Dreaming of Baby Entrepreneurs Segment
A conversation with Leeann Rybakov, Founder of BuckWHAT Foods
Two and a half years ago, Leeann took her passion for healthy food to another level. Now a mom of two and founder of a thriving healthy food company, Leeann masters the balancing art of commitment and entrepreneurship with parenthood, and is energetically building a legacy for her little ones. She chats with Dreaming of Baby about the innate passion that keeps her going.
CJ DeGuara: Hello and welcome to Dreaming of Baby! We have with us today Leeann Rybakov from BuckWHAT for our Rise and Grind by Daymond John edition focused on Parentpreneurship. Leeann, would you be so kind as to tell our readers a little about yourself, what you do and when you started the business?
Leeann Rybakov: Hi everyone! Thank you for taking the time to chat. I started my food company BuckWHAT Foods about two and a half years ago. I had graduated from culinary school and realized that I did not want to be a restaurant chef but that I did want to combine my passions for health and cooking to create a healthy food company. I had grown up eating buckwheat, which has amazing health benefits and happens to be gluten-free! I decided to take my favorite ingredient and create a healthy snack with it. And that’s how the Nosh was born. After the Nosh, I created the Nosh Bar, and then granola. I decided to test out the products at farmers markets. And so, in the summer of 2015, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I sold the products successfully at Spring Farmers Market in East Hampton. I grew a following and people really loved it. My daughter was born and I decided I really wanted to take this company to retail. When she was 6 months old, a commercial kitchen for food start-ups was just opening up in Brooklyn NY – Brooklyn Food Works. I joined the community of food entrepreneurs in February 2016 and started to sell retail. I was in a few small gourmet stores to start, and in the summer of 2016, I was in my first Whole Foods. A few months later, I found out I was pregnant with my son. This is where things got very interesting. My daughter is now 2 years old, my son is 4 months, and I am in 45 retail locations, six of which are Whole Foods.
CJ DeGuara: In Daymond John’s book Rise and Grind the focus is a lot on how to OutPerform, OutWork, and OutHustle Your Way to a More Successful and Rewarding Life. Statistically, the food industry is one of the hardest to get into, what would you attribute your success to? What did you differently?
Leeann Rybakov: I cannot agree with you more on all accounts! I have to say that for me it’s definitely my support system. My husband has stood behind me through every hurdle and every victory. I’m not sure if that’s something different from the rest, but it definitely helps. I have something different, and I think people are truly taking a liking to it. We are seeing the industry changing in the direction of shorter shelf lives, and natural products. People want ingredients they can pronounce. On top of that, my products are ones that moms can share with their kids. There are only a few ingredients, they are all natural, and there is no added sugar. We are also seeing the rebirth of ancient grains. Buckwheat is a seed that has amazing health benefits. It’s also very sustainable. The hardest part is educating people on this ingredient that is often unfamiliar. But once people try it, they tend to come back for more.
Leeann Rybakov: Staying focused and positive is often hard. But that is my strategy. The hardest part is balancing your own food company (in a very competitive market) and having two kids. But at the end of the day, they are my motivation.
CJ DeGuara: I normally wouldn’t veer off subject, but buckwheat is interesting. What can you tell us about buckwheat and why should we be excited about it?
Leeann Rybakov: I am so happy you asked! Buckwheat is awesome! It is high in fiber, protein, low calorie, great for digestion, low glycemic, and it happens to be gluten-free. Most people are used to eating buckwheat in the roasted form, called kasha, but we take raw buckwheat and incorporate it into snacks and granola that get baked.
CJ DeGuara: Many parents take on entrepreneurship as a way to work from home, it is in a sense a modern way of teleworking or freelancing. Whilst that is admirable, I have a feeling you dream big, what are your goals with BuckWHAT?
Leeann Rybakov: I do have some flexibility with my scheduling. But I also find myself running around a ton. Evening hours when the household is a bit quiet can be some of my most productive. I hope to expand. I am currently working on adding 2 more flavors of the Nosh and 3 more flavors of the granola. I would like to see my products on grocery store shelves across the country. We will soon be on amazon fresh. I have a big vision on growing my BuckWHAT business into a buckwheat empire. Lots of exciting new additions to come!
CJ DeGuara: Would you say you can relate to Catherine Zeta-Jones’ mindset which she covers in her discussions with Daymond John in his new book Rise and Grind?
Leeann Rybakov: Absolutely! I was told that if you can envision your success, it will happen. I just try to keep positive and focus on the fact that I know I have something great here.
CJ DeGuara: Believing in your product and yourself is so important! Do you have any tips for parents-to-be, who are either already entrepreneurs and expecting a bundle of joy or are expecting a bundle of joy and planning to become parent-preneurs?
Leeann Rybakov: This question makes me laugh a bit because I am still trying to figure it out. But what I have learned along the way, and what I try to remind myself every day, is there has to be balance. Kids don’t need much, they just need to know you are there. So, I try to dedicate special time when I put my phone away (so hard) and just hang out. I also try to engage my daughter in what I am doing. If I am printing something, she has the task of taking it out of the printer. But I am still learning myself. That’s the fun part of being an entrepreneur. Learning every day!
CJ DeGuara: If you had to list five benefits your children get out of you being a parentpreneur instead of a traditional career, especially one as time intensive as that of a chef, what would they be?
- Flexibility in my schedule (I get to take my daughter to school every day)
- Being a part of something from the start. They have been a part of this company from day one.
- Perhaps not right now, since my eldest is 2, but I hope that one day they will know that they can pursue any dream they have. Creativity is an amazing outlet.
- One day (since the eldest is only 2), they can walk into a store and be proud to see their mom’s products on the shelves (my nephew is 7 and he brags about it now, it’s awesome!)
- Hopefully, one day, they can take over the empire!
CJ DeGuara: So, in a sense you are not just building your business for today but you have a legacy in mind! Tell us a little more about that and how it drives you to work harder!
Leeann Rybakov: Yes absolutely. My family is the ultimate drive. I am making many sacrifices along the way. In my mind, it has to be worth it.
CJ DeGuara: This has been awesome and we have covered a lot of ground. Is there anything you think that anyone moving into parentpreneurship really needs to know before they dip their toes in and take the plunge?
Leeann Rybakov: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And always set aside time to be with your kids. Otherwise, you just get so caught up in things, you lose sight of the big picture.
CJ DeGuara: Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us! If our readers want to reach you or learn more about what you do; what’s the best way to reach you?
Leeann Rybakov: Thank you!
Get in touch with Leeann Rybakov and learn more about BuckWHAT Foods by clicking here