Work Wednesday

Syracuse Whitman and iSchool alumnus launches paleo muffin business

Courtesy of Zach Schleien

Zach Schleien balances a full-time job tech job while co-managing his own protein muffin company with his mother.

In 2015, Syracuse alumnus Zach Schleien and his mother, Debbie, began a Kickstarter page to raise money for his startup company, LIFT Protein Muffins.

In January of this year, the business launched. Since then, they have moved production to a co-packer in Westchester County, New York, and started selling to people outside their inner circle. During the day, Schleien works full-time for Johnson & Johnson in the IT Leadership Development Program and works on his business for about three to five hours each night when he gets home.

His mother doubles as his business partner and covers most of the day-to-day operations like answering phone calls. The two of them are responsible for all aspects of the business, from fulfilling orders to writing content on social media and marketing. As the company’s only current employees, the pair has to devote ample time and effort in order for the business to succeed.

Schleien began working on the idea for company about two and a half years ago. His target for LIFT has always been the on-the-go person who may not have time to cook, but wants a healthy meal. That goal has never changed, but achieving it has evolved immensely since the company launched.

“The vision has always been to deliver a delicious and healthy product that’s convenient,” Schleien said.

Over the past year, they have been focused on promoting the company on social media and connecting with other paleo influencers. Their current priority is sales and Schleien emphasized the focus that is required to run a business. Though he can only devote a finite number of hours to the company each night, he feels it is important to consistently check that he is working toward his main goal.

“If you’re constantly making gains, you’ll get closer and closer,” Schleien said about the growth of LIFT.

LIFT Protein Muffins are currently sold online for $5 a piece. Schleien plans to continue selling online-only for now and hopes to move to retail locations in the future. He also hopes to expand his consumer circle and possibly take on another employee. Schleien even spoke about potentially releasing new flavors or new products beside muffins.

“It’s really important to be passionate about what you’re working on … also to partner with someone you can trust,” Schleien said. “Fortunately, my mom has been essential in getting to where we are today.”

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