The Planting Hope Company Inc develops, launches and scales uniquely innovative plant-based and planet-friendly food & beverage brands. Our cutting-edge products fill key unmet needs in the skyrocketing plant-based food & beverage space. Founded by experienced food industry entrepreneurs, The Planting Hope Company Inc is a women-managed and led company, focused on three impact pillars: nutrition, sustainability, and representation.
We’ve cracked the code on plant milk, the biggest overall opportunity in the enormous plant-based space, with our breakthrough Hope & Sesame sesamemilk. Plant-based dairy is projected to reach upwards of $62 billion globally by 2030, and plant milk represents 75% of that market.
Hope and Sesame® sesamemilk fills in giant gaps in the plant milk market for alternatives that are both nutritionally comparable to dairy milk and planet-friendly. Our sesamemilk contains 8g of complete protein per serving, plus it’s an excellent source of Vitamin D and has 30% more calcium than dairy milk!. That’s 8x the protein in most almond and nut milks and 3x the protein in most oat milks.
Sesame is an amazing crop: it thrives in hot, dry climates, requires very little water to cultivate, is naturally pest-resistant and can self-pollinate. After sesame seeds are pressed for oil, we make sesamemilk with the rest of the sesame – some call this ‘upcycling’, we call it ‘using the most nutritious part of the seed!’. Meanwhile, almond and nut crops are dependent on pollinators and pesticides, and are highly water intensive to grow and to process; even oats require substantial water to process enzymatically into oat milk.
Our Hope and Sesame sesamemilk is the world’s first commercialized sesamemilk, deriving its core nutrition from sesame seeds, and took more than 4 years of development to perfect. With myriad industry awards behind our products, we’re starting to scale them to retailers and consumers in North America and internationally. Sesame has strong cultural and culinary relevance in countries worldwide where sesame is cultivated, and sesamemilk is uniquely positioned to be successful in these markets, which also have a high proportion of dairy intolerance in the population.
Together with our rapidly scaling snack brands (Mozaics™ real veggie chips and Veggicopia® veggie snacks), we have created a platform of pantry-staple products for flexitarian consumers embracing plant-based foods, tackling key portions of the exploding plant-based space with unique innovative solutions to everyday customer needs.
Board & Management
Julia sets the vision and drives all elements forward to turn that vision into reality, including pulling the pieces together to deliver on key goals including product development, sales, investment, and marketing strategy.
Julia is a perpetual innovator, with a 20-year career developing new products, business models, and strategies. She has directly created and launched myriad brands as well as being instrumental in the development and advancement of multiple successful food & beverage brands.
In 2004, Julia was brought into United Airlines as an entrepreneur-in-residence to create innovative revenue-driving solutions. She created and launched the airlines snackbox concept to solve significant and costly operations and customer service issues that were leading to dissatisfaction and waste. Julia has been driving healthy food innovation ever since.
The nutritious and balanced shelf-stable meals quickly became the backbone of the United’s domestic economy meal program, and other airlines tried to imitate – unsuccessfully. In response, Julia formed GoPicnic, Inc. (now GP Concept Labs, Inc.) and launched the ‘buy onboard’ snackbox programs for the majority of US and Canadian carriers. As the airline market consolidated dramatically, she continued to pivot and innovate, launching the AirlineMporium division, today one of the leading airline foodservice brokerages representing more than 150 better-for-you brands.
In 2010, Julia spun off GoPicnic Brands and took the shelf-stable meal concept to the consumer product industry with GoPicnic ready-to-eat meals. She created six independent food brands for the food components, organizing an extremely complex supply chain to effect as an ongoing series of meals. GoPicnic immediately saw strong consumer and retailer success, growing more than 500% over three years.
In 2016, Julia partnered with several like-minded food & beverage entrepreneurs to launch Spinning Wheel Brands, now The Planting Hope Company Inc. Our founding management team saw a need for real nutrition and sustainability in areas of plant-based food, building meaningful brands around three impact missions: Nutrition, Sustainability, and Representation.
Julia was named one of 2020 Crain’s Chicago Business Notable Entrepreneurs and in 2020 inducted into the Exceptional Women Awardees. Julia is a frequent judge/ panelist for entrepreneurship competitions and classes, and is dedicated to mentoring entrepreneurs, especially women in food. She was one of the first graduating classes at pioneering Illinois Math & Science Academy. She attended Miami University of Ohio for undergrad, graduating with a BS in Marketing & Economics + BA in Creative Writing, with minors in International Business, Women’s Studies, & French, and received her MBA from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management's one year program in 2002.
Susan, like the rest of the leadership, is an energetic, disciplined and innovative entrepreneur. Given Susan’s deep experience in the food manufacturing and finance industry, her focus is on the building blocks of TPHC: brand performance/customer value, production partner network/supply chain, shared services and business and financial performance. The social missions of TPHC energize Susan’s passion to take TPHC to the next level: “It is more than just moving more product… it is about the nutrition, sustainability and the people that TPHC serves!”
Prior to joining TPHC, Susan was the President of Nu-World Foods, a strategic leader in specialty food ingredients and contract manufacturing. This was a pioneering venture for 20 years, taking an unknown company and unique product offerings (Ancient Grains ingredients) and services into the marketplace. Ultimately, Nu-World grew into a multimillion-dollar enterprise that served niche brands like Enjoy Life Foods and mega brands such as Chobani, Kellogg, Conagra and more. The keys to success at Nu-World were operational/product excellence, product innovation and quality, supply chain partnering, financial focus, customer experience and passionate people. The journey, with all of it twists and turns, honed Susan’s skills and her resolve to build a strong and successful company winning with proprietary products and processing value, customer relationships and great people!
Susan’s success at Nu-World was fostered by her business acumen and business performance improvement skills developed throughout her career at Arthur Andersen. From 1991 thru 2001 Susan worked with companies large and small to define new business strategies, design new organizations (including outsourcing and shared services), implement improved systems, processes and metrics, as well as engage and train their teams to change and improve their financial business performance. Susan loved her time as a management consultant. Helping organizations be the best that they can be is something that Susan did with Arthur Andersen and has continued to do throughout her career.
Susan’s passion for building business is innate. She began to shape her craft while attending Business School at Indiana University and also gaining her Executive MBA from Kellogg School of Management. She enjoys consulting but loves business building, with all of the challenges and opportunities, the fun is propelling a strong and successful organization forward.
Kohmela brings more than 20 years of finance and accounting experience and a proven record of change management and business-building, across industries from consumer products to healthcare to laboratory equipment and more. Kohmela takes a collaborative approach in partnering with the other leaders and owners of the business providing critical information to deliver immediate and sustainable results. As our financial leader, Kohmela will execute accounting and financial reporting as well as take charge of implementing the IT infrastructure required to effectively support the significant growth ahead at The Planting Hope Company, Inc.
Most recently, Kohmela served as Finance & Operations Director for Premier Beauty Supply, where she provided leadership and direction across finance, purchasing, reporting, client services, warehousing, IT and human resources. Kohmela’s expertise on the distributor side of consumer products will be instrumental as SWB’s retail and distributor sales channels expand. While at Premier, Kohmela specifically honed her organization-building skills, as exemplified in her leadership of cross-functional teams in establishing the data and IT infrastructure (including ERP implementation) necessary to generate customer and business data for effective business decision making.
Previous experiences include: Marcus Lemonis, where she was instrumental in guiding entrepreneurs on the show “The Profit” on the best means to turn their businesses around financially, and Xeikon America, where she led the internal and external financial and business reporting (including key business metric, and business/inventory/revenue trend analysis, customer and product profitability and more) for both the US and Canadian entities.
Kohmela honed her expertise across all aspects of the finance functions in roles at Panasonic, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Baxter, including management of Cash, AR, AP, Inventory, Debt, directing monthly close, financial reporting, forecasting, audit, tax, and oversight of shared services operations. Kohmela is a detail-oriented leader with the knowledge and drive to build out a customer-focused finance organization to fuel SWB’s growth and foster performance improvement.
Kohmela received a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Accounting from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and holds an MBA with a concentration in organizational behavior from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.
Mara brings a passion and deep knowledge of consumer-packaged goods to her role as Chief Sales Officer at The Planting Hope Company, Inc. Mara’s enthusiasm for driving growth and establishing inimitable retailer partnerships is the foundation for SWB’s growth. Her focus is on setting sales strategy, establishing pricing, promotion, assortment, placement and retailer priorities across channels for Mozaics, Hope & Sesame and Veggicopia brands. Her extensive knowledge of retailers across Grocery, Mass, Club, Convenience, Drug and eCommerce among others are the building blocks for the sales organization.
Mara’s unique perspective of buyers and consumers has been shaped over 25 years in Consumer Packaged Goods. From emerging brands $0-$40mm including Icelandic Provisions, Valsoia, Dr. Schär, Aunt Fannie’s and GoodPop; to mid-tier CPG’s such as Applegate, and on to Global brands at Colgate-Palmolive, Mara’s experience spans sales, category management, data & insights, and brand marketing- including facilitating growth in Target, and Whole Foods.
Ready to propel a brand to new heights through visionary consumer insights, data-driven cross-channel planning, a relentless pursuit of desired outcomes, and a tireless passion for the food industry. Understanding consumer & shopper behavior and how to sell the right products to the right retailers is Mara’s passion. Excelling at storytelling and blending the art and science of fact-based selling is what motivates her.
Mara is a sales-centric brand pioneer with game changing successes for emerging natural food brands. Accomplishments include launching Valsoia (Dairy-Free Gelato) into 2,500 doors and establishing Icelandic Provisions (Icelandic Skyr) into 7% ACV in year one. Most notably, expanding Applegate’s presence in Target by establishing a 4-foot dedicated set for Natural & Organic Meats in all Target stores, leading to Target’s Partner of Excellence Award in 2014 supporting Health & Wellness initiatives.
Since 2002, Mara has been an active board and council member of The Chatham Community Players, a local non-profit community theater. Mara is also an active commissioner with the Maplewood Historic Preservation Commission in Maplewood, NJ since 2018.
Saundra is guided by the principle that putting the consumer first in decisions and in actions leads to better long-term results. She is a seasoned executive who is passionate about delivering business results through customer-led insight, science, and solutions. Her experience extends over two decades and spans verticals, including operations, merchandising, strategic planning and finance for major retailers and consultancies within North America.
Saundra is a managing partner of GEM Insight Consulting. GEM’s goal is to make analytics, that are now table-stakes in retail, accessible to companies of all shapes and sizes through a flexible delivery model that is cost effective without compromise. While holding data has become easier and less expensive, knowing how to create the right metrics and using them to make better decisions can be illusive. GEM works with global retailers and manufacturers to get value from the vast amount of data they are collecting. GEM has decades of experience helping retailers, like Kroger, Metro, Whole Foods, Ahold/ADUSA, Tesco, and Cardenas Markets, and major CPGs, including Unilever USA, Unilever Vietnam, and Unilever Taiwan, use data and insight to deliver better assortment, pricing, promotions and personalized content and offers. Clients also include data insight providers including EYC, Infoscout/Numerator, and Sertis. She has a long-term client relationship with SPINS, a data and technology firm for natural and wellness retailers and brands, where she was the interim Head of Retail in 2020.
Prior to GEM, Saundra was COO of dunnhumby Canada, SVP Retail for dunnhumby North America, and SVP Client Leadership at 84.51° and dunnhumbyUSA. In each of these roles, she led the development and execution of customer solutions for retailers and brands, including Whole Foods Market, Metro Inc., The Kroger Co., and CPGs, in merchandising, assortment, pricing, promotions, loyalty and store design.
Prior to her work at dunnhumby, Linn served as VP of Operations Strategy for FedEx Kinko’s where she delivered operational and quality improvements. She spent over a decade in executive positions at The Kroger Co. including Vice President of Merchandising for General Merchandise and Vice President of Operations in Kroger’s Atlanta division, Group Vice President of Retail Operations, and Director of Finance in The Kroger Co.’s corporate office.
Saundra holds a Master’s in Business Administration, with a specialization in Quantitative Analysis from the University of Cincinnati, and a Bachelor of Science from Purdue University.
Kay is an experienced, high integrity strategic board director bringing broad finance and operations experience to bear in helping public and private companies achieve corporate objectives. Currently, she serves as the CFO & Head of User Acquisition, Data Science & Analytics, Legal & Compliance, and Asset Infrastructure at Kabam Inc., a subsidiary of Netmarble Corp. Kabam is a world leader in the development and publishing of massively multi-player mobile games.
An enabler of innovation for the business, Kay is passionate about championing a collaborative and integrative approach for the finance function that leverages technology and data to drive decision making.
Kay holds a BA, Political Science from Queen’s University, and is a CPA, CA, CFE, ICD.D. She has served on multiple boards from a variety of sectors. She has been fortunate to collect an array of domestic and international experiences in in Commerce & Trade, Hospitality & Gaming, Technology / FinTech, Telecommunications, Mining & Exploration, Transportation, Anti-Money Laundering & Regulations and Community Education.
Shelley is a passionate builder of global brands and businesses, with expertise across an integrated array of communications disciplines. As one of the highest-ranking female executives in advertising (named the 11th Most Powerful Woman in Advertising by Business Insider, among other accolades), Shelley has helped champion marketing transformation for domestic and global clients in both the consumer and B2B spaces.
In her current role as Chief Marketing Officer of UNICEF USA, Shelley is responsible for building the UNICEF brand and communicating its mission “to be the leading child rights organization” to the US market. As head of marketing, her focus is to deliver the goals of the strategic plan through integrated marketing communications across all channels influencing all constituents. Her team leads small donor strategy and experience, external communications and partnerships and supports the entire organization. She is a member of the senior management team.
Shelley Diamond was the Chief Client Officer at Young & Rubicam and served on Y&R’s Executive Board. During her tenure at WPP she led the Dell, Tyson Foods, Campbell Soup and Xerox business responsible for P&L’s representing over $100 million in annual revenue. As a WPP leader she also provided the vision and organizational leadership to integrate 10 agencies across four continents and deliver cross-channel marketing solutions. Shelley also created and led Y&R Inspire Change, a social impact practice focused on helping corporate clients and not-for-profits transform the way the way they go to market and engage a new generation of donors and advocates for social change.
From 2007 through 2010 Shelley served as President of the flagship New York office of Young & Rubicam. She led the day-to-day operations, formulating, and implementing strategic direction, developing talent, and leading the transformation efforts to expand the company’s capabilities through the addition of new media and digital capabilities. She successfully drove organic growth from both existing and new clients, introducing new capabilities across offices and lines of business resulting in significant increases in top and bottom- line performance.
Shelley is also a mentor and a champion of women in the work force. She led women’s initiatives for Y&R including WPP’s commitment to the United Nations Gender Equality Sustainable development goal. Among other endeavors, she is a founding member of W.O.M.E.N. in America and a charter member of the prestigious Fortune/US State Department Mentorship Program since inception. Ms. Diamond has recently been named a Global Ambassador for Vital Voices.
Shelley Diamond is a team builder, a connector, a motivator, a pioneer, a networker, and a leader. In addition to it all, she raised two daughters and a son. She and her husband live in Scarsdale, New York where they occasionally babysit their rescue grand-dog.
Amanda is Chief Marketing Officer at UNFI, the largest publicly-traded grocery distributor in America (~$26 billion in annual sales), where she currently oversees marketing and communications along with a portfolio of 20+ owned brands and 5,000 SKU’s, making it a Top 50 CPG in the U.S.
Amanda formerly served as the chief strategist for Dunkin Brands, as VP Brand Strategy & Marketing, where she led the transformation to be the most loved, on-the-go coffee brand in the world over the past decade. She also previously led marketing at UNOs helping to creatively (and scrappily) overhaul their menu and brand strategy, and at General Mills, she identified creative distribution channels for the Big G Cereal portfolio.
Her extensive experience across the food and coffee industry, scaling growth (both domestically and globally) and leadership across consumer insights, competitive/ market intelligence, brand marketing, sales and communications, and “outside-the-box” placement and partnerships for existing new products in the coffee and food industry lends itself to the go-forward strategy for the Planting Hope Company. During her tenure at Dunkin’, Amanda helped create and operationalize the long term strategic plan (The Blueprint for Growth) including the internal and external updates with investors, developed and scaled the brands first national value strategy (Go2’s, still being run successfully today), overhauled the menu and introduced hundreds of new products and coffee-based beverages resulting in record-breaking category growth, and she helped lead the re-launch of the Espresso platform and the rebrand to “just Dunkin”, all of which earned Dunkin’ the “2018 most transformational brand” accolade in the foodservice industry.
Furthermore, this strategic plan and the 10 or so priorities that underpinned it recently led to the successful sale and privatization of the brands for $11.3 billion ($106.50 / share, up from ~$50 / share). Equally as important to her, Amanda drove significant growth for the franchise partners in her tenure at Dunkin’ – as someone with past experience owning and operating a small business herself, she always seeks to build her base understanding from the “inside-out”. Amanda is someone who clearly values, and has a successful track record, of growing brands with differentiated, high-quality products that serve unmet consumer needs – exactly like the Spinning Wheels Brands. She has a personal and professional mission to transform the future of food, and she’d be thrilled to bring her combined food service and CPG industry expertise, and thoughtful, innovative approach to The Planting Hope Company, Inc. all-women board.