Kathrine Kofoed of ‘Passion for Plants’: “Remember, your self-worth is not tied to your business success”

Remember, your self-worth is not tied to your business success. As entrepreneurs, I think it’s ingrained in us to internalize our personal worth with the external success of our business. When times are tough, I have to remind myself that this does not define me as a person: what shapes me is how I respond […]

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Remember, your self-worth is not tied to your business success. As entrepreneurs, I think it’s ingrained in us to internalize our personal worth with the external success of our business. When times are tough, I have to remind myself that this does not define me as a person: what shapes me is how I respond and persevere.

As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathrine Kofoed, an ACE-certified health coach with a B.S. in Biology, a B.S. in Psychology, and a M.Sc. in Human Nutrition in progress. She is the founder of Passion for Plants, a health coaching company focused on helping women create healthy habits that last for life, with a compassionate approach to plant-based living. Passion for Plants has helped dozens of clients reshape their relationship with food, body, and mindset to focus on optimal emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing. Learn more about Passion for Plants here:

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My passion for health and wellness began after a serious health scare. In 2012, my mother was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and needed to have a double mastectomy. That was a scary time for our family, and one that truly shaped the choices I’ve made since then. After learning I was at increased risk for developing breast cancer, I was ravenous for any information that could help me learn more about health, disease prevention, and nutrition. Shortly after, I attended cooking school at Suhrs Højskole in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I discovered a love for cooking and happened to learn about the benefits of a plant-based diet, too. I read a lot about the research that a whole-foods plant-based diet is correlated to lower incidence of many cancer types (along with many chronic diseases) and the rest is history. I went vegan a few months later and had the idea to start Passion for Plants shortly after.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

After going vegan, I dove into the world of plant-based nutrition, cooking delicious meals for myself, family and friends. I was amazed by the improvements I felt in my own health: my digestion improved, I woke up in the mornings full of energy, and I felt so connected to the food I was eating and the healthy lifestyle I was living. I knew I had to share this with others — I knew others would be inspired by the possibilities of a plant-focused lifestyle if they would only give it a chance.

This is what led me to create Passion for Plants, which started as a small blog and food Instagram, where I would share plant-based recipes and tips for going plant-based. I even wrote a cookbook with delicious, simple vegan recipes in 2019! During this time, I was also going to Washington State University, where I graduated in 2018 with a B.S. in Biology and a B.S. in Psychology. I had become extremely passionate about health, wellness and nutrition in my undergrad years — I had taught group fitness classes, worked in the campus gym, and hosted wellness events for our university.

I knew I wanted to work in some capacity as a health coach. I felt too boxed in by the ‘nutrition’ label — I always felt like there is so much more to optimal wellbeing than just the food you put in your body. This is what initially led me to study psychology as well as biology, so I could understand not only the human body, but the mind as well. I was also fed up with the weight loss industry and the toxic influence of diet culture. I knew I had a more balanced, compassionate approach to sustainable weight loss and healthy living than the majority of the programs I saw on the market.

This is when the idea for Passion for Plants was percolating: I would create a health coaching company focused on a compassionate, nonjudgmental, and evidence-based approach to healthy living and sustainable weight loss. I was seeing the negative impact of diet culture and yo-yo dieting firsthand in the patients I was working with, in friends I had grown up with, and so many women in my fitness classes. I knew there was a better, more sustainable approach to body confidence, healthy weight, and plant-based eating — and I had to share it with the world.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Oh my gosh, what entrepreneur hasn’t thought of giving up at least a dozen times? In the beginning of my business, I had just moved to Copenhagen, Denmark from Portland, Oregon and was starting a 2-year Master’s in Science in Human Nutrition program at the University of Copenhagen. I was born in Denmark and have many relatives and friends there, but it was still an international move for me — and I was embarking on a new business at the same time.

As a new business owner with absolutely zero background in business, I was going into this thing blind: I knew nothing about marketing, sales, or building a brand. There were times when it felt like I would never have the confidence to sign clients or show people that I could get them lifelong results without restrictive dieting or extreme exercise — but I just didn’t know how that was going to happen at first.

I did, however, know a lot about getting my clients incredible results and healthy habits that last them for life. My confidence and assurance about my professional capacity to help women truly change their health and lives for the better is what kept me going. Clients told me how much my programs and coaching changed their lives and the way they think around food, exercise, and wellbeing. I knew how passionate I was to have a company that was based in my philosophy around sustainable healthy living free of the guilt or shame that we see so often in diet programs or fitness classes. I kept reminding myself: the only way you truly fail at business is if you give up completely. And that kept me going.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

I kept going even when times were hard, and even when I felt like it would never work. When the Covid pandemic hit in 2019, I had to drop everything I had planned in my business and pivot — I ended up creating a sustainable weight loss program that has since turned into a signature cornerstone of my company, called The Method. I listened to my audience to figure out what they were interested in and ran with it. I talked to them individually, learned where they struggled after the pandemic struck, and gave them the support and coaching to change their health despite the upheaval that was going on. This program is what helped snowball my business success.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes Passion for Plants stand out is the compassionate and nonjudgmental approach to healthy living. I’ve mentioned that a couple times now, and it’s because the vegan community can often be a place newcomers or veg-curious people feel intimidated by. As a vegan, I understand the desire to share this lifestyle with others, but I learned long ago that the best way to inspire and share with others is to welcome them with open arms, not judgment and criticism.

This is the feedback I receive from my audience and clients frequently — that they’re grateful for this calm and laid-back approach to sharing about plant-based eating. They don’t feel like they have to go 100% vegan if they don’t want to — they have the freedom themselves to choose how and when to eat more plants.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made at the beginning of my business was definitely me thinking that as long as I had the health coaching expertise and education to help people change their health, I was good to go. I quickly learned that was not the case — to run a business, you need to know how to start and grow a profitable business, too — not just be an expert in your scope of knowledge.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Wow, there is definitely one story that stands out to me. A year ago, I worked with a small business incubator, where the leaders and business coaches mainly supported product-based startups — not personal coaching businesses. I remember they told me that my current approach to coaching wasn’t working — that I needed to do more market research and figure out what the customer actually wanted. I definitely believe there is a time and place for market research, but in this case, the experts I was speaking to knew very little about my industry and the nature of my personal brand and coaching business. I am so glad I didn’t listen to that advice and followed my gut — which was what had gotten me so far in the first place.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Emotional resilience has certainly been the most crucial trait for my success. Without being emotionally resilient, I wouldn’t have gotten through those tough times like the beginning of a pandemic, or when a client drops from a program out of the blue. I had to learn and constantly remind myself that the only way I fail is by giving up completely.

Having a passion for your craft and expertise is critical. Building and running a business is hard work — you have no idea what it’s like until you’re trying to do It yourself. If you don’t have a rock-solid ‘why’ behind your business and the solution your company offers, it’s going to be that much more difficult for you to show up to work every day. Being connected to the solution and service we can provide others is why we have the drive and desire to birth a company forth into the world.

The power of habits and routine are essential for any entrepreneur. Of course, as a health coach focused on habit building, I use the life-changing power of habits in my business, too. Creating habits that need to be maintained for Passion for Plants to grow and help more women means that these tasks — like social media content production — happen no matter what, no matter how I feel. This is how the company continues to expand and reach more people.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Burn out is so common with any business owners or entrepreneurs. I think reminding ourselves that this journey is a marathon, not a sprint, is important. Remembering that we are still people living lives — that we deserve to take time off for ourselves, and that we need to prioritize our health so we can have the energy and mental clarity to build our businesses. You prevent burn out by having a decent work-life balance, and that ultimately means you can go the long run with your company.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

It’s definitely the burnout and ‘hustle culture’ we see everywhere with CEOs and entrepreneurs. To each their own, but burning out is not fun — speaking from personal experience. I’ve learned the lesson that the better I feel and the better I take care of myself, the more I thrive, the more energy I have, the more I’m excited to show up to work each day. It is a huge mistake to put your nutrition, sleep, and self-care on the backburner because these things will truly slow you down.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

I think the emotional resilience and grit you need to get knocked down and then get back up is something we don’t talk about enough. I wish I had known how hard it would be when I started my business. I wish someone had told me it would feel impossible and I would want to give up sometimes. Now that I know that for myself and have talked to many other entrepreneurs who’ve felt the same way, I know how common this is.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.

1 . You need to have extreme emotional resilience to start and build a company.

I so wish I knew this before I started my company all bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Sharing this with new entrepreneurs means that they will know to expect hardship — and can learn to keep going even when the going gets tough.

2. You have to prioritize your health and self-care.

Without your health, it’s hard to show up for the company that you’re building. You’re responsible for the big vision: you’re the cornerstone guiding your idea into the world. If you feel foggy and low energy, you can’t do what you came here to do.

3. You don’t have to follow what everyone else is doing — build your company in your own way.

I’m not a fan of hustle culture. I’ve experienced burnout and it is not something I would wish on another person: it truly drains the life and energy out of you. Don’t be afraid to take it slow, and don’t put pressure on yourself to skyrocket your company overnight.

4. Remember, your self-worth is not tied to your business success

As entrepreneurs, I think it’s ingrained in us to internalize our personal worth with the external success of our business. When times are tough, I have to remind myself that this does not define me as a person: what shapes me is how I respond and persevere.

5. The more fun I have, the better I feel, and the better I feel, the better I show up for my business.

Without a doubt, the times I feel most confident and excited in business are when I’m taking care of myself in my downtime, spending time with loved ones, and working hard in my business. This is the complete opposite of what hustle culture tells you — but I’ve never felt better.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This movement would definitely be to tell women and men everywhere that you are good enough in your current body. You are worthy and deserving of love, success, and joy — no matter how you look, no matter how society tells you you ‘should’ look. You deserve to feel confident and incredible in the skin and life you’re in!

How can our readers further follow you online?

I’m active on Instagram at @passionforplants, and love to interact with my audience and clients in my Facebook group Plant-Based Like a Pro. You can read more about how to work with me here:

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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