Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tina Diep, owner of Hungry Bird Eats, located in East Orange, NJ, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I make seed crackers for a living. As simple as those sounds, it comes with as many battles as it does victories! I found out that my son was allergic to nuts and soy a few years back, so I needed a good healthy snack for him. I started to experiment with cracker making! I was working as an architect for several years while also writing my food blog for fun. After my friends and neighbors got a taste of my crackers, my love for the food industry took over and I quit the architecture world altogether!
Our snacks are baked locally in small batches, using old-school Scandinavian baking methods. We incorporate natural superfoods into the recipe to make our crisps extra energizing for all the active birds out there! On my Insta you’ll get a true behind-the-scenes look at what being a food entrepreneur looks like! Spoiler alert: It’s not all glam!
Tell us about yourself
Funnily enough, before I got into food, I was an architect! Then I started a food blog and the rest all fell into place. Growing up in Denmark and as a child of Vietnamese refugees, I was exposed to a totally different cuisine. My crackers are very much a nod to Nordic crisps, which are native to Scandinavia.
I had very hard-working parents who inspired me to maintain a good work ethic through all their hardships to get where they are now. I started working at 13 and developed many different skills that I still use today including multitasking! I wear so many hats running a small business! I think it's very important to try your hand at many different jobs as you can always learn something new about yourself or the industry.
In this business there will always be something that will make you want to quit on the spot, but when you solve the problem, it is extremely rewarding. Hearing from fans that they love the product is my ultimate prize — it’s like climbing a steep mountain and finally making it to the top.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Since I first started the company, there have been a lot of accomplishments throughout the years, so it’s hard to nail down just one. When I set my eye on something, I do it with patience and diligence. Sometimes I drive my team crazy because I believe that we can always improve and make things more efficient. Being able to shapeshift and adapt is a key part of growing my business — I never want to feel stagnant.
Recently Hungry Bird received the Good Food Award from the Good Food Foundation who recognize food products with exceptional taste and a deep commitment to social responsibility. To be recognized for the hard work that you put in is truly special and reminds me to keep striving for better quality and practices.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The constant decisions you must make and the problems you have to solve all the time are not that easy, but the hardest part is playing multiple positions in one company. I can add amateur bookkeeper, designer, operational manager, sales rep, HR manager, baker, photographer, and web developer to my resume now! Not to mention that I’m a mom for two small kids — it definitely keeps me busy but at the end of the day it is very satisfying.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Do your research first, understand that this is not just a side job it is a full-time job.
- Make sure you crunch the numbers and be sure this is a profitable business — not just a hobby.
- Lastly, get your trademarks approved so you don’t have to change the branding later on — that can cost a small fortune to change.
Anything else you'd like to share?
It’s been very important for me and my company to join the movement of sustainable change in lowering waste. Recently we received the Good Food Award, which I am very proud of! The Good Food Awards recognize that truly good food – the kind that brings people together and builds strong, healthy communities, contains ingredients that are invaluable both socially and practically.
In keeping with Hungry Bird’s sustainable practices, we’ve implemented a new policy to plant a tree for every product that’s purchased on our site. One cracker for you, one tree for all of us—to perch on of course.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.