Monday, February 25, 2013

Goodbye Kookie Karma

Years ago a client told me about a healthy chocolate chip cookie. The second this client left my office I was tracking down these “Holistic Chocolate Chip” creations. I was so bowled over when I first tasted this kookie that I wrote a love letter to it (I know). Over the years, I developed a friendship with Juli, the owner of Kookie Karma. I could tell over the phone and via email she was a good egg (bad analogy). At the same time, clients and readers were falling in love with Kookie Karma kale “krackers”, their kookies and really everything they produced. At the office, we joked about the delays we experienced receiving some of our orders. We always chalked it up to the care it took to produce such amazing small-batch products and also, let’s face it, that the company was based in California. In retrospect, there may have been more to it.

A short time ago, I realized I hadn’t been in touch with Juli in a while, and reached out. She responded and explained she had made the tough decision to close Kookie Karma. She attached a link that I’ll share with you. I found her words so relatable whether you’re a business owner or a mom,  if you’ve even been blindsided by a new passion or had to say a difficult goodbye. Here is Juli's story:

Dear Kookie Karma,
On a beautiful Saturday at the Santa Monica farmer’s market, where the fruit and veggies were bountiful, people were friendly, hippies were frolicking, the air was salty and fog was blowing in, I picked up a cookbook.
A book, for a self-proclaimed “chef”, looked extremely enticing. Every recipe was full of bright plant foods, beautiful salads, and pizza topped with flowers(?!), gorgeous meals with the simplest ingredients. As I read the book I realized that each recipe was made with ONLY raw fruits and vegetables. No dairy. No animal meat. No sugar. No butter. No eggs. Not only did I buy the book, but I also decided to try this raw food ONLY lifestyle for one week.
I headed straight for my kitchen and I followed recipe after recipe. I can’t even begin to explain the way I felt. I didn’t cheat one time {note: I even brought my own salad dressings to happy hour with my girlfriends and they were definitely annoyed with me at this point}. Meals were in Tupperware containers and were ready to grab out of the fridge. Nothing went in my mouth that came from a package, not even chewing gum. I ate REAL, non-cooked, energy filled, sprouted, fresh, organic food for seven whole days.
The results: Endless energy. Smooth skin. 5 lbs. dropped {not a goal, just a side effect}. My Eczema cleared {all gone and doctors had told me it would never go away and just gave me steroid creams}. I felt light and airy. Slept like a baby. I was happy and energetic. No brain fog. No headaches. NO PMS!!
I had been working in an attorney’s office and had a bad case of the office blues and those seven days of eating a 100% raw diet motivated me to leave my job and return to school to study nutrition. A year later Kookie Karma was born. Using my cooking experience and nutrition knowledge, I created my own “packaged snacks” to sell to stores. My “kookies” contained no dairy, no sugar, no gluten and no soy.
I didn’t see another product like this on the market and I figured if I felt this good eating this way, so would everybody else. I lived and breathed my business. Sweat. Tears. Hours of baking. Deliveries. Web design. Package design. Sales. Marketing. Email after email. You name it.
I landed Whole Foods Market as one of my first customers, which then led to me building my own commercial kitchen. It was a dream come true. Despite the long hours, I could still make my own hours which allowed me to have fun on the side. A 24 year old’s dream!
Sales went up, Kookie Karma was named a “hot item” by In Style magazine in 2006 and I was named one of the Top 20 Entrepreneurs in their 20s by the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Then… I fell in love. I was not only distracted by a man but suddenly I wanted different things in my life. In fact, it wasn’t long before we were starting a family. Thinking everything would be fine and I could make it work, my employees could handle it, I could bring my son to work. You know, all those thoughts you have before your big wake-up call {the day the baby arrives}.
I remember being on the phone with the bank, computer on my lap and my newborn baby at my side, and they informed me that due to the declining economy, my line of credit was being revoked.
A year later, I was in the same boat but with a 1 year old running around and another newborn on my lap. I was checking email just hours after the birth of my second son and back in the office a week later.
My passion for health food wasn’t fading but my drive to be an entrepreneur was. I didn’t want to wear all the hats; juggle cash flow, stay on top of the bookkeeping or answer the never-ending phone calls. My interest, my head and my HEART were someplace else. Kookie Karma had became nothing but stress for me.
Over the next few years, Kookie Karma grew a little but I had stopped taking a salary and I needed investors. I didn’t have the time or energy to search for them, my focus was elsewhere. I tried to sell, but the business needed funding to keep going another month.
Eventually, it died.
A slow painful death at that.
Kookie Karma has been a huge part of me. It’s the only real career I’ve known. It has defined and shaped me into the person I am today. I’ve learned more from running my own business than any business school could teach me, I’ve met the coolest people and had the same, wonderful staff for over seven years. I have received the BEST thank you letters from people who have enjoyed my products. In fact, it was often those messages that kept me in the business longer than I should have been. 
But I realized that my past had to die before my new life could really start. I couldn’t handle being a CEO and a mom. That realization was HUGE. My kids are my passion now. Forget trying to expose the WORLD to health food, it’s a challenge just trying to expose my sons to it!
I am still blogging at PUREmamas and consulting. Someday I’ll start another business, but for now I’m just wearing the mommy hat and it is by far the hardest yet most fulfilling one yet. I’ve definitely gone through feelings of guilt and failure and disbelief. I never thought I’d be saying goodbye to Kookie Karma.
I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything was the way it should have been. And it is how it should be. I made a choice. A big huge choice and grew from it. Pain, stress and hardship make our souls richer.
Goodbye 20′s.
Goodbye Kookie Karma.

I loved this letter and thought you all would too.
Questions for you. Does this leave you sad that Juli had to choose or do you see it as her embracing “her new life” as she said? Do you think you can be equally passionate about motherhood and a business or career? Work lives and personal lives? Does Juli’s story about going “raw” make you want to experiment with your own diet, to dive into something different?

My favorite quote:
“ I realized that my past had to die before my new life could really start.”
Two pieces of news. First, I emailed with Juli yesterday and she's completely content with her decision though she wishes she could have sold the business (somehow I feel that was meant to be). And second, we have a new feature called Thin and Thifty with one item on sale at the Foodtrainers' store each week. Too bad it can't be Kookie Karma.


  1. I have a feeling I will be able to relate to Juli very, very soon. Nick and I will get pregnant this year sometime and while I would LOVE to continue blogging, and moving along with my business ideas, I know it won't happen. But....I love that quote! Maybe my "new life" with kids will bring even MORE opportunities in the far future! Even if I don't continue with something now, doesn't mean I can't do it later, and even BETTER.

  2. I'd be lying if Juli didn't make me think back to the times I was literally "pumping" and emailing (talk about multitasking) and question whether rushing back to work was did. My only problem is that if I got engrossed in being a full time mother I wouldn't have come back to nutrition, I know that about myself. It's very hard with little ones. My boys are almost 9 and 11 and the juggling is somewhat easier or I'm used to it.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this with your readers! And all the support all those years ;) Glad you liked the products Lauren!

  4. Ha. I know. I have so so many memories like that. My kids are so little - not even in school yet. So, it's totally different for me. When they get older I will want to work or something more. But KK wasn't lucrative. It was a labor of love. And that combo just doesn't work.

  5. Andrea@WellnessNotesFebruary 25, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    Sounds like Kookie Karma was a great product. I'm glad Juli is happy with her decision.

    I went back to teaching several classes when the kid was only a few weeks old. Overall, I worked way too much the first year of his life, and I regret it now.

    Ultimately, I made the choice to teach less and spend more time with him, and it feels very right. But it took me a while to get to this point. I also know that things will change once he gets a bit older. But for now, it's right for us.

  6. Andrea, I worked too much too soon. I have thought about adapting my schedule after posting Juli's words. I feel time is such a gift. These choices are hard ones though, aren't they?

  7. I have so much respect for you Juli. And regarding gluten- our gut is our second brain, right? I am 100% gluten free, kids still have some gluten but not much in house, better for so many things.

  8. i also think I am the type of person to second guess, to feel I can do better. Working and mothering often feels like not doing anything 100% (because you can't do both). Decisions, decisions.

  9. Love the letter, but sad to hear there will be no more Kookie Karma-they were really delicious! The last part of Juli's letter sums up how I feel about by own life (so far) "I wouldn't change a thing." Even though things don't always work out as we expect them to, as long as we follow our true selves and dreams, there are no regrets. I'm one of those people who think that everything works out for a reason.

  10. I can relate to this...there is never enough time to focus on a career when you have kids. And it's not right but ultimately most of the responsibility lies on a mom's shoulders. Or maybe we're just particular about things being a certain way?

    I never tried Kookie Karma and I'm sad to hear that I won't get to.

  11. A great letter. She followed her heart and her kids are her passion..I wish her good luck in everything.

  12. Posting this for someone who had trouble...
    For some reason I can't post a comment on your blog from my work computer (maybe it's a sign that I should be getting back to work),but I just wanted to say thank you for sharing that letter - it was
    very inspiring.

    What I loved most about it was that she was honest with herself. I think too often in our competative society people are pushing themselves to the limit in a job (or a relationship, or an impossible
    diet) because they feel it's what they should be doing. It takes bravery and soul-searching to make a decision like Juli did, but it sounds like it paid off for her - there's no better feeling than
    taking a risk, and realizing later that you made the right decision even though it may not seem like it right away.

    This letter really speaks to me because a couple years ago I decided to pursue my passion and take a distance ed course to become a nutritionist. I studied on my lunch breaks, after work, and now that
    I've finally graduated I'm faced with a decision: to leave the safety of my corporate job, and launch my little business as a nutrition consultant in the big city of Toronto.

    What's great about Juli's letter is that it's realistic; owning your own business isn't easy, but you learn a lot along the way, and things
    might not always work out like you planned, but you'll never learn
    anything if you don't take risks.

    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Lauren, we need to figure our how to display your comments, anyone else having issues posting, I have heard from a few of you, so sorry. Lauren- as I emailed so excited that you're pursuing your passion, the corporate world will always be there (not that I know about that)

  14. thanks ayala, how amazing the she knew what was right while she had time to make important changes.

  15. you would love them ameena. And I agree, seems mothers wrestle with this so much. However, maybe that's a blessing. A father in Juli's shoes wouldn't even feel he had the option to follow his heart with the children. I'm just saying with the pressure comes opportunity for some too.

  16. I would've assumed you're a everything happens for a reason person. Probably a nice mindset to have.

  17. Thanks for the encouragement Lauren - it means a lot coming from you! Thanks for posting my comment - apparently I can reply to comments, but just not post my own :)

  18. Wow, i just love this. I am so grateful for the lovely comments. THANK YOU. And I DEF think you should pursue this nutrition job! I really really do. I just feel like it will be awesome. Keep me posted...I'd love to post about it on my blog or help in some way. Good luck. And thanks again.

  19. Thank you @ameenadin:disqus yes. I totally think that it's possible to work and be a mom but wearing all the hats was just too much. Maybe had I had a biz partner or investors it would have been different. The stress of cash flow, etc. was just nearly impossible...sleepless nights, major stress and LITTLE to no income {even thought we made money as a business - taking a salary didn't feel right because we needed to grow every year and needed the money to do so, etc.}. Anyways. I hope it doesn't discourage people from running a small business. That's not what I was hoping to convey. It's so worth it and nobody should let fear stop them!!!! ;) thanks for the comment...I so appreciate the support.

  20. I totally feel for you. That's how I felt too. I just couldn't get out of my "job" very easily. So it was kind of a nightmare but I tried to make it work...anyways, here I am ;) THANK YOU Andrea for the your comment. And your story.

  21. I love this! And all the responses it has gotten too. So inspiring. I'm truly saddened I never got to try Kookie Karma and totally selfishly wonder if Juli will share some of her kookie baking secrets as a result??? This helps me to be realistic, because I am totally a dreamer sometimes and forget all the sweat, tears, and time that goes into these "labors of love." Encouraging, but also honest :)

  22. so great that you're shining a light on female entrepreneurs and how tough it can be...the great thing about women is that they tend to create companies/products that speak to what's already worked for them.

  23. Thank you so much for sharing this lovely letter. I was just recently exposed to the raw and vegan food myself. I notice that the more I read and research about it the more interested I am to the point that I am seriously considering to study raw&vegan and nutrition. I came across Kookie Karma from a raw and vegan cafe owner that I grew fond of so I was pretty excited to try a Kookie, imagine my disappointment when I couldn't find any, until finally I stumbled upon this letter/post.

    Even though I am not a mother, I sympathize with Juli. It is definitely hard to make a decision between 2 major aspects in our lives. I admire your courage of being able to finally draw a line and your willpower to finally make the decision.

    I am personally passionate about food and hope to someday turn that passion into an entrepreneurial effort so this letter is definitely inspiring and has given me a lesson that there's nothing wrong when you change your priorities and passion just as long as you remain true to yourself.