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IdeaXchange

Lessons in humility from the highest of places

Max Kabat, goodDog
At this year’s Expo, be kind. Be humble. Learn. Enjoy. Make friends. Expo it up. We need the community and the communion. It's time for the natural products industry to get back to basics.

The last time I went to Expo in ’19 I was a bit burned out. Yes to seeing people from the industry I love and admire, but was it too big? Had it seen its best day?

As we all know, so much has happened since then. Companies pivoted. Held on for dear life. Went out of business. Grew like crazy. Explored omni-channel. Became supply chain obsessed. Coasted on the desire to hoard anything shelf-stable, to bake incessantly, to eat well and be healthy. Heck, so much happened to all of us.

These strange times have altered our perspective. The lack of physical interaction we experienced over the last two years has made us all realize the value of human relationships, of being fully present. It’s fundamentally changed people and business. Has it changed Expo?

As in days of yore, brands will still use this show as a platform to talk about their whizzbang. Big booths and marketing campaigns signaling success. Capital raises and new innovation with a focus on the future. Chatter about turning the product into a platform. Happy hours to brag about being a braggart. Bigger and more still equals better. But should it?

We should be celebrating the folks that used their time of reflection to get smaller. The brands that cut off their long tail. That focused. Dug deep. That dialed into who they are, what they are, and for whom they are, reducing the scope of their business rather than growing to just grow.

A leader in our industry, Miyoko Schinner of Miyoko’s Creamery, recently took to LinkedIn to get real with all of us for a moment. While her namesake company raised over $50 million last summer, her post tells us that recent brand and line extension choices were made that didn’t put the company’s values, nor the customer’s expectations, first.

When asked about the post, Mioyko said, "A start-up is often an evolution of clarifying one’s core values and intentions. Hopefully, as we evolve and grow, the vision becomes clearer and can help guide further growth." So, she announced that Miyoko’s is returning to its roots.

Reading between the lines, we know that growth for growth's sake, likely due to the cash infusion, is what most likely led to the altering of Miyoko’s path. It's what Alex Bayer from Genius Juice described as the “too wide, too soon” challenge that applies to products and doors. Missteps happen to the best of us. Miyoko, in particular, is the best of us. Living intentionally. Leading by example. A true change-maker. Putting a belief system on her back and making a business from its essence.

In classic Miyoko form, she didn’t just let us know she made a mistake. She lived her values and gave us an incredible gift going into Expo. A reminder to be empathetic with each other. To be real. To stand for something and stay true to what we are. To not just smile and nod like everything is OK because everything might not be OK. It’s a new day, so let’s live like it.

So at this year’s Expo, be like Miyoko. Be kind. Be humble. Learn. Enjoy. Make friends. Expo it up. We need the community and the communion. And, think of me at home with a newborn and a serious case of FOMO. Can’t wait to hear from industry friends about the simple thrills of talking shop in person. And to hear what the shop looks like, for better or worse. Hopefully, for better.

Correction: Mar 08, 2022
Miyoko Schinner's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this column.
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