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Female Disruptors: Genevieve Gilbreath is shaking up how to run early stage accelerators

“The first important piece of advice I’ve received is from my Grandmother who told me, “You create your own happiness, you have to wake up…


“The first important piece of advice I’ve received is from my Grandmother who told me, “You create your own happiness, you have to wake up every day and tell yourself that this is going to be a good day and fight to make it so.” The second best piece of advice I’ve received is from another important figure and teacher in my life, Mark Dzykowski, who said, “Every moment in life is a choice, but when you look back on your life they blend together to seem like one choice. Choose your moments wisely.” Mark made me realize that we make a million little choices every day and in each choice there is a thread that from a distance show commonalities with the others. He helped me work to learn what the similarities in my choices are and choose each one wisely. Another important quote I’ve valued along my journey is from Maya Angelou who said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I’ve come to really appreciate and value my optimism, especially in people.”


I had the pleasure to interview Genevieve Gilbreath, the CEO of Herbal Zap and Managing Director of SKU Accelerator. Genevieve is the head of SKU Accelerator where she uses her extensive health and wellness background to help early stage CPG companies. Genevieve’s background includes yogic sciences, a natural product entrepreneur including founding her company Herbal Zap, director of Princeton University’s Bridge Year Program in India and leader of ethnobotanical research projects in South America and Africa.

Thank you so much for joining us! What is your backstory?

I’m currently the head of SKU Accelerator where I’m able to bring my health and wellness background to apply a holistic approach to helping early stage CPG companies. My vision is to help change how entrepreneurship communities operate by starting with the deepest level of the challenges of being an entrepreneur — the loneliness, the need for the positivity when facing rejection and the stress of building a business. My background includes yogic sciences, natural product entrepreneur including my company Herbal Zap, director of Princeton University’s Bridge Year Program in India and leader of ethnobotanical research projects in South America and Africa. Those experiences have given me the supportive, human-centric and wellness-oriented foundation I’ve used to create SKU’s personal, soul-centered and connected program to help entrepreneurs achieve their visions.

Why did you found/join your or companies?

I’ve always been deeply passionate about health and wellness; whether it’s physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. After many years teaching yogic sciences and leading ethno botanical projects, I had my son and realized that I wanted to create something that made staying physically healthy easy for the modern individual. I was particularly inspired by the power of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life and living, from my time living in India and decided to create Herbal Zap, the herbal health beverage company with products focused on providing immune, digestive and detox support. A few years into my experience as a solo entrepreneur with Herbal Zap, I realized that I also wanted to explore a new venture focused on helping other entrepreneurs develop a strong support systems that would help them stay mentally healthy and effectively scale their businesses, as I had an intimate knowledge of the difficulties and loneliness that came with entrepreneurship. I became the head of SKU Accelerator, noted by Forbes as one of the three best accelerators in the US, where I get the amazing opportunity of helping CPG entrepreneurs along their journey and fostering an amazing network of mentors.


What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

With Herbal Zap, I’m able to utilize the Ayurveda knowledge I gained, which is complex and intimidating for many, to introduce a product to market that translates ancient herbal wisdom to a consumable product. Herbal Zap is an all-natural, herbal and high-quality brand created off science and is available to all consumers. With SKU, I’ve found there are no other accelerators taking our approach: pairing early stage CPG companies (food, beverage, fashion and health) with a community of mentors and peers in a program that’s centered on the cultivation of relationships to drive growth. We focus on creating a program and culture where people are appreciated and supported for being vulnerable and exploring their weaknesses and strengths. I’m incredibly proud that the community we’ve created at SKU has been a huge contributor for why Austin has become a key hub for emerging CPG brands.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?

My professional journey has been very diverse, from a University Professor, Graphic Designer, Art Gallery Co-designer, Sailor, Wellness Consultant, Yoga Sciences Teacher, Entrepreneur, Natural Products Consultant, to running a start-up accelerator, and I’ve had a few key mentors who have helped me along the way. The first is Maxine Nims, my grandmother and #1 inspiration who’s thriving solo at over 100 years old. She was born on a farm in Missouri in 1918, worked in Washington state during WWII in the shipyards and worked with her husband at the nuclear lab in Los Alamos in the 50’s. My grandmother has experienced significant hardships and instead of falling victim to the emotional pain from them, she chooses to wake up each day happy, grateful and full of life. She’s taught me to never give up and create my own happiness one day at a time. A second mentor I’ve had is also someone I met during my time living in India, Swami Naradanand. while Swami is a man of few words, he has spoken to me and helped calm me during times of anxiety and worry. My third mentor, whom I met through SKU, isDoreen Lorenzo, a woman who’s led two of the most creative companies in America, Frog Design and Quirky, and is now revolutionizing how design thinking is taught at The University of Texas. Doreen’s been an incredible guide for me during my process of re-crafting SKU as an organization. She also empowers me on a personal level by reminding me of my talents and abilities, and helping me build on them.


How are you (personally) going to shake things up next?

My professional ventures up until now have all been focused on different areas of health (physical, emotional, mental or spiritual). I’m proud of the diverse experiences I’ve had and want my next venture to holistically weave those learnings and health areas together.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story example for each.

The first important piece of advice I’ve received is from my Grandmother who told me, “You create your own happiness, you have to wake up every day and tell yourself that this is going to be a good day and fight to make it so.” The second best piece of advice I’ve received is from another important figure and teacher in my life, Mark Dzykowski, who said, “Every moment in life is a choice, but when you look back on your life they blend together to seem like one choice. Choose your moments wisely.” Mark made me realize that we make a million little choices every day and in each choice there is a thread that from a distance show commonalities with the others. He helped me work to learn what the similarities in my choices are and choose each one wisely. Another important quote I’ve valued along my journey is from Maya Angelou who said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I’ve come to really appreciate and value my optimism, especially in people.

What are books/podcasts/talks that have had a deep impact on your thinking? Please share a story with us. (For whatever reason, podcasts have not captured my attention for long)

One important talk that I regularly re-watch is “A Good Day” with Brother David Steindl-Rast, which also became a TED Talk. It teaches me that life is lived in the present moment and each one is a gift. The more present we are in each moment, the more grateful we are for the miracle of each moment and the happier and more effective we are. There are also four books book that have had a deep impact on my thinking. The first is “Yoga Sutras,” which breaks the spiritual practice of yoga into inspirational chapters. I have ADHD and Yoga Sutras has helped me learn develop and learn discipline. “Being Peace” by Thich Nhat Hanh taught me that through the cultivation of a calm state of mind and body we cultivate peace within ourselves and the world. This book has helped me deal with difficult situations with the power of calm and turn them into opportunities for growth. The third book that’s significantly inspired me is “The Little Prince,” as it embodies a relentless sense of curiosity and adventure, as seen through the eyes of gentle, yet determined individuals. The last book that’s been important to me, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” has taught me that there is balance in everything even thought we may not always see it.


Some of the biggest names in business, VC, funding, sports and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in this world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with and why?

I’d love to have lunch with Yvon Chouinard, the Founder of Patagonia. I’m deeply inspired by Yvon because he created a business to address the global problem of environmental responsibility. Yvon also highly values learning and adaptation to change as he constantly is evolving his products and ways of doing things as a business. His leadership qualities including recognizing individual member contributions and embracing uniqueness are also very inspiring to me. A lunch with Yvonn would be an incredibly powerful growing experience from me on a personal and professional level.

Originally published at medium.com

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