Could you share with us a bit about your food product? What was your dream, how did you get started and how has the journey been up to this point?
We sell Brazi Bites in grocery stores in the freezer section. You bake them at home and enjoy them as a snack, appetizer or dinner roll. I took the class in 2010 when we were only in our concept stage. I had this family recipe that I knew was delicious but I didn't know anything about the food industry. So my husband (who is a co-founder of the company) and I took the class together.
You get a discount, by the way as a heads up, if you have a co-founder.
After we took the class we kind of founded the company got really excited. But it took us another year to hit retail here locally because we had to figure out the packaging. We actually launched at KitchenCru - when you take the class, you'll learn about KitchenCru. We were there for a year but now we are in almost 2,000 grocery stores nation wide, including Costco, Whole Foods, New Seasons of course, PCC up in Seattle, Sprouts Farmers Market, etc. and we just keep growing.
What are some lessons you have learned along the way and advise you might have for other food entrepreneurs?
I would say stay close to other food companies – a good way to do this is in class where you’ll be meeting food entrepreneurs. But also go out to the market and meet people there. At some point we were part of Portland gluten free manufacturers, the group no longer exists, but for about two years we met once a month and we talked about our struggles and learned from each other. And now I'm part of a founders group that includes all kinds of industries where we discuss once a month various things.
Obviously you're going to get so many 'no's' so persistency is really important. When we launched the company, New Seasons said no for two years. They were honest with us and said, “We already have a Brazilian cheese bread, there's no room for two.” Also learning to constantly change, but not change too much was important. When you're demoing you're out at the store and you start meeting people so the consumers start telling you the truth. You have all these assumptions about what you think your product is and what it tastes like, and how amazing the brand name is, and your colors and everything that you came up with but the consumer tells you the truth. The 'no' from New Seasons was the best thing that happened to my company at that time because we went up to Seattle and learned a lot about what it was like to sell to Seattle.
We have a team of 20 people but by the end of the day we're the only 2 people that have never called in sick and that are there every single day. You steer the boat no matter how able your crew is, remember that.
Could you tell us a little bit about your experience with Shark Tank?
We were on Shark Tank during November of last year. We decided to apply probably 8 months prior to that and had the good fortune to be selected through the process. It's kind of like on American Idol. Behind the scenes, you go through several elimination periods with producers so we felt pretty blessed to be there and we ended up being successful on the show. It was nerve wracking - it was the biggest presentation of our lives. I think by the time we got to Shark Tank we knew it was such a big stage that we were well prepared for it. We knew our product really well and we knew what it was like to pitch to investors. So after a year of getting 'no's' from investors from all over the West Coast, we got a 'yes' in the Tank because of preparation.
Now that you're distributing nationwide, how big is your facility?
We moved from KitchenCru to that shared space, we were there for two years in the shared space, and then 1,000 square foot didn't work anymore and we were ready to take the leap and build our own facility. We built our facility in Northeast Portland by the airport, it's a 5,000 square foot facility, and we have a small office there where I am all the time. But then we went on Shark Tank and that didn't fit anymore. So then we found a co-packer that could supplement. So what we have today is our facility in Northeast Portland that we run as normal, and then we have a co-packer in Ti- in Tualatin um, that is also a gluten free warehouse that makes several other gluten free products.
How did you find that co-packer?
Through other foodies; Talking to people, and building relationships.
Watch the full symposium with Junea and Katie from Kerfluffle here: