Yuliya Flynn profile picture

Yuliya Flynn

Co-founder & CEO at Yooli Foods and Associate Attorney at Samek Law Firm

Yooli Foods is a start-up food manufacturer. Our first product, Yooli Farmer’s Cheese Cremes, can be found in grocery stores in the Midwest, with additional locations coming soon, including Northern and Southern California. Yooli Cremes can also be purchased online at Urth Market. The Cremes are a soft cheese product, slightly sweet, high in protein, gluten-free, 99% lactose-free, without preservatives or artificial flavors. They are also very versatile and can serve as an alternative to yogurt, while also making a great spread, dip, or protein for smoothies. Our second product, Yooli Farmer’s Cheese Bars, will be released later this year. The bars combine Farmer’s Cheese with a thin layer of chocolate. Like the Cremes, the Bars offer a good serving of protein and Vitamin D, and are a great snack or lunchbox addition.

What’s the background to the business? I was a sickly child and suffered from asthma. One of the foods I loved and could eat without any medical restrictions was Farmer’s Cheese. It’s high in protein and low in sodium. I looked for it in stores when I moved to the United States but couldn’t find it. I knew there was a market for it here and wanted to introduce Farmer’s Cheese to America. I started making Farmer’s Cheese at home and giving it to friends. My co-founder and I wrote a business plan and started implementing it. One of the first hurdles we encountered was that virtually no dairy farmers knew what Farmer’s Cheese was or how to make it. We encountered similar problems with regulatory agencies that were looking for a “standard of identity” for the product. It took us over a year to find a Farmer’s Cheese manufacturer. Then another year to develop and commercialize our products.

At Yooli Foods, our mission is to build a Farmer’s Cheese category. We want to introduce Farmer’s Cheese to every consumer in the United States. We want to show them what Farmer’s Cheese is, how to use it, what to do with it, and how to enjoy it.

BUSINESS BRIEFING

Business goal for the next 12 months: Our goal is to make Yooli Foods a national brand, available to all consumers so that everyone has a chance to try Farmer’s Cheese. We have a third product in the development stage that we are also hoping to launch soon.

Yooli Foods was recently selected to participate in a Dairy Accelerator Program sponsored by Land O’ Lakes. Yooli is one of 5 start-ups chosen. Through the program we are receiving mentorship, advice, and networking support from Land O’ Lakes. The goal of the program is to promote dairy, and innovation in the dairy segment. The 5 companies selected for the program call themselves the “Dairy Superheroes.”

Advice you wish you had received when you started your business: I wish someone had told me to take smaller steps. Our vision was set on growing faster than we have been able to do, and I’ve had to adjust my expectations several times.

Best business decision: Paying attention to the team we’re building. We want to work with good people who share our vision and it pays to invest time in building the right team.

Toughest business decision: So far the toughest decision was moving our manufacturing operation to Wisconsin. We had to do that in order to get quality product and efficiency in distribution, both of which are critical to developing a competitive business. It was a difficult decision and a hard one to explain to our Board and shareholders. I’m glad we made the move but it delayed our manufacturing by 6-9 months.

Person most admired: My parents for the love they gave me and the strong family values they instilled in me.

Like most about job: I love the creative side of my work. I’m a foodie and I love creating new recipes with Farmer’s Cheese. I create new recipes in my kitchen and try them out on people at work and friends. I also work with our research and development chef on new foods. For me, this is the most exciting part of this venture.

Like least about job: I’m not the most patient person and starting a business can be a slow process. The delays we’ve encountered set me back but I’m enthusiastic about our products and our vision, and I find ways to keep going despite setbacks.

Dream job: I’m wearing two hats. I love practicing law and I love building Yooli Foods. If I wasn’t doing this I think I’d like to work for the government in a position that would let me give back to the country and the people who enabled my American dream to come true. I admire the opportunities I have and I wish I could give back.

BEHIND THE SUIT

Birthplace: I was born in Kazakhstan (the 8th largest country in the world by land mass) and lived there until I was 20 years old. When I was 19, I took a trip to Washington DC and, upon returning back home to Kazakhstan, I made a decision to get a graduate degree in the United States. My parents were not in favor of my decision but were willing to give me a chance to explore and achieve what they thought was impossible. I spent the next nine months learning English. I had sticky notes all over my bedroom with English words on them.

Education: I graduated with honors from a law school in Kazakhstan. When I came to the United States I took classes at a community college in Virginia to get acquainted with the American culture and classroom experience, which was different from schools in Kazakhstan. The schools in America don’t seem as strict and leave it up to the students to study and learn the material. Also in America the classroom activities seem more team-oriented. After a couple of years, I sought admission to American University and earned a law degree in international law in 2011.

Favorite book: I know this seems odd but I have to say the Constitution of the United States. I love the law and for me this is an amazing and most cogent piece of writing given its time and its history. The authors had such insight and influence and power. I know it’s not a book but it is a literary piece that has inspired many and that perpetually brings courage to all of us even in the current times.

Favorite movie: The Intern.

Outside of work: I like sports of all kinds. I like to run. I play recreational soccer on a co-ed team.

Family: My parents still live in Kazakstan and my older sister lives there too. We talk often. My nephew in Kazakhstan is studying law and I love having that in common with him.