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Pepperdine University

Brynn Foster

Seaver College | 1995
Founder and Director, Voyaging Foods

What does being an honoree of this campaign mean to you?

Pepperdine was the first intellectual space in which I really applied myself. That's where it all clicked for me. I was challenged to think critically, to question norms, and to consider my identity in ways I hadn't before. To be honored by the institution that so hugely impacted my understanding of the world around me and my own potential fills me with gratitude. It makes me feel like my accomplishments have come full circle.

Describe your success story.

I didn't have a typical path to success. I didn't even have a typical path to Pepperdine University. I started out at a junior college for a year and subsequently traveled around Europe for six months, before deciding that if I was going to go to university, it had to be Pepperdine. In my professional career, it also took me some time to find my calling. I spent some time studying PR and then working in the corporate world. But after a few years, I realized that I didn't want to spend my time building someone else's business: I wanted to build my own.

By then I was living on Oahu, where I felt heavily influenced by my Hawaiian ancestry and my connection to the traditions of my tutu, or grandmother, who was Hawaiian, and the culture of that side of my family. I became interested in regenerative agriculture and traditional methods of farming in Hawai'i. Then, when I became a mother, I wanted a healthy, allergen-free teething biscuit for my son, and started making teething biscuits from taro—the same root vegetable my ancestors had fed their babies in the form of poi. This combination of family, tradition, and a passion for agriculture that I discovered several years after graduation led to the success I have had and the founding of my company, Voyaging Foods, which makes baked goods and flours from indigenous Hawai'i-grown plants.

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

I think Pepperdine has the reputation of existing in a bubble, but I found it to be just the opposite. I owe a lot of my worldliness to Pepperdine. For example, I took this course on propaganda while I was at Pepperdine, and it completely opened my eyes to so many injustices. That course was one of those experiences that taught me to challenge authority and to question information that I took for granted as fact. It also brought me back to my Hawaiian ancestry. I ended up doing my thesis on how propaganda was used to take Hawaiian lands from the Hawaiian people and how decades of public deceit affected, and continues to affect, the cultural and physical landscape of the islands.

My work now is all about inclusion and hearing indigenous voices, particularly those of local farmers and indigenous women. I think Pepperdine prepared me to be an advocate, and to make my life's work have social impact.

Describe a lesson you've learned from a challenging time in your career or life.

I think it was 1993 when the Malibu fire swept through, and shortly after we also had a terrible earthquake, and then a flood! It was a scary time for a lot of people, myself included. The first lesson I learned was that when crisis strikes, you have to be able to take care of yourself, to react with calmness and rationality. But the second lesson, and more important one, I think, would be to not underestimate the resilience of your community and to contribute to that resilience. Those lessons have helped me as a female entrepreneur. On the one hand you must be self-reliant, but on the other you should be open to support from the tenacious community of other strong women.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I am a laidback leader who has strong opinions, but cares about everyone's voice being heard.

"I think Pepperdine has the reputation of existing in a bubble, but I found it to be just the opposite. I owe a lot of my worldliness to Pepperdine."

 Brynn Foster ('95)

Who has helped you achieve success in your career?

My husband and children, my ancestors whom I feel so connected to, my friends, and all the people I have met along the way.

What's next for you?

I will continue my efforts to create healthy, holistic food systems that start with the plants, the local community, and the Hawaiian culture.

What was your first job?

I worked on Catalina Island at my favorite breakfast place and raised money for the local hospital.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Archaeological conservation.

What historical or modern-day leader do you admire and why?

Currently it is Chief Sitting Bull.

What is your mantra or favorite quote?

My grandmother always used to say "pretty is as pretty does."

How do you prepare for a busy day?

Celery juice!

What is one of your favorite hobbies?

Regenerative and biodynamic farming, cooking, and making nutritious foods, creating healing, natural medicines, and traveling.