Show Notes from Knup Sports Show

Show #218 – Kristen and Jesse Papirio of Rise Nutrition

Kristen and Jesse Papirio of Rise Nutrition join the show to talk about what it’s like to be a female entrepreneur, some of the problems teams may face when dealing with the nutrition of their athletes, and much more!

Ryan Knuppel

Hey, hey, hey, what’s going on? Ryan Knuppel here. Knup Sports Show episode 218.

Thanks so much for tuning in and being here, being a part of this show.

We are growing. We are expanding. It’s been a fun journey along this ride, growing this show to what it is today.

On that note, we’ve typically brought a bunch of gaming and sports betting type companies, but we are expanding.

We’re expanding into a lot more different verticals within sports. And I think you’ll see that with today’s guests.

Today’s guests are going to be an amazing example of that. And I love what they’re doing in sports business so I’m excited to bring them on here in just a second.

First off a little bit of housekeeping. I want to shout out one of our sponsors and partners SBC.

SBC North America is taking place May 7th through 9th that’s at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

Make sure if you’re going to that, make sure to reach out to me. I’d love to see you in person, have a drink, sit down, talk.

If you’re not going to that, make sure to reach out anyway.

If you don’t have tickets yet, make sure to use the promo code KnuppPartnerVIP and you can get a little discount on that as well.

All right, that’s enough housekeeping. Let’s jump into the show for today.

Today I have co-founders of Rise Nutrition, Kristen and Jesse Papirio. Kristen and Jesse, are you with me?

Kristen and Jesse Papirio

Hey. We are. Hey, Ryan. Thanks for having us. How are you today?

Really good to see you. How are you both doing today?

Ryan Knuppel

Yeah, we’re doing really well. Living the dream. We are. It’s true.

Now I’m going to start with the obvious question. You two are sisters?

Kristen and Jesse Papirio

Yeah. We are. I’ve known Kristen almost my whole life.

She likes this joke. I’ve known her my whole life. Yeah, she thinks that’s the fun of sisters, right? That’s the fun of sisters absolutely.

Ryan Knuppel

Well, awesome. Well, I’m excited to dive into your journey here and understand a little bit more about Rise Nutrition as we get going through here.

So we’re excited to share it.

Ryan Knuppel

Awesome. Well, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself and you can each go individually or go as a group, but I want to hear a little bit about your path, your journey, what brought you to where you are today.

Rise Nutrition

Yeah, so my background is in nutrition and public health.

We grew up in a sports family, so we’ve always, you know, our world has kind of revolved around sports, whether that was youth sports to college sports all growing up.

So, yeah, as I said, my background is nutrition, and I was actually working right out of college for Florida State football and other teams on their athletic department.

And I became really frustrated because they were collecting tons of data on their athletes and then not really doing anything meaningful with it.

So I was looking at that from the nutrition perspective and being like, we could do so much more if we did something with this data, but I am truly, truly terrible with math.

So anything on the data side is not my strength, but thankfully Kristen was in college at the time and she’s a mathematics major.

So I’ll let you kind of take over.

Rise Nutrition

My background is mathematics and data science.

So really around the same time I was in college and really doing a lot of theoretical applications of my degree and realizing that actually it is so powerful and could accomplish so much.

But we weren’t really leveraging it to solve real world problems or do anything with it.

So I was doing a little bit in food insecurity and starting to look at nutrition.

And so we kind of realized at that point that we were talking about two sides of the same thing.

I wanted to apply it more and she needed the application.

So we kind of started building the idea for the company, then the idea for the technology.

And we figured we’d kind of, you know, Kristen would get her master’s, we’d finish our degrees and spend some time.

But at some point, I think we realized that nobody in the market was doing what we wanted to do.

That might not be true if we waited a few years.

So then we kind of just said, it’s kind of now or never, we got to jump in.

So we did that a few years ago and started the company.

And yeah, I’m like many entrepreneurs, our backgrounds are academics and, you know, our industry, so sports.

So we really just went in and said, okay, let’s figure out how to start a business.

We’re going to do this now. What would it look like and how do we do it?

So that’s kind of, we set out from there and it’s, it’s been a wild ride.

Ryan Knuppel

That’s a really cool story. I love that you brought, you know, your two skill sets together and formed this business.

And I mean, that’s just a really cool story that not everybody can make happen.

And, you know, it’s fun to dream about that type of story, but to then execute it is another thing.

And I’m sure you guys have a number of challenges along the way, you know, from a business side and just a relationship side of sisters going through this whole thing.

Rise Nutrition

Well, it’s funny because before it had a name, we actually called it The Dream.

So we actually like to joke that we are living the dream.

Rise Nutrition

There you go. Entrepreneur life. It can be the dream or it can be a nightmare every now and then as well.

Or a fun combination of the two, right?

Ryan Knuppel

And I think we we kind of always had that entrepreneur spirit in us. We were very industrious with our lemonade stands as a kid and all those things.

But I think the good thing about being sisters and founders is we have a lot more history of knowing how to disagree with each other than most founders do.

We can fight it out and then be fine five minutes later, whereas I think that would cause a lot more conflict for other people.

So that dynamic kind of works for us. We know the place to give things and when we need to circle back.

Ryan Knuppel

Yeah. Yeah. You got that dynamic that you said most don’t have. That’s amazing. That’s cool.

All right. Well, cool. Well, let’s dive into Rise Nutrition then.

So, I mean, you kind of give us the backstory. Got the company started, what, three to five years ago.

You’ll give me that time frame. But what is Rise Nutrition?

Give us kind of the mission statement of what you guys are as a whole, what you guys are doing.

Rise Nutrition

Yeah. So kind of at a high level, our core technology is machine learning for nutrition optimization.

So we’ve got a couple of different use cases for that.

But our first product that we took to market is for elite athletics. So it’s optimizing nutrition for peak performance in athletics.

And I like to kind of describe the technology as the Google Maps of nutrition performance.

Rise Nutrition

We can intake data and know an athlete’s starting point.

And then we can have the backend research, you know, that exists in the literature of their ideal endpoint.

There’s a thousand routes to get there. And so what our machine learning does is help an athlete map the best route for them based on their food environment, their preferences, their habits, their individual biometrics.

So we can take in all that data and basically give them usable steps along the way for behavior change to improve their nutrition for their sport.

Ryan Knuppel

That’s really cool. So is it all athletes across all sports or are you really focused on certain sports?

Rise Nutrition

So right now our databases are built out for 24 sports and a youth version. So we’re kind of rapidly expanding that based on demand, but we cover kind of all major NCAA sports and professional sports globally.

Ryan Knuppel

That’s really cool. And what’s the outlook been? I mean, I guess, where are you guys at in the product lifecycle?

Where are you at in the business journey?

You know, is it just launched? Are you very well established? Tell us a little bit about that product lifecycle and where you’re at.

Rise Nutrition

Yeah, so we launched the product the end of last year. We have users on board. So we have both colleges and professional teams on board at this point.

And we’re really just looking to grow that. So we’re hitting the sales cycle hard, doing the marketing efforts to kind of get in front of the teams that will be our target users.

Now, as I say, we’re really just at an exciting stage. We have about 3000 users on right now.

Rise Nutrition

And we I mean, you had kind of mentioned a little bit of our timeline and kind of how long we’ve been in existence.

But that’s really how we leveraged COVID was we we kind of pushed our timeline for launch out a little bit and develop subsequent versions of our products so that now that we’re launching, we’re in a position of strength as far as where our technology is at and really just can kind of go full head on into this next season of growth.

Ryan Knuppel

So tell me a little bit about what that user journey looks like. I mean, is this a full-blown app? Is this a website?

How does the user journey work from signing up all the way through how they would operate with what you guys are doing with Rise Nutrition?

Rise Nutrition

Yeah, so it’s a software platform. It’s most ideally built for teams, but it can be used by individuals as well.

So there’s a team side that’s kind of a web dashboard that can be managed by a coach, a dietician, an athletic trainer, S&C, any of those roles.

And then the athletes have in their hands an app. So that’s kind of the data collection piece in their hands.

So athletes will use that. They’ll do an onboarding survey, which will do risk screen, food environment, all that necessary data.

And then it’ll give them kind of pared down simple analytics to understand, hey, how is my nutrition impacting my performance and what’s my next step to improve?

Ryan Knuppel

That’s awesome. So from a business side, you know, you’re marketing the teams. You’re trying to get teams on board, which is, I wouldn’t say easier, but maybe a little easier than having to go all the way direct to the consumer and try to get every individual in.

You get a team, you got everybody with the team. That’s a… a lot better of an avenue from a business.

Rise Nutrition

Yeah. Well, and there’s strength, too, of like teams are small communities.

So you get to know someone’s food environment, their habits, everything. It’s so habitual.

And so really, if you have that whole team on you, there’s you can do better analytics for an individual.

Ryan Knuppel

Yeah, interesting. So let’s talk a little bit about, I guess, the importance of meal planning.

I mean, some people don’t think of meal planning when they think of sports. They just don’t even think they don’t relate the two together and what the importance of that is.

Talk a little bit about that importance and why teams. would need something like this? Like what’s the why for teams to need something like this to help their athletes succeed?

Rise Nutrition

I think that may be an obvious answer to that, but it may not be obvious to everyone that doesn’t understand, you know, what that, how that all gets put together.

Yeah, so we like to say food is fuel. Or, you know, if you ask the mathematicians, she would say input equals output.

So for an athlete, everything they put into their bodies is what they’re going to get out.

So you can put more efficient fuel in or less efficient fuel in, and that’s going to impact your performance down the line.

And the amount ratio and timing of that is really what matters too.

So you think around practices, around training sessions, you need to fuel at the right times and have the right recovery windows as well.

Rise Nutrition

Jesse, do you want to speak a little bit more to just our ethos on meal planning and behavior change and kind of how those two interact?

Rise Nutrition

Yeah. So like Kristen said, amount, ratio, timing of the types of fuel you’re getting and when you’re getting them are really important.

So the route that a lot of people go in sports nutrition is meal planning is kind of prescribed meal planning straight across the board for all athletes.

But we don’t think that that’s kind of a sustainable long term goal. benefit to an athlete because food is really personal.

It’s habitual, it’s cultural. So we like to look at the food environment that an athlete is in, what they prefer, their regular habits and say, hey, within this, how can we help you improve?

Because that’s going to be more sustainable for them.

People like what they like. If an athlete wants to keep eating something, they’re going to keep eating it. no matter how disciplined they are.

So we’d rather figure out how do you make that food fit into their plan, fit into kind of their roadmap, then completely change it.

So really what our platform ends up doing is we make suggestions to fill gaps based on that food environment to kind of make your change long-term.

If a dietician then wants to use it and prescribe a meal plan around that, they are allowed to do that because that’s within the realm of their expertise.

But what we’re doing is closing the gap and building those behaviors.

Ryan Knuppel

Yeah. Makes total sense.

So, so explain how big of a problem this is. I mean, the average team, the normal team, I mean, how big of a problem do they have from, you know, disorders to just maybe just not the right meals that people are eating?

How big of a problem is it with your average team across America?

Rise Nutrition

bigger than you think.

Yeah. So, I mean, from the research we have on college athletes, it’s about 20 to 25% have some sort of disordered eating problem.

Um, and I would speculate that that’s even higher than that. Those are just the athletes that we’re catching, but there isn’t a screening process for athletes.

So it could be up to 80% of athletes or somewhere on that spectrum of under fueling or some sort of disordered eating.

Rise Nutrition

Um, And then you think about things like injury risk and recovery risk as well.

Just, you know, look across college sports, pro sports, how often teams don’t make it to the playoffs because of, you know, how many people are on the injured list.

Those sort of things are preventable with good nutrition.

Rise Nutrition

Yeah. You know, some of those things are just physical injuries, things like that. But a lot of that can be prevented by having good nutrition, fortifying those muscles, bones, tendons, all of that is nutrition.

So those sort of things in sports, it’s not only is it risk prevention for teams, but it’s, I mean, it’s keeping athletes on the field is honestly just good for the sport, good for everybody’s pockets, all those things.

It’s a benefit and an advantage to teams.

Rise Nutrition

Yeah. Amazing. Our whole initial screening process is entirely to catch athletes who are at risk for disordered eating injury or recovery risk.

And so, yeah, I mean, even if you have a small athletic department with what, 400 athletes, that’s still a hundred of them that you can now identify and spend your season meaningfully working with instead of trying to figure it out when they walk into your office and say, hey, I have this issue.

Let’s figure it out.

Ryan Knuppel

I love the mission. Sounds like a very, very, very good mission. Very needed at many different levels of sports.

Hey, I want to shift gears here a little bit. I want to shift a little bit more into the business side of things.

But first off, I’m talking to two obviously very successful lady entrepreneurs.

I want to get your thoughts on just the the overall boom of women’s sports.

Rise Nutrition

I mean, I’m looking at it from the outside in and I’m seeing, you know, all this college basketball hoopla going around.

Kristen or Caitlin Clark, I would say Kristen.

kaitlyn clark and all this stuff going on just talk a little bit about that being lady entrepreneurs seeing a kind of an increase in women’s sports how rewarding is that and is that what we’re truly seeing is kind of this boom in lady sports

Rise Nutrition

I think it’s kind of like a deep satisfying like exhale because it’s you know for anybody who is a fan of women’s sports we’ve known that they’re this good for a long time

Like I can remember as recently as 2022 being in a sports bar, begging them to put the women’s tournament on one TV. There’s like 40 TVs, like one TV.

And then being like, no, sorry, we can’t. But like, and then people are all surprised now. They’re like, wow, the women are really good. I’m like, they didn’t suddenly get good.

Rise Nutrition

Yeah. I think the most satisfying thing to watch in the last couple of years, I think we all knew that NIL was going to change the college sports space.

But I don’t know that anybody really anticipated that the top earners were going to be female athletes and what they were going to do with that earning power.

I mean, I think it’s amazing and so impressive, but I think that’s just what happens when you give women these opportunities and you level the playing field in that way.

They’re stepping up and they’re showing, hey, we’ve had this talent all along. We’ve had this ability. We just needed the runway for it.

And now you’re seeing everything else follow from investment to all of that.

Ryan Knuppel

Yeah. Well, that’s where I was going to go next. How is that relating into the business world that you two are seeing from a female entrepreneur perspective?

Are you seeing kind of the same type of boom and the same type of women just kind of taking over the entrepreneurial world as well?

Rise Nutrition

I think… the post COVID investment world is a difficult one to navigate for any industry that you’re in. I think we’re kind of all realizing that, but I think that there is, there are some exciting things kind of on the business side.

Like you look at the new NWSL team for Boston for 2026, it’s an all female ownership group and things like that. And so you’re starting to see these things where like, you’re really elevating these opportunities.

Rise Nutrition

Yeah. And I think just from a, like a customer perspective, the difference that we’re seeing is, I mean, we’ve always wanted to be champions of women’s sports, but for so long that’s been, okay, can we provide a free resource? Can we help elevate that?

And what we’re starting to see in those conversations is that a shifting as that investment is changing, as that focus is changing, they’re starting to go looking for things or have kind of more purchasing power and things like that.

And that’s been a really encouraging and really cool thing to see.

Ryan Knuppel

Yeah. Amazing. Awesome. So shifting back to Rise, let’s shift back a little bit.

What’s the future look like? Where are you headed? What are you needing?

Is it as simple as just continuing to develop the product and get more teams on board? Or what’s the future look like for you two?

Rise Nutrition

Yeah, I mean, right now, I think with the stage we’re in, it really is building out our platform, continuing to do that, engaging teams, engaging athletes, bringing new colleges, especially on board.

We really love that space. And we have kind of a huge market there.

But really, we just we want Rise to become something that people are talking about. That is just part of the conversation when you’re talking about sports nutrition.

And so that’s I mean, a lot of our focus just for the next 12 months is building our brand in that way and kind of expanding our reach.

Ryan Knuppel

Yeah, I’m sure brand awareness, right? Brand awareness is very tough.

It’s just tough to get any attention anywhere and attention is what it’s all about.

And so I’m sure that’s a big piece of the marketing around this is just getting your name out there, doing this type of thing, getting your name out there in front of people.

Rise Nutrition

Yeah, exactly. Awesome. Awesome. Well, very cool.

Well, I want to end with, I don’t want to keep you guys too long. I know you probably have tons of entrepreneurial things to do because

Ryan Knuppel

We all know we do everything in the company, right? Everything.

So we like to joke sometimes that we built something that now gives us so much work to do and demands all of our time.

Rise Nutrition

Yeah, exactly. Sounds fun. So I won’t keep much more of your time, but I want to talk a little bit again about the business.

So, you know, obviously starting this thing from scratch, getting to where you are today with a nice product and people and teams on board.

What challenges and lessons have you guys learned that you might be able to help an aspiring entrepreneur that’s watching this show,

somebody that has an idea, maybe they can avoid making some same mistake that you two have made in the past?

Give us some challenges, lessons learned that you might have had building Rise.

Rise Nutrition

I think, I mean, we might have different answers, but I would say for me is be careful not to let people waste your time because I think early stage, a lot of people think that they’re offering you such a great benefit and so much good advice and all this stuff.

And it can end up leading you in the wrong direction and it can end up like wasting your time. Nobody knows your business like you do. And nobody knows your products like you do.

So you’ve got to trust that and kind of protect your time because people will want a lot from you. Investors, accelerators, all those sort of things, early stage are going to demand a lot of you know, materials, time, all those things, protect yourself and know when to say, hey, that doesn’t serve us and we don’t have time for it.

Rise Nutrition

And I’d say like the flip side of that, yeah, is figuring out how to filter that, but then finding the right people to surround yourself with, because you’re right. You do wear all the hats in different seasons and there are people around you who have that expertise.

So even for a season can step in and say, okay, I can help drive this forward. So knowing who those people are and those voices to listen to is key.

Ryan Knuppel

Amazing answers. Thank you, too, for that. Candid answers on growing a business. And I love that.

That first answer, obviously, was something I don’t hear every time. But that’s so important to protect your time because you can get overwhelmed in business and just, you know, give your time everywhere.

And then you kind of reflect. You’re like, what am I doing? Why am I doing this? Or you find something and you say, I should have focused on that a little sooner.

Rise Nutrition

Exactly. Exactly. When to say no, when to say yes. That’s like…

Ryan Knuppel

Yeah. Yeah. You got to be able to say no. I’m not good at saying no. Sometimes I’m a yes. I like to say yes.

And we all do. I think we all have that nature of yes. But being careful there, I think is very important as an entrepreneur. Very, very good.

Absolutely. Very wise. Awesome.

Rise Nutrition

Well, what I want to ask. So I always ask this at the end of any any show, you know, the audience watching this is mostly sports business people, other entrepreneurs, other CEOs, other leaders.

Is there any ask you guys might have if there’s any ask to the audience, anything that you’re looking for, any needs you have?

What would it be?

Rise Nutrition

I’d say, I mean, based on the current season we’re in, we’re always looking for either other people in adjacent kind of sports spaces who can be partners or we can just gain some wisdom from.

But we’re also always looking for introductions to teams, to athletes to kind of widen that network. So feel free to send any of those people our way.

Rise Nutrition

And I’d say the second thing, I mean, we are entrepreneurs. We’re in the middle of a funding round.

So if anything we’ve said kind of resonates with anybody, we’d love to talk to you more about that.

Ryan Knuppel

Cool. And how would they get ahold of you too?

Rise Nutrition

You can go is a great way to contact us.

And yeah, you can go there. There’s a contact form. Our emails are also our name at

Ryan Knuppel

LinkedIn, email, website, all of the above, right?

Rise Nutrition

Yeah, exactly. There’s no one else with our last name, so we’re easy to find.

Ryan Knuppel

There you go. I’ll make sure to add all that into the show notes so people can get to you.

And I encourage you listeners and audience to-

Reach out to these two. Sounds like an amazing mission. I love what you’re doing. I wish you all the luck and I hope that everything continues to grow for you too.

Rise Nutrition

All right. Thank you very much. It’s great to meet you. Thanks for being here.

Ryan Knuppel

Looking forward to an update in a few years and seeing the success that you have.

Rise Nutrition

We can’t wait to give it.

Ryan Knuppel

Take care of you too. Bye-bye.

Ryan Knuppel

All right. That was episode 218. Kristen and Jesse Papirio of Rise Nutrition. Amazing ladies doing some amazing things in sports business.

Love to see it. Love to see it. Hope you enjoyed that show.

Like I said, a little bit of a different angle than we typically take, but I’m excited to head down that path and go down some different avenues with sports.

So hopefully you learned something out of that. And I encourage you, if you do have questions or comments or you want to be involved with what they’re doing, please reach out.

We’ll put all the show notes and links and everything in the show notes.

All right. That’s all I got for you today. I’m Ryan Knuppel at KNUP out on all the channels. Really enjoy interacting with all of you as we go through conferences and events and all the above.

So please feel free to reach out to me as well.

All right. Until next time, take care, stay safe, and we’ll talk to you soon.

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