What better way to inspire someone to accomplish their dreams than for you to be a role model? I think this is one of the best things about being in a career you love as a parent. You are showing them that you are chasing after a dream and succeeding. I tell him this often. When I have hard days and great days, I share with him WHY I am doing this and how it all looks in reality. I also think that dreaming big starts small and giving him the freedom to try and fail at something is important.
As a part of my series about “C-Suite Moms” I had the pleasure to interview Daina Trout, CEO & Co-Founder, Health-Ade Kombucha. Daina Trout co-founded Health-Ade Kombucha in 2012 alongside her husband, Justin Trout, and best friend, Vanessa Dew, in Los Angeles. Trout, who has Masters’ degrees in Nutrition and in Public Health from Tufts University, was working in corporate America when she decided to pursue her passion for “real” food and brew the best-tasting, highest quality kombucha on the market. Under her fearless leadership, Health-Ade has grown from a small production beverage made in her apartment and sold at local farmers’ markets into the fastest growing brand in the category three years in a row. When Trout is not tirelessly working to bring kombucha to every fridge in America, she is spending time with her family, traveling, adventuring, cooking and enjoying the outdoor life.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career?
Seven years ago, I got the entrepreneurial itch! Despite having a promising, budding career, I really wanted to start my own business, make my own mark, and be on my own terms. My best friend and husband were in the same spot, and we decided to start a kombucha business, called Health-Ade, that would do beverage the right way by bringing real food to the commercial shelf. We always had a shared grand vision to be in every fridge in America but had no experience, capital or qualification to know what it would take to get there. We did, however, have all the grit in the world, and for our story that was enough — starting it from the farmers’ markets and brewing in our tiny LA kitchen. We currently still operate the LA business as chiefs, me in my dream seat as the CEO. Fast forwarding to today, Health-Ade employs over 300 people, is sold in 26K stores nationwide, and will make 4M cases in 2019. We are proud to be the fastest growing refrigerated functional beverage brand in the country in 2018 and feel extremely grateful for the team we have that supports our original mission to make kombucha a household drink.
Can you share with us how many children you have?
Justin (our COO) and I have a 3.5-year-old son and another boy on the way (due July 2019).
Where were you in your career when your child was born/became part of your family?
Our first, Hendriks, was born about three years into starting Health-Ade. It was extremely busy, and I definitely didn’t think I had the time to be a mother while mothering a crazy fast growing startup. However, a bad car accident shifted my perspective on life. I really felt like life was not a dress rehearsal, and I couldn’t just “put off” having kids for the business indefinitely. We were pregnant one month later, and like everything else, figured out how to do both well! There have been so many lessons. This second son is being born four years later when our business is way more professionalized (so we have more people to do the work), but my job as CEO has also become way more sophisticated and important. I have had numerous challenges in this chapter when I “threw” in pregnancy. So many lessons, again.
Did you always want to be a mother? Can you explain?
I think I’ve always wanted to be a parent, but the thought of becoming a mother while having my start-up business seemed literally nuts. So I had put it off for years, and even entertained the idea that, maybe, with Health-Ade I just couldn’t be a mom. But once I had Hendriks, I learned that while you cannot do everything — you can raise two things at once. It takes discipline and sacrifice, but you can find success and a whole lot of happiness.
Did motherhood happen when you thought it would or did it take longer? If it took longer, what advice would you have for another woman in your shoes?
For my first, we got pregnant right away, and I had a very easy pregnancy with little impact on my work, except for the two months of leave I took after having the baby. It was very different with #2. This one took longer. I suffered a miscarriage that I had to work through, and then when I did get pregnant, it was way more tiring and burdensome than the first was at work. I actually really struggled with #2 at making space for my demanding job and making space for the baby on the way. It has been particularly hard at the end of the pregnancy — I feel like I’m trapped. Both jobs need me and are very demanding of me, and I feel a strong sense of responsibility to deliver on both, but often don’t feel like I can. I don’t know that I have advice. What I do have is support for women going through this. Sometimes, we don’t always need a solution. Sometimes, we just need to know we’re not alone. I felt very alone in this pregnancy and always heard from people what I should or shouldn’t do: that “I deserve the time off” or “I should wind down now,” but not really ever having anyone hold my hand and say “I’ve been there too. It sucks because you DO have to deliver on both, and some days it’s impossible.” The good news is I’m almost through the wave: baby is coming soon, and I made it. Even though it cost me a lot of tears. I bet a lot of women in executive roles feel like this.
Can you tell us a bit about what your day-to-day schedule looks like?
Right now I have a 3-year-old and I’m very pregnant, so some things are easier and some things are harder than at other stages of motherhood. Also, I have an extremely supportive and hard-working husband who basically splits all the house chores down the middle without any issue and will gladly pick up the slack at home when I just can’t. Without him, I really don’t know how I’d build in parenthood and being a CEO at the same time. Below is the typical weekday, although I have about 1-weekday event a week that changes the evening. On the weekends, I try to be with Hendriks no matter what. Sure we have birthday parties and playdates, but the point is that the family is together. Usually, one night a couple of times a month, Justin and I try to have a date night, and we will bring in a babysitter for that.
● 6:00–6:45 am: Wake up and go for a 30 min walk, assuming our kid sleeps normally (he wakes up at 7:00 am, now). Before I was pregnant, this would be a high-intensity Peloton ride. In late-stage pregnancy, I’ve been skipping this to sleep in until 6:45.
● 6:45–7:00 am: Make coffee while responding to urgent emails.
● 7:00–7:45 am: Get Hendriks and self ready for the day. Justin and I have 20 minutes each to get ready, then we switch who’s managing Hendriks.
● 7:45 am: Nanny arrives and we take off for work by 8am.
● 8:00 am-5:45 pm:
○ I am in back to back meetings and conference calls with usually zero breaks. Sometimes I have a 15 min break for lunch (we always shoot for an hour), but it’s rare.
○ These meetings require major brain switching back and forth — from creative, to executive, to fires, to quick, be inspirational, to check-ins, to terminations, to interviews, to innovation. It is super tiring but also feels very fulfilling (like I used my brain to its ultimate fullest) and the days fly by.
○ I try to fit in a 30 min walk during one of my conference calls, doable about three times a week.
● 5:45 pm: POP, I turn into a mom as soon as I walk into the door. My beautiful 3-year-old comes running to me down the front hallway and we embrace and kiss, and all my frustrations melt away for at least a minute. I usually throw my phone with some momentum onto the entry table and try not to look at it again for a few hours. I relieve my nanny, after she tells me the happenings of the day.
● 5:45–7:30 pm: We play together, bond as a family, and eat dinner together that our nanny prepared (this has been a critical thing I hired out for even though I love to cook).
○ I rely on my nanny for laundry, watering plants, keeping things tidy, cooking, and taking full care of my son when I’m at work. She is not the same as a babysitter, at all. She cares just as much as I do about nutrition and feeding my son the right things, and keeps the house in order. This has been critical for our ability to be good at parenthood and career-hood.
● 7:30–8:30 pm: We get ready for and put Hendriks to bed.
● 8:30–9:30 pm: I usually have to do some more emails, but sometimes I can manage a 30 min Netflix show.
● 9:30 pm: Bed.
Has being a parent changed your career path? Can you explain?
Becoming a parent did not change my career path, but I can see how without the right support a mom might feel like she can’t continue her executive role and parenthood. The key is prioritizing what’s mission-critical to you, eliminating what’s not, and carving in the times so you can be everything you need to be happy.
Has being a mother made you better at your job? How so?
So many ways. As soon as you become a mom who needs to go back to work, you value time more. Immediately, I became a WAY better delegator and prioritizer. This was key because a great CEO needs to “stay in the helicopter” and steer the way as much as possible. Staying out of the weeds is critical. I feel like it would have taken me years to learn this on my own, but motherhood made it a fast download.
What are the biggest challenges you face being a working mom?
Less time is by far the biggest challenge. You can’t work late or nights or weekends as much, so you have to shove everything into a shorter day. As a result, you’re stretched (usually too much) when you’re at work with no downtime, space to think, or breathing room. Travel also becomes a very big challenge because you can’t find childcare (or don’t want to, because you already spend too little time with your child). So you need to change how your whole calendar works.
Are there any stories you remember from the early days of parenthood that you want to share?
The beginning of being a mom and working is the toughest. I have so many stories of breastfeeding at work, over conference calls, or on planes (even one time where my milk spilled on my seatmate). I carried around my pump like a scarlet letter everywhere I went and had to make pit stops in public bathrooms or in the middle of dinner meetings or conferences. There were countless times where my nipples leaked milk onto my work shirt (usually silk), and I just had to work through the day like that, hiding my embarrassment and refusing to apologize. There is the emotional challenge of not seeing your child enough in the beginning, because of work, and feeling like you’re doing a mediocre job at both your roles. There are the baby’s tears when you leave him to a nanny or daycare. There’s having to work at a seriously high level even though it has been three months since you’ve had a full night of sleep. There’s getting to work late, even though you feel like you did everything you could to get in on time, but a diaper blowout or something like that made you late. A new mom goes through a lot of tough moments, and work doesn’t even know. She (mom) just has to persevere. The good news is, it gets better because you get better at dealing with it all and so does your child. I feel like it’s toughest in the first year. At 2 and 3 years old, Hendriks and I have a great rapport with work. So it’s not forever…
Are there any meaningful activities or traditions you’ve made up or implemented that have enhanced your time with your family? Can you share a story or example?
YES. One word: boundaries. Some people call my schedule “militaristic,” and it kind of is. But it is the way I have solved to be both a CEO and a devoted mother. I am very strict about the following:
1. Boundaries for work (and no guilt for setting these up!):
I don’t do anything that I don’t think will move the needle, period.
8:00 am I am out the door and at 5:45 pm I am back in. All work must fall in those hours, period.
1 night a week I can do a night event, that’s it.
Travel for work must only happen if it’s a must-be-me that goes and no more than 4 nights away per month.
2. Boundaries for quality time:
1–2 times a month, I take 1 full day with Hendriks and spend it 1:1 time.
When I come home at 5:45 pm every day, I don’t look at my phone until he goes to bed. So my time with him is 100% undivided.
Weekends are pretty sacred to spend with family. I can do one thing away from my son, but it better be worth it (like a date night with my hubby or best friends). Everything else we do as a clan.
1 week-long trip a year together somewhere special just as our family (no other groups).
1 weekend trip a quarter together just as our family.
3. Boundaries for me time:
1 day a month I take off to get all the stuff I need to get done for me (hair, nails, massage,etc.).
3–5 times a week I get up early to work out before Hendriks is up (so I don’t carve into our time together).
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 3–5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
If you just put your phone away, this is easy to do. The phone is the biggest distraction. I have found success with putting it down as soon as I want quality time and putting it on silent. If it’s near you, you will be on it. When you’re on it, you’re telling your kid that the phone takes priority over him.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
What better way to inspire someone to accomplish their dreams than for you to be a role model? I think this is one of the best things about being in a career you love as a parent. You are showing them that you are chasing after a dream and succeeding. I tell him this often. When I have hard days and great days, I share with him why I am doing this and how it all looks in reality. I also think that dreaming big starts small and giving him the freedom to try and fail at something is important. It may be just climbing a wall at the gym, but if I’m there right at the bottom always there to catch his fall, afraid that he’ll even get a scrape, he may never feel like he can do it. So with most things, as long as I don’t think he will really hurt himself, I let him explore. My child has more scrapes and bruises than the average bear I’d say, but I’d also argue he has way more confidence.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
I’m not great at looking outward for help. Mom friends who work are probably my best resource. We chat about the challenges and what’s working. I get a lot out of that.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you share or plan to share with your kids?
I want them to realize both that shooting for your dreams and life, in general, is entirely doable and OH so inspiring, but that it also is not easy.
The following quotes will help:
“This, too, shall pass.”
“The sky was meant to hold all the weather.”
“Just do it!”
“Follow your gut!”
If you could sit down with every new parent and offer life hacks, must-have products or simple advice, what would be on your list?
Everything is a trade-off. Look at all the things you have on your plate and identify things you can delegate or take off. You may love to cook, but it might just not be the chapter for that during the work week. Can you live with that and delegate if it means you get MORE time with your kids?
Thank you so much for these insights! We really appreciate your time.
About the Author:
Jessica Abo is an award-winning TV journalist, social media navigator, author, and speaker. Her debut book, Unfiltered: How To Be As Happy As You Look On Social Media, sold out on its first day when it was published late last year. Jessica spoke about her research and her #liveunfiltered movement on The TODAY Show, Access Hollywood, ABC News, KTLA, and in dozens of publications including Forbes, Fast Company and SHAPE. Women’s Health Magazine named Unfiltered #1 on its list of self-love books, and it was chosen for the official GRAMMY Awards gift bag. Jessica celebrated her book launch with an Unfiltered collection of statement tees and hoodies that she debuted on a runway at New York Fashion Week.
With her savvy insights, practical advice, and heartfelt humor, Jessica appeals to people of all ages and stages, resonating with millennials and their parents. She is sought after nationwide as an inspiring keynote speaker and thought leader, and has presented at Facebook, Microsoft, Delta Airlines, Weight Watchers, TEDx, the United Nations and hundreds of conferences, nonprofits, universities, and schools. She speaks authoritatively on career building, entrepreneurial challenges, leadership, digital transformation, living and parenting in the digital age, creating community, effective philanthropy and activism, and many other topics.
A passionate philanthropist who believes “affluence is not a requirement for influence,” Jessica has raised more than $1 million for causes by organizing her own charity events. She sits on several boards and committees and contributes to their recruiting and fundraising efforts.
A multi-award-winning television journalist, Jessica was a successful television anchor and reporter at several media outlets, including NY1 News, for 15 years. She has appeared as a social media and relationship expert on The TODAY Show, ABC News and KTLA. As a VIP contributor for Entrepreneur, her empowerment, leadership development, and employee productivity and wellness videos appear weekly on Entrepreneur.com. Through her production company, JaboTV, she creates branded content for companies and profiles athletes, celebrities, CEOs, entrepreneurs and changemakers for her YouTube channel.
Jessica received both her bachelor and master’s degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New Yorker at heart, Jessica now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their daughter.