Relationships, Authenticity, And Presence: An Interview With Jola Sonkin, Co-Founder Of GoMacro
By Dana L. Lee
Have you ever met someone who generated light and healing in the world? Meet Jola Sonkin and her mother, Amelia Kirchoff, co-founders of GoMacro. Jola and Amelia’s story springs like bright fruit from the ground of their organic family farm, auspiciously named “Posilippo” which means “pause from pain”. Their family may not have realized the resonating comfort imbued into a name like Posilippo until Amelia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003.
After a lumpectomy and brachytherapy, Amelia turned down five years of drug treatment and instead adapted to a macrobiotic lifestyle. This entailed eliminating all meat, dairy, fish, sugar, fat and processed foods, mostly eating the in-season fruits and vegetables she could grow from the soil of Posilippo. As Amelia slowly began to regain her health, she began craving the sweeter foods she used to eat, and made her first “macro treat” out of ingredients that were part of her new strict diet.
When Jola tasted her mothers’ delicious plant-based concoction, she knew they were too good not to share and began selling them at local health food stores – GoMacro was born.
Today, the GoMacro that started as a dream in Amelia’s kitchen has grown into a top-selling natural nutrition bar company and employs over sixty employees. Amelia remains healthy and continues to help concoct new plant-based GoMacro recipes from sustainable ingredients.
This October, in keeping with the company’s passion to help others through holistic foods and promote healing in the world, GoMacro is donating 10% of all specially marked Sunny Uplift Cherries + Berries MacroBar to Keep A Breast Foundation in the fight against breast cancer. I talked with Jola at length about this and other issues close to her heart.
DL: What was it like for you when your Mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer? How did it change your perspective on life?
JS: Naturally, it was scary, but I stayed extremely positive for my Mom. After the initial shock, I immediately thought of my husband’s Aunt. She had been diagnosed with lymphoma cancer some years back and was told my multiple doctors that she had less than a year to live. She adopted a macrobiotic lifestyle and is alive and cancer free today. So, when my Mom was diagnosed, we both saw it as an opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle, which was empowering.
DL: What ingredients are you most proud of in GoMacro and why?
JS: I’m proud to say that I’m proud of all our ingredients. We only use whole food ingredients with health benefits. We have all the certifications: organic, vegan, non-GMO, kosher, gluten free, soy free and we just got certified RAW and CLEAN. We strive to get the highest quality of any one ingredient. A good example of this is brown rice syrup. There are a lot of companies out there that use it but they aren’t using the kind of brown rice syrup we use. Ours is infant safe meaning there are no traceable amounts of arsenic. Naturally it costs more to source this higher quality ingredient, so most other companies don’t bother with it. We don’t promote on our packaging that we use it so there is no way for consumers to know, but we know and that’s what’s important. We can truly feel good about the product we put out there. I know our fans truly trust us and I don’t want to ever let them down.
DL: How does it feel to know you are contributing to the health of others in your vocation?
JS: Amazing. Hearing from our fans how much GoMacro has helped their lives is what inspires me every day. Both the MacroBars and Thrive are truly a healthy snack that feels as good as it tastes! They give you balanced energy that lasts. One woman wrote to let me know that GoMacro bars were the only food that her late friend could keep down during the last days of her fight with cancer. Stories like these about positively impacting people’s lives moves me to tears and keeps me rooted in our mission.
DL: Why did you choose The Keep a Breast Foundation as the beneficiary of GoMacro’s philanthropic outreach?
JS: There are so many good organizations out there but my mom and I knew we wanted to support one that was focused on awareness and prevention. We have experienced first-hand how powerful diet is to your health, but it’s not just the food you eat, it’s the products you use as well. So, when we discovered the Non-Toxic Revolution through Keep A Breast, we were really excited.
DL: How can the readers of SFYoga help to bring an end to breast cancer?
JS: I don’t think we can put an end to it, especially since there are certain types of breast cancer that are thought to be hereditary, but we can positively make an impact by educating ourselves and others on the toxins and chemicals linked to cancer that are found in the products we use and the foods we eat. A great place for your readers to start getting informed is by going to Non-Toxic Revolution.
DL: What wellness activities, or alternative medicines, besides your life giving balanced macrobiotic diet, do you feel most contribute towards your own well-being?
JS: Definitely exercise, long walks, and specifically yoga. I love yoga. I always feel balanced and rejuvenated afterwards. It makes such a difference in the rest of my day. It’s amazing how our bodies are always changing, so it’s important to be open to trying again. I use essential oils quite a bit as well, especially for my kids. Recently I had a thermographic appointment, rather than doing a mammogram. It’s less intrusive and can catch breast cancer before a mammogram can. But most of all, spending time with my family and always being present, is my highest priority.
DL: What was your biggest challenge to making GoMacro a success? What is on the horizon for GoMacro?
JS: I don’t think there was ever one “biggest” challenge. One of the things that made GoMacro a success is that we were always focused on the present and our goals. We never thought about the challenges that might arise so, as a result, we didn’t get scared or waste energy thinking about “what if’s”. We just dealt with it when it came. Right now we’re focused on our new line, Thrive. It’s just now launching in stores so it needs lots of love, but we also need to continue to nurture our core line of MacroBars. It’s like having kids! We are expanding our facility in Viola, WI, next year to keep up with growth and we’re always innovating.
DL: What wisdom words are singing in your heart? What keeps you motivated?
JS: Anyone who joins the GoMacro team knows that what matters most at GoMacro is authenticity and gratitude, and definitely relationships. Relationships with my Mom, my family, my GoMacro team, and our fans are my highest values. Be authentic to yourself and to others.
GoMacro is a true model for the future of American business: financed from their own capital (no outside debt), sustainably grown on an organic farm, progressive in its care of employees (yoga and massage are just a few perks on the job), and a product labeled with messages and artwork to inspire others to thrive and give back.
Look for specially-marked Cherries + Berries MacroBars with the Keep A Breast seal can be found nationally at Whole Foods, Molly Stones, and other participating stores in October. Like all GoMacro products the Cherries + Berries MacroBar is Non-GMO Project Verified, USDA Organic, Kosher Certified, Vegan Certified, Gluten-Free Certified and for more information, please visit GoMacro and Keep A Breast Foundation.