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This company fights climate change with upcycled food waste + how to use LinkedIn to grow your business with Renewal Mill’s Caroline Cotto

by Female Startup Club
March 30th 2021
00:45:01
Description

Joining me on the show today is Caroline Cotto, Co-Founder of Renewal Mill. 

Named a World Changing Idea by Fast Company, Renewal Mill is an award-winning, next-generation ingredient company ... More

doing here, we're in month two of being part of the hubspot podcast network and I wanted to take a second to shout out another incredible women lead podcast, Being boss with Emily Thompson. If you're a creative business owner or thinking about becoming one. Being boss is an exploration of not only what it means, but what it takes to be a creative business owner, freelancer or side hustler. I loved Emily's episode on taking time off as a business owner. It's definitely a really challenging part of running your own business and I recommend giving it a listen, check out being boss wherever you get your podcasts. This is Caroline Kado for female startup club. No, hey everyone and welcome back to another episode of the female startup club podcast, I'm your host, Don rasheen. And joining me on the show. Today is Caroline Cotto from renewal Mill named a world changing idea by fast company. Renewal mill is an award winning next generation ingredient company that fights climate change and global food loss by up cycling byproducts from food manufacturing into premium ingredients and products.

In this episode, you'll learn how Caroline has been driving growth through her linkedin as a primary channel, innovative ways to get startup capital and specific slack channels. Anyone in the food industry should join immediately and if you know someone who would benefit from hearing this episode, please do share it with them and empower the women in your network to dream big, this is Caroline for female startup club. Yeah, customers want more from brands, delivering more means, owning the customer experience, taking control over data acquisition analysis, creative and delivery. Clay vo calls this owned marketing and believe it's the best path to growth for more, visit clay vo dot com slash F. S. C. That's clay vo dot com slash F. S. C. One last thing before we jump into this episode, I want to quickly shout about our course. The ads M. B. A. Although I'm totally biased, I'm told by so many of the hundreds of women who have taken it so far that it's amazing and they've been able to increase their revenue in their business using the methods taught the ads.

N. B. A. Is A. D. I. Y. Course to help you master the technical skills needed to run profitable facebook and instagram ads by yourself. We've partnered with leading performance marketing agency amplifier to create the best online program out there. And these guys know a serious thing or two about performance marketing. They've spent more than $100 million in ads during their time. You'll learn everything from winning ad creatives to identifying your target KPI S, implementing retargeting funnels and deploying scaling strategies to increase your revenue to upwards of six and seven figures per year. It includes six modules with more than 30 video lessons and you can learn at your own pace. But what we're most proud of is that $30 from every sale is donated towards girls secondary education through the Malala Fund, a charity that champions every girl's right to 12 years of free, safe quality education and is working for a world where every girl can learn and lead to learn more. Head to female startup club dot com.

Female startup cup precincts Caroline. Hi, welcome to the female startup club podcast. Thanks so much for having me super excited to be here. Me too. I'd love to start by getting you to introduce yourself and what your business is. Yeah, so I'm Caroline, I'm the co founder and ceo of renewal mill where a next generation ingredients company that's making up cycled food to fight climate change and global food waste. Oh, I love it. I think this is such a cool idea. I'm so excited to dig into this just to like clarify and make it super, super simple for people listening. What does it mean when you're taking an up cycled product and turning it into an ingredient? What's an example? Yeah, So we're working at the food manufacturing level. So our first partner is a tofu company, you can kind of think of the first step of making tofu, which is making soy milk, like juicing. So you basically have to juice soybeans and then you take the liquid that comes off.

That's what becomes my milk, but the leftover pulp, really nutritious ingredient called Okara, we dehydrate that and mill it into a high fiber, high protein gluten free flour and we can do this across all different types of plant based milks, all types of products like promises from juices and olive oil and potato skins. But we've really chosen to focus first on the plant based milk space. Yeah amazing. It reminds me of all the you know waste that I would have after making my green juice every day and then being like this is such a waste of all these nutrients and fibers that I'm literally throwing away my husband and I a few times made some little you know patties like fritters in the pan without leftover stuff. Yeah exactly. That's actually how we got started. So by co founder had founded an organic juice company was kind of appalled at the amount of this pulp coming out of her juicing business every day. And then when we met the owner of the third largest tofu company in the U. S. He was like you think you make a lot of pulp in your tiny juicing business, I'm making you know thousands and thousands of tons every week.

And so it's kind of a natural fit. Like there has to be a better way we have to be able to keep this nutrition in the supply chain and help it music to help feed people because you know in her business she was trying to make muffins with it or trying to make crackers and there was just too much to be able to do that in a sustainable manner. What happens to the waste of the soy products, usually those tons of waste? How does one get rid of it? It really depends on the location of the factory. So we work in a distributed model with a a number of different partners. Some of them are close enough to animal agriculture that they'll have a farmer come pick it up for animal feed, but it's a really inconsistent offtake solution because if the price of a premium animal feed goes down, then they won't come and pick it up and then the companies have to pay to have it trucked away to landfill. And if you don't have any farmers around you, your only option is either spreading on fields or landfill, which is driving climate change through harmful greenhouse gas emissions since it is releasing a lot of greenhouse gasses in its decomposition process?

Oh wow, that's so interesting. I jumped ahead of myself a little bit here. So I want to rewind to life before renewal mill to talk about these cool initiatives that you were doing that was kind of blending food and health and nutrition pre renewal meal. Absolutely. So my background is more on the nutrition and health side of things. I studied that in university and then had the opportunity to work for Michelle Obama on her child obesity initiative at the White House, which was a really unique experience just to see firsthand, how do you kind of stimulate behavior change at the personal level and also policy change to make sure that like nutrition labels are really clear for people and that you're being transparent in your food and you're making accessible nutritious food open to kids at schools, for school lunch or in their uh sort of vending machines and things like that. After working with Michelle Obama, I was really inspired to kind of see the opposite side of the coin and work on child malnutrition.

So spend some time with the U. N. World Food Program, looking into rice fortification in cambodia and then came back and took a brief stint into tech, really working on women's issues. So I helped start the women's diversity program at a large tech company here in the US and really helping get women trained in sales and engineering and also empowering them to sort of advocate for themselves in the workplace and build tangible skills to to move up into leadership positions and board seats. And then after a few years there was like, food is really my passion. So um was looking for a way to blend food and tech um and ended up working for a food tech accelerator, which was a great way to sort of get my hands into 10 different businesses across the food supply chain, really understand how they were kind of solving challenges at every step of the process. And that's actually where I met my co founder Clare, help start real well that's so cool. I'd love to talk a little bit more about techstars, the accelerator program that you were working at and you know what that program is like and what kinds of things entrepreneurs come into that program to learn.

I cannot recommend techstars highly enough. They're kind of motto is give first and I have found that to be extremely true and everything that they do as far as sharing and really just, it's all about kind of teaching entrepreneurs from the ground up. So the textures model is a three month model. The first month you come in and they call it mentor madness. So you meet like 200 to 300 people in your field and it's like 10 to 20 minute speed date. So you're meeting tons and tons of people every day for that month. They're giving you a quick overview of your business and really kind of like diving in and saying like have you thought about this, have you thought about this? I could give you expertise in this specific area. And then at the end of that month you pick five or so of those folks to be your lead mentors for the rest of the program. Then the second month is really heads down, focus on your business. So you're working with your team of five advisors as well as the text, our staff. So I was working as an associate which helps kind of with marketing and sales and all sorts of parts of your business because a lot of the company's coming through this accelerator or one or two person teams and so they're able to leverage the whole community for help in building their model, are starting their sales for the first time.

We're kind of trying to find, go to market strategy and then on the third month you're really preparing for what they call demo day. So you're kind of honing in on your pitch. A lot of companies completely pivot during the program. So they're launching a new product, the one that I was working for had a corporate partner. So sometimes you're kind of trying to launch a partnership or a pilot with a corporate partner that you'll announce at demo day, which is a presentation to investors and hopefully you're going to get some, some connections out of that and some initial funding to go out and grow your business. We're really lucky in that in our cohort of 10, all 10 companies are still existing today, which is really important because that's not the case normally for businesses, usually as small companies without that support and they say textures is forever and have definitely found that to be the case too. I have a very active slack channel with all of the focus. I were in our cohort constantly partnered with them or asking them questions on a pretty much daily basis, wow, it sounds so incredible. How fun, what does text does look for the kinds of entrepreneurs and brands they bring in.

Yeah. So textbooks has a bunch of different like themed program. So the one I was working for was called Farm to fork. So really focused on businesses kind of addressing challenges in the food and text space. But there are also just general programs that are kind of city specific. So they're not looking for a specific vertical but just folks, they're I think they're you know when you're a company of one or two people, they're really looking for team and team spirit and like does this person have the passion to like go out and build this company? So it's really about the people more than the idea honestly because like I said a lot of people pivot their idea coming into the program. So it's they're kind of just looking for that genocide quad. Like I want to build this and I I'm excited about it and willing to sort of look critically at my business and adapt. Got it. Got it. Okay, so let's switch and talk about the story of you meeting your co founder Claire and finding out about renewal mill and the kind of journey of you joining the business. So yeah, as I mentioned, Claire had had this firsthand experience with Food Waste in her choosing business and was kind of really had been in that first hand and understood what it meant to kind of deal with massive amounts of weight.

So she understood the customer problem first and foremost, I was coming at it from more of a marketing background and nutrition background and I had also been just really interested in alternative proteins um and just the kind of the whole evolving landscape of food waste, I have recently learned all of the statistics about how much food is wasted in the U. S. And the world at large and how that was really a big driver of climate change. And so when we met up, we actually met in a canoe, we were like part of this program, we were you know, canoeing together and just started chatting and it was like such a natural fit of you know, there's this huge stupid problem with all of this food being wasted in the world and also so many people that need nutrition and like how could we, you know, solve this duality together by bringing this nutrition back into the supply chain and feeding people who really need it. So yeah, I kind of, she was the only female Ceo in the Techstars program. So out of 10 companies, it was, she was a solo female founder, it's super hard to raise venture capital as a solo female founder.

And so I kind of just came on board to help her go out and raise this first round of capital and grow the business and we've been able to sort of, we complement each other's skills really well. So I leave sort of sales for the company at large and we have a split business model actually, so it's both business to business, ingredient sales and business to consumer finished product sales and her background is a lot on operations and sort of this is her third company. So she really had sort of the background and building a company from the ground up, got it. And does that mean renewal meal as it is today, it was kind of being developed in that program or did she come in already with the company started and kind of ready to go the idea, you know, like I said, people kind of pivot as they come through the program. So she had the idea, she had received some initial grant funding from her university to sort of like build out the concept of what it could look like. But the renewal mill that started in the Techstars program looks very different than the renewal bill today.

So it was a cool opportunity to sort of like I said, look really critically at the business, say like what is this model? And honestly we got a lot of feedback that like you need to choose one, like you need to choose either business to business ingredient sales or CPG kind of, you know, business to consumer retail sales, but we saw them as really a symbiotic relationship and where one drives the other. So yeah, you definitely have to like take that feedback kind of process it and then decide what you want to do with your business because at the end of the day it is still your business. But yeah, I think we got a lot of valuable feedback from sort of the Big Fortune 500 food company that we were working with as well as some people who have been more in in smaller companies and we're kind of like no maybe you don't need to take the advice on on that side. Got it, got it. And what year are we talking here just to paint the picture? Um so the company renewable was founded in 2016 um and had kind of been a side project until 2018 when they went through the accelerator.

Got it. Okay and that's where I met Claire and enjoyed her full time. All right, got it. Okay. Scene is set. Love it. So you come out of techstars, you've decided to partner on the business. What happens next? How do you start building the company and kind of pursuing the vision that you had. So we got some free office space in the tofu company that we were partnering with. So we moved out to California. They allowed us like a little folding table in their back office and we started using our co location model. So we have dehydration and million equipment that we put into the manufacturing facilities of the people we partner with. So inside of this tofu company and you know, it was really scrappy at the beginning. Like we had a pilot machine that was drying the ingredient and then we were hand all of the ingredients into bags, hand stamping them, just like trying to get our first orders for retail. But then also on the B two B side, the sales cycle for ingredients is like 2 to 3 years. And so back in 2018 it was really about like going out and just pitching this concept to people for the first time and saying like, hey, have you ever heard about a cycle of ingredients?

Are you willing to give it a try And honestly, a lot of those conversations that we started having back in 2018 I didn't start converting into actual sales until like fall of 2020 or even early 2021. So it really takes a long time. Especially when you're the larger the company you're working with before, when you introduce them to a new ingredient and the time that they take to do R and D and convince their marketing department that it's a good idea to finally seeing a product on shelf. It's quite a bit of time and you just can't give up. You just have to keep Checking in with them every 2-3 weeks and saying like, Hey, can we get your new samples? Can we show you a prototype? Can we like help solve any challenges that you've been presented with? Um so labor of love for sure. Yeah, absolutely. Getting really comfortable with that rejection. Yeah. A lot of resilience needed. And also my co founder Claire actually was pregnant at the time. And so we were trying to Do all of this sort of really infrastructure laying ground building of the company while she was 7-8 months pregnant.

And we closed our first round of funding while she was 8.5 months pregnant. So oh my gosh, he's definitely not not the easiest of things to do, but I got through it together. That's crazy. What kind of capital did you need to get started? And are you able to share any information on, you know, on the money that you raised and what it was used for? Yeah, So we took on our first round. So prior to Techstars, we received some grant funding and that was kind of just to help, you know, supplement our time while we were kind of just Also working other jobs and getting the idea of the ground textures was really the first investment that we took on. So textures takes a 6% equity stake in your company in exchange for $120,000. And then concurrent with that, we also raised from a vegan investor from europe where a plant based company. So that firm is called beyond Impact. It's run by a woman which was really important to us to have that support early on.

And then that was kind of a Pre seed if you will. And then um after textures after we pitched at Demo Day, we met an investor there that went on to invest in us with a $1.5 million January of 2019. And does that mostly go towards producing all of your stock in your inventory for your future. BdB and BDC orders for us. We had pretty high capital expenses because we needed to purchase this equipment outright for our first installation. So a large majority of that funding went to purchasing are kind of proprietary technology that was being installed in the facility and then otherwise yet it's sort of the marketing and sales and S. D. N. A. Cost for just getting the business off the ground. But we're still a super lean team. So it's just myself, my co founder, one part time operations person and a part time product developer. Oh wow, cool. Really lean.

One thing that I was just wondering do you actually have to pay the companies to buy their waist? Like were you having to buy the excess soy from the tofu company? We're not paying for the waste itself. We are paying for the processing of it. So I think a big misconception and obstacle food is that oh it was going to waste. It must be free but there's actually a processing costs that's involved in being able to turn it into a food safe functional ingredient and so it's very much similar to a co packing or co manufacturing relationship in which we own the equipment but we're paying them to operate it for us and so we're paying for that processing fee. Okay got it, wow, that's so interesting. I want to switch topics a little bit now and speak more about the marketing side of things very much around that launched period and the early kind of hustle. I know you said for the B two B. Sales you were kind of cold calling and out reaching and and there was lots of that you know 121 contact but when it was coming to the D. C. Side of things direct to consumer and the products that you sell through your website, what were you doing to build your audience there and find those eyeballs that would become your customers.

Honestly it's still a lot of cold calling and cold emailing. I some of our biggest sales on both sides of the business have come from me guessing the people's email address like doing a lot of linkedin stocking and finding people that way. Actually linked in is our biggest marketing channel and not even our company page like my personal linkedin is how we drive a lot of traffic to our website and other things just especially in the ingredients side of the business kind of connecting with R. And D. Folks. We also did every event that we could possibly participate in that was like free or as low cost as possible. So we, you know, trade shows are really expensive especially as a small brand but there are ways to do it really scrap early. So a lot of accelerator programs will have sort of applications for free booths or opportunities where you can get like, we were sponsored by Mongols as like through an application to present at seeds and chips, which is like a big european conference.

So kind of like sought out any opportunity to get in front of folks in any way that we could, especially before the pandemic. There was a lot of where we're based in the bay area, a lot of like corporate offices would welcome us in. So we would go and do events at linked in and hand out free cookies and free information or we'd go to Airbnb and do the same thing. We also, early days were really focused on the office snacking program. So they had this really cool program where they would bring in small brands to supply snacks for employees at these big tech companies, which was a great way to kind of do revenue generating marketing where it's like, yeah, you can get a single pack cookie learn about us, our stories on the back and then if we wanted to like do a deep dive or double click, they can find us online or in local grocery stores in the area. But yeah, everything like we have not done a lot of paid social media marketing, everything has pretty much just been in house organic to us, kind of beating the pavement to try to get the word out. I love that, that hustle, I want to keep talking about the linked inside of things for you um sounds really interesting that you're able to generate all of those leads and find all of those people when you're thinking about your strategy on your personal page.

Is it literally just, you, you know, posting all the time and like kind of just cold searching people or companies like how does it more specifically work? Yeah. So I used to work at hubspot, which is an inbound marketing company and the kind of pioneered the idea of inbound marketing and something I learned there was like when you're talking about content 20% about the content and 80% about how you market it and get it out there. And so yeah, we're confidently posting on linkedin as like anything that happens in the business that we want to share with people, like just staying top of their feet and not an annoying way, but it's like, hey, we're supporting this other brand that we're partnering with them. Like check it out or we're launching on thrive market. You should, you know, if you want to work with us here is an opportunity. I think it's just a really interesting way that's not instagram to sort of be involved with people and especially in the food community, it's a very tight knit community and kind of, you're able to amplify things with people who are excited about your work. I think before I even joined renewal mill, I, when I was like job searching in my early twenties, I was really utilizing linkedin to kind of do exploratory career searching.

So I would just like google somebody or like in linkedin like, you know, somebody who did something in food like food design, thinking I'll just search that and then find a bunch of people that come up and then cold reach out to them and say, hey, I'm Caroline, I'm trying to figure out what part of food I want to work in. You've seen like you've had a really cool career path, would you be willing to talk with me for like 10 to 15 minutes and doing that. Honestly built a huge network of people who were like honored to be, you know, talking to me, just be like, oh, like I didn't think my career was special, but like, yeah, happy to share how I got here and that. I think it was kind of how I started building the base, but I get reached out to all the time by folks doing similar things and I try as much as possible to always take those calls because you never know what's gonna happen. Like are part time employee actually reached out to me in that capacity through linkedin was like, hey, can we have a short informational interview? Didn't think much of it chatted with him for, you know, 10, 15 minutes. And then two months later we had an immediate opening on the team and I was like, hey, do you want to work with us?

And he's been absolutely instrumental to our team since then. So I can't say enough about just like every event I go to, I connect with everybody that I met, like food is really old school and they still had a lot of business cards. I immediately take all those business cards and put them on linkedin. Like any virtual event I'm attending trying to connect with people on linkedin. And yeah, it's been an amazing experience to like two or three years down the line be like, hey, I wonder if I have a connection to anyone at insert company and then find out. Oh yeah, I actually like two years ago at a conference I met this one person maybe they'd be able to point me in the right direction. So I think it's just about consistency and then kind of being shameless about connecting in a polite way. Like I always, if it's a company that I've never interacted with before, send a connect message. Always put a special note in that because I think a lot of people just press connect and you know, send it off into the ether, but I always say like, hey, I'm Carolina work for sustainable food company. I think our ingredients could be really helpful to your X, Y Z.

Product if you're interested in connecting. Is there an email address where I could send more information? You'd be surprised at how many people will actually accept those connections? Yeah. Gosh, I love that. And that's actually how we connected to, right? You sent me an email, a cold email and I was like, wow, this company sounds amazing. I love the sound of this. It's really different. I haven't had anyone on the show like this. Uh I'd love to chat with you. So I think, you know, the power of network is just such a critical thing in building a business and You can start from having a 00 person network and build it, you know, to this big, big thing totally. And I think a lot of women are sometimes just afraid to ask and I think I have always been taught and Disempowered like you'll never get anything if you don't ask, right? So you might as well try and I think that's something that a lot of male entrepreneurs have, like they'll just go out and say like, hey, if you see that invested in Uber, like look at me and I think women need to be empowered to do the same and just say like, I don't know you, but like I I think I have something valuable to offer and I would love the opportunity to connect.

Yes, absolutely. What are the kinds of challenges that you're dealing with at the moment in building this business? I think bandwidth is definitely one of the challenges that we're facing as you grow. There's a lot of, there's like so many exciting opportunities coming towards you at all times. And so it's trying to figure out like what can I actually take on to grow the business necessarily and what do I have to say no to even though it's a very enticing opportunity at the moment and then obviously tied in with that is funding. So we're trying to raise some additional funding to be able to hire some additional staff to be able to meet additional demand that we're facing. But the pandemic and all of that kind of slowed funding for women especially. So it's been a little bit of a slower process to raise additional capital that we kind of need to go Forward. I mean we were able to double our revenue in 2020 if you look at a graph of our sales despite losing our main sales channel in March of 2020, we were able to pivot completely from food service till direct to consumer and retail without a drop in revenue.

And we launched four new skews. So a lot of upward momentum, but just we were doing it on a very, very shoestring budget and now have come to a point where it's like Okay, we actually, if we're going to grow this business, you need to spend money to make money and we need to get some additional outside capital. Got it. And so when we talk about, when we think about the future for you guys over the next 12 months, what's kind of the focus is that fundraising or is that, you know, new products or is it both, what's happening for the future? I think we subscribe to it always be fundraising mentality, but that's not the main focus of the business. Like I said, it's a bit of 2 to 3 year sales cycle for that ingredient conversion. So we're just starting to see those sales convert and people using our ingredients and mainstream products. So for example a tortilla that's using our flour just got accepted for national rollout through Sprouts market, which is a big national grocery store chain here. Another one of our companies that's using our flour in a chip is it was went live and target and whole foods.

So we're excited to keep growing out that side of the business. We also brought on our second ingredient which is the byproduct of oat milk production. So turning that into an oat protein and then we're hoping to continue building out the ingredient portfolio and bring on a third ingredient this year. And then on the consumer side, we just launched two additional cookie mixes in addition to our best seller, which is a dark chocolate brownie mix and we've been mostly focused on our backyard and really owning our backyard from a retail sales perspective here in California, but we're excited to be able to grow that into a national brand. So we're looking at expansion in the new york city area and then growing our online presence nationwide. Gosh, sounds amazing, So many cool things on the go for you guys. It's a really exciting time to be in up cycled food. I think when we started this, you know, four or five years ago, people had not really heard of Up cycled food, They didn't know how big of a problem food waste was and now people know like, oh my God, food waste is this huge issue and I want to know what I can do to help. So we've helped form this trade association Called the up cycled Food Association which grew from nine members in late 2019 to over 150 members.

It includes people like Mandalas and Dole Foods, really big companies and we've just released the first product certification program. So now products are going to be able to be certified Up Cycle the way that they would be certified organic or certified non Gmo and whole foods also named obstacle food a top 10 time for 2021. So there's just a lot of momentum in the space and people kind of saying I can use my purchasing power to really affect change in this food based problem, which is the number one driver of climate change at the moment. So we're excited to keep building that out and getting more and more consumers on board with the mission. Yeah, totally, that sounds so exciting. And I love how you can see this change happening, you can see how consumers want to do better and by better and do more for things like climate change. So it's definitely a super exciting category to be in. And I feel like the more education that comes out around this particular up cycling movement, the easier it is for people to get on board and understand what it is. Absolutely. What advice do you have for women who have a big idea and want to start their own business?

I think you need to, I mean obviously just do it. But I think first it's important to like find your people and like find a tribe of people who can help you if you're in the food space. There's lots of these communities where people are just like offering all of this advice and really want to see you succeed. So there's like a some online slack communities, there's kind of regional city programs where you can just ask questions. There's facebook groups for CPG food to say like, hey, I have an idea, I want to start this kind of like avant garde, you know, food business. Like how, how do I get off the ground and just like start, you know, beta testing your idea with friends and family. And then those groups, I think it can be a really good way to get feedback early on on the idea and say like, am I actually solving a problem for customers or is this something that there's demand for in the market? And then there's a lot of creative ways to get like sort of starting capital these days. There's tons of accelerator programs we've been through at least three, maybe four ourselves and every one of them has been super helpful to sort of exposing us to a new network of people who kind of looked at our business from a different angle and yeah, we could not recommend them highly enough.

And we've also leveraged our family matters and universities for funding as well as sort of, if you're a woman, there's a lot of funding for kind of like early stage entrepreneurs. We also back to your like earlier earlier question about marketing, we've pitched at like every pitch competition that there's possibly available. Like every time we see an application, we're like, hey, let's start our hat in the ring because even if we don't win the competition and we don't get the funding from it. It's a great marketing opportunity to get in front of folks and just say like here we're here, we're loud, we're proud, this is what we're doing. We'd love you to, to get behind us. So yeah, I think if you're excited about what you're doing, just like start telling other people, we start with linkedin, you can just post on linkedin about what you're doing and using specific hashtags about food or sustainability or whatever industry you're in. People will notice, love it, shout about it. What are some of the key communities that you were talking about when it comes to, like the slack channels, for example, that people in the CPG industry should be taking note of?

Yeah. One that's really blossomed during the pandemic has been startup CPG. They're originally based here in California from a man named Daniel Sharp who used to work for just the beginning company um and now is the ceo of his own food business, but they're just like really active. They host sort of produce semi regular mixer events because zoom and then they have a slack channel where you can literally ask any question and say like what e commerce platform should I be on or like how do I find a sustainable packaging supplier, like which third party logistics company should I be using and somebody will have an answer for you and there's just like, I have a friend who recently just launched or she's launching her Kickstarter for hot sauce for coffee, which is definitely an outlandish idea, kind of the first thing in this space and she posted on this community and was like, hey, I'd really love you to sign up for my newsletter, my email list to like know when the Kickstarter goes live and she already has, you know, hundreds of people pre signed up for this to, to support her as soon as it launches.

So yeah, I think it's just finding those communities, another one is consumer packaged people is a really great one. And then there's obviously like regional ones. So if you're in the bay Area, there's a community called naturally Bay Area. There's also that group in SAN Diego and Denver and the East coast. And then I would definitely recommend the food tech connect newsletter as well, also run by women and they do an incredible round up of all the news happening across all parts of the system and then also list a bunch of like open positions and things. So it's a great way to sort of just see who's out there, who's doing things and be able to network and keep on top of all the top trends as well. Gosh, amazing. I'm going to link them all in the show notes. They sound so far. Thank you. We are up to the six quick questions part of the episode. So question number one is, what's your why? Why do you do what you do? I really, really care about climate change and I'm a huge outdoorsy person. I love like when I'm not building renewal mill, I'm rock climbing, running uh, farming outside.

So definitely want there to be a healthy planet for everyone in the future. My co founder has a two year old son and definitely have like seen him grow up and want there to be healthy planet for him as he continues to grow. Mm Absolutely. Question number two is what do you think has been the number one marketing moment for your business? Actually kind of funny is, I mean, I do all of our pr so I pitched all of our press cold pitching press. It was really exciting this year to be named a top 10 trend for whole foods for our business. Them specifically calling out renewal mill because like I said, when we started this, I presented an event one time when people are just like, this is a trash cookie lady. Like nobody understood what, why you would ever eat food waste or what you know what that looks like. And so to have it go from sort of this Outsider idea to a mainstream top 10 trend in food was just a really exciting win for the movement at large and especially for a renewal mill.

Absolutely, wow. The trash cookie lady. Oh my God, that's terrible. You're like quite, Not quite, but thanks Question # three is where do you hang out to get smarter? I know we've already spoken about the slack channels and things like that. But what books are you reading or what newsletters are you subscribing to that are worth mentioning? Yeah, I I really those food communities and those, these letters that I mentioned are kind of my top go to use also following a lot of people now on clubhouse. I don't know if that's accessible to everyone, but if you need an invite hit me up. We just started, there's a bunch of food specific clubs on clubhouse and I've been learning so much. They're about just especially recently about sustainable packaging, an area that we're hoping to improve on in the next year. And there's just been some really insightful conversations going on there as well as around funding for for female founders and opportunities to pitch and kind of Yeah, it's a bit, has been a really interesting space to sort of pop in.

And I like the audio format as well because you can kind of hear all of these different perspectives. Low barrier to entry. Yeah, I really, I'm enjoying clubhouse. I can really get on board with it. How do people go about finding these events you're talking about on clubhouse? Do they just follow you and then by following you, they'll be notified? Yeah, definitely. You can follow me. Um, and then there's also a bunch of people from that, like startups, RPG group that are posting about events in their newsletters as well. So signing up for those groups of people, there's a lot of cross posting going on also linked in. So if you follow you follow renewal mill or um, startups CPG on those platforms start hearing about it. Also, if you just are in clubhouse and there's a super G specific clubs, you can join. Also the food tech connect newsletter that I mentioned, they also have a clubhouse chat and there's some really interesting conversations going on there. Amazing, I'm conscious of the time, so I'm going to breeze through these next ones Question number four is how do you win the day?

What are your am or PM rituals that keep you feeling happy and motivated and successful exercise is a real stress reliever for me. So I like to start my day with some sort of exercise, whether that's a run or a virtual fitness class, and then kind of similarly like to end my day with like stretching and just kind of reflecting on the day. I've also been doing a five minute reflection journal at the end of every day. That's kind of a, it's a gratitude journal. So I'm not a long form content journal er but it asks you like three great things to happen today and like three things that could have made it better, what you're grateful for, and that's been really helpful for me just to kind of like put things in perspective because I think as an entrepreneur can be really stressful, there's a lot of, a lot of negative news that you're dealing with and you kind of have to pick yourself back up. So having a gratitude journal has been helpful to be like, oh actually we did make some progress even though it didn't feel like it. Absolutely, I love the five minute journal by intelligent change from Alex and Mimi Econ, have you heard of that one?

That's the one, that's the one, yeah, that's the one I museum, yeah, yeah, they're so great. I love it. Question number five is if you only have $1000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it right now? Where like I said spending money to make money. So it's kind of weird putting a lot of our money into production cost to get that product out into the market because we think that the product will market itself, it's really delicious and so we know that it will, you know, people will spread the word and kind of amplify it to their friends. So yeah, we're just trying our best to get on as many shelves and into as many people's hands as possible and kind of hoping for that organic spread rather than using it for any sort of like paid advertising or consulting or any sort of external fees totally. And last question question # six is how do you deal with failure? What's your mindset and approach? I think, you know, I have had a lot of, a lot of failures experience over my years where it's just like, okay, just pick yourself up and try again.

I think you can't take it personally, especially when you're in sales or you're pitching your new product that you spent every waking hour thinking about, you never know what the other person on the other end is dealing with and like maybe it wasn't a good fit today, but that doesn't mean it's not a good fit tomorrow. I would say it takes an average of 5 to 7 emails for me to get a response from a buyer from a retail location. So I just keep at it. I'm like, okay, they weren't interested the first four times, but maybe on the fifth time you'd actually be surprised by how many people are like, oh of course I'd love a sample. Let me try. Like you were interested the first four times. But the fifth time apparently you were the same thing with sort of ingredient sales. Like we've had people say straight up no to us like we don't use soy in our product, but then I came back to them two years later with a new ingredient that didn't have soy and said, hey now we're doing one with, oh, are you interested in this? And they were like, oh yeah, send me a sample. So I think it's just that mentality of like a no today. It doesn't mean I know tomorrow and you just can't can't take no for an answer.

So you kind of just have to keep at it and uh it'll work out in the end. I love that. And no, today doesn't mean I know tomorrow. Yeah, I think that's what keeps me going because otherwise you'd just drown and all of the reduction you're getting on a daily basis and you're like, well, it wasn't a good fit today, but hopefully in the future it will be amazing. Caroline. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me on female startup club today and share your incredible journey of love chatting with you, Thanks so much. It's been really fun. Hey, it's Doom here. Thanks for listening to this episode of the female startup club podcast. If you're a fan of the show, I'd recommend checking out female startup club dot com where you can subscribe to our newsletter and learn more about our D. I. Y. Course the ads. M. B. A. I also truly appreciate each and every review that comes our way. It might seem like such a small thing. But reviews help others find us. So please do jump on and subscribe rate and review the show. And finally, if you know someone who would benefit from hearing these inspiring stories, please do share it with them and empower the women in your network.

See you soon. Mm hmm. Mhm. Yeah

This company fights climate change with upcycled food waste + how to use LinkedIn to grow your business with Renewal Mill’s Caroline Cotto
This company fights climate change with upcycled food waste + how to use LinkedIn to grow your business with Renewal Mill’s Caroline Cotto
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