Unconventional ballerina pirouetted her product into every Whole Foods in North America
Say her name; know her story. We ask phenomenal women to narrate the story of their lives in five chapters. They name each chapter and explain why each chapter is named the way it is, allowing them to share their story in their own words, and showcase their milestones, hardships, and decisions along the way.
“I didn’t think I was going to be an entrepreneur at a young age. I wasn’t hustling lemonade at a stand” says Julia Kirouac, the bright, funny and honest dancer-turned-CEO.
When Julia was young, she dreamed of being a ballerina; never feeling more beautiful than when she was dancing. Although elegant and beautiful, Julia was a bit of a black swan (minus the Rated R scenes of course) among her fellow ballerinas and ballerinos. She was taller than the other dancers, including the boys, and considered by some to be bigger-boned *eye roll* than the others. So while she had an ever-graceful presence on stage, she was also a stubborn young girl with a bullish attitude, characteristics that allowed her to stick with ballet dancing even when she felt wildly out of place.
She had no idea that the ridicule and insecurities she faced as a ballerina would build up a resiliency within herself that would eventually inspire to start a multi-national company all on her own.
During her ballet days, she was immersed in a culture of creep harassment all the time. Julia remembers frequently witnessing Woody Allen-type instructors who would slap dancers on their butts just to let them know “that’s too fat” or telling girls that wearing yellow made them look fat and therefore “wasn’t their colour”. First of all, yellow looks good on literally every shape, size and skin tone. That’s a fact.
Secondly, fuck yourself.
That’s what Julia was thinking too. As a young girl herself, she saw the other 14 year olds around her who were already insecure, some even suffering from serious illnesses like anorexia and bulimia. That was not a path that the future Nud Fud Founder was willing to take. Instead, she decided to take control of her own health and nutrition and became vegan. Like any eating, breathing human, the taste of her meals was important to her. But eating healthy and nutritious food was absolutely imperative; dancing 12 hours a day on an empty stomach was not an option. For me, doing anything on an empty stomach is never an option, so I can only imagine how serious she was about this…
Slowly, she began familiarizing herself with the nutritious side of the culinary arts.
Julia credits her family who was always supportive of her career goals, never applying pressure on her to become a doctor, accountant, lawyer, or any of the other bleh jobs (no offense, Amal Clooney - you’re sick). She was exploring nutritious food making, but was not ready to give up on her ballet dreams. However, despite having the option to attend the Boston Conservatory School for Ballet, Julia realized that, like many of the post-secondary institutions our society tries to pressure us to attend, it would be a big fat waste of money. In fact, her exact words were “fuck that, I’m never gonna get that money back.'' So she decided to follow both dreams on her own.
Instead of going to university, she chased auditions between Boston, New York and wherever else her little pointe shoes would take her. Rejection after rejection, she kept working. Everyone knew ballet wasn’t a lucrative career, but she was motivated by something far more important to her than money; this was her dream. This mindset may be why us millennials will live off of our parents’ credit cards until the age of 45 but nevertheless, it’s v inspiring.
BTW, Julia was working on perfecting her nutrient-dense foods and attending her cross-country auditions in the late 2000’s, smack dab in the middle of the financial crisis. If it were an episode of Friends, it would be called The One Where The Greedy Bankers Forced Thousands Of Middle-Class Families To Lose Everything And Didn’t Face Any Consequences For It.
There was hardly any money available for Wall Streeters to pay for their coke habits, so there sure as shit wasn’t much funding available for the culinary and fine arts.
As the years went by, this too-tall, too-large, bull-headed young woman watched her high-achieving friends become doctors and lawyers, and started to wonder if she had made a mistake. Julia wasn’t getting principal roles, and she was not prepared to just be the tall girl at the back of the ballet who got told what to do. Eventually, she started to come to terms with the fact that she would probably never be the Cinderella of the stage.
“We’re all kind of guilty for going along with things a little longer than we should, especially when we’re younger.”
She admits that she was simply a square peg trying to get herself into circular holes
She just didn’t fit, and she was okay with that.
Julia returned home a little discouraged, but ready for whatever would come next. Still following a vegan and gluten-free diet, she wanted to introduce the market to foods that were both healthy and yummy to eat. But in a world run by social media, Julia recognized that messages of nutrition often get confused because of people who are considered ‘experts’ or ‘influencers’ based on the number of followers they were able to purchase. BREAKING NEWS: tea that makes you shit yourself for four days straight is not good for your digestive system, internal organs, or your asshole for that matter. It won’t make you skinny, and it is certainly not worth the $39.99USD + shipping with promo code THISISPHOTOSHOP.
Thankfully, Julia was already clear on this. She was ready to cut through the bullshit and create some real impact.
“Especially in a country where we pay for healthcare, we are literally financing people’s bad lifestyle habits, yet there’s no real courses on nutrition,” she explains.
When she started Nud Fud, Julia stripped it back to basics and created real food. She began her business wide-eyed and green, reinvesting all revenue into purchasing more machines to boost output and attending trade shows in order to connect with consumers and get their feedback.
Because she was forced to be a pioneer in the industry and on store shelves, she also second guessed herself every step of the way. “If you’re not questioning what you’re doing, you’re not a great entrepreneur,” she says. After all, what does a ballerina know about consumer packaged goods?
Apparently way more than the rest of us, because this ballerina landed a spot on Dragon’s Den, can now be found in hundreds of grocery stores across North America, and is fighting daily to improve nutrition for people everywhere.
Find out more about Julia, Nud Fud and her success story in the videos.
Written by: Michelle Kwok & Hannah Geiser