In this episode, we’re joined by Kayla Castañeda, Co-Founder, and CEO of Agua Bonita, a beverage brand made with 100 percent real fruit aguas frescas which gives the end-product a delicious flavor profile.
Kayla discusses launching her company during the pandemic and only meeting her Co-Founder in person once before launch. She walks us through Agua Bonita’s timeline, from the genesis of her idea to this month when her company won the BEVNET and Coca-Cola best new beverage award.
Kayla had some great advice for people looking to break into the beverage industry, including how to work closely with your packer to ensure you get the product you expect.
She also delves into topics such as the best way to plug into the CBG community and how to keep your head up when going through hard times.
We see big things in Kayla and Agua Bonita’s future and are delighted that they are so successful.
Ken: Welcome to the Physical Product Movement, a podcast by Fiddle, we share stories of the world’s most ambitious and exciting physical product brands to help you capitalize on the monumental change in how, why and where consumers buy. I’m your host, Ken Ojuka.
In this episode, I speak with Kayla Castañeda, Co-Founder and CEO of Agua Bonita; a beverage brand made with 100 percent real fruit aguas frescas. Agua Bonita also has a fun design and delicious flavor profile. Kayla talks about launching her company during the pandemic as well as only meeting her Co-Founder once in person before launch. She walks us through her timeline, from the genesis of her idea to this month, when her company won the BEVNET and Coca-Cola best new beverage award.
Kayla had some great advice for people that are looking to break into the beverage industry, including how to work closely with your packer to make sure that you get the product that you expect. She also goes into the best way to plug into the CBG community and how to keep your head up when you’re going through hard times.
We see big things in Kayla and Aqua Bonita’s future and are delighted for their success. This is a great podcast for early stage CPG brands featuring some actionable advice they can apply right away. Enjoy.
Yeah. Hey Kayla. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you for jumping in.
Kayla: Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to talk.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. So where, uh, where am I catching you where are you from?
Kayla: So I actually live in Hanford, California. Um, and that’s where our offices are headquartered. It’s the central valley of California. So, um, not that California that you see on TV, we are nothing but orchards and dairies and stuff. We actually like with a a hundred mile radius of my town, we grow 60% of the nation’s produce. So lots, lots of ag.
Ken: Oh, that’s cool. Is that, uh, is this where you’re from? Is this, uh, you know, where are your family?
Kayla:] Yeah, I grew up here, um, and it’s like, it’s equal, distant from LA and San Diego, LA and San Francisco. So we’re like right in the middle, but I grew up here in a super small town. Uh, I moved away for a few years and to some really big cities, New York, LA, um, yeah, but it’s one of those towns where everyone knows everyone, you know, we’ve, my family went to the same schools, generations over and over.
So, um, it’s nice to see familiar faces.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. Um, so let’s yeah, let’s, let’s dig right in. Um, typically though, we’d like to kick this off with a quote. Um, do you have something in mind? I didn’t really check with you, but is there a quote that comes to mind of that’s been impactful to you, but maybe you, uh,
Kayla: I mean, we have our own sort of company quote, like internally has been, uh, when life gives you lemons, make our stress guys because everything is like in the middle of the pandemic.
So it was a crazy time to be like, yeah, just had a baby, just lost our job, global pandemic. Like let’s start a business. Um, so that’s one that we’ve lived by, but I guess like just generally speaking. Something that I always find myself saying is like, the answer is always no, unless you ask. So just ask and that has been a little bit of a guiding light for, um, like laying the foundation for some of the conversations that we find ourselves in and, uh, yeah, different situations for us.
Ken: That’s great. That’s great. Um, so let’s actually talk about, um, let’s, I guess let’s first hear about your product, you know, so what’s the agreement?
Kayla: Yeah, so I will need that first line for you. I was stressed because we serve them up in 12 ounce, uh, culturally inspired cans and they are shelf stable, but they are best enjoyed chil.
Um, what’s special about our drinks is that we use no added sugar to make our blends. And sometimes when you can use spices to like, get nostalgic. Flavors. Um, and then we also rescue produce to make our drinks so lots of good stuff going on. It looks good. Uh, it tastes good. Makes you feel good and really good for the planet.
Ken: And so you described it as Agua Fresca. Is that right? What does that mean for people like myself who are maybe a little ignorant of this?
Kayla: Yeah. So I was, first guys are a traditional Mexican drink, and traditionally it’s made, uh, by blending fruits into non sparkling water and adding sugar. So kind of like Mexican, fresh fruit punch and that’s the traditional way to make it.
So we gave it a modern update by taking away all of that.
Ken: Okay. And so I guess let’s dig in too. You know, where we were, how you were inspired, uh, to, to create this. And, is this something that you grew up drinking? Um, you know, is this something that you’re just very familiar with? Uh, what was the inspiration?
Kayla: Yeah. So, um, a lot of it comes from my grandpa. So yeah, we did have, I was once guys growing up, um, I think lots and lots of traditional, um, even modern Mexican households have always stressed guys available, but for us, my grandpa would bring home like overripe fruit from the fields, like on his way home from work.
Cause we have so many fields around here and it’s a big migrant farming region and. That like overripe fruit would be used into our blends and making, I was stressed as an or like we would cover it in Julian powder, like tahini and stuff, and, um, use it as a snack basically. So yeah. So always had them around growing up.
Um, Other friends of the same culture that had them. And then as an adult, um, yeah, just wanted something that was a little bit healthier. And my boyfriend and his mom, uh, would make, I was stressing us all the time and they do make all those frescoes all the time. And so, um, those were like a lot lighter than the ones that I had traditionally grew up with, um, in terms of sugar.
So really just like wanting to take something from our kitchen and put it into the pier.
Ken: Huh, and, uh, you just recently got some, some amazing news. Um, you know, you want a pretty, pretty big contest. You want to tell us a little about a little bit.
Kayla: Yeah. Yeah. We’re so excited to have taken home the title of best new beverage, um, sponsored by Coca Cola’s VB team and Bev net is a really big industry competition.
Like really great brands have come out as past winners and just a very validating moment for us to establish ourselves as the best new beverage of the year.
Ken: Yeah that’s awesome, Congratulations.
Kayla: Thank you.
Ken: Um, so I actually want to just dig into your background a little bit, you know, so. Um, you know, I’m looking at your LinkedIn and I see that you worked at Coca Cola, you know, maybe take us, take us back, um, before Coca-Cola what were you doing?
And, uh, you know, then take us forward to, to the founding of your company.
Kayla: Yeah. So I’ve had some cool jobs in the past. Um, I actually worked for major league baseball and I worked for Starwood Marriott. Um, Really big corporations, but I always found myself, um, intrigued and really working hand in hand with dare, um, food and beverage departments.
[00:08:10] So I would work like traditionally in sales and marketing, um, but always found myself on the food and beverage side. And it was probably because before I got into like the corporate world, I spent a lot of time, uh, serving tables. Uh, I moved to New York city when. 17 on a college scholarship, um, but needed some like pocket money.
[00:08:33] So I started waiting tables and things like that. And that’s when I really fell in love with this whole side. A culinary experience that I just had never been exposed to before. So yeah, so took that into the corporate sphere, um, worked with a few different companies and then there’s an opportunity that came about to move back to California.
And I wanted to be closer to my family at that point and to work with Coca-Cola, which was a good fusion of my food and beverage interest in past. And my. Sales and like strategic partnership. Uh, know how so got to move into market development with Coke and manage a region for them where I really got to talk to you.
Small business owners and customers, um, about what they wanted, what they didn’t want really see, like what was selling well, what wasn’t selling well, which formats worked, um, all backed by, you know, The whole brand portfolio of Coca-Cola. So definitely helps me prepare to launch a brand of my own. So that way, um, I didn’t go into this entirely blind.
Ken: Yeah. Could you give us an example of like a brand that you worked, that you worked on, or, you know, maybe just a specific example of what, what you did.
Kayla: Yeah. So I actually had their full portfolio of brands at my disposal. So my job would be like, I would go into say like a independently owned restaurant or, um, even like a big store and talk to them about like, okay, what is selling and what isn’t and, you know, get that feedback and then tell them like, okay, well, you know, maybe.
Your regular Coke, isn’t selling that well here, but maybe you should sell a Mexican Coke here because of the demographics and, um, or, you know, maybe you don’t sell Coke at all. Like, this is a really health-conscious, um, area. Smartwater would do better. Um, so really trying to best match the brands in the portfolio with the customer’s needs, um, is how I would summarize it and then package it up in a pretty way in their stores and, uh, off to the races.
Ken: Yeah. I’m always surprised when people, you know, mentioned, you know, certain brands and I look it up and find that it’s all by Coke. You know, they have a massive portfolio. So saying that you have their entire array of products. You know, at your disposal. I mean, it’s not a short list. Are there any, any, um, brands that you were surprised to find that Coke owned them or purchased by Coke?
Kayla: Um, surprised. No. Um, but I know Cody is going through a big revamping of their portfolio, so I would hate to even name a brand that isn’t any longer in their portfolio. So I don’t know. Keep up with them as intimately as I used to. Um, and that was part of, uh, how I departed was also just wanting to work on, um, smaller brands and even like some startups to just like lend my expertise to something that I could have like a bigger impact on.
So not too sure what their smaller portfolio looks like just right now and, uh, would hate to miss it.
Ken: Yeah, sure, sure. I was talking to a friend the other day. They were talking about Frito-Lay and Frito-Lay when you go down, um, when you go down the aisle in the grocery store, like 75% of those brands are owned by Frito-Lay, you know, and most people don’t realize that.
I mean, these are massive companies that just have a very, very big portfolio of products.
Kayla: Yeah. It’s like four or five companies that basically. Control all the like snack and beverage that you see in any stories pretty much so there’s little guys like us to, you know, come up, swinging.
Ken: Yeah. So, um, yeah, let’s, let’s, let’s talk about that.
So you, you, you left coach. Um, and did you know that you wanted to start your own thing? Um, what, what was kind of the motivation at that point?
Kayla: Yeah. I always knew that I wanted to have my own brand and I actually had kind of dabbled. Or, um, my boyfriend and I own a drink trailer. So we would take, um, drinks to like community events and things like that.
And at one point like coffee and I was fast as, and so at one point, um, I even went through the process of like Channing our own cold brew coffee. Just to like, see what that process was like and learn more about it since I had been, um, really on like the brand front side. And so I knew that I always wanted to do that.
And then the, I started like consulting for startups and really helped. Beverage startups. And when the pandemic rolls into town, it really like tempered all of that work. Um, because everyone was just trying to figure out like ways to survive. Um, for me, it was an opportunity to have more time on my hands to really like concentrate my efforts on just one thing, instead of trying to help.
Multiple different, uh, brands and multiple different projects as a consultant. So, yeah, I think that, that was when I was like, okay, this is the right time for me to invest in this.
Ken: And so, uh, I guess, uh, describe the food truck. Is it, I mean, is it like a food truck or is it like a drink trailer? Is that what you call it?
But it’s the same type of thing.
Kayla: Yeah. It’s like, it’s just like a smaller format, food trucks. So we don’t have like the big grills in our trailer. So it’s just like, yeah, basically. I would say it’s just like one step up from a drink cart. Like, you know, you’d see like a lot of like vendors either, like selling like fresh fruit or something.
So it’s like a step up from that, but a step down from a food truck. So it’s like this little, like six by 10 trailer we take to yeah. A bunch of fun events. Um, and yeah, and it’s been great, honestly, R and D for, um, I we’ll we’ll need the flavors because we’d get, we get to like try them out in real time.
On like real populations at, uh, events to see like, oh, maybe this combination will be good or what’s what are people most interested in trying. So, and then like, you know, translating them into.
Ken: Yeah, I’m always fascinated by, by this way of doing market research. Right. Um, it’s, it’s better than getting some sort of focus group and, you know, uh, having them rate, you know, tastes from one to five, you know, how did, how did they feel about your product usually, you know, getting that.
That just look on their face as they try something. You can tell if they like it, you can tell if you, you nailed it. Um, you know, and so you’ve got, you’ve got, I just found out about drink trailers. I didn’t know about that, but you know, food trucks, you know, tend to be sort of a cheaper way to try out a restaurant concept.
Um, you also have a lot of people who go to like farmer’s markets, you know, for this purpose. To, to try to try this out. Um, I don’t know. W w what are your thoughts about, you know, uh, avoiding this huge investment in a product that’s still kind of you’re, you’re still working on, you’re still, you’re still trying to refine.
You’re still researching, um, you know, so ways to do it a little bit cheaper, you know, is that definitely something that you guys were thinking about when you were, um, doing this, uh, these drink trailers? Is that what you were, you had in mind is that you wanted to, to get the data or was it actually something where you were trying to make some money at it and thought you could, you could make a living.
Kayla: Yeah, no, I would say it’s definitely separate. I think that, um, I got the drink trailer with my boyfriend who is not my business partner, my business partner, her name is Erin. Um, she’s the co-founder so it was definitely separate and like a private matter. And it like quenched that like entrepreneurial.
Um, longing that I had, but it just so happened that like, when we went to the drawing board to really find something that we wanted to make in a commercial sense, um, that it all aligned. So I know for some brands, ranch, writer’s spirits is like a great example of this actually they’re based out in Austin, Texas, um, great CEO and, um, they.
Actually started as a food truck concept. And then after like, um, testing out different, uh, drinks in there, a food truck, then they went to commercial scale and like commercialize those exact ones. Um, so. I know some folks, I mean, they’re seeing like crazy success and like really great drinks. So for us, that was never like, um, the intent and I don’t really even think it was their intent.
It was just something that like aligned. So it just so happened. You know, me and my boyfriend are street vendors in our spare time, I guess. Um, and get to, you know, Uh, yeah, our recipes and see how people react to them. And then kind of consolidate that data for me on a, on a personal, like professional side, I should say, and put it into play.
So I don’t know if it was a strategic as it sounds, um, more just kind of like divine.
Ken: Right, right. Yeah. One of the other interesting approaches that I’ve seen people do, and this is more in the restaurant space, but it’s a, it’s, you know, it’s a cloud kitchen, it’s a virtual restaurant, you know, where you basically only exist on Uber eats or, or door dash, you know, but you don’t actually have a space.
You don’t have to make that huge investment. Um, and, and, you know, so I just always look at stuff like that. It’s like, how can you validate these ideas? You know, just. Without spending your life savings, you know, on something that’s unproven.
Kayla: Yeah. I mean, I think the key to that is like start small, um, especially when it comes to things like.
Canning, um, and you start like finding co-packers and stuff like that. Like the minimum order quantities are high from the get-go of, you know, um, so if you can find a good partner that is either like willing to compromise with you, or you can like run a pilot program or something like that, um, I would say start there or eat then, you know, um, bottling things.
So that way you can. Get that, um, feedback from the customers that you’re targeting and whatnot. So yeah, my best advice there is like start small, even with the cans that we have now. Um, we went through like a few different rounds of like, okay, we’re only gonna. X amount of cans and then the next round, okay.
We’re going to make 10 X that and then the next round 10 X out. So that way, by the time we get to the third round, you know, you can move forward in confidence with a large volume because you’ve already tried it at different levels of scale. So, yeah, so best advice I can give anyone in that realm is like, don’t dump your life savings in meeting a high MLQ like start as small as you can possibly afford to start because you’ll have to iterate.
Ken: Yeah. I mean, there’s so many good examples of this, you know, and you, and you shared one, um, with the ranch writer, uh, example, um, one that I know in the, in the, um, protein bar space, uh, is a company, uh, you know, close to me here in Utah called good to go bar. Um, and there’s a guy named Casey that actually just rented this little kitchen, um, in the, at night.
To make his own, his own protein bars when he first started out. You know? And so it’s finding ways to be a little bit more resourceful or inventive or think outside the box, you know, in ways that you can, you can get the results, you know, meaning you get product on the shelf and, you know, get it to market and try to sell it without necessarily.
You know, dumping your life savings on something that you don’t know is going to work for sure. You know? And so anyway, I, I think that there, there are lots of good options nowadays. I think that maybe didn’t even exist before, you know, so I think, I think this is way more doable today. Would you agree with that?
Kayla: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think getting creative is the name of the game for entrepreneurs. Um, like startup life will teach you like. You need to adapt. And, uh, like sometimes that process of adapting is going to push you to be like, as creative as you possibly can to like achieve your end goal. Um, so yeah, so I’m all for anyone thinking outside of the box on a way to.
Get their product out there. Um, because I think you just have to, um, I mean, unless you are like very well capitalized and you can afford to just like plunge millions of dollars from the get, go into something that isn’t going to work as efficiently as you would hope it would. So, yeah. Getting creative is really, I think, a huge indicator for success in a lot of circumstances.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. So let’s, I guess let’s talk a little bit about marketing and sales, right? So, um, you, you got your initial batch of product. Um, now tell, take us back to what, what you did. How did you go to market? How did you, um, you know, get your first sales?
Kayla: Yeah. So something that I tell folks is that we. Are unintentionally a direct to consumer company.
We have always known that traditional retail was going to be a big part of our success. If we were going to build something with longevity, um, and we didn’t expect the response that we got online, um, that we did. So we. Purposely designed the cans, Erin put together our designs and put together like a big inspo board and talked about like the kind of feel that we wanted to evoke and stuff.
And we really wanted to make a product that was Instagram-able and something that people would want to photograph and want to share with friends and, um, would want to be seen with. So that was, you know, part of it. The way that we approach the design aside from like the cultural representation. Um, but it, it worked.
And so we actually didn’t spend, we still haven’t spent any money on marketing and we’ve sold out like three consecutive. Production runs at this point at varying levels of scale, all, well, almost all direct to consumer. So now we’re starting to get into, you know, more retailers and really building out those relationships and those volumes and, you know, starting to, um, fill the boots that we have laid out for ourselves.
Um, but yeah, I mean, we. And we went into our design with like intentionality. And I think that people recognized that as they came across us online. So it really just like, had been a little bit of a viral effect of, you know, one person seeing a can and be like, Hey, what is that? Where’d you get that? And just Domino’s.
Ken: Um, are there any particular channels that you feel like it works specifically? Well for you? Um, you know, you mentioned Instagram, is, is that where you think you’re getting a lot of your, your sales, um, they see it on Instagram and then they, they, you know, go to your website and purchase or what, what do you think the pattern is?
Kayla: Well, yeah, that’s the only way. Um, because we, we haven’t spent anything on marketing, so, uh, I would say before we. Went through the gamut of these pitch competitions, because we also, in the last couple months have won some really high-profile pitch competitions where it got us in front of, you know, um, a good audience that we just weren’t in front of before.
So like we did one with Nike and black ventures. We just did the Coca-Cola and Bev net one. Um, we got into an accelerator program that helps get us in front of. Quite a few new folks, but before that, and when we had actually sold out online, the only way to discover us was via Instagram. So it was like, you see us on Instagram, you go to our Instagram page by, on our website.
Um, so yeah, so that, that discovery process has accounted for like the. Bulk of our online sales before we went into the, um, to the pitch circuit, which I would also very much recommend anyone that is limited on capital, but has a really good idea and, um, sort of like minimum viable product to go into because it is even if you don’t win, it’s great exposure and you get a chance to.
Tell the backstory of your brand that you might not necessarily get to do with like, you know, 10 or 15 seconds on it.
Ken: Huh? Yeah. Could you explain that a little bit? You know, so what are some of the, the, the benefits specifically of, um, and I guess, were you seeking these benefits when you went and started entering these, these pitch competitions or, you know, w you know, I guess you were trying to win, but you were just trying to get exposure, tell your story.
Um, you know, just get more people aware of who you are and what your product is. Um, w was that the intention, you know, I guess I would say this as I know people who do shark tank without the intention of like actually getting a deal. Right. And it’s all about the. You know, in a lot of cases, it’s actually better.
If you don’t get a deal, um, you just, you, you get all the benefits of, you know, the reruns and all of that, you know, drives a ton of your sales. Um, but you didn’t have to give up any of your company, you know, so I guess, I guess, was there any intentionality around, you know, the, the marketing aspects of, of entering these, these pitch competent, competitions.
Kayla: Um, I won’t say that it was like that. Um, I know. Yeah, you’re right. People go on shark tank because it started tanking. They know that, you know, millions of people are going to see them online for us. We went into the pitch competitions because we wanted to win them. Um, uh, But we also knew that it would give us a platform to talk about our brand, which like I said, you don’t get, um, you don’t get as much time in front of people or for people to listen to you.
Um, as you do with like a pitch competition versus like being on shelf on shelf, you get maybe 10 seconds. To like convey your whole brand story to someone, you know, and like your design has to grab them. But when you are able to stand up in front of an audience, even if it’s two minutes, three minutes, five minutes, you know, you really get to tell them like why they should be invested in this brand personally.
And so we went into these competitions, um, one like needing the resources that they were offering. Like we’re still a startup and we are bootstraps. You know, like we need the capital, we need all the advertising support, all that kind of stuff. Um, like those are important things to help our company grow.
So we went in like, you know, very much wanting the prize. Um, but then we also knew that the competitions that we were going into would either give us, you know, Industry validation. Um, because like we won a rising star at, um, Bev at new hope networks, um, natural products, XLS, which like that is, you know, a bunch of buyers and folks that like, this is all they do is they look at products every single day.
Um, so like getting validation from, from that demographic. Super valuable, um, winning the best new beverage with Coca Cola and bed mat, like super valuable. Um, and then, yeah, Nike and black girl ventures, like the publicity and like getting in front of folks that might not have been interested in Iowa Nita until they heard that, um, you know, we were doing something in conjunction with BGB and Nike, you know, A little bit of both, like we needed what they were offering.
Um, but we knew that it was going to be a chance to tell our story in a way that we weren’t going to get to, um, with anything.
Ken:Okay. Got it. So, um, I wanted to talk, uh, switch gears just a little bit. Let’s talk about your product. Um, it looks like you’ve got, um, pineapple and cucumber and then watermelon and chili flavors.
Um, did you start out with both of those? Did you launch both of those at the same time when you launched?
Kayla: Yeah, we, um, we started off with two skews. We have always had watermelon Chile, and that one was the one that. Is my favorite. And like always was very adamant about launching, um, the other one pineapple cucumber.
It started off as cucumber and lime with like, uh, we used a coconut water base, but it just, coconut water is very divisive for a lot of people. People either love it or hate it. And so that formula got an update, um, to omit coconut water. And add in pineapple because that was the overwhelming response to fruit that people want.
To see, um, as a part of our lineup. So I think that that is also like unique to startups and, um, gives you like an upper hand to iterate. And that’s why I was saying like smart start a small as you can, because things will change. So like we changed based on what our customers were asking for. So yeah, so we.
Had one reformulated and then watermelon laid that flavor profile has stayed the same throughout and yeah, so we had those two and then we have two new flavors coming out pretty soon.
Ken: Oh, cool. Could you tell us a little bit more about the new flavors or is that top secret?
Kayla: She isn’t just going to have to wait, but I’ll say we’re going to bring a little bit more spice to the game and a little bit more sweetness.
So you’ll just have to follow.
Ken: Nice. Nice. Do you have a timeline for that? When do you think you’re going to launch these things?
Kayla: We’re figuring that out right now, actually, um, there might be like a limited edition or like limited time drop of the two flavors I would say before summer is over. Um, but yeah, you’ll see them here and there for the time being.
And by next summer they’ll definitely be in our rotation.
Ken: Yeah. So what’s, what’s the process like for coming up with a new flavor? Like, do you, you know, how do you formulate, uh, the, these recipes? You know, what, what do you, what do you do to, to make sure you’re doing.
Kayla: Yeah. I mean, it’s difficult taking some from your kitchen to commercial, um, is really hard.
So like the recipes as they are originally, like in our kitchen, they’re like tried and true recipes. Right. Um, but getting that to a commercial scale that can like withstand any processing and, um, just like. Batching and like making sure that you don’t get anyone sick, um, who is a whole other ball game.
So we have had to, um, yeah. Find food scientists that we work with, um, like dedicated to just our formulation process, um, to try to get it as right. And as, um, identical to our kitchen samples as they can, but, you know, It’s not always the exact same thing, but we’re always trying to get as close as we can.
Ken: Right and then the name of the game is iteration, right? It’s lots of tastes, lots of, uh, you know, at-bats to make sure that you can get it.
Kayla: Yeah, exactly. It’s um, I mean, one of our flavors, it’s been like seven months probably that we’ve gone back and forth with, um, food scientists and stuff and, you know, that’s inexpensive game to play.
Um, and so that’s also, yeah, just like going back, like start as small as possible because you don’t want to produce, you know, like a million cans and then the formula changes. And then you have a million cans of something out there in the world that like you really wish were out there.
Ken: Yeah. So, uh, you know, I I’m, I’m curious what the rest of the summer looks like, you know?
So you just got off this where you literally just one yesterday, right? Is that what you said? Yeah. And so what does that, what does that mean for your business? You know, going forward, what do you, you know, how do you leverage. You know, that, that, that win and that notoriety, you know, and that validation, how do you leverage that?
Um, into progress for your business.
Kayla: Yeah so for us, I think a lot of that, um, goes into our fundraising. We’re currently fundraising. And so I think we’re at a point now where it’s. We have proven that there’s a large adjustable market. We have proven that like we have customers and now we’ve proven that like, we can stand like the fire from like industry that’s.
So going. To a conversation with investors being armed with all of that, um, is leveraged for us to show like, as we scale and as we go into these much larger productions and opportunities that are now like knocking at our doors, like, are you. Um, as we grow. So that is really what the rest of the summer looks like for us is, um, aligning with the right partners to help us as we grow and to capitalize on the momentum that a lot of these big wins have brought our way now, you know, we, we get a lot of.
Um, inbound like wholesale requests and we have, um, conversations with retailers about, you know, where they can see us and how much they want and stuff like that. So now it’s just like, um, yeah, just like taking all of the great stuff that we’re fortunate to be experiencing and finding the right financial partners to help us make it all possible.
Ken: Well, and maybe there’s somebody out there listening right now that would be interested. What, what kind of, um, investors are you looking for and how much you guys.
Kayla: I actually can’t disclose the amount that we’re trying to raise on a public forum. Um, but, um, when it comes to investors, as long as you’re an accredited investor, we can talk.
Um, and so we would love folks that have a deep interest in the CPG. And, um, or just want to work on something that is really soul fulfilling. Um, you know, we have investors on our team that they came to the project because it was fun. Then it made them feel good about what they were investing their dollars in, like with our mission of like saving produce and reinvesting into the community.
So if you are eco-conscious, um, social mission driven, um, A really big fan of CPG in general. I think we have a spot for you on our team and maybe our cap table.
Ken: And are you looking for, uh, uh, angel investors or are you looking for venture at this point? You know, w where are you?
Kayla: Yeah, it’s a mix of both.
Um, so we’re still early stage. So, um, just engaging that risk appetite between the two, because yeah, it’s just a wonky stage of growth risk, but it’s a mix between angels and, uh, traditional, like institutional.
Ken: Yeah. And, um, so I wanted to just dig in and talk a little bit about your manufacturing. Um, you know, and maybe, you know, there’s some tips that you give for somebody who’s, you know, submitting their first, their first, uh, you know, formula for that production run.
Were there any mistakes that you guys made early on or anything that you learned from that process?
Kayla: Hello? Yeah. Where to start? Um, I would say, make sure to work closely with your process authority. Um, Our product is unique in that we are canned, but we are non-carbonated. So there’s a lot of extra care that goes into creating a product like that.
That is shelf stable, because we don’t have the, um, assurance of carbonation to help us out with those things. And so you have to work very closely with your process authority to understand. What exactly it’s going to take from a machinery side of things and like what types of ingredients that you are actually able to use to achieve what you want to achieve.
Um, and so I would make sure to start there and, uh, like really go through the ins and outs with them because it’ll save you a lot of time finding the right co-packing partner, if you know exactly what you’re looking for and the parameters. Uh, how your product can actually be made. Lots of co-packers are going to tell you that they can do it.
They can’t, um, and they just want your business, you know what I mean? Um, but that doesn’t mean that they’re the best equipped to actually make your product. And you’re going to find that out the hard way. Um, thousands of dollars later, if she don’t like, you know, dig into the details.
Ken: Of four stories right. Of your first production run or your first few production runs until you find a decent partner, you know, it’s just, there’s so many of them. Um, and the market is unique in that. It’s not all that transparent. It’s not like you can go to Yelp and find, you know, I’ll, you know, five stars, you know, and then a whole bunch of reviews for a lot of these co-packers, um, it’s just.
You know, you meet them somewhere, they hand you a card and you’re talking, you know, um, have you found any ways or maybe, um, you know, things to look for and, and somebody that you feel like is going to be a good partner for you, or, you know, maybe even red flags, you know, Hey, Ron, if you see this, you know, if they tell you this, you know, what are some of those ways in which you can bet that, that somebody is actually going to be able to do what they say.
Kayla: You know, you hit it right on the head when you said, you know, it is a bit of a transparent process. I will say, like the co-packers that have like the most Villa visibility, like, you know, the ones that come up right away on Google are probably like, not the best ones to be working with necessarily because they’re spending their money, um, trying to bring in new clients.
And that, that doesn’t mean that, um, They have a tried and true portfolio of success. I would nine times out of 10, probably 10 times out of 10, take a personal referral from a different brand that has actually worked with a co-packer before then to take the word. The internet and Google’s first hit. Um, and you know, we have, we’ve been burned on that side before, too.
Um, so yeah, I would say like my biggest piece of advice in that realm is like talk to other brands that are comparable to your type of product. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a competitor or anything like that, but I mean, I feel like most people will find. CBG community and even beverage in particular is pretty tight knit.
There are people willing to help. Um, people want to see others succeed, even though it is, uh, you know, a highly competitive space. So talk to other people that are in the space and, you know, take their word for it. When they either have told you a horror story of someone that they’ve worked with before, or if they have a success.
So. That personal referral is a very, very strong point of starting, you know, and you get some friends along the way too.
Ken: Yeah. Did you guys end up working with a consultant to help you with, with any of this or, or, you know, did you already have enough experience, you know, with your time at Coca-Cola and time in the business?
Kayla: Yeah. I mean, I had enough experience to know like generally what we were looking for. Um, but we. Have a very special product in that we’re not harmony. I know it sounds like simple. Like if it should be even simpler than carbonating a drink. Um, but when it comes to production, it’s not. So we had to rely a lot on our network to find the right person.
And yeah, I mean, it was, you know, back and forth with tons of people like, Hey, do you know anyone? Do you know anyone with this type of machinery? Do you know anyone that can do these types of volumes? Um, and then being like I do, or I don’t, but I know someone who might know someone and kind of falling down those rabbit holes.
Um, yeah. Cause so we didn’t use a consultant or anything. Um, but like I said, Closely with our process authority after, you know, having a bad experience on the first round to figure out like, what do we really, really, really need to be looking at?
Ken: Right. Right. Um, and you mentioned, you know, different communities, you know, reach out.
And you mentioned that the CPG space, you know, is pretty open and, and community driven in a lot of ways. Uh, do you have any specific communities that come to mind that you can recommend to people that maybe they should plug in?
Kayla: Yeah. Uh, I know startups CBG is a great place, uh, for lots of folks to start.
I know that they have like a really extensive, um, slack channel and you can get plugged in pretty easily there. Um, And then also just like looking into local channels, if you are fortunate to be in the Austin area, there’s a huge like CPG community there, um, where you can find different outlets, like pretty easily.
And then I would say, um, where else, I mean, if you’re able to, you should look at. Applying to an accelerator program. Um, those kind of come with built in communities that can really do what they say help accelerate your growth. Um, I. I always tell people like, yes, I could have found the answer on my own eventually, or I could have gotten it in five minutes from one of our mentors.
And like, time is money in a lot of cases. So like, what would you do? Rather do, you know, waste your time trying to figure it out on your own, or just ask someone who has the expertise and knows. And so, um, our accelerator program, we went through you. Um, great CPG accelerator program based out of Austin was really great in providing us, like with just a bad-ass mentor team to help us as well.
Ken: Yeah, those are some good recommendations. And we’ve, we’ve heard the same things, um, from the Austin scene, as well as, uh, from our experience with startups, CPG. Um, and, and, you know, even if you don’t live in Austin, you know, there’s a lot of events that are going on. And so if you plug in and you know, it might be worth it to fly down for a weekend and attend, you know, one of these events just to start that networking, um, Yeah.
So you, so you don’t have to go at this alone there, there really is a big CPG community out there.
Kayla: Yeah, for sure. Um, yeah, we’ve gotten a lot of help along the way, even from folks that maybe others would see us as competitors too. Um, and they’ve been more than willing to help us, so yeah, very, um, lean into your networks.
Ken: Okay. Awesome. Well, let’s, uh, let’s switch over to the quickfire round. We’ve got four questions for you and, uh, just want to hear the first thing that comes to mind. Let’s go. All right. What’s a one tool or resource that has helped you a lot.
Kayla: Zoom, and then the endemic.
Ken: It’s so funny. I’m so sick of zoom these days, but, uh, I mean, it’s, it’s the tool of choice, you know, like we would have been lost without it.
Kayla: Yeah. I wouldn’t have been able to do these pitch competitions without zoom. Really? We have two little ones here and like flying all over the country to pitch, uh, like probably not on the cards. Had it not been for zoom. So zoom.
Ken: Yeah, that’s a good one. Um, what is a book that you could recommend?
Kayla: Oh, um, I love Capital Gains by Chip Gaines. Um, I know his wife is more, um, famous, but they’re like the couple from fixer-upper, but they have kind of like entrepreneurial pursuits that they’ve like built a whole empire out of and his book capital gains. Um, we’ll kind of show you like it’s okay to fail on the first time and like how to pivot. And it’s really funny. So I would say, yeah Capital Gains.
Ken: Nice. Um, what’s one piece of Advice that you would give to your 21 year old self?
Kayla: Um, I would say, uh, just keep having fun. I, I don’t think I would actually change anything that I did, um, when I was 21 and yes, I would just say keep having fun. And, um, these experiences will pay off later.
Ken: All right. And who is one person in your field of work or maybe just another entrepreneur that you look up to that you’d love to take to lunch.
Kayla:My co-founder Erin actually. Um, because of the pandemic we’ve only ever met physically one time. Um, yeah, so we have been working together for over a year and we’ve only ever been in a room with each other one time.
Um, and she just has an incredible work ethic and like a crazy set of skills. So I would love to take her out to lunch one day.
Ken: Well, you have to make that happen. You know, that’s, that’s, that’s amazing. And it’s kind of a Testament to the tools that we have available to us now, but that’s even possible.
Kayla: Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. Zoom.
Ken: All right. Well, Hey, this has been, this has been great. I think you’ve covered a lot of just really interesting topics. Um, what, um, I guess, what is the rest of the year look like for you guys? Is there anything that you want to promote or plug, you know, as we, as we wrap up.
Kayla: Yeah, I would say, um, closely on Instagram at drink, I will eat that and you will see new flavors debuting and maybe even some seasonal flavors debuting, which we’re really excited about and very cool partnerships, um, that we will be using that medium to announce. So if you guys are interested and want to get your hands on what we’ll need the, and, um, yeah.
Look for us. I would say. Instagram drink at Agua Bonita and that’s it.
Ken: Okay. Awesome. And I know me and you connected over LinkedIn, you know, and so I’d make sure to look up your name on LinkedIn with you there too.
Kayla: Yeah. DME, I love that catching virtual coffees with folks. So I’m always around on LinkedIn and Instagram too.
And apparently I’m just constantly plugged in.
Ken: All right. Um, let’s uh, let’s just wrap this up. Do you have any parting words that you would give to other entrepreneurs out there, um, that are in the physical product space? They’re in the grind? You know, what would you say to them?
Kayla: Yeah, I would say, um, you know, things get hard, but remember why you start.
And whatever problems you have right now, um, they might seem monumental, but they are solemn solvable problems. Um, you just kind of have to put the effort there, but you know, your breaks come. And when you are in a season of winning, you know, take that and celebrate it. Um, and don’t let this season of losing, uh, you know, take away the passion for what you’re doing.
Ken: Okay, that’s awesome. That’s a great note to end on Kayla. Thank you. Um, congratulations on all your success. That’s awesome. Um, and I appreciate you jumping on the podcast with us. Thank you.
Kayla: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.
Ken: Okay. We’ll see ya. Physical product Movement Podcast is brought to you by Fiddle to find out more about Fiddle and Howard industry.
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