Everybody falls in love with yoghurt. But certainly not the way, Koel Thomae dod that prompted her to invest her money for an MBA into Noosa, a Yoghurt startup.

She grew up in Australia and was back home in Queensland to introduce her now-husband to her family. They had been surfing, and on the way to her mum’s beach apartment, Ishe bought some local yoghurt. It was one of those stop-you-in-your-tracks moments. It was not like the yoghurt she had grown up with and certainly not like yoghurts she ‘d had in the U.S. The texture was so velvety and creamy. It was infused with honey.
“Two years later, I was heading to Australia again. My boss at Izze, a beverage company, encouraged me to call the family that made the yoghurt because I was driving everyone crazy talking about it. I met the family at my mum’s, with everyone crowding into the kitchen. Then we walked across the street to the local surf club. After a three-hour lunch, I walked out with a handshake agreement that they would license the recipe to me,” she says.
She and her co-founders bootstrapped it from a Colorado favourite into a national brand. In 2010, the pair started making Noosa in small batches ­– the first four flavours were honey, blueberry, raspberry and mango – and landed Whole Foods as their first customer.
Noosa’s astounding early success caught Thomae and her partners completely off-guard.
“We thought we were being very bullish when we built our first yoghurt-making plant, and after only the first year, we were in catch-up mode to keep up with our growth,” she says. “In some ways, I think this may have helped us remain focused on doing what we do best. I think that is a great piece of advice for people getting started: Stay focused on your core product and build out a strong national presence before you start thinking about line extensions.”
In 2014, private equity firm Advent International acquired Noosa but left its leadership team intact. The move has been critical to Noosa’s growth, Thomae says, allowing the company to finish a $20 million expansion to its Bellvue facility.
With Noosa now sold in 25,000 stores, Thomae is constantly on the hunt for the latest food trend or flavour inspiration.
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