Celebrity Apprentice's Marcus Lemonis on RawONE, Eating Disorders, and Secret to Success

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Courtesy of CMPR
Marcus Lemonis is a man of many talents. In addition to his status as a self-made millionaire, the entrepreneur and philanthropist has taken turns on multiple reality TV shows, including Secret Millionaire, Celebrity Apprentice and the soon-to-air The Big Fix. Basically, he serves as a business turnaround expert who can swoop in and help save struggling companies.

Due to a weight problem and struggles with an eating disorder in his youth, Lemonis is a die-hard healthy eating enthusiast, and a large part of his investments are geared toward companies that deal in fresh, natural foods. Most recently, he became a 50 percent partner in RawONE Foods, a South Florida-based, family-owned snack manufacturer. We spoke to Lemonis on his new acquisition, his CNBC show and the secret to his success.

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Clean Plate Charlie: How did you first hear about RawONE? How did the partnership come about?
Marcus Lemonis: A friend of mine in Miami heard about it and said, "Hey there's a company that I know. The owner used to work with me and he's looking for a strategic partner." I look for small businesses that need a bit of a helping hand. So they introduced me to my current partners in RawONE. In a short period of time I realized that they were a good addition to this healthy food lineup that I was building. For me, people, process and product are always important and I tasted the product and thought it was great. I met the people and I was wildly intrigued by them. I just felt like the process was a little shaky - the balance sheet and their capital structure - they needed help. They're good people with a good product they just needed a little extra help. And with me being from South Florida and the company being from South Florida, it was nice.

Where does your interest in healthy eats come from?
I actually live that way, I'm a very healthy eater. When I was much younger I was overweight; as a child, as a teen. I went through a battle, sort of an eating disorder when I was in my teens. As I got older I got very disciplined and very knowledgeable about eating healthy foods, generally speaking. I was probably the only teenager in America that actually owned Whole Foods stock before people knew what Whole Foods was, back in '95, '96. I've always been a fan of that particular concept. When you go from being overweight and having an eating disorder to being super healthy, your awareness of healthy food is probably piqued. And as I've gotten a little older I've had the opportunity to accumulate a little bit of wealth and make some investments in products I believe in.

How can we encourage people to make the switch from crappy processed foods to healthier options?
Making sure that it's affordable: as you know, eating healthy is not cheap. It's cheaper to eat fast food. That's one of the challenges. During the filming of the Secret Millionaire episode in Miami I was given like $26 bucks for the week and I had to go grocery shopping. I found it challenging to buy healthy food. I ended up buying chicken breast and veggies and things of that nature. But a lot of people cannot afford to buy organic. So how do we make it more affordable? I'm going to be doing that by taking a little slimmer margins.

I think it's an educational process. I have a young lady in my office who works for me who is a contestant on the Biggest Loser as we speak. She's lost over 100 pounds so far and we're obviously inspired in our organization by stuff like that.

Childhood obesity in this country is a huge epidemic and I was one of them. It creates a lot of psychological problems and the more we can expand healthy eating in this country the better. We need to do what we can to make it fun and tasty and not weird and nichey. Remember the old natural food stores you'd go in? They'd have a weird smell to them, everything was kind of crunchy. People were wearing Birkenstocks and eating granola. I think it became more popular when celebrities starting eating healthy. It's not just trendy, but it became a better way to live.

Do you have a favorite healthy eatery in South Florida?
I can go to almost any restaurant. I have favorite eateries but I don't know how healthy they are ... but I shouldn't be eating there. I will tell you when I was heavy and I went through the eating disorder and became less heavy, I learned how to be disciplined when I go to a restaurant. I try not to be the odd guy out. I wouldn't be the guy that says, I can't go there. You can always find something healthy to eat.

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