CEO Julie Smolyansky
CEO Julie Smolyansky
By LifeWayKefir LifeWayKefir on 5/7/2013 8:37 AM
Sure, they assigned us boatloads of homework and wouldn’t let us talk during class, but teachers deserve way more praise than they get. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to count our change, identify all 50 states on a map or hold a discussion on Martin Luther King, Jr., and this blog would read like gibberish. Add to that the fact that they function like substitute parents, mentors, therapists and peacekeepers, all for a salary that amounts to a tiny fraction of the average NBA star's, and it’s obvious that teachers need to be showered with a little love and gratitude.
In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day, we asked Lifeway CEO to recall some of her favorite teachers from throughout the years:
Mrs. Puccini (now known as Mrs. Iris Kerbis)
Mrs. Puccini was our Homecoming committee sponsor in high school.
She taught me great leadership and team building skills. One of my favorites: Don't pick your friends to run your teams -- pick qualified people who can do the work well.
Muchos gracias to Señor Rosenzweig! Even thought I am fluent in Russian and English, for some reason, I just could not get the hang of Spanish and French. Señor Rosenzweig was my high school Spanish teacher and he was so patient, very understanding. He worked with me to make sure I passed. To this day, he's a good friend and he lets me know he is proud of my accomplishments.
My high school counselor. She was really ahead of her time in terms of leadership programming. So many kids passed through her office and we all came out better students and people. She paid me so much individual attention and was someone to talk to; a true mentor.
Professor Norma Moruzzi
In college at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Dr. Moruzzi was my women's studies teacher. I was always fascinated with her stories of women throughout history – stories which were excluded from my high school history books. Suddenly, it just clicked for me and I realized I did love history; and it's more about the way the story is being told. Now with my girls [daughters Misha, 2, and Leah, 4], I want their education to be all about teaching in the best way for each unique student.
Michael Smolyansky was not very patient, but he was incredibly knowledgeable on many subjects – art, politics, history. No matter what city we were in, he would take us to the museum and tell us all about the artists. I wish I could have soaked in all of his knowledge before he passed away but, like many kids, I wasn’t ready to be taught. But today, my love for art comes from him, as does my passion for news. CNN was always on in our house growing up, and the same thing goes for our current home.
My daughters have taught me patience - to let go of plans and go with the flow; to look at things through a fresh pair of eyes, with a new lens and childlike wonder. They teach me the amazement of discovering something new. It's like being reborn through them. They are two of the most awesome teachers you could ever ask for.
By LifeWayKefir LifeWayKefir on 4/26/2013 11:19 AM
Lace up your running shoes, because for the next two weeks, every mile you walk, run or bike can earn money for One Fund Boston. Lifeway Foods is proud to announce our sponsorship of Charity Miles, a free iPhone/Android app that enables people to earn money for charity when they walk, run or bike.
Our CEO Julie Smolyansky is an active member of the Charity Miles community who runs frequently to benefit some of her favorite organizations, such as Girl Up
and Every Mother Counts
. Two weeks ago, Julie ran the Boston Marathon and was a half-mile from the finish when she was diverted due to the explosion
. Fortunately Julie and her family were safe, but she was deeply moved by the compassion and heroism shown in Boston. Like many of you, Julie and the rest of the Lifeway team wanted to do something to help.
Here’s what you can do:
Download the Charity Miles app on your smart phone. Then walk, run or bike to earn money for the charity you choose. Bikers earn 10 cents per mile; walkers and runners earn 25 cents per mile, courtesy of Charity Miles and Lifeway Foods. For the next two weeks, Lifeway Foods is sponsoring your Charity Miles, plus an additional 25 cents per mile for One Fund Boston – up to $10,000!
Looking for a great post-run recovery drink? Kefir is widely regarded as a preformance-boosting food
for runners! Try this Antioxidant Berry Smoothie made with Lifeway Frozen Kefir. Antioxidant Berry Boost Smoothie
- 1 cup Lifeway Frozen Kefir, Original
- 1/4 cup blueberries
- 1/4 cup blackberries
- 1/4 cup strawberries
- 1/4 cup green tea, chilled
- 1 Tbs ground flax seed
- honey or agave nectar to taste
Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
By Julie Smolyansky on 4/16/2013 8:16 PM
Our hearts are heavy today in the aftermath of the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Our CEO, Julie Smolyansky, was running her 23rd mile of the race when the bombs exploded. Here is her recounting of a terrible sad day:
I was running the race to raise money for Every Mother Counts, a charity dedicated to global maternal health. My teammates and I had been dropped off early, maybe two hours before the race was set to begin. There was a chill in the air and I felt nervous – even though this was my 10th marathon, I’m not the fastest runner, and while most racers have to qualify to run Boston with a special time, I was there as a charity runner. I remember thinking, “What if I come in last?” I was worried about making it up Heartbreak Hill but at the same time, I felt excited for the race to begin. My team was in the 10:40 AM wave (racers are staggered and assigned to different waves to keep an even flow) and my teammate Nick and I were talking about sneaking into an earlier wave so we could finish earlier and have more time with our families afterwards.
Running through Boston’s quaint neighborhoods, I was feeling really good. There was tons of crowd support and a warm community feel. Kids were holding out their hands on the sidelines for us to slap them high five; parents were doling out orange and banana slices to fuel the runners. Patriot’s Day is a big holiday for Bostonians and everybody was in a terrific mood. Music was blasting, inflatable bouncy houses were jumping with kids. The sun was shining with just a tiny nip in the air – ideal running weather. All around me, I saw people running with the goal of helping others. Tee shirts read “Running to end cancer”; “Running for my mom”; “Running to end violence.”
My partner, Jason, and I had decided to meet up at Mile 12. Our two daughters, Misha (age 2) and Leah (age 4) were there to support me, too, as they almost always are at my races. I passed what must have been hundreds of female students at Wellesley College, all yelling, “Go Girl!”, before spotting my girls who were waving their homemade neon pink and yellow posters. They ran up to hug me and I couldn’t stop smiling. I told them I loved them, took some pictures and kept on running.
At around Mile 23, a woman running in front of me fell. She was having a seizure, convulsing right at my feet and throwing up. Ambulances were passing by – I figured somebody ahead was sick, as often happens in marathons – and I called out for a medic. I had just received a text from Jason on my phone but hadn’t had the chance to open it. A medic arrived and started helping the woman as I tried to calm her friends on the sideline, who were crying. Eventually I had to start running again though. As I did, I checked my phone and saw Jason’s message. It was a screenshot of a news website, announcing an explosion at the finish line. I remember thinking, “An explosion? What is he talking about?” I didn’t know if it was an accident or a terrorist attack, if the event was minor or major. I knew he and the girls were at the finish line waiting for me, but I assumed that because I had gotten a message from him, they were safe. So I kept running.
As I ran, I began hearing from other racers that a second explosion had taken place. I called Jason but no one answered. I called and called but could not get through; I kept going straight to voicemail. At that point, my phone started going crazy with messages from people checking to see if I was safe. I put a message on Facebook letting people know I was OK:
“I'm ok. Heard there was an explosion. At mile 23. Hope everyone is ok. Pays to be slow. Stopped to help someone who had fainted.”
But I still couldn’t reach my family.
By now, I had slowed to a walk, as had most other racers. Worst-case scenarios were zooming through my head. I had heard of limbs flying, that people had died. I think I was crying but I don’t really remember much from Mile 23 to Mile 25. People were crying and confused as emergency vehicles zoomed by. As my calls kept going into Jason’s voicemail, and I felt sick to my stomach.
Race officials were redirecting us off the marathon path, away from the finish line. I saw the bomb squad working by the sign at Mile 25.
A police officer announced, “Race is over.” I stopped walking and continued to call, worried my phone’s battery was almost out of power. A fellow runner – an older gentleman – comforted me, encouraging me to keep calling and reassuring me that reception was terrible for everyone. I was chilled, my feet blistered, but I didn’t feel anything. We all just stood there, numb from fear. A woman with a bag of clothes stopped me on the street and offered me a sweater, inviting me into her home.
Then my phone rang and Jason’s number lit up on the screen. I can only describe the feeling as pure elation. It turns out that his battery had died and he had run back to the hotel to charge it. Misha was asleep in the stroller; Leah just thought this was all part of the ordinary chaos of a marathon.
I made my way back to the hotel and up to Room 1409. Jason answered and I fell into his arms. We all hugged and kissed and settled in for a long, sad night. We looked out of our windows to see bomb squads and army vehicles on the street below. We slept fitfully. Our kids were shielded from the news, still innocent and unaware of the tragedies unfolding. They kept congratulating me, telling me how proud they were of me for finishing the race. To know an innocent eight-year-old boy died while cheering on his dad – how can I not see my family in that family? It is just gut-wrenching. It hits too close to home.
At different points in my life, my runs have inspired different thoughts and emotions. I ran my first marathon in Chicago one month after 9/11 and thought about the thousands of people who ran out of Manhattan and the World Trade Center in complete terror, dressed in their business suits, untrained, without the fancy water stops or energy gels that a marathon offers. Yet these people ran till they got home, some almost 26 miles. And I thought about the 3,000 people who never returned home. In comparison, my 26.2 miles seemed easy.
People are asking me, “Will you run again?” I will. You can be in your office and not be safe, like people were on 9/11. Or on an airplane. Or in a kindergarten classroom, like in Newtown. People experience violence every day. We can’t lock ourselves up in our homes. I am absolutely heartbroken over the loss of life and all of the injuries - how does a celebration turn into tragedy like this? But in times of grief, there is a Fred Rogers quote that reminds me to focus on the positive:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
I love running marathons. I love the challenge, the chance to test my mental and physical strength. Running gives me confidence and clears my mind. At Mile 18, I started dreaming about my post-race recovery meal; I literally spent a few miles debating between Uno's pizza and a juicy cheeseburger at one of the cute outdoor restaurants near the finish line. I remember getting excited to check in on Facebook at the Boston Marathon Finish Line, I knew exactly what I was going to post: "Finished. Now looking for beer, cheeseburger and a shower in any order - at the Boston Marathon Finish Line," along with a cute picture of me with my medal. All of which never happened.
If my teammates and I had tried to start the race at an earlier wave, I would have wound up crossing the finish line right around the time the bombs exploded. That single move might have saved our lives. As I reflect on that soboring reality, I mourn the lives that were lost, keep those who were injured in my heart, and am grateful for the compassion and kindness of strangers I experienced on this terrifying day. Donate to Boston Children's Hospital
Schedule an appointment with the Red Cross
Send in photos, tips, cell phone video and more to assist the investigation.
By LifeWayKefir LifeWayKefir on 4/11/2013 11:37 AM
This week, the Lifeway team joined hundreds of other Anti-Defamation League (ADL) supporters in honoring four remarkable women during the 20th Annual Women of Achievement Awards Dinner. The night’s honorees were Maria Green, Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary, Illinois Tool Works; Mary Ann Hynes, Senior Vice-President, Counsel to the Chairman and Chief Compliance Officer, Ingredion Inc.;Barbara Steiner, Partner, Jenner & Block LLP and Lifeway CEO, our own Julie Smolyansky.
According to the ADL, honorees “embody the spirit and philosophy of ADL through their efforts to improve communication and understanding among the diverse racial, religious and ethnic communities of Chicago.” It was an amazing night honoring women who inspire all of us. We’d like to share Julie’s acceptance speech with you now:
I’d like to thank the entire ADL Family and the nominating committee for their tireless work to end hate in our world. Especially Sonya Jacobs, who has worked so hard on this dinner along with my assistant Megan Starsiak and Lonnie Nasatir, my longtime friend and Director of the ADL. I would also like to congratulate my fellow honorees for being Women of Achievement. I would like to thank my best friend and life partner Jason who has held my hand for the last eight years, and who I lean on for support every day as well as many other wonderful friends who are here supporting me tonight. I would also like to thank the team at Lifeway. I share this award with each and every one of you, and there and are so many of you here tonight.
When Lonnie informed me the nomination committee had chosen me as one of the honorees, I was humbled - both because of the prestigious honorees with whom I am sharing the stage, as well as the fact that this award is coming from an organization that has been fighting bigotry and hatred for 100 years; an organization that means a lot to me personally because I have always believed in advocating for individuals who cannot stand up for themselves.
I would also like to thank and publicly honor the woman to whom I dedicate this award; the woman on whose shoulders I stand, my mother, Ludmila Smolyansky. Mom, please stand up... She is a true woman of achievement. At the age of 26, she and my father risked everything and escaped the Soviet Union in 1976 - with me just an infant - for the promise of a new and better life in America.
My mom taught herself English watching soap operas like General Hospital, Edge of Night and Dynasty. She did not wait for an invitation to lead - she jumped in - and 2 years after settling in Chicago, opened the first Russian Delicatessen on Devon Street.
But more importantly, she modeled what it means to be a woman of achievement for me as she juggled the responsibilities of work during the day and family life at night. She also modeled for me the creative process of risk taking as she expanded her one deli into five, and turned national distribution deals into international importing deals -negotiating exclusively with men - which laid the foundation for our family to ultimately launch Lifeway Foods. So mom, this award is your award.
I also want to remember my father who is no longer with us, but without him as the strongest male figure in my life, pushing education, and if he did not actively point out strong females to me, I really don’t know that I would be standing here tonight. He believed in gender equality, made me realize that I could accomplish anything and taught me to fight for myself.
You see without my dad’s reassurance and support I honestly don’t know that I would have ever had the courage to lead Lifeway after his sudden death when I was just 27. Like my mother, I did not get an invitation to lead. Quitecontrary, what I was told hours after his death was, “There’s no way a 27 year old girl can run a public company” and “You need a CEO with a little gray hair”.But I fought to lead.
Celebrating the success of women, raising them up, providing examples of women who have blazed trails - it is why we gather here tonight. To give examples to the young women and men around the world – if they can see it – they can believe it. Until one day, when we no longer need an event with the title Women of Achievement – we can celebrate gender equality.
I also dedicate this award to 2 little girls who are just starting their journey, my little girls Leah and Misha. Who inspire me and push me and have given me a sense of urgency to keep fighting for rights for women and girls, to fight for a world without hate, and to design the world I want to live in and leave behind for you.
Inequality for women still exists in the United States and injustice toward women exists around the world. While we are fighting to break the glass ceiling here in the US, in countries many countries around the world women are fighting to keep the ground from collapsing beneath them. I will continue to make it my mission to fight for women to have a voice, to help women overseas also have the ability to break the glass ceiling that we have been doing for decades, and to ensure their safety and justice.
At the recent Women in the World conference I just attended, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, and I quote, “When women participate in the economy, in peace-making and peace-keeping, we all benefit. Giving women and girls a fighting chance isn’t a nice thing to do, it’s a core imperative for every society. This truly is the unfinished business for the 21st century.”
And so I accept this award not for what I have done, but as a challenge to do more. And I hope you can join me.
By LifeWayKefir LifeWayKefir on 3/25/2013 11:11 AM
Social media, social justice, and social change. These are the foundations of the Global Mom Relay
; a virtual relay that connects moms everywhere through the power of social media in support of the United Nation's Every Woman Every Child movement. What does that mean? It’s simple – through May 8th
, moms from all over the world are powering an online conversation about motherhood, while unlocking donations to help women and children lead healthy lives.
Our own CEO Julie Smolyansky contributed her piece, Taking Action to Protect Children, earlier this month, and encouraged readers to share the article online in order to unlock donations from
Johnson &Johnson and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to one of the United Nation’s four efforts helping women and children.
“As CEO of a natural foods company and a former social services counselor, I have been a long-time advocate for healthy and safe communities.” Julie said, “Social media and other technologies give us the means to create social change. From global malnutrition and health to educating girls and women to ending violence against girls and women, we can lift humanity in ways not possible 20 years ago.”
Julie, who recently participated in a GoodxGlobal panel titled, "Can Technology Save Women?” is adamant about harnessing the local and global power of technology for social good
. For that reason, she also recently launched Test400k, a campaign to resolve the backlog of 400,000 untested rape kits in the U.S. and end violence against women both domestically and globally.
Visit Global Moms Relay to read the daily post, and to share and unlock a $5 donation. To find out more about Test400k, including how you can get involved, visit Test400k.org.
By LifeWayKefir LifeWayKefir on 3/12/2013 9:28 AM
It was another busy weekend in Kefir Land! First, a big chunk of our team headed to Anaheim, CA for the Natural Products Expo West
. We debut a whole slew of new products there and had lots of fun being cold in California instead of in Chicago. (It was 45 degrees the whole weekend, what's up, California?) People particularly loved out new Frozen Kefir Bars
(pear seemed to be a show favorite) and we got several requests to make ProBugs Bites
in grown-up sizes - they are that tasty!
Plus, the ladies of Lifeway Foods got to spend International Women's Day together - celebrating how far women have come in our socienty, and reflecting on what we can do to support other women along the way.
Meanwhile in Texas, another branch of the Lifeway team was sampling our frozen kefir at the South by Southwest
Conferences and Festivals. Our frosty treats were just the protein-packed, probiotic boost festival goers were looking for, and lucky for them we were posted up at several events - plus, our Kefir Truck was sampling next to the Austin Convention Center.
In addition to providing frozen kefir to all SXSW attendees, we also participated in a number of GoodxGlobal events where key leaders in the world of social good gathered to help spark creative solutions to local and global issues. Our CEO Julie Smolyansky participated in a panel titled, "Can Technology Save Women?" with Elizabeth Gore and Ingrid Vanderveldt, both of the United Nations Foundation's Global Entrepreneurs Council.
Just when you thought she had a second to breathe, Julie is right back to work in Chicago today where she is part of the host committee for the screening of Girl Rising
, a film directed by Academy Awared nominee Richard Robbins. Girl Rising tells the stories of nine remarkable girls from around the world, who are demonstrating the extraordinary strength of the human spirit to overcome the odds. Each girl's story is narrated by a cast of great actresses including Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys and others.
What's next on the jam-packed Lifeway calendar? Keep watching our blog, Twitter
to find out!
By LifeWayKefir LifeWayKefir on 2/14/2013 11:00 AM
Our boss is quite the globe trotter. Whether she's meeting with retailers far and wide to expand distribution of kefir or spreading the word about healthy foods and probiotics at numerous speaking engagements, the Lifeway mission travels with her. Earlier this week she participated in a Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee for job-creators from across the country. Julie shared the Lifeway story and conveyed the importance of working with lawmakers to help responsible businesses can grow and create jobs in their communities.
Above is Julie with IL Senator Dick Durbin, who had this to say:
We can continue growing our economy from the middle-out by supporting job-creating small businesses like Lifeway Foods and the hundreds of others across our state and the country. I was pleased to welcome Julie Smolyansky to Washington and to hear from her and other entrepreneurs and business leaders regarding their successful strategies for expansion and job growth. We can learn a lot from them.
Today Julie will be on WGN Radio at 12:35pm CST speaking with Carol Roth about job creation, healthy eating and kefir/probiotics, her new role with the UN as part of the Global Entrepreneurs Council, and her participation in today's One Billion Rising rally at the Daley Center here in Chicago. Listen live to the show on WGN 720 AM Chicago or stream it online here: http://tv.trb.com/extras/wgnam/player/listen.htm
EDIT: Don't worry if you missed the show! WGN is hosting a special page for us with a recording of the full program: http://wgnradio.com/2013/02/14/living-a-healthy-lifestyle-with-lifeway-foods/ (Thanks to Carol and all of WGN!)
Which brings us to a very important point. You should follow Julie on Twitter for all the latest: @JulieSmolyansky. We can barely keep up with her!
By LifeWayKefir LifeWayKefir on 2/8/2013 9:53 AM
When she's not advocating for maternal health care, speaking at the Library of Congress, or running marathons, our energetic CEO Julie Smolyansky gets quite creative in the kitchen! This time she's whipped up a kid-friendly dressing/dip that lends it's tangy, lightly sweet flavor to fresh fruit, leafy greens like kale and spinach, and just about anything else you can think of dipping or dressing! Like all of Julie's original recipes, this one had to meet the approval of her girls, Leah and Misha before it made it's way to our blog!
- 1/3 cup Lifeway Kefir, Plain
- 2 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 Tbs honey
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- Dash of ground cinnamon
Whisk the ingredients together and enjoy!
By Julie Smolyansky on 1/31/2013 4:41 PM
by Julie Smolyansky
Last week I had the honor and privilege of attending the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. You could feel the electricity in the air as the President’s supporters celebrated a long, hard-fought battle and a recommitment to job creation, equal rights and health care.
The three-day celebration actually started in O’Hare Airport where I bumped into Senator Dick Durbin. We chatted about kefir, of course, as it was on the menu at the constituent coffee he was set to host on Tuesday. We parted ways with the agreement that I would share Lifeway Foods’ story, and our mission to provide America with healthy foods at the Library of Congress.
Lifeway’s story was particularly significant as I listened to President Obama’s Inaugural address:
“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”
I was born in a country where there was no democracy, and even today, freedom is limited and leadership changes don’t always come peacefully. Could my parents have imagined when I was a little girl in Kiev that I would one day stand before the leader of the free world as he spoke out for women, for immigrants and for marriage equality?
It was a historical series of days, but it wasn’t all so serious. I watched Katie Perry and Stevie Wonder perform, among many others, and took part in some genuine, Chicago blues thanks to Buddy Guy at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s after-party. How cute were Sasha and Malia taking selfies with their cell phones and giving their dad kisses in front of the whole free world? And Michelle’s new bangs? I love them.
Speaking of the First Lady, I’m a huge supporter of her Let’s Move initiative, and Lifeway was proud to offer our healthy low-fat kefir to event attendees as well as to the hungry crowds throughout Capitol Hill. We were giving out kefir at the Generation Now Party organized by OurTime.org, the Illinois State Society Gala and, as I mentioned, we provided kefir for the constituent coffee hosted by Dick Durbin. We also had our guerilla marketing wonder team of Joe and Megan canvassing the city with kefir – the perfect pick-me-up for a busy weekend.
The First Lady’s program is perfectly aligned with our aspirations as a company, and I believe that educating Americans about healthy food choices will help us achieve another goal the President addressed in his Inaugural speech - reducing the cost of health care. Lifeway has always advocated for safe and healthy communities from the inside-out, which includes responsible gun control.
“Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”
As a female CEO, and mother of two little girls, I was particularly moved by the President’s commitment to gender quality. I believe when women have equal voices in policy making we will live in a healthier and safer world.
“For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law–for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
Regardless of our political orientation, an inauguration is a chance for a new beginning. It’s a chance for us to work together to transform America into a land of equal opportunities – no matter where you were born, who you love, or what gender you are.
By LifeWayKefir LifeWayKefir on 1/29/2013 9:18 AM
At Lifeway Foods, we believe beauty radiates from within. When you feel amazing, you look amazing - and we all know that drinking kefir makes you feel amazing. But sometimes even with our gorgeous insides, we need to pamper our outsides. Want to know our CEO Julie Smolyansky's secret to super soft skin? Why, it's kefir, of course! Check out Julie's recipe for a skin-softening mask you can make at home.DIY Softening Kefir Mask
Kefir contains gentle alpha hydroxy acids (in the form of lactic acid) that helps to break up dead skin cells so new cells can emerge. Combined with exfoliating oats and pore-tightening lemon juice, this simple kefir mask is an easy way to treat your skin.
- 2 Tbs Lifeway Kefir
- 2 Tbs whole oats
- 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
Mix all of the ingredients together and let the mixture stand for 1 hour.
Tie back your hair, and use your fingertips to gently apply the mixture to your face. sit back and relax, apply freshly sliced cucumbers to your eyes for a little extra soothing.
Wait 5-10 minutes, then rinse the mixture from your face. Walk around making everyone in your house tough your face - it's that soft.