Betsy Fore and Sofia Laurell of Tiny Organics on creating meaningful impact in the world
Describe your business in a few words?
Tiny Organics is the early childhood nutrition company building a healthier generation of adventurous eaters with vegetable-first foods for babies and toddlers.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
Betsy: I am a serial entrepreneur and have always built from my own struggles, hopes and dreams. I have been a product founder and CEO for the past decade. I reengineered my body 15 years ago to be vegetarian and know first hand the joys of living a plant-based diet. My “why” for co-founding Tiny Organics was to give my son a healthier lease on life by preferring vegetables from the earliest days. Sofia and I came together to realize that the biggest impact you can have on a child’s life is through food and so the idea for Tiny Organics was born.
Sofia: Born and raised in Finland, I’ve been passionate about advocating for women and children throughout my life. My “why” for founding Tiny Organics is the “Finnish Baby Box”, an invention to help make parents’ lives easier – a cardboard box (that I was born in) that every parent gets from the Finnish government with everything you need for the baby’s first year, and proven to lower infant mortality rates.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Betsy: Named Forbes 30 under 30 and BBC’s 100 Most Inspiring Women, Betsy has over a decade of experience as an inventor, product founder and CEO. Betsy serves on the Tufts School of Nutrition and Policy Innovation Council and her company, Tiny Organics, has been chosen by Michelle Obama’s Partnerships for a Healthier America for their baby food initiative to support veggie-forward early palate development across the nation. Betsy serves on Mrs. Obama’s Shaping Early Palates Board and Co-Chairs her Retailer & Industry Council. In addition to her efforts to propel food equity, she was also chosen by the Obama administration to serve as an entrepreneurial ambassador for the US Embassy to other countries. Betsy enjoys building great brands and has invented over 100 products and counting. She is a keynote speaker and has spoken at Google, CES, World Economic Forum, National Retail Federation, Food is Medicine Global Summit and served as a Judge at the MIT Startup Competition. She is the first Native American woman in history to raise a Series A for her company (over $15M to date).
Prior to co-founding Tiny Organics, Betsy is the founder of pet wearables brand WonderWoof. WonderWoof made Oprah’s Favorite Things list and launched at Story, Bloomingdales, Harrods, Colette, Best Buy, Urban Outfitters and every Petco in the US on end cap giving it the best retail traction of any pet wearable to date. Prior to founding WonderWoof, Betsy built Mind Candy in London alongside founder Michael Acton Smith (Calm). In her time there, Moshi Monsters reached over 100M registered users online and became the top selling toy brand in the UK. Betsy began her career inventing toys for Mattel, Hasbro and Spinmaster, developing product lines for Polly Pocket, WWE, UNO and Star Wars.
Sofia: Prior to Tiny, I spent my career launching and building brands. I’m a marketing and public relations veteran, most recently at Ascend Foundation helping elevate women and minorities onto U.S. corporate boards and creating a pipeline of women and minorities to achieve the highest levels of leadership at Fortune 500 corporations. I helped build the brand into a powerhouse and secured features in the largest publications in the world, including NY Times, The Economist, Bloomberg, TIME, LA Times, and USA Today.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes. For us, entrepreneurship is about recognizing opportunities and creating meaningful impact in the world. We’ve always wanted to solve big human challenges and what’s bigger in the world than changing the way children eat.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
We are hyper focused on organic acquisition, and it has been built into our DNA from the beginning. We had an initial group of 100 founding families who tested out the product, and we discovered that there is no stronger word of mouth than a mom who is convinced. We are continuing to strengthen our community efforts and work with moms and parents who are influential in their communities – whether it’s 500 followers or 50,000 followers. We focus on scaling our business through continued evolution of our organic and paid marketing efforts. Email, SMS, and influencers as channels have performed really well for us, but we’re testing out new platforms as well such as TikTok, podcasts and direct mail.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
The pandemic was especially challenging for our business. We had to completely redesign our kitchen and workstations in order to keep our staff safe and healthy. Since Tiny Organics has a promise to have only the freshest organic foods, our team also had to come up with new methods to deliver all orders and on time.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Tiny is our life’s work! We are elated to work with an all-star team of BIPOC, immigrant, LGBTQ+ employees that provide the company with a richness of diverse thought, viewpoints and experiences. With our combined passion for veggies and advocating for women and children, Tiny Organics is our proudest accomplishment to-date.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
There are a few! We take inspiration from First Round Capital’s amazing resources and these are our top 3:
1) What is something that the company changed at the request of its employees that did not originate from an executive?
2) How have you changed during your time here?
3) What are the top three customers that you’ve won, and the top three customers that you’ve lost?
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We launched Tiny Organics right before the pandemic first began, and saw an immediate spike in sales due to our direct-to-home subscription delivery. We heard from moms in our community that the pandemic has caused an extra layer of anxiety on top of the normal stress caused by motherhood – so we were happy to be able to serve an influx of new customers looking for healthy, convenient foods delivered right to their doors.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
In June, we announced a $11 million Series A funding round. The round was led by Springdale Ventures with additional participation by InvestEco, Silas Capital, Human Ventures, Jordan Park, VegInvest, Babylist, Howard Morgan, joining previous investors Elizabeth Street Ventures, Rocana Ventures, Chingona Ventures, Bonin Ventures, Gary Vaynerchuk and Liz Lange. The new capital will be used to hire excellent talent, build Tiny Organics’ brand and customer awareness, and develop new product categories and sales channels.
In partnership with the Plastic Pollution Coalition, our goal is to be completely plastic-free in 2021.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
That we’re all in this together. Living true to our mission, we are proud to have supported the Food Bank for New York City in our community and help families during these unprecedented times. In our customer communications, we also took a “do the right thing” approach and were open to making exceptions (and still are!). If it’s something we could accomplish (e.g. cancelling an order that’s already processing), we’d do it.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
We always talk about the importance of diversity of thought, experiences and viewpoints and it’s amazing to see that we all are increasingly appreciating it as a core focus area. We saw this on our fundraising journey as well – investors see the value in founders that don’t look like the typical founder and understand the competitive advantage different backgrounds bring.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
In a year plagued with the loss of jobs, childcare, and parents wearing more hats than ever before, we felt fortunate to have been able to simplify one area of parents’ lives – the distribution of fresh, nutrient-dense, healthy foods for their little ones.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
We think there’s been a perspective shift. It’s actually not so much about getting to work-life balance because there really is no perfect equation. But instead we need to give ourselves, as moms and parents, permission to devote our full attention wherever we are and be all in, present, be it at work or at home.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
We love prosecco and scrunchies! 🙂
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
We’re big fans of the Kanban method and we’ve just signed up for Superhuman, an email tool. And lots of coffee of course!
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista means being included within a network of other female entrepreneurs who strive to create products that serve a greater purpose. We want to pay it forward to provide insights, advice, and support to women—especially moms—who are forging their own way with startups, small businesses, or side hustles. Tiny Organics has been focused on creating a community from day one, and we’re excited to be part of the Entreprenista community to continue celebrating the “wins” of other female founders.