NYSM Spotlight on the Creators Themselves: Bennett Coffey + Ky Keenan

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Not Your Sugar Mamas | 0 Comments

Co-Founder, Not Your Sugar Mamas Chocolate

Bennett’s passion for healthy living began with a semester abroad in Hawaii. After a few years of exploring and working in Hawaii and California, Bennett attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. Post-graduation, rather than return to Hawaii as she had planned, Bennett felt pulled to Martha’s Vineyard. There, she met Ky, who would help her bring her dreams of making an impact through food into reality. 

I grew up in Pennsylvania and D.C. and spent every summer on the Vineyard. I went to the College of Charleston with every intention of being on the sailing team. But when I got there, I felt differently. I wanted to enjoy college on my own terms and didn’t want to be bound to the rigid schedule required to play a college sport. During a semester abroad in Hawaii, I really became passionate about yoga and my own health. In my last semester, I became certified as a yoga instructor. After graduating, I spent time in Cali and Hawaii becoming increasingly interested in health and wellness. 

The move to attend the Institute for Integrative Nutrition was a game changer. It was here I saw David Wolfe speak, a health and nutrition expert with a contagious energy. He preached the power of superfoods, including raw chocolate. I started experimenting with raw chocolate in my diet and noticed the effects it had on my body. I felt like I was experiencing real chocolate for the first time. 

I never imagined myself working for someone else or having a regular job. I didn’t want to have a boss and wanted to make my own schedule. I always believed I would do my own thing. The Institute for Integrative Nutrition reaffirmed that and inspired me to make an impact through food. When Ky and I met, we both had a passion to start a business and do something that would have a positive impact. We met at the perfect time and joined forces. 

My initial inspiration for the chocolate flavors and the names came from an experience I had at Cafe Gratitude in Berkeley, CA, where the dishes are named after positive affirmations. When you order, you have to say “I am” plus the positive affirmation your dish is named after, like “I am Dynamic” and “I am Nourished”. This experience shifted my energy and had a profound impact on my mood. With Not Your Sugar Mamas, I wanted to instill that food-mood connection, so I came up with bars like “Be Sexy” and “Be Cool”. We’ve since changed the names, but the flavors are still developed around that food-mood connection. I’m pretty focused when I want to make something new. I love the creative process of experimenting with different ingredients that I think will taste good together. We have chocolate taste tests in the factory. Ky has always been my biggest fan. 

It’s been challenging to stay focused and confident in the growth process because of the varying opinions and feedback we get. That’s what I love about having a business partner - one of us is always ready to step up to the plate, and we’re there to shine light on one another when things get tough. It’s also been challenging to step off the production side. I’ve been so focused on creating the best possible product. Now that we’re there, I have to shift my focus from making an awesome product to making an awesome company.

It’s been amazing to see the evolution, from making chocolate in my mom’s kitchen and sharing it with my yoga students, to building a chocolate factory to support an upcoming national distribution. I attribute a lot of Not Your Sugar Mamas success to my partnership with Ky. People warned us about the challenges of working with a partner, but we couldn’t have done it without one another. We’ve grown so much as individuals and as a partnership. 

Trust your intuition. I personally find it important to have a spiritual practice focused on something larger than myself to give me perspective and keep me grounded. 

Follow @bennettcoffey on Instagram!

Co-Founder, Not Your Sugar Mamas Chocolate

Ky grew up in Western Massachusetts surrounded by a family of entrepreneurs. She fell in love with Martha’s Vineyard after spending her summers there waitressing to fund her college education. After some world travel and adventure, Ky found her way back to the island, where she met NYSM co-founder Bennett and realized her dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

After graduating high school, I was anxious to get out of the small town where I grew up, so I moved to Martha’s Vineyard.  I went to Bentley University, a business school in Waltham, MA. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I felt pressured to study Finance. I didn’t love it, but I wanted to understand it. When we did case studies, I was always more interested in learning about the founders of the companies and was intrigued by the adventure of starting a business.

There are a lot of entrepreneurs in my family and they’ve always been my biggest inspirations. I moved to Argentina after college and got a job in International Consulting and found myself doing research for small companies. I had the opportunity to attend a summit with the most successful young entrepreneurs of Latin America and was inspired by them. I liked my job and had a really comfortable life in Buenos Aires but I felt like there was something missing. When I went back to Martha’s Vineyard for a friend’s wedding, I decided to stay and save some money. I waitressed and worked part-time for my dad’s start up but I knew it was temporary. And then I met Bennett.

I met Bennett through mutual friends and we ended up living together. We connected immediately. We both felt like life was meant to be fun and adventurous. We didn’t fit the nine-to-five mold. We cooked a lot together and I started to get more passionate about clean eating because of her. She was experimenting a lot with chocolate-making on a small scale. I always loved talking about business so we started playing with the idea of taking her chocolate-making to the next level.

The hardest part has been just maintaining faith that it’s all going to work out. We have an amazing support network of people who believe in us, but it’s scary to think about things like “what if we can’t pay our employees” or “what if we can’t make this sustainable”. If anything goes wrong, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. That’s a lot of responsibility. But it’s also a motivator. You almost have to be a little crazy to believe you can do it and not let doubt get in the way. It makes it easier that there are two of us, to motivate each other when one is down.

Both Bennett and I have had moments when we wanted to give up but we remain open and honest with each other. Communication is so important. There are times when I’ve reached my breaking point and Bennett’s been there to keep me motivated and on track, and vice versa. Luckily, we haven’t both reached our breaking points at the same time!

I won’t compromise on quality and authenticity. At the end of the day, we think if it doesn’t sit well with us, then why are we doing it? If I want a paycheck, I can get that anywhere. This is an opportunity to write the rules!

Just go for it. Don’t wait to have a business plan or all the details figured out. Believe in yourself. Don’t doubt yourself, ever. Be crazy in your own way. Use positive language, and remove all negativity from your thought process. Celebrate every little victory. I always think of how Chia Pets and Pet Rocks became such a success....if there is a market for pet rocks, then there is a market for anything, just have to find your tribe and trust the process!

Follow @kyinthesky on Instagram! 

Not Your Sugar Mamas



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