Folks We Love with Angela Sutherland | CEO + co-founder of Yumi
Our fellow Los Angelenos, Angela Sutherland and Evelyn Rusli are the founders of the nutritious, subscription baby food service Yumi. These badass babes raised over $4 million to launch their product in California last year and we are loving it! You can read more about why your little one's nutrition is so important in their First 1,000 Days article published here last month, and we are happy you all get to know Angela better here!
Interview contributed by Kacy Byxbee, editor, Your Zen Mama
Who is in your family?
Myself, my husband Angus, and my two children Elodie and Ronan
Where are you from?
I grew up in Michigan
How old are your kiddos?
My daughter Elodie is 4, and my son Ronan is 2
I’m the CEO and co-founder of Yumi
How did Yumi come to be? What gave you the idea?
When I was pregnant for the first time with my daughter Elodie, I became obsessed with researching all the things I should be doing to have a smooth pregnancy and a healthy baby. In that process, I came across a number of studies around the first 1,000 days (the period from in-utero to 2 years old), which experts have identified as being the most critical time in a person’s life for nutrition. It blew my mind that I had never heard of this term before. When I had my daughter and it came time to feed her solids, I was back to work logging 80+ hour weeks at the office and struggled to find healthy, convenient options. Everything at the grocery store was full of fruit sugar and had been sitting on a shelf for months, and I simply didn’t have time to cook every meal from scratch at home. I thought to myself, what if we could design a product specifically for babies in their first 1000 days that was fresh, nutritionally perfected, low in total sugar, tasted amazing, AND had the convenience of being delivered right to your doorstep? In that moment, the idea for Yumi was born.
Where does your business acumen come from?
I think it definitely comes from my parents, both of whom worked. My mother owned her own company, and seeing her at the helm of an organization and the joy and strength it brought her instilled a strong work ethic in me from a very young age. Prior to starting Yumi, I worked in private equity leading turnarounds for distressed debt companies. Having that background in operations has definitely helped in running my own business today.
What is the most challenging part of running your business?
Scaling the business in a meaningful, honest and transparent way, and continuing to grow our community organically as we expand nationwide.
How do you maintain some semblance of balance? Any tricks?
Since no two days are the same, I don’t typically adhere to a specific template when it comes to how I divvy my time between the office and home. I try to take one day at a time and prioritize where I’m needed most. Fortunately, our headquarters are relatively close to my home and my husband’s office, so my kids can drop in with our nanny and say hi every so often, or I can grab a mid-week lunch with my husband in the neighborhood. My kids have enjoyed learning about “where mommy works” and they have become familiar with everyone at the company. I think that makes it a little easier for them when I sometimes have to work late or leave for a business trip, because they can visualize where I might be, and have a vague understanding of where I spend my time outside of the house.
The Grapes of Wrath - I love modernist and realist literature. During post World War 1 / pre World War 2, people were feeling so anxious about life; it was the beginning of industrialization and world powers changing, and so much thought and innovation came out of that period. It was one of the first books that really explored this greater human question of “wanting more” in a really philosophical way and a very personal way instead of through abstraction. And I think it's a very relatable story, even today in so many ways because it's about a real family. It was the first time someone made this kind of fiction feel relatable to me and I just love how this one family maintained such love, dignity and togetherness despite incredible loss. It is such a great lesson in maintaining integrity in the face of adversity.
How have things changed with your partner since you became parents?
Quality time together is obviously much harder to come by when you have young kids, so we really make an effort to try and have dinner together every night after the kids go to bed. Even though we’re usually both exhausted and said dinner doesn’t actually happen until 9 or 10pm, it’s so nice to spend that time together enjoying a hot meal and (ideally) a nice bottle of red wine.
What is your favorite thing to do as a family?
We love to entertain and we’re fortunate to have a lot of our family members here in LA, so there’s nothing better than inviting our extended family and friends over for a casual dinner. We made a small tradition of having a larger family dinner every Sunday.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Enlist help from those around you that have skill sets you do not possess, and make sure you surround yourself with people you trust. Starting your own company is a roller coaster, so it’s important you bring the right people along for the ride.
What advice do you have for new mothers?
Go easy on yourself. No matter how many books or blogs you read, nobody really knows what they’re doing when they have their first baby, and everyone’s experiences are unique. So much is learned on the fly, and you have to trust your gut in a lot of situations. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to be that pinterest-perfect mom. Do your best, and invest time in building solid friendships because one saying that I believe rings true for most people is that it DOES “take a village”, so having a strong community is everything.
What 4 things can you not live without?
1 - Honestly, #1 has to be my nanny; I could not do what I do without having an amazing support system at home. Even though I grapple with mom guilt as a working parent, my kids adore her and I trust her implicitly. Feeling like your most prized possessions are in good hands at home is priceless, and it’s an absolute privilege that I never take for granted.
2 - Travel. Seeing different parts of the world and immersing myself in a new culture is so invigorating. There is nothing that feeds my soul more than traveling, and I love that my kids are now getting old enough where we can bring them on some of our adventures.
3 - Matcha. I’m completely addicted. On a recent trip to Japan I indulged in so many different forms of matcha - ice cream, mochi, pokke - and it was blissful. And the quality of the matcha in Japan is incredible. I filled my suitcase to the brim and brought as much of it home as I could.
4 - Sunscreen. Now that I’m in my mid-30’s, I really understand the importance of taking good care of my skin. I never leave the house without slathering some SPF on my hands, face, and neck. My favorite at the moment is the La Mer SPF 50 Protective Fluid; it’s so lightweight. I also love the Everyday Sheer Coverage SPF 20 from True Botanicals which has a light tint, perfect for just a little coverage on those no-makeup days.