Women We’re Watching: Agatha Achindu
Welcome back to “Women We’re Watching,” a new series that highlights changemakers in the ever-expanding wellness industry. Unique vision, tireless passion and true grit make these women worth watching… and celebrating.
Agatha Achindu is an entrepreneur, mother and the founder of Yummy Spoonfuls, a game-changing organic baby- and tot-food line that serves up nutritious frozen food in convenient, on-the-go pouches. Agatha’s advocacy, business savvy and passion for healthy food—and her commitment to ensuring this food is not just for the elite—make her a woman we’re watching.
Have you always been passionate about healthy food?
I grew up on an organic farm in Cameroon, in West Africa, and was surrounded by fresh food all the time. I always dreamed of coming to the United States—it looked so beautiful and glossy in magazines! But when I got here, I was shocked. The grocery stores had canned food! Why would someone buy a can of corn instead of fresh corn? Why would they choose fake food in a box? Nothing smelled or tasted good to me. It took me a very long time to regain my appetite.
To compensate for missing the food in Cameroon, I began cooking homemade meals at college and teaching my friends to cook healthy. (Helpful hint: If you want to gather people around or make new friends, start sautéing onions—people will show up!) My friends loved the meals we made, and began coming to me to help them recreate their favorite recipes in a healthy way. KFC fried chicken was a favorite, and when I showed them how to make healthy chicken that still tasted delicious, they loved it! I was able to share my love of healthy, fresh food with others, and my passion grew.
How did your love of fresh food help you launch Yummy Spoonfuls?
Years after college, when I became pregnant, I found that baby food in the stores often had a shelf life of two years. Two years! How is food supposed to last that long and still be healthy? In addition, the baby food in the jars smells, looks and tastes terrible. I realized the majority of the baby food industry wasn’t healthy at all. I knew I could make healthy, delicious baby food for my children, and I was determined to give other mothers a different choice. So, I started going to area hospitals and asking if I could hold free workshops to teach mothers how to feed their children with homemade, healthy baby food.
I taught these classes all over Atlanta for free, and realized many of the mothers came back repeatedly, even though at this point they knew how to make the food. It was convenience! When they came to my classes, they had a dedicated window of time to make the food, and then they’d go home with containers full of fresh batches with which to feed their families. That’s when it hit me: Of course people bought commercial baby food even though it didn’t taste or smell good. It was the convenience. I wanted to make baby food that was convenient, delicious and healthy.
Yummy Spoonfuls launched in Whole Foods soon after its founding—a dream for most wellness entrepreneurs! How did you secure Whole Foods as one of your first retailers?
I decided to pitch to Whole Foods because it seemed like a natural fit for an organic brand. I walked in with my presentation for Yummy Spoonfuls and some little samples of my frozen baby food. The buyer tasted it and loved it so much, she called her boss in, who also loved it. They decided right then and there to carry Yummy Spoonfuls. I never even showed them my presentation! I knew then that I was on the right path.
Congratulations on being retailed at Target! Why was it important for you that Yummy Spoonfuls be sold not just at Whole Foods, but also at Target stores?
Being picked up by Target was hugely important to me, because healthy food should be a birthright. No child should have to go without access to healthy, delicious and fresh food. Whether you’re the child of the president or the child of a homeless parent, your food should be the same quality; being able to afford or find these foods shouldn’t just be for the elite. What I’m striving for is to make healthy food accessible, and to make it easy for parents to feed their children well, because every parent—no matter who you are or what you do for a living—wants the best for their children. I never wanted my brand to be an elitist brand, and that’s why getting into Target and Amazon was so important to me. If my brand were covered by food stamps, it would be a dream come true!
How do you stay motivated when business feels like an uphill battle?
I was just thinking about this recently, actually! I get messages in my Instagram inbox from people saying I’ve made such a difference in their lives. That’s what keeps me going! I’m helping people feed their children. I’m teaching them what healthy food looks, smells and tastes like. That means so much.
How do you incorporate joy into your life on a daily basis?
I’m so glad you said “joy,” because joy, to me, lives within. Some people go to bed and don’t have the gift of waking up, so I am joyful that I get to see another day. Waking up, saying a prayer of gratitude that I’m alive… being a woman in this time when we’re seeing and feeling this shift of consciousness brings me joy! And gratitude is joyful. Deep gratitude for my husband and children—these are all things that bring me joy.
What do you want people to know about eating healthy, whole and organic food?
I want people to understand that they need to be their own advocates. Don’t rely on USDA or FDA guidelines. Get to know ingredients in your food. If you’re buying bread, for instance, read the ingredients. You need five or six ingredients to make a loaf of bread. If you’re picking up a loaf of bread and there are 15 ingredients, especially those you can’t pronounce, don’t buy it! You have the ability to take charge of what goes into your body.
Do you have any tips on how to shop for healthy food?
When you shop for healthy food, shop the outer aisles of the grocery store. This will ensure you’re buying fresh fruit, vegetables and perishable food items. This is where whole foods live! Also, shop local whenever possible. You’ll be buying food in season, and it will be fresher and full of nutrients because it hasn’t been shipped across the country or the world. Also, if you’re able to shop a farmer’s market, get to know the farmers. Your local farmers may be not be able to afford organic certification, but he or she will be able to tell you what they are using on their crops.
Lastly, follow the EWG Dirty Dozen guide. There are some foods that you should absolutely avoid if possible when they’re not organic; other foods can be safer even if they’re not organic. This guide will help you shop smarter.
Do you have any advice for women who want to change the world with their ideas?
If you want to change the world, start with your local community. Find out what your community needs. Does this need align with your passion? Chances are, once you begin addressing a real need close to home, you’ll discover that there’s a 99.9 percent chance it exists in other, broader communities. In short, start small, but think big!
Love this series featuring inspiring women entrepreneurs? Get to know Amy Ziff, another woman we’re watching!