Courtney Boyd Myers, a.k.a. "CBM" is the founder of AKUA, a modern brand on a mission to become a household name for sustainable, seagreens-based foods, and an adviser to GreenWave, a nonprofit that supports the regenerative ocean farming industry.
In 2017, CBM raised over $20k for GreenWave in a charity bike race to support ocean farmers and won the Judges Choice Award at Foodbytes by Rabobank in Austin for her presentation of AKUA's business. In 2018, Forbes wrote about "How Courtney Boyd Myers Is Building The Next Superfood Craze With Kelp" and Fast Company included her on their Most Creative People in Business List "for harvesting a sustainable new snack."
Her love of food doesn't stop at the sea, as she is also an investor and partner in Unframed Ice Cream, a Cape Town based ice cream brand that serves up vegan, dairy, and sorbet offerings, and is expanding internationally this year. Unframed has been consistently rated Cape Town and South Africa's best ice cream.
When she's not hustling sea vegetables and vegan ice cream, CBM is a Global Community Ambassador to Summit, a community and events company that brings together innovators and creatives for beautiful, immersive, and life-changing events. In 2017, she helped create Summit LA 17, which hosted luminaries like Jeff Bezos, Malcolm Gladwell, Brene Brown, and Jessica Alba. And in 2018, she helped put together Summit's Culinary Weekend on Powder Mountain with farm-to-table chef Alice Waters and the legendary Sam Kass, the former White House Chef to the Obama's and our country's first Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition.
CBM continues to consult in online marketing as the founder of audience.io, and has worked with clients ranging from food startups like Four Sigmatic to technology platforms like Transferwise and TaskRabbit.
Previously, she was the Features Editor and East Coast Editor of The Next Web, covering New York City start-ups and digital innovation. She was a member of 10 Downing and Tech City’s Advisory Board and a mentor at Seedcamp, Ignite100, and BBCWorldWideLabs. CBM has been named one of Business Insider's "30 Most Important Women Under 30 In Tech and one of Business Insiders’s "100 Most Influential Tech Women on Twitter." She cut her teeth in journalism at Forbes Magazine and Forbes.com.
CBM has lived and worked between dozens of international cities including New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Panama City, Buenos Aires, Tulum, London, Berlin, Cape Town, Dubai, and Lisbon. She is the creator of two groups on Facebook that have seen immense popularity — Sloane's List, a 10,000 personal job group, and YesNomads, a curated community of homesharing amongst nomadic individuals.
Sophie: You have such a fascinating story! Can you walk us through how you came to found companies ranging from a digital marketing consultancy to a superfood kelp jerky company?
CBM: My dad is my career inspiration! He also ran a marketing consultancy for many years and worked with some of the biggest names in the food industry from Pepsi to Kellogg’s and even Burger King.
He’s a creative genius and gave me my love of storytelling.
But we grew up in different eras and with very different understandings of health, wellness, and nutrition. I’ve witnessed the detrimental effects of the products he worked on and like many in our generation, have taken a stand to fight for what I believe in — which is that we should make food that’s healthy for our bodies and for our planet too.
I am still working every day with my father to wean him off soda, cereal, and meat but food is an incredibly sensitive journey for everyone, wrapped up in personal narratives and family history. I’m learning to withhold my judgements and instead trying to focus on education and leading by example.
Sophie: How did you get involved with Summit? How is the conference’s work meaningful to you?
CBM: I remember the day when one of Summit’s Community Directors called me to let me know I’d been invited to be a part of their community. I was over the moon. I literally skipped down Elizabeth Street in Soho as I hung up the phone. I was a journalist at the time, and Summit invited me out to cover their Basecamp event in Lake Tahoe in 2012. I drank all of the Kool-Aid.
Just two years after that, Summit asked me if I wanted to join their Community team and move to Utah to work on Summit Powder Mountain. I received that call from Summit’s CEO and at the time, I was walking into a hotel room to end a four-year relationship with my boyfriend in London. When one door closes another door opens. And as Rumi says, 'Respond to every call that excites your spirit.'
Sophie: You have your hands in so many pots — from a kite surfing company to South Africa’s hottest ice cream company, and then Summit. How do you balance it all?
CBM: My primary role is as the CEO of AKUA, and launching our first product Kelp Jerky in 2019. AKUA takes up the majority of my bandwidth but I have a strong business partner and together, we are building the Kelp Empire!
When I am not hustling sea veggies, I am helping to connect and build our community of food & beverage founders at Summit. I’m now going on my fifth year of working with Summit, and it’s been so wonderful to be able to carve out this niche as it allows me to really focus on what matters most (the future of food!).
And lastly, ice cream is all about love. I am a proud investor and partner in Unframed Ice Cream, which is the brainchild of my fiance, Yann Rey. I support him every day and together we are expanding Unframed Ice Cream from South Africa to Europe in 2019. He’s a brilliant business mind and we learn so much by working together that I can then apply to my work at AKUA and Summit.
Together, Yann and I, along with our partner, Dan Lynch, launched KITESTOKED in 2017, which is our kiting community and events organization that hosts one to two kite trips per year to exciting destinations. Kiting is my favorite thing to do in the world. When I am kiting, it is one of the only times in my life when I am not thinking about work. For me, it is meditation as it forces me to be in the moment unlike anything else.
So how do I balance it all? I am not sure that I am balancing it all! It’s about working every day and always being available (unless I am sleeping). I couldn’t imagine having a 9-5 job where after I leave my desk, I stop thinking about work. There are nights when I jump in the air with excitement but there are many mornings when I wake up crying. The entrepreneur life is difficult.
It’s crucial to have projects that complement each other and strong partners who are hyper communicative. I’ve learned that I cannot work with people who are not good communicators. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people out there are talented at what they do but can’t respond to emails, text messages, Slack messages, or even show up to calendared calls on time! They should all move to an island somewhere and stop clogging up the Internet!
Sophie: What are your favorite strategies for managing burnout?
CBM: Every year, right after our major Summit event (so mid-November, just before my birthday), I always burn out. I love leaving it all out on the playing field after a momentous event like Summit LA. This year, like in the 3 years prior, my adrenal system collapsed after the event, and I found myself sleeping 10 hours a night and still waking up exhausted. To cure burnout, I spend time with my mom or on the ocean, both of which have incredible powers to restore one’s soul and health!
While I am an extrovert in the way that I give my energy, I am introvert and require alone time to recharge. So to avoid burning out more than once per year, this means taking time for me every day, which right now includes a non-negotiable daily workout (mostly yoga or kiting at the moment!), as well as time in the morning to ease into the day. I schedule 8:30 - 9:30 am each morning in my calendar to wake-up, make and drink coffee (blended with nut milk, chaga mushrooms, and nut butter!) and write and read each morning (emails count!) before the day begins.
I also avoid staying in places like New York City for too long and love working from different time zones. Asynchronous communication comes with its challenges, but, e.g. right now I am in Cape Town and have long mornings to do all my writing (like this interview) and more contemplative and creative tasks without the constant ping-pong of email that starts kicking off at 9am EST.
Sophie: With so many varied interests, what has been your guiding light in choosing projects you take on?
CBM: Does this excite me? Will I learn from this? Will I be able to contribute in a meaningful way? Will my work on this project make the world a better place?
Sophie: What has enabled you to build a life where you could follow your passions and support yourself?
CBM: The internet! I love traveling, so without the Internet I couldn’t work like I do from different places. The first job I loved was as an Editor for The Next Web where I wrote about startups and internet tools and learned how to work effectively and remotely.
The internet has birthed incredible productivity tools like Slack, Superhuman, Google Drive, and Franz that I use daily. I’ve even started a Facebook group called YesNomads for home-sharing so I’ve been living within that community for three years now and haven’t needed an expensive leased apartment in the USA.
Sophie: You’ve accomplished so much: founding several companies, working as an editor at The Next Web, and being named to Fast Company’s “Most Creative People in Business” list plus Business Insiders’ "30 Most Important Women Under 30 In Tech” and "100 Most Influential Tech Women on Twitter.” What has been key to your success?
CBM: My ability to tell my story. And my determination to live a life that is story-worthy.
Sophie: Do you have any advice for aspiring female founders?
CBM: Boys are constantly talking about business, money, and finance with each other. While girls tend to talk more about heath, love, and spirituality. Let’s rely on each other more and be more open with each other about numbers, cap tables, co-founders, fundraising, and more!
Sophie: You have a stellar social media following! How did you get to 15k followers on Insta and 12.6k on Twitter?
CBM: I was relatively early on each platform. I used to have more followers on Twitter and less followers on Instagram, which reflects the growth of each platform!
Sophie: Last, but not least, what does wellness mean to you and how do you take care of yourself? Do you have any self-care routines?
CBM: I’m 34, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve really had to take care of myself more! I’ve made health and fitness a priority and am in better shape now than I was in my 20s.
I indulge more now in massages and facials, and am always seeking out ways to manage stress like meditation.
Healthy eating for me is about a vegequarian diet — no meat, and lots of green veggies and seafood. I have dairy (never milk but I do enjoy hard cheeses!) and sugar (mostly dark chocolate and vegan ice cream) on occasion, and I eat pasta and bread too (but always make sure it’s #worthit!).
Fitness wise, I’ve stopped doing cardio as much as I used to and incorporate more HIIT (thank you Sweat with Kayla!), yoga (I like hardcore flow with deep house music!), and kiting (anytime there is onshore wind!!) into my life.
And sleep. I love sleep. 8 hours per night is perfect with at least 5 minutes of morning cuddles.
About the author:
Anne-Sophie Bousset ("Sophie" to English-speaking friends), is a freelance marketer and community builder. She helps companies build their brand, attract clients, and build a community around their product. Her favorite things include sunshine, yoga, reading, and lazy Sundays in with her cat, Phelps. She can be found on Twitter @Sophie_Bousset.