Business 30 October 2017
Like many female businesswomen, Soo-Ah Landa left an important high paying job at a Top Fortune 100 company to raise a family. After two years of being a “stay at home mom extraordinaire," Soo-Ah received a wake-up call when her 9-year-old son was asked by a teacher in school, "What does your mom do?" and his response was "She cooks and cleans for us."
Having grown up in a Korean culture where having kids and raising kids is a traditional role for women, Soo-Ah knew it was time to make a change. She comments, “I realized I had a responsibility to teach my two sons that women do more than cook and clean, and can actually start companies too!" Fast forward two years and Soo-Ah's son wrote in his 6th-grade essay that when he grows up he "wants to start and build a successful company like my mom." (Priceless, right?) This journey to launch the only 100% organic bone broth plus juice company on the market, however, was not an easy one. Soo-Ah tells SWAAY about her biggest challenges and mistakes along the road.
Going back into the workforce after motherhood is not easy, and in exploring this, Soo-Ah sought out a community with similar challenges and launched Project 8, a group of eight women who mentored each other for eight months and created accountability to reach their goals in jumpstarting or creating new careers. While motherhood was amazing in its own way, it wasn't enough for this group of women. Project 8 was where Soo-Ah met her co-Founder and where BRU Broth launched.
The biggest challenge for Soo-Ah was learning how to create an entirely new beverage category: RTHD (Ready to Heat and Drink, or “Sip" in the case of BRU.) Despite a phenomenal education from MIT and a second degree black belt in tae kwon do."
“I knew nothing about how to start a beverage company and raise capital, nor how on earth I was going to find investors who would be willing to take a gamble on a product that didn't exist yet," she says. “Even grocery store buyers had no idea where to put us. We were a meat product that looked like a juice."
When we asked Soo-Ah what her biggest mistake was, she laughed, and talked about how there were so many, but primarily, underestimating the time, money and resources required to successfully get a brand on shelf and get the initial penetration needed to then go out and convince people that they should give you more time, money and resources. It was a journey of long hours, challenges, tears and travel, but the hard work eventually paid off.
Soo-Ah's milestone moment came when she was able to move production from her home kitchen and driving around with kids in tow after school delivering bottles throughout the Bay area, to a bottling facility alongside distribution management under a major national distributor.
While many women entrepreneurs have faced challenges along the way, Soo-Ah loves that her brand and product is making a difference in the lives of others. Together with her co-Founder, Mary Butler, Soo-Ah started BRU Broth because she felt there was a need for a sugar-free, nutrient dense warm beverage that went beyond coffee and tea. “I experienced firsthand the healing aspects of bone broth when my mom was making gallons of it for my dad to help him in his struggle with colon cancer," she says. “Bone broth is delicious, but it heals. My (Korean) Grandma was 100% right and it's why I grew up drinking bone broth. I want everyone on the planet to be drinking bone broth everyday because it is that good for you."
Bone Broth has now been trending for a couple of years (everyone from the Kardashians to P!nk to Tom Brady drink it), but here's why BRU stands out: It is the only 100% organic, pastured and grass-fed bone broth that adds cold-pressed vegetables, roots and spices.
While there are competitors that sell juice, plus broth formulations, BRU is truly bone broth (it's the first ingredient listed), with a touch of juice, so that you are truly getting the benefits of the bone broth. It's farm to bottle, and exceptional for on-the-go, for recovery, for health and even for cooking. BRU features delicious flavors and enticing names such as Turmeric Ginger, Hug in Mug (Bone Broth, veggies, coconut aminos), Hot Greens (Bone Broth with greens and a hint of jalapeno), and will be launching Broffee (Bone Broth plus coffee), later this fall. Imagine the benefits of bone broth with the energy and satisfaction of your cup of coffee. Yes, ladies, you are welcome. This is the innovation that Soo-Ah is after.
What advice does Soo-Ah have for other women looking to start their own companies and/or those who are struggling with the launch of a brand? First, Soo-Ah says, “You will never, ever, be fully prepared before you jump off that cliff, So don't wait for that to happen, that's just procrastination. Just go for it and know that yes, you might fail, but at least you have a chance of success by persevering through." As a mother of 2 boys, Soo-Ah likens this to the quote from Star Wars' Yoda: "Do or do not. There is no try." Second, “Do not fear saying, "I don't know" or "I need help." Many women entrepreneurs once had big corporate jobs and have other impressive credentials, educations and background, but then we find that becoming an entrepreneur makes us vulnerable all over again, which is an uncomfortable place to be, initially, when you might have once managed a large organization and a $500M+ P&L at a Fortune 500 company!" She assures us that it's ok to ask for help and advice. Lastly, “use the sisterhood because it's a strong network." Seek these women out at school, through alumni groups, through peers. This is why Soo-Ah founded her mom's group called Project 8: eight women, eight big ideas, eight months (basically during the school year) where they detailed out an eight-month plan with tangible goals, mentored each other and held each other accountable to their goals.
So raise a glass, toast and sip to Soo-Ah and BRU!
Starting with a little background, I am an anti-bullying advocate and have recently graduated from The Parent Leadership Training Institute, where as part of our studies we were asked to come up with a community project close to our hearts and put it into action. My cause was bullying, and I began a blog and Facebook page to address issues pertaining to all forms of bullying. Implementing this project was followed by a thre- minute speech to my peers, and, after all this, here is what I have learned about bullying.
Bullying makes people feel bad about themselves, leading to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and even physical symptoms. The repercussions of bullying can cause people to miss school or work as well as countless other negative side effects.
I have been bullied both at school and at work, and I know of others who have suffered the same plight. It is not fun!
My first bullying experience was in seventh grade as a young teen. There was a group of three "mean girls" who harassed me and, I later found out, several of my friends; they thought it was funny to pick on others about their clothes, their looks or whatever else they could come up with (who knows). It felt awful at the time. Supposedly, I was chosen to get picked on because they claimed I bought my clothes at the Goodwill. That wasn't true, but really who cares? Why they were picking on me was never really the point. Luckily, after a while, the meanies went on to the next victim(s) like a never-ending cycle. I tend to think once a bully, always a bully, which goes to show how good a lifestyle that is, because those "mean girls" never amounted to much. In hindsight, I feel sorry for them. Watch the movie The Gift if you're really curious about what happens to bullies when they grow up.
And bullying was not just an issue when I was a teen, since then nothing much has changed. My own nephew was bullied in eighth grade, and he recently talked to me in depth about of how the bullying took a toll on him. Especially because I had the same experience, I could relate to him in ways that some others couldn't. Like reliving my own memories, I was incredibly broken up to hear how it made him feel.
Even worse than that, bullying does not end in the school yard. Employees are being bullied on the job at an alarming rate. When you are bullied on the job as an adult, it taken an even bigger toll. Further it doesn't just go away like those middle school "mean girls." Unless you can quit your job, you might just be stuck. There are all kinds of physical symptoms, stomach pains, migraines and even panic attacks. Beyond the physical, people's mental and emotional state is extremely sensitive to bullying, and as a result work performance might suffer. Furthermore, it might feel like there is no recourse, no one to believe you. You can hope that the HR Department is willing to listen and do something about it, but the whole process can be so disheartening. And in the hierarchical corporate environment, sometimes the bully seems to get ahead and you are left lagging behind in a subservient position. This is what happened to me as a victim of workplace bullying. It started with me being told by a co-worker that my boss was following me to the bathroom, staring down the hall whenever I left my desk to make sure I came right back to my seat. Then it was standing over me as I typed, ordering me to get in a car with them, not allowing me to sit somewhere if it wasn't within their sight. The list of offenses could go on endlessly. There were times I felt like I couldn't breathe. And then, the bully torturing me got a promotion. Like the character of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, the classic bully is revered by her peers, despite the fact that all of her employees are terrified of her. Yet, she is in a role of high stature and praised as a bully. We live in a culture that is not only complacent in the existence of bullies, but one that actively allows them to thrive.
It makes you realize how unfair life can be. Of course, no one said that life would be fair; maybe you just assumed that bad people would not get ahead. But, they do. Even now, I cannot help but to shake my head in disbelief. I often wonder what makes a person feel the need to laud their power over another. Are they insecure? Were they bullied themselves? They must feel bad about themselves in some way? Do they feel the need to do this to make themselves look good? Whatever the reason, it certainly isn't nice at all. I have found myself at different times in my life standing up for people who have been bullied around me. And I certainly do not allow anyone to treat me in any way that I find disrespectful. I truly believe in karma, and I tell myself that at some point in time, the bullies will get it back in some way. I have seen it happen, and in the meantime, I just say to myself "What goes around, comes around."
Bullying shows no sign of slowing down, and in this day and age, it's even worse than I have experienced in the past. Cyber bulling, rumors, fist fights, knifes, guns and other forms of both mental and physical cruelty, it truly sickens me. I know that I cannot save everyone, but I try to be an advocate as much as possible and encourage others to do so as well. NO ONE SHOULD BULLIED! It is disgraceful to say the least. You should always practice grace as much as you can. With every person who chooses to do so, the world gets a little bit better. I will be writing more on this topic on a regular basis; I feel it helps to talk about this subject aloud and spread the word. and, if nothing else, be kind.