International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, age, economic or political. It’s a celebration where we unite as a global community to celebrate women, their endless drive, passion, impact and tireless effort in making a difference.
Meet Angela Sutherland and Evelyn Rusli, the Co-founders of Yumi Foods, a nutritious, subscription-based baby food company.
How did the two of you meet and found Yumi?
Evelyn: Angela and I have been friends for years, and we initially met through my husband. It’s funny because the first time he introduced us, he cautioned me: “be extra nice to Angela, you guys are going to start a great company someday.” At the time, I was a bit skeptical at his bold prediction but it turns out he was right all along.
After Angela had her first child, she shared with me the mountains of data that she had researched on early childhood nutrition while she was pregnant, and I was blown away by the numbers and all the studies related to the importance of nutrition and the first years of life.
We were also both astonished by how broken the baby food market was, how it hadn’t changed in decades; being dominated by shelf-stable pouches that are high in fruit sugar and low in nutrition. We both felt an immediate sense of responsibility to democratize the information we had with others and make a product parents could feel good about.
What is Yumi and what is your mission?
Angela: Yumi is a health and wellness brand for children that provides freshly prepared, organic meals and snacks delivered right to parents’ doorsteps. It is our mission to support busy families by making it easier for parents to feed their babies healthy, nutritious food that has been developed by a team of doctors, chefs, and nutritionists. Unlike any other brand, we also empower parents with tools and information, through customized content each week detailing how nutrition impacts their child’s development. Being a parent is hard enough; we consider it our job to make mealtime just a little bit easier.
What is one standout quality you see in each other?
Evelyn: I’m always blown away by her innate generosity – after we decided to start Yumi, we both quit our jobs and I moved down to Los Angeles.
My husband (then fiance) was still living in San Francisco at the time, and I was alone in LA. Without hesitation, Angela and her husband opened up their home, and I lived with them for over a year. From day one, she made me feel part of the family, and I had the great gift of watching her first child grow up, and the birth of her second. I’m constantly amazed by how Angela consistently goes above and beyond for her family and friends. Her acts of love and service never seem labored, they are almost automatic and foregone conclusions for her. I think you can see that thoughtfulness reflected in the brand — we’ve created so many unexpected moments for the customer, such as the creation of a board book for babies because Angela wanted to create touchpoints that would spark joy and make the customer feel loved.
Angela: Evelyn is an incredible storyteller. She is so eloquent with her words, which also makes her one of the best writers I know and excellent at brand building. I am also constantly impressed by the empathy she shows towards others. She is always curious and eager to listen to other points of view and dig in with more questions. This makes her an incredible partner and person to have in the trenches because she has usually considered a problem from many angles and will present creative perspectives and solutions.
What are the best decisions that you have made in your careers thus far?:
Angela – Ignoring those who told me not to take the risk to start Yumi, and just stay at my ‘comfortable’ job. Founding this brand and seeing the incredible impact we have made over just a few short years has been tremendously rewarding.
Evelyn – Understanding the importance of relationships. At the center of any venture or business is people. I work hard every day to invest in my relationships and treat people well. Sounds simple, but that lens has shaped my career.
What are the worst?
Evelyn – Second-guessing myself. The moments I’ve succumbed to imposter syndrome. For a while, I didn’t let myself entertain the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, because I wondered what right did I have to think could do it? I’m so glad I pushed those thoughts out of the way. That said, even when you’re a few years in, you’re never never fully immune to feeling like an imposter sometimes, or feeling less than confident.
In what areas do you want to see women progress in 2020?
Angela: I would love to see more female founders take leadership positions, whether in the boardroom or in the government. The idea of women in power should be normalized. I love the quote from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, where she says “When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” That’s the world I want my children to inherit.
We were lucky to have a handful of really amazing female mentors as we were starting Yumi, so I consider it part of our responsibility to pass along key insights, learnings (and hacks!) we have picked up along the way that could help make someone else’s journey that much easier.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
Evelyn: While tremendous progress has been made to address gender inequality in recent years, I fear that it’s still not happening at an appropriate pace. Anytime I attend a business conference or walk into a room of potential investors, the decision-makers are still mostly male.
It’s definitely hard to reconfigure a decades-old patriarchal-based system overnight. While the conversation has grown louder around giving women more opportunities at the executive level, it doesn’t always solve the deep-rooted gender biases that have festered for generations. Fortunately, at least in my own experience, I’ve met some really wonderful male executives who have stepped up to help, and be a champion of women. We need women, men, and those who currently are in positions of power, to drive towards this future. It’s promising to see these kinds of examples firsthand, and I only hope more men in positions of power will follow suit.
Which women inspire you the most and why?
Angela: My mother. She was a refugee, a businesswoman, a pillar of strength, that deeply inspired my career. As a young girl, I was in awe of her passion and saw firsthand how that passion and that grit built a business that ultimately employed so many people.
What is your self-care routine?
Angela: Spending even just 10 minutes on my skincare routine every night feels like such a treat. And I love that there are so many new products available that offer cleaner, more natural solutions to anti-aging. I have such a busy schedule these days and sleep is scarce. So any chance I get to give my skin a little extra love, I try and take it.
Just as we all know how important it is to fuel our body with whole, organic ingredients, it’s equally important to think about what’s inside the topical products we are applying to our face and body each day. And this is something I’ve spent more and more time thinking about since becoming a mom. It’s amazing to see women in this industry (like Lauren!) educating consumers about ingredients that matter, and leading as a true pioneer in the beauty space.