Entrepreneur Agatha Achindu has realized her piece of the American Dream. In 2006, she gave up a lucrative six-figure income career as a software manager to become even more successful as founder and CEO of Yummy Spoonfuls. She immigrated to the United States in the 1990’s. Yummy Spoonfuls was formed after she became pregnant and began to think seriously about American food.
Yummy Spoonfuls baby foods are free of preservatives, pesticides, growth hormones and artificial additives. In a test to find the best organic baby food Cookie Magazine named Yummy Spoonfuls as its “clear favorite.”
She, her husband and son reside in Marietta, GA.
(Interview with Flaimahmy August 16, 2009)
FM: You grew up in Cameroon, a country in west-central Africa. Tell us a bit about growing up there.
AA: What I remember as a child is so completely different from where I am today. The type of food that I grew up eating was more farm to table, very fresh organic foods from the farmers’ market straight to the table. The refrigerator would be for water, juice or any type of beverage. We didn’t have food that you would cook and keep in the refrigerator or freezer. Things like apples, papayas, pineapples were harvested from your garden directly to the table. That is my memory with my Mom making our bread. My Mom to this day, she’s 78 years old, still bakes hot bread for us.
FM: When did you become interested in Information Technology and was that unusual for a young lady from Cameroon?
AA: Actually it wasn’t because coming to America for us is for bigger opportunities. That’s what it is. I went to Maryland University. I wanted to do IT and that’s just what I did and then moved from D.C. to Atlanta; I think that was in 2005. I got a job with an IT firm here .
FM: How did you work your way up to earning a six-figure income in corporate America and how did you give that all up?
AA: How I worked my way is interesting. I first was working for a smaller company. I was brought in as a manager for quality assurance. That company was bought by another major company and then I was hired as a director by another company. I am such a passionate person when I work. I kept having those promotions. Leaving corporate America to do what I am doing today was a challenge somewhat because of all the money. But, on the other hand I was a mother. Things that didn’t used to matter before I had a child now mattered. I knew that it wasn’t just about my child but about every other child in the United States. It was a sacrifice. I asked my husband, “Are you ready for this? We have been used to a different life style. If I stop working to start doing this we might not ever go back again.” He said, “ It’s your passion. I’m going to support you to leave it.” That was it, with my business plan in hand, my passion and all our savings.
FM: That’s great.
FM: You have a philosophy, “Start Small Think Big.” That’s a great philosophy. Still, it must have been a bit scary when you and your husband cashed out your savings to venture out on your own. How does it feel to have such a supportive husband?
AA: I tell my friends all the time that he is the best thing that happened to me. He’s the best thing that ever happened since sliced bread. (Laughter). I think we all have a purpose in life and some of us are lucky that God will do it in such a way that He will put the right person there for you. I truly believe my husband is the right person for me because there is no way that I could have done this with anyone else.
FM: We often hear the word organic, we see organic foods at farmers’ markets; organic foods are being more often offered in our local supermarkets. What is organic and why should we prefer it over other foods?
AA: I know lately there has been so much talk about what is organic and what is not, nutrients and other things. You sometimes see 100% organic, sometimes organic, sometimes natural. Organic food stands for how that particular food, if it’s produce or if it’s livestock, how that particular food was raised. It’s farming without chemicals. There is a huge study that just went out about organic foods whether they have more nutrients or taste any better. I tell people all the time that between conventional and organic there are over three thousand different types of chemicals, pesticides or whatever you want to call them that are approved by the USDA to use in conventional farming. All those substances you will not find in organic farming or organic foods. For people who say, “You know what, I am going to do conventional, I do not want to do organic,” I would say for your kids the USDA publishes a list of foods that are highly concentrated with pesticides. They call them the dirty dozen. At the very least you should provide your kids with organic because the government is telling us what foods like spinach, apples, strawberries, cantaloupes, things like that have the highest amount of pesticides in them when tested.
FM: You had working mothers in mind when you created your food products. Tell us about the three stages.
AA: We have the Stage 1; we call it the Creamy Yummy. It’s just what the doctor prescribed. There is nothing else added. For example, the apple is nothing but apple. We have ten different items in the Stage 1. It is very convenient and we have enough variety. If you want the best for your kids you can really use our brand and take out any sense of guilt. We have broccoli, green beans, peas, papaya, carrots, sweet potatoes, pears, apples. All those are our Stage 1’s. When you have a baby and they first start taking solids your physician will tell you to give individual items so that if there is an allergic reaction you can easily tell what it is coming from. That’s what we did with all our Stage 1. We made it really easy. We didn’t add any cinnamon, nothing. The first foods can be as clean as anything else so you can easily feed your child. We have three different stages. All twenty-five of our meals are gluten free, dairy free, pesticide free. It’s just the cleanest foods that you can find in the market and it’s all organic.
Our Stage 2, for ages nine months to a year, we have eleven different items in that category from millet and blueberries to brown rice, banana blueberry to papaya, butternut squash and apple, carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli.
My four and a half year old son takes the Stage 3 because it is not your mushed up food. This is for advanced eaters from maybe 12 to 15 months to about three years. We have rice medley which is made out of brown rice, carrots, peas, basil, cold-pressed olive oil, tomatoes. Then we have the lentils, adzuki beans, porridge which is sweet potato and adzuki beans in a tomato base. We also have the potato porridge. I grew up eating the sweet potato and adzuki beans and the potato porridge. It is a staple meal in my country for babies. Adzuki beans are high in protein and very light on the tummy. That is why we picked that.
FM: Americans tend to like the taste of sugar and salt. Is that natural for human beings or do we unknowingly pass that taste “desire” on to our kids?
AA: I actually feel we unknowingly pass it to our kids because my son was born here in the U.S. and he’s never had sugar. He’s four and a half. I’ve never added sugar into anything. He doesn’t know the difference. He loves it [Yummy Spoonfuls]. The thing is unknowingly we pass our habits onto our kids just like our parents did to us. It’s an education for us; it’s a challenge, but it’s something that we really have to rush to fix. Because if you are looking at a child with obesity and diabetes in the U.S. today, this is one sector that no matter how advanced we have gotten we’ve not been able to correct. We have advanced medical degrees; we have everything but we cannot correct this because at a very early age we start prepping our kids to eat all these things that are not right for them. I will give you an example. About two or three weeks ago they talked in an article about the cost of childhood obesity and related hospitalizations. It was 237.6 million in 2005, an increase from 125.9 million in 2001.
That is huge. We do workshops in hospitals, workshops with mothers just explaining to them some of the little changes that can be made to really help our kids. Say for example your baby is six months old and you give your baby peas and your baby didn’t want peas that day. There is no reason to add apple sauce to the peas. Your baby does not want peas because they are not sweet. It might be they don’t like the texture . They might be just like us, they weren’t in the mood to eat. Just because we have a sweet tooth we would think, “Oh well, because it doesn’t taste well, I’m going to add some salt, or because it doesn’t taste well, I’m going to add some sugar.” We are not helping our kids when we do that.
FM: Excellence and integrity are guiding principles in your life. How do you incorporate those into your busy life as a wife, mother and businesswoman?
AA: It’s funny because today was actually one of those days that as a mother everybody needed a piece of me, the business, my husband, my son, my friend called from California, my girlfriend called from D.C. It was just crisis all over. I joined a mom’s group; it’s called The Mompreneur. It’s all just women in business. About four months ago I put in something and I said, “How do I manage my time and not feel guilty about doing less and one lady said, “Well, just have your ‘me’ time.” I’ve taken that to the tee. I have everything scheduled. We have a date night, just my husband and I. I have a ‘me’ time which is just me because I’m running around, I’m doing for my business, I’m doing for my husband, everything is scheduled properly so that at the end of the day I sit down and don’t feel guilty. It was a huge problem in the beginning for me because work was always at home. It wasn’t like when I was in corporate America after eight or nine hours if someone flew in from out of town I could just sit down and relax. When I’m home I’m doing something with either work or with home so it became a challenge. I tried to sort through it. When I did the schedule, putting everything I have to do on the schedule, that helped me.
Trust me. I was running around like a chicken. People say all the time “Oooh, I can’t wait to own my own business.” It is not that easy; it’s not as fun as we think it is but it is a lot of work. And, if you cannot manage your time properly you will be buried because you’ll say, “Oh, my goodness, I should deal with my son, my husband,” wherever you are you’re feeling guilty that you are not doing enough for the other part. It was really a tough period for me but now I have everything scheduled. I mean just like today has been an interesting day because everybody just needed something.
FM: What has been your greatest sacrifice?
AA: I would say my greatest sacrifice was leaving corporate America. That was the greatest sacrifice. The reason I say that is because it wasn’t just for me. For my husband, it was a lot because we gave up so much. There is a lot of comfort that comes with making this type of money too. You have a couple in the house bringing in this type of money and you have been living this way for years and years and years. Then all of a sudden, I, because of my dream said, “Well, we are going to give up this..we can’t go to Paris…we can’t do this…we can’t do this.” That was the biggest sacrifice for me.
FM: Who do you admire most?
My mom and my husband. My mom is such a strong woman who has gone through everything humanly possible that anybody can go through and at the end of the day she smiles. There is no baggage. If you don’t know her, if you don’t know her history you wouldn’t even know that there was ever anything and to this day I tell my friends that “love, live, and play like nobody’s watching” is from my mother and she instilled in me the patience that I have today.
For my husband, I just admire him for just loving me the way he does. It’s hard to explain but the way he loves me makes me love myself more. That is the best way to put it. To show somebody that you are their number one priority is something that we read in books. I’m living it with him for years and years. I’ve known him forever. I’ve known my husband since I was nine years old and I’m forty-two.
FM: We consider you to be a Fly Mommy. Please tell us in your own words what makes you a Fly Mommy,
AA: Let’s see, what makes me a Fly Mommy? I am a wonderful wife, wonderful mother, hard working; I’m on the run 105% of the time with an active toddler and in my own little way I am trying to change the world one yummy spoonful at a time to take childhood obesity and diabetes out forever. I just want to let everybody know to feed your child with an intention to good health. That way you only give to your child what is nourishing to them, what their body needs. That to me is a Fly Mommy.
You can find out more about Yummy Spoonfuls at www.yummyspoonfuls.com.