By Rebecca Dengrove (CEO & Co-Founder, Brewla)
When my brother Daniel told me that he saw an opportunity to create the “next big thing” in dessert foods, I was intrigued. I had worked at multinational companies as a product development food scientist for years and dreamed of starting my own business. After doing some preliminary research, we both agreed there was a distinct need in the market for a fun, flavorful frozen snack that people could feel good about eating.
Based on my experience in the food industry, I knew that tea-based products were a rapidly growing category. We have always liked the health benefits and complex flavors of teas, so Daniel and I devised the name “Brewla Bars,” with a plan to work with tea and other brewed ingredients. In the spring of 2010, I began experimenting in my cramped kitchen on a variety of bold delicious flavors and our adventure began.
In the two and a half years since, I’ve learned many lessons which apply to anyone starting out on their own:
Lesson #1 – Be an Expert in at Least one Part of Your Business, and Ask for Help
Starting a business can be overwhelming at times. You or a co-founder should be an expert in at least one aspect of your business. Having this safe zone makes it easier to tackle the unknowns.
My background in R&D and manufacturing enabled me to create, test and perfect the flavors, textures, shape and freezing process. While Daniel’s experience as an engineer at a biotechnology company is not directly related to the food industry, he has relevant skills in molecular biology, biochemistry, analytics and automation.
In addition to leveraging our expertise, we also knew there were many areas we were decidedly not experts in. We would be lost without having asked for and received help and guidance from experts in areas such as law, regulatory, marketing and graphic design, among others. In addition, my established relationships with ingredient suppliers in the industry have been tremendously helpful in ensuring the consistent, impactful flavor that we want for Brewla Bars.
Lesson #2 – Interact with Customers Directly
By personally selling Brewla Bars at outdoor markets around New York City, I was able to simultaneously build a consumer base and gauge their reaction immediately. For example, after talking to consumers about our black tea flavor, I learned that most people associate caffeinated products with coffee flavors more than black tea.
These conversations inspired me to reformulate one of our flavors – The BUZZ – which is now made with sweetened espresso, ginseng and caffeine. The new version of The BUZZ is a hit and a favorite among many of our consumers. In addition to improving the flavor, we tapped into the expanded possibilities of our product line while staying true to the initial mission of our brand.
Interacting directly with consumers helped us realize that Brewla Bars were being consumed as a healthy snack. Once we recognized this, we strengthened our messaging and emphasized the health benefits our ice pops provide – for example, one of our bars has an energy boost, and another is imbued with nutrients that help support a healthy immune system.
Lesson #3 – Have A Vision.
We want to create a fun snack with sophisticated flavors that people around the world can feel good about eating. That is the essence of our vision, and the rationale behind our tagline, “Lick well, live well™.”
Our goal is to make Brewla Bars an iconic brand that is easily recognizable and highly valued. We are well on our way — Brewla Bars are now available in more than 30 tri-state-area stores, including Whole Foods and Fairway Markets.
Photo credit: Rebecca Dengrove on Tiny Post.
Women 2.0 readers: What is your top tip for starting up? Let us know in the comments.
About the guest blogger: Rebecca Dengrove is the Co-Founder and CEO of Brewla. She is also the Corporate R&D Manager at a multimillion dollar food company. She has developed billion dollar brands including vitaminwater zero and Pepsi Max, and authored two publications (a patent for reversible gel structures and vegetable blends and a journal article in the Journal of Food Protection for research in food microbiology related to bioterrorism). Rebecca holds a B.S. in Nutrition Science from UC Davis and a Masters in Food Science from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.