In this episode of Women in Motion, we’re joined by three guests from the food and beverage industry: Rhonda Busnardo from Caesars, Jennifer Reynolds from Sauce Goddess Gourmet, and Sashee Chandran from Tea Drops. The guests share their experiences and challenges in the industry, discussing marketing strategies, distribution, and networking.
They also talk about current trends in the industry, such as natural and plant-based products, and the demand for cafe-style experiences at home. The guests offer advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, including starting small and utilizing resources like cottage food licenses. They also discuss the importance of collaboration and finding support within the industry.
With over 20 years in the food business as the proprietor of Sauce Goddess, a gourmet sauce and spice rub company, Jennifer Reynolds has created the overall vision of the company: that food does not have to be made from anything other than food. We can recognize what we eat and it’s delicious.
Her responsibilities and skills include product formulation, allergen awareness, ingredients research and recipe creation.
She has been featured on numerous regional TV news shows cooking live and providing recipe suggestions. She has taught cooking classes at various locations, in person and virtually. She has been a presenter at several Gluten Free events throughout the country.
All sauces, spices and dip mixes are certified Gluten Free. The dip mixes and spices are certified Kosher. Everything is made from real food only, no additives, preservatives, or flavorings.
Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn.
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.
Sashee Chandran is founder and CEO of Tea Drops, which creates bagless whole leaf teas.
She wrote her own patent for this new category innovation, which sheds less waste than traditional tea bag packaging.
Tea Drops has become a favorite among new and experienced tea drinkers alike, launching innovative tea experiences that merge flavorful blends, food art and innovation.
Tea Drops are now available in 2,000 retailers — and are loved by Oprah Magazine, Chrissy Teigen, and former first lady Michelle Obama.
Sashee is a 2021 Inc 100 Female Founder, a 1st place $100K Tory Burch Fellow Grant winner, and the 1st place $50K PepsiCo WomanMade Challenge winner. She has also raised over $8.4M in VC funding for Tea Drops.
Connect with Sashee on LinkedIn.
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 as always, this one is brought to you by our good friends at WBEC West. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories today on Women in Motion. We’ll be talking about women in business who are putting food on our tables. This is about the food and beverage industries. I’m so excited to be introducing our guest today. We have Rhonda Busnardo with Caesars. We have Jennifer Reynolds with Sauce Goddess Gourmet and Sashee Chandran with Tea Drops. Welcome.
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:01:03] Thanks.
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:01:04] Thanks for having us.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:05] Well, let’s kick things off with Rhonda. Let’s start out generally is working in the food industry. Is that a fun career? Was that a good choice?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:01:16] Yeah. I mean, food is fun, right? Everyone loves it. So I would say yes, it’s fun. It’s very challenging at times, especially in today’s world, but I definitely enjoy it.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:29] Now. Was that always your objective to be in the food industry or did you kind of accidentally get involved with Caesars?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:01:38] No, I actually started in insurance and investigations a very different and less exciting world. But I always worked on the retail side of food and, you know, Waitress worked as a bartender when I was younger going to school and then later ended up, you know, with a career change. And most of my life worked in the food sector. I moved on to food and beverage manufacturing and distribution and was there until my current role in the gaming and entertainment industry.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:11] Now, Jennifer, what’s your back story?
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:02:14] Well, my back story is I have a degree in printing management and I used to operate printing presses and sell people ink and solvents and digital imaging equipment and and I love to cook. And I used to I used to throw these lunches for my customers. They would buy a buy a plate setter or something. And on training day, I would come in and I would bring pizza or pizza turned into, Hey, let me bring a grill and I’ll cook some chicken. And then it turned into I’m enjoying this part of it much more than the other side of it. So I made the transition and just jumped in with both feet into an industry I knew nothing about.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:53] And Sashee, your backstory.
Sashee Chandran: [00:02:56] Yeah. So I first want to correct you. It’s the company is called Teardrops Not My Teardrop. For those listening. And I started Teardrops about seven years ago. I didn’t have any experience in food and beverage. I just had a huge passion for tea and the ritual of tea. My background is my mom is Chinese and my dad is from Sri Lanka. My dad was actually born on a tea estate in Sri Lanka. Both my parents are immigrants, so Tea culture was a huge part of my upbringing, and I just realized that the process of making tea is very cumbersome, especially loose leaf tea. And most tea bags in the market are filled with microplastics. So that just kind of sent me on this journey of exploring what was on the market, realizing there wasn’t anything that met my current needs, and that’s how the creation of my product started. And then I ended up patenting the idea and selling at farmers markets, and the rest is history.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:52] Now, has there been any, let’s say, unintended learnings along the way, or has it been kind of a smooth path for you? Sashi.
Sashee Chandran: [00:04:07] Um, I feel like that’s a trick question because, of course, there’s been a huge amount of challenges, um, in, you know, any, any endeavor, but especially in the food and beverage industry. Um, so no, it has not been smooth. I think that there’s a lot of unexpected surprises and a huge learning curve and things to uncover. But the one thing that’s really wonderful is the, the food and beverage community I feel are very generous with their time and their knowledge and their support, and I’ve been very lucky to benefit from that.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:39] Now, Jennifer, for you has it is is what you’re doing now the way you envisioned it when you started?
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:04:46] Not at all. Not at all. And and I can totally second what she’s saying. It’s you know, the interesting thing is everyone in this industry is very generous with their the lessons they’ve learned. And I try to do the same thing with young up and coming companies. You know, I’m like, okay, listen, this is the way to do it. Don’t want to do it this way because that’s the way I did it and it was wrong, you know? So you kind of want to want to help others with the, you know, mistakes so they don’t make the same mistakes because it’s a it’s a complicated industry when you get in there. It’s it’s one thing to have a good recipe and it’s a completely different it’s a completely different operation to to take that turn it into a product, get it labeled to go on the shelf. And then get customers to want it and get retailers to want it. And, you know, all of that is so complicated. There’s plenty of opportunities for success and failure both.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:49] Now, Rhonda, your lens on the industry obviously is a lot different. Is there any advice you could share with them from your perspective of how you see companies like theirs be successful working with companies like yours?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:06:06] Um, really, the, I think the hard part and the hard part for Jennifer and probably Sashi is there are so many other products and items out there like Jennifer just mentioned. Um, you know, the only thing that I could say is just really get out there, you know, go to food shows. Find out what shows are popular and that we’re showing up to bring your innovative ideas and samples and, you know, everything that you have to have available and show while you’re there at those shows and really just keep reaching out and find the right person. Um, a lot of people will contact me for a category that I may not manage, but just finding that right go to person and just really networking and getting yourself out there is, is, you know, my advice.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:01] Now, is it.
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:07:03] If I can just add on to that, if that’s okay.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:05] Yeah, please.
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:07:06] You know, when I I’ve been in business 23 years and so about. I just along the way, there have been key people, Rhonda, that, you know, they’ve they’ve come in and they’ve helped, just like you said. You know, you find one person and they may not know the answers, but they’re they’re they’re like the connector that can go, well, let me find the right person for you in here and here and here and especially in the community. And it’s it’s the amount of of assistance in trying to find that connection. Everyone wants to connect everybody else up with someone that could be a good a good match. And so it’s really it’s really neat to have that.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:51] And and it is it is it the dream when you started, Jennifer, to kind of get a partner with one of these enterprise level organizations to really kind of multiply your efforts? Was that a goal or was it always kind of selling to the end user, you know, kind of one at a time, but grow it over time?
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:08:12] No. Well, in the in the printing industry, I came out of the distributor network, so I already knew that there was this middleman in between the people making the stuff and the people using the stuff. Whatever the stuff is in between is the distribution network and there’s people that are selling on manufacturers side and and distributor side. And I knew that existed. And that’s that’s a network that some people that get into the business if they haven’t been exposed to the distributor side of any business, they wouldn’t know that that necessarily exists. But I already knew that existed. So for me, I knew I had to have some big companies that would help give me the volume to have it make sense for everything else I was doing. I knew I needed that. And and we’re we’re continuing to grow every year. So it’s it’s really neat. I mean, we’ve had our little hiccups here and there and but but, you know, just having that base of some some good, some large, you know, customers and a lot of them, we actually got through webbank and we, you know, we’re we’re in Kroger and Macy’s and we’ve got a meeting with Target coming up and and we’ve got, let’s see, Whole Foods and Sprouts. They’re not necessarily in the, you know, Webbank community. But yeah, we’ve got Safeway, Albertsons, Myer. So we’ve got we’ve got some, some some big base customers that have helped us along the way for sure.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:56] And Sasha is your customer that distributor level or the enterprise level or is it the end user consumer?
Sashee Chandran: [00:10:05] It’s actually a little bit of both. So our business is structure and maybe a little bit differently than most. Not most food CPG brands, but different in the sense that we have a direct to consumer, pretty sizable direct to consumer business where we sell directly on our website and Amazon. We also have like alternative wholesale accounts we call them. So those are kind of the spa, some hospitality accounts, small boutique type of retail. And then we also have grocery retail, which, you know, we’re in a subset of Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Target, and we’re expanding into Sprouts National and Walmart this year. So it’s a little bit of everything, a multichannel omnichannel approach, but it keeps us on our toes. It’s definitely it’s like running kind of a couple different businesses under one roof.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:07] So when you say a couple of different businesses, it’s because each of those customers you kind of market to differently and you communicate differently. Is that right?
Sashee Chandran: [00:11:17] Yeah. I think what I’ve learned over the years is that, you know, the way that you obviously direct to consumer digital marketing and content creation for for web is very different. It’s a very different skill set than selling into grocery, retail and knowing all the players. When you get into grocery retail, you have a distributor, you have maybe a broker to then you have the retailer and then you have to engage in different types of promotional opportunities, whether it’s, you know, directly with that retailer or outside of that to drive traffic and velocity at the store. So it’s it’s just a kind of a completely different business makeup each channel, you know, and I could say the same for how Amazon operates or how these small boutique retail operates. So that’s what I mean.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:08] Now did you always start as kind of multichannel or did you kind of kind of grow into each channel individually when an opportunity presented itself?
Sashee Chandran: [00:12:20] Well, when you’re first starting out, I mean, I didn’t have a ton of capital starting out, so I kind of just had to really focus my efforts of where the lowest hanging fruit was. And for us, that was getting into boutique retail. So going, you know, I would literally walk to small retail shops and pitch my product. And the great thing about them is, first of all, you’re you’re talking directly to, you know, a consumer or someone who really understands kind of buyer interest. But then also the net terms on when they pay are also much more favorable than larger retail. So, you know, you might get paid immediately or within 30 days. So that would help with cash flow. And then I would use those proceeds to then explore and experiment on on opening our own website. And I had a background in digital marketing. Marketing. Um. Uh, my prior life was working at eBay in Silicon Valley, so I worked in some social media digital marketing team. So I kind of understood the foundation of how e-commerce worked and that that definitely helped to start creating a presence online. And then basically online became a huge focus of ours for the next several years until we felt we were ready for retail.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:39] Jennifer, did you follow a similar path?
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:13:42] Yeah. Yeah. It’s it’s it’s surprisingly similar, but. But yeah, I was going into, you know, neighborhood places in San Diego. I walked into a, you know, gourmet cookware store and said, Hey, what do you think? I did that before. I actually had a real product. And the owner calls me back and says, Can you have actual product for me by January 20th? And I’m like, Sure. And I’m thinking to myself, I have no idea. But yeah, sure. Say yes. Figure out the details later, you know, that kind of thing. And, and yeah, that just started it. And then one person, you know, I go into one meat market and sell my product and they say, you know, you should really talk to so and so over over there. You know, she really likes new products. And I get my product in there and she says, you know, have you been over to talk to so and so? And they’re all telling me who else to talk to in the little town of San Diego in the gourmet grocery end of things, whether they, you know, they sold sold it in the gift area. Most of them sold it in the grocery area. But, you know, I had the cookware store sold it. And obviously, you know, they’re just cookware and gourmet foods.
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:14:51] So they weren’t really a grocery. But yeah, that’s that’s how it started. And then, you know, you get one, you know, a little bit larger retail and then another one and then all of a sudden, you know, you could maybe you could do distribution, but then you have to get that big fish that the distributor wants to be able to say, Yeah, we’ll buy some of your product, but you have to bring them the big fish. Um, and, and so that’s, that’s kind of how, how that went for, for us. And then yeah, we just progressed and we were starting to sell online maybe, you know, 15 years ago or something like that. And we do have a presence online and on Amazon, but it doesn’t come close to matching what we sell wholesale, which that’s actually one of my goals for this year, is to flip that the other way around. So it’s about half and half because there’s just much more control and much more margin in the direct sales. And we can offer we can offer a good value and get some direct feedback as well to what’s going on with our products. What do customers like, What do they want to see more of from us when it comes to innovating? So that’s valuable.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:01] Now, Rhonda, is there kind of some do’s and don’ts that you see when there’s an emerging brand entering a marketplace that’s maybe gotten on your radar or somebody on your team’s radar? Is there something, you know, some of the things that people should be doing and not doing in order to give their brand the best chance at Caesars?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:16:24] I wouldn’t say really do’s and don’ts. I would just say more of, you know, seeing what your options are to make yourself stand out. Um, you know, like diversity. You know, I know that our company is very strong in support of diversity. Um, women owned businesses, you know, different socioeconomic and cultural, um, diverse owned businesses, even in some markets. Um, you know, they, they really follow that. Um, just seeing what makes you be a step above the rest and something that, you know, we’re looking for. Um, as far as don’ts, the only thing that I could say is just don’t sit back and wait for someone to contact you. It sounds like these ladies are. They already have learned that and they know what they have to do to get out there and have their presence out there. Um, and yeah, I mean, I think that, that that’s very important.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:23] So are there Rhonda, are there current trends that you’re keeping an eye on that you’re looking for to fill kind of a void?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:17:33] Um, obviously, you know, anything more natural. You know, the vegan market is really big right now. Any type of plant based products are huge right now in the market and being sought after. Um, anything innovative that can be helpful in the back of the house for, you know, talking about sauces, even bases, you know, a soup base, a sauce base, anything to help the, the chefs not have to do as much prep work in the back, you know, for obvious reasons, not only to keep them, you know, to be helpful when they’re busy, but also to help with just having enough sous chefs in the back. I mean, as we all know, through Covid and through everything, we’ve things have changed. You know, it’s harder to find help. And some people have changed their whole careers in the food industry. We’re running into, you know, executive chefs that have been doing that for 25 years, changing their whole careers and moving into a different sector. So, you know, anything to help make that process go faster for the chefs in the back of the house is what we’re looking at a lot right now.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:54] So, Jennifer, go ahead. We’re going to say something. You know, the food industry is so complicated and there’s so many moving parts. Can you share a little bit maybe to educate our listeners who are maybe considering getting into it? Because a lot of folks with the advent of this kind of whole Food network culture where everybody sees chefs now and sees cooking and it’s a hobby that gravitated or has grown exponentially among home cooks and home chefs and everybody has recipes and and different products that they’re enjoying themselves, but to make that transition into a business. Can you talk a little bit about maybe some of the complexity and some of the issues regarding safety and health and just all the the stuff you don’t really kind of see on the surface but is happening in the background if you want to be successful in moving it from a hobby to a career. Jennifer, can you share a little bit?
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:19:59] Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t sure who you were directing the question to. Well, for us. I chose from the very beginning to use co-packers. So we use contract packagers to do all of our manufacturing and we have requirements of our manufacturers. We require that they be Sqf or BRC certified, which means they’ve been inspected on an annual basis and and food safety is top of mind. So that’s kind of how we we address the food safety end of things. I will say the interesting thing about using co-packers is that I, you know, initially I’m creating a recipe at home, testing it out of my dear friends. And and you know, I come up with a a formula, but it’s not actually a formula until my co-packer gets Ahold of it and uses the the industrial type of of products. So what I mean by industrial is the tomato paste that we buy in the grocery store that we use in our sauce is nothing like the tomato paste that our manufacturer uses. There’s so much less water in it that you could, you know, it’s more the consistency of a thicker peanut butter than normal peanut butter.
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:21:23] I mean, it’s really thick. And so all of the measurements that I might have in my home recipe are off when, you know, because the water is different. So they they have a formula they use for manufacturing it and then they make test batches and that kind of thing. But that that kind of that takes care of some of the food safety for us. One of the things we do do is all of our products are certified gluten free. So we do have our products tested so that we know they’re under five ppm, which is parts per million of gluten, which is to celiac standards. So our products are certified for Celiacs. They’re okay. And Rhonda, they are vegan and they’ve always been vegan. Actually, for 23 years ago, I made a big a vegan barbecue sauce. Actually, I had a vegan steak sauce for a while and that was pretty funny. And people were like vegan steaks. So but I don’t know if that answered all of, all of your, your, your question. Lee or.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:26] Yeah. Sashi what’s your take on that?
Sashee Chandran: [00:22:32] So is it is the question around like trends we’re seeing or what?
Lee Kantor: [00:22:36] Well, the question is kind of about the. All right. Let’s start start with trends from from your from T drops. What trends are you seeing in the tea industry?
Sashee Chandran: [00:22:49] Well, we’ve seen a huge shift in kind of the the modern day tea drinker, if you will. You know, traditionally, if you go to your grocery store and look at your tea, I’ll it’s filled with very legacy tea brands, I would say single flavor profiles like a black tea or a Earl Gray or, you know, some kind of herbal blend. But I think that the tea consumer today is very multifaceted. You know, they’re looking for drinks that very much mimic the cafe style experience when they go into their local coffee shop. And so that’s why you see the the kind of growth of of different types of lattes like a matcha latte and even bubble tea drinks like boba and milk teas. And I think that’s more in alignment with what we’re seeing with the modern day tea drinker. And so what we try to do is create these cafe style experience kits for retail so that you can make, you know, a cafe quality chai latte, mocha latte, even a Ube latte, which is new to market. And, you know, in the kind of comfort of your own home at a great price point. And we were the first to bring a shelf stable bubble tea, boba tea kit to target. And so we’re really trying to. Bring these more innovative experiences that this this this kind of modern day tea drinkers looking for in the aisle and just reinvigorate it a bit. So those are kind of the main trends we’re seeing, very much influenced by kind of coffee shop culture and some of the big trends from Asia, you know, in the the huge growth of bubble tea, boba tea.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:28] Now, the second part of that was about the entrepreneur out there that maybe is the home chef or the home baker that has some recipes or kind of has this itch to see if this could be a thing. Do you have any advice for that person on how to navigate some of the complexity and maybe share some of the things that maybe are obvious to you now, but maybe wouldn’t be obvious to that aspiring food person?
Sashee Chandran: [00:24:58] I think I think the great thing about food and Bev is you could start anywhere. I think that all of us are probably a testament in some way that you don’t have to have true experience to do this in a traditional sense or formal education. I was I learned about the cottage food license. Early in my in my in the start of starting my company. So, you know, you may not have the the resources to go right away to co-packer like Jennifer did, but you may want to just start something in your kitchen. And there is a law, at least in California called the Cottage Food License, where it enables you to make you have to obviously get your your kitchen or your home kitchen permitted, but make up to a certain amount at home, up to a certain revenue threshold. So you can sell whatever you’re making locally at farmers markets or in retail shops just to kind of test out, you know, get a proof of concept of your idea. So that’s one thing. And then the second thing, I spun my wheels around learning about upcs, which like unless you’re in this industry you don’t know anything about. But so I remember going online and like literally Googling up like how to create a UPC. And that led me to this like, you know, kind of off market site. And so the standard for all upcs is gs1. So that is just a piece of knowledge I’m passing on. But those two things, a cottage food license and UPC Gs1 really helped me out in the beginning.
Lee Kantor: [00:26:33] Now, are there any resources? I’ll put this out to the group. Are there any resources that you turn to to get some kind of industry knowledge? Are there groups that you joined or associations that you became part of that were kind of food specific in your niche or was it something you just kind of went boldly forward and, you know, may maybe Googled some stuff and just went for it?
Sashee Chandran: [00:27:00] The. You sure?
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:27:05] Yeah, go ahead. Okay.
Sashee Chandran: [00:27:06] There are some Facebook groups and Slack groups that exist. One is called Startup for Slack. A lot of different food. Cpg business owners are on it. A great advice and resources. And there’s a Facebook group called OMG, CPG, I want to say. Um, and if you join that group, it’s a lot of early stage food and beverage operators that share a lot of resources and knowledge. So those would be my two to start.
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:27:35] Jennifer And, and well, there’s the Specialty Food Association. All right. And, and they’ve got a lot of publications you can get as a member and membership actually isn’t that expensive. It’s like $300 a year. Um, and so even if you just starting out and you want to see what the business is about, getting membership in Specialty Food Association gets you access to the fancy food show, which is in Vegas now. And, and you can go there and see all of the different companies that exist and see how they show. And there’s a lot of classes that they have there like, you know, food, food, Business 101, I think is one of the classes they’ve had for probably 20 years. And it just kind of goes through the licenses you need and and all of that kind of stuff. Um, the other thing is, I know you can do searches online for things, but you know, the nutritional panels, you have to find someone that can do those for you and you’ve got to find someone good that knows the laws, not that can just do the panel for you. You have to find someone that knows what’s the minimal typeface you can have on your label and things like that. And as you’re a small company, it’s not as important if you have, I believe, under $100,000 in sales, you don’t actually even have to have a nutritional panel on your product. But once you reach over that or if you want to go for retailers, you have to have the UPC, you have to have a nutritional panel on there. Um, no one, you know, no retailer that’s really looking to grow and help you grow is going to want a product that doesn’t have either of those.
Lee Kantor: [00:29:21] Now, Ronda, what events or associations are you part of?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:29:28] Um, well, I know that there’s also I mean, of course LinkedIn is always a good reference. The Food and Beverage Association of America is on there and just being a member of that, you can just see what they’re posting and different things that are coming up in events. A big one that I am involved with is market vision. They have two shows a year, one in the fall and one in the spring. Um, they have just a very different group of people from the restaurant side to, you know, like me, the gaming industry. So many different sides of the industry from, you know, personal little restaurants to fast food industries to group purchasing organizations. Pretty much every different side of this business. So they’re a really good one that I attend and I meet a lot of great, you know, different reps there from, you know, just retail to different restaurants that, you know, maybe just a friendship and someone to talk to about what’s going on in the industry, in the market. And they also have great speakers that really can help you with what what’s going on in the market, in your industry and the specific product that you’re making or the ingredients that are in that product that you’re purchasing. Um, you know, it’s a lot of great information and great people to be involved with, not just the sale of it, but the whole part of it and the business side as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:31:07] Now how important is webrequest and Webbank and associations like that to you? To you, Rhonda, when it comes to introducing your firm to these kind of up and coming businesses and these other resources that maybe wouldn’t be on your radar or any other way.
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:31:26] It’s actually very important to us. I mean, seizures is very, you know, involved in a lot of other things other than just gaming and restaurants and everything. We support so many things. You know, I’m dealing with everything from diversity to sustainability to, you know, cage free products and things like that, laws and where it’s not mandated by law. So there’s a lot of different things that are very important to us that might not be on the radar for some other companies.
Lee Kantor: [00:32:06] And is it is it sometimes that they say, okay, this is an initiative that’s important to us, go find some vendors that, you know, can do this. And then this is where something like a Quebec West or Webbank is helpful and you can find a pile of them in one place pretty easily.
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:32:26] Yes, absolutely. We have a whole department that does that and manages that and reports back to us as reports back to our category managers and directors on the food side and other sides as well. So having that information all together is is really helpful for us as an industry.
Lee Kantor: [00:32:48] Now, Sashi, how important is kind of a membership in a group like a Quebec West in terms of helping you get into some of these larger firms? Has that been useful and helpful for you or was that something that I.
Sashee Chandran: [00:33:05] Know it can be. And we’re and also I would just say, you know, the certification itself is just so helpful to have conversations with buyers. I think buyers and the industry really respects the Webbank as an organization efficacy of the organization. So I think that’s just one great talking point to bring up when you are having conversations with prospective buyers. I will say that I think my goal this year is to utilize the Webbank community more in terms of the relationships and the you know, there’s just like a plethora of advice here and connections to larger retailers. So while I haven’t necessarily utilized it as much in the past, it’s definitely something that I, I see the value in. I already I see so many other business owners who derive so much value from eBay that I’m excited to get more entrenched this year.
Lee Kantor: [00:33:57] So where do you go for support and collaboration right now?
Sashee Chandran: [00:34:02] So a lot of them are other founders that I know in the space, food and beverage founders, local founders and ones that I meet kind of in the online sphere and that we we kind of create in-person events together. So I would say that my the biggest source of of Intel I get is from other other founders in the space.
Lee Kantor: [00:34:27] And that just the people that you’ve kind of proactively found on your own or have found, you.
Sashee Chandran: [00:34:32] Know, they’re part of some of the groups I mentioned earlier, like Startup, CPG or that Facebook group. There’s also industry events, as Jennifer mentioned, like Specialty food Organization. There’s also a big one called Natural Products Expo that happens and that community. So by going to more trade shows and just being exposed to more founders, you end up you end up meeting a lot of great people.
Lee Kantor: [00:34:57] But that’s that’s a good advice for someone. You can’t kind of passively attend these events and join these organizations. You have to kind of proactively go in there with the intention to to find kind of like minded people to work with and partner with and to share with. Right.
Sashee Chandran: [00:35:16] Exactly. No, that’s exactly right.
Lee Kantor: [00:35:19] Now, Jennifer, where do you go for support and collaboration?
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:35:23] Um. You know I to go to you know founders that that I know in in the space I have. Um. I have a business group that I’m in that I also talk to, but they don’t know anything about the food business, so it does me no good when I need, well, not no good, but it has limits when I need when I have industry specific questions and things like that. But I have a network of people that I’ve met through years of doing in-person shows, consumer shows. I’ve done a lot of gluten free expos throughout the country, and some of those founders I’ve kept in touch with. Um, I do a lot of hot sauce shows actually, or several of them hot sauce barbecue shows. I’ve done barbecue competitions and we keep in touch, whether it’s through Facebook or because we see each other every year in New Mexico at the fiery food and barbecue show, you know, that type of thing. We keep in touch. And, um, you know, we, we can connect that way and help each other in some ways. But a lot of those, a lot of those companies aren’t in the CPG space in in terms of distribution to retailer. They’re direct to consumer in a lot of ways. And so it’s a different space. And is that something that I want to grow? It’s been nice to be able to talk to them about, well, how are you doing this and, and how are you how are you handling handling a particular issue that you’ve got and that kind of thing.
Lee Kantor: [00:37:02] So it sounds like you feel it’s important, but you weren’t you didn’t have kind of a go to group. You formed your own kind of tribe.
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:37:10] Kind of ad hoc. Yeah, yeah. We all just sort of reach out to each other when we need when we need help. Yeah.
Sashee Chandran: [00:37:17] Well, I see, Jennifer, you’re in the San Diego area, and I am, too. And I didn’t. I didn’t even realize that we’re local. Yeah. There’s also a great group called Naturally, and it’s localized to different areas, but naturally is like a CPG based organization. I know they have naturally San Diego. That’s an active group, naturally. La Naturally in Austin, I believe. So that’s also a great organization to check out.
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:37:44] Okay, good idea. Thank you.
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:37:47] Yeah. And on my side, I also, you know, I collaborate with my chefs a lot too. So having chef friends are a great, great resource because they’re in that front line. You know, they are talking to everybody. They’re dealing with the customer, the consumer, the distribution centers, you know, the products, everything first hand. And they have a lot of great information and sometimes very demanding information. But it’s very helpful. And what we do, you know, I live in New Jersey and, you know, I’m on one coast. I travel a lot. I’m all over. But what may work here on the East Coast and what’s going on in the West Coast are two totally different things. So, you know, they’re really, really great at collaborating and helping with ideas and what’s going on nationally. So getting out there and talking to different chefs, even if it’s going in a different restaurants or anything, I think is is also a great resource for everyone.
Lee Kantor: [00:38:54] Now, Sashi, is there a story you can share maybe your most rewarding part of the journey so far? Is there something that stands out for you in the growth of your company?
Sashee Chandran: [00:39:09] Yeah. I mean, I feel like there are so many great milestones that kind of keep you excited and reinvigorated. Um, I think for us, you know, we’ve had, um. A lot of great experiences of getting into kind of retail dream accounts. Like Target was a big one for us and we actually had our teas in a gift basket for. A certain speaker group at a convention, and little did we know it ended up in the hands of Michelle Obama. And she ended up writing a note to us thanking us for the tea. And, um, and just kind of a note about the type of business we were building. And so that was obviously like I thought the mail was, was truly spam. I didn’t realize when it said Office of the President.
Speaker6: [00:39:56] That was.
Sashee Chandran: [00:39:57] For real. But, you know, there’s moments like that that you’re just like, what? Like, you can’t make this stuff up. Um, or when another celebrity, Chrissy Teigen, unsolicited, we did not pitch her, although we were trying to get her as an influencer, just tweeted about our organically, you know, there’s just certain moments that are pretty are pretty transformational for you and also the business that I will remember forever.
Lee Kantor: [00:40:23] Jennifer, for you.
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:40:25] Wow. I don’t have any of those moments.
Speaker6: [00:40:26] That’s fabulous. Super cool.
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:40:31] Um, you know, for me. I love the random phone calls I get from consumers that are like, oh my gosh, you know, I can’t find Moroccan twist in the store. I moved out of the area and, you know, what am I going to do? And I’m like, Well, you can shop online, first of all, you know, but it’s just so nice hearing that. They’re like, oh my gosh, I love your product. I can’t make chicken without it. You know, whatever whatever the product is, it’s just that that phone call, because our phone number is on our website, it dials to a phone that actually gets answered by a real person. And, you know, most of the time it’s me. And it’s it’s it’s neat to hear those. It’s neat to hear that we’re making a difference in people’s lives because that’s really the end. The end of it. The big thing that I want to do is make a difference in people’s lives and get people back to the dinner table together, eating, telling stories and enjoying a really great meal that is made with great ingredients. There’s no, you know, no junk, no additives or flavorings. It’s just food, you know, and and just enjoy enjoy that time and that that food. And so for me, when I hear those stories, it’s it’s neat. It makes me all warm and fuzzy.
Speaker6: [00:41:50] Yeah.
Lee Kantor: [00:41:51] Rhonda, is there a story that you can share about your career thus far that’s been rewarding? Rhonda. You’re muted, Rhonda. Rhonda, is there a story you can share about your career thus far that got you high fiving your team and you can share with us? Uh, well, it sounds like something’s wrong with Rhonda’s audio. But before we wrap, I’d like to go around the room to get, um, maybe kind of the elevator pitch for each of your firms. I want to make sure that we get that on the show. Sasha, can you share a little bit about Teardrops in a nutshell? Tell us about the products that you serve and offer and where people can get it and get a hold of you if there’s a website or social media.
Sashee Chandran: [00:42:58] Yeah. So we are the creators of a bagless tea called Tea Drops, and it’s actually made with whole, whole leaf, loose leaf tea compressed together and fun shapes like hearts, stars, flowers. We make the ritual of tea time easy and convenient. And we just recently launched these cafe quality inspired kits that enable you to make a chai latte, matcha latte, even Ube latte and bubble tea conveniently in the comfort of your own home. And you can find that at Target and soon sprouts Walmart and also on our website at wwlp.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:43:39] And Jennifer.
Jennifer Reynolds: [00:43:42] Um, we make obscenely delicious gluten free sauces and spices and dip mixes that will transform your meals. Everything that we make is free of any preservatives, additives, colorings, flavorings, and. And that means our sauce has no xanthan gum. Our spices have no anti-caking. It’s literally just food, which even in the natural space, is surprisingly unique. There’s a lot of organic sauces that still have organic xanthan gum or organic rice powder. Um, same thing for the seasonings. There’s there’s a lot of that. Our, our products are all certified gluten free, as I mentioned earlier, to celiac standards. So that opens the door wide open that they can safely serve, serve sauce and spices with their their meals and what they’re cooking vegetables or meat or fish or whatever. Um, our products can be found at Sprouts nationally. We’re in four regions of Whole Foods. So the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, Rocky or not, I’m sorry, Midwest and in Southern Pacific region. And then they can be found at at Fred Meyer and QFC in the Pacific Northwest and King Soopers and City Market in the mountain area in the Denver area. And oh, my gosh, let’s see. I’m going to miss somebody. Maya in Michigan took our spice tins on, which is super cool. And yeah, we’re just we’re growing like crazy. Central Market, this really cute little gourmet store in Texas has it. And then you can go to Amazon and walmart.com source Us.com Macys.com all over the place. So got a lot of different gift packs and things like that to get.
Lee Kantor: [00:45:38] Good stuff now, Rhonda. If somebody can you share I know there’s obviously Caesars does a lot. Is there kind of a website the best place to connect with Caesars to learn more about what’s going on there?
Rhonda Busnardo: [00:45:56] Yes, I would definitely say Caesars Main website is the best way. Also on LinkedIn, you can search, um, you know, profiles of people that work with Caesars and the food and beverage sector and reach out directly. I know myself, I’m very helpful in directing you to the right person to get in contact with. Obviously, we’re very large, so I would say be patient, but you know, that’s a really good resource as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:46:29] Well, thank you all for participating in this roundtable. You’re all doing important work and we appreciate you. This is Lee Kantor. We will see you all next time on Women in Motion.