Lisa Curtis, Founder and CEO, Kuli Kuli, the world’s leading moringa brand.

Words of wisdom: Find that idea that won’t go away and then fully commit yourself to make it happen.

Country: United States

Website: kulikulifoods.com/impact

Industry: Consumer goods

Organization size: 12

 

Interview with Lisa Curtis, Founder and CEO, Kuli Kuli

PROMOTIONAL VIDEO … FULL INTERVIEW above
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Highlights:

  • Do consumers care about consumer goods having a social impact?

  • What is the most challenging element of running a social impact business?

  • The secret to leadership success?

  • What is something a few CEOs will do but can make a difference in the success or failure of your business?…and more


Interview with Lisa Curtis, Founder and CEO, Kuli Kuli

Lisa Curtis is the Founder & CEO of Kuli Kuli, the leading brand pioneering a new sustainably sourced superfood called moringa. Moringa is a protein-rich leafy green, more nutritious than kale, with anti-inflammatory benefits rivaling turmeric. Kuli Kuli's moringa powders, bars, and wellness shots are sustainably sourced from African women and other small farmers around the world and sold in 11,000 U.S. stores. Lisa began working on Kuli Kuli while serving in the Peace Corps and, alongside her amazing team, has grown it into a multi-million dollar social enterprise. Lisa was recognized on the Forbes 30 Under 30 2018 list, and she has appeared in numerous outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and on MSNBC's Morning Joe.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal addressed:

#2. Zero Hunger
#3. Good Health & Well-being
#8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
#10. Reduced Inequalities

Social Imapct: Kuli Kuli is the world's leading moringa brand with the highest quality moringa on the market. Moringa is a leafy green more nutritious than kale that provides powerful anti-inflammatory benefits rivaling those of turmeric. To date, Kuli Kuli has planted over 12.6 million moringa trees, partnered with over 2,400 farmers, and has provided $4.4M in income to women-led farming cooperatives, nonprofits, and family farms.

Website: kulikulifoods.com/impact

Interview with Lisa Curtis, Founder and CEO, Kuli Kuli

Note: This interview is transcribed using AI software, which means, the transcription is not perfect. Watch the video or listen to the podcast to hear our guest’s wisdom in her own words. If you want to see more interviews like this, please comment below!

Suzanne F. Stevens 

What does Kuli Kuli mean? And why did you call your business Kuli Kuli?

Lisa Curtis 

It’s a good question and it doesn’t get off asked enough. So, I started working with Moringa in the Peace Corps, and I was in rural village in West Africa and was feeling I didn’t get enough nutrients in my diet. I’m a vegetarian who was eating mostly rice every day and was just really tired all the time. And so I asked a couple of women in this health center where I was working, what can I eat that will make me feel better, and they pulled these leaves off a tree and mixed it into this Peanut snacks they called Kuli Kuli and said, eat this, it’ll will make you feel better. It made me feel so much better. And so when I started working more with them and talking more about the plant, the thing they really wanted was a way to sell it in the US. The food that sustains you and sustains other women around the world. Kuli Kuli seemed like the right name in that moment.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

I knew it was a peanut butter snack in Nigeria.  I’ve spent a lot of time in Africa. I guess it is a Western West Africa treat. It’s a great name. I love it and it’s catchy.

What was the catalyst for you to start this organization? I mean, it’s one thing to have a snack that makes you feel healthy. But you’re in the Peace Corps. And you have a communications background. So, all of a sudden, you’re immersed in this organization. Tell us about what was the catalyst for you?

Lisa Curtis 

Yeah, biggest catalyst. And really what I went to the store to do was to understand from my community, how I could be useful and, I did a lot of interviewing and a lot of talking to different people and saying, what can I provide that would be most helpful to you. And one of the things that came out was that they wanted a way to sell the crops in the US and that would be something that would help them grow more of it, use more of it locally to improve nutrition. And because Moringa is so easy to grow, and it’s a climate-smart crop, it was a really easy crop for them to cultivate. I’ll help you, not really knowing what I was getting into. But I have been working on it ever since. And, we’ve had a lot of success. I’ve got a great team and a great group of farmer partners that we work with.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

If I’m understanding correctly, it’s rural women that are actually growing Moringa, so who was it that actually said we want to sell this plant in the US and how can you help us?

Lisa Curtis 

Well, the original intent was they just wanted to sell it and we were going to sell it in one of the larger markets locally. They were in a Little Village and wanted to sell it in the closest city. And then there was a terrorist attack and I got evacuated out of Peace Corps. I had 48 hours to pack everything else and say goodbye to everyone and was talking to them like, I’m so sorry, I can’t continue and, they kind of brought up well, maybe we could still work together and maybe there’s a way you could help us all in the US. Yeah, I think there’s a woman named Sophia who runs one of the women’s groups there that had the idea of maybe we can go bigger than our local market and go to that largest market for superfoods in the world, which is the US market.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

What did you do to find out how realistic this opportunity would be from getting it from Niger to the US market?

Lisa Curtis 

That’s a really good question. Because I think sometimes founders tell their stories and it sounds like “I had an idea and my business appeared.” And that’s not often the case. And it really wasn’t the case for me. I came home from the Peace Corps without any money. And so like, my ability to start a business was really limited. I had to get a job first. And this was kind of my night and weekend passion project. And one of the things that I really thought to do was to understand can this work will this work, so just talk to everyone I could think of. Then I took smaller steps. If we got a small amount of Moringa and put it into bars and tested at farmer’s markets, will people buy it at farmer’s markets? And then it was well, can we do a crowdfunding campaign will people vote with their dollars and put money into this crowdfunding campaign to make it happen? There’s a couple of different litmus tests along the way. And finally, I’m like, I think people want this I think people are interested. So, I took the leap and quit my day job and started full time in 2014.

Suzanne Stevens 

A lot of international passion projects get started with a toe in the water until someone can completely commit. Would you advise that to others that want to start a project, you’ve traveled somewhere in the world locally or internationally? What advice would you give to people to take an idea and make that idea a reality?

Lisa Curtis 

Oh, lots of advice. And there’s a whole process to take an idea and make it a reality. I think the first thing is really figuring out for yourself, is this something that I want to pour my blood, sweat, and tears into this because starting a company, you’re sort of asking for a world of pain. You’re signing up for at least a decade of struggle. So, you need to care about it enough that you’re willing to really do that. And then I think you want to test the market. And then you want to understand like, yes, this is something that I and my husband thinks is the best idea. But other people think, well, other people buy it. And that was one of the biggest things for me. I think everybody when they heard the idea, they said that’s cool. Yeah, we want to help women in Africa. It’s one thing to sort of look at it from a charitable angle and think that it’s a good idea. And I think it’s another thing to put money and say like, yes, I’m going to purchase this product. The crowdfunding campaign really helped us.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

I love a couple of things that you’re saying. And I just want to emphasize them is sometimes we start something because it can make us money. But that’s not going to keep us through the ebbs and the flows of entrepreneurship. That’s not going to keep us successful. Do you care about it and how much do you really care about it? And are you willing to spend the years to make it happen? Which I think is just such an excellent point, because sometimes we don’t know. When you start something, it’s like, well, I thought I was passionate about it. I wanted to help African women, but this is harder than I thought it was going to be.

Did you ever feel, “I don’t know if I can do this?”

Lisa Curtis 

Oh yeah, all the time. I’m like, Oh my God, this feels so hard. Or something that not everybody’s heard of, like introducing an entirely new superfood, sustainably sourced from a network of 2000 small farmers. Like, it’s a complicated business that we run. And it’s not easy, and there are definitely days where it’s like, wow, this is, this is hard. This is really, really hard. But I think what keeps me going and what keeps my team going is the idea that it’s often the hardest things that are the most worthwhile. I hear from so many earlier stage founders that somehow Kuli Kuli inspired them. And somehow, they felt like, maybe I can start a business that’s socially responsible and also makes money and is in thousands of stores. And so, the fact that our success can help pave the way for more socially responsible businesses is one of the things that I’m really proud of.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

It’s almost in a way that you’re creating a new category. Because of the product itself, I never heard about it before. Now, you don’t sell it in Canada that I know of, but you can order it online, though, right?

Lisa Curtis  

Yeah. a few smaller stores in Vancouver and we’re slowly making our way across the country.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

Vancouver is a great place to start because there Vancouverites are much more susceptible to healthy living than the rest of the country. Would you agree that you’re educating people first on what Kuli Kuli is, and then you’re educating them on the health and then you’re educating them on the impact. And now in which, which one do you start with? Which is would you start with the impact the health or where do you start from an education perspective for your customers?

Lisa Curtis 

That was one of the more interesting learnings for me. I think coming into this was kind of like a bleeding heart volunteer. I was like everyone wants to know about impact that’s why people buy in. We did so many passes at the farmers market and even in store demos and stuff. Really what we discovered is like nobody walks into the grocery store and says, I’m going to buy the most impactful thing on their shelves. Like, that’s just, that’s not how humans think about grocery shopping, we think about what are the things I need? What are the things that are going to make me feel good?  What are the things that are going to make my family feel good? I’m going to add to my smoothie and it’s going to give me the energy and nutrients I need to feel good. So we find that we really need to lead with the benefits. And what is the plan actually doing for you? And then I think people share our story and get excited to share a story because of the impact.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

You bring up such an excellent point. There’s so much research to suggest that organizations do make decisions based on social impact. However, there is a caveat. The products have to be good. People don’t buy just because it has a social impact. Let’s say somebody else produced products with moringa, perhaps your differentiator is the impact that you have. Have you have you seen that happen? Like if I had a choice, who would I buy from? Well, this one makes me feel healthy. And this one also has an impact on the community. Have you seen loyalty where customers say – “I buy it because it makes me healthy, but I continue to buy because I also feel emotionally good about the impact.”

Lisa Curtis 

Yeah. I’ll give you two quick antidote. On the quantitative side, like we are in stores where we are next to other Moringa powders that are lower price and I would also argue lower quality than ours, but we sell better. We sell far better than they do. And I think that speaks to both the quality and the integrity of our brand and that the impact we’re creating the transparency we have, and really,  people want to be a part of that and they’re open to pay  $1 more to be like I want really high quality high impact Marina that’s going to make my body feel good, it’s going to make myself feel good.

And then I think the second thing is, we find that a lot of customers will share our products with way more friends because of the story. So I was just talking to one of our customers Taylor the other day and she was telling me she picked up the server in the powder randomly at Whole Foods I started adding to my smoothies that made me so much more energized. And then I went on your website and watch your videos. And I looked it up, like, this is amazing. Now I give it to everybody. And it was just like that. Cool. That’s the kind of thing that I think happens when you have an impact.  

Suzanne F. Stevens 

I love that too. And because of the gift, the gift piece that people will introduce because it makes them feel good. They don’t know if the other person is going to like it. So all of a sudden, the social impact is actually leading the purchase decision.  One of my observations is, anytime I say I’ve spent a couple of years in Africa, and I’ve worked with women in Africa, people will always say to me, “Oh, I know another woman leader that you should meet.” This probably happens to you.  Anytime, I mentioned Africa, which is 54 countries and a massive continent that people will say, Oh, I know someone you should meet. The reason I mentioned that is because of the social impact you’re having, do you find people that are attracted to having a social impact in Africa? With those people do you lead with the social impact and then appreciate the health benefit?

Lisa Curtis 

No and here’s why. Because a lot of those people were the same people who kind of similar to you, when we come up to us at the farmers market or the events, the demos and be like, Oh, you get the Peace Corps like my daughter, cousins, friends, whoever gets a Peace Corps and like, literally stand there and talk for 20 minutes, and then they walk away and not buy anything. Right in their mind. It was no longer a business or a product. It was a cause and they were in a different nonprofit space. And so I think if you lead with a 100% impact, people go to a very different mentality. They don’t go to us. Oh yeah, product that I actually want to buy, they go to, this is cool. Nice cause I feel great about it. And I’m going to walk away and not buy anything that would further that cause.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

It’s a really important message, to always lead with quality and assess the quality and see if the market will sustain it.

Production is often where the money is made. There is the grower and the producer. I believe you produce in the US?

Lisa Curtis 

We do both. The first level of production is picking the leaves, washing them, drying them, and milling them into a powder. That is all done in-country. So it’s done in Uganda, Kenya, and Somalia and all the different places we source from. And then once it comes to us, it comes in like 25 to big bulk shipments in a shipping container. And then that is what we then take and repack into retail pouches and then we also transform that into bars and transform.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

Could you see ever conducting last part of production locally?

Lisa Curtis 

Oh, yeah. That was the original idea for the business. The way manufacturing works in the food industry in the US, very few companies actually own their own factories, because it, cost millions of dollars to set up a factory. And when you’re a smaller brand like us, we’re only producing bars every three months. We’re not running that factory constantly. And so what we do is we basically rent time in a factory that makes bars for us and then bars for tons of other companies. And so, we can sort of pay as we go as opposed to paying millions of dollars upfront. And that’s unfortunately just not kind of the same of what we’ve found in the country’s resource from there are not tons of factories already making bars or shops or that kind of thing. But I will say that a good chunk of the value add, does happening in-country transforming leaves to powder.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

It’s a really good point because there’s sustainability, which ultimately, as an entrepreneur, you need to, to have. So, one of the ways you sustain it is to try to get them to do as much production as they can. Then you bring it to the bigger market share the manufacturing privileges because that would make it sustainable for you. Because if you had your own you, you couldn’t sustain your business.

Let’s dive deeper into that in regard to quality control locally. What kind of system do you have in place because again, you have different cultures, you’re dealing with different processes, any advice that you can give to people on how you’ve gone about making sure that collaboration locally and you are working seamlessly to produce the best product?

Lisa Curtis  

By far the hardest part. And we’re talking about lots of communities where people don’t really understand the concept of bacteria. They’re like I rinsed my hands with water and they’re clean, they look clean. So, they’re fine. This is certainly something that I know in this day and age has been a big, big education campaign about a lot of the African continent right now. But I think it’s for us, we need to find groups to really want to, rise to those quality levels who have a real interest and desire to sell to the US market and to sort of scale-up.  We never go into a country and say, like, you should do X, Y, and Z.  Either the farmers themselves coming to us or we often work too different nonprofits pour through at one point, the State Department, different organizations like that. And I think we try to outline very clearly, like, here are the best practices that we’ve seen. Let’s try to work together to implement best practices, and then we’ve had everything before it ships. And we will never ask for something to ship that doesn’t meet our quality standards. And then we test it again, once it’s in the US, we test it again, once it’s in our product. So, we have a really, really high threshold.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

How did you establish the relationship with sort of the individual or individuals on the ground? How did you find them? And then how did you establish that relationship to make sure you could get the quality product that you actually are delivering to the market?

Lisa Curtis 

It’s been fascinating to me in this sort of globally connected world that we live in, how often farmers in very rural parts of the world find us. At this point we are the biggest Moringa player in the world, arguably, at least as far as we know. And so, we get requests all the time from all sorts of different groups all over the world.  We ask, what are the some of the quality requirements, what are some of the social and environmental practices you have in place and do those lineups with our standards, so we kind of try to check those four boxes before we really engage.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

As for anybody listening to check before engaging with an organization because it is complex, I do something very little internationally and I couldn’t believe how challenging it was to work through the production and the communication, even though we spoke the same language and because a lot of Africans do speak English, or probably where you were, French. 

What advice would you give to other budding social enterprises that want to contribute to society?

Lisa Curtis 

Yeah, I mean, I think what is your unique idea? What is the need? You see, and have you validated that needed? I think one of the biggest things is have you talked to the people that you’re trying to help? Like, is this a need that they feel? Or is it just one that you observe? And how about the solution? Is that a solution that you developed? with the community? Is it a solution that makes sense for everyone involved? There’s a solution that everyone wants to really push wholeheartedly behind. And then if you’re making it into a social enterprise, how are you going to make money? How are you going to make this sustainable? And I think it’s one thing to have this amazing, impactful idea. But if you want it to be a business and want it to generate revenue, you have to make sure that the product or service or idea that you’re selling is interesting to the market. So, have you tested that? Great, great, I guess I have a lot of questions for them.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

You’re a young woman and inspiring people of all ages. But something you did that I just want to change gears just for a moment is you said you were 22. And when this process started, sort of the light went on, then you use this as an opportunity, a passion project, as you called it, and then you wanted to make money. So, your expertise has been in communications. What took you from political briefings for the Obama administration to becoming an entrepreneur? Communications and entrepreneurship don’t always go hand in hand. So, what gave you the confidence to do that?

Lisa Curtis 

I think it’s a really good question. I think it’s a really important question because I think there are so many women in particular who say, Oh, I don’t have a business background. I haven’t started a business. I haven’t like worked in business enough or at all. I can never start a business. And I don’t think that’s true. I think a lot of the skills that you need to start a business is you need leadership. I think a lot of women are great at. You need to be able to listen and empathize with people and inspire them and gather a group of people around your idea and get them excited and motivated to help execute it. I think you need to be able to convey that passion and that inspiration to larger audiences, to investors to the press that to gather momentum behind it. And I think that one of the things I’m best at, is knowing where my strengths are and knowing where my weaknesses are. I can build a financial model, but it will take me a lot longer. It’ll take someone with an MBA is on our team. And so, and my goal is to always hire people who are smarter and wiser than I am and raise the whole IQ of the organization and I think that should be your goal, whether you’re, an MBA, PhD, business person, know where your strengths are and hire people who complement your weaknesses.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

Excellent advice. I remember getting that advice when I started to be an entrepreneur —hire people for anything you’re not good at. So, when you started your organization, what did you envision? Did you envision where you are now? Or do you envision something so much bigger? Are you just going with it until…

Lisa Curtis 

It’s interesting because I think in so many ways, this is a dream come true. And it’s also just kind of the tip of the iceberg. In that sense of it is such an honor and a privilege to wake up every day and work on something that I feel so passionate about, and with a team who’s incredibly motivated and passionate and just feel like we’re not just selling us food products that we’re selling a food product that even in a small way helps make the world Better Place. And then I think at the same time, I would have even more. And I think one of the things that really excites me is this there are so many plants all over the world that are incredibly nutritious that many of them use in different kind of medicinal practices in different cultures that haven’t made it to the US, but that by partnering with those communities and partnering with our existing farming communities, we can help introduce more climate-smart, sustainably sourced superfoods to the US market. So, I think that what the future looks like for us is how do we continue to build on what we’ve started?

Suzanne F. Stevens 

A personal question for you. Have you ever done something that really made you uncomfortable but if you had didn’t do it, you would not have achieved the success that you’ve had to this point?

Lisa Curtis 

Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of things that I have done over the past six years have made me uncomfortable, I think fundraising in many ways is uncomfortable and fighting for the valuation of your company and saying no, like this is worth a lot and this is going to be worth a ton someday. And so you need to believe in this can be uncomfortable. I think setting your own salary is a really uncomfortable thing. We have to get it approved, but they asked me to figure out what is the right amount and that is a really uncomfortable conversation. I think, especially for a woman because I’m wondering, I want to put as much money as I can into this business, and you get the business going. And then, on the other hand, I work all the time, and I don’t want to be out of a fifth of what my male peers are making. So that was a really interesting conversation. I think to negotiate with suppliers because, our farmers and we want to create the biggest impact and at the same time, if we pay way too much for the Moringa data that we source, we’re never going to be able to sell in the US and so really coming to them, and I try and do in a transparent way and say, Hey, you guys we’re, what like, here’s what we need to be at the price that consumers will accept on the shelf and here’s a map showing you how we got there. But like we need to work together to get there because we can’t be $10 more expensive than any other superfood powder.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

Transparency, I love that you do that because in my experience, the perception is money’s not an object in western countries at times. And people often think you have tons of it when you don’t. So that you show them that, I think it is kudos to you. So, they really appreciate the value because they’re not here. They don’t know what the market will bear. And I also appreciate what you said about your own salary. Because I don’t think that comes up a lot. And we know women empowerment, we value what we do, but when you have to put $1 amount on it, then substantiate it to a board of directors, you’ve got to have a lot of confidence behind that. So, I am curious though, how did you figure out the number? I’m not asking you the number, but what did you do to figure out the number?.

Lisa Curtis 

It was kind of an interesting, sort of looking at a couple of different things. But I think, one looking at companies of our size in the Bay Area, what are those CEOs on average paid? And then I think also just been, maybe this is too much humility, but it felt right to me to say like, also, I would say that I probably have less experience than some of these CEOs, a lot of people don’t start companies when they’re 22 and run them when they’re 32. And so really figuring out okay, given what is my market rate and where do I feel comfortable investing in that and then also what do I think is sustainable? And what can the company afford? So, it’s been interesting there are definitely people at Kuli Kuli who I pay more than I do myself because I think that they have an incredible experience and their market value is really high, and I want them as a part of my team. But I also feel like the amount I came yourself I feel good about it and is enough to sustain me and my lifestyle. It’s, definitely a balance.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

So, folks, you’ve heard it first here on wisdom exchange TV, the CEO makes less than one of our employees. You don’t hear that often.

Lisa Curtis 

It was a choice. For me it felt fair. For a lot of other especially male CEO’s, they’re like why would you ever do that? And I’m like, well, they have 40 years of work experience. And if they were to go out on the market, like this is what they would make. And we got to get close to that if we’re going to attract the caliber of people.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

I appreciate what you’re saying and, look with on admiration because that’s humility and fairness, I love the word fair that’s what an employee would get somewhere else. You’re not trying to compromise the integrity or the expertise of your brand because your ego is too big. I’m going to wrap this up a little bit here with some sustainability because of course, a good business a good idea is nothing without sustainability. What are the two most challenging hurdles that you’ve had in sustaining your social impact? And ultimately the business itself.

Lisa Curtis 

I think one of the biggest challenges is striking the right balance in demand and supply. We couldn’t get into her hands-on enough Moringa that we were selling, so much Moringa and Whole Foods and sprouts and even started working with Costco and Walmart and just like crazy volumes, and we couldn’t get enough. And it’s been interesting in this pandemic era, where we’re actually at the point where we’ve had to cut our sales forecast really dramatically. Just given that retailers are focused on keeping their current product on shelves and our products are doing very well on shelves, but they’re not bringing in any new items, which is often where we see a lot of growth. And so that means that we are one of the first times in our company history I’ve had to say, actually our farmers want to sell more Moringa and Kuli Kuli can buy. And so we’ve now been thinking about well how do we connect them to other buyers in Europe? What are other creative ways that we can sell Moringa to other companies kind of different tactics to make sure that we don’t leave them hanging and so that definitely, I think one of the biggest points of challenges with a fast-growing startup and an entirely new commodity where we are by far the largest player like our farmers tell us all the time there that nobody buys Moringa the way that you do. Really just trying to be cognizant of not over-promising what we can purchase.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

It’s such a great point, is that all these people are producing for you and you want them there when you’re able to get your sales back up after this pandemic. So looking at other partners or collaborators, perhaps that can produce the product elsewhere, which is a mix, good, good business sense making it easier for them so that they don’t get sidetracked with another opportunity either. Now, speaking of the pandemic, would you do anything differently? Businesses altered as we know it, but just let’s say you did have a crystal ball, what advice would you give to help? Anything that you could have done differently.

Lisa Curtis 

Very good question. I think I would have tried to ramp down purchasing and production towards the end of last year, instead of we were supposed to launch into 800 new Walmart stores in April, we’ve had all these other big retailers that were supposed to bring us in in June. And so we ramped up a lot. And that has definitely been challenging because we now have all this inventory and it’s not easy to move through it as we have been anticipating. And I think we’re in a good situation in the sense that we’re going to have a longer shelf life where we’re not cutting out like a dairy product or something like that. But I think we’ll be okay. But we’ve had to make up a lot of budget cuts that have been fun. And none of it’s fun. And so I think we would have kind of tried to keep our inventory levels a lot lower. But we have managed to our staff and that is something that I’m really grateful for and something that is really important is that we’re able to keep our team strong.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

What are you doing to prepare for recovery? Because I know in different parts of the States and Canada stores are opening. Is there anything strategic that you’re going to do in the resurgence?

Lisa Curtis 

We’re focusing a lot on digital and because I think that is where consumers are right now. And I think they say that the shift to eCommerce has accelerated at least five to 10 years. So, when people start ordering groceries online, they’re like, Oh, actually, this is kind of easy. Maybe I’ll just keep doing it even when things open up. So we’ve put a lot more focus there and they’re trying to do go bigger and eCommerce. I think we are also trying to make sure that we keep our forecasts very conservative with their thinking when you talk about startups, and I’m really we’re often very ambitious and sometimes like, we knock it out of the park and Kuli Kuli certainly had years where we exceeded our sales goals. And we took our whole team down to Mexico to meet a marina foreigner and it was awesome, and I hope to have one of those years again, this is not that year. So, I think for this year, just really making sure we watch our Sundays. And that we keep in mind that there could be a second wave and that if things open up, but then they close back down in the fall that that could continue to affect our ability to get much new business and so we just need to be prepared for a world where our forecasting is quite a bit from where it normally is.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

Now, what role does collaboration play in in the social impact and, and sustainability of your company?

Lisa Curtis 

Huge. I mean, I think Kuli Kuli would not be here without the collaboration of so many different people and organizations and one of the organizations that really gave us our first foot in the door was Whole Foods Market. I came and then when we were literally handed making bars, kitchen or commercial gets in and one of the buyers kind of, I don’t know what she saw, but she was like I want to bet on that,  we’re going to authorize you and all of our stores. And then we proved ourselves there and they within two years of our business they’ve taken us nationwide which was just a huge milestone, a huge acceleration.  We’ve been able to partner with organizations like the Clinton Foundation, and more recently, just incredible investors. So Kellogg is one of our investors, Perfect foods. So two really large food companies who also actually care a ton about the mission and small farmers and then do so much to help us get out there in a bigger way.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

One of the things I’ve talked to many people about collaboration, is there anything that you do to structure collaboration to optimize it for long term?

Lisa Curtis 

I mean, I think there’s both internal and external collaboration. And I think externally, one of the things that I do a lot is I’m very transparent with where we need help. And so when people ask, how is this going, I’ll say this is going great. This is an area we’re struggling. And I find that that honesty is so often beneficial because they can say, Well I know somebody who knows someone at Kroger who might be able to connect you there anyway, they want to get a meeting and it turns into something bigger. And, and then internally, I think that’s one of our core company values as we’ve got a 12 person team, we’re a small startup, we need everybody to be working together and collaborating well. And so just really making sure that our team knows how Important That is great. And, the ripple effect I often find when we’re working and have a social impact. Ultimately, if it can create a ripple effect, it really has a profound change for the people or one of the beneficiaries of the Moringa growers.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

In your experience, what impact has your business had on the communities that are growing your product?

Lisa Curtis 

Yeah, I think that’s exciting.

That we’ve seen that, people have, like more income than they’ve had before. They have this extra cash and they use it to send their kids to school or to provide better food for their families. They use it to invest in Moringa school feeding programs, as we often will help support those and it’s just really cool to see the impact of that can have and how Moringa as a sustainable crop can be something that really provides a livelihood for them year-round.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

To wrap us up, I just have a little bit of a fun game. Are you up for it? All right. Excellent. Okay, fun little rapid-fire. I’m just going to ask you some quick questions and just the first things that come to mind.

What is the one thing you wish you knew prior to engaging down this path of investing in Kuli Kuli?

Lisa Curtis 

How much money it would take.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

Worst piece of advice you ever received.

Lisa Curtis 

Somebody told me that this was a lifestyle business and hacking project that would never make it big.  

Suzanne Stevens 

Best piece of advice you ever received?

Lisa Curtis 

To work at a startup before starting my own. So, kind of in-between Peace Corps and going full time at Kuli Kuli. I worked at another startup, and to specifically learn how to fail on someone else’s dime, which has helped a lot.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

Excellent advice.

I will give you a word and what is the first word that comes to mind when you hear it. Anything goes.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

Community

Lisa Curtis 

Farmers 

Suzanne F. Stevens 

purpose

Lisa Curtis 

mission

Suzanne F. Stevens 

meaning

Lisa Curtis 

work

Suzanne F. Stevens 

contribute

Lisa Curtis 

Forbes – because I’m a contributor there.

Suzanne F. Stevens 

conscious

Lisa Curtis 

raising

Suzanne F. Stevens 

collaborate

Lisa Curtis 

team

Suzanne F. Stevens 

consistency

Lisa Curtis 

every day lead

Suzanne F. Stevens 

legacy

Lisa Curtis 

I think of Muhammad Yunus and many other people who’ve left legacies

 

Suzanne F. Stevens 

you

Lisa Curtis 

learning

Suzanne F. Stevens 

me —the general me not me, me.

Lisa Curtis 

 woman

Suzanne F. Stevens 

we

Lisa Curtis 

Strength

Suzanne Stevens 

That one gave me shivers.

Lisa, is there any words of wisdom that you would like to give to our audience

Lisa Curtis 

To find that idea that won’t go away and then fully commit yourself to make it happen and that dream can come through you don’t need an MBA, you don’t need a business background to start a business. You need a lot of passion, a lot of grit to see it through.

Suzanne Stevens 

I love that. Thanks, so much for sharing with us today.

And for everyone.

Until next time, #MakeYourContributionCount

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