I grew up between Hawaii and Arizona—between the beach and the desert, obsessed with both but never being able to have the two together in one place. Those were my formative years, I feel like now I’m constantly split between the things that I really love.
Growing up like that made me realize there is more to location. I never got stuck in a bubble. I knew there was more, which is why I wanted to come to New York. The city feels like the ultimate mix of everything and an incredible learning experience, especially from a food perspective because you have so much in an accessible vicinity.
I eventually came here for fashion school, but I kind of checked out halfway through. I realized that industry wasn’t for me. So I started freelance writing for all of these different outlets, including trend forecasting ones.
Trend forecasting is the organization and recognition of patterns in culture, on both a global and micro scale.
In every industry—from design to food to anything—you have to get inspiration from somewhere. Trend forecasting is the organization and recognition of patterns in culture, on both a global and micro scale. It's being able to understand what those patterns mean, and then project what that will mean for the future. It was intriguing to me because in fashion school, you are always looking for inspiration, you're absorbing things and trying to understand what's going on in food, art, and culture—everything.
I felt like trend forecasters lived in the clouds. There was nothing higher than being able to predict colors and patterns and styles, and then see those in all of the collections. But what was the most intriguing about trend forecasting was that it was very global. People who are in that field have to travel, and have to really know how to absorb culture. So, that became an obsession. I wanted to travel. I wanted to do all this stuff.
After I graduated, I traveled the world for two years. I’d live somewhere for a few months at a time, from Nashville to London, Lisbon to Singapore, Los Angeles to Austin. Really all over the place. I was just going wherever I could afford and then pitching stories based on things that I would find in that place. No one was telling me to be anywhere specific—it was just places I was excited about, or wherever I could get a ticket to.
I eventually transitioned from forecasting fashion to food. My dad was in the hotel industry so I grew up in a very hospitality-driven family. When we were out at restaurants, he’d talk my sister and I through the menus and the wine, even when we were younger. He taught us all these little details. So when everyone started getting more into lifestyle content, they recognized my understanding of restaurants. That flipped a switch for me. That's how I started doing my BreakfastClub event series.
I was getting invited to a lot of media dinners and events, and while I understood the point of them, they seemed a little one-sided. I wanted to be able to really connect with people. There was just something special about the idea of bringing people together in the morning to enjoy a meal.
I would gather the most creative people in whatever city I was in and work with a chef to create a family-style breakfast for the community. It was always a combination of people who were in fashion design, art, and food. There were no ulterior motives, no pressure to post or do anything except have a creative conversation. For the chefs, it was appealing because they got to take a break from their existing menu and prepare a breakfast. It was a creative challenge for them. They were feeding their peers and community, which was cool.
I spent three years continuously traveling, researching, and talking to people about breakfast.
The global cookbook editor at Phaidon ended up coming to a BreakfastClub at Contra. We stayed in touch, and when I came back to New York a year later, we had breakfast just to catch up. We started talking, like, “What if we did something on BreakfastClub, and featured all of these chefs and the recipes that they were coming up with—these once-in-a-lifetime meals?” It got sent up the ladder at Phaidon and they decided to do one of their larger bible collection books on traditional breakfast recipes from around the world.
I was sold. It was a dream project. I spent three years continuously traveling, researching, and talking to people about breakfast. And while the idea started as something to do with BreakfastClub, it transformed into something that was way more personal and home cooking-related.
Honestly, it was rough after that. BreakfastClub ended as I was finishing up the book. It had just come to a natural end—I felt done with it. After the book was turned in, I had no idea what I wanted to do next.
I’ve always been obsessed with cereal, not just because it’s delicious and fun, but because it’s one of the only food products that really incorporates art. I'd never seen that done well in any other product. I started thinking, Why has everybody stopped eating cereal? And it’s because there's basically only Kellogg’s and General Mills—these huge CPG brands that are filled with terrible ingredients.
But they’re like the cool kids that you want to hang out with. So, you hang out, and then you’re like, Why do I keep doing this to myself? Meanwhile the natural cereal brands—which are “good for you” or “better for you”—their packaging and branding is just boring. There’s no lifestyle around it. I wanted to do something that was straight down the middle.
I started building the OffLimits universe in my head. The characters—Dash and Zombie—actually came first, before the flavors, before anything. I felt that for me to do something truly authentic, there would need to be an emotional connection. And that that would be the reason why someone would choose our brand over any other.
Sometimes I feel like I need to be depressed to do any work that's good.
Sometimes I feel like I need to be depressed to do any work that's good. But then I'm like, This is dumb. I shouldn’t have to feel this way to put out any good work. So I go into super productive mode: my morning routines are on point, I’m working out, I’m doing all these things and everything is good.
Then I hit a peak and I feel destructive again. I want to tear it all apart. It's literally just a cycle. Nobody talks about the extremes that people go through in their life. So the cereal characters were built off of that. I wanted them to be real, and to have the ups and downs that people do.
Dash is super motivated: she’s always on the go, and always feels the need to be on and doing good things. But because of that, she deals with a lot of anxiety and social pressure, and puts too much pressure on herself. And then Zombie is the opposite: he’s chill, probably stoned, and telling everybody to calm down. But Zombie can also sit in that depressive space, which is sometimes good and empowering, but sometimes, you’re like, Oh, no, I’m a little scared of this.
Dash is also the first-ever female-identifying cereal mascot.
I wanted the flavors to relate to these characters and be functional. So I decided Dash is like an upper, and she should turn the milk to cold brew. And since Zombie is supposed to chill you out, I thought it would be great to include ashwagandha in the cereal since taking it every morning has really helped me. I like to think of Dash as the sativa and Zombie as the indica.
Above all else, I wanted to build a brand that was actually relatable and brave, and gave people confidence—and friends. And when I say friends, I'm talking about the characters. When you’re just sitting in your apartment, and you see the box on your shelf with these characters, I hope that it's comforting for people.
Dash is also the first-ever female-identifying cereal mascot. Honestly, I did not realize that until, I think, six months into building the brand. I posted this thing on social media that was like, “If you could hook up with any of the cereal mascots, who would it be?” And all these people responded, and were like, “Well, they’re only dudes.”
I had 200 meetings with people, and I got maybe five yeses out of that.
I’d never noticed that. They’re a mix of somewhat androgynous characters, but they’re all masculine-facing. There were no fem characters that own their femininity, even if they’re not a human character. There’s just nothing relatable in that space.
I realized that none of them were remotely modern. The Trix Rabbit commercials are exactly the same as they were 30 years ago. Nothing had changed with the times, except for some of the design aesthetics. There was nothing that brought these characters into the real world.
It’s been really cool to see the response. Our cartoons “do” customer service. So when you email OffLimits, it’s Dash or Zombie replying to you. Now people are emailing us like, "Hey, Dash, can you help me with this?" Some people will keep talking to them because they’re just curious what else they're going to say and do. It immediately de-escalates the situation, too, because how are you going to be mad at a cartoon character?
When I tried raising VC money, I thought it was going to be a level playing field. I had gotten some of the industry’s biggest artists, designers, and creatives to sign on to this project even before there were samples of cereal. I felt that was a big enough testament to what we were building, but no one seemed interested in that.
I had 200 meetings with people, and I got maybe five yeses out of that. So many people talked down to me or tried to explain the industry or my generation to me. I’m like, Sure, you’re a business person on that side of the table, but you don’t know what is coming for you. I’m not Gen Z, but do not fuck with Gen Z. Don’t fuck with millennials, but do not fuck with Gen Z.
They don’t want to keep buying things that suck. They want their brands to be more transparent. I’m trying to think of the best way to explain this, but venture should just not exist in the consumer space unless they’re actually going to play the game, take risks, and understand what building a consumer brand is like.
I’m not Gen Z, but do not fuck with Gen Z. Don’t fuck with millennials, but do not fuck with Gen Z.
If they don’t understand the consumer, or have any empathy for them, then how can they expect to have any real return? I thought all these people were here to make it big, and make big money? But they just make the same investments over and over again. I lost so much respect for venture capital and that side of this industry so quickly in this process. Most of the people I spoke to had no idea what they were talking about.
A lot of founders, especially female founders, are pressured to really show this glossy side of how everything is going. Like, “I can run a business and look at all this cool stuff we’re doing and look at our team!” All of those things. But it projects a really false vision to other women and girls who would try to be entrepreneurs. It is fucking painful. I want to post all my rejection letters. I want to post all the ridiculous things people have said to me. I do try to post things on social that I feel like are less flattering.
I want people to understand that this is hard. We don’t need to be “on” all the time. We don’t need to be answering everyone's email from a customer service point of view. I don’t mind being human about it. Whether it’s us or somebody else, I don’t care. I just want there to be more creative people at the helm of these larger businesses.
I’ll smoke or take some edibles and I’m like, Why do I not do this all the time?
I started skateboarding about a year ago, when I first started the business, and now I’m obsessed with it. I pretty much just do cereal stuff and skate. I’m still learning, but I feel like I got a lot better just skating on the street during COVID because there weren’t any cars. I skated down Park Avenue and it was one of the coolest experiences ever. No cars in any direction, and just flying. It was so fun.
I don’t have any friends really who skate. I just decided to take on this hobby because I’ve always been intrigued by it. I think I was always jealous because it looked really fun, but it wasn’t really something that girls did in high school, especially where I lived.
The amount of respect that I have for skaters now is insane. I want to clap for every skater that goes by or who does anything interesting because it is so hard. You get torn up. I think that’s part of it, and you learn. It’s helped me because when you're trying something, you’re going to fall. But mentally, you have to be fully in it. It’s been the only thing that could remove me from everything else going on this year.
It’s funny, a lot of time I’ll forget about weed, especially because I live in New York, but then I’ll smoke or take some edibles and I’m like, Why do I not do this all the time?
It’s just so helpful for sleeping, for stress, for getting out of your head for a second. I usually get Petra mints when I’m in L.A. and I carry them with me everywhere. Those I love. You don't even really feel anything, but then, when you're just sitting still, you're like, "I feel relaxed and nice." It’s just beautiful.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Emily Miller photographed by Meredith Jenks around New York. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.