Episode 45: Creating Clean and Caffeine-Free, Energy Boosting Snacks, with Lisa Curtis

When I started this podcast, I wanted to highlight all the behind the scenes takes and insider tips on building something with kids along side. If 2020 (and now, lets be real) taught us anything, it’s that working while parenting is NO JOKE! I have loved getting to hear founders’ stories, specifically how they handled the craziness of these last two years. I am so excited to have Lisa Curtis, founder of Kuli Kuli, on the show today. She talks all about her brand and what this last year brought up for her.

Lisa tells me what kick started her brand — she joined the peace corp after college and needed an alternative for her vegan lifestyle. She was introduced to Moringa by some of the locals and she realized she wanted to start selling it and support them. What started out as a way to bring connection to a local community turned into a business after she went back to the states and found herself at a job she wasnt connecting to. She started playing around with different snacks and selling them at the farmers market (which, spoiler, lead to one of her biggest partnerships!).

We chat about what CEO life really looks like in the beginning and how she juggled bringing on multiple other founders. Lisa then tells me her plans for the brand going forward and leaves you with a tip for starting a company. Finally, we chat about this amazing contest she started with two other female founders to highlight working mothers, and celebrating all they have been juggling this last year. Check out her Pandemic Super Moms award here.

I love talking with Lisa and know you will love her story. Head on over to her site to snag some of her amazing snacks– psst, they have holiday flavored ones!

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45. Creating Clean and Caffeine-Free, Energy Boosting Snacks, with Lisa Curtis

When I started this podcast, I wanted to highlight all the behind the scenes takes and insider tips on building something with kids along side. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that working while parenting is NO JOKE! I have loved getting to hear founders’ stories, specifically how they handled the craziness of these last two years.

Full Transcript:

Dana: Are you dying at the thought of missing a single one of your baby’s first, you have no idea how you’d give up the security that your nine to five job brings. My name is Dana Graham, and I had no clue how to escape that vicious 40 Hour Workweek cycle either until I did. As the wife of a traveling husband and mom of two tiny humans. I made the terrifying and totally bizarre leap from Health Insurance Program to successful newborn and family photographer, all with the amazing craziness of a two year old and the newborn infant. But I’m not the only one. I’m so glad you’re joining me as I chat with other moms who took the leap into entrepreneurship and created the ultimate best of both worlds like doing it all amidst the chaos Alright everybody, welcome back to another episode. Of amidst the chaos. I’m Dana Graham and I am your host. And here just to talk about all the things entrepreneurship and motherhood and how those things collide, make up these crazy lives that all these women leads so today I’m here with a really, really inspiring guests and I cannot wait to dive all the way into her story. Lisa Curtis is here and we are so lucky to have her So Lisa, welcome.

Lisa: Thank you so much for having me.

Dana: Oh course. So give us just a quick overview of your company and what you do your role in the company before we back up so people kind of know the end goal of where we’re getting to with your story.

Lisa: Yeah, so I’m the founder and CEO of a company called Cooley cooling. That’s KU li ke Well, I and we sell products made in this superfood Moringa. So it’s an amazing greening plant we harvest the leaves, process them into a powder we sell that powder in like smoothie mixes we also sell in snacks and about 11,000 stores across the US so everywhere from Whole Foods to even Walmart and CVS.

Dana: So cool. And I already have questions about this that I’m trying to miss. Let’s get there. So remind me to come back to the span of wholefoods to Walmart because that’s a large jump, so I want to talk about that. But tell me about your life because this is an incredibly different field to be in and the story of how you got here just from even your website is just so so cool, so I can’t wait to hear it. From in your own words from your own your own mouth about how this came to be. So let’s back up a ton before kukuli was even a dream you had. What were you doing? What did your life look like career wise personally?

Lisa: I mean today the crazy thing about my life is I sort of fell into this pretty accidentally and pretty early. So I joined the Peace Corps after college and was volunteer in Nigeria, West Africa and found myself in this really amazing rural village working with these women’s groups and as a vegetarian found that there wasn’t a lot of like greens are super nutritious food for me to eat and you know growing up eating a lot of greens all the time and a lot of really healthy food. I was like what can I eat that will make me feel better. It’s just feeling so low energy. So long story short, I asked some the women in my village health center where I was working like what I can eat to make me feel better and they literally pulled some moringa leaves off a tree mixed it into this popular West African peanut snack called Cooley Cooley and handed it to me and said, Eat this. It’ll make you feel butter and I was like tree leaves. This sounds a little weird. I’ve never heard of Moringa like it sounds like a dance, but totally trusted these women was like okay, okay, I’ll try it. I started eating it. And it just made me so much better. It gave me like the protein, vitamin iron, like, kind of everything my body needed. And I started talking to them and it’s like, why aren’t more people locally? Eating Less? Is there a way I can help you sell more locally? And initially, this is not an idea for a business. This was just like, How can I help them grow more of this plant and use it locally? And what they said is, look, we’re not going to grow a crop we can sell Why don’t you help us sell it? And so that was what I started doing in the Peace Corps was like, Okay, let’s, you know, develop a little kind of farm around the community health center and let’s sell it in the local village and then, you know, talk about amidst the chaos. There was a terrorist attack and the entire Peace Corps service was evacuated. We were forced back within 24 hours to return to the US. real tangible, real casual, really intense and just really sad. You know, you spend time getting to know people and then your thought I thought I had two full years to be there and then I evacuated back And so long story short, just kept thinking about what what, what can I do? And I was 22 at the time and you know, went and got a job at a tech startup but just kind of kept trying to be like I want to do something to continue to work and support these women. I was working with in West Africa. It’s so really cool igloo was born out of this idea of like, Hey, there’s this amazing superfood maybe I can’t help themselves in the chair, but maybe I can help them solve the US and why don’t we try it and see what happens but I’ve never been doing it for 10 years, believe it or not

Dana: Incredible so I have so many questions from the beginning of the story. So first off, you’re you’re in West Africa, right and you have been eating really healthy your entire life and like you said, you know you’ve had access to whatever you want health food wise, I mean, whatever you possibly needed on any given day. You had access to it. So for you had you thought about that going in, like going into being in the Peace Corps where you’re like, um, this is gonna be hard on my body because I am not used to. I mean, I assume it’s a lot of carbs and a lot of

Lisa: yeah, a lot of carbs, you know, I don’t think I really thought about it. I knew it was going to be different and I knew I was excited for the differences and excited to really learn what it’s what it’s like to live in a totally different country what it’s like to live in a really rural village. You know, no electricity, no running water. You like talking to people all day, but I don’t think I really expected how much the diet change would really affect me and affect the way I feel. You know, you talk about like you are what you eat. And I’ve always kind of believed that but then I really believe except Oh, I’m eating just carbs and I feel terrible

Dana: and it’s so it’s so interesting because you know that’s something that you I mean I definitely take it for granted you know, we just moved to Turkey and we don’t even wrong is very first world like I live in a high rise apartment building like we are not wanting for much except for protest is very different here. Like it’s it’s you don’t have access to a lot of things other things you do like is not super fresh and is not super clean. And you know it is harder and I have noticed my body definitely feels it. And again, I’m in a first world country like I’m eating some greens it’s fine. But you really do notice such a difference.

Lisa: And that’s the thing. I mean, that’s why you know, when I first started bringing MRI to the US I was like I don’t know Is anybody gonna want this like super green powder and you’re like, Oh, this isn’t just like, you know, global health problem. Like, Americans don’t get enough vegetables. And you know, in Turkey and in other places too. And that’s why I think we have a lot of customers who really gravitate towards this idea of like, here’s a super nutritious green I can just, like add to my smoothie or, you know, add to my curries or my customers or what have even baked goods and adds kind of this like, boost of nutrients that I need to feel good.

Dana: Yes, I love that. So, so you’re in West Africa and you they tell you that this is a thing right? They pull it off the tree these women pull it off the tree and like put it in this little snack. What were you thinking? Were you like, am I about to? Like, am I about to have a bad reaction to this? Like Were you nervous at all because I would be a little nervous. I think like I you know, not knowing about that. I mean, it’s not like they pulled a green bean off of a vine and we’re like here we’ll throw this in your soup. Like that’s not what happened. You know, this is a tree

Lisa: I mean, it helped it you know, these these were my friends that they were also that house center so like okay, they’re not gonna like Feed me a poisonous leaf. But it was it was definitely definitely different and I think, you know, I tried to the whole time and they’re like, really have an open mind and like, try new things and I am a vegetarian. So I’m like, diet constrained in some ways, but then in other ways. I I like trying new things I like and at that point, I was like, Okay, anything. You’re just gonna give me more energy like, down and down.

Dana: So with it being so amazing and doing all these things for your nutrition while you were there, and these women obviously knew it did something for their nutrition. Why was it a hard thing to sell? Like how was that even a position that you were put into?

Lisa: Yeah, you know, think it’s worth thinking about, like kale in the US 10 years ago. Okay. You know, they say that the kale in the US, the largest purchaser used to be Pizza Hut and it wasn’t because they were putting it on their pizza. It was literally like garnish for their salad bars, decoration. That’s how we used to feel about kale and I think Moringa has similarly been like a really nutritious, you know, a little bit bitter, kind of similar to kale on that green. That’s why it was kind of like, Ah, I’m gonna eat this if I have to, but I’m not gonna like actively eat it. And, you know, I think what we’re trying to do and what cooling really is all about. It’s like how do we encourage production and usage in the communities where we’re sourcing Moringa in addition to providing the livelihood for these women by helping them sell in the US.

Dana: I love that. Okay, so those were my initial questions about your whole first stint in West Africa. So talk to me about your you know, you’re working your job, that’s like, Fine, and you know, you’re back in the States. It’s fine, right? Communications at a tech startup. Yeah. Which is cool. It is totally cool. I have this like burning passion like in the back of your head. It is so hard to not do something with it. And I’m so glad you did. So talk to me about how you made that transition. And then also talk to me about your personal life at this time to like what was you know, what was that looking like as well?

Lisa: Yeah, it was a lot of juggling. I mean, I think first it was a realization of like, hey, when I go through the market and like, like walking through the aisles of whole foods like quinoa, nobody used to know about like chia. Nobody’s to know about like goji berries like, there are a lot of plants that we didn’t use to eat that are like really important to other cultures. And so I kept being like, Well, why not bring up you know, why is nobody doing this with Moringa and wanting to bring that here and then also knowing that at the time I had no money, like the Peace Corps literally paid me $75 a month and so I needed a job to pay my rent. And then like nights and weekends, I was doing cooly cooly, and trying to figure out like, how do I source Moringa here? How can I like really build a business out of this? I think the thing that people don’t talk about enough is like, it doesn’t happen overnight. Like it for me. It took a couple years of like trying to figure it out and like writing business plans and submitting it and this was stuff I was doing like in my free time. Right and finally then getting a break and I literally was testing out products, like making products by hand in all spending all Saturday commercial kitchen, making these Moringa bars by hand all of Sunday testing them out at farmer’s markets and just so happened that there was someone from Whole Foods who shops at that farmers market who came by and was like this is really cool. You should try to submit them to our store and that was like our first big break.

Dana: That is crazy. It’s how far into Kuli Kuli being a company was that

Lisa: Well, I mean depends on how you find company right? I came back to the US in 2011 and got some friends together to kind of like work on this like, you know, nights and weekends sort of like his side hustle and then quit my day job and launched this at the beginning of 2014 Wow, okay. So relatively quick for a full turnaround. So at that point, when you quit your day job was were you guys in anywhere? Like did you have any partnerships with any suppliers at that point? We had just yeah, we just launched these Moringa bars into about 40 Whole Foods stores. We had a we had started and then my very glamorous CEO job became literally going into the stores, passing out samples, like trying to get people to buy the product. Like I went to I drove all across the bay area like everywhere from Sacramento to Fresno, going to these Whole Foods stores and spending all day just passing out samples.

Dana: Wow, that is that’s insane and it you’re right you you know you’re a glamorous CEO but like at the beginning you’re wearing literally every single hat

Lisa: like you’re doing everything.

Dana: So to back up just a tiny bit, how did you even come back into contact with anybody in West Africa to even source all of these? Like, how did that process work? Because to me, I’d be like, yeah, that’s, that’s complicated. There’s like, import rule. Like there’s just so many things. are happening. They’re like, how did you even get through all of that?

Lisa: I mean, that’s what took like two and a half years, trying to figure all that out. So you know, thankfully, like Whatsapp and Skype are beautiful tools. So I was connected to everyone in Asia through that, actually, it was really hard. The first year I was trying to source from that exact women’s group that I was working with in my village, enroll in a chair and just at some point, it was like, we were paying more in shipping than we were in learning. It’s they weren’t making very much of it and it was really hard for them to like, get it to the mail. We ended up finding a group of a women’s cooperative in Northern Ghana that they had literally just started selling Moringa into one store in New York. And we said okay, like you guys have figured out how to make more product. At scale. You’re, you’re kind of doing it and they’re like, Yeah, and you guys are, you know, trying to figure out how to sell this in the US. Like, let’s combine forces. So that that was in like 2013 We figured that out. We’re like, okay, great. We’ve got this beautiful partnership. Let’s try to go see if people actually buy it.

Dana: So at this point, what did the company look like? Was it still just you like were you doing all this? Did you still have your friends helping out like how, like, were you a lone ranger like how does that work at this point?

Lisa: So I would I would not be here if not, for my amazing friends who became co founders. They’re, you know, perhaps a little bit more risk averse than I am. I was the first one to like, quit my day job and go all in. They needed a little bit, a little bit more time to kind of like take out if this was a real thing. Yeah, I quit my job at the end of 2013 right around Halloween actually I mean Halloween be my like going away party so we’re coming up on that anniversary. Then I they came on, sort of like step by step. It ended up having roping in three co founders and they they all had day jobs for the first couple years and then came on after that.

Dana: That’s so talk to me about how that works. Because that’s a lot to juggle right when you’re in it full time and you’re doing all the things to and then you know, sourcing out things to the rest of your co founders and then also there they’re working full time jobs too. Right. It’s yeah, it’s a lot to juggle and manage. So how how did you guys do that? And stay co founders and friends like what’s some advice that you’d give to somebody starting a company with people that they’re close to?

Lisa: Oh, my gosh, it’s so hard. I will be totally upfront and honest and say that the four of us there’s only two of us left. This is this is granted. This is like I was gonna say it’s been a long time seven years in. But I think one of the things that we did do well, with really have some pretty frank and honest conversations about ownership and about equity. Because I think there’s, you know, it’s really easy to say like, oh, you get a third you get other you know, we shake a third and that’s great. But then in the reality often there is one person or maybe two people were actually putting in a lot more time and and honestly just bringing more into the business. And so we ended up kind of having our equity best relative to how much time people were working. So if they were full time invested over four years, if they were half time invested over eight years, they were like a quarter time invested over 16 years with the idea of being like, yeah, sure, we all have sort of like equal ownership, but that ownership isn’t going to invest you know, ever unless you like come on full time. So just like a little kind of legal trick there. But I think the biggest thing was like having that frank conversation and setting expectations about how much time and energy each of us was putting into the business.

Dana: I love that because it’s true. You know, it’s like any root project. It’s like there’s probably some people that are kind of steering the ship and really doing the heavy lifting but I think that a lot of people just start a business and they’re like, oh, great, we can do it. Like we’ll do it together and the 5050 or a third, a third, a third and that’s not always realistic. So I love that that is your advice, because I think that and I think it’s fair, right like I think that that’s something that anybody that’s founding a business in any capacity can agree on like if you’re not going to put in the time and effort like you’re gonna have a lower partnership like it does. It does make sense. So I love that. Okay, so at this point, it’s 2014 you’re driving all around to all the whole foods like what happened from there. How did you guys continue to grow?

Lisa: Yeah, so from there, I mean, I’ll make I’ll make the timeline a little bit quicker. So we, you know, start did our first trade show that year that got us into a bunch of stores about 200 stores all across the West Coast, and I actually did a road trip up to Seattle and did a bunch of demos on de la. Very, very glamorous life for a while. But then I 2016 We had this amazing opportunity to partner with the Clinton Foundation and this amazing farming group in Haiti to add them on as a supplier and help to plant more Moringa trees there. And then it’s part of that partnership, we launched a new product or wellness shots with whole foods. And so they launched that nationwide and they added a lot to both our shots and our powder into every single whole food store in the country. Which was crazy. Because at the time, there were like, two of us full time, I think was like two and a half. So we and you know I had no experience in the food industry. My co founder and one of my co founders had a little bit of experience, but we were both kind of like learning as we went and learning under fire.

Dana: I love that so how did you how did you guys manage that supply wise because that’s a big difference going from like mainly on the West Coast. I mean in a lot of stores but still mainly west coast like to like nationwide launching like Did it take talk to me about the build up to that?

Lisa: Yeah, we had a little bit of, you know, chaos in the journey and this sense that a couple months before we were supposed to launch there was a wildfire in Northern Ghana and all of the Moringa trees burned down. So stressful at all. It was so stressful. So we ended up like learning a very important lesson about diversification and found a couple of other farming groups that met all of our quality and inbound requirements and thankfully were able to like sort of step in and kind of like get Moringa to us quickly. And so it’s constantly a challenge of like juggling, you know, how do we support these small farmers to scale up, but let’s make sure we don’t scale them too high. You know, because we want to make sure that you know everything that they produce, we can sell and try to figure out how much we’re gonna sell each year. So it’s, it’s a balance, and I would say we’ve gotten better at it, but I don’t think we’re great.

Dana: Yeah, and I love that you’re so honest about that because it’s true. Like this is a very niche market that you’re in with a very niche product, obviously right and so to not have a ton of people that have done this before you makes it a little bit challenging when it comes to like actually knowing how much you’re going to need and all the different different things that go into it. So what what as you’re doing this right, again, we’ve talked about that this is totally niche, not something that you’re really anybody’s doing other than you guys like how what did your family think about this where they like you just quit a job to start this based on a plant like talk to you about how this felt to everyone around you?

Lisa: I think you know my family was like you have a good job you like your job? Why are you going to quit your job? A lot of people, especially in the early days, were like, you’ve never started a business. You’ve never even worked in the food industry. Nobody knows what Moringa is. And like, you know you’re sourcing you’re going to source a high quality product from small farmers in Africa I like that’s just something that like intrinsically sounds hard. And so hard. So hard. And so there it was really, really hard, especially in the early days to raise money. And people thought it was a totally crazy idea. They just didn’t think it was gonna work. And they you know, I was young and inexperienced and people in particular were like, how are you going to do this? How are you going to make this happen? So it really took a lot of just kind of like grit. And that’s one of the things that I definitely recommend for anyone who’s starting a business is to just think of all of the nose as a gift and try to sit be like okay, well this person told me no, like, why why do they say no? How do I learn from this experience? How do we get the next person to say yes, so I literally kept a list of like every single investor who told me no, and then to this day, I still email them quarterly progress reports. On how we’re doing. I love you. That’s amazing. That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s really fun, not just not and I don’t do it as like, Hey, look at me. I’m awesome. But I found over the years that often those nose turn into yeses. And we literally had this one guy who told me no, I don’t know probably like 2015 2016. And then when we were doing our series B in 2019, out of the blue, he had never responded to any of those emails. I’ve been emailing this guy for years. And he responded he was like hey, I’m interested in your next round, and the quinine over a million dollars into our series B. And basically his reasoning for it. He was like, Look, I still don’t know. Like, he’s like, I don’t really invest in food. This isn’t my sweet spot, but I just I’m impressed. by you. And I’m impressed by your persistence. And I like want to be a part of this.

Dana: That is amazing. That is such a great life lesson for anybody listening to this podcast for like, just to just to revisit to those people like not even even in a snarky way just like hey, like I’m still here. I’m still doing this. The options still open. Just look how great it is doing pretty well. Like I said it was going to you know, and I think that’s, that’s awesome, because people don’t do that. You know, and if they do, is it a snarky way right and to be able to have the tact and the kind of grace to be able to get through that and then to be able to convert so many of those investors, you know, not investors to become investors. That’s amazing. Like that is so worth your time and effort and I I feel like that should make you feel really good, right that you’ve put in all this effort over all these years to keep emailing them and then it really turns turns out to be such a great investment for you. timewise and financially. That is amazing.

Lisa: Yeah, it’s been a good good lesson and, you know, keep following up.

Dana: Yes, yeah. And it’s so that’s what’s so crazy about this. That’s all you did. I mean, it’s not all you did. You ran a company is profitable and you are showing them that but but at the at the very heart of what it is. It’s a follow up email. Like you follow it up with someone that told you no, and that I mean

Lisa: honestly, I think this guy gave me like a million and a half dollars of investment because I like followed up with him for three years. He was just impressed by that.

Dana: That’s I feel like that’s just such great advice for anybody looking for investors or anybody doing anything that you really want to work with somebody on like to just follow up in a tactful way, you know, consistently is going to hopefully provide you results at least some of the time. So that is that is so great. Okay, so we talked about your your family back then what is your family thing now?

Lisa: Yes, well, now my family is very supportive. And like kind of gone above and beyond so in even in the early days, you know, my parents both have full time jobs, but my mom would take vacation from her job to like, come with me to Seattle and LA and passive samples in stores, which is is just unbelievable. Awesome. And then, you know, last year during COVID When the world fell apart, I had a baby and we have like my nine year old grandmother was in my bowl, and we were just like trying to figure out how we can send this baby to daycare and then like maybe my nine year old grandmother gets sick and it was it was so tricky, and my mom ended up retiring early to take care of our daughter full time, which is on believable blessing. And they it really to me just like it made me think a lot about this moment in time and how do we design a workforce that that really works for working parents and working moms in particular? Because it was so hard and I have all the resources in the world and it was so hard.

Dana: It is and even. And what’s funny about that, too, is like, clearly you just said you have all the resources. It’s not always just about the resources like the the just the pure decision making of what you’re going to do with your kid is so so underrated like people do not talk about it enough. Like people just so and so many people it’s like, oh, I don’t have a choice of going back to work. They have to go to take care of that financial option. Boom, done. That’s it, but there’s no conversation around like, is this what I want? Like, is this what’s best for me? Is this what’s best for her? Like, is this what’s best for our family? And I think, you know, I like to look at some of the silver linings of the pandemic — because there are a lot of silver linings about the but one of it is that it forced so many people to really evaluate how they wanted to be spending every hour of their day because they were they they had the chance to sit down and think about it because they were kind of locked in their house you know and and how they wanted to spend that time with their kids and manage their business at the same time because most of us want to do both right? You want to be a mom you want to not miss any of those moments, but you run an amazing company like you need to be there and want to be there doing that as well. So how did you talk yourself through this and then throw a pandemic on top of

Lisa: Yeah, totally. I mean, it talks about still relating. So I think, you know, recognizing there’s a lot of privilege in this that I could work from home. It was amazing to be able to, like do that juggle with Oion. My daughter’s name is Orion and being able to like, breastfeed in between zoom calls and even you know, we have a small team and like I made it very clear like there might be calls where I’m on an off video and I’m gonna have a baby, right at, you know, in the background and making that okay. And then also I think just just helping me understand like the other parents on my team and, you know, we we’re now permanently flexible, where we still have an office and we have you know, people go are going in a little bit kind of as they desire as needed, but having it be mostly remote and really like okay, yeah, you need to pick up your kid. Oh, you need to take the afternoon off to like, you know, go to your kids ballet recital. Like, that’s fine. That’s great. We’re supportive.

Dana: Yeah, and I think that that is, you know, gosh, this is like a very timely episode with the parental leave just getting ripped out of the all the things anyway. But it’s it’s very interesting because for people who understand it and have been through it and can see like, hey, if I give you the flexibility to recognize that you have a family and a life that you have to take care of people respect that like parents, so appreciate that and do not take like some some but for the most part parents do not take advantage of that. Like when I was working my corporate job and I would get given any flexibility to have do whatever I needed to do. Take the afternoon off like it made me want to work that night, right to make up the hours even make up more than the hours because I’m like, gosh, this is I’m so grateful to have this because not everybody does. Right and I and I think that just having that option to be somewhat remote is amazing and like to have that flexibility really gives employees ownership over their time that they’re devoting to the company to

Lisa: well, and that’s that’s a thing that I’ve found for myself, and especially, you know, for the moms on my team who’ve been doing this a little longer. It’s like they’re amazingly productive. They know how to juggle a lot of things and like they will get shit done and like half the time and to your point, if you know maybe they like take the afternoon off but like if there’s something that still needs to get done, like they’ll come back online at like eight o’clock or whatever and do it. And so that was one of the things that that led me like, you know, our main business is we sell this amazing superfood products to to grocery stores across the country. But we’re also a team of mostly women and resource from women farmers, and especially becoming a mom myself was like, oh my god, like the stats on the number of women leaving the workforce right now like what can we do? And so we ended up putting together this or kind of pandemic supermom award where we’re giving away $10,000 to 50 Moms as just like a thank you and like, you know, thanks for all that you’re doing. And then also as part of that trying to collect all the stories of how women have juggled childcare and the pandemic. And then we’re turning that into a report and begin working with some researchers to really show like, you know, as as CEOs, like as a mom, CEO like this is what we’re doing to help enable this to be a great workplace for working parents. And this is why moms need to be successful. So it kind of turned into like a cool campaign out of that experience.

Dana: I love that and it’s so interesting, too, because you were right. You just had a baby last year and like still it’s so immediately shows you once you dive in to motherhood like how insane it is like how hard it is to juggle everything and how especially having a pandemic baby I give all of you pandemic baby moms so much credit I had. I mean, I’m a newborn photographer primarily and so it was to see these families like sometimes like I was the only person that had ever met their baby. And like even at six months sessions or a year sessions, like it is so hard to know what to do. And they’re working from home with their baby like they’ve never had a baby before and now they’re expected to do their job being you know, in the middle of a global pandemic and doing all the things so I love that you guys are giving back and doing this for moms. I just think that is amazing. So talk to me about how that kind of came about, like where did that come from? Where did the goals the monetary goals for the project come from? Give us a little bit of background there.

Lisa: Yeah, it really came from kind of this exact conversation. So to other CEOs. We’re kind of all just chatting on the call and just, you know, progressively went deeper and deeper into this idea of like, how we’re used to being good at everything. You know, and used to like to be able to like manage a business and like handling a lot of logistics and things and but having having a baby and having a baby during a pandemic when it was really limiting in terms of like the number of you know not having anyone in our house and like having no not being able to access our community of support, and just how isolating that felt all of us and how we just felt like there. There’s got to be some small thing and some small way we can just show appreciation to all the working moms out there because this is hard. And at the same time wanting to put a little bit of the onus on employers like yeah, you know, I think we sort of recognize as CEOs like we have power over the way that people work like we have teams like you know, none of our businesses are hundreds of people but but still like we can set policies about how what our work how our workplace functions, and wanting to kind of spread the message to other CEOs that like this is something we all need to be thinking about as we return to the office as we return to quote unquote normal like let’s reimagine what work looks like come in. Here’s some of the stories and you know, some of the things we’ve heard from moms about what that should look like. And so that’s that’s kind of all kind of how it came together and then we just figured okay, let’s let’s try to give you know as much as much money to different moms and prizes, and we had like, over 20 brands donate like amazing amounts of like $10,000 in prizes just to like cool food cool essential oil like all sorts of stuff from other female led companies.

Dana: I love that it’s gonna be amazing. It’s so so appreciated. Like, that’s one thing too. That’s the best about working with moms is that they just appreciate everything so much more. They just do because anything that’s given to them like it, you just know what goes behind that, right? You know what it takes to make that happen when you’re juggling so many things to have somebody give you something to honor you for the efforts that you’ve been making and the things that you’ve been doing. Like you just get it right. You just feel that level of appreciation and it’s so funny like it’s such a hot button. topic right now should be like, oh, like you deserve that. Like you should already have that like you should. But that’s not how moms act, right? That’s not something that you’re just going to be like, Oh, I’m entitled to have this like, this is what I like. I don’t care how many times people tell me like oh, like you don’t need to thank me for this like I will always thank you you know what I mean? Like, and I feel like that’s just a general tone among moms because you just recognize like, you know how much effort it takes for you to do something so you it’s easier to see how much effort people have put in for you. And I just think that that level of appreciation is so amazing and it’s going to make this project for you. I feel like even more rewarding because you’re just gonna get so much amazing feedback. So I’m, I am so excited for you guys on that topic. So I just want to talk to ask you one more thing about Cooley Cooley. So talk to me about where you guys are now and where you’re headed in terms of obviously we know the workforce is very flexible, like you’re trying to do all the things there and like make it a really positive environment internally, but as far as growth and like where you see the brand going and what your goals are like what are you looking at in the next, you know, five or 10 years?

Lisa: Yeah, good question. So been an amazing journey. We went from sort of like, you know, 02 We’re now a $5 million plus brand and we are very excited to continue to find ways to support our farmers and to create new products with them that really delight us customers. And so I think an example of that is our recent superfood chocolate, which is awesome. It’s like a plant based low sugar superfood chocolate but it just kind of makes you makes you feel more energized after you eat it. And we incorporated Moringa plus other sustainable superfoods that grow in the communities we’re sourcing from and you know, have like amazing climate regenerative benefits and also just like an incredible health benefits. So I think where Cooley Cooley is going as we’ve done a lot of work to really get Moringa out there and help to kind of pioneer this new ingredient and we want to bring other sustainable superfoods to the market and have them benefit the health of Americans well, really supporting the communities where they’re sourced.

Dana: I love that it’s like just the most full circle wholesome concept like there’s no part of it that I’m like, Oh, I don’t feel so good about that. Like no I feel is amazing. And I just feel so proud. And that’s just something that clearly you’ve cared about this from a very young age and it’s just amazing that this is like come full circle for you. So I’m just I’m so thrilled for you You’re like my view we just met but I’m like I’m like all proud like, oh

Lisa: I read it, I do not take all the credit there are I like could not do this without such an amazing team and also we source from such incredibly amazing entrepreneurs and you’re running these burrito businesses like doing so much work to get us beautiful, high quality products so we wouldn’t be here without them.

Dana: Well give us Do you have one piece of advice you would give to anybody starting a company whether they’re a mom or you know they’re later in their life trying to start a new business or if they’re right out of college, trying to start something new? What’s something that you would tell them to do to make their life a little bit easier as an entrepreneur?

Lisa: Yeah, I think one of the biggest things for me is is breaking it down and figuring out piece by piece, like what are the small ways that I can test this idea and refine it as much as possible before I launch it? Because I think when I first started politically, it felt really overwhelming. Like I’m going to introduce this new user when I’m watching a product on the market. I don’t know anything about any of it. And then when I broke it down, it’s like okay, you know, first, let’s get Moringa here. And let’s let’s test out this idea. So we tested out the idea of like, with a crowdfunding campaign like will people put money behind this to make it happen? Let’s see if that works. Okay, then let’s test it out at farmer’s markets. Like when we’re, you know, sampling at farmer’s markets, we we took little surveys of everyone who tried it, did they buy it? What did they like about what they not like about it? And I think if I could go back and do it again, I spent so much of that time being like, Oh, we’re too small or too small. I want to be big. Without really recognizing that like, in that small stage, that’s a perfect time to like, test, learn and refine. And so I would really say you know, anyone who’s starting a company like break down the steps, break down the idea and try to test every single angle of the idea. And then like from there, you know, set yourself a deadline and say like, Okay, I’m just gonna go for it. Like if it passes XY and Z, I’m quitting my job and making it happen. Within reason.

Dana: Yeah. And it’s so it is so hard to and that I know exactly. We’re talking about we’re like, I just want to be big like I just wanted to be you know this and that is such a hard mental block as an entrepreneur to have to get past that because really like it can be so frustrating at times and I love that. Brett, you you recommended to break it down because I do think you’re right like if you can see the next little finish line. That makes it so much easier. To get to the big finish line. And I think that that is just such valuable advice and one that is very hard to hear when you’re in the moment right Hindsight is 2020 I was 2020 you’re like no do it this way. I’m telling you, you have to think about it like this, but it is it is so hard when you’re in that moment. So my best advice would be to listen to her say that a couple of more times, so I can really say incredible advice. Well, thank you so so much at least I’m so honored to have you today and I cannot wait to get this episode out to the world to everybody. So thank you for being here.

Lisa: Yeah, thanks for staying up late turkey time to talk to me dealing with sick kids and you know amidst a mythic as though

Dana: I have never been more thrilled at how aptly named this podcast is than I am today. So thank you so much, and we will chat with you soon.

Lisa: Have a great night. I have a good night.

Dana: I am so honored you spent any minutes of your day listening to me babble about living this entrepreneur life amidst the chaos of any moms normal day to day. If you loved what you heard any more snippets of knowledge about this mom Boss Life, head over to our website at amidst the chaos podcast.com For show notes and links to anything mentioned in today’s episode. If you’re really feeling inspired, it will mean the world to me and my family if you take the time to read. Thanks for joining me amidst the chaos

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