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.