It feels like just yesterday that Agatha Achindu left her corporate tech job in 2006 to launch Yummy Spoonfuls, a company specialized in organic, frozen meals for toddlers. At the time, the now-mother of three hesitantly told her colleagues that she was leaving to make her passion project for cooking homemade, healthy foods for young children accessible to all parents. They thought she was crazy.
"I just knew that this was bigger than me," she says. "I went from getting a big fat check every two weeks to leaving to start Yummy Spoonfuls."
Born in Nigeria and raised in Cameroon, Achindu grew up harvesting vegetables and eating fresh foods. In 1990 when she arrived in the U.S., she couldn't believe the way that many Americans ate, and how it seemed to impact the way they felt.
She wanted to help others eat better, too, especially after having children and struggling with the available options in local grocery stores. Achindu launched weekend workshops for women in the community. In the sessions, she taught others how to cook with healthy foods, including peas, butternut squash, carrots, and sweet potato.
One day, she learned something: Other moms didn't necessarily want to make their own meals, however, they did think it was important to have all-natural, fresh options for their kids. She recalls one of the attendees telling her "If I cook at home, my child won't eat it. My child only likes your food."
Soon after this, she started selling food out of her home. This led to that fateful conversation in 2006 with her husband about what a career pivot to launching a business could mean for their family. She took the leap of faith.
"If he had said no, I wouldn't have done it," she recalls, adding that he felt confident they could live off of his paycheck at the time and that she needed to follow her passion. "He told me that it was about time. I was able to start making money from something I was doing for years and not making any [previously]."
Eight years in, she faced a tough situation. While the company was turning a profit, it wasn't enough to pocket a substantial salary—and grow the business. On top of that, she and her husband had invested around $600,000 of personal finances into Yummy Spoonfuls. "We were making some money, but whatever it was that we were making, I took a little salary, but put everything back into the company and kept pushing."
In 2014, she decided it was time to join forces with business partner, Camila Alves, a Brazilian-American model, designer, and lifestyle expert who was extremely interested in what Achindu was doing. (Alves also happens to be married to actor Matthew McConaughey.) Alves asked Achindu to chat about a partnership. They met over tacos and the rest was history.
"She told me that she loved what I was doing and that it would take two moms out of two immigrant families to bring this type of change to America," reflects Achindu. "There were no lawyers at the time, we just knew we wanted to make it happen."
And make it happen, they did. Today, Yummy Spoonfuls is sold in Walmart stores nationwide, and includes a range of organic, frozen options from bowls and bites to pancakes and mac-and-cheese.
"When I talk about food being community, that's because that's what food is to me. Food is what you would bring someone, if you're having a baby, if someone dies, it's always food," she says.
Achindu shares up her biggest learnings from building her business.
1. Borrow money when you have money. Although it may not sound intuitive, this was one of the biggest lessons Achindu says she learned from starting her company. "I took a financial risk with everything we had, and that was not good," she says. After she spent her savings, it was hard for her to find a bank—even the one they used for years—to lend more. "The best time to borrow money is when you have money."
2. Work with people who share your values. When Achindu went to look for the right business partners, it was an easy decision to stray away from individuals who were solely focused on the financials. "I met with someone early on who wanted to cut corners and increase profit margins. When we left that meeting, I told my husband, 'This is not going to be it. This won't work, because it's not about money, money would come when you're doing good.'"
3. Prioritize your personal funds for what's really important. In the early years of Yummy Spoonfuls, Achindu sacrificed creature comforts that she and her husband previously enjoyed when they were a two-income household. "There were things we couldn't afford like vacations or cable TV," she says. But they continued to focus and nurture their partnership.
One thing that was non-negotiable? Date night. It just looked a little different. Rather than going to expensive restuarnts, they stayed in together. Just them, no phones, no work.
4. Money won't buy you happiness. "When I came to the United States, I always looked at money thinking that you can do a lot with very little," she says. "Money is not the beginning and the end of it."
Today, her happiness comes from her family and knowing that her children have watched her grow a thriving business from the ground up.
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