Navigating COVID with a live-in partner can be stressful enough as it is. But, throw in launching a wellness company and you've got a whole new can of worms ... or pot of gold, depending on who you talk to. For Jenne Moore and Andrew Remlinger, the reality of this situation is somewhere in the middle. The couple had lived together just a few months in a small San Francisco apartment and were in the process of bringing Sourse, a wellness company that produces vitamin-infused dark chocolate supplements, to market when the pandemic forced everyone into lock down. While the scenario had all the makings of both personal and professional disaster, the two somehow managed to ride out the storm together with a successful business launch ... and an engagement to boot.
But first, some context: The original idea for a chocolate supplement came from Moore's own wellness routine. "She was taking a lot of pills for her dietary needs and a bunch of other things," explains Remlinger. "Taking 10 pills in the morning was really not particularly appetizing or fun, and it kind of felt like medicating." Moore's vision for a clean, sustainable chocolate-based vehicle for nutritional supplements appealed to her partner, whose background is in investment banking for the food, beverage, and beauty industries. After some months of discussion and planning, the two quit their full-time jobs in late 2019 and went all-in on their passion project — Sourse was born.
Officially launched in August 2020, the brand's two inaugural products, Hype Bites and Glow Bites feature dark-chocolate infused with vitamin B12 and plant-based collagen, respectively. "With chocolate, you actually absorb sublingually, which means in your mouth," explains Moore. "As you're chewing the chocolate, you also get the vitamins [encapsulated in it] and you're getting about 90% absorption. Chocolate is a natural prebiotic, as well. So as you digest it, it's easier on your stomach than a gummy vitamin."
If the idea of creating healthy chocolate vitamins that are as efficacious as they are delicious seems like a hefty undertaking, you'd be correct. In addition to the challenge of sourcing clean and sustainable ingredients and the countless rounds of testing for the perfect texture, taste, look, and result, the couple-turned-business partners were also sharing a living space.
They quickly found that separating their work and personal relationship was, well, pretty near impossible, even with the separate office space they leased. "We were just always texting each other about the company like, 'Oh, I have this idea' and 'Did you email that person?'" recalls Moore. "Eventually, I thought to create a Slack channel where we only talk about work, and our text messaging should only be about personal life. You know, like, 'Let's go on a hike' and 'What are we having for dinner?'"
The couple also learned to appreciate what each one brought to the table from a business perspective, and they each settled into their respective roles quickly. "[Moore] is really organized and super creative [...] so she's more the product visionary," says Remlinger. "I'm kind of more of an operations guy." Moore says her partner's experience in the finance world has made him "so good with business relationships."
But even their seemingly copacetic professional partnership couldn't have prepped the two entrepreneurs for the blow that came in March 2020: COVID-19. The formulation for Sourse's first product, Hype Bites, was just finalized as the team was preparing to head to a food and beverage conference in Southern California to showcase the new launch. "We had a couple meetings there with partners we were looking to work with," recalls Remlinger. "I think that was one of the first conferences to get shut down." All of the couple's initial plans and meetings that they thought could "actually change the trajectory of the launch of the business" dissipated in a matter of days, forcing them to pivot their focus to an online-only, direct-to-consumer model.
Adding to their frustration was the fact that the couple's small one-bedroom apartment now doubled as their office. "We don't even have an office space," says Moore. "We have a desk in the bedroom area, and then we have to use our dining table [as a work space]. And the 'best' part of all is we have samples of the chocolate being sent to our tiny apartment. Our third roommate is a shipment that had to be sent to us for COVID-related reasons and couldn't be sent to our warehouse."
While some couples may have buckled under the ultra-strong cocktail of new business and COVID-related stress, these two managed to not only stick it out but emerge stronger than ever — and engaged. Yes, in navigating the rollercoaster that was 2020, the two realized what a great team they were in every respect and decided to kick things up a notch. Remlinger proposed to Moore in May while the partners took a rare moment away from business planning for a hike near the Golden Gate Bridge. "[This year] was a true test from every aspect," says Moore. "We've gone through a lot in the past few months, but I can't imagine doing it with anyone else. For me, it was really important and kind of escalated things [in our relationship]."
The couple also escalated things with their business, managing to get Sourse off the ground with quite the warm welcome. The brand's Instagram account has accumulated more than 10K followers in a matter of months and reviews on platforms like Refinery29, Byrdie, and more are positioning the supplements as the buzzy new thing. The Cut reported the Glow Bites to be, "adult M&Ms with actual clinically proven results."
And while the business success is sweet, Remlinger says his relationship's successful voyage through 2020 is even sweeter. "I would say the best thing I've done in my life was convince her to marry me," he says. "2020's been a pretty weird year, probably the weirdest on record, but it will always be a great one [for me] because we got engaged."
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