At a time when meal and snack bars have literally taken over grocery aisles and bodega shelves in droves, it's tough to stand out amongst the crowd. Jola Sonkin and her mother Amelia Kirchoff have found their own way to power through the masses with GoMacro: plant-based, organic protein bars.
Advocates of a healthy way of eating, Jola and Amelia started GoMacro after Amelia's battle with breast cancer back in 2003. The diagnosis prompted Amelia to switch up her diet, introducing whole foods and testing out home recipes that allowed her to snack on something sweet and nutritious, but not processed. From that, GoMacro was born, and Jola and Amelia have both been on a macrobiotic diet ever since.
The mother-daughter team tests out new recipes at their Wisconsin farm, and have gone from selling locally to distributing to over 30,000 locations. They're spreading the word of balanced, clean eating one bar at a time, and their business mission to give back donates a portion of proceeds to organizations they're passionate about. So, not only are you putting something good into your body, you're doing good when you support the company, and that's something we're all about at Good American.
Jola talked with us recently about sustainability, wellness, and the ins and outs of running a business with the woman who knows you best-your mother.
GoMacro is a brand that makes you feel good about your purchase. The product is plant-based, your trays can be composted, you donate to food pantries, and your production is powered by renewable energy–the list goes on! What are small steps that every business could take to leave a positive impact on the planet?
To start, I think having a larger sense of purpose within the organization has been critical to our success, and our ability to work on larger projects. My mom and I are very proud of the principles that GoMacro was built upon: Eat positive, Be Well, Tread Lightly, Give Back and Live Long. Every decision we make ties back to our mission and our core values.
One of the ways we’ve been able to establish new sustainability initiatives is by having an open-door policy for ideation. Many of the ideas we’ve implemented have come from our team members seeing an opportunity to create positive change.
For example, our logistics department initiated a mutually beneficial relationship with neighboring Organic Valley, to combine outbound shipments to our common vendors across the US, reducing the number of trucks on the road. Our partnership with Kimberly Clark, in which we upcycle our necessary single-use sanitation items like hairnets and gloves, was brought about thanks to our purchasing team.
The creativity and sense of pride our entire team has in making GoMacro a forward-thinking organization is a driving force within our business.
How has your company surpassed the expectations you had going into it?
My mom and I often look at each other in disbelief that our small business that began in a milk shed has come this far. When we started GoMacro, we didn’t have a business plan and built our business day by day. GoMacro was truly a blessing in disguise that came out of a challenging moment for our family, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As GoMacro took off, what are some things that you never could have predicted? And how did you learn from them?
We definitely never envisioned that our bars would one day be sold nationwide, especially in such mainstream retailers like CVS, Kroger, and 7-Eleven. It’s exciting to have been at the forefront of the shift towards a heightened consumer demand for clean products. The notion of food and its correlation with our mental and physical health wasn’t a conversation the general population was having 15 years ago.
We’re committed to continuing to educate our community on how to live a balanced, plant-based lifestyle and optimize their own lives by making positive choices. By continuing to invest in quality ingredients and partnering with suppliers who are committed to organic farming, we know that GoMacro has unlimited potential.
If you were to start a new business today, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?
This is a tricky question since the decisions we made have gotten us to where we are today, and I couldn’t be more proud of our collective success as a team. If I had to start over again, the one thing I would certainly do the same is partner with my mom. As her daughter, I know that she will always keep our best interests at heart when it comes to our family and GoMacro. She continues to shape my perspective as a leader and will always be my most trusted advisor.
I would also make the same choices in hiring people not solely on their experience, but rather focusing on qualities of honesty, passion for our mission, and eagerness to learn. My mom and I had no experience in the food industry, but we figured it out as we went along. We trusted that the people we hired could do the same, and many of them are still with GoMacro today.
We have always grown our company organically and sustainably without investors or debt, so even knowing these things now, I don’t think we would have done it differently. The only thing I guess I would have changed is to think bigger from the start.
Share 3 things you couldn’t live without...
My family, my yoga mat, and Coconut + Almond Butter + Chocolate Chips MacroBars!
What are 3 affirmations you tell yourself each day?
God is great.
We have eternity to sleep.
You practice clean eating and a balanced, plant-based diet. How has that changed your life, and what are some recommendations you can give to someone interested in doing the same?
When my mom and I decided to make eating well a priority for ourselves, we never looked back. Physically and mentally I feel better than ever, which I definitely attribute to living a plant-based lifestyle. My general advice is to strive for balance without heavily restricting or limiting yourself. I naturally crave clean food but if I occasionally want something that doesn’t fit into my typical routine, I’m ok with that. It’s really about making small manageable changes that fit your lifestyle and not being hard on yourself.
Can you tell us what’s next for GoMacro? Or any upcoming personal projects outside of the business?
Our innovations team is always working on great new flavors and product ideas. We receive quite a few requests that come in through customer emails and our social media community, which we do our best to explore. We are also getting ready to launch a new product line this summer that I’m especially excited about.
Aside from that, our main focus is supporting the rapid growth of GoMacro by expanding our facility in Wisconsin to meet the growing demand and continuing to invest in sustainability projects within our business and local community.