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An Australian Mom’s Quest To Bring Her Favorite Yogurt To The States

Business

Koel Thomae is arguably the world’s biggest yogurt enthusiast. Her ferocious love for the dynamic dairy product and her dedication to experiencing the coveted “taste moments” led her to founding noosa with Rob Graves in January 2010. Noosa crafts premium, creamy yogurt with only ingredients of the highest quality; from Madagascan vanilla and Guittard dark chocolate to raw wildflower honey and fresh whole milk from the noosa farm in Colorado. Plus, noosa does not shy away from decadence, all of their products are full-fat. Thomae happily declines a seat on the ever-popular health food bandwagon—she’s all about flavor, not about counting calories.


“I was working in IT at the time and was literally having the soul sucked out of me...so I did some soul searching and food has always been this sort of common thread in my life and passion point, and Colorado has this amazing natural foods community, so I said, ‘I’m going to work in food, I don’t care what I do. I’m going to break in'"

Why did Thomae choose noosa as the brand name? Well, its namesake holds the charming story of the company’s inspiration. Prior to tying the knot, Thomae brought her now-husband to meet her family on the sunshine coast, and it was at Noosa (the place) that they planted the seed for noosa (the yogurt). “[My now-husband and I] were walking back from the beach and I stopped him at a local corner shop,” Thomae says. “I spotted this clear container—there was no branding on it, but there was a pop of passion fruit puree, so I picked it up. A few minutes later I was having my first taste and thought that it was the best thing I’d ever eaten. That sparked selfishly a desire to eat the yogurt more than once a year.”

Earlier in her “pre-noosa life” (as she likes to call it), Thomae was dissatisfied with her job and seeking out change. She says, “I was working in I.T at the time and was literally having the soul sucked out of me... So I did some soul searching and food has always been this sort of common thread in my life and passion point, and Colorado has this amazing natural foods community, so I said, ‘I’m going to work in food, I don’t care what I do. I’m going to break in.’” Thomae stayed true to her word, doing exactly that upon returning to Colorado. She readied herself for entrepreneurship by extensively researching the yogurt field and soon flew back to Australia to get a loose license agreement for the yogurt that inspired noosa.

Fast forward to a Colorado coffee shop, fated it seems, as it was there that Thomae spotted a flyer about Graves’ dairy farm, just as she was on the lookout for a dairy partner to bring her company to life. “He thought I was crazy,” Thomae says with a laugh, “so I told him I’d come back in two weeks with actual yogurt samples and he’d believe me. My mom shipped the yogurt from Australia. He had that same taste moment. So it’s sort of this story of somebody selfishly motivated by their own stomach, and two complete strangers bonding over a taste moment. And sort of throwing caution to the wind.”

“What’s made us so successful is being self-manufactured and staying true to who we are and that commitment to quality. When we think about innovation and flavor, it’s always like, ‘It has to taste wow.’ It has to taste as close to the real fruit as possible.”

It’s safe to say the yogurt fanatics of today would not call their stomach-motivation selfish, as they now have a brand they can rely on to pack a flavor punch and excite their taste buds on a daily basis. Yes, they’ve got classic flavors like blueberry and peach, but they also carry unique combos like Blackberry Serrano, Orange Ginger, and Raspberry Lemonade.

Noosa’s latest innovation comes in the form of an innovative packaging, once again thanks to another brilliant female mind at the company. “There were certain flavors we just couldn’t do in our 8 ounce format,” Thomae admits, “so we brought in two really smart, savvy women who divide and conquer on sales and marketing, and our head of marketing was like, ‘What if we created a custom pack where we could do two different flavors?’ So this is taking great combinations and allowing people to either eat one flavor at a time or mix and match. This allows our customers to have their own food adventure and us to deliver it in a way that I don’t think anyone else on the market is doing.” They’ve got Pineapple Coconut for that seaside feel of sipping a tropical piña colada, as well as Caramel Apple for a nostalgic trip back in time to childhood fairs or fall strolls through an orchard.

“When you talk to any entrepreneur, there’s always an element of luck. It was late 2008, the biggest financial crisis, and we were like, ‘let’s keep going.’ And certainly bucking all of the category trends as far as low fat or no fat, and here we come with whole milk, full flavor, big tub.”

"So this is taking great combinations and allowing people to either eat one flavor at a time or mix and match, sort of have their own food adventure"

The eight years since noosa saw the light of day, or the light of refrigerators in select stores across the country has been both challenging and rewarding. At the very start, Thomae was working two jobs and still struggling to make ends meet. She’d grown up watching her mother do the same thing—having two jobs, emerging in the entrepreneurial world—so she knew it required nonstop persistence, but that didn’t make it any easier. Thomae recalls feeling left out of her social sphere, “It was a weird time because social media was starting which was great for the brand but on a personal level I was like, ‘I’m working 24/7 and all my friends are having this perceived fun lifestyle,’ so I had to block that out.”

At the end of last year, noosa finished at $220M, the silky smooth yogurt’s popularity skyrocketed. So what’s next for noosa, now that a solid fan base has been built? That would be a “side-hustle campaign”, which will involve choosing five winners to help create noosa’s next innovative flavor. “It’s called Flavor Finder, and we’re opening it up to everyone,” Thomae explains, “so winners will essentially get flown to Colorado and we’ll do a deep dive into how it’s made and the culture. Each of the five winners will get a $2000 stipend for travel or however they’re going to unlock the next big flavor for noosa.”

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.