The Owner of Anita’s Yogurt Tells Us How Pregnancy Is Like Running a Small Business

“I did 12 hours of early labor at work training everyone,” the entrepreneur tells us.

Anita Shepherd with daughter Ramona, who was born at the same time as the yogurt factory.

Anita’s Yogurt keeps on growing. The rich, addictive coconut-based yogurt has been in production since 2013, and demand for the vegan, full-fat product has only expanded since. “I recently had to make the decision to either move into a bigger facility or buy bigger equipment,” owner Anita Shepherd says, who decided to go with the latter because of the crazy nature of Brooklyn real estate. “We’re maxed out wall to wall, but I thought, What can I do to make this space run more efficiently so we can make three times as much yogurt in the same amount of space?

They’re making the most yogurt they can make right now—856 gallons a week—and need to up the production, because the demand is there, “we just need to be able to make more yogurt.” There are challenges, of course; many customers don’t realize that because the yogurt isn’t stabilized or homogenized, each batch they pick up could have minor differences in consistency. “I’m working with live cultures and I’m making a product that’s alive, and that throws a wild card in there,” she explains. “I can pasteurize my milk, but once I inoculate, this environment becomes completely sterile and the only thing growing in there is the culture.” Most, though, love it for being the one vegan yogurt that can compare to full-fat dairy varieties in terms of thickness.

A cup of the delicious yogurt. Photo by Christina Nuzzo.

Through all of this growth, Shepherd’s also expanded her family: She was pregnant with her daughter Ramona while moving into her own facility in 2015, which was planned for the start of her third trimester. Delays happened, of course, making it so she was training staff while she was already having the baby. “I did 12 hours of early labor at work training everyone,” she says. “At 6 p.m., my husband and came and said, ‘You’ve gotta get out of here.’ The next morning, Ramona was born.”

She was able to expand the business, she believes, because of her pregnancy, not in spite of it. “Being pregnant pushed me in ways that I’ve never been pushed before, and that spilled over into my work—it teaches you to be resilient, to be strong against all odds, to be able to react to anything that comes your way. There are thousands of things that can happen to you during pregnancy, and if they sat you down and told you every possible side effect, you’d be sitting in a room for a year,” she says. “You deal with things as they come your way, and in business, it’s the same way.”

And she still hasn’t slowed down: Shepherd was recently named a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, which will provide her with learning opportunities and the possibility of a $100,000 grant. If you haven’t given the yogurt a try yet, it’s available at Whole Foods and a huge list of Brooklyn retailers.

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Alicia is the associate editor of Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn.