Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with JJ Tartarini, co-founder and VP of Sales of U-LUV Foods, located in Broomfield, Colorado, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Long story short about me and U-LUV Foods. That started in 2018 after I lost my big boy job. My brother was looking for work, and at the time, my mother was making gluten-free baked goods to sell at local farmer markets. We said, "why don't we get the food business off the ground?". We had no idea what we were stating with that statement, but here we were, ready to embark on our journey selling "BowBeas Gluten-Free Products."
If you're saying, "wait, isn't your brand U-LUV Foods?" yes, it is. We launched our first food company, which failed as we weren't fitting the market. We landed a local retailer, and as we were demoing our products, we heard three important things:
- Our name didn't make sense.
- People were asking for more than just gluten-free, We would hear, "is it vegan? Does it contain nuts or dairy? What is the sugar count?". Realizing our products didn't fit the market, we spent 2019 rebranding: first in the product, then in name, marketing, and mission.
Our brand now is U-LUV Foods. Our mission is to create great-tasting snacks that contribute to compassionate causes, and our core values are:
- People Matter
- Quality Speaks
- Generosity Returns
That's why a % of sales go to the compassionate first organization and is part of our COGS because we won't bend on that. If we're faithful with the little, we will be faithful with the large.
This pursuit has led U-LUV Foods products to be found in over 330 US retailer locations.
Our customers are those restricted to allergy-friendly products.
We started selling our U-LUV Foods products at the beginning of 2020 and have seen some great initial success. Our products are now free-from all eight major FDA allergens. The name U-LUV Foods fits because the reasoning is God U-LUV people, and our mission is clear. We create great-tasting snacks that contribute to compassionate causes.
Tell us about yourself
Long story short about me and U-LUV Foods. That started in 2018 after I lost my big boy job. I was in medical sales, which was great money but not what I was called to do. To be honest, God had to take the job from me as the security and comfort were blinding, and I was fighting the calling God had on my life. My focus is and will be to bring Christ glory, but I could only see two buckets for myself: ministry or a salesman in corporate America.
When I lost that job beginning of 2018, I was reading through the book of Acts and its chapter 18. I read this verse: "Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was." -- Acts 18:3.
I then had to do further research into what a tentmaker meant. I stumbled across this article and realized God was speaking to me. What if God is calling me to be a tentmaker? What I didn't realize (because His Word is a lamp and doesn't show everything) was that God had a bigger plan. This tentmaking business could be a blessing as we steward what is rightfully His, to begin with.
What motivates me each day is a few things:
- To fulfill this mission, God has placed on my life.
- To provide for my beautiful wife and daughter.
- To see U-LUV Foods become the resource the world needs through our compassionate mission.
All facets of business can be broken down into one of those three buckets.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
There have been a few milestones in our young history, one being getting U-LUV Foods products in all 250+ Meijer stores in the Midwest as well as all 30+ Rocky Mountain Whole Foods locations.
The second has been being able to use the sales of those accounts to impact Denver Dream Center and Dumb Friends League non-profits in Denver, CO.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
There are a few things:
- The uncertainty. It’s literally the scariest and fun thing, all wrapped in one.
- You quickly realize what you’re good at that you didn’t know you were, and likewise, you realize what you’re not so good at. Entrepreneurship by nature means you’ll see the world in a different light than before because you won’t be allowed to wear just one hat. You will see the whole scale of a project. This brings a lot of uncertainty and trials but is 100% worth it.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Be steadfast. Everyone falls in love with the idea and vision of starting a business. Anything worth eternal value is hard work.
- Exercise Humility – This doesn’t mean taking advice from everyone, but you don’t always have to feel that you have all the answers. We had to rebrand from our first CPG food business because it didn’t fit the market. Often, we are so set on what we believe is the path to glory that we become very stubborn along the way. Be willing to see where change is needed (internal or market), adapt, and execute.
- Allow your true vision to guide you each day. – If your end goal is just to make money, you’re more than likely won’t have the motivation each day. Growing a business is a labor of love. Often, you won’t see loads of money for a while. If that is the only thing driving you, it will be very difficult to be steadfast to see your business thrive.
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.
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