When Brooke Rewa needs leadership inspiration, she turns to football.
“My husband is a hardcore NFL fan, so I love watching the games with him because so many of the coaches are just such natural leaders. They get their team amped up and they’re able to articulate things really clearly; and I love the rallying that happens, so I actually pull a lot from that,” she says with a smile. “And football is so cut and dry: you do your job, and you do it well or you don’t have a place on the team. That’s it—but if you do it well, you’re really rewarded with what you can accomplish together. So my team jokes because I do make a lot of comparisons to football.”
Rewa is the founder of Los Angeles-based non-dairy milk company GoodMylk, so football might not be the most obvious point of reference. But Rewa’s entire business is built on a foundation of doing things differently.
She created GoodMylk, like many entrepreneurs, out of a need in her own life. A long-time vegan, she was forced to confront eating habits that she had previously thought were serving her body in a positive way. “I thought because I was vegan it meant that I was healthy and that automatically all vegan foods I was choosing were healthy,” she says. “And I got really sick with major digestive issues, and spent a year trying to figure out what was going on.” Eventually she met a holistic nutritionist who instructed her to be wary of processed foods and start reading labels. The biggest shock? Her boxed almond milk.
“One day I flipped over the box and looked at the ingredients and was like, ‘Holy shit. It’s full of gums and binders and all these other ingredients,’” she says over warm drinks at Flowerboy Project in Venice (one of the many cafes that now serves her product). “I looked up the nutritionals and was like, ‘Oh, there’s no protein in this—that doesn’t make any sense because I know that almonds have a lot of protein. So that’s weird. And it’s a liquid that can sit in my cupboard for a year or longer without being refrigerated.’”
So Rewa started making her own almond milk, using only whole, real, organic ingredients. Soon realizing what a difference it made in her own life (both in terms of health and flavour), she decided to start selling her milk at her local farmer’s market. “I had no savings, I had no connections,” she admits. “I just started selling this product at the farmer’s market and people fell in love with it.” The reception was so strong that she figured people outside of her community would benefit from organic alternative milk, too, so she decided to make GoodMylk her full-time venture, soon garnering wholesale partnerships with brands like the ever-trendy Blue Bottle Coffee.
Aside from the fresh milk (almond, hemp, or oat-cashew), GoodMylk also offers frozen concentrates for those who go through less product (since, you know, there are no preservatives giving it an extended shelf life), as well as a newer powdered version for ultimate ease.
“I learned a ton on R&D [research and development] doing that,” says Rewa of GoodMylk’s powders. “I almost walked away five or six times because I thought it just wasn’t going to happen, and then finally we got it to work.” The Almond Latte Creamer, for instance—made with Italian sprouted almonds, maple sugar, and Hiimalayan salt—immediately adds flavour, frothiness, and creaminess to a morning cup of java.
The alternative milk industry was valued at approximately $11.9 billion USD in 2017, and that number is only growing. Rewa sees it all as a sign that the conversation around food and wellness is changing. “I think it all has to go together—you have to look at what you’re putting into your body, what you’re putting on your body, what you’re exposing yourself to mentally, how you’re processing stress,” she says. “For me it’s my vitruvi Balance Roll-On, a bit of meditating, and yoga. I think understanding what you’re putting into your body and having healthy eating habits should be the base of it all, and then you just build everything else out from there.”
Both in her personal life and in her company, Rewa emphasizes well being from all angles. Of course, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get stressed or that she doesn’t work hard—because she does, and she does. “I’m surprised at how little people talk about how difficult it is,” she says of running a business. “There’s this conversation that happens all the time when I see even other founders where it’s like, ‘I see your product everywhere, you guys are killing it, your products are so great.’ How do you reply to that? Because we’re working so hard to get our product everywhere, and there are a million other things behind that. Sometimes I’m like, ‘I just checked my bank account, it doesn’t feel like we’re doing that great!’ You don’t see the hundred things every day or how stressed I am or the stress of my team. So it always kind of surprises me the dissociation people have, even other founders, about the path that a brand or company is actually on and how hard it is and what it takes.”
Still, not everything is a struggle. “I’m surprised at how hard it is, and there are moments when I’m surprised at how easy it is,” Rewa admits. “I’m surprised every time that our story and what we’re doing resonates with someone. I’m surprised to the point of tears sometimes.”