Leslie Woods has been health-conscious from an early age. She had never considered her lifestyle as a career option, but when the possibility of working for a company that provides its customers with a healthier nutrition option came, she couldn’t say no.
“At that time, I was definitely interested in the startup community,” says Woods, who received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from NC State in 2009 and 2011. “And being in Raleigh, I knew there would be some kind of possibility out there.”
She teamed up with Sherif Fouad, founder and owner of Raleigh Raw, in 2013, and together, they turned a lifestyle into a business. “Sherif had an idea of starting this kind of a company,” she says. “Over time, I told him, ‘Let’s give this thing a shot.’”
Raleigh Raw is a company that produces completely organic juices intended to eliminate toxins and other harmful chemicals from the body. The juices contain fresh, cold-pressed fruits and vegetables, most of which are locally grown.
“When you add chemicals, you lose nutrition,” says Woods, explaining the importance of using organic ingredients. “The goal is to cleanse and reset your body so you no longer crave sugars and other unhealthy foods.”
Drinking a mix of fruits and vegetables might seem daunting, but many of Raleigh Raw’s employees have bartending experience, and Woods says they know how to mix flavors.
“Balancing flavors is something that Sherif is really good at,” she says. “Our entire staff does a nice job at pulling out every flavor.”
Woods says long nights and early mornings are quickly becoming part of the job. Woods and her staff work out of the kitchen of Zinda, a downtown Raleigh restaurant and bar located on Fayetteville Street. They’ll work anywhere from four to eight hours a night – starting at 11 p.m. — preparing the cold-pressed, organic juices to send to customers the following day.
“We come in and work until we have everything ready to go,” she says, “and then I’ll come back the next morning at six to meet our delivery guy.”
Woods says making the juices is a long, arduous effort. “We pull out the produce in the kitchen, measure it so that it’s made to order, and wash the ingredients in a lemon and vinegar solution,” she says. “After a machine slow-grinds the ingredients, they are then put on ice in order to keep essential nutrients locked into the juice.”
Woods is the operations manager at Raleigh Raw. She gathers new client connections, manages delivery and kitchen logistics, and keeps operational costs down.
Woods enjoys the analytical aspects of her job. “It’s nice not to have an emotional connection to it,” she says. “I look at as more of a game. What happens if we increase this number? How can we keep costs down?”
Raleigh Raw has a vending machine located in Café Helios on Glenwood Avenue, but Woods says expansion is coming soon.
“We are in the process of getting two more vending machines in Cameron Village,” she says. “Eventually we want to open a community center in downtown Raleigh that would have fresh stocked food available. Obviously, night life is a big part of downtown, but we want to help people develop a healthier lifestyle.”
Raleigh Raw is one of dozens of vendors – including restaurants, farms, breweries, wineries and bakeries – participating in the Red & White Food and Beverage Festival at the Park Alumni Center on Tuesday, Nov. 4. All of the vendors have NC State connections, with alumni as owners or managers. The festival is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at The State Club in the Park Alumni Center. Visit the festival website to register and see a full list of vendors participating.