Be a Mentor
Donate

Loss Leader

Severely overweight as a teen, Carmyn Robey dropped 140 pounds and turned her life around. Now her new business aims to do the same for legions of others

IN BUSINESS, IT’S IMPORTANT to know your target market intimately, and Carmyn Robey certainly does. By age 14, she weighed 260 pounds and was a size 24. “One day I made up my mind that I was tired of being depressed,” says Robey. “I started researching information about nutrition. Over two years, with diet and exercise, I lost 140 pounds and dropped from a size 24 to an 8.”

Seeking to help other women in similar straits, she founded Easy As Pie, a company that offers custom meal plans, individual cooking lessons, pantry walk-throughs and grocery-shopping assessments to help women achieve optimal nutrition and, in general, lead a healthier lifestyle.

Robey, 22, is now a senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C.; she graduates next May with a degree in computer science and business administration. (For her senior project, she’s developing an Easy As Pie mobile app for Android.) She’s also very much the public face of her business — not only because of her personal story, but also because she is the business right now. Three friends assist her with cooking meals and transportation logistics for client visits; looking ahead, she’d like to bring on a nutritionist to “gain some additional guiding principles,” as she puts it.

Those goals received a boost earlier this year, when Robey was selected to be part of the funding-and-mentoring program of 100 Urban Entrepreneurs after a virtuoso performance during a business-pitch event on Howard’s campus.

The funding she’s receiving from 100UE will help Robey bolster Easy As Pie’s digital presence; in addition to the app she’s developing, the company’s Web site is set to launch within weeks. Her ultimate goal isn’t just a successful company — it’s to help countless women like her who struggle with their health and appearance and need some professional assistance to turn things around. “I know what it feels like to give up on yourself, and I’m proof it’s possible to get past those difficult times,” Robey says. “I changed my life, and I want to help others do the same.”

•••

When you were selected as one of the entrepreneurs in 100UE’s funding-and-mentoring program, you were just getting Easy As Pie off the ground. What has happened in the months since?
A lot! I’ve hosted a few seminars on Howard’s campus, teaching students how to eat and cook healthier for a more nutritional college life. Easy As Pie has gained clients throughout Howard with whom we have one-on-one low-fat cooking lessons, as well as pantry walk-throughs and even grocery-shopping trips. Otherwise, we’re still in the process of putting all the components into place.

What was the moment as a teenager when you said to yourself, “I really need to change my lifestyle”? It’s such a daunting task for so many people, yet you’ve made it work. How?
My eureka moment was when I was 14. I got tired of being made fun of, eating lunch alone and just not loving myself. It took two and a half years for me to lose the 140 pounds. I started incorporating a lot of healthier foods into my life, including fruits that serve as antioxidants. Also, I stopped drinking soda. My feet shrank from a woman’s size 11 to an 8½, while my pants size dropped from a whopping 24 to a 6.

In addition to what you currently offer clients, what services would you like to add to Easy As Pie in the coming years?
The core part is the one-on-one low-fat cooking lessons; we want Easy As Pie to teach women how to be self-sufficient in their own weight-loss journey. In order to do that, we first have to teach them the basics. In addition to the cooking lessons, Easy As Pie implemented grocery-store assessments, where we [accompany] the client to the grocery store and show them the types of food that aid weight loss. New additions to the services that we’re still putting together are pre-made meals for clientele to order weekly. I’d also like to begin selling special seasonings and rubs that will make cooking easier.

Easy As Pie seems like a business that could be scaled for the Internet age, but you pride yourself on your personal service and attention to detail. Would you like to expand the business online significantly, or are you content to keep it local?
As of now, I am focusing on keeping Easy As Pie local. However, our Web site will be launching soon. In an effort to collaborate my passion with my education and the technology age, I’m in the process of developing an Android mobile application for Easy As Pie as my senior project.

What are your short-term and long-term goals for the company?
The short-term goal is to get the Web site and mobile application launched, and finalize the services that will be offered for future clientele. For the next five years, my goal for Easy As Pie is to expand the brand for a larger audience while maintaining the personal client relationship.

What’s your opinion of the larger players in the weight-loss business — the Jenny Craigs, the Weight Watchers. Are they reputable?
Companies like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers offer pre-made meals and snacks, but once clients actually begin to lose weight, they become dependent on their products instead of relying on themselves to maintain their weight loss. Easy As Pie is different — we’re teaching our clients how to be self-sufficient and independent when it comes to their health. •