We had the good fortune of connecting with Krissy Ostermiller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Krissy, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’ve always been passionate about food, sustainability, health and wellness. I grew up in the Midwest and started eating plant-based when I was 14 years old, which was challenging because I was raised by my grandparents in a ‘meat and potatoes’ household. I read tons of books and started studying the theories of various doctors, nutritionists, food scientists and healers, as I was fascinated by the connection between food and the human body. I moved to Colorado to study environmental science at CU Boulder and was excited to be surrounded by like-minded people; but, I realized that even though Coloradans are known for our healthy lifestyles, we have little access to clean, organic foods that truly nourish our bodies when dining out or ordering in. So, I started YA•YE Organics to solve my own problems: As a foodie who’s always thinking about my next meal, I was struggling to find local restaurants and food services whose ingredients made me feel good – ingredients I could trust; I experienced a great deal of loss but was able to use plant-rich eating to improve my mental health, and I wanted to share my experience in hopes I could help others have a similar transformation; and lastly, although I had a successful career, it didn’t align with my mission and passions, and I knew I wanted to spend my time making a difference in my community. The name YA•YE (pronounced “yă yay”) popped into my head while I was on a walk, dreaming about starting my own business. It’s an acronym that stands for You Are what You Eat, You Are Your Energy, You Are Your Everything – a reminder that what we put into our bodies, the content we read or watch, the people we surround ourselves with (all of the information we take in).. affects the way we think, and therefore who we are. I learned that 60% of U.S. adults have one chronic disease, and 40% of U.S. adults have 2 or more chronic diseases (which are primarily caused by poor diets and lifestyles) – so I thought to myself, “how can we live our best lives if we don’t make the connection between food and how it makes us feel?” My mission is to educate my community and provide tools to build happy and healthy families. Most of us (myself included) were conditioned from a young age to believe that eating processed foods and regularly taking pharmaceuticals is normal, so my goal is to inspire and empower individuals to take control of their health, naturally. Eating plant-based for more than half of my life has played an incredible role in my mental and physical health, and I knew that I had to create a company that made it easy for my friends, family and community to transform their lives through clean, organic, nutrient-dense foods. YA•YE is real food for real people – my people!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My first job (outside of cleaning bathrooms at my grandparents’ business) was at the Environmental Center at CU Boulder – the only college I applied to (I was stubborn and set on leaving Ohio for Colorado). My unofficial title was “recycling queen”, and my job was sorting campus recycling on a conveyor belt. I eventually moved into an outreach position, where I was responsible for promoting and implementing sustainable operations on campus. During college, I also worked for a sustainable waste management company at music festivals across the country, interned for ESPN’s “environmentality” program, and taught fourth graders at a local nature school. Prior to starting my own business, one thing I was most proud of was graduating top of my class from CU Boulder – I was awarded the “Outstanding Undergraduate Award for the College of Arts and Sciences”, gave a speech at the honor’s program graduation, and represented my class at graduation. College had its challenges, but overall, it was an easy life (compared to the “real world”). I’d say the hardest part was the death of my brother my junior year – he was incarcerated for many years, but we were super close, and he passed away two weeks after being released from prison (before I had a chance to get home and see him). Post graduation, I moved from Boulder to Denver and worked at a chemical and environmental engineering firm doing air quality permitting for the oil and gas industry. I went into the job thinking that I’d be helping to regulate oil and gas companies, but it turns out I was basically hired to help them navigate and circumvent the regulatory process. I only lasted 18 months before pivoting to an industry with more upward mobility, where I could wear jeans to work in a more relaxed environment. I entered the world of marketing and advertising technology and spent 7 years working my way up from software support, to campaign manager, to sales engineer, to managing the sales engineering team. I love knowing how things work, and I love connecting with people, so being the bridge between my company’s product and sales teams was the perfect role for me. In September of 2018, I lost 4 family members in a plane crash, including my aunt who was my next-door neighbor my entire childhood and helped raise me as her own. The traumatic loss left me in a constant state of sadness and anxiety, which is what sparked me to take the next step in my plant-based journey. I was already eating vegan and gluten-free at the time, but after the crash, I started juicing every single morning, blending detox smoothies every day, eliminating refined sugars and vegetable oils from my diet, and reading the ingredient label on every single thing I consumed. The simple act of nourishing my body and brain with clean, organic, unprocessed foods without additives transformed my mental health. I started sharing my recipes and practices with friends and family, and I realized how much of an impact I could have on my community by educating my peers on the power of food as medicine, and disprove everyone’s preconceived notion that food that’s good for you can also be incredibly delicious and satisfying. Even though I loved my job and the people I worked with, I knew the advertising world wasn’t my calling. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that “life is short”, and that it was now or never to start pursuing my life-long dream of owning a smoothie shop on the beach. Living in Colorado, the “beach” part wasn’t realistic, but I started taking baby steps in mid-2019 to start my own business: creating my LLC, designing a logo, and looking for retail space. I eventually signed a lease, quit my job, and opened YA•YE’s doors 2 weeks later. It was a whirlwind. A month after opening my first cafe, COVID-19 hit the United States hard, and I eventually had to close my cafe permanently and figure out what to do next – I was heartbroken. I pivoted the business to an Online Meal Delivery Service, and we’ve been delivering 3 and 6 Day Meal Plans to peoples’ doors ever since. It was always my intention to launch a meal service, I was just hoping to build my brand first and have a cafe where I could connect with my community. COVID-19 caused me a great deal of grief, and put me in a tricky financial situation, but it’s also had its silver linings: it forced me to continuously pivot and figure things out as I go – that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. I’ve had the opportunity to serve over ten thousand meals and transform hundreds of peoples’ lives in the last 9 months, which is what I’m most proud of. Despite having never worked in the food industry, my experiences blended together in a perfectly imperfect way to allow me to start my own food business. My passion for clean, plant-based eating, my sustainable operations, teaching and customer support experience, my technical software skills, marketing and advertising knowledge – they’ve all helped me get to where I am today. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to every situation. For me, when bad things happen (like the loss of a family member, or an ongoing pandemic), I just work harder and double down to take my mind off of things, and also to make the people I’ve lost proud. If nothing else, I’ve learned more in the last year than I have my entire career, and I’m very grateful for that. Practicing gratitude daily and focusing on the things that could go right, instead of what could go wrong, has helped me overcome many of the challenges of being a new business owner too. I think what I’m most excited about is growing my business while connecting more deeply with my roots this year – we’re introducing our new reusable packaging program soon, we’ll be selling our products at the Boulder Farmer’s Market this summer, and we’re partnering with different music venues and production companies to grow our niche in the music industry and become the premier food retailer for artists and entertainment industry professionals in Colorado. Food, sustainability and music are my passions in life, so being an entrepreneur means I get to align my passions and share them with people I love, while helping people feel better by adopting a Lifestyle Over Diet and Nutrition Over Calories mindset.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Pre-pandemic, whenever friends or family would visit me, I’d always start with a walking tour of Denver. We’d begin our journey at Avanti in LoHi (it’s great because there’s a cuisine for everyone, and “food halls” are still a relatively new phenomenon), potentially stop at Prost Brewing, then make our way to Little Man Ice Cream. From LoHi, we’d walk across the 15th Street and Platte River bridges, through Riverfront Park, then make our way to Union Station. I think this is the best walk in all of Denver and gives visitors a lot of different scenery and diversity in a relatively short time. I also love taking visitors to RiNo – we’d grab a drink at Death & Co, stop for lunch at Denver Central Market (another great food hall), then walk up Larimer St. to OMF Brewing or Finn’s Manor. In terms of dinner experiences, you can’t go wrong with a good sushi restaurant – there’s always something for everyone, including vegans like myself. Uchi and Sushi Den are my go-tos. No Colorado trip is complete without a visit to the best music venue in the world: Red Rocks. I love bringing delicious food and drinks for tailgating in the parking lot, and I always take people through the visitor center and teach them about the venue’s history. Many people don’t know that Red Rocks was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era public works relief program under President FDR’s “New Deal” that put young, unemployed men to work. Even if my friends and family visit outside of concert season, I’ll take them up to Red Rocks anyways to show them the magic of the amphitheater. Saturdays in the summer are for hiking and attending the Boulder Farmer’s Market. I always take first-time visitors to Chautauqua – it’s the most touristy hike, but for good reason, because it provides the best view of the flatirons, and there’s tons of different trails for all levels of hikers. My personal favorite hike is Mount Sanitas, so if someone has already been to Chautauqua, Sanitas is my go-to. Sometimes, I’ll take my more adventurous friends tubing down the Boulder Creek or rock climbing in Boulder Canyon, but we’ll always end our day in downtown Boulder, walking Pearl St. Mall. When time allows, I love taking visitors up to the mountains, particularly Breckenridge. It’s my favorite (relatively close) mountain town because of the historic preservation and focus on small businesses. Breck also has the best vegan options. Playing “tour guide” is one of my favorite things in the world because you get to show your favorite people all of your favorite places, and see those places through a new lens. It’s like gaining a new perspective on something or someone you love.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I owe my success to dozens of people in my life, but first and foremost, to my late grandparents who saved my life and took me in when I was 7 years old. After raising 9 children of their own, well into their golden years, they chose to also raise my sister and I – and I’m forever grateful to my guardian angels who taught me the importance of family, honesty, hard work, accountability, and believing in yourself. My grandfather owned a plumbing and heating business for more than 60 years, so growing up in a family business showed me a lot of the joys and tribulations that come with running your own business. I’m what you’d call an “old soul” thanks to my grandparents, and having my grandma and grandfather as my “parents” was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve always had incredible female role models in my life, including my sister and my aunts, so I’m grateful to them for showing me that anything is possible, and that women can be the breadwinners of their families if they so choose. I also wouldn’t be where I am today without the love and support of my incredible husband. He not only inspired me to take the leap into entrepreneurialism, but he’s continuously supported me and constantly reminds me of the importance of balance. I’d probably work 24 hours a day if my husband didn’t encourage me to take time for myself (and us). I’m blessed to have a life partner who doubles as a sounding board: he gives me pep talks when I need them, but also constructive criticisms when necessary (which is a lot). Entrepreneurship is an emotional rollercoaster, so having someone along for the ride (even if they’re busy running their own business) makes a world of difference. Family is everything.