Published: Feb. 19, 2020 By
impactful women natural food panel_cu boulder

What do Tamar McKee, Jane Miller and Annie Ryu have in common? They’re all impactful women leaders in the natural foods industry. Last week, a new leadership program on campus, Impactful Women—hosted by the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative—brought this trio together to discuss their professional and personal journeys.

Tamar McKee, Khala & Co. 

Khala & Co. produces zero waste provisions for the kitchen to the campsite and beyond, including reusable food wraps, hemp-cotton produce bags, and compostable twist ties. Tamar calls her story a “patchwork of serendipity” and feels lucky to have found a business mentor in her father.

“Bringing something old back into the world can seem innovative. We’re bringing people back to the predisposal culture.”

Tamar is focused on raising her family while building this business. For women struggling to balance it all she encourages you to find ways to make the system and the structure work for you.

Annie Ryu, The Jackfruit Company

The Jackfruit Company converts jackfruit wastage in its native land - southern India - to delicious, nutritious food. Founder Annie Ryu, was a pre-med student focused on global health in India when she realized healthcare came too late at the end of a broken system. When she learned about jackfruit, she saw an opportunity to transform health, farmers’ livelihoods and humanity’s eco-footprint. 

“I would have been happy to an extent in medicine. You have one life and what I wanted to do most was work on the biggest problems in the world.”

Annie didn’t have a background in business, but found she could lean on her schooling (she’s a top Harvard grad!) to give her credibility along the way. She says managing impressions can be challenging, but she finds inspiration from her growing team. “I admire their work and the fact that they came to work with me on something that’s never been done.”

Jane Miller, Lily’s Sweets and JaneKnows.com

Jane isn’t an entrepreneur, but helps other people bring their ideas to market. She has over 30 years of experience in the food industry. She is currently the CEO of Lily’s Sweets and has held several other CEO roles in the industry, including Rudi’s Bakery, ProYo High Protein Ice Cream, and HannahMax Cookie Chips. Jane was also part of an executive team that brought Hostess out of bankruptcy.

Jane is a passionate and energetic person and she learned early in her career that sometimes it came across as unprofessional. She had to find a balance between the two and manage other people’s impressions of her.

“My passion overwhelmed my smarts.”

Jane’s advice to women struggling to prioritize where to spend their time was to “keep your bucket full.” Visualize your life as a bucket with holes on the bottom, you’re constantly leaking water through your day to day activities. What can make up that difference and keep it full?
 

The next Impactful Women event will be focused on health and wellness. Join our newsletter or keep an eye on the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative events calendar for details as they’re announced.