Asa part of my series about women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jillian Shimskey. For the past 10 years of her career, Jillian has been a fierce advocate for bringing accessible and healthy products to the consumer market, as well as a passionate watchdog for holding major retail brands to high quality standards. Today, Jillian works as a Senior Brand Manager for organic food and beverage company MindFull, Inc. — a portfolio of next-generation, functional and nutraceutical food and beverage brands. She inspires her team and company to keep wellness at the core of every product they develop. Whether for work or play, Jillian leads by example, encouraging those around her to live a well-nourished and well-hydrated life focused on personal wellness.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
I’ve been in purchasing and product development since graduating from college. I always knew what I liked — analyzed data to position products for optimal potential — and couldn’t help but share the great products I worked on with those who would listen. I came from traditional retail models but then began working in the Whole Foods purchasing office in 2010. This is where I discovered Conscious Capitalism. There was this whole movement of brilliant minds in the industry who created and sold products to make a difference in the world — encouraging win-win partnerships to empower people and decision making that gives back through better nutrition, sustainable sourcing, and philanthropy. They inspired me to think outside the box to do, be and give better. I finally found a way to connect my personal mission and professional life.
When I had the opportunity to join a mentor of mine, Matt Jimenez, after he founded MindFull, Inc. in 2018, it felt like the opportunity of a lifetime and the chance to be at the forefront of positive product innovation. MindFull is a portfolio company dedicated to bringing function back to food. This means we create and develop multiple product lines and brands…not only because we can’t sit still, but we also believe each brand builds a unique and sincere relationship with our consumers, their nutritional needs and overall lifestyles. As Senior Brand Manager of MindFull, I work closely with Matt to identify opportunities in certain categories of the natural food world and develop brands and products that brought people what they wanted in a new and delicious way.
In under a year, we launched two beverage lines: GAIAM Organic Green Tea and VIBE Organic Electrolyte Black Tea. Typical teas were either unsweetened or filled with an obscene amount of sugar, so we developed better-for-you teas using artesian spring water that delivered a low-calorie, low-sugar delicious organic tea in sustainable packaging that energizes and hydrates.
Creating outstanding products that make a positive impact on our team members, our customers, and the world is more than just a job, it’s my passion. Even better, it’s also the passion of the company I work for. It’s why one of the first actions MindFull, Inc. took was to become B-Corp Certified — to foster careers, products, community and business that wanted more than just profit. And we were extremely fortunate to find some of the most incredible, complementary, and like-minded talent that drives us collectively toward the same purpose and success every day.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
- Breathe and hydrate: I’m a perfectionist from the Northeast, which means I rarely stop moving and patience is not a virtue I was blessed with. So when challenges arise or things aren’t going as planned, I take a moment to breathe and drink water (or our teas for a pick-me-up!) in order to reflect, reset and reimagine.
- Be curious and try something new: I’ve always asked “why not” and “what if”…whether it’s traveling to see different cultures, trying out a new activity, problem-solving at work, making a new friend or rediscovering food. The way I ate when I first started working in the natural food industry compared to now is completely different. I didn’t understand the choices I had available to me, so I tried a bunch of products and made tiny changes here and there. I learned how delicious healthy food can be, how much fun it is to cook real food and how much better I felt when I ate real nutrients that my body was craving.
- Make time for what’s important: If it’s staying healthy, make time to wake up early each day and find a workout that inspires you. If it’s a career goal, stop watching TV and rewrite your resume, start networking or have the courage to start that conversation with your boss. Seize the moment and make it yours. Go after what you want!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
There’s a great sticker that we have at our office that says “Being in a startup is easy. It’s like riding a bike, except you’re on fire, the bike’s on fire, everything’s on fire. But at least we’re in Boulder.” That sums up my time since jumping into the start-up world. There’s always more to do, a better way to do it, a problem to solve. That’s what MindFull is all about: Finding what’s missing in food and developing a product around it.
For example, we’ve been working hard this past year as we got ready to unveil our newest product line at the Expo East Natural Foods Show in September. As the newest brand to the MindFull, Inc. portfolio, DOSE is more than just a ready-to-drink protein drink, it’s a convenient “whole nutrition solution” that transcends the benefits of plant-based protein by pairing it with other essential vitamins, minerals and good fats. We’re excited for everyone to try it in 2020! I love the adventures in our journey at MindFull every day, and launch DOSE reminded me of that. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Just breathe…and hydrate deliciously.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I used to not speak up when I had ideas. I worked hard but thought that everybody already had the answer. I assumed that there had to be a bigger problem to solve so my solution was invalid. When I did finally start speaking up, I had a bigger challenge of not always being heard and letting that get me to a point of exhaustion, exasperation and resentment…and I learned that is NOT a place to be healthy or heard.
So, I chose to provide honest and respectful feedback, focus on what I can control, and surround myself with a personal and professional team that supports me, one another and our success. The reality is, we make mistakes every day and that’s the only way to continue learning, growing and succeeding. The important thing is not to those repeat mistakes.
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
We live in a global world where options are endless, and we have very real visibility into the interconnectedness of our actions. But I truly believe everyone just wants to be their best and enjoy the time they have on this Earth to the fullest. I love working for MindFull because I get to use my experience and talent, alongside some of the most passionate and brilliant minds (both our team and those in our industry) to bring mindful, healthier solutions to people and the planet.
We created our Organic Electrolyte Teas to remind people that food used to be and can be good for you. Traditionally sweetened teas can be packed with up to 30g of sugar per bottle. We use high quality, organic ingredients to deliver delicious taste in just 20 calories and 1–2g of sugar. We sustainably source artesian spring water to deliver natural electrolytes that provide hydration, and chose a new packaging format, Tetra Pak paperboard-based cartons, to reduce plastic. It gives our customers a great choice for refreshment and hydration, as well as allows us to maintain the integrity of the tea and recycle mindfully. A small choice that can contribute to a big impact.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother raised me in a house where gender inequality was never even a topic. I only heard do your best and you can do anything by a woman that was living that example. I am so fortunate to have always had bosses that supported me, many of which were female. Even now, our Founder and CEO, Matt Jimenez, treats every person with the utmost trust, support, and encouragement to thrive regardless of gender, race, title, etc. It gives our team the runway to do great things.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I believe as “accessible” as today’s world is, people are starving to be seen, to build strong connections and to have access to basic needs. It’s my opinion that our optimal mind, body, spirit and communal health begins with good nutrition. Unfortunately, the cost of sourcing ethically, paying fair wages, getting your message heard and selling your products means many people have to sacrifice quality and nutrients. I want to create a food supply chain and a mental care system that allowed people to affordably access everything they need to thrive.
What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Choose aligned partners, set a clear vision and expectations, and then trust in the journey. To create our VIBE Organic Electrolyte Tea line, we first listened to our customer’s requests (low sugar/calories, organic ingredients, delicious delivery and more function back into their food) and then identified quality partners to help us develop our target product.
However, the initial concept resulted in multiple reformulations, packaging designs, and positioning strategies to bring the best product to market. The dream becomes an even better reality based on critical feedback and partnership.
Even now, we continue to refine, reassess and pivot based on feedback from our customers and retail partners. Launching an innovative ready-to-drink functional tea brand in sustainable packaging requires a lot of communication in the right way. Every day we answer questions on “What are natural electrolytes?” and “Why did you choose a carton over a bottle?” We listen and love these questions because we rely on this dialogue in order to be a better brand and product. We want our customers to love our product as much as we do!
Do you have a “girl-crush” in this industry? If you could take one person to brunch, who would it be? (Let another “woman in wellness” know that you respect her as a teacher and guide! )
Oh geez, I was never good at picking just one person: Margaret Wittenberg (Whole Foods Quality Standards pioneer), Venessa Dobson (Pop Art Gourmet Popcorn founder), Katlin Smith (Simple Mills founder), Rachel Hollis (The Hollis Company)…I respect these women greatly. They used their genius, drive, passion and emotional intelligence in their own unique way to change the world. They all built something phenomenal, along with encouraging, empowering and enhancing others’ ability to make healthier, more mindful and delicious decisions. Can I request a booth for brunch with these boss ladies?
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
It’s hard to pick just one from that list, but I would have to say sustainability. It’s a big word in a very complicated world. The reality is that we live in a world where we can have anything, and many products are single-use, wrapped in plastic, and overconsumed. There is not one, perfect solution but we can all do our small parts. That’s the approach we took with our products at MindFull: We use organic, sustainably sourced ingredients and chose paperboard-based, recyclable cartons for the packaging.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
MindFull’s Brand Team is so talented, and I’m so proud of how we bring our brands and lifestyle to life on social media. We would be honored if you joined us on our journey at @vibeteas and @gaiamtea, and to check out all our deals and new products in the pipeline @mindfullbrands. We have some very exciting ones coming in 2020!