One of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business”, Courtney Boyd Myers is founder + CEO of Akua, sustainable kelp jerky launching in April.
Tell us about your journey to creating Akua – what inspired you?
It was a cold April morning in 2016 when I visited my first kelp farm near New Haven, Connecticut with my brother-from-another-mother Brendan Coffey. He helped start a nonprofit called GreenWave, which teaches unemployed or underemployed fishermen to be regenerative ocean farmers.
Unlike animal agriculture, which is a major contributor to climate change, kelp requires no fresh land, water, feed, or fertilizer to grow. The practice of planting a kelp farm in the ocean is like planting a rainforest on land — the kelp filters carbon and nitrogen from the water at incredible rates while also creating a mini ecosystem for shoreline creatures like shellfish and otters.
We went out on his boat and pulled up one of the farm ropes to reveal a thick array of light brown sugar kelp. I have always loved eating seaweeds so I tugged off a strand of kelp, and thought it was absolutely delicious! Given all the environmental, economic, and health benefits of this emerging new form of food agriculture, I knew I had to get more people excited about eating it! So I set out to create a consumer market with kelp.
Who championed you and encouraged you along the way as you were dreaming up Akua?
I received a lot of support and encouragement from everyone in my life whose support and encouragement I asked for – friends, family, my fiance Yann Rey (who is a fellow food entrepreneur and the founder of Unframed Ice Cream) and also my aforementioned brother Brendan, who first got me into the kelp world!
Our first lead investors were the two incredible women that make up Able Partners – Lisa Blau and Amanda Eilian – who invest primarily in women-owned companies in the health and wellness space. Able recently launched an accelerator for female founders in partnership with the Wing called “Wingable”.
I’ve also been fully supported by my team at Summit and the community as a whole including many fellow entrepreneurs and now AKUA investors like Courtney Gould, the CEO of SmartyPants, Tero Isokauppila, the CEO of Four Sigmatic, and Bryan Meehan, the CEO of Blue Bottle Coffee. The mission of AKUA – to create a sustainable food brand that raises awareness around environmental health – is really inspiring to many, especially those who’ve worked in the food industry, and is very much in line with the ethos of Summit, which is to bring together innovators and creatives who are working to make the world a better place.
Tell us about your work with Summit! It’s such a fascinating event series – how did you get involved?
I was a 26-year old journalist writing about entrepreneurship at The Next Web when Summit first called me to invite me to their 2011 Summit Basecamp event. I remember sitting between the musician Jose Gonzalez and one of the founders of Movember at dinner the first night, listening to these two completely different creatives and how they’d built their careers. My mind was blown! After about three years of attending numerous Summit events, the founders asked me if I’d like to join the squad.
For the past five years, I’ve helped to produce hundreds of events ranging from dinners all over the world in places like Dubai, Berlin, Cape Town, and Vancouver to working on our Mountain Series events in Eden, and flagship events like Summit at Sea with over 3,000 people on a ship in the Bahamas, Summit Tulum in Mexico, and now our third flagship event “Summit LA” taking place in Downtown, Los Angeles this November. Our events attract the most incredible innovators, founders, artists, connectors, philanthropists, and performers in our generation.
Given my work with AKUA, I now focus on serving our food and beverage founders at Summit, which is an incredible way to help further build our community inside of the intense world of consumer packaged goods. Summit has really changed how I view the world and who is in that world, and I love to share that experience with others. In fact, there’s very little in my life that Summit as a community has not shaped for the better.
We all owe it to ourselves and future generations to consider what we can do more of in order to positively affect our planet.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for female entrepreneurs?
Talk about your business and ask for help more often, and not just to your business partner or life partner, but to your fellow founders both male and female. We often have all the help we need right around us, but sometimes we feel too shy to ask for it or don’t feel we deserve it yet because we still have something to prove. I know men who need to be better about asking for help too. As entrepreneurs, it’s important for us all to feel more comfortable being vulnerable with one another, and to also help hold each other more accountable when it comes to doing the things we say we want to achieve, and building businesses that are making the world a better place.
What’s your favorite Lavva flavor?
Original all the way!