Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Peter Blankenship, Co-Founder and President of Wâhi Nutrition, Inc., located in Eden Prairie, MN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We have a line of plant-powered functional beverages offering a variety of health benefits. The beverages are infused with pharmaceutical-grade plant extracts from an eastern medicine pharmacy we have partnered with. Our customers care deeply about what they put in their bodies and view what they consume as not only nourishment but also medicine. They look to expand or supplement their diet with the healing powers of plants such as ashwagandha, milk thistle, dandelion, and jade windscreen.
Tell us about yourself
My brother and I started our first company around a medical device we created and patented designed to solve a real problem in hospitals. Our passion for entrepreneurship really evolved from an obsession with solving problems. After we sold our medical device company, we wanted to focus our next efforts on a market that we lived in every day - health and wellness. We had been introducing exotic plants into our diets for years and really felt the benefits of that lifestyle. After sharing our creations with friends, we looked at the best way to bring those plant blends to the masses. We always felt that water was the healthiest beverage option on the market but felt that the category lacked innovation. To us, the products that were in bottled water were no different than what we could get out of our taps at home. So we set out to create the same drinking experience as water but infused each drink with a targeted blend of plants. Each day we enjoy working on expanding the availability of wâhiwater to the masses.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
This has to be the sale of our first company, Streamline, Inc. We started this company in college, and it really was a learning experience. We had times when the company was nearly out of cash and faced the real struggles all startups do. So to walk away with a successful sale of the company while also getting that real-world learning experience was huge. It really gave us the roadmap and confidence going into our current venture - Wâhi Nutrition.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The short answer is everything. But to name one thing, you constantly have to do more with less. Startups always have limited resources but need to make big things happen. When you don't have the cash to fund those "big things," you have to get creative.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Surround yourself with great people. A startup (or any small business) is hard enough, given the headwinds that come with being the little guy. Going about it alone, or even worse, with a team that grinds the gears, can make it impossible. A great team can jump hurdles and make things happen you never dreamed of.
- Avoid costly pitfalls. Energy and resources go into achieving an objective. If it's the wrong objective or the right one gone about incorrectly, it could mean the end of your business. Again, a good team can help identify these and avoid them or abort them early enough to mitigate damage.
- Realize the difference between hard and impossible. Sometimes doing something hard seems impossible, and we quit. The reality is sometimes you are closer than you think, and a little perseverance can get you there.
Tips two and three can be a lot easier when you get tip one correct.
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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