Heather Thomson, adored reality star from Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York is in real life a serial entrepreneur. One of her ventures, Beyond Fresh offers an organic supplement line focused on science, whole foods, and superfoods. Heather is a mother of two, podcast host, entrepreneur, and integrative health coach! With over 25 years of experience stemming from Calvin Klein to design director of Sean Diddy Combs' Sean John label, creative directing alongside Beyonce Knowles and Jennifer Lopez, to founding her own brand in 2008, which changed the shape wear and lifestyle game for many women internationally. When Heather sets her mind to something, you can bet she'll see through it and then some. Just stick around and see what's next!
Mimi: Welcome back to the Badass CEO. This is your host, Mimi, and today we have Beyond Fresh CEO, Heather Thomson. Heather wears many hats, including inventor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, speaker, athlete, and avid outdoor adventurer. Thank you so much for coming on today. I'm excited to talk about your new venture, so thank you.
Heather: Oh, it's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
- Choices We Make
- It’s About Clean Whole Food
- Finding the Right Partners
- Change Is Always There For Us To Embrace
- Juggling It All
- Impetus For Creating a Podcast
- Lean Into The Change You Want to See
Choices We Make
Mimi: Yes. I see you're a serial entrepreneur and have many hats, like myself. So your new venture, I'd love to just talk to you about, about Beyond Fresh and how you decided to do that.
Heather: Yeah. Thanks so much. It really came out of first a passion. While I was very passionate about the fashion industry and was having a wonderful career and loved what I was doing. On the side after I became a mom to a sick child, Jax was born really ill and it was touch and go. And as he started to heal and get better, there was a lot of medications he had to take to keep him healthy. At the same time they were keeping them healthy, what were they doing to his body?
I started to read up a lot and it led me into nutrition. And at the same time I had had my first, I guess, dance with nutrition after I had Jax also because I gained an enormous amount of weight with him. I gained 65 pounds.
After he was out, I still had 35 pounds of weight gain to deal with and he was ill. I wasn't focused on me, I was focused on my child, but at the same time, I was understanding weight loss nutrition, which I didn't really have ever really to focus on. I was also understanding nutrition as medicine. At the same time, without even realizing it, I had these two worlds collide. And as I was reading and doing research, I recognized that I didn't want to read diet theory and theory, I wanted the science in it. I wanted to understand nutrition from the scientific level. I went back to school and I studied nutrition. And when I got out of that course, I really felt like I had to scream from the rooftop, so to speak, about how much propaganda is out there.
There are so many people out there trying to do the right thing, and they are fooled by marketers. They are fooled by big food and big pharma, by the way. And I wanted to scream it from the rooftop. What I did is I organized a climb to Kilimanjaro with 19 women.
Heather: And I used that platform of nutrition, but also sharing and encouraging and supporting one another into a whole new business that really inspires me every day. It's not just about Beyond Fresh, which are organic food supplements and also an education. But it's also about retreats that we do and big adventure climbs that we do and the health coaching that we do. It's not about selling a product anymore. For me, it never was with Yummie either, but this is even bigger. It's about supporting, being inclusive, being a community. And that's what it's all about. That's how it got started and that's where we are.
Mimi: Great. That's awesome. I'm sorry to hear about your son. I hope he's doing better.
Heather: Oh, he's 16. I just dropped him off at work and he is growing and strong and he's a fighter like you can't believe. Thank you for that.
Mimi: That's awesome. Awesome. And then, did you go to IIN – Institute of Integrative Medicine?
Heather: I did.
Mimi: Oh, yes. So I went to, I graduated in 2008.
Heather: Yeah. I was a little bit after you, Jax was born in 2004 and gosh, I'm trying to think, about seven years ago now.
Mimi: Right. That's great. That's a great program. When I went, no one even knew what GMO was. And I went, same reason. My kids had some health issues like ADD, and I was like, "Why is this happening? How can I manage it?" Right? That's where I went. And I remember just saying to my friends … The juice craze. The whole green drink craze had not even started. No one knew what GMO was. I remember saying to my friends, "Don't drink milk." And they were like, "What are you talking about?" They thought I was crazy. I totally get what you're saying. That's great.
Okay. You had this idea to start a supplement company. I do feel like it is a saturated industry because there's a lot of, as you said, whitewashing or greenwashing, whatever they call it these days. You don't really know because it's an unregulated industry. There's no really policing of what's happening. How did you decide, where did you get the science from? And then, where did you find the manufacturer? Because that's a hard part.
Heather: Well, you have to meet someone that really believes in what you believe in. You're right, it is a saturated market, but it's not saturated with truth tellers. It's not saturated with clean products, which is mine. So yes, I could hide something in the food label, but that's not what we do. Every single thing on my food label, you can read, understand, you know what it is. It's all whole food ingredients and we also make it affordable. And that was the big difference. And it's all plant-based and really, understanding plant foods and plant-based whole foods, I think is the most important shift that we make as Americans.
It’s About Clean Whole Food
We didn't even hear about GMO, like you said, we didn't even know that. Now we really have to push toward a plant-based initiative entirely. And a lot of people don't even know we can get protein from a plant, they think protein comes from only animals and butter and that comes from animals. I think that there is an education to be had and simplifying how we're eating and getting back down to the basics. That's what I discovered at INN. Everybody has their theory because it worked for them, but if you take one line from all of them, it's eat clean whole food.
Mimi: Yep. And more plants.
Heather: That's really what it is.
Mimi: You should be concentrating more on the greens than you should on anything else.
Heather: That's right. Exactly.
Mimi: Because you can always get protein, that's easy to get, I find. Proteins, they're always pushing. You can always get a slice of chicken somewhere.
Heather: Right. But all chicken isn't created equal.
Mimi: Oh, of course, yes.
Heather: On any level. And there's even new research coming out now about chicken and the ages that are in these types of meat.
Mimi: I don't eat chicken.
Heather: And by the way, chicken is probably the worst meat.
Mimi: It's the dirtiest food.
Heather: I think pork comes in second, when it's not organically farmed and grass fed and raised in that environment. It's poison. Literally.
Finding the Right Partners
Mimi: Yeah. No, it's true. Okay. I see you have a co-founder.
Heather: That's my manufacturing side. The co-founder is the guy who has been in this business his whole life. And I was able to find an organic manufacturer that has relationships with these farmers and has been doing it that way since the 70s, and didn't change. While their business did branch off to bigger businesses, they always kept this little piece of it that was pure. That's the piece that I got to lock into.
Mimi: That's great.
Heather: And so yeah, together we have Beyond Fresh.
Mimi: That's great. When you approached him, I assume you didn't have a relationship before with him?
Mimi: Instead of actually having him just be your supplier, you said, "Let's partner together." And he was-
Heather: 100%. Yep.
Mimi: That's great.
Heather: And he loves doing it. He wants to push out, but he's just not the face of the brand, he understands behind. I mean, he knows the industry so well, I was coming in a little yellow bellied. I come in from the fashion industry. Moving from clothes to food, the whole thing is very different, but there's still a general rule for it, for me, and that is authenticity.
Mimi: That's great.
Heather: And I've always been authentic in my clothing company, in my clothing initiative, whether I was designing for someone else and using them as muse to represent what they wanted or myself with my brand, representing what I felt was a white space. And that's now what we're doing together with Beyond Fresh.
Mimi: That's great. And now, where are you distributing?
Heather: I started only on television shopping. I launched the brand on ShopHQ, which is one of the TV shopping channels. It's a little bit more of the boutique channel, has a little bit more expensive stuff on it, more boutique stuff on it. Where I was the only natural supplement supplier there. We really established a wonderful relationship where I gave them an exclusive for the launch, for a couple years, where I could really get into the homes and the living rooms of the consumer. I wanted to educate them. I want to talk to them. I wanted to get the brand right. And it started out as a brand called Nutritionary, the A to Z of nutrition.
Heather: And then, we realized that that would limit us in the future growth of the brand. And so after a couple years, we gathered back up our things and we rebranded and we relaunched. It was a four year journey for me on television shopping solely.
Mimi: That's great.
Heather: I wanted to really get the consumer … Hear them, be directly in touch with them, be in their faces, me talking, asking me the questions-
Mimi: Great.that's great.
Heather: … Not a brand. Now we've since launched our website. Beyondfresh.com is up and running. And we are working right now with some really exciting retail deal partners and discussing that. I can't wait to be able to announce those, but right now it's available on beyondfresh.com. And we do, do specials and deals and exclusives with ShopHQ about once a month.
Change Is Always There For Us To Embrace
Mimi: That's awesome. Now, is there anything you wish you knew now that you didn't know when you started?
Heather: No. I think every single lesson that I've learned in this organic food supplement space, it has been everything to me. I'm still learning lessons. One of the things I learned about myself and the world, I'm 51 years old now, and the world changes and it changes on a vast level and not like it did before social media. And we're probably somewhere around the same age.
Mimi: Yeah. I just turned 50.
Heather: Oh, okay. Well 50 was, I thought it was going to be this great year for me because I felt so healthy and strong and wise and all that. But what I didn't expect was all the realizations that come at 50, all of a sudden these doors open and you start to understand yourself, the world, life, lessons, a little bit better, or they confuse you a little bit more. And plus it was COVID.
For me, 50 was a real rediscovery of myself and a real getting back in touch with myself and listening really closely to my inner voice and not letting the answer come to the question right away. That has been a journey for me because I know the answers all the time. You know what I mean? If I don't know it right away, I probably won't know it and I need to research it, but that is all cognitive. And I had to learn to just sit in the subconscious a little bit. That's been the work that I've been doing at 50 and it's rewarding as hell. It's hard, but it's rewarding as hell.
Mimi: It's true. You definitely have a new perspective. You just, like you said, take a deep breath and just do your truth, right? Like I always talk about now, you have to find your truth because that's what you need to get out in the world.
Heather: The second phase, you know what I mean? It's like, if you don't take pause in the middle … Oh, the most beautiful hummingbird is out my window. Hi baby. I have this big bouquet of flowers and he's trying to get in at it. I hope he doesn't hit his head on the window.
Sorry, I digress. But nature is everything right now.
Mimi: It's beautiful. Yeah.
Heather: Yeah. It'S like the second chapter. And now, if you don't take pause and look back at the first half of your life in order to assess and re-establish the second half, then I think you're missing out. And I was ready when I first turned 50 to rush right through that, just keep going. And the universe was like, "No, honey, you're going to sit down for a second."
It's true. As you've been growing your company, talk to me about … Because I think some of the hardest part about growing a company is building your systems and building your team in place. Do you have a team now or are you still outsourcing? What does that look like for you?
We have a team, we have a nucleus team because that works on everything Heather Thompson. I have my own nucleus team and then we have a Beyond Fresh team that focuses only on Beyond Fresh. And then, I have a podcast team, you know what I mean? When I say teams, a team could be three people. I'm not talking where I'm having 100 reports where I've had in the past. Because my partner was already established in the manufacturing side of organic supplements, super foods, and that sort of thing for many years, that was the partnership. I was able to lean into that side and he was able to lean into my front side marketing side, and how I felt like we should merchandise it, put it together, that we really share in that.
Heather: I do have a team from the warehouse to systems and things like that, that were in place, but we've had to make some pivots because the business with my partner was also not really ever a direct to consumer model. It was really big businesses, big bulk pallets, not shipping one from a warehouse. Well, there's been some pivots we've had to make with that, but they're all exciting. And we fail fast.
Mimi: Learn quick, fail fast.
Juggling It All
Mimi: No, that's amazing. I mean, you wear a lot of hats. How do you juggle it all? How are you keeping everything … You just talked to three different teams right here when we just spoke. How are you juggling all that?
Heather: I've learned through just some management reading and style, I mean, it changes. Just because I'm 51 and I've managed big teams, doesn't mean that I'm done and all the work is done. We're ever evolving, people are evolving, changing. I'm dealing with youth, different types of ideas. I still read a lot. And I think one of the best things that I've done is really hold true to these team meetings that we have, these touch points. And I try to keep them to 30 minutes because sometimes we have these hour-and-a-half long calls and then it's like, whoa, whoa, whoa. And yes, they happen and they need to happen sometimes.
But those check-ins where everybody can retain what's at hand, right this second, and what the marching orders or what we need to do this week. I think these half-hour touch points with each team, that happen a couple times during the week, like two or three times during the week, have been a lot more beneficial to me than these big team meetings for an hour long. Especially in Zoom, when you're not in-person, we've had to pivot so much in that way, when you're not directly dealing with someone and passing paper and looking at ideas together, I've had to pivot. Quick touch points and quick touch bases, more in a multitude have been really serving me.
Mimi: Now, have they been scheduled or are they more impromptu?
Heather: They're scheduled now.
Mimi: They are scheduled?
Mimi: Because everyone's working it's so hard to be like, "Okay, it's every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at nine o'clock." Or whatever.
Heather: It's horrible. I'm sure one of the questions that you're going to ask me is, "What has COVID done and how can you make…" You know what I mean? And I'm an organization freak. I'm a little OCD actually. You know what I mean? It's good because it's given me some time to rest in that and loosen ups, so to speak, for my family and all that kind of stuff. And also given me room to grow and pivot. Organization has been most difficult for me in COVID, I'm working out of my home, where was that paper? Where can everything live, where I have an office where I'm not constantly moving and picking up stuff and having to produce myself?
Heather: There's no way … When you're on live TV and there's no one else in the room with you, it's very taxing.
Mimi: It's true. It's true. What is one of your favorite books or what are the books that you're reading now? Because you said you like to read.
Heather: Right now I'm reading a book called Caste, which is about racism and dissolving white supremacy, trying to understand it, and anti-blackness. That's really been a real focus of mine right now for my own evolution and growth. Again, we're never done, it changes, it evolves and we have to look at it, but I do, do a lot of internet surfing on some management things. I wish I had one to tell you off the top of my head, there's this one guy Brian Hain, I think, I don't know his name exactly. But that I found through the internet, tips on marketing where they put blogs out. I've been reading more, I think blogs.
Mimi: Blogs.that's what I do.
Heather: And I did it more at the beginning of COVID and I used it when I needed it. Now, I'm using it and it's working. I'm onto some other things I need work on.
Impetus For Creating a Podcast
Mimi: That's great. And tell us about your podcast, so how long ago did you start that?
Heather: Yeah. We launched it right before COVID hit. I had recorded, I think maybe four episodes. In studio, the whole nine yards and then COVID hit and the whole world closed down. And then, we started to try to find our footing again, we started doing the podcast again on Zoom, which has been really such a wonderful eye-opener because I want both. I want to be able to Zoom with you because just say you were in LA right now. We would've had to schedule plane flights and all that kind of stuff. And this is really works. Zoom really works well for this.
Mimi: It does.
Heather: I love the substitution of Zoom for time, travel efficiency, that sort of thing. But I'm really excited obviously to get back into studio and face-to-face. But we launched it, and we launched it during the pandemic, so that was really hard to pivot and shift and with doing production and figuring out … I mean, a couple podcasts didn't record. We had to shift and pivot.
Mimi: Got you.
Heather: I'm really proud of the launch. I launched it with Embassy Row, Sony. I've since, me and my team have taken it back in, it's now ours, that partnership is over. It was a wonderful partnership to launch with, but for the future and longevity of what I want to do, I'm glad that it's now solely ours to work with. That was a big thing to take on all the production and take on all of that on our own. Our team has really held that and no one even knows we shifted.
Mimi: Right. What was the impetus to starting one? Is it to go hand-in-hand with your Beyond Fresh or was it your brand?
Heather: A little bit of everything. It was more about me, Heather, and that I've always wanted to lean into shining a light on things or growing myself and sharing those stories. And I get to meet such incredible people along the way and I have met incredible people.
I wanted to share with my audience, some of the things that I had learned from these mentors in my life. And then, a book, an author, someone like you that inspires me, well, I want to now talk to her. It afforded me, like I say, old friends and new friends is what I say about the podcast, to talk about the things in our lives or the pivotal moments in our life, or share our stories where the listeners feel like they're sitting right here with us and we're having a conversation. And that's what my podcast was about, to educate, grow, inspire, entertain, enlighten. That's what I want to do within my heart.
Mimi: That's great. That's great. So as you know, my podcast is all about empowering women because even though we're 50/50 and starting companies in the workforce, just the percentage is not there for being in C-suite positions or being super successful with their companies. Only 1.7% of companies ever reach a million dollars in sales, which is crazy. Right? So it's like, I'm trying to get to the root of why that is and how we can empower women. I guess I would love your two cents on what you think, why that's happening or what we can do to help and support women?
Heather: Yeah. Well, I mean, thank God we're where we are now, because we have a way to go, but we've come a long way. And I think it's a general consensus right now of equity and it's bigger now than it's ever been. And when #MeToo happened, it was funny because I was like, of course. We just allowed things, very much like the black and brown culture or minority culture now, that's like, "No, it's not okay anymore. We can't allow a micro aggression. We can't allow those things. We have to stand up and people have to take accountability." I think what happened with women is, it was this big consensus of, "Well the glass ceiling still exists, but look at Kamala Harris, look at our…" You know what I mean? It's amazing.
We have all these women now in Congress and more than ever. We are getting places, but we have to acknowledge and not allow some of those small digs, those small throwbacks to women, where we have to stand in power, in equity. And I don't think that that's going to change overnight. I think that it's been a long time coming. Voting is really important. I mean, I don't know about you, but we're about the same age, in 1976, were your parents talking to you about politics?
Mimi: They may have been, but I was too little. But I remember back way when, when there was all … But no, not as much, but yes, it was much more friendly. Right?
Heather: From my experience, it wasn't child's play. Politics were, you don't have to worry about that-
Mimi: I had a uncle who was a senator.
Heather: Oh, okay, so it was a little different.
Heather: I mean, who knows if they pressured you? Like now, my children are so engaged, you know what I mean? With politics and understanding it.
Mimi: Yes. They know exactly.
Heather: Those are the shifts that we need. We need more eyes open and we need goats and we need sheep. That'S the way this world works. Do you know what I mean? But we need to be informed and I think press and the way journalism is happening today, everything is shifting. I mean, I hate to use the word fake news because I feel like it was coined in a way that I don't believe, but I mean, I, myself read stuff and it's like, "What is this? This is not journalism."
Mimi: There's no place you can find both sides. Tell me both sides and I'm going to figure out the third side.
Heather: Yes, exactly. You really have to lean in and do it yourself. You have to do the research yourself.
Mimi: Yeah. You do.
Lean Into The Change You Want to See
Heather: And you have to lean into the change that you want to see, and you've got to try to be a part of that change you want to see. If it's in your small little business that does $100,000 a year, or if it's in your big business, it doesn't matter. Micro or macro, we have to start to lean into and acknowledge the change and that we're going to mess up. And that the only way that we can learn is to make a mistake, is to fail.
Mimi: Yeah. It's interesting, because I had put a poll out to my community and I asked, "What's your biggest hurdle or what are you fighting the most?" And a lot of them, the number one was imposter syndrome. That is what I feel a lot of what's holding women back. It's not even what's happening to us. It's what's happening inside of us, because we're not believing. And why is that? Just get out of our heads. We're perfectionists, we talk bad talk to ourselves. I don't think women support each other as much as they could be supporting each other. And so it's just like, what do we as individuals, need to do just to believe in ourselves? I think is also a huge-
Heather: Yeah. I think there's a difference that will shift for women personally in really this word of equity and understanding equity. We're talking about pronouns now, how do you relate? What's your pronoun? Are you he/him, are you she/her, are you they? And I think that shift alone in how a person feels that has nothing to do with their sexuality, is going to be an important shift because for some women, I think that it's been a difficult issue for women.
For some women, freedom and empowerment is cleavage and sexy dressing and lipstick, and that's their freedom and that's their power. And another woman might be looking down on it like, you're making it difficult for me who is buttoned up. And we need to accept that power comes in many different ways and it's not in one cookie cutter way and we have to have acceptance for people. You know what I mean? And if someone wants to wear a low cut shirt to work, she should not be subjected to sexual harassment.
Heather: And then, the person that doesn't wear the low cute shirts, can't say, "Well, she shouldn't wear that low cut shirt." I think that, in that way, women supporting each other has been, we've been against each other just because stylistically or even personally inside our own hearts and souls, maybe there's some struggle with who we are, what empowers us or what we need. I think acceptance generally across the board and understanding that we're not all the same and understanding these equities are going to change a lot in life and a lot for empowerment and equity, equality, you know what I mean?
Where we start to see human beings as human beings and not as man or woman, not as black, brown or white, you know what I mean? Obviously we have to see color, but we have to make those adjustments and shifts for systemic longitude. And that doesn't happen fast, it doesn't happen overnight. You don't change opinions overnight. We have to sit in it, we have to be uncomfortable and we have to then make the mistakes to forge the change.
Heather: And I've made those same mistakes.
Mimi: Yeah. No, it's true. It's definitely true. What would you say is the number one characteristic or quality of a person in order to be a successful entrepreneur? Obviously, you've been very successful in every endeavor that you've taken on and so, what would you-
Heather: I've tried.
Mimi: Well, you've tried, you've failed, you got back up, you're doing it again. You wear many hats. You have to fail in order to be successful. Right?
Heather: That's right.
Mimi: We all know that. But putting that aside, you are a successful person in general. What would you say, what attribute is that from? What do you think that number one?
Heather: I think you have to push fear aside and failure is a part of it. And I think that sometimes people don't realize that it is. And listen, I launched Yummie, I launched a brand, it hit out the box, but there was so much stress and strife and things behind the scenes happening in that business, with a partner that I absolutely did not see eye-to-eye with, and on any level really. Management styles, the rights of women, lots of things. I failed in that sense because I had a bad partner for me, for my beliefs. I think that you have to really push fear aside and take everything head on, scraped knees, like you say, are part of the game, but you don't know what failure looks like. You don't know where it's going to come at you from.
Heather: It could be a woman starting a business who realizes that she's neglecting her family. You know what I mean? And she needs to work on that and how to balance that better. We're never perfect. Every day is going to be a lesson. Hopefully there's a lesson. And I say, we all get a new day each and every day. The success for an entrepreneur is to believe in yourself and know that you're going to fail and be kind to yourself and make sure you lean into the uncomfortableness and the growth and sit in it. When I say we fail fast, I mean the mistakes that we can understand, but there are mistakes that we're making right now in Beyond Fresh, we don't even know about yet.
Mimi: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's so true. This has been amazing. I wish you the best of luck as you grow your company and everything else that you're doing and your podcast. Thank you so much for your time.
Heather: Oh my God, I loved you having me on and thank you so much for your time and I'll be back anytime you want.
Mimi: Definitely. I would love that. Thank you for joining us on the Badass CEO. To get your copy of the Top 10 Tips Every Entrepreneur Should Know, go to the badassceo.com/tips. Also, please leave a review as it helps others find us. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them. Email me at email@example.com. See you next week and thank you for listening.