Quality ingredients. I can’t stress this enough, but all delicious food comes from fresh quality produce and ingredients. Some may be tempted to cut corners, but it reflects in the quality of the product.
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 Natalie Jaconetty, founder of Herb and Seed, a new whole food plant-based meal delivery service. She is originally from Chicago. Jaconetty enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, living a healthy lifestyle and looks forward to growing her business in the coming year.
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”?
I grew up in Chicago, and most of my influence came from my mom, who is a holistic doctor and exposed me to many different aspects of the health/wellness world. She quickly adopted a plant based diet for both me and my sister, which at the time was very unusual amongst most households in Chicago. She taught us that food has the power to heal your body, and that important lesson is something that really stuck with me. At the same time I was also taught to have a sense of mindfulness about how we live our lives, always composting food scraps, re using products that were good for our bodies and the earth, and eating organic local produce. As I got older the importance of these lessons have definitely increased for me, and I wanted to find a way to share them with my community here in Los Angeles.
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 think there were several “ah ha” moments leading up to this point. Having worked in the food service industry in the past and making observations about how wasteful and unsustainable it is, was something that really stuck with me. Creating healthy plant-based meals for friends and family is something I always loved. I noticed that there was a gap in the market for delicious, healthful, and truly sustainable meal delivery services, so that’s when I knew it was time to step up and get started.
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?
There are very many pitfalls that I think you can run into when just getting started. I think one of the biggest mistakes would be not keeping consistency of your product as you scale. Making sure to maintain high standards no matter how complicated things may get, is the key to keeping customers. Having logistics ironed out is another key to scaling, using logistics software can prevent a great deal of mistakes.
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 developing your product, testing on friends and family to make sure you’re creating something that people really want. Then making a timeline for yourself to acquire proper licensing and permits, make sure to have do diligence in this step because different businesses require different approvals. Throughout this process I would work on big picture concepts, web development, branding, and financial plans.
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?
Building a business can seem very daunting, no matter how good the idea is. I Think being truly passionate about what you are doing helps to overcome any obstacle. Maintaining goals no matter how big or small, drives momentum forward. Keeping weekly/daily lists to stay on track is a huge tool for me.
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?
I think it depends on the space you are trying to enter, some consultants can be very knowledgeable and necessary. One story I always loved was George Dave, founder of “GT’s living foods”. He started his company selling Kombucha out of his home, completely on his own and creating a thriving company, while paving the way for a new space for beverages. His story taught me that going out on your own with a great product can be all that is necessary.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
I chose to go the bootstrapping route, and I am so happy that I did. Having complete control of the choices made helps maintain the integrity of my business. There is also a huge sense of accomplishment when you reach goals on your own. Of course, each business is different and I think that weighing the pros and cons is important when choosing the next step.
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 business didn’t require any patents, but sourcing quality ingredients has been essential. Creating a good relationship with the farms and manufacturers of products is key. I always want to trust the people I work with, finding like minded sources that care about the product they provide. We also grow a portion of our produce in house, which is something I’m planning to expand as we grow.
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.)
- Web development service/software. Any business you start needs to have an online profile, Wix or Squarespace both accomplish this if you plan to start off without hiring a web developer.
- Quality ingredients. I can’t stress this enough, but all delicious food comes from fresh quality produce and ingredients. Some may be tempted to cut corners, but it reflects in the quality of the product.
- Packaging manufacturer. You will need packaging no matter what food product you are providing. For us, It is very important to have compostable reliable packaging. We went with Vegware, but there are other manufacturers who can develop compostable packaging more specific to your product. As business changes with the times, it helps to be in line with concerns that consumers have, a lot of that can be related to climate change and sustainable packaging.
- Accounting software. We use quickbooks, having accurate consistent financial records is so important. For a smaller business, this software really is essential if you want to maintain a legitimate business.
- High quality equipment. Since we create our own product, high quality equipment is essential for the day to day process. Using trusted equipment is a worthwhile investment, we use Vitamix blenders, Misen cutlery, ceramic pans. We find it reflects in the quality of our product and it’s built to last.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a product that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
Quality of course is the leading factor in all beloved products. I like to focus on the other details that consumers may be concerned about during this time. Is your product healthy? Is it sustainable? What is your product giving back to the earth or the community? People are more conscious now than ever, and creating something that they love and feel good about is the real success that can drive people to consistently purchase your product.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I am really proud of the achievements made so far. Herb&Seed is a regenerative business, where we give back to the earth by using our waste as compost and planting herb gardens that are used for our meals. Since we are the first of our kind, I think there is a real potential for us to grow and have an even larger impact on climate change and regenerative practices/agriculture. I hope we can serve as a blueprint for other businesses, to show a better way we can create and deliver food. Showing people that there is a sustainable, nourishing way to run a business is really important right now more than ever.
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.
Kiss the Ground documentary opened a lot of people’s eyes to the impact of agriculture on climate change. I think composting and creating a nutrient rich environment to grow food is really the way of the future, and if I could have just a small impact on people’s perception of that I would feel very lucky.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.