Updated: Jan 13, 2020
Get to know Co-Founder of Koia, Maya French. Interview by Meesh. Follow Maya on Instagram @mayajfrench @drinkkoia.
Where were you born and raised?
How long were you living in Chicago before you moved to LA?
I lived 25 years of my life and then I picked up and moved to LA. I literally found my place online, I didn’t see it until the day I moved in.
What were you doing in Chicago before?
I went to Southern Illinois for two years and then I came back, didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and discovered Koia. I was working in retail before at Zara and then Bloomingdales. That’s when Dustin and I started working in the kitchen and making up the formulas.
Since this was all new to you, where did you even begin with that? Did you do a lot of research?
Yeah we started off with cold pressed juices because it’s super easy to juice stuff but we did a lot of research. I looked at mommy blogs to learn how to make almond milk and just learned how to make protein drinks and wanted to make something as close to the kitchen as possible.
What’s something you learned that you didn’t know?
I think we started something! The whole transparency in putting the ingredients on the front of the label and not just the back of the label.
No way! Have you seen other brands do that since?
Yeah I saw RX bar did it and that was really good for them. A lot of brands now are starting to be more transparent with their ingredients and have a shorter list of ingredients. We were the first ones to do that.
That’s awesome! Nowadays more and more people want to know. What is the biggest growth you have seen with Koia? How many years have you been running?
It’s been five years now. I think the biggest growth was getting into Publix. After Whole Foods it was Publix because Publix is a very old school retailer.
That’s in Florida right?
Yeah it’s in Florida. They dominate Florida and they would never accept a product like this. It was like the first new age healthy product. They were breaking their barriers and giving us a chance. I think it opened the door for other products to get into it that are in natural.
What was your approach or things you did that helped you get your foot in the door? How did you make yourself memorable and stand out?
Honestly just being myself but also being knowledgeable and knowing when to speak up and when to be a student. I think that was really important because a lot of people when they start businesses they have a huge ego. So knowing when to tuck that in but also be confident has helped me a lot along the way. We always say “keep our head to the grindstone and pop up when necessary.”
You live and promote a healthy lifestyle, do you feel like Koia has brought that out of you?
Yes it definitely has. When we started it, I realized I was lactose and tolerant. I started working out a lot and began to feel better. I thought why not keep up with this lifestyle. Finding out more about the things I needed to help grow the product and brand helped me learn more about myself. Whether that was personal growth or my healthy decisions. As the business continues to grow I continue to grow as a person.
Where do you see Koia in the next few years?
Definitely dominating every store chain you can think of. All the way from Walmart, because we are in Walmart now, to small gas stations. I want to see Koia everywhere internationally. It’s a strong brand and that’s where I see Koia. It's going to be making a pathway for other national products.
What was it like being included in Forbes 30 under 30?
30 under 30 had been incredible. Forbes is a great platform and an amazing community and I’ve been able to connect with other young entrepreneurs from around the world. Aside from that, it’s really great for brand building and credibility.
What advice do you have for people starting a business?
Act like a boss. Think like a student. Be a leader. Use your resources and network heavily. Remember it’s impossible to know everything.