Dear Mark: My Primal Investments

Cyber Monday Sweepstakes: Thrive Market, best described as Whole Foods meets Costco online, is giving you a chance to win hundreds of dollars worth of your favorite Primal foods and a free annual membership to their site. Thrive is on a mission to help make healthy living available and affordable to all American families. I’m a huge fan of what they’re doing. So much so that I’ve become an investor in the company. But more on that below. Enter the sweepstakes here, and you could be one of the lucky winners!

thrivelogoFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I discuss one of my very favorite subjects – investing in oneself – in relation to this whole Primal thing. I explain my theory of investing, why you should invest in yourself even if you’re working a 9 to 5 and have no desire to be an entrepreneur at all, and I give the story of how I decided to quit the (well-paying and stable) rat race and make the ultimate investment in myself and my future: starting Primal Nutrition. Then I discuss the Primal-friendly start-ups in which I’m currently invested, including a really exciting new venture that I think everyone here is going to dig (accompanied by a simple and potentially lucrative contest).

Let’s go:

Dear Mark,

I’m a big believer in the concept of putting your money where your mouth is. For example, if you value humanely-raised animals, and grass-fed cows, you should be willing to spend the extra bucks on them to support the farms and purveyors, thus making them more readily available to more people, and hopefully, ultimately, bringing the costs down, too. I’m always looking for companies that have similar values to mine as part of their mission statement. I heard you’re an investor in Exo cricket bars. Is that true? What companies do you think are making a positive impact on the world? I’d be very interested in your opinion. Grok on, Mark!


As a young entrepreneur, the single best piece of advice I ever received was to invest in myself whenever appropriate, rather than following the more conventional wisdom of setting aside small sums of money and investing in passive things like common stocks, mutual funds or real estate for some future retirement. Don’t get me wrong: those do have a place in many a retirement strategy, and I don’t want to lead anyone down a path that’s wrong for them, but I always found myself feeling less in control of those types of investments. Furthermore, I really don’t see myself “retiring” ever. And whenever I have made those traditional investments, I seem either to have lost money, worried myself sick over uncontrollable events, or simply been less than satisfied with the outcome.

On the other hand, whether it was money spent in furthering my education, making sure my health was optimized, gaining useful experience by taking calculated business risks I might not otherwise have taken, or simply reinvesting profits back into my business – I have found that the main benefit to investing in myself has always been the degree of control I have had over those investments. It has instilled both a sense of responsibility and a feeling of empowerment. Of course, much of this presupposes that you are working for yourself or have plans to do so at some point. If that’s not something you’re interested in undertaking, this advice may not apply. At least, not financially. However, I still think the concept of “investing in self” applies to everyone, even if it’s “investing” in your own health with proper diet and exercise and sleep habits so you can enjoy your time, family, and money better. It’s not necessarily about money, but about giving back to yourself. That could mean investing your free time into a little extra sleep, a vacation with the family, that good book you’ve had sitting beside your bed for months collecting dust, or a nightly walk around the neighborhood, instead of using it to “get ahead” at work or “catch up” on email.

I left a comfortable and well-paying job to start Primal Nutrition, Inc. in 1997 (now Primal Nutrition, LLC). At the time, I had a wife and two small children, and no money in the bank – but I had a vision of how I wanted to live my life. I wanted to be on the cutting edge of a health movement about which I was incredibly passionate. While some might have said that it was a risky move given my circumstances (and it was), I knew deep down that it was what I needed to do to feel fulfilled. I also knew deep down that it would succeed eventually on some level if I stuck with it.

As my business has grown, I have reinvested profits and other resources whenever and wherever appropriate for nearly 18 years, and I still look for ways to invest in myself. But these days there are other investment opportunities that arise outside my company which still allow me to take advantage of my knowledge, experience, influence and money.

The Primal/Paleo community has grown, too, and with it the business opportunities. There are probably hundreds of small companies entering the paleosphere with an intent to fulfill a perceived demand or better yet, to create a new demand that requires fulfilling.

I started angel investing about five years ago and have helped fund several interesting start-ups. Among them, EXO, the cricket bar company; Sirens and Titans, a gym in Los Angeles; and Bona Dea, a maker of gluten-free baking flours and ready-to-eat baked goods. In all my current investments, I serve as an advisor as well as investor – again, it’s important to me that I have a degree of influence on my investments.

More recently, I invested in one of the most compelling start-up ideas I have seen in a long while. It’s called Thrive Market and I believe it will change how all of us gain access to healthy foods. The concept is surprisingly simple: offering top brand proprietary packaged healthy foods at discount prices online. It’s like Costco meets Whole Foods online. Thrive is membership-based and offers discounts of 25-50% off what you might normally expect to pay in a regular health food store (or even at competitive online venues). While it is perfect for accessing your favorite Paleo/Primal, gluten-free products, it also affords an opportunity for smaller companies with awesome products that might not be able to get major distribution in places like Whole Foods to become available nationwide. As part of the “giving back” philosophy that the founders exemplify, for each membership sold a free membership is awarded through select charities to a family in need. The membership fee is $59 annually. I made that back in savings on my first order! If you are someone who has struggled with the costs of certain elements of the Primal Blueprint or paleo eating strategies, Thrive was designed for you.

Investing in companies like Thrive, EXO, Bona Dea, and Sirens and Titans isn’t just financial for me. As you rightly point out, Dale, it’s a way to ensure the movement I’ve grown to love and fight for continues to grow and be sustained. If we want Primal to continue growing, we’ll need to broaden our horizons. We’ll need mainstream interest in insect protein and nutrition – which is what EXO is doing. We’ll need to have gluten-free options that taste good and are widely available for those folks who just don’t want to give up grains and baked goods and aren’t interested in baking themselves. We’ll need to support progressive fitness spaces (like Sirens and Titans) and, maybe most importantly, we need to figure out a way for the average everyday consumer to gain access to affordable, high-quality Primal-friendly foods. That’s where Thrive Market comes in.

Thrive just launched. To commemorate the start of a beautiful friendship, we’ve put together a sweepstakes. It’s really simple:

Thrive Contest

Enter the Thrive Market Sweepstakes Here.

All you need to do to enter is register an account for free, and then share the sweepstakes page on Facebook.

That’s it! One person will receive $500 that can be used at Thrive; 20 people will get free Thrive memberships for a year. The sweepstakes ends on Sunday. Try it out and let me know what you think. It’s only going to get better.

That’s me. How about you guys? How are you investing in yourself and the Primal community at large?

TAGS:  dear mark

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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35 thoughts on “Dear Mark: My Primal Investments”

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  1. Hear hear! I might be stepping out on a limb here, but investing in yourself is never a bad thing. Learning something new or developing a new skill can only increase your odds of success in future endeavors. Even things that don’t initially seem related can have some traits that crossover, even if it’s just learning to stay mentally pliable and adaptable.

  2. I’m relatively new to the primal lifestyle. My investment in primal living has freed me from inflammation, excessive weight and high blood pressure. What a great Return-on-Investment.

    The food portion of this lifestyle is a bit more expensive it seems, except I think I’ll reap a huge financial savings on future medical care. I’m past retirement age but I feel so good I have no desire to retire. That keeps income flowing.

    I applaud those, like Mark, who have led the way with their knowledge and with their investments of time and money. I hope they all realize ever growing returns. The more investment that is made, the more others will see the benefits of this lifestyle. The more who adopt the lifestyle, demand for lifestyle support will increase. With increased demand, primal supplies will grow to meet demand. Then, it will become affordable for more and more people. This is a BIG thing!


  3. It’s unfortunate that those of us who very purposefully choose not to have a Facebook account cannot enter the Thrive sweepstakes 🙁

    1. Yes you can. You need the same email address you used to post this comment, no FB account necessary.

      1. That’s not true.

        I scrolled down to sat the same thing, saw your comment and clicked through to the Thrive site to enter. On creating an account it moved to a screen that says “STEP 2 OF 2
        Share by Dec 9, 2014 for a chance to win!” With a share on Facebook button underneath.

        I agree that it’s unfortunate that those of us who invest in ourselves by avoiding social media are unable to enter this raffle.

        The message that sends, whether intentional or not, is that potential customers aren’t valued for themselves, but only as a vehicle for a company’s publicity or marketing campaigns.

        I will look over what Thrive has to offer and compare it to my Costco membership and locker meat purchases, but I’m starting from a slightly negative view of the company

        In running campaigns like this it would be more inclusive to use a service like rafflecopter to give multiple chances to enter, a “free” entry for giving the company your own info with additional entries for sharing on social media outlets and/or sharing directly with friends through emailing the contest entry page.

    2. Sorry for the delayed response – we didn’t realize there were so many responses out here. I’m actually one of the founders of Thrive Market. Not a problem if you don’t have a FB account. Just email [email protected] requesting to be put in Mark’s contest and we’ll be happy to get you in. Thanks!

  4. Brilliant! Mark’s actually found an ethical way to make money and do good at the same time. 99% of the time it seems like the only way to make money is through some huge planet killing corporation that is burning and slashing it’s way to the top when the truth of the matter is they are just selling tomorrow to profit today and taking the cowards way out.

    1. How about this:

      Own a “Monsato”, because they are going do it- whatever horrible thing that is- anyways because of the political lobbying and that the general public is 1)not informed, 2) Do not care, so no political change will occur.

      Votw with your dollars by eschewing all “Monsato” consumer products.

      Use “Monsato’s” capital gains and the dividends to help fund something you do believe in. And support that cause by buying the company’s products you believe in.

      Now you have a private wealth transferring system where a “Monsato” like company is funding a product you ethically agree with.

    1. Our offices and warehouse are in Culver City, CA, but we ship anywhere in the continental U.S. Eventually, our plan is to have hybrid retail/fulfillment locations around the country. Thanks for your interest!

  5. Wasn’t expecting anything different, but this is a USA-only company, by the looks of things. Pity I had to set up an account first to find that out, as opposed to it being mentioned upfront.

    1. Take Theive’s idea and start a similar company in the country you live. You know there are backers already!

  6. “… Affordable for all American families…” Gave it away

  7. I never bother with this sort of thing anymore because it’s always the States only. And if they do ship to Canada, the rates are brutal. That’s why I gave up on Exo, couldn’t afford the shipping.

    1. For anyone (Canadians), If anything, I believe Thrive is a good way for folks to compare prices as well as a sort of awareness tool for sourcing or just learning about quality healthy products be it through Thrive or not.

  8. Great to see you re-investing in this wonderful community that you’ve been instrumental in creating and growing, Mark.

    For our part, we’ve built a very rewarding company focused on bringing the benefits of the primal / paleosphere to the masses without the large time/thought/research investment.

    We’ve been running about a year and a half now, and are launching our first product two weeks from today (it’ll be widely publicized around the blogs we all read, but if you want to be super sure not to miss it, you can join our newsletter on our about page).

    My co-founder and I have forced primal/paleo principles into all areas of our lives, and are now getting to do the same for our users. It’s very exciting.

    Also, we’ve used facebook targeting to seek out potential team members with a strong paleo / primal interest. This is a wonderful community (thanks to Mark), and we’ve been very happy finding other people with the same interests to partner with.

    All a long-winded way of saying that we take investing back into the community that has improved our lives immeasurably very seriously – with great products and employment opportunities.

  9. Why does EVERYTHING have to be done through Facebook?! Not all of us enjoy being mined for data and do not use Facebook. We follow a primal lifestyle so why are we not allowed to enter contests just like Facebook Flunkies?

    1. +1. I’ve never needed the “validation” of publicly displaying my personal life and every waking thought via Facebook, Twitter, etc. The more savvy marketers realize that the world doesn’t revolve around social media. Apparently Thrive hasn’t reached that point yet.

      1. If you’d like to join the contest without a FB account, just email [email protected]. We’d be happy to set you up. Registration for as a user or a member does not require a Facebook account either – just an email. Sorry for any confusion. We definitely want to be accessible to everyone, not just Facebook users.

    2. Totally agree. For numerous reasons, I want nothing to do with Facebook. I automatically bypass anything that requires me to be a Facebook member. And I am clearly not alone, so companies that require Facebook membership to join or view their site are losing out on a lot of potential business.

  10. Alas, Alaska and Hawaii get shafted once again =(. No affordable groceries for you!

  11. Add me to the “no Facebook” crowd. Not going there. Ever. Keep your deals and promotions and whatnot. I will probably check out Thrive someday but my personal life is not for sale.

    Beyond that, I DO appreciate Mark bringing this company to our attention. Thank you for that!

  12. Start-ups are a great thing and i am sure there will be lots more as time passes. It is hard for some of these beginning start ups because they are the first ones testing the market. There is no big names in Paleo at the moment.

    The Thrive website doesn’t look too modern or advanced and hard to navigate, so we will see how that website goes.

  13. I tried the first step (entering my email), but then, as others have noted, the contest requires a Facebook account.

    Count me out – don’t have one, don’t want one, won’t get one. I refuse to be nothing more than a mark for someone’s latest marketing effort.

  14. I hate to throw a wet blanket on the Thrive Market idea, but in addition to paying a yearly membership fee you would also be paying shipping costs, which are often “padded” by online companies (for additional revenue) and can be pretty hefty. I’m not saying Thrive Market does this, but it can often be cheaper in the long run to find a local, non-membership source, even though the upfront price is higher.

    1. Thrive does advertise free shipping on all orders over $49, actually, though I’m not sure what their shipping costs would be for lower priced orders – which could undermine their ability to meet their professed goal of providing healthy alternatives for lower-income families. I went to load up a cart there last night, and it seemed that nearly half their stock was sold out – it doesn’t look like they were quite ready for the surge of interest.

  15. It’s unfortunate to see all the negative comments about requiring Facebook. Of course the goal of the fundraiser is marketing and promotion, how can you blame a startup for using a tried and true strategy? Especially one with such a positive primal vision…I say kudos to Thrive Market!

    1. They would get more customers if a Facebook account were optional, not required. They are shutting themselves out of a market share that has disposable income. To me, this says they do not know their target audience well enough.

  16. We wary of products promoted by those who stand to financially benefit from them. At the point in which they invest, thing are no longer objective. Do your own research folks(check prices, check brands—eg Thrive carries General Mills, Diamond Brands and GMO brands) and make the determination yourself.