We were lucky enough to connect with Misha’s Kind Foods‘ co-founder Aaron Bullock for a must-read inside look at the company, their community work, and their vision for a more just food system.
Tell us a bit about the history of Misha’s Kind Foods and the inspiration behind its founding.
Ian and I have been friends for over 15 years, a friendship that started from our careers in the music industry. I started out on the business side of music promotions working in A&R for Motown, film, and TV production before becoming a licensed Traditional Naturopath where I really started to hone in on my interest and obsession with living a healthy lifestyle. Ian is an accomplished bass player and has performed alongside artists like Barbara Streisand, Naughty by Nature, Barry Manilow, Patti Austin, and more before he decided to train as a raw vegan living foods chef alongside Matthew Kenney.
Ian spent about six years perfecting his version of vegan cheese. One day, as a hesitant non-vegan but supportive friend, I tried it out and was amazed at how much it tasted just like dairy cheese. I truly couldn’t tell the difference. At that point, we both knew Ian had created something special. We also both share a desire to make healthy foods accessible to all communities, and I wanted to support my friend because I so firmly believed in what he created, so we decided to partner together to officially launch Misha’s in 2015.
What do people need to know about Misha’s Kind Foods’ mission, values, and objectives?
Misha’s mission is to serve all people by cultivating and producing the most delicious, health-conscious dairy alternative foods across the globe. Our values of Personal Excellence, Kindness, Lifting as We Climb, Teamwork, and Freedom are very important to us, as it provides a moral code of accountability to our team, and every single person who touches the Misha’s ecosystem – consumers, vendor partners, and our community.
How have the circumstances of the past couple of years impacted the work that you do every day? How has Misha’s Kind Foods navigated these challenging times?
The past couple of years have taken a toll on all of us, whether we are talking about the global pandemic, civil unrest due to social injustices, or economic challenges across the country. As a result, we have done our best to focus not only on what we are doing but more importantly “Why” we are doing it. We want to leave this world a better place not only for my daughter (Jaxon) and Ian’s son (Misha) but for all children, and focusing on the “why” allows us to work through these challenging times. Specifically, on the strategy and tactical side of our business, we have made sure to stay close to our suppliers to ensure we are ahead of any potential challenges with the supply chain (which we have been fortunate to not have any thus far).
As a company, we have also made a decision to reduce our retail price for consumers, in an attempt to do our small part to help balance out the inflationary impact that is adversely affecting our economy.
What about your work at Misha’s Kind Foods motivates you, inspires you, or makes you optimistic about the future?
I am inspired by the growth of the people on our team. We have a mantra painted on the entrance of our office, “We don’t make cheese, We make people”. The professional and personal growth we continue to see from our team of dragon slayers every day inspires me to keep pushing this ball forward.
What has been the most rewarding moment or pivotal milestone you’ve witnessed during your time at Misha’s Kind Foods — as both a plant-based business and a Black-owned business?
There hasn’t been a specific milestone, but the steady growth of new companies entering the plant-based industry over the last 18 months, coupled with our business’ steady growth trajectory is a really rewarding feeling. We also feel very humbled and excited to be a part of the growing number of Black-owned businesses within the overall foods and grocery retail industry, as we know the further we all go, doors will continue to open for future Black entrepreneurs across all industries.
Can you tell us a little bit about Misha’s Kindness Inc and the “Feed Our Family” program?
Misha’s Kindness Inc is a Non-Profit 501 (c) (3) organization created to plan and execute social impact programs within the community for underserved youth on behalf of Misha’s. Misha’s Kindness is committed to creating a world where every person on the planet has access to Plant-Based Foods, a Sustainable Environment, and Educational resources to help advance their community.
The non-profit is rooted in giving back to the community with programs like “Feed Our Family” (our Marquee program) which partners with organizations to identify families in need and then provide them with a supply of farm-to-table, health-conscious groceries for 52 weeks in the year. In 2020, Misha’s “Feed Our Family”, partnered with Communities in Schools LA and Hannah’s Children Homes to feed roughly 1,000 at-risk youth, foster children and their families, and in 2021 we doubled the number of families fed from underserved communities in the Southern California Area. We also partnered with Cedars Sinai and Amped Kitchens to launch an ongoing blood drive partnership through December 2021 as blood reserves are at record lows down a staggering 30% as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
You make cheeses “that make the world that much more inclusive” — for people of all backgrounds and dietary persuasions. How do you view the role of plant-based brands in creating a more culturally diverse and inclusive ecosystem for consumers to explore plant-based foods?
Plant-based brands should be at the forefront of creating products that embrace culturally diverse cuisine, as well as seek out new suppliers, vendors, and brokers in the overall foods ecosystem that are committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. We are a relatively young industry, so we should utilize this opportunity to build this industry in the likeness of the world we see around us.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to those aspiring to start their own plant-based company, expand into the plant-based arena, or generally make waves in the sector?
My advice for those aspiring to start their own plant-based business would be to focus on the important things first. Make sure that you have a plant-based product for which there is a market. Make sure that your product is ready to go into that market. Make sure that you are consistent and continually improving the product you are bringing to the public. Focus on giving your consumers the very best tasting product and experience possible. Remember that your consumers are people. Everything else will come as it’s supposed to. And of course, if you need a lot of sleep, if you hate conflict, if you are adverse to suffering go find something else and don’t do this.
Can you give us a sneak peek into any notable news or exciting product launches in the pipeline for 2022?
We are excited about our Plain Cream Cheese that has been heavily requested by our customers. We also have a fantastic a plant-based milk that is coming, however, we are making some final decisions on releasing it in 2022 or 2023. Lastly, Misha’s has plans to go on the Blockchain in 2022, so more to come on the innovation front.
Where can people learn more about Misha’s Kind Foods and find you online?
People can learn more about us, by visiting our website www.mishaskindfoods.com, or they can look up our social handle @Mishaskindfoods on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Pinterest.