Founder of Siempre Soups Alison Velázquez knows how hard it can be to start a food-based business – she did it herself over six years ago! She’s joining us to share everything she learned along the way and give you her best tips for starting your company.
Sarah: Siempre Soups is a plant-based company whose goal is to bring soup back to its roots. We're joined today by the company's founder, Alison Velazquez, and one of my personal friends. Thank you so much for being here today.
Alison: Thanks, Sarah. I'm excited to be here.
Sarah: Awesome. First question of the day, what were the initial steps you had to take before starting your food business?
Alison: The initial steps were what a lot of people have to do for any business.
Alison: It was, first, setting up a legal entity for it, then registering with the city that I was living in, and then, specifically for food, though, the next thing you wanted to do is get a reseller license.
Alison: A reseller license is something that lets you go and buy, for me, produce and not have to pay taxes on it-
Alison: ... because I'm going to, essentially, repackage it and resell it to a consumer.
Sarah: Whole Foods has that set up right for vendors to have a wholesale situation through them.
Alison: Right, exactly. If I'm selling into retail, then I'm wholesaling into them. That means only one person should be paying the taxes on it. Ultimately, it's going to be the consumer, so I get that certificate so I don't have to pay the taxes.
Sarah: Got it. Are there any regulations around test kitchens, handling food, or things like that for startups or entrepreneurs looking to start a food brand?
Alison: Absolutely. Obviously, food safety is one of the most important concerns when it comes to that. It really depends on if you yourself are self manufacturing or if you're outsourcing your manufacturing, but either way, there needs to be some level of food safety. When I started self manufacturing at first, I had a food manager sanitation certificate I had to get.
Sarah: Okay, interesting. You're also a chef, so you know what's up.
Sarah: Right? Awesome. When it came to the time that you were outsourcing ingredients and outsourcing manufacturing, what's the process of finding vendors?
Alison: Vendors, it's a pretty complicated process-
Alison: ... to be honest. Yeah. You really want to start, first, by looking at what your process is, how you actually create your product, because that's really going to depend on what the specifications are of the ingredients that you're purchasing.
Sarah: Got it.
Alison: Once you have that down, you can understand what those specs are, then you can go out to the marketplace, start talking to vendors, see who offers what, and then, obviously, price is next thing that's really important to start comparing.
Sarah: Amazing. I know you're in so many fabulous retail locations and that took a lot of work. I remember when we were chatting, when you were first starting out, and I know that's obviously the goal of every food company, to get into retail. What does that journey entail? How does a food company get into retail?
Alison: Yes, definitely lots of doors. Getting into retail is really, honestly, a complicated process. First of all, before you even approach a buyer, really make sure that your product is buttoned up. When I say "buttoned up," I mean you want to make sure that you have retail ready packaging, something that can sit on the shelf in a retail store, that's going to be appealing to customers, and that's going to move off the shelf, hopefully. Once you have all of that in place, you want to make sure that you have your pricing model set up, and lastly, you want to make sure that you can actually produce enough product for whatever the retailer is that you're going into. The last thing you want to do is get a purchase order from a huge retailer and not be able to fulfill it.
Sarah: That means you have to outgrow your at home kitchen type of situation, right?
Alison: At a certain point, yes. It depends, maybe you want to start going into some smaller little boutiquey retailers-
Alison: ... where you can self produce, but eventually, if you look to moving into a mass retailer, you really need to outsource your manufacturing.
Sarah: For any new companies, are there any regulations that come into play when it comes to getting into retail?
Alison: There are, definitely. They have food safety regulations that you need to abide by and, depending on the retailer, there are also different rules that they're looking for, regarding their ingredient list that they'll accept.
Sarah: Interesting, I know Whole Foods is pretty tricky.
Alison: Yes, that's exactly who I was thinking of. They're very strict about the ingredients, packaging, and so forth that comes into their store.
Sarah: Great, good stuff. Alison, thank you so much for joining me and talking with us today on Talking Plant Protein. We'll see you guys all later.