career memos

The highs and lows of building a CPG company with Kate Flynn, CEO of Sun & Swell Foods

January 21, 2021

We cover everything from pivoting career paths, to imposter syndrome and doing what you love.

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I'm Sarina.

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In Episode 10 of Career Memos, I sat down with Kate Flynn, a dear friend of mine and the co-founder and CEO of Sun & Swell Foods. Kate has an interesting story not typical of most CEOs of delicious, organic food companies like hers. She kicked off her career in auditing and consulting before hitting burnout and dropping everything to become a bootstrapped entrepreneur in the retail and wellness world.

Kate gets super candid in this interview, and we cover everything from pivoting career paths, to imposter syndrome and doing what you love. 

Thanks for tuning in!


Going to business school can have major payoffs later in your career.

Have you ever reached a point, early on in your career, where you know the path you’re going down just isn’t your calling?

Kate knew that her heart wasn’t in auditing even though she had been doing it for a little while – she didn’t want to do it forever. So she invested in two years of learning at Harvard Business School to expand her knowledge and be able to more easily pivot into another field.

She stresses that an expense like business school is a lot to take on, and you don’t always see the immediate payoff. One of the biggest benefits she got was the network she built from going.

Nearly any firm she wants to talk to, she has at least a handful of colleagues that could help connect her. And that is priceless.

Imposter syndrome is normal in the early days.

When Kate launched Sun & Swell, she was working over 40 hours a week, had a team, had products in over 70 stores, and yet she was still referring to her business as a hobby!

Imposter syndrome quickly crept in. She didn’t think she was capable of thriving as an entrepreneur and actually making it work. Who was she to be running a business? 

Have you ever felt this way at a job? If so, you’re not alone. Imposter syndrome is a total mind game. Having a network of people who can reassure you and relate to what you are going through can help, along with having active conversations about it and repeating daily affirmations.

Start believing in yourself as you would believe in a friend or a family member.

In 3 years, Sun & Swell products made it into Whole Foods, and yes, Kate still experiences imposter syndrome!

Though the challenges and the struggles are greater than she could have ever imagined, she realized the journey isn’t solely about forming a company, making lots of money, and selling it. It’s about growing the company in a way that’s fulfilling, and focusing on sustainability has nurtured and deepened that level of fulfillment for her.

The importance of starting with one thing.

If you’re inspired to start your own business, there’s one valuable piece of advice Kate leaves us with: pick ONE thing you want to accomplish, whether it’s launching your website, sending a survey to your target audience, or in Kate’s case, booking a booth at a triathlon. 

Put a stake in the ground, put a date on the calendar, and force yourself to get this one task done.

This simple call to action will push you to just start. Even starting something new can feel so overwhelming. There are millions of things you can do, but start with one thing and make a small piece of progress. It will be rewarding, and you’ll be motivated to keep going.


“Early on in your career, it’s easy to confuse what you’re good at with what you’re passionate about.”

Listen to The Career Memos Podcast now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts.

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Your Podcast Host and Career Coach

Over the last 12+ years, I’ve done everything from work as a global human rights activist to lead marketing & partnerships initiatives at companies like Postmates and Apple. I’ve started businesses, lived in multiple cities around the world, pivoted careers more than once, and know what it takes to turn career goals into a reality. As a career coach & consultant, I’m passionate about sharing all that I’ve learned with you, helping you define tangible goals, and providing you with the tools and direct feedback you need to achieve them.

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