Behind Her Empire: How Her Daughter’s Allergic Reaction Led Denise Woodard To Create Her Own Snack Company

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

Behind Her Empire: How Her Daughter’s Allergic Reaction Led Denise Woodard To Create Her Own Snack Company
Denise Woodward

In 2016, Denise Woodard was on a conference call when her daughter had an allergic reaction to a snack containing peanuts and corn. This terrifying incident pushed Woodard to make a drastic life change and thus, her allergy-friendly snack company, Partake Foods, was born.

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Woodard discusses the lessons she learned in her corporate roles and the arduous journey of building her company from the ground up.

Woodard grew up in a multicultural household and is the daughter of a Korean mother and Black father who helped set the tone for her career.

“For my mother, success looks like you were a doctor, a lawyer, a business person, maybe,” Woodard says. “Their expectation in sending me off to college was that I would go to corporate America and that I would work my way up the corporate ladder.”

And for 10 years, that’s exactly what she did. Woodard held sales roles at Coca Cola, FedEx and Philip Morris, but her experience was devoid of opportunities to learn about other parts of the business — which made it difficult when starting out on her own.

"If I were to go back and do it, again, I probably would have taken stretch assignments or different lateral roles," she explained. "I would have explored that more because I think it would have made me a more well rounded business person."

Starting her own business required a huge learning curve. Her goal was to provide her daughter and others like her with allergy friendly snacks that were both tasty and nutritious.

"Is this worth leaving a career that I love?" Woodard asked herself at the time. "But I really believed that there was space for it, because I'd seen firsthand that I wasn't getting a solution for the issue that we had."

Once she had a product, she needed a way to push that product in front of a larger audience. She worked with a blogger who was well known in the gluten free space, and while the recipe was delicious, it was not scalable for the company.

“Don’t always associate a big following or fame with somebody being the right fit for you,” she said. "I should have gone for someone who worked at at a food company who had experience in commercializing and scaling up a food product. But instead I found this influencer, and in theory, it seemed fantastic, but I didn't have enough experience to understand that it wouldn't be the same thing."

Eventually, after cold calling several co packers, she found one that was the right fit, but was ultimately turned down. But Woodard was determined and ended up running a Kickstarter campaign that “finished in the top 1% of food Kickstarters at the time.”

This achievement got the co packers' attention and they ultimately agreed to work with Woodard to grow Partake.

But Woodard still faced many challenges in the fundraising sphere. After encountering thousands of “no’s” while trying to raise her seed round of funding, a good friend of hers introduced her to a partner at Marcy Venture Partners, a joint venture fund co-founded by Jay-Z.

"They were big believers, thankfully, in me, and really enjoyed the product" she said. "What seemed like a dream actually turned into reality."

One thing led to the next and Marcy Ventures led Partake’s seed round which caught the attention of other investors who initially rejected Woodard’s request.

Two of Woodard's biggest takeaways from her entrepreneurial journey is to never underestimate the power of cold-calling, and that it's ok to start small.

"I think that particularly in an inventory based business, working capital and the requirements around working capital promotion, sales and marketing is very expensive," she said. "And I think when you bite off more than you can chew—no matter how great the founder is, no matter how great the product is—it's really hard to manage through that. And it's it's okay to start small."

dot.LA Reporter Decerry Donato contributed to this post.

This podcast is produced by Behind Her Empire. The views and opinions expressed in the show are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of dot.LA or its newsroom.

Hear more of the Behind Her Empire podcast. Subscribe on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radioor wherever you get your podcasts.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.


March Capital Raises $650 Million Fund to Invest in AI Startups

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

March Capital Raises $650 Million Fund to Invest in AI Startups
March Capital founder Jamie Montgomery. Illustration by Dilara Mundy.

Santa Monica-based venture outfit March Capital announced Feb. 3 that it raised its largest fund to date, a $650 million investment vehicle that will be used to back up to 15 startups focused on delivering new uses of artificial intelligence.

Read moreShow less

The Three Best Ways to Work With Your Startup Board

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

The Three Best Ways to Work With Your Startup Board

When launching and running a startup, your board of directors is one of your most valuable assets. If you already understand why you need a board and how to structure your board, it may be tempting to think you can cross that item off the list. But building a board is just the beginning. Now you’ve got to get down to business—together.

Read moreShow less

This Week in ‘Raises’: Saviynt Lands $205M, Pagos Secures $34M

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

This Week in ‘Raises’: Saviynt Lands $205M, Pagos Secures $34M
This Week in ‘Raises’:

While it was a slow week of funding in Los Angeles, security vendor Saviynt managed to score $205 million that will be used to meet the company’s growing demand for its converged identity platform and accelerate innovation.

Read moreShow less