Living

How a year-long sabbatical changed one woman's life

Wall Street high flyer Julie McClure chucked it all for leafy greens and an industrial juicer. Now she’s on a mission to keep us clean and serene — one kale chip at a time.

Julie McClure founder BeNourished

Benourished founder Julie McClure; Photo by Erik Putz

 

Ms. Chatelaine: Julie McClure

Age: 39

Occupation: Founder of Benourished

Hometown: Fredericton

Lives: Toronto

Julie McClure lived and breathed the rat race for more than a decade, brokering high-stakes deals in the stressful world of investment banking in N.Y.C. At 34, though, everything changed. Burned out from her gruelling 100-hour workweeks, Julie ditched the briefcase and embarked on a year-long Eat, Pray, Love–style sabbatical to rediscover her joie de vivre.

Fast-forward five years, and she’s the founder of Benourished, a Canadian cold-pressed juice, raw-food and cleanse company that fashion mavens and the music industry elite swear by. Her savvy pitch on Dragons’ Den last year netted competing offers from Arlene Dickinson and Kevin O’Leary, proving the 39-year-old has her entrepreneurial bona fides. “I’ve been told my kale chips are the best in North America,” says Julie.

So how do you go from corporate finance whiz to superfood savant?

For Julie, the journey began with yoga-teacher training in Maui, then an “intense” raw-food retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, where she was overcome by the desire to flip the script on her life. “I took a major leap of faith,” says Julie, who enrolled at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto four years ago. It was there that she had the aha moment for Benourished. “I’ve always loved nutrition — I did a degree in biology before business — but I couldn’t map out all the pieces for a career. An educator at the raw-food retreat told me to just ‘take the next step,’ so that’s what I did.”

By partnering with a team of nutrition and botanical experts from the Toronto naturopathic community, Julie, now a certified naturopath, has forged a brilliant new career and food philosophy (and alleviated her debilitating migraines in the process). She’s also made wellness convenient: Torontonians can have her über-healthy raw snacks and rejuvenating juices delivered straight to their doors or pick up goodies from the Benourished store. And Julie hopes to see her on-the-go treats carried in cities across Canada and the U.S. during the next year.

She can’t help but laugh when she recalls her older brother’s introduction to her green juices. “My brother Dan proceeded with caution — he had one eyebrow raised and a very skeptical look on his face — but he quickly became a convert once he lost five pounds and his energy levels improved,” she says.

The close-knit McClures moved from Fredericton to a suburb outside of Toronto when Julie and her brother and sister were teens. “I loved growing up in Fredericton; I’ve yet to go somewhere in North America where the people are friendlier. They truly appreciate the simplicities of life,” she says. And her siblings have been Julie’s biggest cheerleaders (showing their support by buying up all her Sour Cream and Onion Ring Kale Kickers).

Julie’s revamped lifestyle — a lot more yoga and tennis, no more mergers and acquisitions — would please her seven-year-old self. “From the time I was in grade 2, I always wanted to be a doctor,” she says. Now she’s leveraging her health smarts and business acumen to transform Benourished into the ultimate lifestyle brand. And she’s doing it in style: This is one yogi you won’t see traipsing around town in stretchy pants — think See by Chloe chunky-heel booties and a chic Burberry trench.

“The biggest challenge is doing everything I want to do quickly enough. You always have another mountain to climb,” says Julie. Next she’s bringing her laser-like focus to a fruit-based raw-snack line for kids and to expanding her on-the-go healthy snacks.

When it comes to Benourished, Julie doesn’t regret the risk she took to follow her dream. “It’s wonderful to create something and see someone benefit from it. My story really resonates with people: Everyone has a passion, they just need to take that leap.”

Julie’s telling details
The biggest mistake I ever made was… not applying to Harvard Business School after working at Morgan Stanley in New York. I think I would have loved the experience. Its executive programs are now on my five-year list of “to-dos.”

I wish I had more time for… travelling! I have so many places that I want to see and explore.

The last time I lost my temper was… a long time ago. It takes more energy than I can afford — I have to stay calm in order to stay focused and to tackle everything I need to get accomplished each day.

My favourite moment of the day is…  the late afternoon — it’s when I am consistently at my best energy wise.

I’m currently reading… Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

My favourite quote is  “It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years” (Abraham Lincoln). It resonates deeply with my philosophy on life.

Five things Julie can’t live without:
1. Burberry black trench coat: “It’s a classic and an essential for any working woman’s wardrobe.”

2. Gee Beauty: “My go-to beauty boutique and spa. I swear by the Dr Who? facial and luminous foundation.”

3. A great pair of skinny jeans: “The essence of my weekday style. Current/Elliot and Rich & Skinny are my favourites.”

4. My daily litre of green juice: “It’s the best way to fight inflammation (the root of premature aging).”

5. Family: “My most trusted confidants and support. I have five amazing nieces and nephews who bring me a lot of joy.”

 

Benourished juice and kale chips