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With a successful background in private equity and investment banking, Angela Sutherland is no stranger to taking advantage of opportunities in profitable industries. As a mother of two, Sutherland has now set her sights on transforming one of the biggest industries in the parenting world: baby food. Last month, she launched her company, Yumi, a science-based early childhood meal delivery program with co-founder Evelyn Rusli.
Sutherland was inspired to create Yumi during her first pregnancy. Like many moms, she spent hours researching and obsessing over her baby’s health and wondering whether she was doing enough.
“There’s a lot of information out there on what you shouldn’t do, such as what cheeses or sushi you shouldn’t eat, but not nearly as much information on what you should do and eat,” Sutherland says.
After weeks of poring over medical journals and research, Sutherland finally came across something that resonated with her.
“Researchers and doctors have identified ‘the first 1,000 days’—the period from in utero to age 2—as the most important period in a human’s life for nutrition. And yet, I noticed that the market for baby food was full of products that were high in fruit sugar and low in nutrition.”
As a busy working mom, Sutherland found herself faced with what felt like a decision between compromising at every grocery store or cooking every meal herself. “I was convinced that there had to be a better way,” Sutherland says. It seems that Yumi is that better way. The California-based startup uses a holistic approach to baby’s health and wellness that is based in transparency and quality, and aims to empower parents with better choices and trustworthy information.
Sutherland talks with Mom.me about balancing her venture-backed startup and motherhood.
When did you start Yumi, and what has the process of working from concept to launch been like?
Starting a new venture is incredibly scary, especially when you are venturing into a new industry that is completely unfamiliar. My co-founder Evelyn and I have made it a priority to surround ourselves with a strong team and support system, which has helped us immensely in battling the many fears that come with building a business. The journey from concept to launch has been a long one. There were so many obstacles I never could have anticipated, so we had to be nimble and make adjustments along the way while still staying true to the overall mission and vision. Now that we have finally launched, it feels surreal.
What sets Yumi apart from other baby foods and delivery services?
We set out to be a definitive source for parents seeking to understand what they are feeding their children and why. Our meals are fresh, organic, packed with nutrition and delivered right to your doorstep, but we consider ourselves to be more than just a food company. On top of our holistic approach and our commitment to empowering parents, we are consciously making decisions that signal how we are doing things differently than the typical food company. For example, we created a children’s book that comes with your delivery, a counting primer that uses fruits and vegetables. We even customize our ice packs with a playful watermelon print on them. Every touch point matters, and every turn is an opportunity to surprise and delight customers.
As a mother as well as the CEO and co-founder of Yumi, how do you make it all work?
With a new company to grow and two young kids at home, no two days are the same and my schedule is often very hectic. As I look at my week ahead, I try to anticipate where I will be needed most and prioritize my time as best as possible. If I know something important is on the horizon for the company, such as a big event, deadline or work trip, I make it a priority to get in good quality time with my family beforehand. If there is an activity or appointment on the calendar for one of my kids, then I adjust my work schedule accordingly. Really, I just try to tackle one day at a time and enlist help from others where I need it.
Has there been anything about creating Yumi that surprised you or inspired you in a way you didn’t expect?
I didn’t realize how inspired I would be by the one-on-one conversations and interactions with our customers, many of whom are women. When building a company, everything can feel so abstract—it doesn’t quite feel real until it’s in the hands of customers. As we spoke to our initial customers, it was really moving to hear how many of these women felt like we gave them time back—extra hours that they can now spend with their children, or take for themselves. It’s inspiring to feel like you’re playing even a small role in improving the happiness of families.
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