Patience — Building a brand takes time and effort. You’re not going to go viral overnight. You really have to take the time to educate people on why they should buy your product. For us it’s about educating people that there are better options out there and hopefully convert consumers into choosing grass-fed always.
As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food Line or Specialty Food”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Javaherian.
Along with his partner Fernando Cantini, Michael founded Carne Collective to usher in a new standard of beef to the U.S. market. Michael brings international food industry knowledge; prior to Carne Collective, he worked in sales for International Delicacies. With his experience also comes passion — since he was a child, Michael has been grilling up steaks for friends and family and wants to share his passion on a national scale.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Since I was 10, I’ve always loved cooking and grilling. For me, it was something I shared with friends and family so it’s always been an important part of my life and filled with so many great memories over great meals. I graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) with a degree in Global Studies, Sports Science and Nutrition which enabled me to pursue my passions to travel and learn more about cuisines from around the world. Today, I still love to cook and be active so creating Carne Collective for me was more than just a business venture, but also a passion project.
Can you share with us the story of the “ah ha” moment that led to the creation of the food brand you are leading?
I’ve always been the type of person that really needs to be passionate about what I’m doing. One of those passions has always been traveling and experiencing other cultures. It lead me to start a travel company, where I was fortunate enough to really immerse myself in other cultures and see parts of the world I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I was younger. Throughout these travels I really became enamored with the different foods of the world. On a trip to visit my friend and now partner, Fernando Cantini, I fell in love with Argentina, especially with the Asado which is an Argentinian barbeque. They do things a little different down there, and cook their meat really slow over embers, but it’s more than just a barbeque. It’s as much about the community as it is the actual food. After coming home meat just didn’t taste the same, and to be honest I was a bit ignorant about what goes into meat. Feedlots and grain-fed beef had become so normalized, I didn’t really know what beef could taste like and how it should make you feel. I figured that I could find Argentinian beef here in the US since we have beef from all over the world, but came up empty handed. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands, called my buddy Fernando, who’s family and friends own some of the largest farms in the country, and booked my flight back down. Carne Collective was born, and now almost a year later we’re delivering the best pasture raised, grass-fed, Angus beef across the nation.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started my career in hospitality, the company I worked with at the time was looking to host a couple influencers for an all-expense paid trip in exchange for posting on social media. There was a verbal agreement established but following the trip the influencers didn’t post and it ended up being a costly mistake. It was that moment where I learned to always get everything in writing and sign written contracts.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a food line? What can be done to avoid those errors?
The Food Industry is very saturated with different brands that compete with one another. A lot of companies tend to cut corners to turn a profit maybe sacrificing quality or finding short cuts or using fillers in their product. My advice is to establish your company’s values from the start and uphold them forever. Remember, you’re not just creating a product, you’re creating brand recognition and want to have a brand and product people trust and are excited about.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to produce. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
First step I would suggest taking is bouncing your idea off of your biggest critics. We all have friends and family around us that will support us no matter what but I find that going to the people who are the most critical of you will help identify and problems or pitfalls you might need to consider and reconcile. Once all the kinks are worked out, make sure you have a support system in your corner. Starting a brand is not easy and you’ll definitely need a business partner or friends and family to support you along the way. Above all, make sure you do thorough market research to ensure your idea is original and fills some sort of gap in the industry. It’s important to create a product that there is a need and desire for. It may be expensive, but it’s worth doing your homework before you get started to be able to fine tune your product and set it up for success.
Many people have good ideas all the time. But some people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How would you encourage someone to overcome this hurdle?
To take ideas to the next level and actually create a business model, you MUST be confident and unwavering. There will be a lot critics out there who will try to shoot down your ideas but you have to believe in your idea and your ability to make it work 100%. To go beyond that, you also need to be all in. The success of your business is dependent on the effort you put in to develop and grow it. Of course that can be a tall order for one person so be sure to surround yourself with a great team of people you trust and share your vision.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
Definitely! Just be thorough in who you choose to bring on. Again, you want to make sure you have a team -whether internal or consulting — that supports you and your vision and can bring a level of expertise to help establish your brand.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
It really depends on what product you are trying to develop, the scale of distribution and the cost of production. Everyone should first begin by investing in their own success. By doing that, you are showing potential investors that your all in and that the risk is equally shared. It shows passion and dedication to your brand’s success and these kinds of virtues are contagious. If you’re confident, passionate and dedicated to creating a good brand that fills the needs of consumers, then others who share your passion will catch on.
Can you share thoughts from your experience about how to file a patent, how to source good raw ingredients, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer or distributor?
My partner Fernando owns and operates many farms and a wine restaurant down in Argentina so we were already so plugged into sources that could help us fulfill our mission. It all comes down to connecting with people who know and understand the industry that can help your business succeed and teach you the ins and outs of the industry. Working directly with the farms is the best way to source sustainable, high quality product.
Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food Line or Specialty Food” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Work Ethic — you definitely need to have hustle and be able to put the work in to make your brand successful. It’s definitely hard and takes certain kind of person but remember that the amount of effort put in will have a huge impact on how well your product performs
- Good Market — It’s important to know your market, identify a need and fulfill that need. For us, we wanted to be the first to bring Argentine beef to America because it has such a unique flavor profile and really embodies how beef should be raised and produced
- Good Product — It’s so important to invest in your product and doing everything possible to make it the best it can be. Many big food corporations cut corners to increase profit and efficiency but in our case, we want to provide a better option for consumers and really help move the needle towards more sustainable farming.
- Patience — Building a brand takes time and effort. You’re not going to go viral overnight. You really have to take the time to educate people on why they should buy your product. For us it’s about educating people that there are better options out there and hopefully convert consumers into choosing grass-fed always.
- Capital — It’s expensive to get a business off the ground so you’re going to need a lot of money to get you to launch. As I mentioned earlier, show investors that you are all in and really have a well thought-out business model.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a product that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
Making a product that people are crazy about really comes down to identifying a consumer need that’s not being met or not widely available. With just 1% of American beef being grass-fed, we really wanted to introduce what we think beef should be: untouched by hormones and fillers, raised on open pastures. Carne Collective beef is more nutritious and better tasting than grain-fed alternatives. It’s truly a unique farm-to-table experience built on sustainability and transparency.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Studies have shown that the food industry, particularly feed lots and factory-farmed meat, are one of the biggest contributors to pollution and soil depletion. We wanted to find a better alternative to farming that will create a cleaner planet for future generations and reduce carbon emissions as much as possible. This is why we’ve integrated regenerative agriculture practices that allow our cattle to roam free on open pastures 365 days a year. Not only does free range, grass-fed and grass-finished beef taste better, it’s also better for the environment reducing harmful methane emissions. To take it a step further, we ship our premium beef in carbon neutral-boxes with non-GMO cornstarch lining that dissolves in the sink and recyclable gel cold packs that can be cut open and used as plant food — keeping the positive cycle moving.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’d love to be able to encourage people to reduce waste. With so many dining options, we tend to overbuy fresh produce and meat and end up wasting it. Many people around the world don’t have the same food options as we do so it’s important to be mindful of that and only consume what you need. I want to encourage people to only buy what they need and reduce and recycle as much possible. This is why creating a recyclable subscription box was so important to us.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
A lot of people say I look like a young Al Pacino so I’d definitely want to meet him for dinner to see for myself. He’s also an incredible public figure who’s had an incredible entertainment career while being unapologetically himself — something I’ve always admired about him. It’d be great to just spend an hour with him and ask him questions about his life and hear about all the great work he’s done.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.