Keep an Open Mind: Your first idea may not be the best, keep an open mind to the fact that it could evolve into something that is different from what you had planned. It will likely be an improved version or concept and one that will be a better fit.
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 Nico Norena, Founder and CEO of The Succulent Bite.
Nicolas Norena, a Miami-based food influencer and entrepreneur, founded The Succulent Bite in 2015.
Nicolas grew up traveling the world and being touched by diverse cultures, foods and experiences. He holds a degree in Marketing and Business Administration from FIU. In 2015, Norena saw the opportunity to create and put together his company with the vision of touching people’s lives through his work. Within 5 years, he combined his passions for food, photography and travel to create a now globally recognized brand of mouthwatering food content. He made this possible all while working as a pharmaceutical sales representative at a multi-national, Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company, a position which he later moved on from to dedicate his full energy to The Succulent Bite.
Norena is now working on the launch of several products which are coming in mid 2021!
Clients of The Succulent Bite include M&Ms, McDonalds, Burger King, Papa John’s, Coca Cola, Bud Light and Tostitos among others, and holds year-long sponsorship contracts with companies like My/Mochi ice cream brand. He also works with both local and major restaurant chains. Since launching, Nico has built an expansive network, accumulating over 1,500,000 followers across Instagram (950K+), TikTok (570K+) and Facebook (110K+). He shares his most succulent food experiences as well as his travel destinations through his social media feeds. You can follow on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, all @succulentbite.
Norena added to his content repertoire by creating easy at-home recipes that his followers could enjoy and try out with their families. This resulted not only in exponential growth (over 400,000 new followers in 5 months) of the account, but also in dozens of written and photographed testimonials showing appreciation for all the creativity as well as positive impact and energy. Followers of The Succulent Bite are mainly in the USA, but also expand across all continents across the world.
He was recently recognized as one of the top 100 influencers in Marketing and Advertising by MARsum — The Global Marketing, Advertising and Retail Conference. Credited with the reader’s choice of “Best Food Instagram of 2019” by The Miami New Times, as well as Johnson and Wales University’s ZEST award for best food influencer.
Nicolas has also been featured in international publications like Good Morning America, Yahoo News, ABC News, Insider, Viral Thread, The Food Network, Thrillist, Telemundo and Univision, among many others, as well as local publications like Ocean Drive Magazine and Spoon University.
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 was born in Chicago and grew up in Madrid, Spain! I lived there for about 10 years before moving to Miami where I have lived for 12 years already! My family is from Colombia and France, so I grew up traveling the world!
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 for me it was when I realized how I could combine my passion for food, photography and videography into one entity, which I named The Succulent Bite! It happened one afternoon after eating a slice of Nutella Pie from Fireman Derek’s Bakeshop. If you’ve followed along for all these years, you know this was actually my first post on @SucculentBite Instagram! Back when I started in 2015, I had no idea the reach it could have one day, but as time passed and I grew as a food creator and influencer, I began seeing how much potential there was behind all the work! I now have several products and projects in the pipeline for 2021
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?
I once tried to import 1,000 crepe makers from China to sell here. This is definitely one of the less efficient ideas I’ve had, given today’s market options (plus of course my lack of expertise with importing goods). There were a series of implications, middlemen and taxes to explore this route, which I was not prepared to take on. This was a stepping-stone in exploring alternate routes, which I will be talking about and launching very soon!
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?
Definitely the most common mistake I see is lack of consistency and perseverance. I have seen many who aspire to become food creators on social media but then lose momentum once they realize all the work that the job implicates. The biggest advice I could give is don’t stop, keep moving and pushing forward!
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?
I think the most important part is to have a clear vision for where you see it in the next 5–10 years. Is it via online sales only? Supermarkets? Local or international distribution? Having this longer-term vision is something that has helped me in brand development and understanding how much potential I can have in what I am building. Think outside the box and DREAM!
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?
I’d encourage them to give it a shot! Impostor syndrome (that little voice inside your head that says “you won’t be able to achieve it” or “it’s not such a good idea after all”) is very real and we must fight against it! Granted, I encourage new business ideas backed by research and structure, but if these boxes are checked then go ahead, try it out, you never know what incredible opportunities may arise from this one idea, many of them which may even not be related to it down the line. I constantly repeat affirmations throughout the day, such as: “I have a million-dollar mind”, “I am capable of achieving all my goals an exceeding my own expectations” and “I am healthy, alive and successful” I tend to repeat these out loud. It may sound crazy, but trust that this has pulled me through several moments of self-doubt.
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 there can be a healthy balance between both! I am a firm believer that you know your ideas better than anyone (plus you own your drive, passion and commitment). However, there are a lot of people out there who have a polished skillset in areas where you and I may not be as trained. These are the people I reach out to in order to achieve those ideas I mentioned before. It’s very important to ask for advice from experts when trying to develop a new concept or business, this may catalyze the growth of your concept.
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 think it depends on the line of business you are pursuing. In my particular case, I started without any VC because of the nature of my career as a digital creator. However, I do know that depending on your business model and growth strategy, having funding available could aid in areas such as being first to market (if applicable) which could be key in the initial success of your company.
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?
This doesn’t necessarily apply to me as a digital creator. However, it could apply to consumer goods. I can definitely provide insight on trademarks, as this is an absolute essential for your brand and business. It took me a few years to make my trademark happen, but when I finally got in touch with the right law group, I was able to have The Succulent Bite as a registered word and logo mark within months.
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.)
- WHY?: Why will this product be a success? Why will people want to purchase it and what are its key differentiators? The more in depth the answers to these are, the more successful your product will be. These will be your key sales points.
- Vision & Plan: Have a clear understanding of where you see the product placed and most importantly, plan how you will scale it.
- Commercialization: Is it easy to distribute, manufacture and scale? Look to create products that answer yes to the past 3 questions. This is how I came up with my own product, which will be launching later this year!
- Keep an Open Mind: Your first idea may not be the best, keep an open mind to the fact that it could evolve into something that is different from what you had planned. It will likely be an improved version or concept and one that will be a better fit.
- Be Committed: The hardest part is getting started, everything else follows! Pass that hurdle of difficulty you may face in the beginning. It is frustrating, yes, but YOU CAN DO IT.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a product that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
Understand your audience and listen to them. What are they asking for? If you pay close attention, you’ll start noticing patterns of questions and inquiries. Start writing these down and soon you’ll have a long list of what your audience is looking for and is often ready to buy. Base your product on these ideas and it will optimize success, plus have that “crazy about” factor.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
During the 2020 pandemic I added to my content strategy from just restaurant reviews to easy recipes for viewers to try out at home. My goal with this was to create content that people would not only enjoy watching, but that would also add value to their days in quarantine. This resulted in dozens of written testimonials showing love and appreciation for the work and even mentioning how these recipes and creativity had made their quarantine more bearable and pleasant. In addition to this, I used my platform to support local restaurants extensively by promoting their family style home delivery kits, aiding in keeping the sales up for these restaurants with the goal of helping them through the pandemic.
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.
It would be a dream come true to be able to create The Succulent Bite Foundation. I would use this money to aid struggling restaurants, provide meals for the less fortunate (starting in Miami, but definitely expanding across the USA and one day, worldwide — remember that 5–10 year vision?). I have already began with the movement (unofficially) by giving out meals to the homeless, whenever I see the opportunity. In the larger scale, I would have a whole system set up with food donors, investors and distribution channels.
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.
Two people come to mind immediately! Robert Kiyosaki and Gary Vaynerchuk. From each, I have learned key life takeaways, which have helped me grow as an entrepreneur and develop my business mindset. For instance, from Robert Kiyosaki, I learned about financial freedom, basics for investing (including understanding the concept of an accredited investor), the difference between being a business owner vs being self-employed (this changed my life) and most importantly the mindset that one must have in order to succeed as an entrepreneur (this REALLY changed my life). In parallel, Gary Vaynerchuk helped me understand the importance of trying and going against all odds, believing in yourself, the time to do it is NOW, but overall admire his tenacity and knowledge in growing businesses and positioning products in the market (from developing Empathy wines to buying and selling baseball cards and making profit). If I had the chance to sit down with them and have breakfast or lunch, I would take the opportunity to not only develop a long-lasting business relationship, but to listen to their advice about my ongoing projects as well as those that are in development. They are mentors whose teachings I already implement and whose insight would be invaluable to me.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this