As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Reno R. Rolle Sr., Co-CEO, Founder & Chairman of the wellness brand, BoKU Superfood and his wife Lynn M. Rolle, Co-Founder and CEO.
When they realized their son was having difficulty focusing in school and wasn’t “behaving properly,” the superfood and organic lifestyle/personal care brand was born! While on the hunt for an alternative to prescription drugs, they began to experiment in their kitchen with superfood concoctions. In doing so they found the most potent foods and created products that not only fueled and nourished the body, but tasted delicious as well.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
“I was raised by the son of a janitor in a family of 5 children. I was Involved in sports and actually beat Olympian Carl Lewis in a foot race when I was 10 years old (more below). My parents divorced at 15 years old. I was an honor-roll student in high school that seldom studied. I had nothing and wanted everything.”
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
“Our son Reno Jr. inspired us to discover superfoods in a quest to avoid prescription drugs when he was diagnosed with ADHD back in 1995. I founded the Home Entertainment division for National Lampoon in 2003 and was making movies when I was contacted by an icon in the infomercial business who asked me to “Think of a deal I couldn’t possibly say no to” and take the CEO position in his global company based in Bradford England. After an incredibly tumultuous start, we co-created a NY Times #1 Best Selling Book. This book remained #1 for 21 weeks in 2005 and outsold every book, in every category, except Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince. The success of this book spawned the birth of Boku International, our family owned Superfood company.”
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day-to-day schedule looks like?
“I wake up early to a BoKU superfood breakfast and generally try to squeeze in some form of exercise/movement. I often walk or ride my bike to work at BoKU Superfood HQ, which is just 6 minutes away from our home. I spend my day primarily developing growth opportunities for our business and supporting my amazing wife and Boku CEO, Lynn.”
Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
“My father was largely absent during my entire childhood. He acknowledged this later in life with great disappointment and regret. He never attended a single track meet, football game, school or social event. I grew up resenting this a great deal and it put tremendous strain on both my relationship with him and my mother, who was left filling his role as disciplinarian. I developed anger and other emotional issues that I was later able to tie directly back to my father’s lack of presence. We are all shaped by our experiences and environments, especially during our formative years when we are most impressionable.”
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
“Children are an incredible blessing but at the same time an enormous responsibility. As parents, we owe it to them, our communities and humanity in general, to do our absolute best in guiding them to become the best version of themselves. This takes TIME. If we can’t make the time that they need and deserve, then we shouldn’t take the time to make them.”
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
“I’ve learned that one of the best things to do during time with children is to simply listen. It’s natural to want to talk a lot as we feel inclined or obligated to teach. However, one of the best kept secrets is that children also teach us. I always liked asking questions and then allowing the conversation to be guided by my listening. Another great way to optimize time spent with children is to empower their decision making. Rather than lecture on all the reasons something they wanted made no sense, I would ask them to weigh the pros and cons — then decide for themselves. It’s a completely different experience when they are part of the process. Finally, remembering that the best thing in the world to have is fun. Not just for children but for us big kids too. I always tried to create fun experiences and be a part of them with my kids. It would be very hard for them not to associate fun and happiness with their Dad.”
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.
“1. I was very fortunate to home office during some of my career. This should be a valuable, increasing trend post COVID and the benefits should not be discounted. Proximity is important and being under the same roof, while offering its own challenges, also brings enormous up-side. Beyond simply being close, I often recruited my kids to help with some of my work related projects. I would share detailed business related issues and treat them as if they understood, always inviting them to play-up and participate. I would read aloud my business correspondence, share letter drafts with them for comments and opinions, share ideas and project updates, etc. Getting the kids involved strategically offered numerous benefits. Not only did they understand why I needed quiet when the phone rang or for them to behave a certain way when I was working, it also instilled a sense of responsibility and participation. They played an active role in my work and OUR success. We would celebrate wins together. They related great vacations and travel to success and accomplishment at work. This, I believe, helped inspire work ethic and creativity. To this day, we bounce ideas off of each other constantly. My son Reno Jr. has become very successful developing his ideas and formulations at BōKU. My daughter Ryann does not hesitate to implement new ideas and strategies to enhance operational efficiencies.
2. Being fully present is a great strategy for raising children but also for ourselves. I believe many of us spend entirely too much time and energy worrying — about things that will likely never happen or are completely out of our control. If we remain present and focus only on the things we can change, we’ll spend less time watching the news and worrying about politics and other matters that are clearly out of our hands. This simple discipline will potentially free up hours that could instead be spent with our children.
3. I also believe many of us have a tendency to care way too much, about things that matter less. We get carried away and forget that sometimes it’s ok to say “no.” We get wound-up in projects that make no sense and only end up robbing time and resources. If we learn to better prioritize, we can wipe our schedule clean of these time robbers that only seem important, but in the grand scheme — amount to nothing. Especially when compared to the value we would derive from spending this time with our children. We need to care — but not that much.
4. Nutrition plays an enormous role in how we function. So much of what we eat and drink is poisoning our bodies and undermining our incredible ability to fight sickness and perform. Toxic food can fuel toxic thoughts and behavior. If we don’t eat well and fill ourselves with bad food, we’re not going to look or feel our best. If we’re sick and miserable, how will we provide for our children and others around us. Taking good care of ourselves is not selfish, it’s necessary.
5. Consume less processed, isolated caffeine and move your body. Good sleep is essential and will have you waking up earlier and rested. Getting up early means less rushing and more time.”
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
“A good parent in my opinion, is one who leads with constant gratitude for the gift that children are. Remembering at all times that they are like clay in a sculptors hands. We have the responsibility and privilege of shaping them into pretty much anything we desire. A good parent is also one humble enough to know that we must be open to constantly learning and changing. Just because our parents did it, or it worked for us, doesn’t make it the best approach for our children. They are individuals with their own unique gifts and stories. The goal of a good parent should not be to make clones of ourselves but to nurture and respect the individual potential of each child and provide the best possible environment for them to flourish.”
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
“My kids always knew that dreams are everything. If you can dream it, you can achieve it and there are no limitations! By dreaming out-loud and being inclusive, my kids have experienced my dreams as an entrepreneur and watched them become reality. I inspire them to dream by including them in mine and allowing them to live the magic of manifestation. 15 years ago, I dreamt of one day occupying the flagship property on 2 acres at the gateway to our town in Ojai, California. I shared this dream with my wife and kids. At the time, we could barely pay our mortgage and had no idea how we would ever possibly afford this property or what we would do with it, even if we could somehow get it. I didn’t know the answers to these or other questions but I kept on dreaming. In 2015 we experienced a growth spurt and needed a larger facility for BōKU. I immediately thought of the beautiful property I had been dreaming of for years. Through a miraculous series of serendipitous events, two years of arduous negotiating with Billionaires and a healthy dose of pure magic and good luck, I made one of the most incredible deals of my life and we experienced this as a family.”
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
“I find inspiration anywhere it’s hiding. As an optimist, I look for good constantly, observing others and seeking mentorship. Master Key to The Riches is one of my favorite books. It taught me that climbing the ladder of success requires both hands reaching out — one reaching upward for help from someone higher on the ladder and the second reaching down to help someone lower on the ladder, who aspires to be where you are. Mentors are incredibly important and most often want to help us as much as we want them to.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Nothing beats a failure but a try” — Uncle Sonny. My Father’s older brother said this constantly and it really inspired me to try. No matter how daunting or seemingly impossible the task might be. When I was 10 years old, I joined the Willingboro Track Club founded by Evelyn and Cleve Lewis (Carl’s parents). We began running the 100, 220 and 440 yard sprints (this was before meters). I honestly believed I had some handicap because the Lewis kids were so much faster than me. Of course I had no idea that I was racing the boy who would later become the fastest man in the world and win multiple Olympic gold medals.
One day Mrs. Lewis announced that we would be timed running the 880. I was able to calculate in my head that this would be two laps and lined up for my routine humiliation. One difference is that this race began standing. I didn’t have to crouch down in the starting blocks, which I found very awkward. A standing start in contrast, felt good to me. I took off when the gun sounded and watched Carl immediately gain a huge advantage as he shot out nearly half a lap ahead of me. I did the only thing I knew, which was to keep running as fast as I could.
After one lap something miraculous happened (no Carl didn’t trip and fall), I looked up to see that I was actually gaining on Carl! He was a sprinter and completely ran out of gas after one lap. This inspired a burst of energy and hope as I pumped my arms and legs even harder, running as fast as I possibly could — right past Carl and across the finish line. This may have seemed insignificant but it was anything but — to me. I overcame what seemed like an impossible obstacle and won that race because I didn’t quit and wasn’t afraid to try, despite seemingly insurmountable odds. This lesson has shaped so much of my life and my personal mantra “Life is a two lap race. Never quit.” Anything is possible if you try and don’t quit.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
“My dream is to share our health forming superfoods and positively impact as many people as possible. Especially the underserved people living in food deserts all over the world. The work we do at BōKU is incredibly important. While we share the most nutrient dense, health forming foods on earth, the most powerful aspect of what we do, goes largely unspoken. It’s estimated that nearly 60% of all produce cultivated in North America is wasted.
Wasted water, labor, soil depletion, chemical pollution — the environmental impact of this incredible inefficiency is astounding and destroying our planet. Fresh produce is rushed around the world in fuel-hogging refrigerated containers, racing against time as the food begins rotting from the moment it’s picked. Only the pretty ones make it to store shelves, where consumers pay artificially inflated prices designed to off-set the enormous waste.
At BōKU, our plant based, superfood ingredients are harvested fresh, gently dried at low temperature and powdered. This simple process not only captures the nutritional potency at its peak, but essentially removes perishability from the equation, because the shelf life of these dried powders is YEARS compared to fresh produce that lasts only DAYS.
Without this race against time, we could literally load our superfoods on the back of a turtle and feed hungry children on the other side of the world. The potential to make a positive difference with our superfoods is so powerful for both the health and wellness of people AND our planet, it has gone beyond my dream and now forms my purpose. While experts describe what we do as the future of food, it’s remarkable to consider that the ancient superfoods we specialize in, have been revered in cultures all over the world — many of them since the times before Christ. There is clearly a growing trend — back to nature and rediscovering the gift of superfoods. This is the movement I would inspire.”