BC’s thriving food sector comprises of a variety of products and brands. Standing strong and prominent among them all is Nature’s Path Foods, North America’s largest organic breakfast foods manufacturer. One doesn’t need an introduction to Nature’s Path Foods – the top quality of the products and buyers’ trust in it speaks for the brand. Gaining success as well as the confidence of consumers is something every entrepreneur dreams of achieving, but few manage to acquire. One among those few is the brilliant co-founder and CEO of Nature’s Path Foods, Ratana Stephens. Her determination to excel in a cut-throat industry without compromising on the quality of the product deserves admiration. While passionately taking the company to the top, Stephens has managed to earn accolades for herself and the company along the way. Her passion and integrity make her DARPAN’s Newsmaker of 2016.
Stephens started Nature’s Path Foods in 1984 with her husband Arran with very little capital, out of the back of their restaurant. Today it is proudly known as North America’s largest organic breakfast foods manufacturer/ brand, currently operating state-of-theart manufacturing facilities in Washington State and Wisconsin, and employing an exceptional team of hundreds of talented individuals.
The leading entrepreneur is often described as the ‘heart’ of the company and is at the center of every development. With acumen and practicality, she has helped lead and inspire significant growth.
While sharing her journey as the CEO, Stephens shares two of her top moments of 2016: being selected as Canada’s Top 100 Employers, and receiving the 2016 Giving Hearts Award.
Last year, it was announced that Nature’s Path was once again selected as one among the 2017 winners of Canada’s Top 100 Employers. “It is a really valued achievement,” says Stephens of the honour, proudly calling her team an extension of her family. “We are grateful to offer an enriching, inspiring, and supportive place for people to succeed and grow. A strong company culture starts with putting people and planet first.” Nature’s Path was also one among the Ten Best Companies to Work For, BC’s Top Employers, and Canada’s Greenest Employers for 2016.
Talking about the 2016 Giving Hearts Award, Stephens and her husband received the award in the category of Outstanding Philanthropist. “Knowing that we have been able to make a difference, even in a small way, is very rewarding. If we can inspire others to do likewise, actively contributing to the community, then our actions will have been worthwhile,” says Stephens on the cherished award.
Such great honours can only mean that Stephens and her organization work for the people and for their betterment. “We are happy to provide delicious, healthy, organic foods that people enjoy. Knowing that our production – from farm to table, is done organically – without toxic chemicals or GMOs, is our way of conducting business responsibly,” says Stephens.
Her definition of success, she says, is “when I read letters of thanks and positive comments from people who are truly satisfied with (and love) our company and what it stands for.” She finds deep satisfaction and success “knowing that we can contribute to the communities we live in, and the country that I love – Canada.”
For 2017, her focus is on training the up-and-coming generation of business leaders while growing the business sustainably at Nature’s Path. “We will continue to dedicate ourselves to making a positive difference in the communities where we work and live. As always, I will encourage people to make healthy, organic choices when it comes to the food they choose to eat and feed their families,” she sums up.
Describe the year 2016.
It was challenging, learning and inspiring for me.
What inspires you to do better each day?
Our mantra is to “always leave the Earth better than we found it.” This guiding principle is at the foundation of each and every decision. I am a person who is not merely satisfied with the status quo. Just because something is done, or has always been done in a certain way, doesn’t mean that there is not a better way. I remain committed, every day, to find better, more sustainable, and more efficient ways to do things.
What expectations do you have for 2017?
One thing I have learned about life is that even though we plan for (and expect) certain things, sometimes life has different plans for us! My plan for 2017 is to live in the present and embrace the many surprises and challenges life has to offer.
What’s your advice for young, new entrepreneurs?
My advice to new entrepreneurs is to remember that success is not an elevator. One cannot achieve success by simply pushing a button; it doesn’t happen overnight. Success is a tall ladder; it is accomplished by climbing one step at a time. Sometimes the task seems impossible. So, you have to have the strength and perseverance to keep climbing, despite obstacles you will inevitably face along the way. There were times when we were overwhelmed financially, with our lack of knowledge and experience, by new categories and competition from huge multinationals, that the temptation was there to give up. However, experience has taught and inspired us that a success is a failure that never gave up.