Name: Alex Voris & Maggie Patton
Company: Bitsy's Brainfood
These moms know firsthand the challenges of getting kids to eat their fruits and veggies. The other battle is finding healthy snacks and treats their kids would actually eat. Both these common dilemmas sparked their business—Bitsy's Brainfood—into creating a line of treats they feel good about serving to their own kids.
What inspired you to start your business?
We had the opportunity to run a national non-profit together. The mission of the organization was empowering kids to make healthy choices and that included efforts to combat childhood obesity. Our work there made us realize that that so much of getting kids to make healthy choices is about engaging them and making "healthy" fun. Bitsy’s Brainfood is the result of the insights we gained through that experience.
When we each had children of our own, motherhood became an additional source of inspiration and motivation. We realized how few options there were for parents when it came to organic, packaged and authentically nutritious food for kids. That practical knowledge helped to define our business plan. We really are a mission-driven business. In the broadest sense: Our inspiration came from wanting to do better by kids, and it continues to be about putting them first.
What do you most love about it?
We love running a company with a social mission that promotes children’s well-being. For us, it always has been—and always will be—about the greater good for kids. It’s incredibly exciting to come at our work with a sense that what we do really matters.
Beyond that, we love—more, even, than ready access to an endless supply of Maple Carrot Smart Crackers—our Bitsy’s Brainfood team. Their ability to think creatively and strategically, to push through tremendous challenges and—not least—to find the deeply funny in the darkest moments, is such a gift.
What's the hardest thing about running your own business and being a mom?
There are lots of hard things and lots of wonderful things—too many of both to list. Sometimes, though, the challenges are what equip us best to be both better mothers and better business people.
For instance, the challenges we face as moms inform how we run our business: the never-ending juggle and constant compromises that define modern parenting are what we think about when we develop products, design packaging and choose ingredients, among other things. We relate to our customers, because we have the same daily struggles—wanting to “get it right” with our kids’ nutrition, but knowing how difficult that can be. We know that it’s unrealistic for every snack or meal to be fresh and local and perfect, and also that kids definitely assert their will when it comes to packaging, taste and more. Being a mom is tough, and we’re about making parents’ lives a little easier—creating convenient, nutritious products that they can trust and that kids like.
Another thing we struggle with is reining in the feelings of guilt that I think I a lot of working moms have. You catch yourself constantly apologizing (though maybe just in your own head), even when your rational side knows that there’s really nothing to apologize for. But when you find yourself on a conference call while going through the carpool line, or participating in a Skype meeting while breastfeeding a 3-week-old (because in start-ups there’s no “maternity leave”), you experience an almost compulsion to apologize all around.
The truth is it’s not just “not easy” to do it all— it’s impossible. It requires a lot of help and a lot of juggling. It does take a village, and every mother out there knows that. We all need a little extra help. And there’s nothing to feel guilty about or to apologize for that.
What's your best-selling product?
The products that have been around longest are our Smart Cookies so, at this point, they seem to have the most traction. The Orange Chocolate Beet flavor is unique and has developed an incredibly loyal following, although the others aren’t far beyond! In the office, our current favorite is the new Maple Carrot Smart Cracker. Crackers are our most recently introduced product line, currently exclusive to Target, and they really are spectacularly good—plus, they're organic, nut-free and with a half-serving of veggies per serving!
What do your kids think about the work you do?
Our kids have never known a world without Bitsy’s Brainfood. While there are times, of course, when they’d like to hurl our phones into the Hudson River, they also feel an incredible sense of ownership in our work, having grown up right alongside Bitsy. Our oldest kids, in particular, are constantly arranging “meetings” to discuss their ideas for new product innovation, and they delight in marching up to strangers in the grocery store aisle to make the case for trying “their” products.
Name three other mompreneurs you admire.
There are so many women who we look up to and, between us, we’re fighting to narrow down the list. But the first one, Silda Wall, is easy.
If it weren’t for Silda, Bitsy’s Brainfood may never have come to be. We met one another while working together at an organization founded by Silda. A lawyer and mother of three girls, she managed also to start Children for Children—an organization currently known as GenerationOn. A non-profit with a mission to empower kids to tackle issues affecting their communities and the world, it was unique in its approach. Silda’s vision was about giving all children from all backgrounds an opportunity to affect change through service—equipping them not just with the tools to make a difference, but with the real power that comes from having a role to play.
Through our experience working for Silda, we saw up-close a kind of tenacity that had an enormous impact on us both. Silda's ability to identify a problem and go after it, to inspire her own community to get behind her vision and to work doggedly to build an organization that had a critical impact on kids' lives was an education in the power of one individual to do great things.
Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, also stands out—and not just because we really love her products. More than anything, it’s her authenticity that we admire: Rather than glossing over challenges, she cites failure as the secret to her success. That kind of determination is so inspiring, particularly since so much of what we do—as parents and businesspeople—is about learning from the countless and inevitable ways that we screw it all up.
Finally, as busy moms trying to keep our families fed, we’re superfans of Catherine McCord. She founded, owns and runs Weelicious.com, a website that "provides a solution to parents' hectic lives by showing them how to cook recipes that are kid-friendly, quick and nutritious." Recently, she also launched an awesome new company, One Potato, that delivers all the fresh, organic ingredients you need to make delicious meals in exactly the right portions for your family. In addition to being a super businessperson and mom, Catherine is full of kindness, enthusiasm and authentic support for other “mompreneurs” and, for us, has been a source of great encouragement along the way. She’s a woman who’s focused on lifting other women up and we admire that an awful lot.
You can keep up with their latest treats on Instagram (@bitsysbrainfood). Alex and Maggie are offering a $1-off coupon for Bitsy's Brainfood crackers!