Battling Dairy and Building a Food Empire with Miyoko Schinner [Episode #403]
Welcome to the Feel Good Podcast with Kimberly Snyder. Our goal is to help you be your most healthy, confident, beautiful and joyful! Our topics focus on health and wellness (physical, emotional/mental and spiritual), holistic nutrition, medicinal plants, natural rhythms and cycles, beauty, meditation, self care and rituals, spirituality and personal empowerment.
Feeling Good means we are healthy, balanced, peaceful, confident and joyful, right in the midst of our perfectly imperfect lives. Feeling Good requires us to tune in and nourish our whole selves, which is made up of the four Solluna Cornerstones: our food, our bodies, our emotional well-being and our spiritual growth. Feeling good naturally leads to also looking good, in a much more powerful way from glowing skin created from within, a beautifully healthy body, radiant energy, and a greater level of overall well-being and personal growth.
Every week, we provide you with interviews with top experts in their field to support you in living your most beautiful, inspired and joyful life, with a focus on physical health, wellness, meditation and spirituality and personal empowerment.
I’m your host, Kimberly Snyder, founder of Solluna, New York Times best-selling author and nutritionist. I’m so grateful and honored we found each other!
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Miyoko Schinner, who isa best-selling author, award-winning vegan celebrity chef, TV show host, and CEO and founder of Miyoko’s Kitchen. Listen in as Miyoko shares her motivation behind going plant-based, how she became a trained chef, and ways she’s kept her team connected to her vision as she’s grown her food empire!
Miyoko’s journey into living a plant-based life from a very young age…
We discuss how the environment is being destroyed by eating animal protein…
Spirituality and how it comes into play when choosing plant-based over eating meat…
What the reaction has been with the dairy industry and Miyoko’s business…
Miyoko shares what is in their latest nut-free cheese base and their fermenting process…
How Miyoko was trained as a chef…
Tips on how to take your passion and scale it…
Ways you can keep your team connected to your vision…
About Miyoko Schinner
Miyoko Schinner is the fearless CEO/founder of Miyoko’s, a food brand combining culinary traditions with food technology to revolutionize dairy by making cheese and butter without cows. Through an innovative proprietary process that merges food science with old-world creamery methods, Schinner has successfully scaled the production of fermented cheese and cultured butter made from plants and replaced animal-dairy products on the shelves of more than 10,000 retailers nationwide.
The pioneer of the plant-based cheese revolution, Schinner is a passionate culinarian, former restaurateur, best-selling cookbook author, co-host of the national PBS cooking show Vegan Mashup, and a founding board member of the Plant Based Foods Association. Schinner also co-founded a farmed animal sanctuary in California that provides a home to over 70 farm animals.
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Kimberly: Hi Beauties. Welcome back to our Monday interview podcast. I am super excited for our beautiful guest today. She is a super hero. She is an incredible entrepreneur. She is basically rescaping the landscape of plant-based cheeses. Her name is Miyoko Schinner and I’m a huge fan of her personally and her work. As you will see today in her interview, she is incredibly powerful and we all have a lot to learn from her.
Fan Of The Week
Kimberly: Before we get to Miyoko, I just want to give a quick shout out to our fan of the week. Her name is [mizme11586 00:00:48]. She writes, “This podcast is an invaluable source for living a wonderful and whole life. Kimberly’s take on wellness is nothing that I’ve ever heard before. Every podcast comes from her heart as well as from scientific facts and resonates with everyone. She is non-judgmental, trustworthy, and gives great advice. The topics range from food related to connecting back to our soul. I’ve grown exponentialy with Kimberly’s guidance and I love who I am. Thanks to this podcast, I feel like I’m tuning in to hear a friend every week. Lots of love.”
Share The Podcast& Write A Reviewon Itunes
Kimberly: [mizme11586 00:01:20], thank you so much. My love for being our fan. Thank you so much for your review. I hope we get to meet in person one day but I’m sending you a big virtual hug, so much gratitude. I’m so grateful we’re connected and we’re on the path together. Beauties, for your chance to also be shouted out as the fan of the week, please just take a moment out of your day, leave us a review on iTunes. It’s just a wonderful way to support the show and to help others find this information that can really help them in their lives, so thank you so much in advance. Please remember to also subscribe so that you don’t miss any of our interviews or Thursday we had our Q&A podcast and tuning in to the podcast every week is such a great way to stay connected and motivated and to stay on this lifestyle and to keep really improving yourself and feeling good, which is really our goal.
Interview withMiyoko Schinner
Kimberly: All that being said, we have the amazing Miyoko Schinner here with us today. Hello, Miyoko.
Miyoko Schinner: Hi Kimberly. Thanks for having me and that letter from your listener was absolutely beautiful. Very touching.
Kimberly: Thank you so much, Miyoko and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. Just to give our listeners a little bit of background. I one day happened to be in the market and I was out, which by the way, Miyoko, unfortunately is a rare thing for me these days. I happen to get a lot of grocery delivery. I have a three-year-old. I’m writing books. I’m running the business. I’m not always in the market, but I happened to be there and I was looking, I think I was having a dinner party and I was looking for some amazing plant-based products.
Kimberly: I came across this box of, it was the smoked farmhouse cheddar. Miyoko, I just got goosebumps because it was so incredible and my friends, Miyoko, my partner, people around me are not always fully plant-based so I was serving this to people that are like me and some people that are transitioning, some people that aren’t, and everybody across the board raved about this incredible cheese that competes, I think, with dairy cheeses. That was how, and then I looked in the box and I said, “Oh my God, who is this woman? Who is this person that created this?” Then I started reading online about your story and about how courageous you are in standing up for plant-based eating and what you believe in. I know now you have an animal sanctuary and you have a cooking show on PBS called Vegan Mashup.
Kimberly: First of all extended intro, I just want to thank you so much for your amazing work and these amazing products you’re putting out into world.
Miyoko Schinner: Well, thank you so much. It takes all of us and I see the work that you’re doing which is also incredibly valuable.
How Miyoko Became Plant-Based
Kimberly: Thank you so much, Miyoko. It’s true. We all affect each other. I was reading online, I know your background, you’re Japanese. I love Japan, by the way. I was there two Summers ago. It’s one of my favorite countries to go to. Can you share with us a little bit about how you came to be plant-based? Especially coming from Asian culture. I’m half Philipino and being plant-based isn’t the norm right now from some of these countries and cultures and I know my family was like, oh my God, you’re not going to eat fish anymore. Can you explain a little bit how you transitioned, how you came into this lifestyle?
Miyoko Schinner: Sure. I think Japan is really sort of different. For many centuries Japan was predominantly a plant-based society by royal decree actually at one point. There’s a long tradition of vegan dining. It’s called Shojin-Ryori. It’s temple cuisine. It still exists. If you go to Kyoto you can have amazing vegan food in the temples.
Miyoko Schinner: But when I was growing up in Japan back in the 50s and 60s, so getting up there, we didn’t have, we weren’t necessarily vegan but we also didn’t eat much meat or fish and obviously there was no dairy. There was no dairy when I was growing up at all. I didn’t drink milk.
Kimberly: You didn’t eat much fish, just like 5-10% of your diet?
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah, you ate a little bit of fish, a little bit, but mostly we ate rice. We ate rice and miso soup and maybe some vegetables and the old piece of fish. Then I moved to this country and I remember going to my first pizza party and having pizza and thinking, oh my God, this is going to be so incredible. I’m just going to love it. Then it was like the worst thing ever. I thought this is abs- … How could people eat this food? It’s so disgusting. That’s what I thought. That was my first impression of cheese was this clump of disgusting, [inaudible 00:06:15], greasy stuff.
Kimberly: You didn’t like the taste at all?
Miyoko Schinner: No, I didn’t. I thought it was awful. I was used to eating really clean food. Of course, I forced myself to eat cheese, learned to love it and I became a huge cheese aficionado. Eventually, I became a vegetarian. I was 12 when I gave up eating meat. Then, in my mid 20s I gave up cheese and dairy and became a vegan. Actually, I was living back in Japan at the time that I went vegan. I was a vegetarian, I had been a vegetarian but I started to eat some fish again because I was living in Japan. It was really, really hard to be even a vegetarian in Japan.
Miyoko Schinner: Then one day I was like, “What am I doing? Why am I eating fish? I swore off animals years ago because I wanted to respect their sentience and so why am I eating this? I mean, I understood this when I was 12 years old. I’m in my mid 20s now. Why have I gone backwards?” I gave it up, and at the same time I realized that I had all these stomach aches. I didn’t make that connection with dairy right away. I eventually did, I gave up the dairy and my stomach woes also disappeared. It was just a miracle. It’s been what, now. That was back in the mid 80s. I have been a vegan for almost 40 years.
Kimberly: Wow. Beauties, if you are listening to this as an audio please do me a favor and go to our Instagram. We’re going to have little clips now, we’re doing videos, or go to YouTube. Or just GoogleMiyoko Schinner and you will be amazed at Miyoko’s skin, how beautiful, how amazing she looks.
How the Environment is Being Destroyed by Eating Animals
Kimberly: Miyoko, I always say for me when I became plant-based it was primarily health reasons. I had a lot of stomach issues, too. Then I’m also a very devout Yogi, I would say. Every major, every big Yoga Master without exception really does promote not eating meat for energy, for ascension, for meditation just because meat is decaying and it brings us down. Then I think about what you were talking about with the animals and the sentience and respect. Then I think about what’s going on right now with the Amazon Forest.
Miyoko Schinner: Oh my God, that’s incredible.
Kimberly: Just the fires, and you know, in a way we’ve know this has been going on for years. In a way, I’m actually happy for the international attention but the environment is being destructed by eating animals. You know, there’s a saying in Ayurvedic medicine, as is the inner as is the outer. It’s amazing how the foods that are good for us and stop the bloating and stop the IBS and help our skin look better are the same foods that are better for the animals, better for your meditation and better for the environment. There really is this coherence in everything.
Miyoko Schinner: Absolutely, I mean it makes perfect, perfect sense. This is the time when every single consumer, every single individual can impact change and create a healthy, sustainable future. It’s a real grassroots movement because the government isn’t going to come and solve the problems. It’s up to individuals to change how they consumer foods. What products they buy, what foods they consume and that is going to make a big difference. I mean, we can drive change, we can save the planet but we can only do so if we give up animal products.
Miyoko Schinner: I don’t see, you know, it’s not just a matter of everyone driving a Tesla or everyone going to solar energy. That isn’t the only cure. We need to solve the food crisis because the majority of greenhouse gas emissions are emitted by animal agriculture. The numbers range from 14.5% to over 50% depending on what organization you’re talking to, what Scientific study you’re talking to. But, it’s a huge amount and we know that. Just think about the land use that this is pretty undisputable. Somewhere between 60-80% of all land, all farming, all agriculture is devoted to animals. Whether or not it’s soy beans or corn, most of that goes to feed livestock.
Miyoko Schinner: Right now the Amazon is being burned down to create cattle grazing. I mean, it’s just unconscionable and it’s done to satisfy human taste without any concern for whether or not this plant is going to be even around here for us to enjoy or even other animals to enjoy.
Kimberly: You know, Miyoko, I think it’s important these conversations because so many people say to me oh, I don’t eat factory farmed meat anymore. I’m not going to support the factory farms. I say oh, but, you know, here’s the misconception. Unfortunately organic, free range cattle grazed animals where are they getting the grazing land from? They’re tearing down the forests. Beauties, I know this is the harsh truth but it’s up to 90% of rain forest destruction is to make room for these cattle to graze.
Kimberly: The population is exploding and the countries like China, their demand for meat as the middle class is rising in China is astronomical. I almost think, Miyoko, in our lifetime there may be a time where it’s not even a choice to eat meat anymore. We just aren’t going to be able to survive.
Miyoko Schinner: I mean, it’s the same thing with fish. The fact that it’s depleting our oceans of sea life. By 2050, Scientists predict there will be no more fish left in the sea. Even if you don’t give up fish now, you’re going to have to by 2050. Or, you’re going to be eating just farm fish. This is a good time to give it up and let the oceans restore the themselves. I mean, if we fish them to extinction, we’re going to be very, very sad by this. Future populations are going to look back at us and say what were they thinking? Why didn’t they stop? How could have they have been lacking in consciousness?
Spirituality and Choosing Plant-based Over Eating Meat
Kimberly: Speaking about consciousness, Miyoko, you know, when I was in Japan I loved the temples. The Buddhist temples, the Shinto temples and when you talk about being a vegetarian at age 12 and thinking about the sentience of animals, how much did your personal spirituality come into play? Did you just feel it in your heart or were you really connected to Shintoism? It comes from the individual, but I wonder culturally if there was an impact.
Miyoko Schinner: Not really. I was raised a Buddhist but strangely I wasn’t raised a vegetarian. I don’t think a lot of [inaudible 00:13:04]
Kimberly: There are Buddhists that are either way. [crosstalk 00:13:06]
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah, the priests have to be Vegan but I don’t think laymen people, the lay person doesn’t really think about it. I was actually living in the United States and I went on a school camping trip and I was put into this vegetarian group. For some reason just the two or three days of not eating meat made an impact on me. When I went home, my mother put pork chops in front of me. I still remember that very moment. I still remember looking down at that pork chop on my plate, which was my favorite food at the time and thinking I can’t eat this anymore. This isn’t food. This, to me, is like eating the plate that it’s on. It’s not food, it was an animal.
Miyoko Schinner: I just pushed the plate away and I told my mom that I was a vegetarian and I never looked back. I never, ever craved eating it again. Kids used to taunt me, I was like, they would come to me with a burger and say, “You really want to eat this, don’t you?” and this sort of stuff. I was like, “No. I really don’t want to eat it. There is no way you can tempt me because it’s completely …” [inaudible 00:14:17]
Kimberly: Yeah … [inaudible 00:14:20] … sees all the animals and later I’ll talk to him more about the health aspect of it, but he goes around saying to people at parties, he always says, “We don’t eat animals. We don’t eat animals.”
Miyoko Schinner: I love that. That’s better than to say, “We don’t eat meat.” It’s better to say, “We don’t eat the animals,” because that’s helping people make that connection. What a great diplomat. Is that your son?
Kimberly: Yes, my son who is three now.
Miyoko Schinner: Oh my, God. What a great diplomat because kids can’t offend. If you can go to a party and say, “I don’t eat animals,” oh my gosh, that can get the adult to start thinking about what it is they are eating.
Interaction and Reaction With The Dairy Industry
Kimberly: Yes, yes, exactly. I want to get into some of your amazing methods for making such amazing cheese and the business part. The dairy industry, Miyoko, as you know and I have found out, as well, is so powerful and they have all these lobyists. It’s a billion dollar industry. With the rise of your incredible cheeses and products you have an incredible I believe it’s coconut based butter that I have in my fridge right now and I love on my gluten free bread. What has been your interaction with the dairy industry? What has been the reaction to your [crosstalk 00:15:32]
Miyoko Schinner: Sure, well they’re not big fans of me or my company.
Kimberly: I can imagine not.
Miyoko Schinner: We’ve been sued. We’ve had the state of Wisconsin pull our butter off of shelves.
Kimberly: For why?
Miyoko Schinner: Well, the suit was dismissed. It was a class action lawsuit for using the term butter on our European Style Cultured Vegan Butter. The case was dismissed so that was fine. The state of Wisconsin started pulling our product off of shelves saying we couldn’t call it butter because they had gotten consumer complaints. The complaints, after we requested them, turned out there were two complaints. One was the dairy industry, and the other was Milk Weed Magazine which was a magazine that represents the industry. [crosstalk 00:16:15]
Kimberly: Oh my gosh, and they want to own the term butter.
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah, they want to own the term butter, they want to own the term cheese. I live in dairy land. I live in Sonoma County where we’re surrounded by dairy cows and also beef cows all over the place. I know some of the farmers and I have both friends and enemies. They’re not my enemies, I’m not angry towards any of them but a lot of them really don’t like us. They feel that we’re trying to tear them down.
Miyoko Schinner: The reality is the dairy industry has been suffering for over 30 years. Since the 1970s, so I guess that’s really 50 years. They’ve been losing market share, profits have been going down, we have 1.6 billion pounds of cheese that’s stockpiled in this country that’s unsellable because people don’t want it. Why they make that cheese is because milk prices have been plummeting because milk sales are plummeting.
Kimberly: Yes, is it down like 20% or something, Miyoko?
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah.
Kimberly: I read somewhere it’s some crazy number like year to year it’s really coming down. [crosstalk 00:17:17]
Miyoko Schinner: Yes, they just keep coming down. People are drinking less and less milk. We have more dairy cows today than we did 30 years ago.
Miyoko Schinner: They just keep thinking they’re going to sell their product, I guess. What happens is they make all this milk, they can’t sell it so it gets turned into cheese and it gets stockpiled. Then they sell it at a steep, steep discount to schools and hospitals and part of the whole subsidy program, to poor people, especially people of color. They sell it into these communities of color who can’t have the cheese because they’re actually allergic to lactose or to milk protein because most Asians, most African-Americans, most Hispanics don’t have the enzyme lactase that breaks down lactose. It’s almost a racist policy.
Miyoko Schinner: I know I’m really going out there, but the fact is it’s these communities of color that are being targeted by the US Government, the dairy industry to consume products that aren’t traditional in their diets that aren’t good for them. That are destroying their health, which is why you have huge obesity and diabetes rates in communities of color.
Kimberly: It’s especially bad for communities of color, but as we know, Miyoko, I don’t think anybody should be consuming dairy. [crosstalk 00:18:39]
Miyoko Schinner: No, no one should be consuming them.
Kimberly: It’s not made for the human body and cows have four chambers to the stomach. They grow to be 700 lbs. It’s just not a human food. Again, when I started my journey I was giving up dairy because I had such bad acne and I was so bloated and my body didn’t feel good. Then when I started learning about it and how it’s so indigestible then it just became clear why are so many people having milk and dairy and then, you know, cheese and then you look behind it and you see how it’s been pushed through the school systems and the political aspect since we were young.
Miyoko Schinner: That’s right, that’s right. But kids are drinking less and less milk. Almond milk and soy milk and all the dairy alternatives are now about 15% of market share of the food milk category. Yeah, so they’re feeling the impact, the farmers are, and it’s sort of sad what’s happening to the dairy farmers because we have so few dairy farms, small farms today and they’re really, really struggling. The average dairy farmer’s income is only $30,000 annually. They’re having a hard time and suicides among dairy farmer’s is at an all time high.
Kimberly: What? Oh my God.
Miyoko Schinner: Because they’re going out of business. What they’re doing is they’re blaming the plant-based industry, although it’s really not that. It’s consumer choice and it’s also these large conglomerates, large agro business that’s just consolidating all of these. A lot of these farmers are sort of like indentured servants working to support, they get into debt. I mean it’s a really, really sad situation. What I’d like to do, and I actually proposed this. I had a fundraiser for Senator Cory Booker who’s running for President at my house this weekend. I proposed to him why not help create a program where we get, so he’s got a proposal for agriculture. I said why not add something where we help farmers transition away from animal agriculture to plants and we provide Federal subsidies to help them do that. Because they need them.
Miyoko Schinner: They’re not doing well. Dairy is dying and we need to find some sort of economic solution for these people. My heart does, because they’re not trying to be evil or anything. Up until recently, this information wasn’t out there and if this is your livelihood you’re going to try to protect it because that’s all you know what to do.
Kimberly: Especially if it’s a family business and they grow up and their parents were dairy farmers, you know, and it just keeps continuing.
Miyoko Schinner: That’s right, that’s right so you know it’s not like the angry Vegans [crosstalk 00:21:06]
Kimberly: It’s not personal.
Miyoko Schinner: It’s not personal at all. How can we help them transition to a more sustainable lifestyle for them and a more sustainable economic platform for the entire world and sustainable for the planet. I’m really interested in helping people do that. I’d be interested in partnering with a farmer who wants to transition to grow crops for a new line of cheeses.
Miyoko’s Nut-Free Cheese
Miyoko Schinner: We have a new line of cheeses that are coming out that are really exciting, they’re nut free. [crosstalk 00:21:33]
Kimberly: Oh, what is the base?
Miyoko Schinner: Well, they’re going to be based on legumes, seeds, oats and potatoes.
Kimberly: And you’re fermenting them with the organic miso.
Miyoko Schinner: That’s right. We’re fermenting them with natural cultures and miso and all of this good stuff. It’s incredible, we have a cheddar cheese and a pepper jack and they melt like, it’s incredible. We’ve done tests with omnivores and they can’t tell the difference.
Kimberly: Oh my gosh.
Miyoko Schinner: We just gave them a grilled cheese sandwich and they don’t know … It is so good. I can’t even begin to tell you how good it is. I felt like it was the first time I had a satisfying grilled cheese sandwich since I gave up grilled cheese 40 years ago.
Kimberly: Well yeah, speaking about finding solutions. First of all I want to acknowledge you for really thinking about the dairy farmers and thinking about the whole thing and the whole issue. I think that’s really beautiful. One of the things people say and there’s a lot of conversation now around impossible burgers and certain things. Oh, a lot of it’s processed and … I always say it’s way better than eating meat. Not just because of what we’re talking about but the environmental toxins that come in through meat.
How Miyoko was Trained as a Chef
Kimberly: Your cheeses are very different than plant-based cheeses on the market because they’re so clean. There’s only a few ingredients. The smoked farm house that’s in my fridge right now that I’m obsessed with is cashews miso cultures, I mean, the ingredient list is very, very small. First of all, the innovation in being able to create something so clean, is that something that you worked on for a long time? I know you’re a chef in general. Are you classically trained? Did you teach yourself? How did this even come about? [crosstalk 00:23:08]
Miyoko Schinner: No, no, no I’m not classically trained, I taught myself and I was a big cheese fan so I’ve been working on it for years. Really, in terms of the clean ingredients I want to produce plant based foods that are based on whole food, as much whole food ingredients as possible and produce as clean a label as possible.
Miyoko Schinner: I think it’s wonderful that we have products like beyond and impossible and other plant-based products that perhaps aren’t as clean in ingredients but they’re still cleaner for the environment, they’re still cleaner for the animals. It’s not just about our health. I mean, I want to enlarge this whole conversation about health. People are obsessed with individual health. I think individual health is important, I think the vegan diet has helped me stay healthy into my 60s and so I think human health obviously is important.
Miyoko Schinner: We’re at a critical point in history when we have to think beyond our own health and start thinking about the health of the planet. The health of other living beings. If we’re sacrificing the health of the planet, the health of other living beings just so that we can be healthy, we can have [inaudible 00:24:21]
Kimberly: [inaudible 00:24:25] can also argue that it’s not real health, even if you have washboard abs. Again, going back to the environmental toxins for the moment, all the toxins, 90% comes in and you may look good for a time but I always find that people who eat such a meat heavy diet age so quickly. Their skin starts breaking down, their kidneys, their liver, they’re not detoxing as much so it’s not just about oh the temporary my abs look good. Long term, guess what? Your health isn’t actually going to do that great if you have so much acid.
Kimberly: This is proven in so many studies. All my books reference all this, too. Also, to your point,
Miyoko, if we’re destroying the rain forest and the atmosphere gets screwed up the air that we’re breathing isn’t clean and everything just starts going down, down, down.
Miyoko Schinner: That’s right. It’s just that synergistic thing where it’s all intertwined. Our health, planetary health, the right of animals to live and lead their lives in a healthful fashion. It’s all intertwined. It’s got to work in synchronicity. Products like Impossible, even if they’re not as clean as we might want, if it’s helping the planet stay cleaner then I think there’s room for that. And, there’s going to be plenty of choices for consumers to choose products such as ours that have a cleaner profile. [crosstalk 00:25:48]I’d like to pop up all these products.
Kimberly: I’d love for you to come out with a veggie burger, Miyoko.
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah, well, you know what? We’re taking care of another area. One of the two biggest foods in the world. I mean, in America what are the two most popular foods? There’s burgers and what’s the other one?
Miyoko Schinner: That’s right. We have a revolutionary new cheese just for pizza that’s coming out that we’re going to try to blow up in food service at all the pizzerea’s. It is the most incredible. We tested it on dozens and dozens of omnivores and they can not tell they’re eating vegan cheese. It’s that good.
Miyoko Schinner: This is Miyoko’s Creamery 2.0. These products are coming out in 2020. [crosstalk 00:26:32]
Kimberly: I can not wait.
Miyoko Schinner: It’s really going to be exciting.
Tips On How to Take Your Passion and Scale It
Kimberly: Now Miyoko, just to change channel for a minute, you are so passionate about this. You have these skills as a chef, you’re creating all of this. For all our aspiring women out there to start their own business, entrepreneurship. How did you take your passion and this product, you know, and cheese isn’t easy. There’s a fermentation process. It’s not like simple whipping up a raw bar. There’s a big thing. How did you scale it? How did you make a big business out of it? I know that’s kind of a big question, but can you tell us a little bit about that journey?
Miyoko Schinner: Sure, I’m one of those overnight successes that took 30 years. I’ve been an entrepreneur since my mid 20s. I’ve had a number of businesses, mostly small. My very first business was baking vegan pound cakes in Tokyo and then delivering them by backpack on a Subway train. I didn’t have a car so that’s how I did it. I had a 70lb backpack with 70 loaves in it.
Miyoko Schinner: I’ve had a variety of businesses. I’ve had bakeries, a restaurant, another natural food company. Let’s just say been in business or played around in business for a long time and mostly failed. Most of my businesses didn’t do well. I fell flat on my face. Each time I rose from the ashes. I’d be depressed for a really long time thinking God, I screwed that on up again. I don’t have the Midas touch. Somehow, this little flame would ignite again inside of me. I’d get an idea and all of the sudden that flame would get bigger and bigger and hope would be born again. I would just get back up and I would start another business. That’s sort of been the story of my life.
Miyoko Schinner: Eventually, I started this business when I was 57 years old.
Miyoko Schinner: I swore, I had gotten to a point in my life when I was like okay, I don’t really want to have another business. My kids were in high school, I had been financially successful to some degree by sort of veering off course from food and getting involved in real estate for a little bit. One day I woke up and I thought, oh my God, this real estate stuff, it’s lucrative but my heart’s not in it. There’s no soul. I’m not creating value. I feel totally empty. I thought you know what? I’m almost 57, but I’m going to just give it one last spin. I’m going to see if I can turn these cheeses that I’ve been playing around with at home from the book that I wrote. I’m going to see if can just make one last go of it.
Miyoko Schinner: I don’t know how I got that idea, but I did and I launched it. Part of, you have to have experience. I applaud young people in their 20s that start their first business and they succeed. I wish I had been that person, I didn’t have that luck. All my businesses, you know, they just didn’t go so well. [crosstalk 00:29:39]
Kimberly: But the perseverance.
Miyoko Schinner: It’s the perseverance, it’s the not giving up. You go through your depression and you have to learn to rise. I say it’s like doing a burpee. You fall in a burpee and you’ve got to get back up and clap at the top higher and higher and just keep doing that. That’s been my life. Just never give up. You learn from all those mistakes. Always hire people that know more than you do. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to hire someone that’s smarter than you and say, “You know, I’m trying to understand this. Tell me about this.”
Miyoko Schinner: Don’t be afraid to do that because if you have a great idea and you are the founder, then you have something that nobody else who is smarter than you has. That is the vision. People that have the vision, own the vision. Then you’ve got to trust that other people can help you.
Kimberly: Right, so you created the vision, the most amazing product and then you had people come in and help with the organization, the marketing, the operational.
Miyoko Schinner: Sure, I mean the first few years to be truthful, I hired one other guy. He was sort of like my right hand man, the two of us sort of ran the company. There really weren’t a lot of people. We didn’t really have a so called executive team. The company, we ran this company for the first three years that way. We hired our marketing team last, about a year ago in August.
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah, we didn’t really have anyone doing, I mean we had someone helping with trade shows and that sort of thing. More like what I would call sales support but not real traditional marketing.
Kimberly: Incredible. It just, it’s word of mouth, I think.
Miyoko Schinner: It was word of mouth, it was organic, it was having a really good product. We just hired a VP of sales this year. We didn’t have one before.
Kimberly: Now you’re on the shelves of more than 10,000 retailers nationwide.
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah, yeah, we’re in about 12,000 retailers in the United States.
Kimberly: 12,000, wow.
Miyoko Schinner: We’re in about 1,000 stores in Canada and we’re just shipping a container load to Australia.
Kimberly: Wow, what about Europe?
Miyoko Schinner: We’re in talks with a potential distributor there, a very large distributor in Europe. I’m going to Italy next month and I’m going to be meeting with a potential Italian company that could do some co-packing for us. I’ve got my hands in a lot of things and, yeah. The company is growing. We have about 115 employees somewhere around there and we’ve got big plans for next year. We’re going to be hiring another 30-40 people.
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah, so it’s blowing up. It’s very exciting. We’ve got a really excited wonderful team. We have a different approach to management here where we have a very transparent company. Everyone here knows what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and it just creates a sense of ownership, accountability and excitement.
How To Keep Your Team Conected To Your Vision
Kimberly: How do you keep your team connected to your vision?
Miyoko Schinner: We have quarterly offsites. Leadership team. It’s about a dozen people, the heads of every single department. Even sanitation, maintenance. Every department head participates in these offsites where we talk about the yearly goals, the quarterly goals for the company and also for each department. Then we meet on a weekly basis to make sure that people are on track. Then, all the department heads are responsible for communicating all of this to their staff as well, too.
Miyoko Schinner: Then we have monthly birthday parties that are all company wide and we communicate to the entire staff, all hundred and some odd people, what’s going on, all of the updates. There’s constant communication in the company. I have been told by some experts that this isn’t the right way to do it. That you should have an executive team of three or four people and you make all the decisions and it’s top down.
Miyoko Schinner: I found that it didn’t work. I tried doing that the first year that we moved to this facility and it didn’t work. I said you know what? I’m going to just try this different approach, a more democratic approach and it works. It gets people fired up and everybody knows what our initiatives are, what are goals are and people aren’t in the dark. In the first couple of years a lot of people were in the dark. They really didn’t know. It’s hard to get people fired up. Even people on the production line know what our initiatives are now. They didn’t before and they were just factory workers banging out products.
Miyoko Schinner: We don’t want that. We want a company where everyone takes ownership, everyone takes pride in what they’re doing, everyone feels like they’re helping to move the needle and make an impact on saving the planet and human health and the animals.
Kimberly: Wow. [inaudible 00:34:32] just your whole approach, your passion comes through and that is to me one of the most important ingredients for success. To me, it’s very obvious why the company has grown so much to keep everyone connected to that and it comes so deeply from your heart and your soul.
Miyoko Schinner: You know, it’s a learning experience. This is the first company that I’ve raised to this level where we’re doing really, really well. I have to say, I was a terrible CEO in the beginning. We got to about 30 employees and one day I looked around and I thought what is this place? This isn’t the company that I envisioned. I had this idea in my head about creating this company where every employee would be honored and respected and everyone was like this big happy family. I realized that everybody was working in isolation and nobody knew what was going on and we had some really horrible employees, really angry employees.
Miyoko Schinner: I thought, oh my God! How did I let it get here? How did I let this company get to this point where I’m not really running it anymore. I got a CEO coach, I started reading books, I really started thinking about what does it mean … To grow a company means you have to learn to be a good leader. You have to explore what does leadership mean? I really started thinking about that and I made that my thesis for the next, you know, couple of years.
Miyoko Schinner: I just started thinking about how can I communicated my vision to every single employee in this company? How can I be a leader that inspires people to perform rather than makes them feel like they’re scared of me every time I walk through the office or something. [crosstalk 00:36:07]
Kimberly: Or that they’re replaceable.
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah, I had to change my ways. I had to change the way I operated. I had to really, really work on myself and start thinking about my leadership. Every moment I spoke to someone I had to start thinking about being intentional in that moment and making sure that I was communicating in the way that I wanted to. I can’t say that I succeed every single time. I still do a lot of stupid things. I still make a lot of mistakes.
Miyoko Schinner: I think you have to really learn to become the leader that inspires people. Otherwise, you can’t, you’re not going to pull the team together. Right now I feel at over 100 employees we have a tighter, happier team than ever. People come here, visitors come here and they say they’ve never been to a place where they see so many smiles where people are laughing, communicating, getting work done. The team work they see is incredible.
Miyoko Schinner: We also institute a lot of programs. We have free meals for everybody all day long, so there’s great organic vegan meals and 60% of our employees aren’t vegan, but they’re eating vegan meals. They all say oh, I’m vegan five days a week.
Kimberly: That’s amazing.
Miyoko Schinner: They say they go home on weekends and they have whatever they normally eat and they say they don’t feel so good. [inaudible 00:37:24] coming back during the weekday when they feel great.
Kimberly: Miyoko, if there’s one book that you would recommend that had an impact on you in your CEO business approach, is there one you’d recommend to us?
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah, there’s one called Traction. It’s pretty popular. I think it’s a best seller. It’s written, I have it right here, it’s written by a guy named Geno Whittman. I found that book to be extremely … Someone else recommended it, I read it, it was extremely helpful and I’ve read other books on leadership as well, too and I’ve read a lot of books written by other CEOs and their experiences that have been helpful. [crosstalk 00:38:02]
Kimberly: That’s wonderful.
Miyoko Schinner: There’s a woman, Sheryl O’Loughlin, who wrote a book. She was at Cliff Bar and she was at, where was she after that? I’m blanking right now, but she wrote a book called … I’m blanking.
Kimberly: That’s okay.
Miyoko Schinner: You have to look it up.
Kimberly: I’ll look it up. What’s her name?
Miyoko Schinner: Her name is Sheryl O’Loughlin.
Kimberly: Sheryl O’Loughlin?
Miyoko Schinner: Yeah. S-h-e-r-y-l. Anyway, that book is really inspirational. She tells her story. I love hearing from other female leaders.
Miyoko Schinner: We really need more women in leadership positions. Kimberly: Love that. Maybe one day you’ll write your business book, too Miyoko. Case study of Miyoko’s Creamery.
Miyoko Schinner: That’s right.
Kimberly: I wanted to thank you so much, Miyoko, for your time. I want to thank you for the amazing work that you’re doing in the world and creating this incredible brand, with the incredible passion that you’re putting out.
Kimberly: Beauties, if you have not yet tried Miyoko’s product, whoa, are you in for a treat. I remember the first time I tried that farmhouse cheddar and it was so good I actually haven’t tried any other cheese brands. I’ve only tried that and the butter.
Miyoko Schinner: Well, we’ll have to send you some new product when it’s out.
Kimberly: Oh, I would love that. Beauties, if you want to check out more information about Miyoko and the cheeses, go to miyokos.com. We’re going to put the direct link in the show notes. Otherwise, Miyoko, Whole Foods, Health Mart, all sorts of stores now if you look in the dairy section your cheeses, well, 12,000 retailers nationwide there’s a good chance they’re going to be there.
Kimberly: It’s in all 50 states?
Miyoko Schinner: It’s in all 50 states. Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Sprouts, you name it.
Kimberly: Amazing, amazing. Well, thank you so much, Miyoko. It’s been a real pleasure.
Miyoko Schinner: Thank you so much, Kimberly. It was fun.
Kimberly: Thank you so much, Beauties, for tuning in. We are so grateful for you. We hope you liked learning a little bit more about the amazing Miyoko. Again, please check everything out. We will be back here Thursday for our next Q&A podcast. Please, stay connected. Remember, we have lots of plant-based recipes and information, other podcasts, blogs, all sorts of things over at [inaudible 00:40:13].com and also daily inspiration on Instagram at @_kimberlysnyder. Thank you so much beauties. Lots of love and see you on Thursday.