June 29, 2011 by Danielle
Nick Kelley, founder of Kaia Foods-a raw, organic granola company, was nice enough to chat with me yesterday about healthy eating, finding your own happiness and why he decided to start a natural food company. If you want to find out more about Kaia, check out their website. Also be sure to download their free cookbook which is full of yummy all natural recipes for smoothies, salads and spreads. Check out our interview below!
If you had to describe Kaia in five words or less, which five words would you use to do so?
I would describe Kaia as vibrant, alive, delicious, energetic and celebratory. The reason I would choose these specific words is because Kaia is all about the food. Its delicious, it’s pure and minimally processed, which makes you feel vibrant and alive. The other words come into play when you feel good from eating foods that are good for you. Kaia is about a celebration of life and feeling good.
You quit your job in finance to start Kaia. What was the transition like and what ultimately propelled you to take the big jump?
I worked at a hedge fund straight out of college and I really liked it-I went on to get my CFA and my MBA-but at the end of the day, I felt like there was something missing and I kept asking myself if “Do I really feel fulfilled? This is my life and what am I going to do with it here on this earth?” I have always wanted to start a company and I saw a lot of “healthy” food brands that were just full of processed sugar and not truly good for you. The impulse to start a food company had been building in me for a while and one day on a hike, I finally said to myself “I can do it.”
How did you get interested in natural foods and what is your definition of healthy eating?
My definition of healthy eating is real, whole foods that haven’t been processed to death. I got interested in natural foods because I was a a weekend warrior athlete and I wanted to have the energy to get through workouts and feel great. I was also terrified of getting sick. My dad died of cancer at a young age and I didn’t want that. When I took nutrition classes and saw the science behind nutrition, I thought, “Why wouldn’t you want to eat well, workout and eat great food? If these things are going to decrease my chances of getting sick, why wouldn’t you do that?” I just wanted to feel good. I wanted to be food aware.
What’s your favorite way to exercise?
Swimming. I have been swimming alot over the past few years.
What’s a food you can’t live without (aside from your granola)?
Taking up an all-natural/organic diet can be daunting, especially for people who have no idea what to eat and where to start. What do you recommend for people just getting into healthy, natural/organic eating?
- Go slowly and get a clear understanding of what is actually healthy. As a guideline choose foods that are minimally processed that have ingredients you can pronounce.
- Make change slowly. Don’t try to make big changes overnight or else you’re going to fall off the wagon and get frustrated.
- Eating healthily is not about deprivation. Lots of people have the misconception that healthy eating can’t be delicious and satisfying. Eating healthily is about finding things that satisfy you within the realm of healthy.
- Emphasize the foods you love. If you have a sweet tooth, drink smoothies made of natural ingredients that satisfy your sweet tooth. If you like potato chips, find kale or veggie chips that you like. Eating healthy should be a positive transition rather than a negative one.
- Everything in moderation, including moderation. Have a pristine diet most of the time, but once in a while go nuts and give yourself a break-have a beer with friends, go out to eat. It’s all about enjoying what you eat.
What’s one well-established company that you would like Kaia to be like?
I love Lara Bar. They made raw foods really appealing and made it available and accessible to a lot of people. They took a category of food that was full of sugary, “health” foods and transformed that entire space. They came up with something that is good for you and tastes great.