MBAs on the Move

Tenacious Juice Entrepreneur Does It All as CEO & Founder of LUMI Organics

Alumna: University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business (MBA, 2013) and Pennsylvania State University (BA, Public Relations and International Politics, 2008)

Hillary Lewis Murray wanted to be president of the United States when she was young, and it would not be surprising if she revived that dream one day. Her resumé is remarkable, especially for a woman barely into her thirties. A sampling of her accomplishments: she was a competitive gymnast for 13 years; she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude while also serving as student body president as an undergrad at Penn State; she worked her way up at Barclays and Avenue Capital; she is currently pursuing a masters in nutrition while raising a six-month-old daughter; and as a graduate business student at UVA’s Darden School, she built a 12,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for LUMI Organics – a cold pressed juice company she founded and of which she serves as CEO. Her decision to become an entrepreneur and start LUMI aligns with her passion to help people lead healthier lives.


Entrepreneurship: A family tradition

Hillary comes by her interest in entrepreneurship naturally. Her grandmother was named Pennsylvania Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in the 1960s, and her father is also a successful business owner.

First job: Wall Street

Hillary’s first job out of Penn State was as a financial analyst at Lehman Brothers, and later she went to Avenue Capital. She learned a lot about finance, but she yearned to be an entrepreneur.

Pivotal moment: A trip to the grocery stores

While getting her MBA at the University of Virginia, Hillary saw an opportunity to make a healthier juice option when she was shopping at Whole Foods and discovered a lack of nutritional choices.

Current role: Juice maven and mom

As Founder & CEO of LUMI Organics, Hillary is succeeding in her vision to help people live more healthfully while also nurturing her latest baby – her six-month-old daughter.


The impact of upbringing

My grandfather was an entrepreneur who started a construction company, and when he died, my grandmother had to provide for three kids. She took over the company, at a time when it was not common for women to be executives, especially not in construction. My grandmother was named Pennsylvania’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year.

My parents divorced when I was young, which made me more independent, and I threw myself into every club and activity I possibly could – I was a Girl Scout, I was a competitive gymnast for 13 years, and I rode horses. The more you have going on, the more you learn and the more you are inspired to be creative.

All that glitters is not gold: A lesson in values

After graduating from Penn State with a degree in International Politics and Public Relations, I went into quantitative analytics at Lehman Brothers in 2008. This was the beginning of the stock market crash – the first week I was there, Lehman went bankrupt. When Barclays bought them, I still had a job, but a lot of people didn’t. It was awful to see people lose a ton of money – I saw grown men crying on the trading floor – and I realized all that glitters is not gold. You can lose everything as quickly as you make it.

With Barclays, I moved up pretty quickly and was offered a job to work in London. I decided to take a job with Avenue Capital in distressed businesses and restructuring instead. After about a year, even though I was making money for people, my heart wasn’t in it.

A pivotal decision: Applying to business school

If I had gone to London, I might not have gone to business school because I potentially would have been very economically satisfied in that role. I applied to business school knowing that I wanted to start my own business because I believed in the viability of US manufacturing.  I also wanted to be in public service – which hasn’t happened yet. Business school gave me time to stop and think and take different course work than I had as an undergrad.


Generating ideas and networking

The MBA helped me step back, be inspired, and come up with ideas. At business school, you have different viewpoints from people all over the world, and it’s interesting to hear how they would approach problems. It reset my focus on what I needed to do to be an entrepreneur. You cannot teach entrepreneurship – it has to be experienced, but you can teach how to address problems. Business school is a time to explore –  you don’t have to get that summer consulting or banking internship. You can do community consulting projects or learn about smaller businesses and startups.

While at UVA, I started working for a startup liquor company, and I took sales for the tequila brand from 2,500 cases to over 12,000 cases in six months. Learning about entrepreneurship by doing was pivotal for me.


The a-ha moment

During my second year at UVA, I saw a juice on the shelf at Whole Foods and the label described an interesting technique called high pressure processing. It uses extreme water pressure to kill bacteria and preserve the nutrients and flavors in juice. Most of the juices available in stores have been heat pasteurized, which kills about 50-60% of nutrients. With high pressure processing, you get 100% of the nutrients and flavor without killing the good stuff.

I asked the guy at the store if the juice was selling, and he said he couldn’t keep it on the shelf. I thought, “Wow, there’s really an opportunity here.” I looked at the flavors, and they were really high in sugar without much nutritional density. I decided right then and there in the Whole Foods that I would create a health food company. LUMI stands for “Love U Mean It.” We want you to love yourself and the people you care about, and we help make healthier choices easy.

Building the business from the ground up

I was not a juice drinker before founding my company. Growing up on a farm in south Florida, I always wondered why store-bought juice didn’t taste like the oranges in the backyard. In launching LUMI, I realized juice is a delicious, energizing way to get nutrients.

I rented space in a bakery in Charlottesville and started selling at farmers’ markets, but it was not a good use of my time. I decided to build a manufacturing facility in Charlottesville because no one in the US was making cold pressed juice with high pressure processing under the same roof. It was the dumbest thing I have ever done – I did not have a single customer!

But my vision was clear: I wanted to help people live heathier lives through food, and I still want to do that. There have definitely been ups and downs. I went from an idea in the store to building a 12,000-square-foot manufacturing facility to selling at Whole Foods within six months. That time was insane – a government shutdown delayed our launch; I had to bring in a juicer and a massive, 12,000-pound high pressure processing machine in on a crane; I had to work with the power company to get a larger transformer and learn about electricity; I had to learn about construction, how to move heavy equipment, how to be a machine engineer, how to set up the processes to manufacture the juice, and hire people to work there.

A day in the life of the CEO

Every day it changes, and nothing is conventional. In the beginning, I did everything from making juice to fixing machinery to delivering juice to Washington, DC and Philadelphia.  I put over 70,000 miles on my car in the first year.

At the beginning you are doing everything – you are cleaning the floor, changing the toilet paper. In one week, I regularly would sleep 2-3 hours a day and work 100 hours. Definitely, there are times when you want to give up. The fact that I am still surviving with LUMI is the result of what I call “God winks” – God’s way of saying, “You are ok, and you will get through this. Just keep going.”

For example, at six a.m. the Friday before Labor Day – my first weekend off in forever – our machine had broken. My family was in town, and I had planned to end at noon that day. But there I was at work at 5 p.m. when the head of Sports Performance for the Washington Wizards [professional basketball team] called me. He wanted to buy my juice for the players. If the machine hadn’t broken, I wouldn’t have been there to get the call, and we ended up getting the Wizards as a customer. Now professional sports make up over 30% of my business.

Words that define her: Fearless, firecracker, tenacious, driven, loyal
Career blunder: Every day I make them, and the #1 thing is to be accountable for mistakes.
Career “wow” moment: The first time I delivered my product to Whole Foods, I put it on the shelf and a woman asked me about it. I told her what it was, and she put it into her cart and walked away without asking any more questions. I thought to myself, “Holy heck, I created something and it is on the shelf, and it took me a lot to get there, and I made a sale.”
Biggest business lesson: People are the most important asset – whether an investor, an employee, a customer. All day long you can control tangible inputs, but the only thing that can make or break a business is people. So pay attention to people and learn about them.
Book she loves: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Words of wisdom that inspire her: FINISH. – A mentor who said I would sometimes stop at the five-yard line and not make the touchdown.
Song that comes on the radio when she needs to hear it most: I can only imagine by Mercyme
Voluntary pursuits: I am active with UVA and my high school alumni groups. If I didn’t have other things going on besides LUMI, I would not be a person – I’d be a zombie!

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