ll archives: Barley + Oats' Ashly Yashchin
Name: Ashly Yashchin
Current location: Gramercy, NYC
Where are you from? Blairstown, NJ
Education: BS from the Fashion Institute of Technology in Fashion Merchandising Management; studied abroad for 6 months at the American University of Rome in Italy, currently obtaining my health-supportive chef certification from the Natural Gourmet Institute
Business & Formal Title: Barley + Oats, Inc., CEO + Founder
Tell us about Barley + Oats. How did it come to be?
I came up for the idea for Barley + Oats when my first son, Aesop, was still in my belly. Being a health-supportive chef, I truly believe in the effect food can have on our overall health and well-being and believe it can work either with us or against us. I was nervous about breast milk production, having heard a lot of stories about peers who had trouble producing enough milk. So I began to research lactation and the basic science behind it, as well as the nutritional factors and key nutrients that play into milk production. What I found was that food can affect the mother baby connection in multiple ways...inclusive of but well beyond breastfeeding. Certain nutrients (like magnesium and essential fatty acids) can help prevent postpartum depression in mom in addition to creating healthy neural connections in baby. Sufficient potassium and iron supplies (through strengthening plant based foods like beets or grass-fed bone broths) can help mom recover post birth and get her through long stretches w/little sleep and still feel alert enough to bond with her little one. Healthful spices like tumeric can help prevent inflammation and the painful breast infection, mastitis, in those first few weeks when milk is coming in. And avoiding certain foods all together, like dairy, wheat, soy, caffeine and refined-sugar (never used in B+O meals) that can be hard for baby to breakdown or too stimulating, leads to a healthy baby with less colic and therefore a happy mama.
That said, what new mom has the time to make these healthful wholesome foods and prepare them in the most nutrient accessible (and time intensive) ways? None. So that was where the idea for Barley + Oats was born. We aim to give moms the meals they need at the time they need it most so that they can feel better and enjoy time spent with baby.
What is your company slogan/mission?
“Making happy mamas and healthy babies.” Our mission is to ease the postpartum transition for new and breastfeeding mothers through the daily delivery of delicious and organic lactation-supportive meals, designed to help increase breast milk production, restore mom's hormonal balance and deliver optimal developmental nutrients to baby
What did you do before launching Barley + Oats? At what point did you realize you wanted to be an entrepreneur (if you weren’t already)?
I spent ten years in the fashion industry on the retail buying side and the last five in e-commerce. I had been passionate about food, cooking and nutrition from a young age and always knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial in the space at some point. When I got pregnant I started to dread the idea of going back to work in a career I wasn’t very happy in; spending all that time away from my son doing something that didn’t make a difference, that I didn’t enjoy. It seemed like the right time for a change to do something that I would be proud to share with my family, that I felt would be worth the time I had to spend away from them.
Whenever you decided that it was time to take the leap, what were your next steps?
The first step after coming up with the idea for Barley + Oats was to talk to people about it. Mom’s and expecting mothers in particular. I talked to everyone I knew with children to see what they thought of the idea and then sent out a big market survey to moms throughout the city to get some feedback and test some assumptions. The feedback helped us to solidify our business model, make some changes to meet our target customer’s desires and move forward with confidence as the desire from moms for this service to exist was overwhelming.
What is the biggest, scariest thing you overcame during the launch of Barley + Oats?
Like most other entrepreneurs, starting Barley + Oats required investing some of our family’s personal capital. Not only was it scary to quit a job that offered great pay, a comfortable schedule and benefits, but I was doing that while simultaneously spending more money than ever before to start the business, pulling from our savings to set up an infrastructure for launch, without any clients. In addition, we had just had a baby and it seemed like a time when we should have been conserving our resources. There were definitely times where I wondered if I was doing the right thing.
Would you describe Barley + Oats as your “dream job”? Why or why not? What constitutes a dream job for you?
I suppose my answer to that would be “it will be.” Spending my time sourcing healthy, local, organic and sustainable foods to prepare for new mothers in the most health-supportive way so that they feel their best and that their babies feel their best too is certainly my dream job. I couldn’t think of a better way to make a living. However, while we’re in start-up phase of course it sometimes doesn’t feel that way when I’m pulling 12 hour days in a cramped commercial kitchen, away from my son and longer hours once I’m home on the computer. The goal is to grow the company enough so that I don’t always need to be in the kitchen and can share responsibilities for the company with a strong and passionate team.
Are you working on any other projects or have a side hustle? Tell us about it.
At the moment, my only other side project is being a good mom to my 5-month old, but I hope to get involved in more healthy food businesses as he grows.
Entrepreneurs live and breathe their businesses. How do you balance work and life? Do you think that’s even possible?
This is a tough one. My husband is an entrepreneur and sold his first big company last year. I used to always complain that he “needed to find better work-life balance” and now I find myself behaving much the same way with him saying those words back to me. When you know the success of your business is dependent on the time you put into it, it’s hard to not work all the time, because you know then if it fails, you only have yourself to blame. I think the best way to achieve balance is to grow quick enough that you can hire additional team members, outsource tasks to other companies whenever possible and create systems that expedite tasks (like a detailed production timeline for the kitchen).
What does your daily routine consist of?
I usually wake up between 5 and 6 AM with Aesop, nurse him and then hop on the computer to do some work while after he goes back to sleep. We play when he wakes up again for about a half hour until the sitter arrives. At that point, depending on the day of the week I either head to the kitchen to work on meal prep or I am on calls and in meetings for marketing and business management. When I get home in the evening, I give Aesop his bath and we nurse and read before bed. After he’s asleep, I’m back doing work and prepping for the morning.
You have to do it and you hate it – what is your least favorite task(s) to do for Barley + Oats?
Kitchen cleanup. We operate out of the Hot Bread Kitchen Incubator so we share the space with some other amazing food start-ups. Because it’s shared though we have to constantly clean up after ourselves and cooking can get quite messy. Unfortunately, there is no dishwasher there yet, so we have to scrub everything by hand..
You’re on the verge of a business-lady-breakdown. How do you unwind?
For me it’s a nice glass of wine, a mindless television show, some takeout and a little shoulder rub from my husband.
What did you think you’d be doing now at age 10?
When I was 10, I wanted to be an environmental lawyer. I thought I would have a house in the suburbs with a husband and a few kids. We don’t have the house in the suburbs (not sure we even want that anymore) but I do have the amazing husband, beautiful baby and have started a business that helps support food sustainability and environmental protection through the support of small farms producing local, organic produce.
Tell us 3 of your cannot-live-without ladypreneur apps.
Uber: to get me where I need to go. Instacart: because I don’t have time to shop anymore. Instagram: because what foodie doesn’t like to see some good pics of beautiful dishes, and share their own of course?
Top 5 favorite cities?
New York. Berlin. Rome. Amsterdam. Tel Aviv.
Red, White, Sparkling or stronger?
Ooh, depends on my mood and the season. Moving into reds now as we enter Fall and some nice pumpkin ales. .
Tell us the best place to eat in your burrough. If it’s your kitchen, share your best recipe.
Well of course, I’d say it’s my kitchen, but there isn’t much food coming out of here these days when I’m not recipe testing for the business. One of my favorite easy lactogenic recipes to whip up is carob avocado pudding - it doesn’t take long to make (great for tired mamas), it’s great for your milk supply, caffeine-free and super decadent:
Ingredients: ½ c. oats 16 oz. water 2 ripe avocados 1 T chia seeds ¼ t. pink Himalyan sea salt 1 t. vanilla extract ¼ c. carob powder 8 medjool dates, pitted ¼ t. probiotic powder (I use Primal Defense) ¼ c. walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Toast walnuts until fragrant (2-4 minutes) and chop when cooled Blend oats and water and strain through nut milk bag into high-speed blender (like Vitamix). Throw remaining ingredients in blender with oat milk and blend until a smooth pudding like texture is reached. Top with chopped toasted walnuts and enjoy!
When I don’t feel like cooking, I love to order from Rhong-Tiam Thai in Gramercy (they offer organic and local meat and veg options), Pipalli (for yummy Indian) or grab some healthy smoothies or snacks from Juice Generation or Organic Avenue. For a date night, my husband and I love Bar Jamon for some wine and tapas.
Words to live by: I used to have a pillow from Anthropologie that said “Live, Love.” It’s something I try to say to myself everyday. To me it means life is about precisely that, loving and living - at the end of the day the rest doesn’t matter. As long as we choose to, we can always have those two things: a happy life filled with love.
In the next year you’ll be: Hopefully we’ll be expanding Barley + Oats to serve more mothers around the tri-state area and eventually the country.
What advice would you give to budding ladypreneurs interested in your industry?
Don’t wait. It never seems like a good time to take action on your idea, especially when you’re a mom. Trust me, if you wait, someone will think of your idea and do it themselves - get to market first.