Increasing Accessibility to Food as a Form of Medicine with Maya French

Today Maya French, the founder of Koia and Joydays joins us to talk about her growth journey as an entrepreneur and startup founder. Both Koia and Joydays are mission-driven brands that are working to get healthy food and beverage products into the hands of underserved populations. Maya works hard to ensure that her products are filled with vital nutrients and wholesome ingredients to counteract unhealthy eating habits across America, ones that she’s all too familiar with. Maya and I also discuss burnout and how she approaches taking breaks by finding a creative space to thrive in and coming out better on the other side. Maya also shares which key relationships have shaped her career and her outlook on what’s next for her.

Today’s episode is hosted by Diana Fryc of Retail Voodoo, connect with her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianafryc/

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

Brands Koia and Joydays, who are they and how do the products help consumers seeking healthy food options.
The important mission behind Maya’s work and how it shapes her leadership.
Maya’s journey to becoming an entrepreneur and mentor in the better-for-you food business.

Gooder Podcast

Increasing Accessibility to Food as a Form of Medicine with Maya French

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ABOUT THE GUEST:

Maya French
CPG Entrepreneur, Cofounder Koia and founder of Joydays
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maya-french-b706a036
Links: https://getjoydays.com / https://drinkkoia.com

CHAPTERS:

00:00 | Introduction
02:03 | Organic Food and Health Equality
03:23 | Playful Packaging
04:20 | Quality Food and Value Proposition
06:07 | Product Distribution and Accessibility
13:23 | Applied Learnings
19:23 | Mission-Driven Brand
22:12 | Women Leadership
25:45 | Mentorship
27:19 | New Perspectives
29:37 | Brand Growth
30:42 | Healthy Habits
32:37 | Food and Wellness Trends
37:40 | Health Education

This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo. A brand, marketing and design consultancy focused on building, growing and revitalizing brands in the food, beverage, health and wellness industries. If you are ready to find a partner that will help your business create a high-impact strategy that gives your brand an advantage, please visit retail-voodoo.com/contact to set up a discovery call today.

Produced by Heartcast Media.
https://www.heartcastmedia.com/

Top Insights

Transcript:

Diana: Hi, Diana Fryc, here I am, the host of The Gooder podcast, where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage, and wellness industries about their journeys to success and their insights on the market. This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo, a brand development firm providing strategic brand and design services for brands in the food, wellness, and beverage industries. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind REI, PepsiCo, Nike, and many other market leaders. So if your goal is to crush your competition by driving growth and disrupting the marketplace with new and innovative ideas, give us a call. Let’s talk. You can find out more at retail hyphen voodoo dot com. Well, I am super excited. I’m going to say this. I was excited to introduce our next guest, Maya French, to begin with. And then I had a little bit of extra time this morning and now I’ve got a little fan crush going on over here. Maya is like a superstar, and I get to talk with her and we get to hear from her. So Maya French is for those of you that don’t know her, a CPG entrepreneur and the co-founder, one of the co-founders of Koia and Joydays. Maya is on a personal mission to provide access to healthy products for underserved communities. Yay. Love that. It’s why I’m a super fan of hers. She also is an advisor for multiple food and beverage brands and she is working on the future of food and health equality. Maya, hello. Hello.

 

Maya: Hi. Thank you so much for the wonderful intro.

 

Diana: Of course. Of course. So first off, now you have and we’ve got Joydays. I want to talk about Joy days, but quickly we want to go to the OG Koia where it all started. Can you tell us a little bit about Koia, that brand Koia and why it exists?

 

Maya: Yeah, definitely. So Koia started in 2013. The idea actually was it was a juice company. And we were selling juices to, you know, local mom-and-pop shops across Chicago, pivoted to protein drinks because I became lactose intolerant in my twenties, didn’t have any options or anything like vegan protein options that wouldn’t bloat me or make me feel. So we created a solution for it. It was a huge hit. It took off. We were in about 40 stores, Chicago and Michigan, before getting a national Whole Foods deal in 2016, moved it to L.A. And you know, today it’s distributed over I want to say, oh, man, it’s going to be 30,000 stores, right?

 

Diana: Right.

 

Maya: Yes.

 

Diana: Yes. And I am so lactose intolerant that I, I. In 2013, that was still kind of a new concept. So how was your first? Were people responding to it because of that component to it, or was it because it was just really great to drink and yummy?

 

Maya: I think we were really one of the first people to put the ingredients on the front of the label, so a meaningful vision. So we had these cute little medicinal bottles that made people very curious. And then it’s like, oh, well, 18 grams of protein, only four grams of sugar. Like, that’s insane. That’s there’s no other products like this. So people would grab it. They would literally pay 699 for it. That’s how much we were charging back in the day in 2013. Yeah. Isn’t that crazy? Yeah. So it was definitely a huge hit right away. But I think the biggest value prop was the high protein, low sugar, and then the way that we communicated those value propositions on the front of the label.

 

Diana: Gotcha. Gotcha. Interesting. Okay. So now we’ve got to hear a little bit about the new baby Joydays. Tell us a little bit about Joydays. A lot of people probably haven’t heard much about this one.

 

Maya: Yeah, definitely. So I’m now working on a new company because they definitely wanted to bring more products to market that were, you know, healthy. And this one in particular is solving for people living with chronic conditions. So, you know, blood sugar balance is really what we’re after. We are targeting snacks that don’t spike your blood sugar. So they’re all low glycemic ingredients, balanced fiber, and balanced carbs. You know, it’s only ten net carbs. And most importantly, every product should be low in sugar. Yes, two cookies. Only three grams of sugar. One pack. It’s amazing.

 

Diana: Oh, my goodness. And they are not like little cookies. These are, like, real. You’re going to feel like you ate something. Cookies.

 

Maya: Exactly. 15 grams of 15 grams per cookie. So it’s like 30 cookies. I’m sorry. 30 grams of cookies in one little serving. Yeah. And the thing is, it is like people living with diabetes need to manage their blood sugar and it’s actually like 40 over 46% of the population is pre-diabetic or. Yes. Crazy.

 

Diana: That’s a lot.

 

Maya: Yeah. No one’s creating products for it.

 

Diana: Yeah. Well, that leads me to my next question. And there was we had a moment here when we were prepping for this last time about this particular product, about what you’re up to in this kind of food equity. But Koia and Joydays have a similar mission, different products, but a similar mission, and something that you’re super passionate about. Can you tell us about this ecosystem of brands and products that you’re working on?

 

Maya: Yeah, definitely. So really the two things that Koia enjoyed having in common other than being low glycemic and low sugar. They’re also putting them in retailers that are more accessible to like the greater population. So like, you know, B2B, our goal is like, hey, we’ve got to be at the 7-Eleven in Paducah, Kentucky. You know, Clay has really great distribution outside of the natural channel and stores like Publix and 7-Eleven. And that’s the same goal for Joydays. We have to be where the people are actually shopping, the people who need it the most.

 

Diana: So right.

 

Maya: This whole healthy quality angle and like having and providing healthy products in these markets and paving the way for other brands by actually showing healthy velocities in these markets.

 

Diana: Yeah. Now, this has been one of the things that I’ve been talking about on the podcast since the beginning. So it’s been just over two years now that I’ve been talking with amazing people like you. But my biggest hang-up was the naturals community was creating products with a price point and flavor profile and with a language that was really for people who had money or were already healthy and knew and were being educated about food through marketing. And this is so exciting for me because I think there first of all, from a business perspective, I think there’s a larger opportunity to introduce this way of eating to the rest of America, in my opinion. But then also I think this is our job. We’re supposed to be feeding people, not just making money. And this is super exciting for me.

 

Maya: Yeah, I totally agree with you. You know, I think the biggest there were like two very eye-opening moments for me and they might seem small, but they’re very impactful. So one was I went to a grocery store in Chicago and. Store personnel didn’t know how much it was. So I was like, okay, most of the country has not caught up to these health trends building. And second, we live in our closest cities, and we really are immersed by these cool brands and like these cool trends that are like five years out from the mainstream and they’re not affordable to people. So it’s just like you want to humble yourself, take a road trip across the country, and actually see what’s being sold. Like what options do you have along the way? Yeah, solve that. And you have a winning product.

 

Diana: I agree. My big Aha was I was in. Omaha, Nebraska. I want to say about three years ago, I went into the grocery store and in the natural section, it was on the shelf next to the organic shelf, stable like chips and crackers. And in my head, that was part of it. That was part of the reason why I developed the Gooder podcast. I’d like somebody in the Midwest who’s doing a shelf set to decide that these go together and now granted, it sure is not a horrible product, but it certainly isn’t part of the. Yeah, you know what I mean? It was just like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. So that was my big aha. And Omaha’s not we know it’s not a small place. It’s like out in the middle of nowhere. This is still a pretty big city. So I was really it was a moment for me for sure.

 

Maya: Yeah. I mean that that’s really interesting too because you talk about it. Sure. And then I think about Lucerne.

 

Diana: Yeah yeah.

 

Maya: These are products that, you know, have great intentions, but they are very medicinal. Yeah well otherwise. And you know, that’s part of the reason why we’ve created this type of brand with Joydays to bring joy to bring modernization to products for people with chronic conditions and not make them feel otherwise. So I’m like, why aren’t people creating more modern products that are going, you know, that are competitive to yeah. Additional medicine.

 

Diana: Products? Yeah. You have to tell me what you think about this. I have an opinion on this. I think when the naturals industry started, well, we all kind of looked the same, right? For lack of a better description, we look the same. And as the trend started to get velocity and get traction and mainstream, when modern marketers were coming in and going, What was our market opportunity? They were looking at the sales of From the Better for You category and saying, Look, they all look like this. But it was because we hadn’t done a good job of reaching out and educating and moving into broader markets. And so I think we kind of created this weird circle and said that this is what the natural consumer looks like. You know, we’re Jennifer Aniston. We live in Hollywood Hills and we’re really thin and we subscribe to this lifestyle and blah, blah, blah. So I think that I think that. Marketers are afraid because they don’t see the data that supports going into that space. It really takes somebody like you who’s innovative and kind of going, No, actually the reason why we don’t see anything here is that nobody’s made it, not because it doesn’t work.

 

Maya: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And that’s what that’s where coming in and like paving the way because, you know, I’m having a conversation with these buyers now. They understand. They understand the opportunity. They’re kind of like, you know, tired of all these, like, gimmicky products, too. Mm-hmm. So but I think the biggest challenge, too, and, you know, here’s right on the money supply chain ingredients costs so much money. So everybody kind of goes into it with good intentions. And then you start having to compromise when you’re, you know, trying to get to a healthy margin. You’re trying to raise money and get people to invest in your idea and to, like, you know, change the product here to those standards.

 

Diana: Right.

 

Maya: It just gets the beauty, the romance, like the purpose gets lost.

 

Diana: Yeah. And diluted for sure. Well, so I want to talk a little bit about the early days of Koia because the only reason why I want to ask about that is I want to then jump forward and go, What are you taking from your early days of Koia and applying to Joydays?

 

Maya: Mm-hmm. Definitely. Yeah. So early days. What specifically would you like to do?

 

Diana: Well, let’s talk about, like, you know, how did you get from this is a good idea. And Maya going from door to door, unloading the back of her vehicle to this kind of velocity, like what did it I guess maybe what did it take to get you to the point where you guys were like, We’ve got a good idea here. This is working?

 

Maya: Yeah, definitely. So, you know, as I mentioned earlier, we started off as a juice company. Super labor intensive. We probably changed the process of how we create juice like 50 times if it was deliberate. And then, you know, the margins just didn’t make sense either. So we started looking at different line extensions and it’s like as we were, we were like, okay, which retailers do we have the most flexibility with? We could actually go in and do demos and get live feedback on these products before we actually put them on the shelf. So retailers are more like an I guess what do you call it, a focus group, you know, where we were doing all of our testings and we were getting less feedback there. And it’s so funny because we had created this drink called it was like the master cleanse very early. It was like a bottled version of the master cleanse.

 

Diana: Okay.

 

Maya: I was selling it and people were like, Oh, you know, we’ll do this your poop, you know like we’ll just get things with that. But there’s so much consumer education.

 

Diana: Yes.

 

Maya: That we sell. But as soon as I left, it wouldn’t sell anymore. It’ll just be sitting there. I was like, okay, that’s interesting. So now I’m learning that we actually had to create a product that sells when we’re not there. So we need to understand, like, the, like how to get in, which is why we put the ingredients on the label, protein drinks and things like that. So I think that that was one aspect of making sure that we were getting feedback. You can’t take everything, all the feedback, and change it. But the joy of being a startup is you can move much faster in making necessary changes. Yeah, you don’t have to go through all those levels that you do incorporate in order to get it done. So I think that that really, you know, helped out a lot that testing learning face like being in the market. Sometimes it could be a little impossible now if you kind of look to the stars but if you are very guerilla, that approach works fine. A partner that’ll let you do those focus groups in-store.

 

Diana: Yeah.

 

Maya: So, you know, proving out Velocity and Store was a huge part of our success too. Putting together, like, brand ambassadors, like we internally built out our own brand ambassador team, you know, as you scale that doesn’t work but put it in as you scale for their works again that works as a full marketing team. And so that was really helpful because you had people who were dedicated to that brand, dedicated to talking about your business, and then you were also able to get that live feedback and a new to the whole adjusting. So when we were really focusing on improving on velocity retail and then taking those numbers and presenting it to bigger retailers with more store accounts within their team. So that really helped as they. Catapult the brand in the way that it was supposed to and understand what type of accounts the brand performs well in and what does not. So really using those same learnings, which it is, but one thing I did learn and I’m not doing. Rejoined is we’re doing a more focused approach. This was much harder with Koia because Koia is such a great place for everyone, right? Yeah, I really spent a lot of time just trying to figure out who the customer is. Who are we speaking to? You know, there’s some brands that do well, like liquid death. Like, yes, they’re going after that heavy metal, you know, with Joydays. We’re going after people living with diabetes, living with chronic conditions. And so this is going to help guide our retail strategy because we’re saying, okay, where do these people live? Shop. Let’s test those markets and see if we’re getting high velocity.

 

Diana: Yeah, yeah. That’s super interesting. We might have to just compare notes offline. When we worked on the rebrand of Russell Stover Sugar-Free, there’s a similar audience. Not exactly the same ingredient. The deck is probably a lot longer than yours and different audiences, but similar, you know, heavy overlap there. And people who live with chronic conditions live with chronic conditions because they want to enjoy food, too. They just can’t find anything that works for their body and that’s why their body is breaking down. So I think, you know, you are out there actively listening to the needs versus Koia, which was I have this idea, you know, and granted, that was your first move into the marketplace. And you were quite young with Koia as well. So it’s not like you’re walking in there with some swagger. And ten years at PepsiCo under your belt, like you’re kind of going from the beginning, Joydays. You have some wins and losses from Koia that you’re like, okay, I get it. And with this mission, I think when you have a mission, it’s so much easier to build a brand. I think it’s just so much easier to build a brand otherwise. Otherwise, it’s a shotgun approach. Kind of like what you were talking about.

 

Maya: Yeah. I mean, because now we’re able to say, like, hey, do you resonate with this mission? Are there people that you care about that are being affected by what we’re trying to actually improve and make an impact? Okay, great. Hop on a train.

 

Diana: Let’s go. Yeah, exactly. Exactly, exactly. Oh, my gosh. Okay. So did you have any mentors while you were at Koia that kind of helped you get over some of the big hurdles? And are you still working with them? I’m curious.

 

Maya: Yeah. You know you know what? Like my business partner, Dustin was a huge mentor. He’s like, he’s older than I am and, you know, definitely had more corporate experience. And so it was always good to have a partner to share, share, you know, the ups and downs with. Yeah, that was really great. I feel like all of us have met so many people in the industry and as you know, this industry is super tight. Everyone’s climbing up the same hill and yeah, there are definitely good people that offer help. So I like today I always resort back to some of my old partners and vendors and, you know, pass through resources like and then candidly ask them questions and get honest, you know, you know, answers from them. So that’s been helpful. One, when I took my year break, like I say, my year break, one person that was really helpful was Shawn. Her name is Shawn, CEO of Arrow Gourmet. And this is kind of how this whole idea of low glycemic ingredients popped into my head because, you know, like where is the opportunity, like, you know, what is actually really needed for food? You know she’d been really great and she puts together these like CEO female CEO meetings that are really so it creates a safe space for women to just like, you know, share any injustices, any issues that were having any, like, resources that we have to share. And I think spaces like that have been really helpful for mentorship within the industry and just even being a woman leader. Yeah.

 

Diana: Oh, that’s awesome. And that you have some continuity with a few folks, I’m sure. Probably. Helps because then you had you remember back when we went to blank or in 2017 when we did blank, it kind of feels the same. It’s just to have that continuity to feel so good.

 

Maya: Yeah, it’s like it’s a tribe. I have, like, a good network, really good people I can rely on.

 

Diana: Mm-hmm. So I. I’m thinking about it. So we just talked about other people mentoring you. Now, I suspect that you probably get asked for a lot of mentoring as well. Like people want you to mentor them. What are those common questions? Because I’m sure you cannot say yes to all the humans that come to you with questions. But what is the most common question that people come to you with that you can share right now could be one or just one or two.

 

Maya: Yeah. I mean, it’s so funny because a lot of young people come to me and also like women. But as a CPG founder, the most common questions I hear are, Hey, can you give me investor leads or Hey, I need help with my sales strategy. I just got an opportunity to get into this really, really big account. Did I get it or should I not? Oh, yeah. Like that is a comment and just like help with like, I guess retail strategy because that’s the chicken heart, you know?

 

Diana: Yes.

 

Maya: Yes. You turn down something or.

 

Diana: Yeah, I agreed because when we work with. It’s interesting that that’s a common question that you have when we are working with really young brands. That is a question, too, because the desire is to say yes to everything. Mm-hmm. And then sometimes. Sometimes yes, it can create heartburn, but at the same time, you don’t want to. I always want to not give too much advice in that direction, because I feel like people, like, learn from those situations. But every once in a while I’ll be like, when you go into conversation with this retailer or this supplier, make sure you’re asking these very specific questions because I’ve heard that those are the ones that tend to be the painful ones if they’re not answered ahead of time. But it is tricky. I can imagine you just get a lot of requests.

 

Maya: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s really funny, too, because I think as a woman, we are very nurturing, maternal, you know, at times. And we want to just, like, take on everything and help everyone. Yes. And if I’m going to put it in my masculine energy, then and like a channel that, then it’s like, okay, wait, my time is valuable, especially as I’m, you know, growing a new start-up. And I need to be very judicious in how I allocate that time because some people will be like, okay, we’ll have a call. And then they’re like, Can you review this contract? And like, Oh, it’s because I want you in for 1 to 100 bikes, you know? Yeah. And it’s like, I’m happy to help, but, like, what does an agreement look like? You know?

 

Diana: Yeah.

 

Maya: Like, you know, how can I actually, like, be formalized so that I can get a time? And also another thing I like to do is I don’t say yes to everything. One, I want to make sure it aligns with my personal mission, and then I want to be sure that I can actually add value. I don’t want to be one of those advisors that, you know, you can’t get in contact with, right? Provide any resources or improve your business in any way. And I’m.

 

Diana: Absolutely. Yeah. That doesn’t feel good. Not at all. No. Now, tell me a little bit about it. Uh. Sorry. This is going to have to be the cleaned-up part because all of a sudden I’m having a moment. Okay. What would you say you’re most proud of right now? And you may have a couple of ideas around this. But you may be like, oh, how do I narrow it down to one or two? Everybody has a hard time kind of saying, What is my one proud moment? But I wonder, do you have something that sticks out in your head that you’d like to share? Or maybe a couple of things.

 

Maya: Um, let’s see. Most proud of it, I think. I think I’m most proud of myself right now. Yes. Yeah. I think I’m looking at it like this time last year, I was just a little lost in all to do something again, but it just felt like there was no clarity. Um, and I and I look at it like where I am at the same time this year, and I’m like, Holy crap. Like, I really just stayed focused and it all figured out. Yeah. And I think that that’s, like, a good rule of thumb of where to not just, like, worry and just stay focused on that path and it’ll work so well now.

 

Diana: So interesting. I interviewed Bree Doyle, who wrote a book about women needing to actually take a retreat for themselves. And I think that’s what I’m hearing from you, especially for those of us that are going 100 miles an hour giving ourselves permission to stop.

 

Maya: Yeah.

 

Diana: And I think you did more than. I mean, you start, but then you also, like, change location like you did a lot of things that came out of that downtime. Do you feel like you have that original energy back from way back in the day when you were burnt out? Can you explain what that feeling was when you said, okay, I just I’m taking a stop here?

 

Maya: Yeah. I mean, when I had said to stop, I was like, okay, great. I need to, one, gain a new perspective. I need to think about my career for the next five years, and the next ten years, and then work back there. And then three. I need the space for creative space. Like, yeah, I’m one thing right now, but I feel like I have much more value to add to the world. How can I give myself the space?

 

Diana: Interesting.

 

Maya: Figure out how to achieve those goals.

 

Diana: Interesting. Yeah.

 

Maya: Yeah.

 

Diana: Okay. I don’t know when that’s going to happen to me. I keep piling more and more on. I’m bad at that.

 

Maya: I mean, I could. I could be like that, too. And I say, I’ll take a break. But there’s always like, you know, there’s always like lingering anxiety in the back of your mind, like, if you’re a go-getter, you just gotta. Yes.

 

Diana: Why do you think that is? It’s so bizarre. Like, I’ll, like, free up my calendar, and then, like, two weeks later, it’s jammed. It fills up. What? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just stop? Is it because I’m just kind of doing it on autopilot? I mean, what? You think so?

 

Maya: I mean, you could just be feeding off of the momentum too, you know, just like maybe you just thrive in those environments. And it’s always good to take a rest for health reasons, mental health, and physical health. But yeah, I mean, I totally understand why you keep doing that idea to myself, to my head.

 

Diana: I can’t. I can’t. I’ll let you know, you are a busy human, like you just go, go, go. I love it. But recognize that you need to take a break. That’s going to be that I’m going to put that on my 2023. Let’s figure out when to take a break. My well, I. I am just loving this conversation. Tell me when what’s next for Joydays. Now you are. You are super early, right? We are like on the very front end. Talk about what you’re hoping to do with this brand in the next year.

 

Maya: Yeah, definitely. So we’re accepting preorders right now on the website. So we’re still in this lovely pre-launch phase, but we’re gaining early interest, you know, talking to retailers right now. So we’re planning to be in retail by the fall. So you could actually pick these products up on the shelf. Great. Yeah. And hopefully, get some great partners on board and people that align with the mission. I really think that this has the opportunity to just change the way that we think about food, like food as a medicine approach.

 

Diana: And yes.

 

Maya: First step, change healthy habits.

 

Diana: Yes, healthy habits. Is it Joydays.com.

 

Maya:  getJoydays.com

 

Diana: GetJoydays.com. Okay, check it out there. Okay. Well, let’s talk a little bit here about some trends that you’re following. Obviously, we’re we these are trends that you’re looking at for business. This is where Joydays come from. Talk about yourself personally. What kind of trends are you following, whether it’s food or wellness driven?

 

Maya: Yeah, definitely. I mean, what can I say, okay, glucose monitoring is a trend, and be very conscious of, you know, having balanced meals every day, especially as I get busier and like what doesn’t cause me to like have the afternoon slump as we spoke about earlier, I would say that, you know, and like, how can I like to lower my caffeine or get sustained energy throughout the day through the things that I ingest? So that’s like a wellness trend that I’m following and trying to optimize my own personal health. Another thing is, you know, outside of all of that, this is a very controversial subject. But I am following the alternative medicine space like, you know, psychedelics and even cannabis as a form of, you know, health healing, whether that’s pain or even depression. I think it had a very positive impact.

 

Diana: U.S.

 

Maya: Mental health at a microdose level of everything that America does level everything in moderation.

 

Diana: Everything in moderation.

 

Maya: So those are some things that have, you know, really caught my eye lately from, like, the health and interest. Yeah.

 

Diana: Yeah. Okay, now what women are you, what women would you like to be? Oh, this is just one of my favorite questions, and it’s the last one I ask everybody. So what women out there? Is there anybody that you like to elevate for the work that they’re doing? And they can be in our industry or not in our industry. They could be rising stars. Somebody that you’re like, watch this person in ten years, they’re going to be doing some great things. Anybody that comes to the top of my mind too. Yeah.

 

Maya: Yeah. Actually, two of that are okay.

 

Diana: Of course. Of course. That’s what this is all about.

 

Maya: Yeah. So my friend Pocket’s son has this incredible bunch of phone calls. So Gal Ventures I’m super impressed with it. Just like she knows she has an eye for, like, the next big thing. And there’s, like, a couple of unicorns in her portfolio already. And if it’s they’re already they’re just on their second one. So I’m like, whoa, you really have I take the bets on women founders, which is incredible because it really sets the tone for other investors to take bets on women early because we have the potential to build companies just as great or even greater than male-led companies. So, yes, he’s my first one. The second one recently met Aurora James and she’s been really helpful. And this whole mission of like, you know, bringing healthier products and just accessibility for people of color and those like black founders even more just because, you know, you know how this industry is. Yes, we are everywhere.

 

Diana: Everywhere.

 

Maya: Everywhere. So I’m really, you know, I guess putting front and center the women who are actively making an impact. So she has like the 15% pledge, which we have all this data to try and incentivize or just push retailers to get more black on and people of color own products on the shelf. Yeah. So she’s lowering the barrier, you know, from that aspect and then also providing more research resources to these underserved founders. So I think that that’s amazing work. You know, I try to help men get involved in any way I can with both of them and really admire them, like the tenacity and just like, you know, forward-thinking and yes, strength as a woman too. Yes, enact and change.

 

Diana: Yes. And I mean it. So it’s all about us working together. I think I’m so excited about the work that you’re doing, not just through your brand but also your own personal mission. There. I feel like we’re just on the front end of it. I mean, I think we still have a long way to go to bring what I will call healthy food equality, not just food equality because food deserts exist. And then right next to food deserts and I don’t even know what they call them where it’s just I’m going to just call it junk food. I mean, I love junk food, right? We talked about my afternoon. Pick me up. Love it or hate it? Sorry. To the powers that be is Peanut Eminem’s. That’s it. That’s my jam in the afternoon. I have not been able to find anything. But when that is your only option and that is the only thing that’s being marketed to you, I think that it does such a disservice to not only the people that our neighbors, and people that we work with, but also our health. I think the health of our nation is compromised. I think education is compromised. I think the workforce is compromised. I don’t think I feel like I’m not quite sure where there isn’t more of an urgency so that this is your mission and that you’re working towards, you know, bridging like we have to bridge people. Nobody can go from a Mountain Dew and Cheetos to kale chips and salads. Right. You got to build that bridge and have cookies and peanuts. Eminem’s the jam and you need to get people one step further than that. Then get that one step. Like, make it easy. Why do we? I feel like it’s very hoity-toity. It’s like you’re either this or you’re this. There’s a million steps in between. Like, let’s start filling those gaps, and thank you.

 

Maya: Amen to that. Amen. Because you got to realize that the people who are suffering the most, have no idea of how to change their lifestyle. They’re tired of being lectured to. They just want to know what they can do. Yes. And we want to be it. We should be looking to provide that first step, change for them and understand that, hey, you know, it took me like what, eight, nine years of work to get to where I am. Like a healthy what I think is like a healthy being. And I still relapse on sugar, you know. So, again, people who, you know, have no health education don’t even know where to start. You got to just meet them in the middle somewhere.

 

Diana: Yeah. Meet them at the beginning as it is for the most. For most of them. Yeah. My goodness. Maya is so great. I have a feeling we could probably talk for hours, but our time is done for today. So we’ve been talking with Maya, French CPG entrepreneur and co-founder of Koia and Joydays. Maya, where can people learn more about you and the brands that are yours?

 

Maya: Yeah, my social Instagram profile or LinkedIn profile would probably be the best full name. So on social, it’s Maya Jay French. Unfortunately, somebody took my French, but you guys can follow me. And then the companies are in my bio. But it’s drink and clear and get Joydays.

 

Diana: Yes, drink active. So there’s some action in there. I like that. Thank you. Okay. Well, thank you so much for your time today. I am happy that we got to connect. I’m glad that I have found somebody else that’s on a similar mission but in a different part of the business. So I know that there’s at least two of us.

 

Maya: Just want to start.

 

Diana: It’s a start. It’s a start. And I want to thank all your listeners for your time today. If you like this episode, please share it with a friend. Otherwise, have a great rest of your day and we’ll catch you next time on the Gooder podcast.

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Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

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