Episode 21: Prejudice Starts Before Preschool: Allison Baker, Former Director of Nutrition at Kroger and Founder of Hazel + Dot, Shares How Her Passion for Wellness Grew Into a Purpose for Inclusion

Five years into her career as the Director of Nutrition for The Kroger Co. – America’s largest grocer – Allison Baker adopted Dottie, a two-year-old toddler from Southern India who was born without her left arm. Through her journey as a mother of a brown-skinned, immigrant, female born with a disability, Allison has come face to face with privilege, challenge, and adversity. She’s learned the true meaning of “D&I”, and what it takes to scale that strategy across corporate America. Now, she’s committed to helping change the definition of “normal and good” to include every person, of every color, with every ability level.

On this Episode of The Besomebody Podcast:

7:10 The Impact of Online Bullying. “Everybody has experienced some type of bullying, whether it’s how they look, or how they dressed, or what they were good at or not good at – But now, it’s extended so far into the social media space where you can hide behind accounts, or fake accounts, or acronyms, and you can really sling some painful arrows at people. And when I think about the effect that has on young people, it’s really disheartening.” -KS

30:58 Lighting the Spark Inside of You. “If you ask my friends they say, ‘You’ve always wanted to do this.’ Which I don’t even remember exactly when, but one of the things I think about a lot is my dad – He was part of a group that did volunteer work and one of the events that they always went to was St Joseph Orphanage’s 5k run. I used to go there and we would hand out water to the runners. It was just seeing these people with disabilities, and honestly seeing my dad be kind to them, and seeing everyone that was there be kind to them, and just seeing that happen in front of me. I think those things make a humongous difference. It gives you the courage to say ‘I could help someone like this because I’ve had that exposure.’ and it lights that spark in you.” -AB

39:24 Leaving Corporate America for a Startup. “I had a list of things I was looking for in whatever was ‘next.’ One really important thing to me was that I wanted to start moving out of the subject matter expertise bucket – of ‘I came from nutrition, that’s my background.’ – into more of the higher order stuff like partnerships and business development. I really liked working on the projects that were bringing two totally different entities together and trying to make something happen. I realized that was really my passion. The other thing is that I was really wanting to work with an international business and honestly, was very interested in the startup lifestyle. I had been working really closely with your team and you guys have that startup grind. I remember one of your team members – we were working on something at 1am – looked at me and he’s like, ‘Do you usually work this late?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ It’s just part of my DNA. I was working for a big company but I was really more, at heart, of a startup person.” -AB

44:40 Changing What Is “Normal” and “Good.” “If you think about when we develop prejudice it’s because something is going outside our view of what is normal or good. And what defines our view of what is normal or good – childhood is obviously a big part of it like we spoke about earlier – but also what I just call the cloud of messages that surrounds us all the time. And who builds that cloud of messages? Honestly, it’s the big companies that run the world. And so they are defining what normal and good is whether they mean to or not. What I really believe is when you start to change what’s in that cloud – you go to a store, you go to a website, you look at an advertisement and you see someone missing an arm, and you see someone in a wheelchair, and you see someone who’s a person of color, and you see someone who has Down’s Syndrome, which is starting to happen – you start to change that center of what is normal and good.” -AB

45:55 Connecting Passion and Purpose. “When I look at your journey and a lot of the journeys of leaders that I’ve come into contact with, it’s usually that time – six, seven, eight, ten years into your career – where you start to really think about passion and purpose from your own perspective. And obviously, what you’ve learned and experienced with Dottie, your daughter, who was born without an arm, and you know the challenges that she’s going to have to face – as well as being a woman, as well as being a minority, and an immigrant – it’s a point of your life where you’re like, ‘You know what, I want to go do something I believe in. I want to go pour my passion, and my time, and my effort into something that I truly believe the world needs.'”  -KS

59:00 Kash’s One Big Thing. “With everything happening, this is the time, this is the generation that needs to finally put a stake in the ground and say, “We’re going to do it different.” Because there is a portion of our population that grew up in the 60’s, and 50’s, and 40’s, and they’re aging right now. They grew up with this and this is what they believe. It’s a little bit of hatred seeded into them, but they’re not going to be around much longer. Those folks that grew up during those times – Your time is up boys and girls, if you believe that. We’re coming and I’m going to be on the front edge, but there’s a younger group that doesn’t believe in that same bullshit. You have a few more years left and then the whole army of people who believe in unity, diversity, and inclusion is coming, and to me that’s the exciting part. It’s a different time and those of you out there that are still like that, we’re coming for you.” -KS