Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Joline Rivera, Founder of Eat Your Greens Inc., located in Chicago, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We're a healthy honey snack brand—everything we produce puts honey first. We know HONEY IS BETTER THAN SUGAR, and we believe people are looking for ways to replace refined sugar. So we take this incredible functional food and pair it with other functional ingredients creating snacks that do way more than satisfy a sweet craving.
We offer Red Belly Honey, the only honey in the world naturally infused with CBD by bees, and Rbel Bee Honey Gummies, both with and without CBD. Our Rbel Bee Honey Gummies start with honey, and then we add ingredients like blueberries, pomegranate, cayenne, blood orange citrus, blue oyster mushrooms, tart cherries, and more—they're fruity, delicious, and you can feel good about eating the whole bag!
Tell us about yourself
I have been breaking barriers since childhood. I defied the odds of my background, becoming financially independent by 18 and becoming the first person in my Mexican-American family to earn a BA in graphic design and a master’s degree in advertising design, both while working full-time. I cut my teeth as a designer at one of the world’s largest publishing houses before realizing true fulfillment would only come by feeding my entrepreneurial spirit. So I left the comfort of corporate life to become one of the most sought-after independent creative directors and trend-spotters in the food industry, creating content and publications for Meredith Publishing, Food Network, KOHLS, USFoods, and more.
Successful trend-spotters recognize change before mass adoption or even industry awareness. I noticed America’s shifting stance on cannabis during the early stages of legalization but was convinced that most were looking for alternatives to smoking. I then changed the trajectory of the male-dominated, fast-growing $10 billion cannabis industry in 2017 as the only minority woman to launch a media brand, beginning with the launch of Kitchen Toke, a visually driven print and digital property reporting on culinary cannabis for health and wellness. Dominating that space, I became the go-to for creating and curating culinary cannabis events in the lodging, retail, and music arena.
I created the first infused dinner for NY fashion designer Prabal Gurung and Bloomingdale’s, The Hoxton Hotel, and Lyrical Lemonade, a three-day long hip-hop festival on Chicago’s southside. As the definitive source for culinary cannabis, Kitchen Toke afforded me the opportunity to review many infused food brands. My trend alarm bell went off when I discovered an infusion method unlike anything on the market – instead of the standard methods that rely upon lab-created infusions, Red Belly Honey allows the bees to infuse naturally, standing alone as the only product of its kind.
Paving new ground, my work grabbed the attention of the mainstream. I was tapped by Food & Wine magazine to develop culinary cannabis content for their print and an online audience of 7 million readers and was called a “culinary cannabis visionary” by their Editor-In-Chief, Hunter Lewis. Food & Wine says, “Red Belly Honey stands out in the wild, wild west of CBD as a product that actually deserves your attention.” I am also scheduled to curate the first infused dinner auction item at Chicago’s Francis W. Parker, one of the most prestigious private schools in the country.
I continue to be motivated today, knowing that there are others like me—looking for ways to replace refined sugar and manage my health. I love candy, but like many Latinx Americans, I struggle with insulin resistance. Honey doesn’t spike blood sugar the way refined sugar does, so I went to work on honey-sweetened candy with functional ingredients. I fought back when they said it couldn’t be done—and now we have Rbel Bee Honey Gummies—no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no shame in eating sweets, no guilt—just really GOOD candy.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I left home at a very young age, and with grit and perseverance, I put myself through college at Drake University, landed my first job at one of the largest publishing companies in the United States, and went on to get my Master's degree. I did that on my own. It was hard, and I mean really hard. But nothing will ever compare to being a female minority in the cannabis space and launching a business during a worldwide pandemic, and then navigating the hangover of that pandemic, a recession, sociopolitical traumas, and now bank failures—and we're still here. We're still going, still growing, and still creating really incredible things. I'm really proud of that.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Being a founder can be very lonely. You go through things and have pressures that no one can really understand. You keep it to yourself most of the time because you need your team to stay positive. You wake up, and you can be having the best day of your life one minute, and the next thing you know, something happens and it's enough to ruin your entire week. The ups and downs are really nuts—but I work really hard to stay focused. I don't make decisions based on feelings (those change every second of every day). I keep my head straight, I don't panic, and I make decisions quickly. I'm riding the edge all the time—that's what it's like being a founder—betting on yourself every day, all day, over and over again.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Remember, there's no such thing as failure. You may not get exactly what you want, exactly how you thought it was going to happen, and you might hear "no" hundreds of times. So if you can't get to where you want to go, straight from A to Z in a straight line, you can still get there, you just have to stop off at some other letters, take some turns, curves, bumps—it'll take longer, but you can still get there. Perseverance, grit, determination—keep going and be creative. Don't give up.
- Save some money just for you. No matter how much money you want to put into your business, it is up to you—but make sure you put some aside just for you. If you want to go out for ice cream, a baseball game, dinner, or whatever, make sure you have money to have some joy and fun. It can't be all work all the time.
- This is the most important, and it encompasses the first two—make sure you take care of your health and wellness. People think health and wellness is eating a salad—it's not. Health is eating well, working out, drinking water, and getting sleep—things I NEVER skip. But wellness is anything that makes you feel good. So if you want some ice cream or pizza—go do it. If you want to play with your dog or snuggle in a blanket—that's a wellness... go do it. Wellness for me can be a good movie or book at home while I snuggle with my two pups, a long 5-mile run in the sun on Lake Michigan, or a walk and a Chicago Cubs game with someone I care about. Don't skip on these things—you need to make sure you are physically and mentally strong for yourself, your team, and your investors. Anything less is disrespectful to yourself.
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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