Like any good entrepreneur, Janie Hoffman gets excited by the thought of seed money. In her case, that seed is chia, which she sells in a variety of delectable snacks and drinks through the company she started in 2009, Mamma Chia.
Based in Southern California, Hoffman is making her way to Vancouver, British Columbia for this week’s SVI Women to share the trials and tribulations of running a fast-growing company competing in an equally fast growing food and beverage category—one that she started.
A Company Born From a Mission
Hoffman, right, founded the first organic chia-based food and beverage company without any business or industry-specific experience. “I was teaching meditation and consciousness, and leading workshops on mindfulness and effective leadership,” Hoffman recalls, “when I fell in love with chia seeds. It wasn’t that I had a burning desire to start something—it was a pure passion for chia seeds and wanting to spread the love of chia.”
When Hoffman realised that the best way to “spread the love” was to start a company, she knew it would have to align with her social and environmental values. So before her product was even on the shelf, Mamma Chia had joined 1% for the Planet, donating 1% of annual gross sales to support farmers, community groups and organisations that are building healthy, local food systems.
At the same time, Mamma Chia became a certified B Corporation and a founding member of the Slow Money Alliance, a network of food entrepreneurs who are rebuilding local food systems around the US. In fact, Hoffman will arrive in Vancouver directly from the Slow Money Conference in Boulder, where she’ll be presenting a $50,000 Entrepreneur of the Year Award on behalf of Mamma Chia. “The social and environmental mission was at the heart of this company from the start,” Hoffman says emphatically. “If it hadn’t been, Mamma Chia wouldn’t have been born.”
Leading By Example
When she first shared the idea with her friends of an organic chia-based beverage company, many thought she was crazy. Having somewhat naively created a whole new category of beverages herself, Hoffman ponders, “I always wonder if takes someone from outside the food and beverage world to make that happen, someone who doesn’t really know the business that well.” Obviously, Hoffman didn’t let the naysayers deter her. Almost immediately after her first product launched in Whole Foods stores across the US in 2011, Hoffman’s company took off by storm, helping to spread the love of chia to thousands of new customers. With shelf space in a growing number of major retail grocery chains, Hoffman has received numerous awards, including BevNET’s 2012 Person of the Year and Best Non-Carbonated Beverage of 2011, and has received national media coverage.
“The cool thing is that, by being a leader in your field by ‘doing good,’ you inspire other folks,” says Hoffman. She loves hearing from people who were motivated to join 1% for the Planet or become a certified B Corporation after hearing about Mamma Chia at the BevNET conference. “In the beverage world, natural products are a drop in the bucket,” Hoffman says. “Being able to inspire others to bring that [sensibility] into their culture and mission is fabulous.”
Supporting Women Entrepreneurs
When asked what excites her most about attending her first SVI Women as a True Confessions speaker, Hoffman immediately replies, “My heart is in supporting female entrepreneurs, so l love the idea of women coming together and sharing their stories.” She continues, “Women who have a mission to make the world a better place through whatever venue they choose, and sharing in that process and empowering one another—that floats my boat.”
Hoffman is still surprised that, given where her life was just a few years ago, she has created a successful commercial enterprise in the packaged goods world. “It wouldn’t have happened but for this bringing of two worlds together—the love of chia and conscious capitalism.”
Junxion is proud to be a sponsor of SVI Women—Vancouver, which took place May 1-3, 2013 at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts at SFU Woodward’s in Vancouver, BC. For more information, go to http://hollyhocklife.org/sviw