That first time, she swallowed her fear and dove into the deep. "I'm a swimmer, but I was terrified of open water," says Kelly Boyer, the founder of the Los Angeles-based farm-to-table meal-delivery service Paleta. "Frankly, I still am."
She was just 16 when she jumped into the cold, muddy waters of the Georgian Bay in Ontario with her dive-shop-owner uncle. And today, Boyer, who's now 50, still scuba-dives several times a year, often gravitating toward shipwrecks that offer a window into another time. "My day-to-day life is so much about moving forward, fast-paced, go-go-go," she says. "There's a sweet melancholy in seeing what once was."
A former HR executive, she enrolled in culinary school in 2002 to throw better dinner parties. To lose the pounds she put on while whipping up French classics, she began focusing on organic ingredients and healthier foods. (She'd first gotten interested in healthy eating after battling--and beating--Stage IV ovarian cancer when she was 21.)
When friends asked about her secret to slimming down, she started making meals for them. They, in turn, referred friends. "I would drive around L.A. at 2 a.m., dropping bags all over the city, go back home, and start all over again," she says. Realizing she could make healthy meals that people crave led her to start Paleta in 2005. It now has more than 50 employees and delivers its wholesome fare in more than 100 towns and cities in three western states, and Boyer's favorite way to unwind is still about getting into the deep.
Near the Captain Cook Monument on Hawaii's Big Island, Boyer has swum alongside a school of dolphins; off Maui, she's swum with sea turtles. She's pored over shipwrecks in the Cayman Islands and off New Zealand's Tutukaka Coast. She sometimes gets claustrophobic plunging into the ocean--she's gone as deep as 150 feet--with little more than a handheld light for guidance. But, she says, "I just force myself to be calm, breathe, and just kind of go with it." Which, for a founder, is also useful on terra firma.