Partake Foods' Founder Denise Woodard on Breaking Out of Corporate America

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.

Partake Foods' Founder Denise Woodard on Breaking Out of Corporate America
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.

Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
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In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

LA Venture Funds


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