Danika Brysha is a lover of all things well-being and just exudes “real.” She is the co-founder of Model Meals & recently co-founded SelfCare Society as well. She also works as a body positive fashion model. We were so excited by the opportunity to interview Danika! Here’s what she had to say 👇
I know you recently mentioned that not too long ago you made the move from LA to Las Vegas. How has that shift been for you? It seems beautiful there from your IG!
Yes - we moved in February! You know, I was traveling 50% of the time and it really occurred to my partner and I that we wanted more space. We were paying a crazy amount for such a small amount of space in LA. We made the move and it’s been so incredible. We moved in February, and I’m so glad that we did. The timing really worked out perfectly. Being in my home allows me to focus a little bit better. And I love Las Vegas for the hiking and lots of other things!
I love it. It sounds lovely.
OK - let's dive into business! How did you start Model Meals? Was there a specific experience that motivated you or is this something you've always wanted to do?
I did the Whole30 program in 2014 after moving from LA to NYC. The program changed my life so much and I felt that I had this secret that no one knew about. I had lived with disordered eating and constant dieting. I felt that when I did the Whole30 program, it transformed how my brain worked. I had been on medication for ADHD, and with the program, I was able to get off those medications as well as see a transformation in my energy and mental clarity. I also lost quite a bit of weight, which led my modeling career to take a hit. I was making six figures to almost nothing overnight.
I was passionate about doing what I love which was showing people that if they could eat this style of food, they would just love how good they felt. So I thought: What if I cooked the food? They wouldn’t have to read the books or prep really. I would hand deliver the food to them. So I did just that. I called my business Model Meals and delivered good-for-you food to about 10 clients in NYC. Of course, like most businesses, it was fun but also hard. I ended up pretty deep in debt, so I moved home to California with my parents for two years before really getting Model Meals off the ground.
We don't often hear too much about the hard parts of running a business. What have you learned through some of your harder moments as a business owner?
In the early stages, when you’re doing kind of everything, you have that drive and excitement about something new. I’d honestly say that although there were lots of hours doing that in the early stages, the hardest days have been three to four years in, where you are big but not huge. As you grow, it costs more money and those are the most stressful times. Also, managing a lot of different personalities can be hard.
You go into business thinking you are going to be all these things — the best place to work, etc — and then unfortunately, you’re put in a business model (ours is expensive because of the food quality) and you have to make choices that are not always what you want to do but what you know you have to do in order to keep the business viable. The hardest part is having a limited budget and having every dollar matter to keep the business alive.
What guidelines do Model Meals meals follow? Anything they always do or don't have?
We started the business being 100% Whole30 complaint. No grains, gluten, dairy, soy, GMOs, nothing artificial. We have since expanded and are still Whole30 compliant and 100% paleo, but also offer a few paleo / grain-free breads and treats. We comply with an anti-inflammatory diet. If your doctor prescribes you an anti-inflammatory diet, this is the diet most people are going to want to follow. I also call it plant-based, but not because it is vegan or vegetarian, because it’s not. But because the meals are primarily plants, while incorporating really high-quality animal products. We look at everything in our business from the sustainability and sourcing of our plants and animals, to how the animals are treated, and how our packaging impacts the environment. We are very holistic from a business perspective.
Sound is so grateful to be included as a Model Meals ‘add-on’! How do you pick the add-ons? Is there specific criteria you look for?
The first thing we look for is that the product follows the same health standards that we follow, so when it comes to sourcing and ingredients. That is pretty black and white. And then it comes down to collaboration, which should be mutually beneficial. We want to spread the word about other small businesses. We also want to offer things that are not as readily available in stores or on Amazon. I love that we can give people access to a product that may only be direct to consumer or in limited stores. Some of the brands we have first partnered with have since grown and become bigger brands, and we just love to support other good brands.
Selfishly, I want Model Meals to make its way to New York! Every meal I see looks incredible! I know it is no small feat to expand, but do you have plans to?
We absolutely do. I would love to be national. We are looking at a lot of different things as a business — possibly a kitchen in Austin, or moving HQ. I would love to open up on the Easy Coast eventually. But it’s a gradual conversation, and I know that this is the pace we have to go. We are a super small, scrappy team and it’s easy to look at our business and think that we’re bigger than we are. But we are definitely heading into the next, new chapter.
You recently starting another company called SelfCare Society. Please tell our audience more about this amazing concept and what your goals are for it.
This is something I’ve been wanting to launch for years but just haven’t had the bandwidth, to be honest. A couple of years ago, my partner and I traveled around the U.S. for what we called a ‘Brunch Series’ which focused on conversations around self-care as well as scheduling for success within your personal life and career. What I’ve found is that people know what they should do but are searching for that accountability. I created SelfCare Society as 30 min live only classes for your spirit or soul. We might do gratitude or journaling, manifesting, or organizing for a balanced mindful day. We have built out a social network based on empowerment, not on likes and popularity. I like to describe SelfCare Society as a fitness membership for your spirit and soul.
Beautiful. PS - SelfCare Society has a 14 day free trial!
OK - time for rapid fire!
Morning Routine: You’re speaking my language! I believe deeply in self-care and rituals. It’s a part of the reason I can juggle everything on my plate, along with all of the incredible people I work with of course. I go to bed around 8 and wake up between 3 and 6, generally around 5. I try to be unplugged for the first hour, focusing on meditation or journaling. I have a SelfCare Checklist which is built into SelfCare Society. I write a few affirmations, journal, and then schedule and create intentionality in the morning to free up my brain during the day. I also move my body three days per week and spend some time in the garden. Then, I jump into work! I also schedule some breaks during my work day.
Fave Style of Workout: I change it up! I love a challenge. I love something structured with an end date that I can achieve, but then I pair that with intuitive movement, what my body is looking for. I am trying to pay attention to intuitive movement more. Lately, I feel my body has been asking for me to be more gentle with it so I’m lowering the impact.
Fave Meal to Make: (laughs). So I am in a unique situation because I have Model Meals, and my partner has been a chef for 20 years! So, it’s not that often that I cook. But I love a breakfast bowl — crisp sweet potatoes, bacon, onion, avocado and eggs!
Fave Model Meals meal: Damn, we have such good stuff! Well, I love our sweet potato with chorizo. It’s kind of like nachos with a Whole30 sour cream and a red salsa. I also love our tacos - they’re made with celery root instead of grain-based taco shells.
Fave Podcast: I love Kate Northrup ‘Kate and Mike Show’, ‘Almost 30’ podcast, Tim Ferris and Dave Asprey. I’m more someone who asks myself: What do I want to learn today? I ask that to myself while doing my SelfCare Checklist. Then I find a podcast based on that.