Maya French is the Co-Founder of Koia, a plant-based protein drink company in Los Angeles, CA. In 2019, Maya made the list for Forbes 30 under 30 and was a call out for the Food and Beverage category. Her Koia products are the best-selling vegan protein drink, which has has now been sold at 8,500 stores! Maya has spoken on the initial moments of her career when she felt uncomfortable speaking up and let the startup’s white male CEO take the lead in front of investors. Her spotlight reveals her persistence, ambition, fearlessness, and immense gratitude she has for the people who uplifted her along her journey.
Maya embodies the Lift & Be Uplifted mission by breaking barriers for women in the professional world. TRULY, she makes me want to throw up my hands and say, YOU GO GIRL. Read more about Maya's perspective in this Spotlight!
Want to learn even more about his outstanding business woman?! Read this feature on Forbes:
"Reflections On Bias: Koia's Female Founder – And Only Black Employee – Has A Recipe For Change"
1. Rarely is someone's journey linear. Can you explain what you wanted to be when you grew up, and how your career landed where you are right now?
When I was younger I wanted to be a pediatrician but eventually decided against it. I had always been interested in science, technology, and art growing up and always worked in food when I began in the workforce. It's amazing that I landed in food and was able to learn how to develop a product from scratch. When I began with my company, I immediately knew building a business was my calling because no matter how difficult it was, it was always incredibly satisfying and fun.
2. Which single word do you most identify with?
3. What moment/experience in your life was the most formative in your development as a woman in the professional world?
In 2019 I made the list for Forbes 30 under 30 and was a call out for the Food and Beverage category. Through this recognition, I was able to find my voice and really lean into spreading the brand message nationwide through speaking appearances and various industry events. This caused me to become more front-facing which led to me getting uncomfortable more often. From the constant discomfort, I gained strength and was able to grow more as a person both professionally and personally.
4. What do you think holds women back from fulfilling their greatest potential and going for their dreams?
Confidence. Women often walk into a professional setting and there’s a bunch of overconfident men looking down on them. Their automatic response is to believe that they are somehow inferior. If a woman shows confidence, hard work, and dedication, she will face criticism— be seen as bitchy, demanding, not easy to work with. Women are often told to dim their light. If you ignore this, you will put yourself in the best position to reach your full potential and move forward with your dreams.
5. Favorite Koia flavor?!
Cold-brew coffee. I really love the taste of coffee and this flavor is blended to perfection. It’s like having a premium iced latte on a hot summer day. I have one every morning to hold me over until lunch.
6. Describe a time when you were underestimated in your career. How did you react? What did you learn?
The entire first half of my career would be the time I was most underestimated. It’s crazy how you can do a ton of excellent work and build something amazing and people still won’t acknowledge that it came from you— just because it’s you. The best thing I can ever do is to continue to do good work. The only person you need acknowledgment from is yourself. From this, I learned that true recognition will come later when it’s impossible to ignore.
7. Your company is thriving! What leadership characteristics do you utilize most to best lead your team to success?
In my opinion, the best way to lead is to empower your team. You hired them to be the experts, let them be the experts. Acknowledge people for their hard work and push for creativity. An organization should never be run like a dictatorship led by fear. That leads to a lot of unhappy employees and they will never feel comfortable expressing their true feelings about something due to fear.
8. You are incredibly ambitious! What motivates you?
My mindset keeps me motivated. My life has been a testament to the fact that you can truly do anything you put your mind to, no matter what your situation might be. Every decision you make in life can lead you down the correct path or an incorrect path, and I believe that in our hearts, we always know the correct answer. It’s when we let outside factors or instant gratification cloud our judgment, that we make bad decisions. So knowing that life is whatever I make it, allows me to continue to break through ceilings because I see no limits, only occasional roadblocks that are set in place to help me learn and grow.
9. Who has been the most impactful mentor in your life up to this point?
My business partner, Dustin Baker. I 100% wouldn’t be where I am today without his love and support. He’s taught me the importance of discipline and how to properly find resources to achieve what might seem impossible. He has always been an excellent mentor and has helped guide me on the right path.
10. What do you feel is the greatest part about being a woman?
We are superheroes, we’re compassionate, strong, empathetic, and have the capability to be a fearless leaders.