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Women in Business Q&A: Carolyn Ansley, CEO and Dr. Kate Morrison, N.D., Chief Medical Officer, Kabrita USA

05/27/2015 06:44 am ET | Updated May 27, 2016

Kate Morrison and Carolyn Ansley are co-founders of Kabrita USA, America's first line of goat milk foods for toddlers. It's Goat Milk Formula and Goat Milk Yogurt and Fruit are naturally easy to digest, non-GMO and a great solution for cow milk sensitivity.

Kate is a naturopathic doctor and a graduate of the highly-regarded Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. In 2006, Kate established a thriving multi-disciplinary natural health clinic in Port Credit, Ontario. While she prescribed goat milk to patients with cow milk intolerance for years, it wasn't until her own son had an adverse reaction to cow milk formula that she set about creating her first goat milk formula.

From 2009 to 2012, Kate continued with her naturopathic practice, while conducting the necessary research for launching a goat milk formula in North America and establishing contacts with suppliers and regulators and raising capital. Kate is passionate about the benefits of goat milk for children and product quality. She is responsible for education and outreach to health care professionals, R&D, regulatory affairs and product development for Kabrita USA. She is Kabrita USA's Chief Medical Officer.

Carolyn is a senior marketing executive and branding expert with over 20 years' experience in the consumer packaged goods and retail sectors. Carolyn joined Nestle Canada in 1998 as a Brand Manager, where she successfully launched baby cereals, re-invented their loyalty program and participated in global product development. In 2003, she was promoted to Director of Marketing, where she took on responsibility for (among many other things) infant nutrition sales and marketing.

Beginning in 2009 Carolyn followed her dream and forged an entrepreneurial path - founding a marketing consultancy that eventually lead to meeting Kate and going on to co-found Kabrita USA. Thanks to her 11 years at Nestle (and 10 years as a Mom!) Carolyn has a deep passion for infant nutrition and a unique understanding of what Moms want for their little ones. She is CEO and currently responsible for daily operations including finance, sales, marketing, distribution, HR, legal and other corporate matters at Kabrita USA.

How have your life experiences made you the leaders you are today?
CA: Though I think leadership has always been in my DNA, learning to be a good leader was a combination of great mentorship, training and the wisdom gained from making many (many!) mistakes both professionally and personally.

KM: I have always been a very determined person. But when I was in my late twenties, a personal tragedy became my most formative experience. My first child died shortly after he was born. Losing Eric, and eventually being able to frame it in a positive light, made me fearless. I realized that if I could go through that and still be ok, then I could go through anything.

How have your previous employment experiences aided your positions at Kabrita USA?
KM: When I graduated from the Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine, I opened a multi-disciplinary clinic, while raising a young family. In addition to practicing and seeing patients, I oversaw every facet of the business. I wore all the hats - finance, inventory management, marketing, human resources, you name it. This experience allowed me to try out different roles (in a small business you have to!) and to better understand where my personal strengths were before starting Kabrita USA.

CA: My first role was with a very entrepreneurial private label food company, founded by a true visionary. He believed that anything was possible and that employees play a critical role in the company's success.

The second phase of my career was at Nestlé, where I learned about teamwork, planning, and general business management, while honing my skills as a marketing professional. When I broke away from the corporate world to start a marketing consulting firm when my children were small, I met Kate and Kabrita USA was born. Our venture is the perfect fit for my entrepreneurial spirit and corporate discipline. Today inspiring our team, developing life-changing products and creating the environment to do both is a direct result of my work history.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Kabrita USA?
CA: A start up is a roller coaster - the ups and downs are frequent, unpredictable, and thrilling. As the first company introducing goat milk foods for toddlers, we have experienced some unique hurdles - from regulatory delays, to the tornado that took off our yogurt manufacturer's roof. The best days have been celebrating success with our team - our first purchase order, our Non-GMO Project Verification, and every day the wonderful and prolific consumer and customer feedback.

KM: I have been pursuing the vision of bringing goat milk formula to families since 2005, despite huge professional and personal challenges (finding funding, finding the right partners and even selling our house to keep developing the idea). But the greatest challenge of all - maintaining an unwavering belief in myself and in this business despite the obstacles - has brought huge rewards.

Today, we're partnered with a tier one manufacturer and suppliers who share our values, and we have an amazing team that is all-in and fully engaged in our success every day. It was particularly amazing to celebrate our "overnight" success when we launched Kabrita USA in 2014 and scored a national listing with Whole Foods and hundreds of other retailers in five short months.

Why did you want to start your own business?
KM: I had to! I knew from my practice and personal experience with my son James, that goat milk was a good solution for children with cow milk intolerance. No one was making a commercial formula in North America and I knew first hand it could make a huge difference for families. I decided if no one else was doing it, I would.

CA: Initially I went out on my own as a marketing consultant to set my own schedule, spend more time with my young children and gain exposure to new businesses, people and opportunities. But independent consulting really didn't suit my social personality. When I met Kate and she told me about her idea for a Goat Milk based formula, I saw the obvious need and everything else flowed from there.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
CA: Be brave, be persistent, get a mentor and structure the rest of your life to help support your entrepreneurial goals.

KM: My advice to women is to just get started and trust your gut every step of the way. No one will ever have everything perfectly in place or figured out when starting a business, but we have powerful intuition to guide us.

Trust in your intuition, be a strong voice at the table, know your strengths and put the right people in place to ensure that you have a well-rounded team.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
KM: In a word, Rob. I get lots and lots of support from my husband and he's a very hands-on partner and father. It was hard for me to give up the idea of controlling every aspect of domestic life (what groceries are purchased, what meals are prepared when, how clean the house is), but I've learned to accept that you truly don't have time to "do it all" if you want to enjoy your family and also keep focused on business.

CA: I prefer to call it the work/life comfort zone. I am ruthless about my time, which is prioritized to my family, work and health. I spend more time on planning and organization then I did before kids and a start-up, and most critically I have learned to live in the moment.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
CA: Personally it was the transition from 'career-hood 'to motherhood. Companies and employees are not well equipped for this dramatic change, or the reality that women continue to bear the majority of the child-rearing responsibilities. Overnight I went from all business to all baby and after a 10 month maternity leave, I honestly came back to work with half of my spirit. The birth of my second daughter two years later only intensified the feeling. Now that my kids are older it's much easier to manage home and work. There is a huge opportunity for companies to help new parents manage the transition back to work differently.

KM: I think confidence and self-esteem are still big issues for women as compared to men in a professional setting. I saw a study recently that showed that while the majority of men are willing to apply for jobs and promotions they're not 100% qualified for, women are less inclined to apply if they don't meet the exact criteria. This is an issue. I think we need to let go of the idea of being perfect and embrace the idea of confidently expressing what we have to offer, and reaching for what we want.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
KM: My earliest mentor was my dad, who is also an entrepreneur. When I set out on this path I took part in government-funded programs connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and it was hugely valuable. They had knowledge and experience in areas such as legal and finance that allowed me to avoid pitfalls and think through the development of my business every step of the way.

Carolyn has been and still is an important mentor in my life and there are several business authors whose wise words continue to be a voice in my head.

CA: Mentorship is incredibly important. I was fortunate that my mentors evolved out of existing business relationships, but if you don't naturally have a mentor in your midst, find one. The unbiased, unfiltered, non-judgemental guidance a mentor can provide is invaluable.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
KM: Amanda Lindhout, who survived 15 months as a hostage in Somalia and went on to found a humanitarian organization in that country, because she took something horrific and turned it into something positive. Chancellor Angela Merkel, because she is a strong female leader who stays true to her mission and values in the face of incredible pressure and scrutiny.

CA: I gravitate towards women who set their own agenda, inspire change and never give up. Oprah, Taylor Swift and Amanda Lindhout (I personally support her Global Enrichment Foundation) are a few women I admire hugely.

What do you want Kabrita USA to accomplish in the next year?
CA: Kabrita USA officially started with me and Kate in a boardroom, two years ago this January. We are now a company 12 women strong, with shared services partners across the U.S. and a growing global office in The Netherlands. This year is about getting in our groove, growing together as a team and living our vision. It's about educating parents about nutrition so that they can make informed feeding decisions for their children, and most importantly about serving the needs of our littlest consumers, the kids who love our products. This year, we became a B-Corporation, which commits us to high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

KM: I want to carry on with our mandate to educate parents about the health benefits of goat milk and grow awareness of our delicious, gentle, naturally easy to digest foods, as well as keep focused on our R&D efforts so we can bring families even more varieties of Kabrita USA products. Feedback from retailers, parents - and most importantly, children - has been amazing so far and we're so excited to introduce Kabrita USA to more and more families this year.