Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Melissa Heath, Owner of Radical Plants LLC., located in St. Clair Shores, MI, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Radical Plants is a vegan specialty foods company. We began as a wholesale production company but are now branching out into retail, as well. Our store will be stocked with vegan food and merchandise to make a living and support a vegan lifestyle that is beautiful, delicious, and easy! Of course, we will carry our products: Superdip, CarrotDogs, and Chili, but we will also offer quick grab-and-go meals provided by other local companies, and every evening we will be serving a hot selection. Our goal from day one was to make it more convenient to be vegan.
The incredible growth of plant-based food in the marketplace is so encouraging, but we noticed the lack of brick-and-mortar locations where people can shop for material goods produced without the use of animals. The Radical Plants store is a place where people don't have to read the fine print on any of the labels. We have already done that.
We have such wonderful customers! From people who have been vegan for years to those curious about it for health or environmental reasons to the ones just buying to support their plant-based friends or family- we have talked to everyone on the vegan spectrum. Our tagline is "Eat plants for a change," and it is incredible to see that people are really starting to get that. We need to change- for our health, for the animals, and for the planet.
Tell us about yourself
I have been vegan for 12 years. When I decided to stop consuming animals, it was for both my health and the realization that an animal's life is worth more than a meal. Unfortunately, for a long time, there weren't a lot of tasty vegan options. When I created a delicious, creamy basil-alfredo sauce out of tofu that was nut-free, sugar-free, and oil-free, I realized that this was not something that was already on the market. So, we developed two other flavors, and Superdip was born. That was five years ago, and we have since expanded. Many vegan people have made their own CarrotDogs- we became the first company to package them. Sometimes you don't want to marinate and wait. From there, we added vegan chili because a really good dog is even better with some chili on top. While it may sound a little cliché, what keeps me motivated is our customers. It is truly a thrill when people tell us how much they like our food and appreciate that it isn't vegan junk food. People like that we offer tasty and healthy. Sometimes those two characteristics don't go hand-in-hand.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is the slow build. I like that we've just kept going and growing. I have friends who started food businesses who are just rocketing and friends who have thrown in the towel. We are moving at our own pace, albeit slowly, and that is something I would not have been comfortable with a few years ago, but I've come to realize that it's not a race. This realization, which has eliminated the need to keep up with the Joneses, is a huge accomplishment for me- and has helped me maintain my sanity.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things about owning a business is never being able to 'punch-out.' I never realized just what a luxury that was! There is always something to plan, an idea to flesh-out, and a problem to solve.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Ask a lot of questions! Find people who are a few steps ahead and ask what they've done. I haven't found anyone who was not willing to offer guidance. Sometimes, people will offer to help or tell you they are there if you need anything. I've started asking, "What kind of help can you provide?" Specifics help a lot!
- Prepare for the long haul! While your product may be the best thing the world has ever seen, getting the world to see it takes a while. Know that the ego rush that comes with a launch fades- you have to be confident enough in what you are doing to ride out the dips. Read Darren Hardy's "Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster."
- If you don't like to learn, don't start a business. You will be forced to learn new things daily. Just trust me on that.
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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