Leaders, Brands and the Hawaiian Value of Kuleana featuring Danielle Laubenstein

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Danielle Laubenstein, The Director of Global Marketing for Mauna Loa. Danielle is overseeing the future and legacy of the company’s direction into becoming Hawaii’s wellness brand. She believes product development and holistic marketing looks at beauty as a combination of qualities of paradise, creating brand culture and products that empower the mind, nourishes the body, spirit, and evokes emotional health. Join us as we take a deep dive into the health and wellness industry and explore how brands should strive to serve their customers with healthy products.   

“If you’re Hawaii brand, then you’re a brand from Hawaii.” -Danielle Laubenstein

In this episode we learn:

  • About creating a brand community and how to make it be authentic.
  • The difference between a Hawaiian brand and a Hawaii brand or Hawaii owned brand.
  • How Mauna Loa is leading the naturals industry in staying true to its purpose of caring for everyone’s needs.
  • The concept of giving back and social responsibility or reciprocal responsibilities, where that comes from, and how it affects Danielle’s leadership style. 
  • About how Danielle is mentoring women, especially women of color, and why it’s important for her.
  • What the word Kuleana means and the importance it has within the Hawaiian culture.
Gooder Podcast

Leaders, Brands and the Hawaiian Value of Kuleana featuring Danielle Laubenstein

About Danielle Laubenstein:

Danielle has worked in CPG Health and Wellness, as well as in the global travel luxury confectionery space for over a decade for companies such as Chocolove, Godiva and DFS. 

Guests Social Media Links:

LinkedIn:https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniellelaubenstein/

Websitehttps://www.maunaloa.com/ 

Show Resources:

Godiva Chocolatier is a Turkish-owned chocolate maker that is jointly owned by Turkish conglomerate Yıldız Holding and MBK Partners. Founded in 1926, it was purchased by the Turkish Yıldız Holding in November 2007; then MBK Partners bought a stake in 2019. 

Chocolove is a chocolate manufacturer with headquarters and a manufacturing facility in Boulder, Colorado, founded in 1995 by entrepreneur Timothy Moley. The company produces all-natural and organic chocolate bars. Chocolove imports chocolate and cocoa butter from Belgium to produce its chocolate.

DFS Group is part of the world’s largest luxury conglomerate, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), and a pioneer in luxury travel retail.

Hawaiian Host is the original chocolate-covered macadamia. Hawaiian Host is also the largest manufacturer of chocolate-covered macadamias in the world, as millions of boxes of our treats are shared all over the globe.

The Hershey Company, commonly known as Hershey’s, is an American multinational company and one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world.

Project Potluck is a professional community founded by People of Color with a singular mission: to help people of color build successful companies and careers.

Lei Day is a state-wide celebration in Hawaii. The celebration begins in the morning of May first every year and continues into the next day. Lei day was established as a holiday in 1929. Each Hawaiian island has a different type of lei for its people to wear in the celebration.

Siete is a Mexican-American food brand, rooted in family that makes delicious grain-free products.

Books Mentioned:

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf

Top Insights

Transcript:

Diana Fryc: Welcome to the Gooder podcast, I am your host, Diana Fryc. As a partner and CMO of Retail Voodoo, an award winning branding agency, I’ve met and worked with some of the most amazing women in the natural’s industry in food, beverage and wellness specifically. And as such, I decided to create the Gooder podcast to interview these great people and subject matter experts, really to have them share their insights, their passions and expertize and help businesses all around the world become gooder.

Today, I am so excited to introduce my guest, Danielle. Danielle, is it Laubenstein? Am I getting that right?

Danielle Laubenstein: Laubenstein.

Diana Fryc: Laubenstein, thank you.

Danielle Laubenstein: I’m also new to the last name so I’m also getting used to it.

Diana Fryc: So Danielle, she is director of Global Marketing for Mauna Loa, overseeing the future and legacy of the company’s direction into becoming Hawaii’s wellness brand. She believes that product development and holistic marketing looks at beauty as a combination of qualities of paradise creating brand culture and products that empower the mind, nourishes the body, spirit and evokes emotional health. Danielle has worked in CPG Health and Wellness, as well as in the global travel luxury confectionery space for over a decade for companies such as Chocolove, Godiva and DFS. And I am going to add this last bit because super important to me and because it’s within walking distance of my house. She holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Washington, a fellow husky. Welcome. Aloha, Danielle. I can’t believe I get to say that. How is L.A. today?

Danielle Laubenstein; L.A. is good, is beautiful out. Super warm can be 75 this weekend, can’t complain.

Diana Fryc: Yeah. And I hear you have family surfing on sand dunes today. That can never be a bad thing.

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah, they’re having a berm right on the beach. There’s a berm right there. So I took them out there so I could do this interview and have a little bit of peace and quiet.

Diana Fryc: Yeah, when I was a kid, I went sand boarding. I guess it’s sand boarding at White Sands out in Alamogordo where the nuclear test sites were as white sands is literally miles and miles of white sand that are mountainous and you can slide down them. So I know how much fun that can be.

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah, we have to take them snow sledding at some point. They haven’t seen snow yet. I think that’s the great thing about California. You can go into the snow as well as the beach on the same day.

Diana Fryc: Yeah, I love that. Well, let’s talk about why we’re really here today. Let’s first start at the very basics, like let’s talk about a brief history of Mauna Loa and its relationship to Hawaiian Host, because I think not a lot of people know what that relationship is.

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah, Mauna Loa is named after our namesake mountain or volcano that’s on the big island. So our plant is right at the base of Mauna Loa. Mauna meaning mountain in Hawaiian and Loa means long. So the long mountain, it’s one of two volcanoes on the big island. So Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa so that’s like the namesake of it. We started in 1949 even before that, we were part — even go back before that like macadamias were brought to Hawaii as, like another crop after the sugar  and it moved on. So they’re looking for a crop that would work really well in the volcanic soil and humidity and that’s why the macadamia was brought over from Australia where it’s indigenous to Australia. So that’s how Mauna Loa started. It kind of broke off from another company and then it was renamed Mauna Loa. And then from there it was owned by several groups, then owned by Hershey for a while and then a couple of years ago, Hershey sold Mauna Loa to Hawaiian Hosts. So our sister company and Hawaiian Host was started by Mamoru Takitani, first started in Maui before moving to Honolulu. So Hawaiian Host is really on the confectionery macadamia side and Honolulu is little bit more on the macadamia side. So two together were 80%, 90% of the business in Hawaii for gifting and also just macadamias in general. And Mauna Loa is over 55% of the macadamia market on the mainland as well.

Diana Fryc: Wow. That’s huge I didn’t know that.

[00:05:00]

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah. Quite big and growing.

Diana Fryc: Yes, well, and that’s underneath your watch right now. So let’s talk about that something big like literally this week and last week, big things happening with some brand work. Do you want to say or what can you share? Talk a little bit about what’s happening right now and what the goals are?

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah. So when our CEO, Ed Schultz came on board a couple of years ago, he actually took the helm on January 1st, just before everything that happened with Covid of course, and part of him coming aboard was how should we position both brands? And so the direction is really looking at Hawaiian Hosts as the luxury confectionery gifting side, like the Ohana side. It’s like sharing and family and Mauna Loa are really going into health and wellness and being about me, like, how do I make me better? How do I protect my body temple, how do I nourish? And so part of that, when you look at our magnificent mighty macadamia is that it’s already naturally keto, it’s already very nutrient dense.

And like, how do we take what has been a gifting item and almost like a commodity, like if you take it outside of gifting out of Hawaii and you come to the mainland and people are eating it just as a snack, not as a commodity. So how do you grow the brand presence as well as become the alchemist of the macadamia and put it into new product categories where then we can — I did an interview the other day, whether I like to become like the next planters, I’m like, no, no, no, no. That’s not what we’re trying to do because that’s just not what we’re trying to go into becoming the alchemists and becoming a wellness brand which expands. It’s an expansion from there. Nuts are where we’re starting. Or just singular macadamia and that’s where going into other product categories, like the first one that we’ve done so far is our dairy free ice cream that just launched last week is doing phenomenal. And that was that’s the beginning.

Diana Fryc: I like that. It’s really important, of course, as Retail Voodoo is brand developers ourselves. We see sometimes that there’s this desire to kind of focus around an ingredient, particularly when it’s exotic or popular and I love hearing you say, no, it’s about building the community around what the macadamia nut can do. And then that gives you some boundaries as a brand to start creating a brand community and in a different way and that sounds like the direction that you guys are headed.

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah, it was really important to us that as we move into health and wellness that we spoke to that consumer but didn’t let go of, like you have to protect your rights and those people have been coming to Hawaii for many years that love Mauna Loa. Then of course, there’s come in local people who live in Hawaii and this brand is in their backyard. The big island is a very small island. It’s a small community. So how do we be authentic as a Hawaii brand? And that’s where sometimes even for me, I’m the storyteller. I have to get all the aspects of Hawaii or the brand and then liven it up or make it come back to life in a new way. We haven’t done a rebrand for decades with Mauna Loa, so it was a really big deal. There’s a Hawaiian word for it called Kuleana, which is responsibility.

Diana Fryc: Well so before we get to too much further, there’s something that I think would be important for our listeners to understand, and that is the difference between a Hawaiian brand and a Hawaii brand or Hawaii owned brand. We talked about it. Just briefly, can you explain that difference and why it’s really important at least for our audience who are predominantly people in brand and brand management. Can you explain that a little bit?

Danielle Laubenstein: Yes, so when you say Hawaiian, it means you are indigenously Hawaiian. And if you’re Hawaii, then you are coming out like you’re a brand from Hawaii. But there is not the indigenous aspect of the ownership. And that’s really important to show you — I remember the owner of Maui Brewing Company did a speech. We went over there and I got to meet him.

[00:10:00]

And he was just so incredibly respectful of Maui and that he is a visitor, he’s a guest of the island, and it was just this humble, really appreciative, but knowing his place there and speaking of it, which I thought was really beautiful, that’s what I need and relate to and really understand. I’m an outsider. I’m not even common and I don’t live over there. During my internship at DFS, I was in Hawaii for a summer. And then when I was at Godiva, Hawaii was one of my internship I went there consistently for six years. So it’s very near and dear to me. Yeah, that difference and understanding of culture and respecting that is really, really important.

Diana Fryc: Yeah. It’s so funny, I think about that because I’ve also been watching The Rock, who is now launching his second brand, Canned Water, and he is Hawaiian. Is that correct?

Danielle Laubenstein: I am pretty sure, yeah.

Diana Fryc: I think his Hawaiian and I can see he’s also very – the rock is the rock. But there’s so much authenticity there in just his heritage. But then the natural understanding and respect by just being Hawaiian and then also growing up there, that translation is a legitimate respect for the community and the culture. So it’s really interesting as we start to see Hawaiian brands and owned brands coming into the market.

I feel like we’re shedding that kind of tacky sort of component that is still kind of residual from the past kind of patronage. I think there was a term that you used earlier, but it just kind of like just so that when people are seeing the brands, these brands coming to life, like your own rebranding, like where is that coming from I think is really good to understand about being Hawaiian brand and a Hawaii owned brand and we will start to see differences and how those brands can talk to the mainland and the rest of the world. So thank you for that.

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah, you’re welcome. I think with the responsibility with this rebrand was also the cultural sensitivities. Every tiny little thing that we put on the packaging, we had to double check it. I’ve got a couple Hawaiian friends that I’ll text and go like, “Is this okay?” I’m an islander myself, but I’m Batak, which is a tribe from Sumatra, born and raised over there. So there’s like the island culture is very much part of me as well. Okay, make sure, we do this right or even respect of the language, making sure we put the Okeanos in the right place, which is in Hawaii or the Korsakoff’s as well, which is the long line that’s on top of certain letters as well. So like learning and respecting that, making sure we get that all right.

Diana Fryc: Absolutely. My parents are immigrants and their native language has I just called them markings because most people don’t; most people out that are born and or in the U.S. or speak English when I was go you know, the markings that go above and around the letters and I go, “Okay, I got it.” But there is that kind of this acknowledgment of respect of culture when you do that, even when you are not native to that culture. So I love that. And I want to talk a little bit more like a little bit more about this responsibility to the brand and responsibility to culture and one of the words that you share, you actually just shared it recently; Kuleana, right?

Danielle Laubenstein: Kuleana yeah.

Diana Fryc: Can you share what that word means. Have a talk about it and then maybe it’s importance too within the Hawaiian culture.

Danielle Laubenstein: So it was our studio that first introduced me to that word and it means basically means responsibility, but it’s also like a reciprocal relationship to of who has the responsibility and your ownership of that and delivering on that. So for me, the responsibility of the Kuleana, it’s not just a job. It’s a responsibility to leading the marketing effort for a rebrand for one of the oldest and largest CPG companies in Hawaii. That’s a big responsibility. I took that really seriously, especially through Covid.

[00:15:00]

Hawaii is struggling. It has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country. Visitors are not going there because of Covid. So this rebrand could have happened at a better time. It would’ve been better if we had done it, like six months ago.

Diana Fryc: That’s right, and do what you can, right?

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah. And it’s one of the pillars of Hawaiian Hosts group is the holding group for the family. The two brands together, like one of our values, is about making our islands flourish. How do you do that? Making sure we can source locally when possible. It’s about so for example, we are using Hawaiian sea salt. So we’ve put it like salt from Molokai; macadamia oil that we pressed from our own nuts instead of using industrial oils that was one change. So it’s all those things like how do you take this? How do we make our islands flourish and then make sure that that’s part of your work?

Diana Fryc: Maybe can you give me an example of how that shows up in this rebrand or maybe what were the steps internally that you did as part of this process that kind of demonstrated this concept of Kuleana?

Danielle Laubenstein: I think making sure the narrative that we did on the packaging, we had to make sure that what we put on the packaging was obviously CPG would work in health and wellness and really brought out the importance of being non GMO clean label, our carb countless to that. The other part of this is that our core consumers are people who are traveling to Hawaii. So we have to make sure that we can speak to both audiences, and part of that was one we kept the blue, Mauna Loa blue has not changed. We made sure that that didn’t change. The other parts we brought our agency, Moxie Sozo is phenomenal. So they came out to Hawaii with us and we spent a week there where we went through hundreds of photos with everyone at Mauna Loa, like what is Mauna Loa? What elements of nature are what are not? And then I think our illustrations of each place, their actual places in Hawaii, and there are places that have a lot of Mannam; Mannam meaning force of nature.

And it was important that we got that right and also got places all across Hawaii to showcase actual places that locals go to and that are not necessarily huge tourist attractions that we don’t have Diamond Head in there, for example. So that was definitely part of it, making sure we had the production manager looking at things and he’s like, “Danielle, why are the waves going the opposite way from the beach?” He caught that because he surfs and in the illustration, the waves are going in the wrong way. Small little things like that or even the images that we choose to put anywhere. Do those palm trees actually exist there? We don’t have those kind of boats. So it’s making sure every element is absolutely authentic and we used there’s a really famous book which is a hero by a thousand faces, I think, just of camp. I love that book. So what I told them was like, this story is about you, Mauna Loa. We’re just here to take down the story and write it down for you.

So it was a really beautiful way of also going through like a kid. What’s the brand hierarchy of the architecture of the brand? So it came up with Mauna Loa was the Seeker and that just choosing that was just so much deliberation between the executive team, between everybody, and making sure that people who had worked at Mauna Loa for a really long time, were telling me about the big island where Mannam is in the island and we heard that the hurricane came up because there’s so much Mannam on the east coast of a big island didn’t hit us. So it’s really strong. Yeah, the strong energy is so fascinating. We talk about brands being authentic or real and people in Hawaii are just naturally like that when we talk about sustainability since Mannam has been around.

[00:20:00]

We’ve been husking and burning the shells to power plants. Yeah, so it’s almost like that’s just the way of life and this whole return to authentic and being sustainable, that’s just how it’s always been. So it’s been quite easy for me, really.

Diana Fryc: Yeah, this kind of reciprocal responsibility and relationship idea. It’s not just about responsibility, it’s about the relationship to other humans, but then also to the planet. It’s just so holistic in its way and I like that the brand is now able to express it in a more authentic way that can be translated to people who only have the experiences with Hawaii that they do. Sometimes it’s a once in a lifetime trip. For most people, it’s not a regular destination or destination at all. And I think this opportunity to express it in this most authentic way is so respectful to the culture of Hawaii and the people who live there and who are native to it. And I think as I’ve been thinking about the natural’s industry, the natural’s industry as a whole, we’re going to step out of Mauna Loa and the work that you’re doing, and in the last few years, the industry has changed or the category or however you want to slice and dice it; has changed to be sort of this Hollywoodish V.C money kind of world filled with celebrity endorsements, and almost overshadowing the original super power of the category which was taking care of people and being responsible to planet in place.

And my biggest fear is that as an industry or as our industry segment, that we’re kind of losing touch with all consumers because we’re strictly focusing so much on the affluent, because the affluent buy these things and we want these healthy people to understand how healthy we are. Knowing that Hawaii has this storied history, many people may not understand how emotionally tricky and complicated it is, and I suggest there’s a couple of movies that have come out in the last couple of years that I would really recommend to people they watch to understand what happened with the islands and how special of a place it is and how much of the opportunity we almost lost that special place because of colonial arrogance. I digress. How do we make sure, like as an industry stepping back in the world, how do we make sure that our brands, including Mauna Loa, which is really already doing it, are taking care of everyone’s needs as is appropriate for their brand and without sacrificing margin? So maybe said differently?

Danielle Laubenstein: I think my look of what’s going on in Hollywood, and I feel a little bit differently on it because it’s giving the platform for us to move back into wellness. That’s why it is moving away from trans fats even though I do agree that there is the glitzy part of it, maybe there’s a good to that. Then we’re moving in that direction that that’s becoming norm again, that now Amazon owns Whole Foods and I talk about diversity quite a lot. The way that Mauna Loa can play in this and other brands as well when you talk about health and wellness, how accessible are these brands? And this is where Wal-Mart is now the largest buyer of organic food in the country and that makes it more accessible for more people.

The same as now you’ve got brands that before being gluten free or dairy free or any of this was more of an affluent demographic per say. But now you’ve got brands like Siete where you have a whole family coming together because their daughter has a condition and now you’ve got things that you would eat at home, tortillas, a plethora of things in the leathernecks, the Latin community. I remember for the first time when I was on Facebook and I saw a Keto group specifically for Indonesians where this Indonesian woman who is cooking all the things I was used to at home.

[00:25:00]

But cooking in a Keto way, it was pretty much Keto just with all the ice and everything else, and that was like life changing for me because everything else was just so, American really nice when and I say that in a way that I grew up in Indonesia. So I think there’s this part of; there’s an article also that came out where one of the founders of Dan Vincent, talked about something about being. Yeah, he’s Asian-American. I think he’s Thai and making those flavors normal in the U.S and one of our ice creams that says Mongolian quarry, and it was just like, do we put passion fruit?

And I’m like, no, let’s make sure there’s a Hawaiian on there and that people will learn or even Maui onion and garlic because it’s really from Maui. And having those macadamias are more of an expensive nut ones. But we are in Wal-Mart. We are in places where it is a little bit more assessable. And I think that’s the important part, is making sure that we keep those doors open. And that narrative of being inclusive is important so that people have cultures that might not necessarily be in the healthiest of ways, that they feel included, that that messaging is for them as well.

Diana Fryc: Yeah, thank you for challenging me on that on that narrative that I have in my head, because I’m making a mistake by saying, well, because it’s become Hollywood, I say it’s unattainable and you’re right. Actually, no, because it’s become Hollywoodised, and we have people like the Kardashians and the Timorese representing these products, it’s actually creating an accessibility because of its visibility. So I hadn’t considered that before. So thank you for couching it that way. I appreciate that.

Danielle Laubenstein: You’re welcome. Thank you for being open to my mind and my idea.

Diana Fryc: Of course. And I think the more we can normalize that from a from a visibility standpoint and then start to transfer into the brands, because I will say that I do see a lack of diverse representation in the way brands represent themselves, like literally as brands. I think the more we can kind of push in that direction, then the more easily digestible the concept of healthy living will be transferred down across all kind of ethnic and economic groups.

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah, and I think is a bigger conversation about it’s like it’s not that you have to buy X, Y and Z to be healthy, you can do small things; don’t drink your carbs, don’t take sugar. That’s one that you could do, like if it’s more protein, leafy vegetables cut out as much stuff that is processed if possible. If it’s just even the story or the tools that you can have to get healthier and it’s such a different story from where we were 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. My first foray into everything was reading Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution and that completely changed things for me. And I was literally I bought it on the way to the airport to get on the flight to Hawaii and yeah that changed my diet and how I feel and how my husband and I raised our children too. And that’s not that long ago that people were being like this paleo thing is not keto, but it started before that.

If you think about the Atkins diet and Dr. Atkins just shunned for his work, and now years later, people are saying, well, actually, maybe the whole picture might have been there, but maybe he was on to something there and that came out of a lot of work.

Diana Fryc: Yeah, I agree. He’s definitely kind of the godfather, a lot of these more specialty diets that have some legitimacy to them, so yes.

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah, but I think it’s even like allowing those people who are leaders in that space to not just like change their mind based on new scientific evidence or news stories. I follow Christ minster and he said,

[00:30:00]

“This is what I think based on current Science,” and then years later, he’s like, I’ve changed my mind because new science has come out and because of that I’m changing my genes and like allowing that as we learn more about health and wellness and just health in general, that we should allow for that knowledge base to change and influence where we’re going.

Diana Fryc: Well, I think part of your DNA kind of going back to this concept of giving back and social responsibility or reciprocal responsibilities is kind of part of your DNA and it comes from your upbringing. Are you able to share a little bit more about where that comes from and how it influences your leadership style?

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah, I think being authentic and really vulnerable with your team is important. I remember when I started, I was really overwhelmed and my boss, who’s the CEO, was just like, “You know Danielle, I was overwhelmed too.” Or like to a certain degree, he was just trying to make sure that I felt comfortable and that it was okay. And the thing that we say it, Hawaiian Hosts group, is that it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to try, it’s okay to fail as long as you’re trying to moving forward and like having to know that I’m like, “Hey, I messed up. I can do this and try again.” I really appreciate having that kind of independence for, like, the way that I was raised. I grew up in Indonesia. I was there during the 98 riots, was evacuated out of there. I actually had to illegally get out of the country where I had to fly a military plane to Bantam and then pay someone to smuggle me in a boat out because I’d been illegally staying in the country because my parents had been divorced. And my mom, being an Indonesian citizen, couldn’t take us to the states, but we had to stay there. So it was just such. And then, of course, the Indonesia program just right or no revolution, I should say. So there’s a part of me where I’ve been on my own at least since I was like 15 or so. So seeing other women who are trying, who might come from cultures that are especially for those women where they might hesitate a little bit because their culture grew them up like that. Where I answer to my father, I answer to my husband and then I answer to my kids. Growing up in that and trying to be like, no, you can have your own voice. You can be controlling yourself.

And especially if it’s things that I can help with because I can say, like, “Hey, I’ve just been there before. These are the things I learned, hopefully that can help you.” I’m very much of the thought that there’s abundance and everything. You can always grow the pie bigger of competition. I remember the first time I went to Expo West and I went to go see every single chocolate company. But I just want to be like, “Hey, I’ve been in chocolate. I don’t know half the people who are in health and wellness, and it was really interesting to see the ones that were like so open to like, “Hi,” to the ones that were just like, “Who are you? Why you’re coming from a competitor.” And it’s just such a small industry. But I do love like what I’ve been seeing on LinkedIn. There’s a lot of brands coming together and helping each other out and giving each other advice, like even with naturally Boulder, naturally San Diego, is such a small, loving community and I love it. It’s been so welcoming to me.

Diana Fryc: Yeah. And I’ll even throw in a Project Potluck, I spoke with Ayeshah actually yesterday. She’s one of the three that kind of started that community of support. And it’s really great. I mean, the reason why it came together is not great, but that it now exists is fantastic and makes me hopeful for the future, for sure.

Danielle Laubenstein: And I found about Potluck from Juli’s suite from Purely Righteous Brothers. She’s involved with them. So it’s lovely to see someone helping in communities like that. She’s awesome. I don’t know if you’ve interviewed her before…

Diana Fryc: I haven’t, maybe we can talk about that.

Danielle Laubenstein: Powerhouse.

Diana Fryc: Yeah, let’s make that happen.

[00:35:00]

Well, kind of furthering on from there, you and I kind of talked briefly or kind of help. There’s this woman that we’re sort of trying to help guide, this woman who’s an entrepreneur kind of in the California area. What I love about her is she’s trying to create a brand as her second career. I believe she’s even in her 50s. So here she is, this amazingly powerful woman of color, changing and wanting to try something new. And that’s kind of feel like you and I kind of sort of bonded a little bit over that recently, trying to kind of get her the resources that she needs. But here you are, this very busy professional woman with little yourself that are quite young, and yet you’re feeling this responsibility to mentor women, particularly of color. And you might have already articulated this, but just kind of say, why is that important for you to be doing right now, for you to be involved in that type of thing?

Danielle Laubenstein: If not me, then who? I saw it. You posted about it. And I’m like, “How much time can I put? It’s not going to take that long, at least push in the right direction.” If not me, then who? And she’s not the only, there’s another woman who is coming up with products and she had posted like, “Hey, what are your thoughts on these packaging?” And she had sent that on LinkedIn. And like the comments on there, like I said, “None of that is helpful to her.” Didn’t talk about — like I saw FDA regulation issues, I saw issues with the Nitwit statement, I’m like, “These are all the things.”

So it’s like, how can we help women? And I think in that case, the first case you’re talking about, she’s like my mom, she’s starting over. And for me, it’s just like a daughter trying to help on a mom. And I really just believe, like, give, give, give and like that that will come back to you as well. And it’s not a huge time commitment. And whenever I’ve given I’ve always seen it’s reciprocated in some form or another. And I do think that the reason why you and I connected was because you saw that in me. And the reason why you’re doing this podcast too is to give that platform to women. And that’s the beautiful thing.

I feel like there’s this sorority coming together of like, “How can we help each other and lift each other up?” It’s what I love about Hawaiian Host group too, majority of our senior leadership team is female. One third of our executive team is female as well. And really strong leadership and all of us coming together, it’s been really wonderful to see that. And just over time, even at Godiva seeing the leadership team and the management team predominantly become more female. There is one meeting I was at in Belgium where we sat there and one of the directors, the sales guy, he just sat there, he looked around and he was like, “Oh, there are more women in here than there are men. I’ve never seen that. It has not been like that.” And he’s been like that for a while. And for him to just be like, “Wow, things are changing.” He’s phenomenal. He’s a great guy. It was nice to see that with the change. I’m trying not to apologize so much for things, like, why am I apologizing? What did I do? I’m like saying thank you instead than considering sorry. I’m like, oh, thank you for being patient or kind of changing the narrative a little bit.

Diana Fryc: I have a friend who has well the concept of a swear jar, but she has I’m sorry jar because it got to be pretty out of control where she would apologize for tripping or something. I was like, “Girl, what do you do?” So she started it, I’m sorry jar and she charged herself 10 bucks for every I’m sorry because of course a quarter is not painful if you’re putting in some significant money after some time. So she is weaning herself from that. And she and I are almost the same age. And we entered into kind of the professional world during the 80s where it was still, is still male dominated and the women who were in the industry that were successful had to take on a lot of those personality traits. So we were we had to be more masculine. And so kind of finding your real you now is acceptable in business.

[00:40:00]

And the strength and weakness of businesses is not that it’s a women run organization, it’s just that there are men and women working together and our strengths are so complementary, that is where the success really drives from, right?

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah, absolutely.

Diana Fryc: Well, before we come to the end of talking about kind of Mauna Loa and the work that you’re doing and you yourself, I would love to know maybe, can you give us any sneak peeks about what we can expect from the brand in the next coming months?

Danielle Laubenstein: Well, we launched ice cream and you’ll see ice cream everywhere. We’re trying to get as many doors as possible. We’ll have a couple of new flavors that will come out and we’ll have strawberry guava, absolutely phenomenal. Salted caramel. So Hawaiian sea salt caramel. And then hopefully we’ll be working on a macadamia flavor after that. So roasted, just macadamia flavored one. And then launching in the middle of Covid has been quite the test. And so we have some Skews ever launched in the mainland. But everything else in Hawaii is not launching till May because it’s just been so difficult where everyone’s not been coming over, visitors. So we’re like, “Well, let’s just wait till May.” So we will do the full rebrand in Hawaii on May Day, which is Lei Day. How fun is that? So that will be on that day. And then, of course, we’re going to start working on future innovation as well.

Diana Fryc: Oh, I love it. So maybe everybody go to Hawaii that first week of May. Let’s encourage everybody, because this podcast will be live before that. Lets everybody go to Hawaii and have a big Lei Day celebration or Lei week’s celebration and try everything new monologue. I’m down with that. Let’s do it.

Danielle Laubenstein: And we have a new flavor coming out as well as Kiawe Smoke Barbecue. W is actually pronounced V Hawaii. So it’s K-I-A-W-E, but it’s pronounced Kiawe, which is a variety of Misket. It’s lovely. So it was the whole idea of what’s the number one flavor of potato chip, which is barbecue. So that was a really fun project. So that drops shortly too.

Diana Fryc: Oh yes. I love it. What other women leaders, whether in our category, are outside of our category do you admire? This is a new question I’ve been asking people. Who do you admire, respect or you simply want to elevate right now, since we’re talking about leadership and brands?

Danielle Laubenstein: I think even if you look to politics, how female leadership, the number of prime ministers that are female now and younger. You’ve got in Europe as well as in New Zealand. And how seeing female leadership and how it’s different from male leadership, that they’re softer in their approach, that you can be emotional about things and that that’s okay, is so great. Even in my one on one meetings with my team, like being emotional, totally okay, we’re emotional beings. Like not being emotional is not, for me anyways, controlling it and being in the right place I think it’s important. But being able to see that in even at the national level I think is really important. Obviously, I’m very excited about our vice president elect. And representation, she’s being half Indian and her using the word objective, which is, I think it’s not Hindi, it’s like one of the other the languages I’m not sure. But just having that, I think it’s really amazing.

The person I was telling you about, like Julie Sweet, Purely Righteous, she comes over from Choshi. I really look up to her like whenever I need help or another thought process, she’s been really great.

Diana Fryc: She’s just a good mentor and community builder, it sounds like.

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah, she’s really phenomenal.

Diana Fryc: Before we leave, I have a few questions that I ask everybody. The first one is, do you have a fun fact either about Hawaii or Mauna Loa or macadamia nuts or even yourself that you’d like to share with our listeners?

[00:45:07]

It’s kind of more of, I call it a happy hour of fact that people can take with them.

Danielle Laubenstein: You said happy hour, in Hawaiian, happy hour is ‘pau hana’. Pau mean stop, hana means work. So we have pau hanas where we get together and do things on Zoom. But I just thought it was a really interesting way of like, the Hawaiian version of Happy Hour. I was thinking about them like, for me, it’s really about like chocolate in particular. We’re looking at and I had a long conversation about chocolate the other day and how it was to go, but it’s this indulgent Valentine’s Day, feminine sort of, “Oh, she’s got her period, give her chocolate.” And I’m like, “No guys. Chocolate originally, meaning bitter water was an energy drink that was given to kings and used as rations during war and were given to warriors.”

That was the beginning of chocolate and it was served like that for 2000 years. And I see this return and I remember a Godiva ten years ago, I was saying someone’s going to do something. We have to do something with the cocoa fruit. Seeing like this change in cocoa fruit and using all the different parts of it. But even then, I’m like chocolate is going to return to its original place in society as a super-food, as a food of the gods. Theobroma, that’s what chocolate means. Food of the gods being this like energy based, think is if you have chocolate where you don’t add in the sugar and other things. So I thought it was quite interesting looking at like the history of chocolate and that we’re starting to move back into that. I love that. That was my little interesting tidbit.

Diana Fryc: I love that. What other brands or trends do you personally have your eye on and why?

Danielle Laubenstein: I’ve been following Julie’s. Their branding is absolutely stunning and it’s this like they have a commodity product like us, macadamia nuts, and for them it’s the date and how they’re telling this. What they talk about dates, their packaging is beautiful. They’ve moved into other things like date syrup and made a brand around something that people consider just like a commodity. And even the way that they’ve been teaching the public about dates like it’s fresh fruit. It’s not dried. I follow them because I think there’s a similar storyline there where it’s lovely to see how other friends are doing it. Siete, as I talked about before, really love that. They just came up with a spice mix for like a taco seasoning. Of course, like that’s so brilliant. I really love what they’re doing there, particular because its abuela approved.

Diana Fryc: I love that.

Danielle Laubenstein: When you talk about Robb Wolf and keto Gin and that whole group, when I started doing keto, I was making my own electrolyte mix that he had inside of his book, because you had to have enough different types of salts. So I started buying their limes, which is elemental limes. And I think the research and the thought process around it, has no sugar inside of it. So people are in keto can properly do it and have enough electrolytes I think is huge. And also to help with, like, older populations who need more electrolytes. And a whole bunch of my dad, I just want to caveat, I did a very tiny investment in them because they opened that up to anyone who was an original, a person who invested in them or bought their product.

So I really love what they’re doing to and the education part. So it’s not just about selling. Not just about being a brand, not just about selling your product, not just about sustainability, but like how do you help the whole movement of everyone to get healthier? We see the rate of obesity in the country and obesity and so many people moving prediabetic or diabetic and how that ties to Alzheimer’s.

[00:50:07]

So the more we can help and prevent that now helps later on. And that all kind of ties into the work that other people are doing. Like you’ve got 23 in me that I think has been absolutely great to help people figure out what works with their genes to Dr. Rhonda Patrick, in the work that she’s doing at my fitness. It all ties in, I think, how do all of us together help move the needle for health in the United States so that we don’t see our parents — it’s hard, like my mom has COPD. So part of it for me is like, how can I help, how can we all help? Rob Wolf lost his mom I think to diabetes. So it’s personal too, like, how do we all move our work forward and have a food source out in the market that really is nutritious and sustains you? And this is how we would do damage to your body.

Diana Fryc: Yeah. I spoke with Susie from Ramar. She’s the CEO of Ramar Foods also out of California. And she’s third generation Filipino owned business. And one of the challenges that she had was how do I make healthy Filipino food that hasn’t because she’s seeing her families, her older families, the generations being impacted by the Americanized version of their foods, making them ill and sick. And so the challenge of making something authentic and healthy and then educating them and being respectful to the culture has been tough, but they’re doing the work. So I get that. Last question. How on earth are you a busy mom, a professional, a friend, a spouse, what are you doing for yourself right now that keeps you centered?

Danielle Laubenstein: And that’s a great question. I’m really not doing a good job of that, to be honest with myself. I was really lucky that we partly sponsored or were a part of the Honolulu Marathon. And I used to run a lot and I haven’t run in like three years. And our team said, “Well, we have all of these things.” What am I going to do as a director marketing, not go run this marathon with all these other people on our team. And it was 100% female team that signed up. So you had to run. It wasn’t like one whole marathon on one day. It was like over the month of December, you had to run 26 miles.

I started running again. It was really difficult. But also, I remember the first step I came out like I almost started crying. I was like, “Oh my gosh.” I remember how this feels. And I bought a new pair of Brooks from Seattle. My husband was really great of, like, pushing me out the door to make sure I do that. So I think, like, being outside, we’re lucky in L.A. that we can go down to the beach, go out. We have a small little boat that we can go out and go fishing or something fun like that. I need to do more of that Diana. I will have an update for you on how better I am taking care of myself.

Diana Fryc: I have a commitment to run my first marathon in June, and I understand as a bodybuilder in my 20s and I was a runner in my 30s, and then after I had kids, it kind of went to shit, excuse my French and I said, I got to keep this commitment to myself to run a marathon. And so I have been training since October. And those first few weeks, I’m right there with you. It’s not easy, but the one thing that I can say is that foundational work that I did in my 20s and from the bodybuilding standpoint, like I love the burn. So that doesn’t scare me too much. The lungs don’t like me very much. That’s my bigger challenge, but it’ll get there and you’ll get there too.

Danielle Laubenstein: I had to go back in and watch the cheetah running and remembering how to run properly. So I don’t destroy my knees and like retraining. I’m like it doesn’t matter how fast you go. I’m like four minutes slower per mile. As long as I’m out there, I haven’t run in like two weeks.

Diana Fryc: That’s okay. I will text you and say did you run today. I’ll be your partner. How’s that?

Danielle Laubenstein: I would love that.

Diana Fryc: Okay, we can make that happen. That’s easy.

Danielle Laubenstein: Let’s do that.

Diana Fryc: Okay. Well, that is the end of our time for this session, Danielle, but I thank you so much for joining me and I love the work that you’re doing in the respect that you guys are putting into this rebrand and authentically sharing the story in the culture to the rest of us through the brand and the brand development and everything. So thank you for all of that and your commitment to helping the women of color kind of gain some stronger footing as professionals in the market. Thank you for your time.

Danielle Laubenstein: Absolutely. And if there’s anyone I can ever help, just reach out.

Diana Fryc: Okay, and what’s the best way? Do you prefer people reach out to you through LinkedIn?

Danielle Laubenstein: Yeah, just reach out to me on LinkedIn.

Diana Fryc: All right. So thank you so much for your time.

Danielle Laubenstein: Mahalo. Thanks Diana.

Diana Fryc: This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo, a creative marketing firm specializing in growing, fixing and reinventing brands in the food, beverage, wellness and fitness industries. If your naturals brand is in need of positioning, package design or marketing activation, we’re here to help. You can find more information at retail-voodoo.com. And so there you go. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Thank you so much for hanging out with us today. And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to this channel and share with your network. Until next time, be well and do gooder.

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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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