Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman, and Nathaniel Ru were fresh out of college at Georgetown when they opened up a restaurant. Their aim was to establish a healthy but hip place that would be farm-to-table. They called it Sweetgreen, and they received funding from about forty relatives and friends. They’ve done better than they could have imagined. Eight years later, they preside over a chain. Sweetgreen has opened in 31 places, and is preparing to open another nine restaurants by year’s end.
But that’s not all. They’ve also flown past three rounds of venture capital worth $95 million. Jammet, one of the company’s co-CEOs, recently sat down for an interview with Bloomberg. He explained how the germ for their company was seeded and how they’ve progressed with their lucrative business project.
The three co-founders met their freshman year of college at Georgetown. As graduation approached, the three were dissatisfied with the structured employment options lying ahead of them, the last thing they wanted was to working long hours in an office cubicle. Children of entrepreneurs, they quickly decided to strike out on their own and build their own business.
They quickly zeroed in on healthy food options in Georgetown, or the lack-thereof. They opened a salad shop offering healthy and nutritious options. Now, all these years later, their business pitch hasn’t changed. They don’t just sell healthy food, they sell a set of values about doing things correctly and sustainably.
Plus, they took advantage of opportunities sitting in front of them. They had access to people like Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, and Steve Case, one of the co-founders of America Online, who became two of their first investors. Jammet had done a college internship with a prominent New York restaurateur, Joe Bastianich, who ended up investing in the restaurant, too.
The chain conveys a decidedly hipster vibe in its stores. The company calls its workers “team members” and “coaches.” The founders pride themselves in maintaining a great atmosphere by relating well with employees. When someone leaves the company, be it a food supplier or an app developer, the founders want to know why, so they can understand the reasoning.
Nathaniel Ru is a co-founder and co-CEO of Sweetgreen. He’s also a principal at SWTLF Ventures. He says his goal is to serve high quality food to more and more people. One of his heroes is Kevin Plank, of Under Armour, because he runs a company that stands for something larger than just itself.