In this episode of Women in Motion, Rhonda Busnardo, Jacqueline Smith, and Michelle Razavi, discuss their roles in the food industry and the challenges they’ve faced in their careers. They talk about their companies and the unique products they offer.
The conversation also touches on the impact of the pandemic on their businesses, their approaches to digital marketing, and their go-to-market strategies and the opportunities available in the industry.
Rhonda Busnardo has worked in the Food sector most of her career starting off in retail, moving into food and beverage manufacturing and distribution, and currently in the Gaming and Entertainment industry.
Rhonda grew up in Southern New Jersey. Rhonda and her husband, Anthony, have 4 boys aged 20, 14, 12, and 6.
When Rhonda isn’t working, she enjoys family time and being at the beach. Rhonda enjoys kayaking, boating, dancing, and is currently working on her long game in golf.
Jacqueline Smith has built Go Energy Foods from the ground up. With healthy products on her mind, Go Energy Foods created E3 Energy Cubes, a protein bar that not only tastes amazing, it’s actually good for you.
Jacqueline & her husband, Cleve, are passionate about using the finest ingredients to give you the highest nutrition and the most amazing taste.
They work tirelessly to see their products make it into your hands.
Michelle Razavi is the Founder and CEO of ELAVI, a wellness company that offers gut-friendly designed by fitness trainers.
She brings a professional background in e-commerce working in sales, digital marketing, and online retail having worked at tech, digital marketing, & most recently the Sephora Innovation team.
Michelle is also a certified fitness instructor and yoga teacher at Equinox and Alo, based in Los Angeles.
About our Co-Host
Dr. Pamela Williamson, President & CEO of WBEC-West, is an exemplary, dedicated individual, and has extensive experience as a senior leader for over twenty years.
She has served as the CEO of SABA 7 a consulting firm, overseen quality control at a Psychiatric urgent care facility of a National Behavioral Health Care Organization where she served as Vice President and Deputy Director,and has served as the CEO of WBEC-West, since 2008.
Her extensive experience in developing and implementing innovative alliances with key stakeholders has enabled the organizations to reach new levels of growth and stability. Her ability to lead and empower staff members creates a strong team environment which filters throughout the entire organization.
She takes an active role in facilitating connections between corporations and women business enterprises and sees a promising future for WBENC Certified women-owned businesses.
Dr. Williamson holds a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration, a Master’s degrees in Business Administration, and bachelor degrees in both Psychology and Sociology.
Connect with Dr. Williamson on LinkedIn.
Music Provided by M PATH MUSIC
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:07] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios. It’s time for Women in Motion. Brought to you by WBEC West. Join forces, Succeed Together. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:27] Lee Kantor here another episode of Women in Motion, and this is brought to you obviously by WBEC West. And we couldn’t be sharing these stories without their support. Today’s topic is women in business who are putting food on our tables. This is a food and beverage special edition. And today’s guests are Rhonda Busnardo with Caesars. we have Jacqueline Smith with Go Energy Foods and Michelle Razavi with ELAVI. Welcome.
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:00:57] Thank you. Excited to be here for having us.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:59] Well, I’m excited to learn about each and every one of you. Let’s first go around the room to share kind of a little bit about your firms. Let’s start with you, Rhonda. Tell us about Caesars, how you serve in folks over there.
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:01:12] Yeah, my name is Rhonda Busnardo. I’m a director of strategic sourcing on the food and beverage side. My job is basically finding the best price and the best foods to bring to the customer’s table and create a wonderful experience for them across the nation.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:29] Jacqueline, you want to tell us a little bit about what you got going on?
Jacqueline Smith: [00:01:33] Absolutely. My name is Jack Smith. Refrigerated protein bar that actually tastes good. So that’s our claim to fame.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:42] And Michelle.
Michelle Razavi: [00:01:44] Yeah, I’m the Founder of ELAVI. We make gut friendly snacks designed by fitness trainers. And we have two product lines, gut friendly collagen protein bars and these low sugar dessert cashew butters.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:55] Well, welcome to everybody. This is an exciting episode for us. This is a lot of folks are getting into this industry and a lot of folks want to learn about it. Let me throw this out to everybody. Maybe some of the early challenges in your careers. Was there any hurdles that you had to overcome to get where you are today?
Michelle Razavi: [00:02:15] I mean, I’ll go first. How long do you have? So what’s unique about our story is that we launched just two months before the pandemic in January 2020? So that in and of itself was a huge challenge in terms of trying to overnight overhaul our business and go to market strategy and really funding cycle because we were bootstrapping this thinking we could launch and then in six months we would be able to fundraise after showing some product market fit. And so having to operate on an extremely lean budget and build a brand online with no opportunity to sample and do events, that was really the most extreme form for a small business to kick off, but really encourage and force us to flex our digital marketing muscles and became a blessing in disguise. But yeah, that was that was really difficult to navigate in our in our early first year.
Jacqueline Smith: [00:03:11] Yeah, we had a very similar experience. We launched our brand in 2019 and we had one year under our belt and we were just getting ready to grow when the pandemic hit. And like she said, in-person events ended and people weren’t meeting with new products to put them on their shelves. Everybody just just kind of stopped. And so we survived that process. And really it took until 2022 for us to really have in-person meetings again. So that was probably our biggest challenge, was kind of waiting until we had an opportunity again to meet with buyers for in-store brands.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:55] Now, Rhonda, in your role at Caesars, I would imagine you’re constantly looking for vendors doing interesting things. How do you kind of go about that process?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:04:08] Well, for me, what I do is I attend food shows, of course, and then I collaborate with our chefs at the property and see what they’re looking for and what their needs are. Um, and, you know, reach out to local markets that way.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:26] Now, is there anything you look for Like, are there some kind of must haves and nice to haves when it comes to a vendor?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:04:36] Well, with vendors, obviously, depending on if it’s a regional need or a national need. Um, I’m obviously looking for volume. Um, if it’s a national need, of course. And then if not, then I like to really look into our regions and different, um, you know, local foods and produce and different diverse markets. Obviously women owned business is great for us. Seizures really supports that. So anything innovative is always, you know, what we’re looking for.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:14] Is there anything a vendor can do to stand out?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:05:18] Um, really just become a part of any anything out there that’s diverse or innovative and really put yourself out there networking, going to these shows, attending events. There’s a lot of not only, you know, food shows, but diversity events and different things that make you stand out and stand above, you know, maybe another vendor or company.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:43] Jacqueline how do you go about standing out?
Jacqueline Smith: [00:05:48] So one of our of our biggest things that we’ve done is we’ve created this protein bar that is different because it comes in three squares. Instead of just being a big bar, it’s three different cubes. That’s where the name energy cubes comes from. And then we’ve really gone into the really amazing ingredients, like it’s soy free, it’s dairy free, it’s gluten free, everything’s non-GMO and everything’s all natural. So it’s really good for you. And that’s something that, when we were in our R&D process realized was happening. There were a lot of people who claim health benefits or healthy products, but their their ingredients don’t always say that when you really dig into the ingredient labels. And we wanted to make sure our ingredients were the top of the line.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:37] Michelle, how do you stand out?
Michelle Razavi: [00:06:41] The way we like to stand out is a couple of things. One is innovation in our product set. We’re the first and only company to have developed and launched a line of colorful dessert cashew butters. I like to. We just got into Costco for a Costco roadshow, and that has been an eye opening experience in terms of product positioning. And the number one thing people tell us is like, wow, this is like a healthy dessert that’s, you know, diabetic friendly and low glycemic and the colors attract people. So we have dessert cashew butters that are blue and pink and chocolate. And the innovation in that is how we stand out where, you know, for us to catch the eye not only in social media, but of like large retailers that are dream accounts so early in our in our brand like lifetime that’s that’s been really key for us is just like create a really innovative different product like we have a bar line as well and I’m sure Jaclyn can attest to this. It’s a very competitive category. And yeah, there’s like a million bars that, you know, people say it’s better for you for this and that. And so we’re like, okay, how do we push boundaries and really wake up and shake up a sleepy category of of nut butters? And so we kind of create something that’s like next level but cashew butter based. And second to that, I would say we stand out a lot in our digital marketing footprint. So have a digital marketing background, so very active on TikTok, on social media, on Instagram.
Michelle Razavi: [00:08:09] We do a lot of collaborations with influencers, and that’s really generated a lot of buzz. We’re in pop up Grocer in New York, and we also did a Mermaid Smoothie bowl with Juice Press, which is the Equinox Cafe in New York. So we love innovation. We love partnerships because it’s just such an opportunity to really combine audiences and get people excited to see that, you know, you’re you’re pushing boundaries and thinking outside of the box. And then lastly, we do, you know, put ourselves in front of the company, you know, not many brand founders are comfortable putting themselves on social media on their website. And we from day one have been full force about that because I’m a firm believer that people buy from people and that authenticity and trust that we have established from day one as fitness professionals, as health professionals who understand and know what happens to the body when you consume certain things and how important nutrition is, that’s really allowed us to generate that that trust with our consumers that, you know, we know what we’re talking about and we’re creating the best products that we personally put in our bodies every single day. And so that’s allowed us to really take market share from other incumbents and stand out that, you know, we’re we’re proudly women owned. We’re proudly bipoc owned. We’re, you know, proudly, you know, putting ourselves out there to really help people be healthier and feel better in their bodies.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:36] Now, any advice, Michelle, for folks that are aspiring food entrepreneurs is to really stand out in digital marketing? Did you kind of go heavy in one channel or did you kind of repurpose content content amongst the many channels? Like what are some do’s and don’ts in regard to digital marketing for food entrepreneurs?
Michelle Razavi: [00:09:59] Yeah, I love this question because for, for different channels you you can repurpose to a certain extent, but each channel really does have its own vibe. So for instance, TikTok, it’s it’s shorter, it’s faster, it’s leans towards a slightly younger demographic. So just even the editing style is significantly different and the value propositions and the hooks vary greatly. People want to be entertained on TikTok, they don’t want to be sold to. Whereas on Instagram and a little bit of Facebook, the content, you know, doesn’t have to be as choppy or as entertainment focused. It could be more product focused or storytelling. Then you can take that onto YouTube or Pinterest. You know, those are also different channels. So the way I approach it is, you know, have your value propositions where, you know, you stand out on. For us, it’s, you know, our dessert cashew butters or low glycemic and vegan compared to like a Nutella. So we’re helping people have less sugar without the sugar alcohol that upset your gut. So all of our products are gut friendly, so we double down on our content tentpoles really based on, you know, the value that we provide. I also in any content creation strategy for entrepreneurs, I highly recommend leading with value people do not want to be sold to, right? So, you know, there’s there should always be, you know, a storytelling aspect behind your behind your company of like, why you why did you start this? What was the pain point. But mostly what’s in it for them? What is the consumer gain from interacting with your product? How are you helping them? How is your life better with your product than versus without? And I think so many people make the mistake of saying like, buy us or we’re on sale or, you know, this is why we’re better or, you know, me, me, me versus like, no, no, no point it to the. Somewhere. It’s. This is how we help you. This is the pain point we solve. This is where we come in. And so that’s really, you know, how we position digital marketing and content is, is really consumer focused.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:55] Now, when you say consumer focused, is it something that you and your team have kind of said, okay, this is the focus, or is it when you had an opportunity to talk to consumers, listen to them, maybe take in some of their words that they’re using to describe your product and then integrate that as part of the message?
Michelle Razavi: [00:12:17] Yeah, no, that’s a great call out. So we do a lot of testing. So the way we kind of get that feedback to then reintegrate back into our marketing is by looking at reviews. So we do a 360 holistic view of how people are talking about our products and our company. So we look at everything from Amazon reviews to reviews. After submitting a review on buying from directly our website, we have a chat box on our website through Shopify where people can chat in and anytime they have a question. We also follow up with How did you hear about us? Would you like to see what you know excites you kind of thing like that? And then we also do a lot of field in-store demos and so we keep a log of any feedback or, or really just asking people, Hey, what resonated with you? What made you pick this up? What made you put it down? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? And so integrating all those different data points helps us create even stronger content. And look, people are vocal. Like anytime we’ll run an ad, people will type in questions, comments. And so then that integrates back to us of, Oh, okay, people don’t understand what Blue Spirulina is or why. Like people don’t believe that things can naturally be blue. And so then that, you know, helps me reinforce, okay, this is something that we can lead with or this excites people from an engagement standpoint. Um, but at the same time, we also, I think in person is people are just so open and excited to share feedback. And so I encourage entrepreneurs to just be curious. And if someone gives something negative instead of being defensive or taking it personally, just kind of dig deeper and be like, Oh, okay, like what would you like to see? What would get you excited and use it as an opportunity to get curious?
Lee Kantor: [00:13:57] Jacqueline, can you share?
Jacqueline Smith: [00:14:00] Oh, I have to say that I just love everything she said. And it’s so many of the same things that we’ve been doing as well. Um, so one of our biggest things is educating people. A lot of people want to eat healthy, but they don’t know why it matters so much and people don’t understand, you know, if you get half your daily fiber in a bar, how much that helps their mental health, their gut health, and why most of the foods that are processed out there now don’t have fiber in them. And so people have eliminated fiber from their diet. And that fiber is actually the lack of fiber is actually affecting their mental health. And so educating consumers on why what we’ve put in our bar matters helps them recognize, oh, there is a really big health benefit to this. And I actually like how it tastes. And so it gives them that that reason of their why behind what they already know they love and it gives them an additional reason. And I love that she talked about sugar alcohols because that’s something that I was talking to my team about just the other day, because we’re very careful as they are to not put sugar alcohols in our product. And so a lot of things that claim health benefits often have the sugar alcohols to keep their sugars down. But it is a gut buster and it is really hard on people’s guts and they don’t understand why they’re in pain or why they have that bloated feeling or why their stomach just in knots after eating something they thought was healthy for them. And so educating them on those kinds of things really makes a huge difference in how the consumer responds to your product and why they can see that it’s actually not just a product they enjoy eating, but why it’s actually good that they’re eating it.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:45] Now you’re using the word health and healthy a lot. Is that a term that it’s kind of lost some meaning in terms of it’s almost in the eye of the beholder. A lot of people are defining health and health healthy differently, and they’re not really educated on what’s truly healthy. And there’s a lot of things, especially in these larger brands, that they make it seem like it’s that healthy. But it really the bottom line, it really isn’t very healthy. And you got to educate folks on the difference between this kind of fake, healthy and real healthy.
Jacqueline Smith: [00:16:21] Right. So there’s different kinds of help. So some people are looking for something that maybe doesn’t raise their glycemic index. And so they think, well, that’s healthy for me if it doesn’t raise my glycemic index. What they don’t realize is the sugar alcohol is still producing an effect for their body. That’s that’s going to be painful or or more difficult for their body or it doesn’t help their digestion. And so when we’re talking about a healthy product, we want it to fit as many of the categories as we can for their health. We don’t focus on fads like keto or or paleo, but we’re focusing more on a macro, balanced, balanced diet rather than just a product that fits a fad that will come and go and that won’t maintain a long term health plan.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:12] Now, any advice for the consumer in this regard? Because I would imagine there’s some legal and regulatory requirements when using terms like healthy natural. Well, things like that. Or is it kind of still the Wild West?
Jacqueline Smith: [00:17:26] That’s a great that’s a great question. Yeah. So as far as I know, it’s the Wild West in terms of healthy. Now, you cannot make those same claims. When you say natural, something to be considered natural does have to be a truly natural product and it can’t be artificial colors or artificial flavors, but healthy. That’s kind of a anybody’s game. Some people may call it healthy when it’s maybe not for someone else.
Michelle Razavi: [00:17:55] Yeah, there’s there’s a couple different words, so I’m not sure if everyone’s aware with like kind bar with that long running lawsuit over the the word natural on their labels. Healthy might not be regulated. It could be regulated in the future. But at the same time I feel like consumers are becoming more educated and more discerning. You know, even at a Costco like I was having so many people ask me questions that I never thought people would ask me. And and there is this curiosity and and general interest coming out of the pandemic that people are having about their health, whether it’s from social media that they’re learning about things or their family members that are educating them, you know, it is really exciting, this overall general movement of people trying to just be healthier in general, how we dissect that and how people really try to, you know, slice and dice, that does vary. Some people think anything keto is healthy and that’s you know, it’s doctor pointed out not necessarily the case or just because it’s vegan. That does not mean it’s healthy because it could be pumped with a ton of sugar to taste good. And so I think, you know, the responsibility of the consumer is to do what’s best for them and and their specific body and health goals. But then also for the brands to just be transparent of what you’re not and what you are and drawing a line in the sand because you can’t be everything to everyone. And if you were, then you’d be paralyzing trying to run that kind of a company. But really just trying to find your tribe and, you know, aligning your value proposition with with their health goals.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:30] Now, Ronda, are you seeing that as a trend in your industry? Are you looking for the healthier when given a choice? Are you picking the healthier choice more of the time?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:19:43] Yes. I know that a lot of our chefs are looking for health conscious choices for their menus. Not necessarily. Every single thing on the menu is going to be that way unless it’s that type of restaurant that’s, you know, of course, following that completely. But for the restaurants, I know that they do look for more health conscious. You know, you’re always going to have somebody that comes to a restaurant no matter what restaurant that is. Right. That might be at the table. Half the table might not care. Most of the table might not care, but there might even be just one person at that table that does care. So we try to fit and meet the need of everyone that’s attending and make sure that they have a good experience as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:23] Now, Rhonda, when you’re out there looking for vendors and folks like Jacqueline and Michelle are people that I’m sure would love to get their stuff on your radar. How do how would they go about doing that?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:20:42] Really? Like, you know, most of my networking is done at the food shows as I’ve spoken. Um, you know, and really just it’s, it’s the need, right? The need of, of what our chefs are looking for and the innovation and, and what makes them stand out. Just like these ladies are both talking about, you know, all of the things that they’re saying are things that I look for, you know, something different, something that maybe you can get somewhere else or, you know, just having ideas as well of what you can use these products in different applications, you know, not just, okay, this is a really great cashew butter, right? But okay, what application can I use this cashew butter in? And just different ideas, samples and things like that are are very helpful in looking at different products. So sometimes, you know, there’s bases and and different things that the chefs can use these things for that, you know, may not be something. My brain doesn’t go there. That’s not the part that I do. I’m not an expert on on these different types of things. But if you can show different applications and ways of use for them, that’s really helpful.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:52] And then so you’re walking kind of the aisles at one of these shows and you’re looking for brands that catch your eye or have ingredients or, you know, variety of purposes so that you can connect your own dots and go, okay, I can see where this would be useful, or hey, maybe I’ll learn more about this one, because Chef had mentioned this to me recently.
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:22:13] Yes, absolutely. And then getting that information to bring back to my chefs or different category managers to see if it’s something that fits a restaurant profile or a whole casino. Possibly it could go to the whole nation or it could go go to one restaurant. It doesn’t matter how big or small the everyone thinks Caesars and they think the largest, you know, gaming, entertainment industry. And hey, we’re you know, I have to be able to have the volume for, you know, all of these properties and all of these restaurants that might not necessarily be the case. You can be a smaller vendor. That’s something, you know, just for a region or just for a restaurant. Um, you just never know, you know, what kind of platform, you know, you may have for that.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:56] And you’re actively looking for like women owned businesses. That’s part of what you’re charged with, right?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:23:02] Yes. Caesars is a very, very big supporter. All women owned businesses, diversity, sustainability, a lot of these things. So, um, you know, and some of the regions, it’s something that we really, really push for and, you know, and look for and any anywhere we can really bring in any type of diverse spend we really support and push for that.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:30] Now, Jacqueline, where do you go for advice and collaboration?
Jacqueline Smith: [00:23:38] Oh, heavens. I do a lot of research on the Internet, and I listen to a lot of podcasts that are about business, but a lot of my collaboration happens with my team. But when we’re really looking for new ways to innovate, we only have five flavors right now. And we just launched our fifth flavor just this month. And so we’re still in the infancy of our business. And so our business is still doing a lot of the the groundwork to really lay everything out. We recently went to a natural products expo in Anaheim. We went two years in a row and that’s been a really big thing, which is probably similar to what she’s talking about when she talks about going to these food shows. That’s a really great show to attend to meet with all sorts of people from all walks of life and get a lot of information about new and innovative ingredients that we could add to our products, different ways we could raise our protein content or lower our sugar levels or maybe go with an apple juice infused, you know, fruit instead of a sugar dried fruit. A lot of different things. Just you just stay really up on it when you attend these shows. The Ift show in Utah happens once a year, and that’s a really great show as well. Michelle.
Michelle Razavi: [00:25:08] I would say in addition to like trade shows like National Expo West is a fantastic place just to get your your gear spinning and and your brain outside of like the normal day to day of like, operating a company. I also love to just go to the field of like grocery stores and just look and see what other categories are doing for inspiration, what are beverages doing? What are chips doing, what are, you know, other topics doing. So that’s where I look to get inspiration. And then we’re very fortunate to have some amazing advisors that are in CPG as well. So some of them are active investors, most of them are. And so they’ll, you know, share with me what they’ve seen or some ideas for like interesting ingredients or collaborations. I was also recently selected as a Stacy’s Rise grant recipient. And so I’ve built a great relationship with my PepsiCo mentors and so still have a really strong relationship with them where they’ll send me, you know, industry reports and trade news that are coming across their desk from like an innovation standpoint. So I really try to stay as plugged in as I can, both like proactively through my network, but also just going out into the field and being a kid and and seeing what kind of lights me up and gets me excited and seeing how that can inspire me.
Lee Kantor: [00:26:31] Now, what are some of your goals? What do you how do you see this story progressing?
Michelle Razavi: [00:26:38] So, yeah, I can go first. For us, it’s growing, our team growing our distribution. Rhonda, I’d love to connect with you after this because this would be a fantastic dream account. We have began begun building our food service channel tremendously. So as I mentioned, we do smoothie bowls with our dessert cashew butters because they’re so fun and colorful as a smoothie bowl topping for confectionery and for pastries and chefs and stuff. So we’d love to continue building out our our food service channels just because it’s such a fun way to collaborate and then continue building out our distribution. So a dream for us. We’re doing a Costco roadshow in California and SoCal. I’d love to get our jar formats that are launching in August out into Costco and more retail because a lot of our customers have been asking for them since we launched the packets first and build out our team because my co-founder and I are just literally running everything full time with some contractors. But we need some extra folks to help us out to support our growth. So that’s what’s next for us. Jacqueline.
Jacqueline Smith: [00:27:45] So our goals are fairly lofty. We expect to ten X next year and then ten x again the following year and then we’ll probably hit some slowdown and maybe two x and then two x. And our goal at the end of all of this is to eventually sell our company. And I’m older, so I’m not a young entrepreneur. I’m an older entrepreneur. I’m 58 and I do want to retire at some point and let let my children either run the company or pass it on to somebody else. And we’re excited to go nationwide with this protein bar and let people eat a protein bar that’s absolutely delicious and really does make them feel good on the inside.
Lee Kantor: [00:28:31] Now, Jacqueline, you mentioned I don’t know if you were kidding or not, but you like your children to take over the company at some point is that.
Jacqueline Smith: [00:28:40] I have five children and they are working with me right now. My daughter is the one who did all of our design work for our bars and our boxes. And she does an amazing job. I mean, she started when she was 17 and she’s just done so well. And and I have other kids that work in the kitchen and we just we make them ourselves. We don’t co-pack. We do everything ourselves. So we are as entrepreneurial of a family as we could be. And it’s it’s a blast to work with everybody. My son in law’s in charge of my warehouse. We just have a family environment that’s really cohesive and conducive to creating the kind of energy that we want behind the bar so that it’s it’s not just about, you know, that end result. Bottom line. It’s about creating an environment that feels good to work in as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:29:32] Now, do you have any advice for other kind of family owned businesses, for folks that are considering doing that? A lot of people don’t understand kind of the the intricacies of balancing, you know, a business with a family and especially when you’re all doing it together.
Jacqueline Smith: [00:29:51] Yes. The advice I would give is to let go. Let go of the way you think it’s supposed to look and let it flow the way it’s going to look and and really make sure that you have everybody on the same page emotionally, that there’s going to be days when it’s it feels harder than it’s ever felt. And there’s going to be days when it feels amazing. But to not let those days when it’s hard get you down and to really just see see it as as a process of learning like, okay, this happened. So what can we do to prevent that from happening in the future? And always look at it as a way to learn rather than to beat yourself up or beat each other up, because that’s kind of easy in a family anyway. And it really does make a difference to just keep people on a positive note and let them see that the end result is going to be worth it for all of us. We just have to stay focused on enjoying the journey.
Lee Kantor: [00:30:51] Now, Michelle, you mentioned investors. Can you give a little bit of advice of how to attract and manage investors?
Michelle Razavi: [00:30:59] Yeah, I mean, I would say putting your name out there and posting on LinkedIn, sharing your story, investors are now looking for brands that are. Great at storytelling because when you think about it, you have to storytell to your consumers. You have to storytell to your retailers, you have to storytell to investors. So if you can tell a great story and get your consumers excited, you know, I’m getting more and more investors asking like, what is your social media look like? I have investors follow me. My existing and prospective investors follow me on social media. They they really do like to see, you know, the ethos and 360 brand of of like how you’re executing. So I would say like that’s I’ve been using a lot of social media candidly and then just tapping my network of you know if one person says no trying to ask them if they can connect me to someone else. And so I found investors through LinkedIn, through Twitter, through clubhouse, through Instagram. And I’m just learned that I’ve had to be very proactive, persistent. And, you know, there’s there’s value to someone who can pleasantly follow up, have a sales background. So I think that’s helped me, you know, navigate this very difficult journey because I don’t have candidly and like like family support. I don’t have a network.
Michelle Razavi: [00:32:23] I don’t have like a lot of access that a lot of entrepreneurs do have entering the space. And so I’ve I’ve been self-made from day one, and my co-founder and I, we self-funded our company with our personal savings. We didn’t have any parent family money to to help us get off the ground. And that’s something that both we’re proud of. And investors notice, like, okay, they know how to manage their money, they hustle, they are fighters. And I think that’s also what’s attracted investors knowing that who they’re investing in is someone who will fight to the very end for their company and is pretty relentless. So that’s what I would, you know, suggest for entrepreneurs looking for investors is get really clear on, you know, your story on your brand, on your value proposition, especially in food and beverage. It’s so competitive. So whatever you can do to stand out, whether it’s, you know, you as a team of why you’re the best founder to lead this company or your product or your go to market strategy or just the timing of the market. You know, investors, you just have to get into their psychology of like they get so much deal flow and they get so many brands pitching them. So however you can stand out is really the key.
Lee Kantor: [00:33:38] Now, were you always going after the consumer or are you going after distributors like and the marketing, I would imagine, would be different depending on the path or that you went.
Michelle Razavi: [00:33:51] Yeah. So in terms of our go to market strategy, you know, we were forced to go direct to consumer, you know, by just the sheer reality of being in a pandemic. So we first, you know, built a relationship with our consumers. We didn’t think about retail until we really got that validation from the market. And our first product, candidly out of the market, you know, wasn’t our current one. We had to fail and make mistakes. And I think the fact that we were open to doing it publicly endeared our community to us. They felt like they were along the journey building alongside us. And, you know, once we’ve tested and because we’re creating products that don’t use preservatives, that don’t use synthetic ingredients, sugar alcohols, fiber sirups, anything that upset the stomach, and that’s something no one’s ever done before. So we’ve had to really pressure test it in a lot of different ways from both operations and from marketing. And starting with consumers first is allowed us to really build that that confidence and that that traction. And then from there, then we’ve taken that to retailers buyers and build out our strategy to other channels.
Lee Kantor: [00:35:00] Jacqueline, did you go direct or did you go were you targeting stores?
Jacqueline Smith: [00:35:07] So we did it. We did both. So we did the direct. We were we were going to fitness shows and direct to consumer shows where people could get it in their mouth and taste it. And we were also meeting with the retailers, but just like, um, and I apologize, your name just completely went left my brain. Michelle. Michelle Just like Michelle, because of the pandemic, we were kind of forced to do a lot more online work because we couldn’t we didn’t have those in-person events for either the retailers or the consumers. There was just almost nothing. We did a couple of events that they did outdoors during the pandemic in Utah. That was nice and it was great that they did that. It kept our doors open. It kept it the products in people’s hands, and it helped drive online traffic to us during the pandemic. But we absolutely did both. And and I just want to tell you a quick story. When you were talking about investors, we did have an investor come to us and mine was so different than Michelle’s that I just have to share it. I think that what she’s doing is exactly what you should be doing. But for me, I live in such a different like thinking that I’m always about it will just show up if it’s supposed to. And I really believe that.
Jacqueline Smith: [00:36:23] And because of that, I was I was teaching on stage at an event in Utah a couple of years before I started this company. And I’d been through the, you know, his classes tons of times. And I had this thought I should go to his class this weekend. And I’m thinking, why should I go? This is ridiculous. I know every single thing that happens at these events. I spoke on the stage, but I trusted my gut and I went anyway. And while I was there at his event backstage, there was a gentleman eating one of my protein bars and I said, Do you like that bar? And he said, Yes, I like this bar better than any protein bar I’ve ever had in my life. And if I knew who owned this company, I would invest. And I said, Well, hi, I’m Jacqueline Smith. I’m the president of the company and his name is Norris Cole. He played for the Miami Heat and he was a two time NBA champion with the Miami Heat. He just got inducted into the Hall of Fame in Ohio where he played. And it’s just amazing to me how that introduction happened without any real push. I wasn’t trying. I was just listening. And I was aware of my surroundings. And he did invest in our company and it’s been great.
Lee Kantor: [00:37:48] Wow, That’s amazing story. Congratulations.
Jacqueline Smith: [00:37:51] Thank you.
Lee Kantor: [00:37:53] Now, Rhonda, what do you need more of at Caesars and how can we help you?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:38:02] I need more of everything. You know what? Right now, like I said, we’re health trends are huge, So we. We definitely, um, always look into that. Um, we’re looking at natural faces and different, you know, sources and just natural ingredients overall. Um, we’re also looking at vegan. The vegan market is huge right now, so looking at things like that. I also want to just give a little bit of advice too. So something like a power bar or, you know, you wouldn’t really think to come to Caesar’s and try to look for selling a power bar at Caesar’s restaurants or anything. But, you know, there’s not just restaurants within our casinos. We have a lot of different outlets, a lot of different, um, you know, just breakfast restaurants or little stop, you know, stop and go or, you know, we actually have what they call an ADR at Caesar’s, which is an employee dining room, that there’s always something where you can, you know, look to market your items no matter what they are. So just always think outside of the box and where we might be able to utilize your products as well, not necessarily just in a in a restaurant, but maybe one of our shops or our grab and goes or our offices. Everyone forgets that we actually have offices behind these beautiful casinos. You know, they’re out on the floor and everybody’s, you know, out there gambling or going to restaurants or seeing shows. And then, you know, there’s people that work in the background. So there’s a lot of different avenues. And just always, always think outside the box. It’s a it’s a big thing.
Lee Kantor: [00:39:53] And don’t self-select out before you even have a conversation. Right? It’s worth having a conversation.
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:39:59] Absolutely. There’s never anything wrong with having a conversation.
Lee Kantor: [00:40:03] And.
Jacqueline Smith: [00:40:04] And we should have a conversation. Rhonda. I think that would be awesome.
Lee Kantor: [00:40:08] Now and there’s a ton of employees like how many employees? Caesar’s has thousands and thousands of employees. Just that aspect of the business could be lucrative for a lot of folks.
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:40:18] Yeah, you have your front of the house, your back of the house, your restaurants, your, you know, your gaming floors. Just it’s there’s just countless opportunities for so many different avenues.
Lee Kantor: [00:40:30] So if somebody wants to learn more about Caesar’s or connect with you, what’s the best way to do that, Rhonda?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:40:35] Yeah, I don’t know if you can all see, but I did share my email on chat and you can actually find me on LinkedIn. It’s my real name, so always feel free to connect with me there, even if it’s a category that I don’t necessarily manage. I know all the category managers and how to get in contact with them, so I can definitely put you in the right direction to see if there’s anything you know that we can do for you guys.
Lee Kantor: [00:41:00] And that’s caesars.com would get them if they want to find the Caesars near them if they want to check that out.
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:41:06] Yeah you can definitely go on Caesars on the internet or like I said go on LinkedIn and if you go on Caesars Entertainment on LinkedIn, they’ll you know obviously there will be a lot of different things that you can look at. But um, you know, obviously if you’re looking for something specific, you can just send me a message and, and we can connect.
Lee Kantor: [00:41:28] And. Michelle, what do you need and how can we help?
Michelle Razavi: [00:41:34] Ryan, can you say that one more time? You cut out a little bit.
Lee Kantor: [00:41:36] What do you need and how can we help?
Michelle Razavi: [00:41:39] I would love I mean, Rhonda, I got your email, so I will definitely be following up. But for anybody listening to this would love anyone support at our retailers at Lifetime Fitness. If you’re in New York, please go check us out this summer at Pop Up Grocer and our Smoothie Bowl or Mermaid Smoothie Bowl with Juice Press and yeah support your local woman owned businesses like Jacqueline and mine. We’re online as well so we have everything on Amazon Prime. So we’d love support just in getting the word out of our of our product and our company. And if anyone’s interested in doing food service or, you know, corporate purchases, we’re available for that and are fully able to support that.
Lee Kantor: [00:42:23] And what’s a website?
Michelle Razavi: [00:42:25] Our website is l.o.v. That’s l a v as in Victor i.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:42:32] Great. And Jacquelyn. How can we help you?
Jacqueline Smith: [00:42:36] So the best way to help me right now is to visit Walmart. In about two weeks. We are launching in 150 Walmart locations with three of our most popular flavors, and they will be in the Utah and Southern California areas. So we’re excited about that launch. You can also visit us on our website at E3 Energy cubes.com. You can preorder our peanut butter and jam strawberry Flavor, which is fantastic. We’re just getting ready to ship that out soon and or you can order any of our other flavors as well. And they’re all good and they’re all good for you. They’re all gut friendly and you can feel good about letting your kids eat them, eating them yourself, sharing them, saving them, whatever you want to do. And that’s what that’s what we’re doing.
Lee Kantor: [00:43:25] Well, thank you all so much for sharing your stories today. You’re all doing important work and we appreciate you. This is Lee Kantor.
Jacqueline Smith: [00:43:35] Thank you so much.
Lee Kantor: [00:43:35] You got it. You got it. This is Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time in Woman in Motion.