When Angela Sutherland, 36, became pregnant with her daughter Elodie, now 5, she had baby food on the mind. “I started thinking about what I was supposed to do during pregnancy — what’s been found to help the baby,” recalls Sutherland. And her findings quickly became laser-focused on one topic: nutrition. “The one thing that is universally accepted in the scientific community is that nutrition matters during childhood,” she says. “It comes down to prenatal vitamins and folic acid, and these studies around nutrition and the effects of it.”
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement.
During her quest for viable food options for her baby, Sutherland learned how the amount of brain development in the first three years — and how nutrition — impacts children for life. Unfortunately, unless she was willing to cook every meal for her baby herself, there wasn’t anything that checked all the boxes. “I realized that I work a lot,” admits the former investment banker. “How am I going to feed my kid if I'm on the road and working 80 hours a week?”
That was her “a-ha moment,” and her findings inspired Sutherland to quit her job four years ago. After raising funds for a year, she and her co-founder Evelyn Rusli launched Yumi®, a fresh and organic baby food delivery service almost three years ago. The brand offers pudding-, soup-, and pie-inspired purees, as well as plant-based finger foods. Meals are outlined by age and based on nutritionist-formulated plans that are designed for every baby’s individual developmental needs, depending on what stage they’re in.
Interestingly enough, despite her passion for nutrition, the Los Angeles resident admittedly had no prior experience in the category. She grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, and studied math at Brown University® (remember, she was an investment banker before starting Yumi!). “My mom is from Vietnam — she came over after the war,” Sutherland explains. “My dad is a farmer from Michigan who became a lawyer. I was raised in a way that nutrition didn’t matter very much, with a ‘dirt don't hurt’ and ‘kids have a big metabolism’ perspective.”
It’s safe to say that nutrition matters a lot to Sutherland and her children (she’s now a mom of two — her son Ronan is 3). Read on to learn more about her best career advice, her take on women in business wearing makeup, her dedication to facials and lasers, what she cooks in her spare time, and more.
Spotlyte: How did you and your co-founder, Evelyn, start working together
Angela Sutherland: I was a math major. My co-founder, Evelyn, was an English major. She studied English at Princeton®, then went to work at The New York Times® and The Wall Street Journal®. We’d been friends for a long time, and we just nerded out about science and the indignity of how people could expect working women to do all these things.
Spotlyte: Is there gender disparity, even with baby food?
AS: All of the people I knew in my generation that worked were also cooking [for their kids]. That was bewildering. [I thought,] you guys don't even cook for yourselves — you don't even know how to cook! How are you cooking three meals a day for your kid? It was because they fundamentally felt bad about their options at the grocery store. But it's not sustainable. The intersection of people that actually can cook at home — have the will, the need, and the want — and have the time is really low.
The [burden] is usually on women. Men don't think that their wives care if they cook every meal. It doesn't occur to them. We were motivated by the idea that this category and categories like it are never changed — because men [work] in them. Evelyn and I realized that we had every opportunity to change the category, so we decided to quit our jobs and do it.
Spotlyte: Tell us more about how women are changing business as a whole.
AS: There is a belief that women in business need to look a certain way. Nowadays, at least in my opinion, I feel like I’m one of the people actively breaking down a lot of those notions. I choose not to wear makeup a lot of the time.
It’s nice to see that everyone's treating it very differently across the board. It's important for women at the forefront of business to just represent themselves the best. If you like makeup, that's great, too. I just don't think it's required anymore, which is why I take care of my skin more.
Spotlyte: What is your morning skincare routine?
AS: I take a shower and use Bioderma® Sensibio® H₂O Soothing Micellar Cleansing Water. I don't love a ton of makeup, so I love face oils. I use mostly RODIN® Olio Lusso® Luxury Face Oil: Jasmine & Neroli on my face, because it smells really good. Someone once told me that your skin's natural defense against the world is an oil, so I've used that ever since.
Spotlyte: What’s in your makeup bag?
AS: If I do use makeup, I use Kosas® Color & Light Intensity Cream Blush & Highlighter Palette.
Spotlyte: What’s your stance on anti-aging?
AS: It's okay to age, and I try to do it well in the best skin that I have.
Spotlyte: What’s your evening skincare routine?
AS: I do a multi-step night regimen. First, I’ll use Avene® Cleanance® Cleansing Gel. Sometimes I do a toner, but then I use SK-II® Facial Treatment Essence. Then, every other night, I’ll use Tata HarperTM Skincare Resurfacing Mask. I use the Weleda® Skin Food Ultra-Rich Cream on my face while sleeping.
Spotlyte: Do you get any aesthetics treatments, like laser?
AS: Helen Fincher, MD, is my dermatologist. I go to her because I really love laser treatments. I've done every laser under the sun: CO₂ Fractional laser, IPL lasers, Laser[Max] Genesis®. I’m a big fan of lasers, because I don't really wear makeup and I think skin really matters. I try to take care of it as much as I can. I go once a quarter to get Laser Genesis or something. I'll do Fraxel® every two years.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
Spotlyte: Have you ever tried injectables?
AS: I did. I think [the results] are great. I got injectable wrinkle reducers in my forehead, because I have a very expressive forehead. The reason why I stopped is because I got pregnant. You don't get them when you're pregnant.
Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you.
Spotlyte: What other treatments do you love?
AS: I go to a Korean spa, Gloria Skin Care®, to get facials once every three weeks. The thought process is if you go often, you’ll keep your pores looking small. Once your pores get big, you have to do something like a laser to make them small again.
Spotlyte: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
AS: I throw dinners. I love entertaining, and I love cooking a lot. It brings everyone together, and it feels purposeful. I'm half Vietnamese, so I cook a lot of Asian food. I'll do homemade dumplings, soup, or rice dishes, things like that. My husband's French, so sometimes we'll do French food. It depends on the day and my mood.
Spotlyte: What workouts are you into?
AS: I really like Barry's [Bootcamp]®. I've never seen results like I've seen from Barry's. This woman Astrid has the best ab classes in the world. And she had two babies, and they both ate Yumi. I didn't know that at the time, but then we talked about it. I said, "No way!"
I also love the instructors Tina and Edward at SoulCycle®. A SoulCycle founder is one of our investors, and we asked her to be invested because we just loved SoulCycle so much. There is something amazing about building a community like that. It just makes you want to go, because it's empowering and it feels supportive. It makes you not feel sh*tty about working out.
Spotlyte: Speaking of empowerment: What's the best career advice you’ve received, and who gave it to you?
AS: My former boss in private equity preaches connectivity. He’s a big believer in the network that you create — and not in the sense of sleazy networking. You have to be supportive of other people, and they will support you. You have to do right by them, and they'll do right by you. That is actually what builds your career.
When I got this advice, I was 25. At that age, you might think, "If I work really hard, that's all that matters." But, watching people follow my boss’s advice, and then doing it myself, I realized it really did help.
Spotlyte: How did this key advice help you advance in your career?
AS: I never noticed it more than when we were raising money and starting this company. You really do have to call in favors. You're not going to be in the same job for the rest of your life — or maybe you are! But, [your career] will be based on the relationships you've built, and the network that you build out for yourself. Undervaluing that when you are young can be a mistake.
Spotlyte: What career advice do you have for people who want to follow in your footsteps?
AS: It’s the same advice I would give to anyone, in any space: you should believe that the product needs to exist if you're going to push it out there in the world. If you think it's good to have, or nice to have, then it's not going to work as well.
Specifically, the baby category is ripe for change. There's so much that's been there for 100 years. These things have not been changed. These spaces are crowded, and you’re fighting against people with big, deep pockets for marketing. You have to believe that it needs to exist.
Spotlyte: Who has been your biggest cheerleader?
AS: I have a pretty good group of supporters. My husband, Angus, is definitely up there. I met him the month I moved to L.A. It's very hard to start a company, and it's very hard to be gone all the time, particularly with young kids. He's been very supportive of that. He's always been my biggest fan.
Spotlyte: Do you have a mantra or a quote that you use to cheer on the people around you?
AS: I have a mantra that I tell everyone in my office: “Believe that life is iterative, that you will always improve, that you don't have to be perfect today.” This is something I remind myself a lot, because I'm a perfectionist. The little things that you do every day add up to something.
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