Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Christina Appleton, CEO of Appleton's Market, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
The original Appleton's Market was a Mom 'n' Pop grocery store founded by my great-grandparents in rural Michigan. Passed down through the generations, the store was where I grew up – riding my tricycle through the aisles and building paper towel forts. It's where I fell in love with food.
Like many other millennials, I love snacking (usually more than eating a proper meal!) but am not always thrilled with my snacking choices. Many times I want the convenience and size of a snack but the fulfilling feeling that I get from a meal. I needed a bridge, lower in calories and effort but higher in all the things I love about meals (greens, protein, fiber, and healthy fats) – that would fill me up, taste delicious, and keep me going for hours. A lot of people told me they needed the same thing. They didn't have time or money for Postmates but also weren't happy with the sugary protein bar or a handful of sad almonds sitting at their desk.
So I took my knowledge from working at General Mills and Thrive Market and created the new Appleton's Market. My first product, Power Veggie Bites, is warm and delicious and still delivers the ideal combination of protein, fat, fiber, and healthy veggies with no added sugar to keep concentration high and hunger at bay. I made them frozen so people could keep them in the freezer for months and microwave-steamable in less than a minute to not hog the kitchen or lose valuable time from your day. Convenience without compromise!
Tell us about yourself
It was late afternoon on a random weekday. I was running from one meeting to the next, thinking about all the emails I had to send, but all I could focus on was how hungry I was. So hungry I couldn't even think about what I wanted to eat. I just knew I wanted something tasty, something nutrient-dense, and something NOW. I looked around my desk at the sad bag of almonds and a dry protein bar and thought, "there has to be something better, right?"
Well, there wasn't. There was nothing that could give me the satisfaction of a fulfilling meal (greens, protein, fiber, healthy fats, and delicious savory flavors) quickly and conveniently. So I headed to my kitchen to make it myself. After months of testing, I knew I had the perfect mini-meal and the perfect way to make it. Microwaved in a BPA-free steamer bag for less than a minute, "Power Veggie Bites" are the ultimate hunger solution.
I am constantly motivated by my customers. They frequently reach out to me to tell me how much my products have helped them and how easy they are to incorporate into their daily lives. It's why I started the business and why I continue to push forward.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Frankly, just launching and growing a business during a pandemic. My entire business model flew out the window two weeks before I launched, so I have been very proud of my own resilience, adaptability, and flexibility in making this business happen. There have been many tough days and many moments of self-doubt, but I am continuing to hustle and push this all forward. Plus, a few of my co-working spaces have opened back up and are placing orders, so not all was lost from my original strategy. :)
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I launched this business during the quarantine after spending the prior year working on a business plan that hinged on selling into offices, coworking spaces, and coffee shops. It was quite the setback ;) But that which does not kill us makes us stronger, and I think my forced pivot has given me the space to make some mistakes and learn from them. I've also learned a lot of lessons about giving myself some grace, as this was a really tough year to launch a new brand, especially a frozen product that is tricky to ship. I cannot say enough good things about the amazing network of friends and other founders in the CPG community who were there to help pull me through it all.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
The most important thing by far is growing and cultivating your network. This can be other founders, service providers, customers, etc., just people who are invested in you and willing to help out because you will need a LOT of help when you start out.
The second is to pick something that you are ok with living/breathing/thinking about every single waking moment. It will take over your life, and if you don't love it, you will be miserable.
Lastly, I'd recommend setting some serious goals and sticking to them. Sometimes this means that you need to make tough decisions and even walk away from certain things, but being honest with yourself and keeping yourself accountable is incredibly important.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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