Women in Business: Greta Caruso, Co-Founder, Good Eggs

03/25/2015 06:20 am ET | Updated May 25, 2015

Greta is a co-founder and Foodmaker lead at Good Eggs, a San Francisco-based company with a mission to grow and sustain local food systems worldwide. Prior to that, she was the outreach coordinator for the Edible Schoolyard Project. She also spent time farming at the Beetlebung Farm in Chilmark, Massachusetts, and before that, worked at the Rome Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome. She graduated from Yale with a B.A. in Humanities.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up around a truly eclectic group of artists, actors and storytellers, which not only made for insane and wonderful family gatherings, but inspired me to get - and stay - interested in a great many things: art, history, movies, music, travel, politics. I think it's that interdisciplinary nature that ultimately drew me to the food world. It's not at all one-note: it exists at the nexus of culture, policy, art, agriculture, and public health.

How did your previous employment experience aided your position at Good Eggs?
My career really started when I was living in Rome a few years ago, where I spent time working with an amazing program called the Rome Sustainable Food Project. Falling in love with that tradition of agriculture and cucina povera set me off on an amazing, flavor-inspired education around the world. I farmed, cooked, and traveled before eventually coming to work for the Edible Schoolyard Project & Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. Because of my varied experience, I don't think there's been one day at Good Eggs where I haven't drawn from that foundation - whether it's insight into issues around school lunch reform or the brass tacks of how restaurants invoice farms.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I feel pretty lucky that the values that inform my work life are also a big part of my personal life, so my time away from work includes a lot of getting together with friends and cooking. Other than that, I try to take one trip a year when I can go abroad and really unplug. I wish I were the kind of person that can recharge just by lying on a beach, but the reality is that I get a lot more energy from exploring new cities and towns. I spent a few days in Naples with a friend this past fall, and it blew my mind. Everything was incredible, and the food was really out of this world -- I felt like I renewed my vows with pizza.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Good Eggs?
Every time I receive a Good Eggs order as a customer, I'm astonished by the quality of food - whether it's Creole Cream Cheese from Mauthe's Dairy in our New Orleans marketplace, a buckwheat baguette from Runner & Stone in Brooklyn, kale from the South Central Farmers Coop in LA, or tortilla chips from Primavera in the Bay Area. The producers that we work with are some of the most soulful and talented entrepreneurs in the country, and their integrity comes through in every morsel of their food.

As for the challenges, I think our biggest one is that we're trying to do something unprecedented in an industry that's notoriously complicated and unpredictable.

What advice can you offer women seeking to start their own business?
I'd give the same advice that I'd give to anyone: Work with the smartest, funniest and most trustworthy people you can find. I haven't had a single day at Good Eggs during which I wasn't challenged or inspired by one of my coworkers. When there's a lot of intellectual horsepower, there's never a passive acceptance of the status quo.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I'm so glad and grateful that Sheryl Sandberg reignited that conversation, and did so loudly and unapologetically. I'm not sure I necessarily share her vision for an ideal career or lifestyle - but that's completely beside the point!

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've been so lucky to have several mentors at various points in my life. When it comes to the last decade or so, the support and guidance I've received from Alice Waters has been the most impactful.

For over 40 years, she has remained uncompromising about the quality of her work - which goes from the big, revolutionary ideas right down to the spacing on a menu or how toasted a piece of toast should be in the morning. She often talks about the opportunity we have to "feed people ideas," which is always in the back of my mind. Teaching people the responsible thing to do - recycling, turning off the lights, taking military showers - can be a protracted battle. Teaching people about the importance of good food, though, is a different story. Hand someone an apple in October - a crisp and unblemished specimen picked at a local orchard - and you have 'em. Food that is responsibly grown and made is better for local economies, your health and the environment -- and all of that comes through in the taste. As far as disruptions go, this is an unimpeachably pleasurable one, which is why Alice has always called it the "Delicious Revolution."

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Well, Alice aside - and in addition to my love for political leaders like Elizabeth I and Hillary Clinton - I'm a big fan of Zadie Smith's. I love her essays and talks, and I find her writing to be my favorite kind of quiet leadership. She writes as a whole person: the artist, the errand runner, the mother, the cranky commuter on the bus, and the intellectual. And she's witty as all get out.

What are your hopes for the future of Good Eggs?
I am so inspired by the food producers that we work with, and I'm very much looking forward to a future in which we continue to help them feed more and more people in their communities.