Ratana Stephens has always been fiercely loyal to her instincts and her employees. This week, she walked us through how she and her husband built Nature’s Path from a local food favorite into a global enterprise. And why investing in her employees has been the key to creating a sustainable business.
She told us about the challenges of raising a family while starting a career, why common sense is underrated in business, and what being a sustainable company actually means.
On Raising Young Kids While Working
Carly: I want to talk a little bit about how you achieved any semblance of balance. And I use the word balance in quotes because I think we talk a lot on the show that that's kind of a myth, when people talk about a work-life balance. But walk us through what those early days were like running a restaurant and having a young family.
Ratana: You know, three weeks ago, when I was given [an] award, the kids were there. My husband was there. And of course, I thanked them. And what I said, "Your mother was always there when you needed her. But she was not there when you wanted her." When they needed me, when I felt it's very important for them to have me near them emotionally, intellectually, I made sure I was there… So it's very hard when you are in business and when you have a beautiful young family. It's hard. But you make sure, in the time of needs, your family comes first.
On Common Sense In Business
Danielle: Who did you guys go to for advice? When I think back on the health space… it's just boomed in the past two decades. There, I'm assuming, wasn't the same type of information or resources or networks. When you guys were starting out, were there people that were mentors? When you couldn't figure something out, who did you go to?
Ratana: You know, my husband usually says, "Ratana, you have uncommon common sense." I didn't understand that before. Where I could find [it], with whomsoever was willing to give me advice, I would listen, then save what they have given me, use my common sense, and go forward.
Carly: Why do you think he called it uncommon common sense?
Ratana: I don't know, because probably he felt that I have common sense which he has not found in others
Danielle: Your daughter is spearheading the sustainability initiatives at Nature's Path. And you've committed to being carbon-neutral by 2020. For companies who want to work towards more sustainable practices, what advice do you have on how they actually start?
Ratana: They start with a product. We started with organic foods. By using organic ingredients, I must say that we have saved our plants hundreds of millions of pounds of chemical fertilizer… We have saved our planet.
Sustainability means total sustainability. It includes social responsibility and environmental sustainability. Sustainability to me also means look after our people. Give them a purpose. Help them learn or guide them what is best for the planet and for the society that we live in. Make sure they're well paid. Make sure they're looked after. Make sure they're part of the family.
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