Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Julieta Kalinowski, Chief Experience Officer of Total Incentives, located in Estero, FL, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Total Incentives create gifts, tasting experiences & incentive travel featuring sustainable and healthy brand products like award-winning dark chocolate Pacari from Ecuador, single-origin coffee "Cafe Quindio" from the heart of Colombia & Alibu tea from Ecuador. Our mission is to create healthy gifts and experiences for companies and consumers who are looking for a healthy way to incentivize customers, employees, or people that they care about the most. We are located in Florida and Illinois and ship worldwide. Our gift options could be customized using leatherwood boxes (100% Ecuadorian materials), among other materials that fit every budget. Our virtual or in-person tasting experiences are created with fun pairings like wine, spirits, and teas, bringing fun and interactive activities meeting any budget.

Tell us about yourself

Total Incentives was founded in July 2019 by me. The business was created initially with the aim of offering incentive travel to South America since my background has been in the travel industry for over 18 years. One sweet day attending one of the industry events in Chicago where I was introduced to the founder of Pacari chocolate who sampled chocolate to the audience and told the story of the farmers and the sustainable practices around Ecuador with the products, then immediately I fell in love with the chocolate and my desire to bring groups to Ecuador to get the experience based on chocolate grew on me. Now I am spreading the story through the gifts and tasting experiences. After the chocolate, I wanted to experiment with new products. My advisor and partner gave me the idea of bringing the coffee from Colombia, where I was born and raised. I also have a bachelor's degree in Airline Administration, so my passion for incentive travel continues, but now I have been learning a lot about healthy dark chocolate and the many infused flavors that I still enjoy every day, along with the coffee and tea. My goal is to continue supporting the farmers and the families through education and memorable experiences to Corporate America and any consumer that enjoys and craves good quality food while showing appreciation to others.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment as a business owner has been bringing unique experiences while showing the authenticity of the products while learning how to manage tools, teams, and finance. It is like coming back to school with a bigger focus and clarity, a total learning process.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Learning each process of a company from accounting, fulfillment, HR, marketing while mastering my sales skills is the only thing that I really was experienced at that point. At the same time, I love every part of it.

Long hours for no payment, trying to get a project done when another is waiting to start. Then I decided to bring a team slowly; they have helped me to keep the business going.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. If I would start over, especially when you come from being an employee to being your own boss. I would purchase a business instead of doing it from scratch and improve it as we go. Mine is already established and took two years.
  2. Set up your financial tools from the beginning and hire a business consultant that is an expert in that specific tool that will teach you how to do things, so you will not rely on people at the beginning because it will be more costly, believe me, I have been there.
  3. Sell what you love, either service or a product. This way during those long hours without payment will be more enjoyable because it is yours and because you love it. Don't give up!

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Did you know that dark chocolate and red wine share the same compound called "polyphenols"? They are micronutrients that naturally occur in plants. They're included in many supplements bringing health for your heart reducing and helping control your blood sugar levels. So when you have these two beauties, there is no remorse whatsoever, enjoy with moderation, and you will have a dessert time experience with family and friends. We provide this and more health information per each Pacari chocolate flavor during our tasting experiences with chocolate, coffee, and teas with pairings.

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; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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