really realize when you're in it day-to-day, it's so intense every day — all the things you're doing — until you are forced to take a beat and talk about it. That was very rewarding.”
In addition to owning a business with a mission to improve the health and well-being of its customers, the Karsches have provided financial and programmatic support for around 140 under-resourced charter and public school students to participate in Cornell’s Summer College Program since 2006. What began as a scholarship for students to attend turned into travel money, stipends, and tutors to give students the best chance of getting the most out of the experience.
“I grew up in Manhattan and went to a private school and it always really bothered me that your zip code or your parent’s income could limit access to basics like healthy food or quality education,” Karsch said. “So, for me, it’s about giving back by trying to make a difference in someone's life, trying to empower them, and open opportunities for them and trying to do my part to make the world a bit more equitable.”
Over the summer of 2021, Karsch provided $25,000 in financial support for Cornell students and teens from the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem to participate in a study out of the lab of Tashara Leak, assistant professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, aimed at teaching nutrition and food justice advocacy to NYC teens.
“Food options are inequitable around the country, so it was nice to have the opportunity to help educate kids about nutrition and the ways they can help make changes in their community. Even with COVID, there really hasn’t been enough emphasis on how diet and access to healthy food impacts our lives, but Human Ecology is at the cutting edge of that right now. And I think people are starting to appreciate the fields that we've all been talking about.”
Photo at top: Erica '94 and Michael Karsch, owners of Juice Press LLC, are looking to grow their company from 88 locations to 800. Photo: Provided.