For Daina Trout, perfection isn’t on the table.
The onetime corporate executive grew up with a serious work ethic and an appreciation for nourishing food. It wasn’t until she had a brush with leadership and realized she wanted to go out on her own that she harnessed her master’s degree in Nutrition and Public Health from Tufts, teamed up with her husband, Justin Trout, and her best friend, Vanessa Dew, and launched Health-Ade Kombucha. Now, six years later, that labor of love has grown into a thriving business with product available in 7,500 stores and restaurants throughout the country.
Here, Trout talks about the challenge of starting a business and the benefits of appreciating the journey:
Live The Process: How do you think your upbringing influenced your trajectory?
Daina Trout: There is so much about my upbringing that made me the person I am today. For one, we moved around a lot, so I learned how to be OK with change. This is really important for an entrepreneur because change is pretty much the only thing that’s constant; you start ahead of the game if you’re already comfortable with it. Another thing that comes to mind about my upbringing is my father: he held a high standard for us girls (I had three sisters), really valued hard work and never took shortcuts. Of course, knowing how to work hard and not take the easy route was very important for Health-Ade, especially in the beginning. We always say hard work is the secret to our success.
My love for food really came from my mother—she cooked healthy, delicious meals from scratch. I always loved good, real food. I further developed this interest in graduate school (I went to Tufts for nutrition), but it all started in our home kitchen with my mama’s food.
LTP: What did your life look like before the creation of Health-Ade Kombucha?
DT: Before Health-Ade, I had worked in corporate America. Because I was doing well there, I got a temporary assignment to be a “change agent,” and my job required me to improve engagement of our own company’s employees in geography. I was given unlimited freedom in strategy and budget to accomplish the goal, and I had the absolute best time doing it. I had never worked harder at something at that point, but I felt so fulfilled in being able to develop my ideas, build my strategy and execute on it. It was my first taste of being a leader, and I learned so much about employee engagement and communication.
When the assignment ended, I went back to my old job—and I just knew I had to get out there and do something on my own again. And I dreamed about doing it on something I cared a lot about, like bringing real food to the marketplace. My best friend Vanessa and husband Justin were equally unfulfilled in their jobs, and the three of us jumped at the chance to create a new life for ourselves.
LTP: How did you come to launch your company? Was there a moment when you realized that it would be a real success?
DT: Justin, Vanessa and I (the founders) started an entrepreneur club, and we would sip on my kombucha while we would discuss what this big and cheap idea for a business could be. Because we didn’t have a lot of money, not many ideas could be executed. We did know how to make great kombucha, and we decided to give it a shot at the farmers’ market. It’s hard to say at what point we realized it would be a success—it feels like such a staircase, and I try not to look at how far I have to go. Some major milestones were getting into Whole Foods, getting our first investment and getting into Costco. Still, I get chills when I see someone drinking it on the street.
LTP: Aside from drinking Health-Ade, what are some of your current beauty and/or wellness obsessions and/or rituals that keep you feeling balanced and healthy?
DT: This has been a journey for me over the last six years. It hasn’t always been easy, and I don’t like to proclaim perfection here—in fact, I think trying to be perfect can be part of the problem for too many ladies. Starting a business is very hard work, and the reality is (especially for the first couple years) self-care doesn’t get the priority spot. The important thing is that you keep trying. You already know the things that keep you strong: sleep, enough water, not too much drinking, eating right and doing enough things that make you happy. If you go too long without prioritizing those, your mind will begin to fry and your health and body will suffer. Now that I have the luxury of having over 100 employees and a business that runs well, I can prioritize working out six days a week (which I do with Lacey Stone and Flywheel Spin) and eating right. But, even in the beginning, you have to fuel the engine that runs the bus. If you don’t fuel yourself, you will run out of gas. As long as you’re always trying, and carving time out when you can, I think you will ultimately be OK. Too many people don’t realize how easy it is to do—you just have to carve space out.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
DT: Happiness is going to bed feeling like I gave it my best go. My family knows how much I love them without question. My brain feels accomplished. My body feels tired and ready to rest. That’s happiness. That moment right when you get into bed under the covers—you’re grateful for what you have, and you’re super excited for what tomorrow will bring.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
DT: I would say this, to me, is similar to enjoying the journey. In starting and running a business, it’s so easy to get caught up with the destination. But then you realize you’re never going to get “there.” Because there is no there. It keeps changing and moving and going and turning! Once you learn the secret of enjoying the journey (and living the process), you have the keys to happiness every single moment.