WASTE NO POTENTIAL - EPISODE 5
What do peanut butter and motorbikes have in common? Find out when our guests turn apparent failures into unique successes.
Every scar comes with a lesson.
There is a crack, a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in
— Leonard Cohen
Scars. We all have them. But do we see them as reminders of mistakes or marks of progress? At Waste No Potential, we are infinitely curious how people push their limits to find out what they are truly capable of. The thing is, when we push ourselves to the edge sometimes we end up falling off. Good, now we know how far we can go. We pick ourselves up, put on a bandage, and carry on with a new scar — little or big — to add to the collection of lessons learned.
Lilian Umurungi-Jung has had plenty of bruises on her path to success. She had “every job on planet Earth” before landing a position that was a great fit. Soon after, Lilian and her husband found out she was pregnant. Life was great. Until an unexpected twist, painful in the moment, caused her to rethink everything — and sent her on a path that would change her life forever.
Tractionite Emily Beach can tell her life story through scars. She has some doozies. An extreme sports enthusiast, Beach knows scars are part of the learning process and brings this mindset to her work and personal life. She has experienced more peaks and valleys than most have dreamt of, but one thing Beach has never allowed is a scar to stop her from her true potential.
Join us as we hear the stories of these determined individuals who don’t let obstacles stop them forging their unique path to success.
- 6:18 - 12:59 - “Lilian’s journey to peak happiness and losing what felt like everything.”
- 15:53 - 20:49 - “Emily Beach on the adventures of competitive motorbike racing and the lessons of collecting scars.”
- 21:55 - 27:34 - “Lilian on picking herself back up again and launching into Mumgry.”
[00:00:00] Alexandra Samuel: Emily Beach is high up on a mountain. She's 18 with a snowboard strapped to her feet and she's staring down the barrel of a half pipe. With a lot of determination.
[00:00:18] Emily Beach: And then once you get yourself to a point where you are willing to commit and ready to go you call, “Dropping!”
[00:00:26] Alexandra Samuel: She's building up speed, going faster and faster.
[00:00:30] She gets ready to launch herself into massive air. It's terrifying, but she's a pro. After all, it wasn't fear that got her to compete in the Junior National Snowboarding League. This is her world.
[00:00:45] Emily Beach: You ride up the side of these, you know, 20 foot walls and you get this incredible feeling of the transition pulling you downwards and then shooting you back up on the other side into the air.
And then there's a moment where you feel lighter.
[00:01:03] Alexandra Samuel: She'd done it dozens of times, but this time just one slip, one terrible moment...
[00:01:15] Emily Beach: The point when I hurt my knee was a lot like a lot of the other injuries where you say, "oh, damn. This is, this is not good timing. I have, you know, this coming up or this coming up." Um, but eventually realizing this is not an injury you're going to come back from. At that point, at that realization, when the surgeon says, you need to find a new sport, that's when it just hits you this- you know, I've been eating, drinking, breathing snowboarding all day, every day. And all of a sudden I can't do it anymore.
[00:01:58] Alexandra Samuel: Just that one mistake and she lost what felt like, well, her world.
I'm Alexandra, Samuel, and this is Waste No Potential. I want to ask you, do you have any scars? You know, like the funny mark on your elbow from where you fell, when you were skating. Or the incision line from an emergency surgery. Maybe it's a tender spot you feel whenever you think about your most painful break-up. Or your most embarrassing professional fail.
Well, that's what this episode is all about: those moments, those injuries that feel like they'll never heal that leave a mark on your body or on your soul. They might even feel like points of failure, but there's beauty in those broken unhealed parts. Our scars are our stories.
They are our life lessons and they could be the key to unlocking your potential.
My guest today is a reminder of why collecting scars is key to unlocking our potential. Lilian Umurungi-Jung is the founder of Mumgry. Her company focuses on giving healthy snack alternatives to women during any stage of their pregnancy and their premier product is peanut butter. When she became a new mother, she realized really quickly that the snacks that catered to new moms were just loaded with additives, sugar, salt, all the stuff you're not supposed to have when you're feeding another human.
So she founded her company Mumgry to change all of that.
[00:03:42] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: I'm excited to talk to you too!
[00:03:45] Alexandra Samuel: For now let's just have her introduce herself, tell us how she built her company and show us some of the scars that made her who she is now.
Do you have any scars that for you act as a touchstone for memory or for your...
[00:04:02] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: Like actual scars on my body? Here is — actually...do you remember the first night that you went out after becoming a mom?
[00:04:16] Alexandra Samuel: Oh yeah, a hundred percent. Crazy night.
[00:04:18] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: The first night that you stepped out? So my cousin got us tickets to the 'On the Run' tour, to the show. And we went to the concert and it wasn't until like midway through the show that my shoulders really started to relax. And I thought, “I can do this. I can have fun. I can get into this.”
The concert was great. Amazing, brilliant. We really enjoyed it. As soon as I came out of the concert, I looked at my phone and my husband had messaged me and he was like, "He's not going to sleep without you." And I went, “What is happening?” I remember I had trained, I had taken the train that day, so I trained it back and I started sprinting to my house, full sprint. I don't think I'd sprinted in like forever since having the baby and I sprinted and got to my door. As soon as I got to the step — boom! — I tripped on the bottom step because the outside light wasn't on yet. And my knee just exploded. And I have this scar with me and I think about it all the time because you gotta go slow before you can move fast.
And so I apply that to absolutely everything and it is the perfect scar and it reminds me all the time to slow down and just pay more attention.
[00:06:00] Alexandra Samuel: Okay. I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Lilian started learning about the value of scars much earlier.
But let's start with your backstory. So tell me, tell me how you got started.
Your family came here when you were quite young. I think?
[00:06:15] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: Yes. We came here when I was two years old. My parents were in Uganda at the time. And there was definitely a war underway and they just decided, you know what, we're going to go for it. And so what happened was my dad actually went to Toronto and said, “Absolutely no, no way it's too cold out here.
There has to be a warmer place in this country”, and then arrived in Vancouver and said, "Alright, this will do."
When we moved here, we moved into the Strathcona neighborhood. And so that was kind of my stomping grounds for the first eight, nine years of my life.
[00:06:58] Alexandra Samuel: When she was just a kid, she got a pretty amazing opportunity.
[00:07:03] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: So my mom and I were on the bus one day and a woman walked up to us and said, "Does your child want to be an actor?" And back then you had to be cautious of questions because you never knew if you were going to be getting ripped off or a part of some sort of scam. And I think my mom just sort of felt it out and thought, "You know what? Let's just give it a try."
So I went and did a few auditions and got a taste for it. And I became interested in acting, but I think it was mostly for the marketing side of it. Which is so strange to say out loud. I was a child actor that didn't care about the acting part, but cared more about how the movie or the show or the commercial got pitched.
And then pretty much just continued to do acting as much as I could before my parents said, “You have to stop. You have to focus on high school”. And then I went to high school. And that's where all the crazy jobs that I've had up until time began.
[00:08:13] Alexandra Samuel: That early taste of excitement and activity pushed her to find the next exciting opportunity.
[00:08:20] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: I call myself “indeed.com" because I've had every job on the planet earth. You name it, I've been in the industry.
[00:08:29] Alexandra Samuel: Eventually, she landed in HR at a gaming company.
[00:08:33] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: I worked with gamers and I really got to understand their needs and wants. It was a really fun role because it just allowed me to learn even more about people and what gives them inspiration and keeps them motivated in their jobs.
[00:08:48] Alexandra Samuel: While she was working at the gaming company, she and her partner got some fantastic news: they were going to be parents. Well, that's about the time Lilian's idea for Mumgry first began to take shape.
[00:09:01] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: When I was pregnant, I became a little bit more obsessed with nut butters and nutrition and just understanding what's good for our bodies.
And I decided to go across the street to find snacks every day, cause I would be very, very hungry. And one day I went and I was just super frustrated, kind of fed up with the options, because it just felt like every single time I had to make a phone call to my gynecologist and see if I was going to damage my insides.
And so I came home from work one day and my partner asked me, you know, "What would you like to eat?" And he was just so innocent and being so kind. And I snapped on him and I said, "I don't know what I want to eat. All I know is that I'm Mumgry!"
He laughed at me and said, you know "What is ‘mum-gry'? What is this word? You should trademark it."
And after that, I just, I kind of heard his advice and kept it in the back of my mind. Thinking it was just a joke. And so once we had our child, it was the greatest time. For sure.
[00:10:11] Alexandra Samuel: Lilian was having one of those blissful moments. She became a new mother to a beautiful boy named Apollo. She had a great job at a really interesting company she loved. Then she had this new found passion for making delicious, simple peanut butter.
I wish I could end the story there. But the theme of this episode is Collect Scars and Lilian was about to collect a doozy. It began with a phone call from her boss.
[00:10:44] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: She called me to tell me...
[00:10:48] Alexandra Samuel: Her company was shutting down. She'd lost her job.
[00:10:51] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: She shared the news with me and I got off the phone. And I think the really hard part was just being able to break the news to my partner because, again, we were at this like peak of happiness and the last thing you want to do is pop that balloon.
[00:11:15] It was really, it was really depressing, actually. I just remember feeling like this is horrible. I'm going to be jobless while raising my son. Just that feeling of you must protect, or you must have job security, you must be able to pay your mortgage and pay your, all your bills and all this stuff.
It just, it was mounting in my head. And so the pressure was so, so high and it was a really dark time. Like my age was also going to be a factor and that pressure that I knew applied when going for job interviews as a new mom, right? Because they always want to know, are you going to be as available? You're going to be picking up your kids?
[00:12:02] I've been in that- I've been in HR to see those conversations happen in real life. And, it wasn't a great feeling.
[00:12:14] Alexandra Samuel: Fear. Rejection. Uncertainty.
These are feelings that seep into our most vulnerable parts. They're feelings that can pull us under. Consume us. They're feelings that can scar us for good. This scar would change Lilian's life.
But it wouldn't be long until she realized maybe this change was for the better.
You're listening to Waste No Potential, a new podcast about incredible stories of spotting untapped potential.
The show is brought to you by the good folks at Traction on Demand. And I'm your host, Alexandra Samuel. If you're enjoying the podcast, don't forget to follow us wherever you're listening from. You can also find us at tractionondemand.com.
Lilian was in a difficult place after losing her job, but it would lead her to make one vital realization about herself.
[00:13:14] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: For me personally, it gave me a bit of a fight or flight moment where I kind of had to decide, “Okay, you've got this, you know, fun project that you're working on on the side,” which was just the beginnings of Mumgry, “Do you give it your full undivided attention or do you go back to you know, websites and apply for other jobs?”
And I did both. I went to the other websites. I applied for jobs. I went for job interviews. So when I got one phone call back from someone who I actually knew saying, "Sorry, we can't give you the role." I just, I just kind of said, “Alright, well, that's gotta be a sign.”
But one thing I did kind of tell myself that I think kicked off my decision to go forward with Mumgry, was I made the decision that I wasn't going to raise a child where I told him he can do whatever he wants in life without knowing that I did whatever I wanted in life. So that was a really big moment where I just decided, “Okay. If I'm going to preach to him that he can do the impossible and do what he wants and that he has our full support. I need to be the example of that.”
And so it kind of motivated me to, to give it a try and see what happens with Mumgry.
[00:14:39] Alexandra Samuel: She's tapping into her potential, her potential to pick herself back up again. And that's exactly where I want to go next. At the start of this episode, you heard Traction on Demand’s Emily Beach, who's also a former competitive snowboarder. She'd lost what could have been a professional career in snowboarding after she injured her knee.
But the lesson she learned wasn't that she needed to slow down. In fact, her life began to speed up.
I want to just ask you about the motor bike racing in particular. That is a wild activity. Can you tell me how you got into it and like, tell me about your first competition?
[00:15:19] Emily Beach: My friends and I were into just motorbikes in general. And there was this competition in Oregon that we drove down to watch. But it was run by this group of people who do flat track.
So flat track is when you basically are riding in a big oval. And it was run by a flat track organization who were trying to get new people into the sport. And so they do this by saying, "Hey, bring any kind of bike you want and you can race it on the track."
I did have my kind of fancy looking Harley with me. And they really convinced me. They were like, "You should, you should race that bike. You should put it on the track and race it."
And I was like, "This is my baby!”
And they said, "No, put it on the track. You'll be fine."
And so I did. I entered this silly kind of competition. And I was like, I'm just going to go really slow because, you know, I don't want to crash my bike. There's no way I'm going to crash this thing. And it's dirt so it's going to be kind of slippery and, you know, they drop the flag and I take off with all the other people in the race.
And, you know, we go around and every lap I started getting faster and faster. And towards the end of the race I was like, “I could win this thing!”
And we were coming around to the finish line. I was like, “I'm just going to do it. I'm going to go!” And so kind of laid down on the throttle as we were coming up to the finish line and I ended up passing somebody at the last minute and winning.
And it was just this..I haven't had that kind of an adrenaline rush in so long since I was, you know, a competitive snowboarder. I was just like, "Wow, this is so fun!” So the next week I went and bought a flat track racing bike.
[00:17:04] Alexandra Samuel: Emily felt alive when she was racing. She entered competitions, won a few, loved pushing herself to the limit. Until the race when she collected her next scar.
[00:17:16] Emily Beach: I kind of was pushing myself a bit harder than I normally would to kind of turn faster in a corner and ended up angling my body slightly the wrong way. And my bike came out from under me, just did a couple somersaults. I just kind of tumbled a couple of times.
And I got up, rode my bike back out into the pits and took my helmet off and I saw stars and I was like,"Oh shit, this is a concussion.”
You know, when I'm approaching life, I was just living on the edge and trying to understand where my limits are and push those limits. And I think that's how you get better at things. But I also think it's how you end up with some scars. So you gotta be willing to have your mind in a place where you're willing to be humble and learn from your mistakes and do some things that make you uncomfortable. Sometimes things are really going to click and sometimes they're not.
[00:18:06] Alexandra Samuel: There is this like, you know, the theme of the overall podcast is Waste No Potential. And you have just made me realize that there is this line or relationship between collecting scars and realizing potential. Which is if your goal is to realize your full potential, well, what defines your full potential except the outer edge at which point you are in risk of falling off?
[00:18:33] Emily Beach: Yeah. And it's so important to try new things if you're going to figure out where that limit is. It applies in the work scenario. You know, in order to innovate properly, you need to understand like, where are the limits right now? And you need to try new things. You need to be willing to make mistakes because sometimes when you try new things something amazing is going to happen.
[00:19:01] Alexandra Samuel: I know that this is something that folks talk about at Traction because you have this saying “Collect Scars”. What does it mean in the context of the Traction culture?
[00:19:13] Emily Beach: So you're in a team where the environment is, “Hey, it's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to try new things. It's great, let’s innovate.” Having a team around you who can support you in fixing those mistakes.
And then having a good structure of mentors available, people available who really know you and can kind of coach you through learning from those mistakes. And then sharing those with everybody. It’s amazing to work for an organization that has so many brilliant people who are all innovating and we're all sharing and learning from each other.
[00:19:47] Alexandra Samuel: From Emily we see that going beyond our limits is linked with those moments of collecting scars. When we make a mistake or we hit a really hard point in our lives, we get a clue about which paths are open to us. Well, as for Emily's racing career, that was over. But she moved on. She picked up downhill biking, even rock climbing. She'd found what she loved about sports and athletics.
It takes determination to move beyond what feels like a loss to realize that this moment of pain, of disappointment, well, it doesn't have to break you. When Lilian lost her job, she could have let it defeat her. But instead she drew on this deep vein of determination and found a way to transform her scar.
The idea for Mumgry was already sitting in her head. She just had to go for it. So one fall, she and a couple of friends made their own special peanut butter, put it in jars, and set out to begin building Mumgry.
[00:20:52] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: So the first market that we ever did was 'Fall for Local' in North Van. And I set up our little booth, a little tiny desk, and we were doing taste testings, giving people as much Mumgry as we possibly could.
And I knew that we were onto something. They were purchasing it and they were grabbing their friends on the other side of the market and pulling them over and saying, "You've got to try this." But the part where I would say we really gained our confidence in the company, at least for me, was when I reached out to Larry's Market in North Van.
Cause we were right near there for the 'Fall for Local' market. And I asked the owner if he would be interested in stocking us and he said, "Come by tomorrow," just like that. And I was like, okay, let's see how this goes.
So I walked in, I had my Mumgry with me. I gave him a taste test and he said, “Bring a case in tomorrow.”
I don't even think we were making cases back that we were just making like a little bit at a time. And then he said, “Bring in another case.”And the cases increased. So everyone flooded to Larry's, it was the only place you can get it for awhile. And then it just kind of grew from there.
[00:22:20] Alexandra Samuel: That was the trajectory of their business at that point.
And then one day...
[00:22:25] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: So it was the weekend of Juneteenth in 2020, the world had shut down. So, we took it upon ourselves to deliver door to door versus just doing our retail spaces. Which weren't that many, we were only in like five or four places by that time. So we were doing door to door deliveries and it was end of day deliveries and I was hanging out with my friends.
And my phone just started to vibrate and at a frequency that is not something I'm used to. And I just saw the kind of preview from Instagram and the preview said you're on Beyoncé's website.
It was, it was very, it was just more surreal to digest. You didn't know. 'cause you've been like we've been covered in so much sadness up until this point and so much sadness that hadn't been processed.
So to feel that level of joy simultaneously didn't really make sense in my brain. And it took me a long time to kind of just sit in it and go, “Whoa, that just happened.” The sadness hasn't stopped, but the joy was definitely there. But it was just, it was overwhelming.
[00:23:49] Alexandra Samuel: I would love to hear, when you think about the ingredients, I know that technically the only ingredient is peanuts, but your ingredients, you know, your experience growing up bouncing around as you say, through all the different parts of indeed, losing your job. How did all of those challenges prepare you for what it's been like to start a business as a young mom in the middle of a pandemic for Pete's sake?
[00:24:21] Lilian Umurungi-Jung: I think it just gave me a much greater belief in the impossible. And I know that's kind of sounds very like fluffy but... there's, I've put myself in a lot of positions where I was definitely rolling the dice and just try my best. And when things have turned out my way, it's been kind of short celebrations throughout my life. But I feel like each of the roles that I've done has taught me a lot about people and a lot about my own perseverance and what I can put myself up against.
I live in a family where no sibling is alike. We are all so different. And so I've learned so much from them and I've learned so much from my coworkers along the way, which are the unsung heroes. Because you learn so much from your teammates and the people that you work with. And it's taught me how to be a much better entrepreneur and it's taught me a lot about how much it matters to me to find communities to support and find individuals to give that same energy to where it's possible. You can do it. Take the steps don't give up. Don't give up. Don't give up. If you really want it just don't give up. Just keep going.
[00:26:01] Alexandra Samuel: Whether your scars are physical reminders of an accident or of a surgery. Or they're emotional hangovers from the most painful moments in your life. Well, they don't have to be recriminations. We can look on our own scars with tenderness and appreciation, cherish the lessons they've taught us, value the strength they've honed.
We can use our scars as signposts on the path forward. The path to realizing our full potential.
Today, my guests were Lilian Umurungi-Jung, CEO and founder of Mumgry, as well as Emily Beach, Program Architect at Traction on Demand. I've been so pleased to speak with both of them. I'm Alexandra Samuel, and this is Waste No Potential, brought to you by Traction on Demand with production support from JAR Audio. Follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your shows.
Until then, thank you for listening.