Sarah Kay Hoffman is an angel. End of story. I knew from the beginning that Sarah was special. She had a spark of perseverance that came through her every word and you can tell how passionate she is. I still remember throwing my arms around her for the first time at SXSW 2011. Getting to finally hear and see that passion in-person was awesome. And now....something I always think about when we talk.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START?
This has been years in the making, literally, because I’ve always had a sweet tooth. I grew up on sugar and processed foods, and the more I ate of it, the more I craved it. And then in 2009 I was diagnosed with Colitis. We tried many things, but nothing worked (and medications made me sicker) so I decided to change my life and begin down a holistic healing path. They say nothing changes if nothing changes, and I learned how true that is. I went off all processed foods and sugars, following a strict GAPS Diet. I started to heal, but my sweet tooth never fully left. During the initial stages of my healing, each night for dessert I’d have a tablespoon or two of pure nut butters with nothing added to them (raw walnut, peanut, cashew, pecan, coconut butters). And as I began to heal, I started to play with the pure nut butters by adding in my own, unprocessed dessert ingredients (like pure vanilla, raw honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, raw cacao, etc.) One day, I grabbed the ingredients for (what is now) Honey Vanilla Bourbon Peanut Butter. I made a batch, and then shared it with my husband. He loved it, and said I should send it to other people to see if they liked it. I did, and people started asking how they could buy it. And so the business was born.
WHAT RISKS DID YOU TAKE?
The biggest risk was the initial capital we put up. I decided that I didn’t want just any old website to “house” my company, so I worked with a designer and team to build it. Additionally, we spent the money to trademark A Loving Spoon and invest in other things to help jump start the business. I am extremely conservative when it comes to money, so this was (and still is) my biggest risk.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT SCARES YOU?
Failure. I think this is true of all entrepreneurs, but sometimes I think we are too embarrassed to admit how scared we are of it. The natural food industry (and food industry in general) is grueling. The margins are low, and the competition is high. It’s imperative that each company, product and brand has a unique way for distinguishing themselves among all others. If not, failure is imminent. Because I also work full-time (for Nutiva), I often wonder if my business will fail because I cannot (currently) dedicate 40 hours a week to seeing its success. This fear has not stopped me yet, and it will not stop me. But it is real.
LOOKING BACK ON YOUR CAREER, WHAT WAS A MAJOR TURNING POINT FOR YOU?
In the very beginning, it was in 2009 when I had the honor to a be a Nike+ Human Race Ambassador, in which we were charged with building a virtual running team and getting as many people as possible on our teams to sync a 10K on “the day the world stopped for a run.” After that, and after watching how quickly I could connect virtually with people and build a huge virtual team, I knew that online connections and the digital space was where I belonged. When it comes to A Loving Spoon nut butter, the turning point really came after we got our baby, Samarah (her adoption was just finalized this past June). A Loving Spoon was always built around this concept of love; love for self and healing with good food in the beginning. But after we got her, it turned into love for others, children in particular. My mission for the company became so clear and we decided to allocate 10c per jar to organizations which benefit foster and/or orphaned children. (Currently we partner with 147 Million Orphans.) We stand on —> Loving: Ourselves more. Life daily. Each other always. It is this passion that keeps me going. (Side note: I graduated with a Bachelors Degree from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in Marketing, Mass Communications and English. I held various sales and marketing positions. I then I got my Health Coaching certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and practiced that for awhile. I returned to digital communications and somewhere in between all of that, found a huge passion for unprocessed food, telling stories via my personal blog and nut butter – aka A Loving Spoon nut butter. All of this said, there have been many twists and turns throughout my career.)
WHAT ARE THREE PIECES OF ADVICE YOU'VE RECEIVED THAT YOU'VE CARRIED WITH YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
Not a piece of advice, but a quote I heard several years ago that I’ve never forgotten and lived by the best I can: “My three keys to success: One, work hard. Two, be your own person. And three, have a passion for what you are doing.”
I’ve made several small mistakes, but nothing major, and the truth is that all the small mistakes are things which have shaped who I am today. Mistakes are inevitable, but it’s how we choose to deal with them and how we choose to learn from them that matters.