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Today I turned 32. It feels un-momentous in every way but one. Ten years ago I began a journey that led me to start and run a multi-million dollar business. Your twenties are supposed to be a time of adventure. A time of cheap flights, sleeping on couches, exploring new countries, pursuing your passion, and meeting lots of new people. I’ve done all of those while starting Kuli Kuli.

My flights were mainly redeyes for work conferences. I sleep on my friend’s couch in Brooklyn because I’m too frugal to spend precious company money on Manhattan hotel rooms. (Not past tense, we’ve raised $10M and I still do this). I've met loads of new people, but mostly through professional networking. I’ve traveled, mostly to meet with our moringa farmers. And I've pursued my passion, turning a Peace Corps dream into a thriving company. And it came with a lot of learnings, and many failures along the way. If I could go back to my 22-year old self, there are so many things that I’d love to say.

1.People are Everything, and They’re Not Robots.

I started Kuli Kuli out of my love for the people I met in my African Peace Corps village. When I returned to the US, my idea for a mission-driven moringa food startup became a feverish side hustle that I spent early mornings, late nights, and long weekends working on. When I was finally able to quit my day job and pursue Kuli Kuli full-time, I kept the same hours. I still work more hours than almost anyone I know. But in my youth, I expected everyone around me to keep up. I’ve learned the hard way that people are not robots. They cannot work all the time - especially if they aren’t working on someone else’s personal dream. I now seek to understand the dreams of the people who work with me and actively help them bring their dreams to life too.

2.Hold “Relationship Check-ins” with Your Co-Founders.

One of my biggest regrets is that my 20-plus year relationship with my childhood best friend was destroyed in the process of starting Kuli Kuli.

There are a lot of reasons why we “broke up” - none of them fit to print. But there is one overarching reason why things ended the way they did. We were so busy working on the business that we forgot to work on our relationship. We stopped being friends, stopped being friendly co-workers, and devolved into an ugly space that we never recovered from, even years after we’ve ceased working together. My remaining co-founder and I now have monthly “founder walks” where we talk about how we're feeling about the business, how we’re supporting each other, and generally what’s going on in our lives. We also make a point of hanging out outside of work and having fun with our partners and families. For the record - I also do monthly “relationship walks” with my romantic partner and it is one of the things that has kept us solidly in love over the past ten years.

3.Turn Down Investors.

When you start a company everyone tells you to be careful who you take money from. They seem to forget that there generally isn’t a long line of people waiting to write you a check. Especially when you’re a triple threat of young, female, and unconnected (i.e. not born into piles of money), it can be exceptionally difficult to  get even one person to say yes. It took me almost a year to raise Kuli Kuli’s first $500,000.


I raised it from nearly 30 different people, one small check at a time. I never imagined that just a few years later I would decide to turn down a million dollar check and prolong my fundraising round. I had learned from my experience with one small investor who made my life utterly miserable that having the wrong people invest in your business is worse than spending a few more months finding the right investors. I feel so fortunate to now have investors who not only believe in Kuli Kuli’s vision and social mission, they also leverage their talents and networks to help us get there.

4.Celebrate Wins Big and Small.

Though you wouldn’t suspect it upon meeting me, I can be very serious. I care deeply about Kuli Kuli’s mission and throw myself into turning that vision into reality. I won’t rest until I’ve made real progress on reducing climate change and helped all the women we source from achieve true equality. With goals like that, it’s hard to see the smaller wins, like when we launched into our 10,000th store, or when we launched our amazing-tasting new organic superfood shots. After a decade of doing this, I’ve realized that the roller-coaster of startup life is only fun if you celebrate the highs. Celebrating those highs makes you better able to cope with the inevitable lows.

5.It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

A friend told me recently that she’s glad I’ve become a better friend, unlike when I started my business. The comment took me aback - I thought I’d always been a good friend. During the early days of Kuli Kuli I went to a networking event almost every weekday evening and often spent my weekends passing out samples at various grocery stores. I made an effort to see my friends - but it was rarely for large amounts of time as I’d inevitably have to run off to one event or another. I now know that the people I love are what makes life worth living. Though I still do lots of networking, I’m choosier about the events I attend.

6.People Will Leave - Don’t Take it Personally

As a startup founder, it’s only natural that you live and breathe your startup. It’s often hard to separate your identity from that of your company. When people quit your company, it’s nearly impossible  not to take it personally. I knew that startups traditionally have low retention rates and that the Bay Area has a culture of job-hopping. That being said, I was taken aback when a few people quit Kuli Kuli last year. It made me question everything I was doing - from our team culture to my own leadership style. My board and advisors helped me to understand that while it was important to conduct exit interviews and understand why people decided to leave, it was also critical  not to take it personally and to see departures as opportunities to learn from and create an even better team.

7.Take Care of Yourself, So That You Can Take Care of Business.

I work more than almost anyone I know. I also sleep, exercise, and meditate significantly more than most people. Often, when I’m stressed out and feel overwhelmed, I’ll go for a run. I’ve found that taking the time to take care of myself, and making sure that I’m in a positive, solution-oriented state, allows me to be far more productive than burning the midnight oil to sink in a few more hours.

8.Culture Doesn’t Create Itself

Building a positive team culture, even at a small 13-person startup like Kuli Kuli, requires deliberate thought and structure. I used to think that leading by example was enough. I’ve since learned that documenting Kuli Kuli’s core values, getting monthly feedback from our team, and putting together a Culture Committee to actively create bonding events has led to an incredible, cohesive team culture that has paid off with a happier and more collaborative team.

9.Stop Pitching and Be Authentic

It can feel like you’re always pitching your startup. You have to pitch it to investors, to the media, and even to your own team. While it’s important for founders to be extremely effective at communicating their startup vision, it’s also important to know when to stop pitching. I’ve found that a lot of the greatest support Kuli Kuli has received has come from when I stop pitching and tell people the areas that we’re struggling with.

 I do this with current investors, but also potential investors and advisors. It always amazes me the extent to which people go to great lengths to help when you open up and describe where you’re struggling. 

10.Know Your Weaknesses, and Hire for Them.

No one is great at everything. I could fill an entire page listing out all my weaknesses. One of the biggest things I struggle with  is financial analysis. My entire background has been in writing and communications.

While running a company has forced me to get better in Excel and interpreting financial statements, I’ve also learned to hire people who are better at it than I am.

I used to run all of Kuli Kuli’s sales — and then at some point realized I had reached my limit and hired a head of sales with 20+ years of food industry sales experience.


 It’s fine to have weaknesses as long as you have the self-awareness to recognize them and the humility to hire people who are better than you and can compliment your strengths.

The wonder of startups is wherever you begin your journey, the road will be more crooked than you expect and each bend and curve will teach you about yourself, your company, and how to create success. I’ve learned a lot in the past decade. And I know the next decade has even more in store for me to learn.

I can’t wait to share more of what I learn along the journey. I’d love to hear your learnings too. Connect with me

10 Secrets For Startup Success

Today I turned 32. It feels un-momentous in every way but one. Ten years ago I began a journey that led me to start and run a multi-million dollar business. Your twenties are supposed to be a time of adventure. A time of cheap flights, sleeping on couches, exploring new countries, pursuing your passion, and meeting lots of new people. I’ve done all of those while starting Kuli Kuli.

My flights were mainly redeyes for work conferences. I sleep on my friend’s couch in Brooklyn because I’m too frugal to spend precious company money on Manhattan hotel rooms. (Not past tense, we’ve raised $10M and I still do this). I've met loads of new people, but mostly through professional networking. I’ve traveled, mostly to meet with our moringa farmers. And I've pursued my passion, turning a Peace Corps dream into a thriving company. And it came with a lot of learnings, and many failures along the way. If I could go back to my 22-year old self, there are so many things that I’d love to say.

1.People are Everything, and They’re Not Robots.

I started Kuli Kuli out of my love for the people I met in my African Peace Corps village. When I returned to the US, my idea for a mission-driven moringa food startup became a feverish side hustle that I spent early mornings, late nights, and long weekends working on. When I was finally able to quit my day job and pursue Kuli Kuli full-time, I kept the same hours. I still work more hours than almost anyone I know. But in my youth, I expected everyone around me to keep up. I’ve learned the hard way that people are not robots. They cannot work all the time - especially if they aren’t working on someone else’s personal dream. I now seek to understand the dreams of the people who work with me and actively help them bring their dreams to life too.

2.Hold “Relationship Check-ins” with Your Co-Founders.

One of my biggest regrets is that my 20-plus year relationship with my childhood best friend was destroyed in the process of starting Kuli Kuli.

There are a lot of reasons why we “broke up” - none of them fit to print. But there is one overarching reason why things ended the way they did. We were so busy working on the business that we forgot to work on our relationship. We stopped being friends, stopped being friendly co-workers, and devolved into an ugly space that we never recovered from, even years after we’ve ceased working together. My remaining co-founder and I now have monthly “founder walks” where we talk about how we're feeling about the business, how we’re supporting each other, and generally what’s going on in our lives. We also make a point of hanging out outside of work and having fun with our partners and families. For the record - I also do monthly “relationship walks” with my romantic partner and it is one of the things that has kept us solidly in love over the past ten years.

3.Turn Down Investors.

When you start a company everyone tells you to be careful who you take money from. They seem to forget that there generally isn’t a long line of people waiting to write you a check. Especially when you’re a triple threat of young, female, and unconnected (i.e. not born into piles of money), it can be exceptionally difficult to  get even one person to say yes. It took me almost a year to raise Kuli Kuli’s first $500,000.


I raised it from nearly 30 different people, one small check at a time. I never imagined that just a few years later I would decide to turn down a million dollar check and prolong my fundraising round. I had learned from my experience with one small investor who made my life utterly miserable that having the wrong people invest in your business is worse than spending a few more months finding the right investors. I feel so fortunate to now have investors who not only believe in Kuli Kuli’s vision and social mission, they also leverage their talents and networks to help us get there.

4.Celebrate Wins Big and Small.

Though you wouldn’t suspect it upon meeting me, I can be very serious. I care deeply about Kuli Kuli’s mission and throw myself into turning that vision into reality. I won’t rest until I’ve made real progress on reducing climate change and helped all the women we source from achieve true equality. With goals like that, it’s hard to see the smaller wins, like when we launched into our 10,000th store, or when we launched our amazing-tasting new organic superfood shots. After a decade of doing this, I’ve realized that the roller-coaster of startup life is only fun if you celebrate the highs. Celebrating those highs makes you better able to cope with the inevitable lows.

5.It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

A friend told me recently that she’s glad I’ve become a better friend, unlike when I started my business. The comment took me aback - I thought I’d always been a good friend. During the early days of Kuli Kuli I went to a networking event almost every weekday evening and often spent my weekends passing out samples at various grocery stores. I made an effort to see my friends - but it was rarely for large amounts of time as I’d inevitably have to run off to one event or another. I now know that the people I love are what makes life worth living. Though I still do lots of networking, I’m choosier about the events I attend.

6.People Will Leave - Don’t Take it Personally

As a startup founder, it’s only natural that you live and breathe your startup. It’s often hard to separate your identity from that of your company. When people quit your company, it’s nearly impossible  not to take it personally. I knew that startups traditionally have low retention rates and that the Bay Area has a culture of job-hopping. That being said, I was taken aback when a few people quit Kuli Kuli last year. It made me question everything I was doing - from our team culture to my own leadership style. My board and advisors helped me to understand that while it was important to conduct exit interviews and understand why people decided to leave, it was also critical  not to take it personally and to see departures as opportunities to learn from and create an even better team.

7.Take Care of Yourself, So That You Can Take Care of Business.

I work more than almost anyone I know. I also sleep, exercise, and meditate significantly more than most people. Often, when I’m stressed out and feel overwhelmed, I’ll go for a run. I’ve found that taking the time to take care of myself, and making sure that I’m in a positive, solution-oriented state, allows me to be far more productive than burning the midnight oil to sink in a few more hours.

8.Culture Doesn’t Create Itself

Building a positive team culture, even at a small 13-person startup like Kuli Kuli, requires deliberate thought and structure. I used to think that leading by example was enough. I’ve since learned that documenting Kuli Kuli’s core values, getting monthly feedback from our team, and putting together a Culture Committee to actively create bonding events has led to an incredible, cohesive team culture that has paid off with a happier and more collaborative team.

9.Stop Pitching and Be Authentic

It can feel like you’re always pitching your startup. You have to pitch it to investors, to the media, and even to your own team. While it’s important for founders to be extremely effective at communicating their startup vision, it’s also important to know when to stop pitching. I’ve found that a lot of the greatest support Kuli Kuli has received has come from when I stop pitching and tell people the areas that we’re struggling with.

 I do this with current investors, but also potential investors and advisors. It always amazes me the extent to which people go to great lengths to help when you open up and describe where you’re struggling. 

10.Know Your Weaknesses, and Hire for Them.

No one is great at everything. I could fill an entire page listing out all my weaknesses. One of the biggest things I struggle with  is financial analysis. My entire background has been in writing and communications.

While running a company has forced me to get better in Excel and interpreting financial statements, I’ve also learned to hire people who are better at it than I am.

I used to run all of Kuli Kuli’s sales — and then at some point realized I had reached my limit and hired a head of sales with 20+ years of food industry sales experience.


 It’s fine to have weaknesses as long as you have the self-awareness to recognize them and the humility to hire people who are better than you and can compliment your strengths.

The wonder of startups is wherever you begin your journey, the road will be more crooked than you expect and each bend and curve will teach you about yourself, your company, and how to create success. I’ve learned a lot in the past decade. And I know the next decade has even more in store for me to learn.

I can’t wait to share more of what I learn along the journey. I’d love to hear your learnings too. Connect with me
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