It’s Earth Day! And this year, to celebrate, we sat down with Rita Katona, the Co-Founder and Board Chair of So Good So You. A reformed corporate retail leader, Rita left a big job at Target HQ in 2014 and started a little company that is now So Good So You. So Good Brand is a leading developer, manufacturer and retailer of better-for-you beverages. Making products with only nutritious, whole, 100% plant-based ingredients, they are creating delicious, better-for-you beverages for the Love of Body and Planet.
We sat down with Rita to hear the story of how So Good So You began, how she’s held the course on sustainability and how she measures their impact on the planet.
I’m interested in the inspiration behind So Good So You. What is its birth story?
My husband, now CEO Eric Hall, and I wanted to build a life with a shared purpose to support the health of people and planet. We knew that we could do more good by building something bigger than just the two of us individuals. We resolved to start this company on the vacation where we got engaged. So Good So You was founded on the core belief that the products we buy and use are a direct connection to a larger community and a purpose. Our products are a vehicle for connecting with our community and a platform for a movement.
What was the hardest part about getting off the ground?
The hardest part was still just deciding to do it.
I had a dozen years climbing the corporate ladder and it was painful making the decision to step away from that into the uncertainty of building something from nothing. It was also incredibly energizing, but a tough decision to take the leap of faith.
What are your values at So Good So You?
Living more mindfully is at the core of So Good So You as a brand. In fact, we made For the Love of Body & Planet ™ our tagline because it is at the heart of everything we do. Our products are a way for us to connect with and build a community of likeminded individuals, so we can do more good together. We have the privilege to facilitate a platform for a community that thrives on the sharing of knowledge and who inspires us and each other to live healthy, sustainable lives. We actively seek ways to support them in this journey. In January 2020, we kicked off a tree-planting initiative to highlight one possible solution to climate change – this galvanized conversations and drove the planting of nearly 3,000 trees!
We are on the journey to be an increasingly environmentally sustainable company. We are not perfect, however, every decision is put through the lens of sustainability.
Production: Our production facility and our headquarters run on 100% renewable energy. We love knowing that all of our products are not only made with love, but are also sustainably made with wind energy.
Sourcing: We source our organic ingredients as close to the source as possible.
Packaging: Our packaging has always been 100% recycled and recyclable plastic, and we are thrilled to introduce the So Good So You BtrBtl ™, our biggest innovation for the planet to-date. So Good So You BtrBtl™ looks the same as any clear plastic bottle, but biodegrades at an accelerated rate in landfills* and converts to usable energy. Given the fact that 86% of plastic waste ends up in landfills in the US, regardless of proper recycling, BtrBtl™ is a complete life-cycle solution for our product packaging. BtrBtl™ will recycle the same as any plastic bottle with no negative impact on the recycling stream, while offering a significant improvement to the overall end-of-life results. All future launches of So Good So You products will be in the BtrBtl™. And we’re not stopping there – the technology and supply chain are a few years from scaling but we have our sights set on a future package that will be fully ocean-biodegradable.
How is So Good So You structured and how does it operate?
So Good So You is now 6 years old and Eric and I still run the company, but with a lot of help from what is now a very talented but still small leadership team. We consider everyone in our company family and pride ourselves on radical transparency with our team, our investors and our community.
Do you have any stats or numbers you’re proud of that gets at the footprint the company is making in the community?
So Good So You products can now be found in nearly 40 states across grocery, specialty and mass channels and we provide immunity and digestion-supporting products to millions of people across the US. Every So Good So You product is sustainably produced with 100% renewable energy in a Zero Waste manufacturing facility that diverts over 94% of facility waste away from landfills. We are thrilled to have an even larger impact with our new BtrBtl™ launch, to minimize our carbon footprint and to inspire our community of individuals and other companies to make decisions that put people and planet first.
Anything exciting to announce/on the horizon?
Of course we have been excited about launching BtrBtl™ for some time now, and it will be in-market very soon. What I’m most excited about right now is how our team is responding to the current COVID-19 situation in a way that truly showcases what a remarkable group of humans make up this company. In an effort to support frontline healthcare workers who are most vulnerable and whose work benefits us all, we kicked off SGSY Cares: Healthcare Heroes, an initiative to send Immunity & Energy shot-filled care packs to ER and ICUs in the areas most impacted by coronavirus. On March 26th we opened this program up to our community, asking for nominations of teams to receive these care packs. The response has been truly heartwarming.
What does “conscious leadership” mean to you? Do you have any best practices to help yourself become and embody conscious leadership?
Conscious leadership is being aware that your words and actions have a ripple effect on those around you, and choosing to act in such a way that respects and embraces that fact.
The leaders at our company often support one another as thought-partners on leadership style and how to best support the incredible humans on our team.
What is the most important thing in your life right now?
My priorities haven’t changed – people and planet are still at the top of my list. Keep myself, my family, our company and our community healthy and happy is even more important now than ever. The unexpected positive environmental impact of the pandemic on the planet illustrates how impactful everyone’s actions truly can be. It proves that it doesn’t take governments and multi-national corporations to create impact, and that the individual decisions and actions of many indeed do add up to meaningful impact on a global scale.
What is the largest challenge that you’re facing right now?
I think the largest challenge we face is the same for the entire planet right now. This time last year I would’ve said climate change, but the novel coronavirus has quickly overtaken climate change as a time-sensitive and pressing challenge. Making something that helps people build their immunity and stay healthy in a way that respects our planet, I’m proud to say our company and our products are as relevant now as ever, and thus I see us having a responsibility to continue to embrace our community and develop new products that address their evolving needs in this challenging environment.
What is giving you hope for the future?
Of course, I want everyone to stay safe and for us to get through this pandemic as a more united humanity. I’m actually very hopeful right now. We are seeing a massive shift in how people are thinking about their health more proactively as a result of coronavirus fears. I believe this is a good thing as the evidence-based optimal diet for human health is also the most planet-friendly diet – this is a plant-based diet.
I’m also hopeful that the many obvious short-term environmental impacts caused by the entire world slowing down to slow the spread of COVID-19 will “hit home” with people the fact that it is not too late yet, we can chose to live differently and have a tremendous positive environmental impact to preserve our planet for future generations.
Top 3 lessons for social entrepreneurs (or others in similar industries/models)?
- Define your purpose, your WHY early and protect it fiercely.
- Use your WHY to find and connect with your people. Use it to recruit team members, partners and customers.
- Make time for self-care, connection and inspiration. Your tank needs to be full to keep innovating, driving and giving.