AMA Toronto President Tina Portillo recently met with Suzie Yorke, founder of Love Good Fats to discuss her journey as an marketing executive to entrepreneur, and her leadership style that helped her grow her business, as well as the importance of mentorship in her career. This year, AMA Toronto launched our brand promise – to empower leadership potential, whether as business leaders or as individual marketers.
Continuing with the “Leadership Conversations” to amplify this promise and to showcase a variety of leaders from across our community and AMA Toronto who will share their knowledge and leadership experiences, I hope these conversations will inspire and empower your own leadership potential as well.
“Tell me about your career journey”
Suzie Yorke, Founder of Love Good Fats, had 25 years of experience in consumer packaged goods working with companies such as PepsiCo and Kraft Heinz and a full understanding of what it took to create a strong and thriving brand. Climbing her way up the ladder from Assistant Brand Manager to Director and VP, Suzie gained invaluable experience from consumer studies and trials, from research and testing of products to understand what it takes to build and create brands from scratch and to drive growth.
“I launched the right brand at the right time. So, it all kind of worked together to make your own luck.”
She may be modest in her assessment of success, but Suzie put her life savings along with her life lessons together in founding Love Good Fats and has reaped the rewards of hard work and sacrifice, by becoming wildly successful in a relatively short time. Suzie led the launch and expansion of Love Good Fats to exceed $100 million in gross revenues in a little over three years, with sales in the largest retailers across both Canada and the US. Love Good Fats has quickly become one of the fastest-growing bar brands in North America.
Describing herself as a sort of “unicorn” entrepreneur, Suzie admits she doesn’t fit the typical mold of a self-starting business owner. Acknowledging that most entrepreneurs have a long history of starting and selling businesses, Suzie calls herself a “one and done”, for having only launched Love Good Fats at the age of 50.
“There are those entrepreneurs who at age twelve, had their lemonade stand and then they’re starting a company already at university. There are also those like my colleagues at P&G, that stayed there a year or two or three and then left, like right away, at age 22, and were starting their company. I, as an entrepreneur, have just one company at age 50.”
“What was your most memorable moment starting Love Good Fats?”
Over the past four years, despite COVID and the hardship that it has brought to so many, Love Good Fats has grown. The “Globe and Mail, Report of Business” has deemed it a top growing company for the last three years. Along with the accolades, the numbers for the company and the expansion it has seen speaks to the phenomenal growth. Companies like Walmart and Whole Foods have welcomed the company’s products and it is being distributed in Costco stores across the country.
What started on Suzie’s dining table is now being stored in multiple warehouses across the country. Attending health and wellness, consumer packaged goods and food related shows have boosted the company’s product awareness. Love Good Fats has moved to an e-commerce platform through Amazon in Canada which will drive growth even further.
“I count the highs in goosebumps and elation. There are so many moments where I think someone needs to pinch me.”
The staff at Love Good Eats stand around the room every Monday morning and present wins. Over the past year there have been many, and Suzie is grateful to her team and grateful for all the wins they’ve collected thus far. Smashing sales records is exciting for Suzie, but being recognized as one of the fastest growing companies is what she says is the most exciting piece for her.
“What is your leadership style and the tenants of your leadership?”
Suzie describes herself as a very passionate, high energy, and hard driving driven person. With a background in engineering and identifying as placing on the autism spectrum, she admits that she is wired somewhat differently than others, which also contributes to her success. Suzie says she can memorize numbers easily and can recall facts from 25 year earlier, which has helped in her “quirky” approach to things and in business.
“My approach is to use all of the business cases and learnings around me to help make sense of what is the best set of facts, to help make the best decision.”
Intuition plays a large part in her leadership style particularly when it comes into making the final call or tough calls. Suzie admits to being very driven to win, which on average, allows her to make more and better decisions rather than bad decisions which cost time, energy, and can be emotionally taxing to her team.
Admitting she loves to assimilate information, Suzie says the collaborative approach works best for her. She asks lots of questions and says she feels better if the team around her is involved in the problem-solving process. Sending information and emails to her teams means that dots are connected.
Speed and scale have been the Love Good Fats mantra since COVID. Suzie says she looks for the “roll up your sleeves and figure out how to get it done” team members as this is what works best. The team has been excited about the success of getting products out the door, and out the door well.
“Has mentorship played a role in your career and if so, how?”
AMA Toronto’s renowned mentorship program has been running for over 12 years with the Mentor Exchange program graduating over 550 mentees, some who started as mid level marketing managers to becoming CMOs for leading brands.
Asked how mentorship has played a role in her career Suzie says,
“Mentorship is really critical. I’m really pleased there are formal programs like AMA Toronto’s mentorship program”. Sometimes you have to put structure in place to encourage it.”
Back when Suzie was starting out in the marketing world, there weren’t formal mentorship programs available within large companies. She is thrilled they exist today but says it was the informal support of women in the companies she worked with and for that spoke to the idea of mentorship. Looking to a few specific bosses for career guidance, Suzie says she still stands by the advice they gave her about starting a new business and leaving the C-suite of large brand name companies.
Using business and social media platforms such as LinkedIn helped her grow her confidence and business as well. Suzie asked her colleagues and followers for advice on everything from packaging to processing and said that kind of engagement was a tremendous help.
“A lot of people have helped. I’ve had probably more advisers in my company than a lot of other startups. I’ve had some very senior people say, `I can help’.”
In terms of advice to mentees and those seeking guidance on their career path, Suzie acknowledges that relationships are the key to a successful path. She is hopeful that as her company grows and she has more teams in place, her schedule will open up and allow for her to take a more active role in being a mentor.
“Keep in touch with your bosses. Keep in touch with your colleagues, build relationships, open up 10% of time per week to just nurture relationships. It might not be right away. It might be like me, 30 years later. But, it’s really worth it.”
Simple but powerful from Suzie Yorke that truly exemplifies AMA Toronto’s brand promise to empower leadership potential. My thanks to Suzie Yorke for being so open with her experiences in leadership, and for affirming the principles of leadership we all strive for.