Julia Olayanju is a scientist and entrepreneur passionate about helping people to live healthier and stronger lives by paying attention to what they eat.
She is the Founder & Chief Innovation Officer at GrubEasy Interactive Lab Inc. She is also the Founder of Foodniche Inc., a company bringing together industry leaders, scientists, and other stakeholders in the food industry to drive change and create a healthier food future for all.
Speaking to Spurher, Olayanju shares the story.
Tell Us About Your Journey
“I had always wanted to be a scientist since I was 7. I lost my aunt suddenly; she was ill and misdiagnosed originally. Unfortunately, by the time they knew what was going on, it was too late. Not long after that, I went to a corner shop with my cousin to get snacks, but the store was closed. I later found out that the owner of the store lost a battle to cancer. I had never heard the word before, so I asked. My cousin told me it was something they have not found a cure to.”
Curious, Olayanju discovered that they were scientists, and from that day, the seed was sown for her mission to contribute and make a difference in biomedical research.
After completing her Bachelors and Masters, she put her PhD dreams on hold as she decided to get married and start a family.
She reflects, “Returning to graduate school was a bit difficult after starting a family. I just found myself deferring year after year. At some point, it felt it was never going to happen.”
Waking up one day with a strong feeling of action and urgency finally opened the door.
“One day, I woke up and felt strongly in my heart that I should apply to graduate school. I got up, checked the application deadline for Rutgers, and it was that same day. I hand-delivered my supporting materials to the admissions office that day.”
A Scientist On A Mission
Armed with a PhD in Molecular Genetics from Rutgers University, and two successful food companies under her belt, this inspiring entrepreneur, educator and scientist is hungry for change in attitudes to food and understanding of the importance of food to overall well being.
“I had loved cooking and creating delicacies all my life, but never really thought much about it,” she says.
However, while caring for her late father, she had to creatively prepare meals that were both healthy and enjoyable that met his special dietary requirements. Her eyes were opened to the power of food.
“For the first time I started thinking about what happens on the molecular level,” she reflects. Olayanju drew upon her educational training in genetics to attempt to understand what could be happening to her father when he veered off his diet. She was fortunate to engage in a doctoral research in which she looked at the anti-cancer properties of a compound found in cruciferous vegetables.
Her research has completely changed the way she thinks about food and ignited a passion for driving change in the way people approach mealtimes. She believes it is not enough to encourage people to make eating well a priority. “ Creating technological tools that make it 10x easier for people to create nourishing meals is one way we believe we can help. Just as rewarding students for making nourishing meals is a way we are impacting the next generation,” she adds.
Fueling the Change in Food Education
The consumer movement in health and nutrition is already underway. With increased awareness and education in recent years, people are demanding more from our food suppliers. How is our meat produced? Does it contain artificial ingredients? How about saturated fat?
However, the battle isn’t over yet. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, 39.8% of adults and 18.5% of children and adolescents in the United States were classified as obese based on 2015-2016 data.
“One thing clear to me is that food is more important to wellbeing than a lot of us realize. That’s why I drive the conversation at summits and am now advocating at city and state levels to ensure we have early nutrition education in American public schools.”
Grubeasy is taking to the road this fall to run several conferences raising awareness of obesity today and the future of healthy food. The Food, Health and Technology summit brings together leading scientists, industry leaders, food innovators, entrepreneurs and investors to spark collaborations, communication and education on difficult food-related challenges faced throughout the US.
“1 in 5 children in America are obese; this is a problem that needs to be tackled right away. We are approaching this by advocating for nutrition education in American public schools both on city and state levels. It is great that school-age children learn about what should be on their plate daily, the number of fruit servings per day and other important details taught in some schools today. Beyond this basic knowledge, it is important that students understand why those decisions are important. Children are very curious, and they also take what their teachers say so seriously. We are looking to help school-age children make healthier dining choices. We also have a web application that rewards students for making healthier dining choices. It is our own way of fighting the obesity epidemic that we are facing in America today.”
Olayanju’s 3 Practical Success Tips For Entrepreneurs
Know what you are passionate about– It is very important for aspiring entrepreneurs to do something they are passionate about. Choose to tackle a problem that really bothers you. When the going goes tough as it sometimes does, you need something to keep you going. Do something that if no one pays it for you, you will do it anyway. The gratification is priceless! You can now imagine being paid for doing something you deeply care about. My journey has not been an easy one, but the passion I have to solve the problem of obesity and other food related health challenges that people in our community face today keeps me going.
Invest in yourself – No other decision will bring a higher return on investment. “I can describe this to trying to cut down a huge tree and devoting a significant amount of time to sharpen your axe. If you are trying to build a company and someone that has successfully built companies offers to advise you will you not consider the offer? It may have taken them 10 or 15 years to learn their lessons, which means learning from them might save you that amount of time. There are so many people who have built successful companies who have written books to share their lessons. Pick up those books and read. I know people might say they are so busy to sit down with people, but the truth is most books have audio versions. The time, effort and even money you spend towards your personal and professional development will pay dividends.” Olayanju sets aside time every day to invest in her spirit, soul and body. She cites exercising every morning, daily prayer and listening to inspirational messages as investments that boost her productivity.
According to Olayanju, “being busy does not always translate into being productive”. A 16-hour day of frantic, unstructured ideas will yield fewer results than 8 hours of carefully organized goals. To be busy is to work harder, and to be productive is to work smarter. Delegating tasks is a smart way to get more done each day. Delegating less important tasks will free up your time for what matters.
For more information about GrubEasy Interactive, visit http://www.grubeasyinteractive.com
To discover more about the upcoming conferences, visit https://foodhealthandtechnology.com/