Sofia Laurell (nee Poyhonen)
Program: New York
Intake: September 2010
Current Role: Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Tiny Organics
Describe your business and your role within it
I’m the Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Tiny Organics. Tiny helps build adventurous and savoury-forward eaters for life. We introduce babies and toddlers to their first 100 flavours before the age of two, a critical period for brain growth and development, and deliver 100% organic, plant-based, fresh-frozen meals to your door.
Tiny’s mission is to solve for the way we feed our children today. ‘Baby food’ as we know it was invented in the 1920s – most of it over-processed, very sweet and minimally nutritious. We’re inspired by Baby-Led Weaning (that originated in the UK) and look to introduce real, whole foods to your child. This helps them cultivate lifelong healthy eating patterns and reduce picky eating later in life as well as teaches them dexterity from the earliest days.
How did you get into this line of business?
Tiny was inspired by the Finnish Baby Box. Originally from Finland, I’ve always wanted to bring that innovation to the U.S. – I saw first-hand the impact that it had back home (every new parent has been receiving this since 1938) and I slept in the box when I was born! The Mountbatten Program was instrumental in helping me get a foothold in the U.S. and gain valuable work experience (I was placed at Deutsche Bank on Wall Street), make connections AND lifelong friendships. I’ve now lived in New York for almost a decade, and I remember my first day here very clearly, September 4th 2010 – it was Labour Day weekend and the city was almost empty. I had spent time in New York prior to this, but this was the first time I officially came here to live. I still love it as much as I did back then! Mountbatten really set in motion the drive, the desire and the ambition to help me get to where I am today, and I’m just thankful that I’m able to share my experience and that Mountbatten continues to do the same for so many others.
How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
My Co-Founder and Co-CEO Betsy (a new mom!) and myself, had known each other for over five years, we’re very much yin and yang and work really well together. I run marketing, she runs product. Last year we joined a startup studio called Human Ventures and went through their ‘workshop’, it’s a Google Ventures-style sprint model and being impact-driven, the biggest impact you can have in a child’s life is through food and so Tiny was born! We’ve always wanted to solve big human challenges and what’s bigger in the world than changing the way children eat for the better. There really is an ‘all ships rise mentality’ at Human as all the startups support each other and diversity of thought, backgrounds and viewpoints are a core focus. They also pre-seed funded us.
What else is in the pipeline?
We’ve just launched nationwide and closed our 2.5M Seed round! So it’s a very exciting time at Tiny. Our goal is to become an American household name. As part of our beta for the last year, we had a group of 100 founding families who really helped build the company with us. We tested everything from over 100 recipes, packaging (all recyclable cardboard!), pricing (accessible price point) and cadence of buying and have really found product market love. Now we’re ready to hit the ground running(!) and scale nationwide. We’re positioning Tiny as a trusted friend and advisor to parents across the country with a research-backed approach and empathetic perspectives on parenthood.
What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
Launching Tiny. I spent most of my career elevating women and minorities onto corporate boards and to now be leading my own company is surreal sometimes and from time to time I definitely suffer from imposter syndrome. On the other hand, I feel really proud, I’ve built everything I have today – I didn’t know anyone when I moved to New York back in 2010. I’m a big believer we live on this earth one time and I’ve always strived toward opportunities in which I get to create meaningful impact and to leave a legacy. I do really pinch myself that I get to do this every day, and I feel really, really fortunate. My superpower is connecting with people and connecting people. I’ve found my purpose and that feels amazing. It’s so important for us to empower the next generation! And hopefully Betsy and I can be role models for young girls growing up. I love the stat that more than 75% of high-ranking women had strong ties to a female-dominated inner circle – we have an all-female team and we always say that we’re looking for a man or a mom now 😉
What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience?
Starting on this journey earlier. I always laugh that my career path has been somewhat non-linear – but I’ve always known that I want to do something that creates lasting impact in people’s lives. Entrepreneurship is about recognizing opportunities and creating meaningful impact in the world and being fearless and in some sense a little crazy too, as you really put it all on the line for this one dream.
Who are your role models?
The people I’m closest to and look up to are self-made. It can be a loaded word but I truly resonate with people who are relentless, persistent, are optimists and have a bias towards action. If I had to name someone, Sara Blakely (founder of Spanx) comes to mind first!
Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
Never be the smartest person in a room – surround yourself with people who elevate and empower you! I also love the saying ‘what got you here, won’t get you there’ – to always be challenging yourself. It can sound cheesy but it’s amazing the potential we all have.
** UPDATE – June 2021 **
“It’s a BIG day at TINY! I’m overjoyed and so proud to share that Betsy and I have raised an $11M Series A to make healthy baby and toddler food accessible for all families. We launched Tiny Organics nationwide just over a year ago with a mission to shape the palates of a generation to prefer and love vegetables from the earliest days to foster healthier children and prevent obesity and chronic diseases later in life. To be where we are today fills me with excitement that we have come this far in such a short time and humility in being able to do what I love. I could not be more proud of our Tiny team, my Co-CEO Betsy, COO Carolyn, Executive Chef Maria, Exec Chairman Victor, Mary, Jessica and the rest of our incredible team… who are building alongside us and share in the vision that together we can transform the food landscape and health outcomes for generations to come. A big thank you to Douglas and Forbes for the incredible feature”.