In Conversation with Evelyn Rusli of Yumi

Evelyn Rusli_Blog Header

Describe Yumi in a few words?

Yumi makes it easier to feed your children fresh, delicious, nutrient-dense food. Recognizing the importance of nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life, Yumi’s intelligently designed blends provide balanced meals to support babies’ neurological and physical development at every age and stage. To ensure maximum nutrition and flavor in every spoonful, Yumi has an in-house team of experts that includes holistic nutritionists, plant based chefs, doulas, doctors and more. Yumi offers signature blends and finger foods in over 80 flavors, delivered right to your doorstep.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

I was truly inspired to take the leap after my dear friend and now, co-founder, Angela Sutherland, became pregnant with her first child and quickly realized the gap in the market for truly nutritious foods for babies and toddlers. Angela, an uber research nerd, shared with me a Dropbox folder of all the clinical studies related to nutrition in the first 1,000 days. It turns out this window, from in utero to roughly age 2, is the most important in a human’s life for nutrition and development. What you feed your child in the first 1,000 days will have a profound impact on their neural and physical development, metabolic health, even their taste preferences. 

At the same time, we were also astonished to learn that the grocery store was filled with options that were shelf-stable, highly processed, high in sugar and low in nutrition. We got angry and we got inspired and started building Yumi. We set out to build a service that would not only make it easy for parents to feed their children nutrient-dense meals and snacks, but would also help them connect the dots between nutrition and health outcomes. We designed Yumi to be a guided journey, so we can support families with relevant products and content every week from the first bites and beyond.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

Before Yumi, I spent more than a decade as a journalist. I was previously on staff at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times covering startups and innovation and was also formerly an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Social Capital Partnership, a Palo Alto-based venture capital firm.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

No, but I think I was always drawn to the idea of creating meaningful impact at scale. One way to do this, of course, is through writing. Writers, through their stories, shine a light on important issues and help people make sense of the world by breaking down complex topics. Once Angela and I started geeking out on the 1,000 days and realized how broken the market was, it was hard to imagine a more important story to share. After years of covering startups and innovation, I also came to appreciate the power of startups to shift markets and drive change. 

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 spent a lot of time at the grassroots level, building word of mouth. Parenting is very local in many ways, so we spent a lot of time building the community in our backyard of Los Angeles before moving into other markets. Being so close to our community and our families was immensely helpful in designing the service and figuring out the best way to communicate our service and our values. We could have started by blanketing the world with digital ads, but this more local approach helped us build the right foundation. Although we are more national now, a big part of our marketing strategy will always be part local.

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?

Before Yumi, I was used to a more independent workstyle as a writer. In the beginning, I struggled to delegate and often took on too many tasks, leading to constant context-switching. Over time, I’ve learned to let go. We’ve been so lucky to attract such a deep bench of intelligent, skilled, mission-driven colleagues, we try to create a culture that encourages creativity and outside-the-box thinking and give people the room to build.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

The leap itself. There was skepticism when I abandoned a career I had been building for more than 10 years. I remember my parents advice at the time: “If you’re going to make a change, you could still go to Law School.” And yet, despite the skepticism, I never doubted the leap. I knew I would always regret not making the move, if I didn’t jump. 

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

We’re in uncharted times, as parents are trying their best to adjust to work from home life and the lack of access to daycares, schools, or even extra help they used to expect from their parents or extended family. As a result, we’ve seen more parents opt into the service from cities across the country. We feel lucky to be able to help parents during these unpredictable times, and at least take mealtime off their plate. 

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We have some exciting new products launching next year. I can’t quite share details yet, but be on the lookout for them in 2021! Aside from that, our customers can expect more fun and delicious chef collaborations! I’ve been obsessed with our latest banana bread bites in collaboration with chef Malcolm Livingston II, a former pastry chef of Noma, they are incredible and currently on high rotation in my household.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Patience and gratitude.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

Even if it feels like something stupid, ask the question, ask for help.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

I’ve managed to stay grounded with the help of my husband Daniel. He’s helped me pick up good habits around mindfulness, he is one of the few people I know who actually journals every morning. 

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

No, at least not for myself. I believe in leaning into whatever is giving you energy and inspiration. Sometimes that work, sometimes that’s family or working. You have to be brutally honest with yourself about what you need. But if you can do that, you’ll find a way to be the best version of yourself which benefits every facet of your life, whether work or personal. 

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Keep a consistent schedule – wake up and go to sleep at around the same time each day. 
  • Lists. I make a million lists for everything, just the act of checking off items creates a quick dopamine hit and inspires me to be more productive.
  • Try to get outside every day for a breath of fresh air.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Building the world you want to see, versus simply living in the world. Living ambitiously.

Share it!

Posted in

Leave a Comment

Michele Henry of FACE FOUNDRIÉ on why she leans into her fears, and the importance of dreaming big

Describe FACE FOUNDRIÉ in a few words? Efficient and effective focused facial bar specializing in all things face, facials, lashes, brows, and skincare. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I worked in my parents’ small inground pool business from age 13 all the way through college. Being an entrepreneur is…

Ashley Spriggs of Pivot Media on the power of genuine relationships

Describe your business in a few words? We are a media firm that gets your message the attention it deserves. We offer services in Public Relations and Podcast Management. What made you take the leap to start your own business? It was the right time! I was growing my client list as an independent contractor…

Mary Allard of The Third Place podcast on inviting listeners to explore uncomfortable conversations in a safe space

Describe your business in a few words? The Third Place podcast is a weekly podcast that invites listeners into the hard conversations that we have a tendency to avoid. It is a podcast that “goes there,” within a safe place where curiosity is encouraged, differences are welcomed, and empathy is embraced through healthy dialogue. What…

Kelsea Olivia of East Olivia Creative on creating experiences that spark curiosity, joy, and connection

Describe your business in a few words? East Olivia is a boutique creative agency that specializes in large-scale floral installations. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I have been starting businesses since I was a child, selling my crafts and babysitting. As an adult, I had an innate desire to…

Tiffany Roman of Small Biz Highlight on creating a platform to help small businesses thrive

Describe your business in a few words? Small Biz Highlight is a web show, created to help introduce the people behind a small/local business, their products and services, and discuss how COVID affected them. What made you take the leap to start your own business? Back in April 2020, COVID shutdowns were in full effect…

11 Mamaprenistas share their best productivity tips to manage a business and a family

1) Tierney Larkin, Founder at Larkin Living Spaces: “Be sure to have a designated space to work that is just for you and your business. It can be a makeshift office in the corner of a room, or even a traveling cart that you can take around with you to store all of your supplies…

How Two Entreprenistas Launched & Scaled Their Business on Shopify in 30 Days

Within 9 years, Stephanie Cartin and Courtney Spritzer have bolstered the presence of over 300 women-owned companies — all through social media strategy, platform management, influencer marketing, paid media and creative service. Given their success with Socialfly, Steph and Courtney recently decided to create a podcast called Entreprenistas, which provides a community to celebrate and…

Sarah Kallile of Lunnie on building the first community-led brand for modern mothers

Describe Lunnie in a few words? Community-led brand for modern mothers. We’re reinventing the nursing bra. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I’m a mom of two young girls. While breastfeeding my second daughter, I was frustrated with my clunky nursing bra and how it made me feel frumpy. I…

Ramy Sharp on launching Ramy Brook to fill a void in the marketplace, and what inspired her to take the leap

Describe Ramy Brook in a few words? Happy, Sexy and Strong! Ramy Brook is female owned and operated, stemming from one woman’s dream to uplift, empower and celebrate women. The apparel, accessories and swimwear collections transcend generational dressing, offering something for anyone looking for a vibrant and celebrational style. My vision is for women who…

Charlotte Michailidis of Parenthood Ventures on fueling the next wave of innovation for early stage ParentTech

Describe your business in a few words? Parenthood Ventures is the founder ecosystem for early stage ParentTech – i.e., startups serving parents, from fertility to teens.  Companies in our community span sub-sectors like caregiving, employee benefits, food, physical goods, digital health, retail, clothing, education, media/entertainment and fintech.  The objective is to fuel the next wave…

Vanessa Coppes of BELLA Media + Co on how determining who her customer was changed her business

Describe BELLA Media + Co in a few words? Lifestyle media company sharing content and resources for living a beautiful life. What made you take the leap to start your own business? My mental health. Launching my business literally saved my life. I was suffering from postpartum depression and needed a creative outlet. I launched…

Ingrid He of the Sjogren’s Tracker app on using her creativity to help people with autoimmune disorders manage their symptoms

Describe your business in a few words? Sjogren’s (SHOW-grins) Tracker is an app that helps people with autoimmune disorders manage their symptoms and flares. We aim to help our users better understand their conditions and identify triggers to their flares. Our mission is to create innovative solutions to improve the lives of users and facilitate…

Bari Koral of Yogapalooza on pioneering kids yoga with Yogapalooza!

Describe your business in a few words? Bari Koral is a Kids Yoga Pioneer and recording artist. Bari inspires thousands of parents, teachers and young children every day with her kids yoga, music and mindfulness activities and popular YouTube channel. What made you take the leap to start your own business? After burning out on…

Angelica Hanley of ACouplePuns on growing her business while staying 100% true to herself, and the biggest lessons she has learned over the years

Describe your business in a few words? ACouplePuns specializes in sparking joy through laughter and delivers the punniest content and high-quality paper goodies for every special occasion and moment in-between. Whether your bestie loves her house plants, binge-watching Friends, or drinking coffee, ACouplePuns has a punny card for that!   What made you take the leap…

Kelly DuFord Williams of Slate Law Group on disrupting the traditional law firm space and building a business where employees can thrive

Describe your business in a few words? Slate Law Group is a forward-thinking, accessible San Diego-based boutique law firm that provides legal, tax and HR services for small to medium sized businesses and corporations. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I was inspired to start my own business because I…