Picking the brain of Not Your Average's CEO: the origins of superfood coffee
Kevad Belle is a total girl boss who founded the beloved Not Your Average company back in 2019 while still in high school. Fast forward 3 years, she has built a superfood coffee company that is loved all over the world. To really get to the bottom of how it all started, let's conduct a little interview with Kevad and pick her brain on why the superfood company came to life and what's the mission behind it.
Who is Kevad?
From the age of 14, I've been seeking to make the world a healthier place. That happened kind of as an accident when I stumbled upon some statistics about the decreasing health in Estonia and Europe. Something had to be done… I then founded several student firms, for example, a healthy organic school buffet for my middle school. I never planned to become an entrepreneur but it just kind of happened and I started to like the feeling of taking action. When I became 18 and could legally found a business and the idea of Not Your Average emerged. The rest is history, as they say.😃 Asides from being a full-time businesswoman, I am super into biohacking hence being my best self both mentally, emotionally and physically. I also love to read, learn new things, spend time in nature and backpack with my partner around the world! 🌍
Kevad backpacking in Guatemala, climbing the Acatenango Volcano
Kevad and her current favourite books
Where did the idea of Not Your Average come from?
The idea for Not Your Average started in my dad's basement as a result of an 8h brainstorming session. Since I had led several healthy student companies, it was obvious that the field would be “health and wellness”. And how a healthy lifestyle should be easy and fun for everyone, even on their busiest days? I mean, who wouldn't want to start their day with a coffee that not only tastes amazing but also gives them a boost of superfood goodness, with none of the side effects? Basically, I just really love good specialty coffee and wanted to turn it into a tool for integrating a healthy lifestyle. One habit at a time!
Notes from the day NYA was born.
Why coffee? Why superfoods?
Coffee is a pretty obvious choice when you think about how many people around the world drink coffee daily! As for the superfoods, not only do they pack a serious health punch, but they can also give our coffee unique and delicious flavour notes (like the rich body from raw cacao, or a sweet hint from beetroot) that sets it apart from many other functional coffees that often use mushrooms. Plus, superfood coffee is just a fun and tasty way to incorporate more healthy habits into our daily routines.
Kevad and former co-founder Anna with NYA coffees in 2021
How do you approach product development and innovation at Not Your Average?
As the founder, my personal passion for biohacking definitely influences the direction we take with our products. Researching different health-optimisation techniques and discovering new studies is a big part of my daily routine anyway, so Not Your Average is a perfect way to share this knowledge with a wider audience. Engineering products is super fun for me!
But let's be real, taste is just as important as health benefits. For that, we go through several rounds of taste tests to perfect our recipes and choose the right beans.
Cupping or coffee tasting in action to identify the most suitable beans.
We also make sure to send our coffees to lab-test for any pesky toxins like Ochratoxin A, because nobody wants a coffee that's going to give them the toxic jitters, right... Overall, our approach to product development and innovation is all about finding the perfect balance between deliciousness and healthfulness, and making healthy living a no-brainer for our customers, and ourselves!
How do you stay motivated and inspired in your work?
To be honest, my passion for personal growth and health is what really keeps me motivated and inspired in my work. I truly believe in the mission of NYA and the power of our products to make a positive impact on people's lives. Seeing our benefiting from these little habit tweaks is the best feeling ever! For example, I remember one customer Ingrid, who hadn't been able to drink coffee for 10 years because it gave her anxiety and arrhythmia. After having tried out our coffee this summer, she could finally drink coffee without any issues! This truly brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of the value of what we do.
And of course, the support and encouragement of my precious team and loved ones is a huge part of what keeps me going on a daily basis and makes me optimistic even when facing tough challenges (oh, there are many when we talk about trying to break out of the small-business-loop). To have found people on the same mission around me is truly a blessing.
Oh, and last but not least, the super amazing and fun projects and collaborations we do! There are so many interesting people and companies that we have had the honour to create something with - they also bring some spark into my days. ☀️
NYA team at StartupDay with our own custom design uniforms 😎
You mentioned the team several times - tell us more about them and what roles they play in bringing your vision to life?
The team behind Not Your Average is small but mighty! As the founder, I'm responsible for steering the ship and keeping us on course. And well, since we are a small company still, I will have to learn lots of skills all the time to fill necessary roles, and…excel sheets! But I couldn't do it without the help of our amazing woman-power team.
Kaisa, our social media wizard always knows just what to say and post to make our customers smile. During her exactly one year with Not Your Average, she has grown so much as an individual and a marketer, which, in a good way, puts pressure on me to be a worthy leader of these talented souls. Emilie, our Marketing advisor (and superwoman who full-time runs a multi-million team at Bolt), brings a ton of experience and expertise to the table and helps us come up with creative ways to get the word out about Not Your Average.
From time to time we call Carmel, our event assistant, who just radiates goodness and helps by connecting with our customers in person at events. Every member of our team brings something special to the table and I am so grateful to have them by my side as we work to bring our vision for NYA to life! A good tip I've learned is also to talk with as many people outside NYA as well who have walked a similar path. People are more helpful than we think. 😉
NYA team (from left): Kevad, Carmel, Kaisa, Emilie
How will Not Your Average make an impact in the world?
We like to think that our coffee is so good, it's practically a superpower in a cup. But what this superpower is, depends on you! We want everyone drinking NYA coffee to have the energy to fulfil their potential and dreams. Our job is to empower, not sabotage you, unlike many mouldy commercial coffee brands that make you jittery 🥲. So Not Your Average is not about the products or coffee, it's about people who drink it, and how they impact the world. I really believe in our customers, and am happy to have a chance to bring them together at different events (like our debut event “Better You” this August) or even through social media.
A picture from NYA event Better You in August 2022.
What message do you hope to convey to your customers and the larger community through your products and your company's values?Yes, we at NYA make coffee. But we make them living by our 4 values. Bringing these values to our customers is really what it's all about.
☕️ Taste and functionality
One is nothing without the other. As I mentioned before, we try to get functionality to the mainstream by making it tasty and subconscious (think: habits).
Choco Loco with added raw cacao and L-theanine.
☕️ Empowerment, drive, passion
Everything we do, we do with passion. Life is too short to do something we don't like. This gives us the ability to be willing to lead and communicate what we think. I believe each member of NYA is a leader (of themselves, and therefore the brand), and this has been the key to growth for us.
Kickstarter with beetroot powder and ashwagandha
☕️ Rituals & Habits
In my life, big changes have always seemed a bit too distant to be motivating. That's what pushed me to first read a book called Slight Edge first in 2015, where it explained how improving 1% every day is really the most effective and fastest (!) way to bring about change! It's called compound interest, check it up! And that sums up the power of habits.
Limitless with collagen and MCT powder.
☕️ Health and Nature
Obviously, everyone in our team has to believe in NYA's products, and that means they inherently have to be healthy. This means having a conscious and curious approach to nutrition, sports, mental health and all other mundane aspects that really matter. Health doesn't have to be complicated!
Where do you see Not Your Average in 10 years?
In 10 years, I see Not Your Average as the go-to health brand, kind of like the Nike of the health world. But one that is actually sustainable and ethical.🙃 We have inspired millions all around the world to prioritize health and wellness in their daily lives. We will have built a strong and engaged community who are part of our mission and support each other. NYA's habit hacking products are just a symbol and tool for the connected healthy lifestyle our people portray. Our team is just as happy and growing. ⚛️
A shelf full of NYA coffees in Portugal.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to anyone trying to make their lives healthier?
Start small, but be consistent. Start by eliminating everything that is not good for you (refined oils, gluten, excess sugars, toxic people, bad sleeping habits, environmental toxins - including cheap commercial coffee) and switch them to better alternatives. These “small” changes really do the magic! ✨