"I was spread so thin": Ulu Hye co-founder Heidi Peuten sells business to put family first

"I was spread so thin": Ulu Hye co-founder Heidi Peuten sells business to put family first

Ulu Hye co-founder Heidi Peuten.

The majority owner and co-founder of Australian plant-based milk company Ulu Hye has sold the business to New Zealand peer Hayden Booker of VV Mylk for an undisclosed sum, citing the challenges of balancing parenting two children and running a company at the same time.

Ulu Hye was set up in Sydney's Northern Beaches by best friends Heidi Peuten and Vasia Vogias in 2017, who were dismayed by the tiny portion of UHT containers commonly used in plant-based milk that could actually be recycled.

Their solution was to develop a nut blend paste that can be mixed with water to make 10 litres of 'mylk' from one reusable glass jar. The range has since diversified to numerous formulations and uses, and is stocked in health foods stores, pharmacies, and Woolworths (ASX: WOW) supermarkets around the country.

After Vogias exited the business last year and retained only a small stake in Ulu Hye, in late 2022 Peuten decided it was time to stop juggling so many aspects of her life at half pace.

The entrepreneur tells Business News Australia she didn't want to have her kids in daycare every day, so they were being looked after for two days a week, but even with that arrangement she felt she was "doing Ulu Hye a disservice by not working full time".

"There are so many opportunities that I just had on the back burner that I just had no time for," says Peuten, who has now been based on the Gold Coast for a couple of years.

"When I had one child I still loved running the business, but when I had two the juggle was harder...I felt like I was putting my family second, and that didn't sit right. But to put my family first made Ulu Hye suffer.

"I just felt constantly torn between what I was doing or where my focus was that I never felt like I was enough in any part of my life. I wasn’t being a good enough mum, I wasn't being a good enough businesswoman, I wasn’t being a good enough wife, a friend, nothing, because I was spread so thin that everything was at 60 per cent."

Peuten also wants to dispel the normalisation of 'superwoman' narratives of women who are able to balance everything in life.

"It’s commended and it shouldn’t be. It’s hard – it shouldn’t be complimented," she says.

"I always got complimented on ‘you’re amazing, you do so much’. I am not amazing at all – my life is suffering. I learnt that I could do it all, but I don’t want to do it all anymore."

However, this does not mean she'll be out of the founder world forever. Peuten expects that once she has at least one child in school, there could be more opportunities to establish another business.

"I haven't had free time for five years, and it would have been six years in September. I don’t even know what I like to do. I don't even know what my interests are anymore," she said.

"At the moment my plan for the rest of the year is not have a plan, because I don't really know who I am outside of Ulu Hye."

In a LinkedIn post published two weeks ago, Peuten described Ulu Hye as a "labour of love" that went from humble beginnings as an idea to a successful conception as a thriving brand.

"With a heavy but grateful heart, I have made the decision to step away from Ulu Hye. My small family requires more of my time and attention, and I am committed to being there for them during this precious chapter of our lives," she said.

"But fear not, for Ulu Hye’s journey will continue under new ownership. I have chosen a new owner who will give the company the love and dedication it deserves. They share our vision and values, and I have full confidence that they will carry Ulu Hye to new heights while remaining true to its essence.

"To our incredible community, I want to express my deepest gratitude. Your unwavering support, loyalty, and enthusiasm have been the driving force behind Ulu Hye’s success. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together, and it wouldn’t have been possible without you."

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