In Conversation with Rachel Klein of Revival Food Co.
Describe your business in a few words?
Revival Food Co. is a craft almond butter company known for our creative flavors and stone-ground texture. We never add sugar and we meticulously seek out the absolute best ingredients we can get our hands on so that every jar is filled to the brim with goodness.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I founded Revival Food Co. in 2014 by accident, actually. At that time I was teaching yoga and pilates, while experimenting in the kitchen as a side-hobby, simply because I felt frustrated with the lack of both healthy and delicious plant-based nut butters available on grocery shelves. During this time I was also engaged and I ended up bottling my first almond butter recipe, the ‘Classic,’ (which we still sell today) and handing it out to guests at our wedding. I had always felt drawn to the entrepreneurial path, and when our friends and family started asking how they could get their hands on more of that almond butter we handed out at our wedding, I thought to myself, “Maybe there’s something to this… I might not be the only one looking for products that taste good and are good for you!” I took the leap and never looked back; Revival Food Co. was born.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
My background couldn’t be further from founding and running a food company! I trained as a contemporary dancer and then began teaching yoga and pilates. The inspiration for the company came from my own life experience of reviving my passion for a holistic, clean, plant-based lifestyle. Everything I’ve created came from my own journey to seek a better product that is better for you.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes! I’ve always been drawn to the idea of being my own boss and starting something that could be wholly mine.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
I was very scrappy in the beginning– I started out by walking right into any local independent retailers that I could, with a box full of samples in my hands and cases I could sell in my car. I would ask these retailers if they would try my almond butter and if they would consider buying a few cases from me right then and there. And ya know what? It worked. Not one person turned me down. I think that they were equal parts intrigued and surprised, especially given my tenacity and confidence. I let the quality of the product speak for itself, and it never let me down.
Beyond that, I started selling at farmers markets and allowed that to act as my testing grounds for new products, to hear what consumers had to say about flavors and price point, and to get some traction with sales. This scrappy marketing strategy led me to continue building my brand with confidence that there was, in fact, a place in the market for my almond butter.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
There’s definitely been no shortage of mistakes while growing this business– with great risks can come either devastating consequences or wonderful rewards. Most of the time, it’s a mix of both. I would say that most of my mistakes can be categorized under a single umbrella– procrastination.
When preparing for our launch into Walmart, I was so overwhelmed with my pregnancy and the lack of information needed to decide how much product we would be selling, that I didn’t start my search for a co-packer soon enough. I was about two months out from needing to make about 100k units of almond butter for Walmart when I finally secured our co-packer. This last-minute decision cost us, as we had to pay for nearly everything to be expedited so that we could meet our deadline with Walmart. I’ve learned that I need to get the information I need right away to make whatever pending decision is on my list, and then start working on it at least 6 months before I think I need it done.
The Wild Card in all of this was, of course, COVID-19, which dramatically slowed down everything in our supply chain, causing a ripple effect that didn’t help the already-time-sensitive situation. I’ve definitely learned my lesson from all of this, and now I’m working in-advance on projects that I can see coming our way about a year from now! Better to have too much time than not enough!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I feel so proud of the fact that I was able to secure our products on the shelves of nearly 1,000 Walmart stores nationwide, without a broker or any other third-party involvement. Up to this point, we’ve been completely self-funded and I still own 100% of the company myself. Most brands give away so much to get to where I am today, and I really believe that I was able to arrive here in one piece because I was patient with the process. I’ve had three kids within the last five years of growing the company, so I’ve been forced to slow down my company’s growth… and for that, I’m eternally grateful. I’ve been able to be a present mom and wife, while also allowing the company to grow into itself at a natural, organic rate. Now that we’re here, on a national level, we’re ready for it and ready for more because we’ve taken our time to get here.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
My go-to question is this: “What did you go into your Freshman Year of College thinking that you would do with your life? How do you feel about where you are at today in comparison to that?” I find that question interesting because you can learn a lot about who a person was and how they’ve grown into who they are today. I want to have people on my team that are dynamic, curious, and eager to learn. I want them to know that they have the space to potentially live out their dream job with Revival as we grow together into their role.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
With so many people staying home and shopping online due to the pandemic, we actually saw an increase in our sales. We also launched at 1,000 Walmarts nationwide and on Walmart.com in July, making it easier than ever for people to find us and bring us into their homes. That being said, we’ve also faced unique challenges like so many other independent small businesses. For example, there is a national jar shortage (who knew!?) and we’ve faced issues with suppliers and partners that we couldn’t have anticipated; each one a unique new challenge to learn from and overcome!
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Although we’ve been around for five years, I feel like we’re just getting started! The next few years is going to bring exponential growth– we will be launching new flavors, new product lines, and maybe even a super creative & tasty HQ for our Indianapolis friends to enjoy! Beyond that, we will continue to grow into even more retailers nationwide so that anyone can find our products at a store near them!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Ohh gosh, who hasn’t learned the lesson of being flexible in 2020?! This year has brought unexpected changes at every turn, with the pandemic affecting all of our lives at varying levels. This year I’ve learned to roll with the punches more than ever, thinking quick on my feet and choosing to make the next best decision that I can, given whatever circumstances have come my way.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Honestly, I think that my lack of knowledge in the first months of starting Revival is what actually allowed me to feel so confident about going for it in the first place… one of those “ignorance is bliss” situations that gave me the unwavering confidence to keep moving forward without fully understanding all that I was truly taking on. The one thing that I wish I would have known more of when starting out was some business basics– in college I majored in contemporary dance and exercise science, so I was truly googling my way through business during that first year. In hindsight, I think it would have been wise to enroll in some sort of course that could have given me a leg up so that I wasn’t starting completely from scratch!
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I can’t imagine going through all that has happened this year without my husband by my side. With an exponentially growing business, a new baby (our third was born in February), and a pandemic all happening, I’ve been going through a lot of ups and downs, and that marvelous man has been my rock. And yoga! When I feel like I’m about to completely lose it, I just go to a room in my house, roll out my mat and spend at least 10 minutes with my breath and my movement.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Work/life balance is one of founding principles of Revival Food Co. as well as the inspiration behind the name, proving that we can always reinvent ourselves to create our own best life. As a mom to three amazing kids, I think it’s so important to show that being a present, full-time mom and a successful entrepreneur are not mutually exclusive. Beyond that, I would say some tips that help guide me is to allow myself to roll with it– a true work/life balance isn’t going to happen because I’ve time-blocked my every day to have equal parts work and equal parts playing on the floor with your kids… no, it happens because you give yourself permission to do the work that needs to be done, but that you also give yourself permission to put that work down and be present with your family or yourself.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
Okay, so you’ve learned that I used to teach yoga and pilates, but what very few people know about me is that at one point, I actually became a certified aerial yoga instructor with the hopes of eventually opening up my own aerial yoga studio! Starting up the almond butter business was supposed to be my “practice business” before the yoga studio… and in case you’re wondering out there, there’s NO SUCH THING as a practice business! But I love Revival with my whole self, so I am grateful that this unintentional business turned into something amazing. And maybe one day I’ll still open up that yoga studio! 😉
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Throughout the day, I generally repeat the mantra, “simplify, simplify” in my head, to keep myself from getting too overwhelmed with everything going on and to focus on one task at a time that will simplify my life. I’m also intention about drinking so much water throughout the day, to keep my brain functioning at full capacity! And lastly, I move my body. When I’m feeling stuck on a thought, can’t finish that email, feeling overwhelmed, etc., just get up from my desk, turn on some pop hits, and have a dance party with myself! I instantly feel more energized and productive.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
To be an Entreprenista to me, means female empowerment, female strength, and females leading in business where men used to dominate. Entreprenistas are the women who are shifting the conversation around what it looks like to be successful in business, to be a mother, to be a force to be reckoned with in our society. I feel proud to consider myself an Entreprenista.