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From a broken business model to 20,000 subscribers; 8-figure founder Nicole Centeno tells her Splendid Spoon journey (part 1)

by Female Startup Club
July 9th 2022
00:50:14
Description
Today on the show we’re learning from Nicole Centeno, the founder of Splendid Spoon. The spark for Splendid Spoon came to Nicole in 2012. Working at Condé Nast and pregnant with her first son Grover,... More
getting an online business off the ground isn't easy. So if you find yourself working late tackling a to do list, that's a mile long with your fifth cup of coffee by your side. Remember great email doesn't have to be complicated. That's what clay vo is for. It's the email and SMS platform built to help e commerce brands earn more money by creating genuine customer relationships. Once you set up a free clay vo account, you can start sending beautiful branded messages in minutes. Thanks to drag and drop design templates and built in guidance and with e commerce specific recommendations and insights, you can keep growing your business as you go, get started with a free account at Clay vo dot com. That's K L A V I Y O dot com. This is Nicole centeno for female startup club. Mhm Welcome back to the show. It's Dune here, your host and hype girl today on the show, we're learning from Nicole centeno, the founder of splendid spoon. In this episode, We're covering her journey of side hustle to eight figure business, the challenges that the food industry faces today and how to do a friends and family round there is so much good stuff in here.

I know you're going to love it and remember that if you want to sign a copy of my book this week and next week I'm sending them out to anyone who creates a Tiktok video about female startup club. All you need to do is post the video on Tiktok and slide into my inbox at Hello at female startup club dot com, have the best day and enjoy this episode. This is Nicole for female startup club as a busy entrepreneur. If you're anything like me, you'll love easy life hacks that improve your mental focus, sleep quality and nervous system. Last year I started taking a G1 by Athletic Greens because I was struggling a lot. If you've listened to the show since then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. I was totally burnt out and I needed a serious boost. I heard about athletic greens through tIM Ferriss podcast and some of my other founder friends and it felt like it was a sign I needed at the right time. All you need to do is take a single scoop and shake it with water or blended into a smoothie and you're giving your body and mind 75 high quality vitamins, minerals, superfoods, probiotics and adapted gens for a very limited time.

Only athletic greens is going to give female startup Club listeners a free one year supply of immune supporting vitamin D and five free travel packs. With your first purchase, All you have to do is visit athletic greens dot com forward slash startup again, that's athletic greens dot com forward slash startup to take ownership over your health and pick up the ultimate daily nutritional insurance. Nicole. Hi, welcome to the female startup club podcast. Hi, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to learn about your story today. It's been quite the adventure. I know you started circa 2013 and you've been on this whirlwind ever since. Do you want to give us a little bit of an introduction to who you are and what the brand is for anyone who doesn't know yet. For sure. So I am Nicole Santino. I'm the founder and co ceo of business called splendid spoon and splendid spoon. We believe that food is medicine and we create plant based meals that are totally ready to eat. Um also really tasty and delicious and our philosophy is that you can combine the best of convenience and taste and nutrition.

That is our mission every day is to make plant based eating easier and to help folks really build their own little plant based moments everyday build habits one little bit at a time. So it's smoothies, grain bowls, notables, juices, shots, um all different things that can help you eat better and feel nourished throughout the day. Sounds and looks so delicious. I feel like as well The world has changed a lot, you know, from something like 2013 to now we're in this moment where people really do care about eating more plant paste, were more educated, were more aware of what it means to have this kind of diet, but I'd love to go back to the early days, you know, it was a different time. What was going on in your world that was getting interested in going down this route? Yeah, so you know my background is in nutrition and food. Um When I was in college I studied biology, I worked in a lab by independent studies, were in a biochemistry lab, looking at the impact of the ketogenic diet and fasting on disease models like um epilepsy And so that's like the how of food has always been something that's very interesting to me.

When I graduated, I did what lots of 20somethings do and was like, I don't want to do anything with my major. Um and I ended up in a career in media in new york city, which was a place that I had always wanted to live but felt after a couple of years like really disconnected from my craft and what I loved and just felt very like disjointed with my work and my passions. So I went to culinary school and studied at the french culinary institute and became really enamored with like the process of creating delicious food and feeding it to people and slowly and I always think this is important for folks that are just starting out, slowly, starting to kind of test the waters of, I have a day job, I have health insurance, I want to do something that's a lot more risky, like what's my comfort level with risk. Um and so I had pop ups on the side, I'd had a catering business um I did all sorts of like the side hustle for a couple of years, the classic side hustle, classic side hustle um but when I became pregnant with my first and Grover who's now nine, I did have like a bit of a lightbulb moment because I was increasingly like busy and running around having a full time job and trying to pursue a passion and being very determined to find my path, you know, and then I was going to bring another life into the world and have this other really huge responsibility.

Um the idea of being a working parent felt like really daunting honestly, I was like, this is going to be hard. I had read somewhere that Parents spend an additional 30 hours a week on child care beyond like, you know, all the things that you need to do to take care of yourself and work and everything and I was like this is intense, like our, our people like aware of how intense this is and that for me was like, well what is foundational food if I can make sure that my food is taken care of if I can even go one step further and my food is like so nourishing and like great for me that it gives me more energy prevents me from getting sick, like that will really be a big help that will be like a huge lift in this next leg of the journey. So that was really the moment that splendid spoon was born, it was like this realization of all of the responsibilities that were going to be coming at me as a working parent and I wanted to create a solution for how to take care of my eating habits.

I love that, that's so cool and so important. My gosh, what does it look like actually for you, starting the business? Like, I'm assuming you are still doing the side hustle thing, kind of like dabbling to get it started, but what's your kind of like day to day looking like at that time? How are you? You know, is it called splendid spoon at that time? Like is there a name, is this kind of like, you know, giving it to your friends, paint the picture for me. So yeah, so the early days, it was not called splendid spoon after I graduated culinary school, I kind of like proclaimed, I was like, I am doing something in food, I don't know exactly what it is, but like, I'm gonna start just like doing it and so I started, which is just like a french word for like an internship at restaurants. Um I did that at night, I kind of realized they probably didn't want to be a restaurant chef and that wasn't going to be a good path for me and the balance that I ultimately, someday, I haven't even gotten there now nine years later, but like, I knew that that was gonna be too much.

And so I started, I applied to be in what's called Smorgasbord burg, which is a flea market here in new york. And in that process it kind of gave me a friend was like, what's the name of your business? Like what do you create? Like, where do you create? And I was like, oh, okay, like this is my little road map. So I like created a name. It was, it was a variation on a nickname that my boyfriend at the time had. For me, he called me cocoa bean and so he, the name of the business was sea beans, sea bean good. It's like a horrible, horrible name, Nobody could understand what we're saying, nobody knew what it was, it's like a weird seaweed, but it did get like, it didn't make any sense. Um but it gave us like a little platform to start building and so that's what I built this little brand. This little platform, created a menu determined like what my guardrails were going to be for what was there. And it was, I always had a healthy plant based soup and a really hearty meat oriented stew and then I had like savory pastries because it came from my love of soup, I was like, you can make soup out about anything, I can go to the farmer's market, like this is me cooking, like I would at home, but for other people and so that was the day to day was like I was going into work I would often bring a hiking backpack filled with like different little pint containers of soup for people to try.

Eventually people started buying them for lunch. I love that. I did end up getting into that flea market, so then it was like all my spare time was basically spent researching in the early stages and then just like jumping on, I was like okay, smorgasbord, great, I'm going to do it, Are you cooking at home at this point or did you have to have a kitchen? I was cooking at home when I got into smorgasbord, I sprinted to find a commercial kitchen. So the very first days and this was all like weekend worker, very early morning, so that was, that was then the next shift was like okay, you're in, when are you actually gonna do this? So it was like very, very early morning I found like a Schwarm a grill in my neighborhood that let me cook for them until they, they like told me certain areas were vegan, but then I would see them like break their own rules and like grill a chicken cutlet and stuff and it's like oh no I can't do this, Did you have to pay to like hire the kitchen from them? Yeah, I mean like hardly anything.

I mean I was like in the tiniest, like one ft but one ft like footprint just like slicing and putting into little like container, very um tight cooking conditions and after the chicken situation, I went over to a pizza kitchen in my neighborhood that I had heard was very like founder friendly and had been more formal with like renting out their space and so I was able to rent from them in the early mornings. So that was my life. I would get up at like sunrise, ride my bike over to the pizza kitchen cook or I would ride my bike to the farmers market in Union Square and like ride back over there. It was like the early days were physical, physical labor. Mhm. Mhm lots of that hustle, you said earlier, you know, you tried a few different things, you were doing the side hustle for a number of years. I presume until you kind of landed on the thing. How did you know this was the thing.

How did you feel like, oh, I'm here, I've arrived. This is the thing I'm going to really, you know, dig deep into um like when I decided like splendid spoon and sort of like the concept of healthier eating for working parents, I really believe strongly that like our emotions can guide us um if you're, if you let them or if you don't have judgment around it, you know, like, I think there's a lot of opportunity for an emotional spark to fuel you. Like the things that cause emotions are things that we care really, really, really deeply about and at the end of the day, that's what I believe should be at the essence of any entrepreneurial vision is something that is going to be lit on fire even when you're underwater, like that's the whole experience is feeling like you, I can't go on and or that every door has been shut or that like a storm on top of a storm has kind of like come upon you and I think because I was becoming a parent there was like, it's like birth, death, divorce, a move like kind of traumatic experiences I think can be very ripe for that spark in the beginning of something Yeah, I love that you were lit up, have you heard about Norby?

It's a marketing platform specifically built for creative entrepreneurs. I started using them last year so I could have a totally customized link in my bio that looks super on brand and has all the functionality that I need as a small business owner since using them, we've seen our click through rates to our website, shoot through the roof and have been able to engage more without audience. They also have things like event registration, cross platform messaging, Crm and analytics all in one integrated platform at an insanely affordable price. It's a platform that provides creative entrepreneurs like you and me a holistic solution for community driven growth that works in tandem with your social media, so anyone who's working to build a modern multi channel community or monetize their skill set and creativity online can benefit from using Norby to access a free one month trial, go to nor be dot live, which is N O R B Y dot live and use the code F S C at checkout or click the link in show notes. So you are, you know, taking the soups to work, you're selling them to people there, you've got your kind of satellite kitchen, you're going to the smorgasbord market.

What kind of happens? How does this evolve? What are people saying about the business, what happens next? So we weren't the most popular booth, like we, I mean we were like this sort of homey kitchen vibe amongst like a lot of really cool trendy things. Um and amongst a lot more like indulgent foods, I would say as well, you know, there was like ice cream cones or like a ramen burger or like really amazing mexican pilatus, like really wonderful, delicious, like high quality food experiences. But the primary focus was taste not nourishment and like health. What it did do though, was really crystallized for me who my core audience could be because it was very obvious who the loyalists were, it was families. Like it was other people's families, it was busy, like other entrepreneurial types who were like, oh yeah, this is like, because I had a little sign up, you could sign up for like a little weekly delivery as well.

Um so the seeds for what would then become really critical like tent pole elements of splendid spoon were discovered in that process. So c being goods like that was never going to be a success, but the experience and the ability to just experiment and be in contact with my environment, which is, that's how I learn. I'm not like then it goes, I didn't go to business school and I would have failed if I had like that's not how I learned. So it was immensely valuable as a learning stage. I read somewhere that at some point you realize and I don't know if this was towards sea bean or if this was towards splendid spoon you realize that your business model in general wasn't working, it was broken and you decided to pivot the business, what was that business model and like how did you realize it wasn't working and what was that pivot? It's a three part question, I'm sorry, okay, so when I had that spark and realized like, okay, I'm actually going to focus on these people that are coming back to my booth over and over again, they're coming for the most helpful product and I have this like lightbulb moment with as I become a parent, I'm changing, I'm going to like re launch this, this is actually a totally different business idea and a different brand and so that was when splendid spoon was launched from there.

I assumed that my biggest distribution, even though I had these like little subscription elements like local folks that I would bike over to and drop off food. I really assumed that my scaling opportunity would be through wholesale distribution with like grocery stores, brick and mortar retail, right? So people like picking it up on the go to take home at the end of the day exactly like grab and go from the whole foods refrigerated section or like a partnership with, you know, any number of different grocery stores. Um and it really did not work. I had always had this vision of like lots of variety and lots of different ways for people to explore and enjoy helpful foods because that's what I believe helps people to adhere to like new things is like something you find something that feels unique to you uniquely like tasty and delightful to you and you need a decent amount of variety to do that. But the grocery model is such that you test things out with like maybe two or three skews two or three different flavors and you're basically paying for space on the grocery store shelf.

And if it moves fast enough or faster than the closest competitor in your space then you've won that position and you can continue to build it out. But I knew that I wasn't going to be able to win anyone with like one skew because my product was really more of a system than it was like most amazing butternut tumeric soup. It was never about like a one skew like killer you experience. It was always about like a holistic system that you could integrate how you needed to in your life. And are you in a lot of retail, kind of whole foods style places at this point? Is this how you're realizing this? So we got, it is interesting like we got one big account right at the beginning when I was watching splendid food. When I was still pregnant with Grover, We landed an account called fresh tract, which in New York is a very big online grocer. They say it's the equivalent of like 8-10 whole foods. So it's like part, you know, it's like part of a region, right?

It's huge. Yeah, like it's really big and that at the time I was like, oh, this is the signal that like I'm onto something because it's working here. But I just kept getting the door shut in my face with other retailers because the experience is so different when you're competing with lots of different skews in a retail environment versus in an online experience you're being presented with, you know, it's a smaller selection generally in an online experience or it was definitely at the time. And so I wasn't able to get any of the big accounts, I could get like a couple of like the small accounts but then it meant letting go of my vision of a philosophy for habit formation and like building lasting nourishment in your life. And I just wasn't really, I wasn't willing to do that. So we pivoted toward that very tiny part of the business that was subscription and put a little bit of money into facebook marketing, which at the time was still fairly mason and we were able to start scaling and that's when I realized that the opportunity was not winning one zip code.

It was in reaching my customer in similar like states, you know, like similar people all over the United States. So it actually like opened up the opportunity and opened up the landscape really significantly. What year are we talking? Like how long into the business journey were you when you kind of have these realizations that was and you're starting to cut your big retailer? Yeah that was in 2016 and we didn't cut the big retailer. I mean they were still a meaningful part of the business as we were scaling the online business. But the online business like quickly surpassed that online retailer. And um yeah the online retailer is like a very very tiny part of our business now, Wow that's so interesting. And so in that kind of, you know 2016 ISH period were you primarily then growing just through Facebook ads and word of mouth. Was that the kind of like two mechanisms it was, it was press storytelling and facebook ads.

That was those were the two main lovers. We, well we haven't talked about the money piece yet, but you kind of touched on, you needed to invest a little bit to kind of build up that data c side of the business. How are you approaching working capital in the beginning and what's kind of the way that you were thinking about funding in the future and that direction in the future? Yeah. I in the very beginning like, you know when I was still pregnant and like, I really had no idea what I was doing. I actually went to lunch with someone who's become like a friend and was an early mentor. And he asked me what my cogs were and I was like, what are cogs? And he was like, I was just like your cost of goods sold. I was like, I literally have no idea what you're talking about. And he was like, you know like the cost of the food, the cost of the labor. I was like, oh, okay, yeah, okay. And he was like, well what's your margin? I was like, I have no idea what you're speaking like great to me, What are you talking about? And he just like took a napkin.

I wish I still had this napkin. And he was like, your margin is like your selling price less your cogs. And I was like, oh yeah, like obviously how old am I going to pay my bills. And he's like, yeah, that's called cash flow. And I started very early on to realize like I just have no language for, I did not have any of the business language. I had a lot of instincts. Like I knew I had developed like really favorable terms with fresh direct where they paid me before I needed to pay anybody else. So I knew to like ask for a thing. I knew where I needed to get to. I didn't have like the language or the model in my head though. Um, to explain that I knew these things, anybody helps, which is like pretty important, especially if you're going to raise capital. Yeah. So how did you learn this? I feel like there's probably so many people listening being like ship, I don't know what my blogs are like, I don't, I don't know what my profit margin is. I have no idea. It's fine. You probably do. You just don't have the words for it.

And that's, I think something that's really important for women to understand. Like we all have really amazing instincts. Like we do know where we're going. We do have a plan. We don't speak the same. Not all, I mean some women do of course, but like I did not speak business language. I still am like learning business language every day honestly like it's just like any other system, there are like codes of conduct and language and jargon that help people act more quickly and more efficiently because everyone becomes fluent in that same system. I had zero, I was at like ground level and so I reached out to my friend who was at a great business school that's very entrepreneurial, the stanford business school and I was like what what do you do when you have to raise capital and like what does the financial model look like? And I did what people do still today like I googled a lot of stuff and I leaned on him two really like crystallized the stuff that was most important like he was like it's all about like the magic of the pitch, it's about you and confidence in you because the reality is and investors know this but they'll never tell you this early stage like you can make a model look like anything and that took a while for me to really like understand, I was like why would someone create a model that like isn't going to happen?

I like didn't understand, I was like that doesn't make any sense and he was like but that's what it is like we make models, we do our best and like most entrepreneurs are gonna make a model that is way more optimistic than what's actually gonna happen and investors just know that they're fluent in that so what they're actually buying is you they're but they're betting on you being able to figure it out and he sent me a bunch of pitch decks and I just like used, I kind of like took mixed and matched what I thought would work for us. Um, it was not good. Um, but it was good enough for me to believe in it to bring to like I started reaching out to friends and family and like and by friends and family. I mean nobody in my family, but that's what they call around. It's like, who do you know, it's like, who do you know that could invest $1000. Right, right. I have to follow up questions first of all actually just start with one, what was the magic in your pitch in hindsight?

I've been told this before. I think it's that I'm very passionate, like I'm very passionate about what I believe in and I think that was the most powerful part of it in the early stages. It was like people had conviction that I would do, I would, I would keep trying, what was the thing that led you to being like, I'm going to go down the route of raising capital and then go in this route of like VC, what was that kind of, you know, not choosing to bootstrap it and raise me like go and get debt and those kinds of things from a bank, Maybe that decision making process in the early days it was the signal from that first wholesale account. Freshdirect that was a really big signal for me because I could, I then did start to have a model that people understood, it was like, oh you have this much product going through this known retailer, you're executing, it's popular.

I had some metrics around like how popular it was versus their other similar products which at the time were all just soups and I had a story, it was like that I had the key pieces to convince someone like I can make this bigger, you know, and I think I didn't, again, I didn't have the language around like oh this is scalable. You know, I was just like this is something people need. I am reaching people in a major city, there are more of them, like obviously they're all over the country and I've figured out a distribution system that exists in other areas also. So honestly it was, it was more like that when the two different worlds start to become really close together, it was like my my mission was always going to be the same. It was just like feeding more people and getting more people did like try plant based every day and fall in love with good food that was like no brainer and so easy. But what was interesting was as I did that the external world started to actually like pay attention more and when I would have conversations at like you know networking is so this is why networking is so powerful, I think as an entrepreneur and again, like I'm such an environmental learner, like going to networking events and sharing stories about where I was in my process and people being like, oh that's like a big deal and like how are you, how are you doing that, like, and what does your team look like?

And those were the questions that led me, it was questions around like team and how much bigger and what is your real vision? Like where do you want to be in three years when I started to take those questions, I took this question seriously and I would like write them down and try and answer them. And then it became clear like, well I can't just do this hand to mouth, like if I want to open up another account, I'm going to need a person to help me, If I want to scale into, if I want to double my volume, I'm going to need a new way of making the product, like I'm either going to have to hire out a whole new kitchen staff or I'm going to have to do when people in the food industry often do, which is co manufacturer. And so that's when like the knitting together really started to happen and I was like, okay, I now I actually feel like I do have the pieces to create a plan and have the courage to say like I want this to be bigger and I need help and the main way to get that help is through capital Zambia has made my life so much easier when it comes to those tiny and frustrating bits of admin work that I need to remove from my workflow on a daily basis.

Something I didn't actually know when I first started fsc is that you can automate so many things you're wasting time doing. And just one great example of this is when I capture emails on multiple platforms like Wix I then use appia to consolidate those email lists and import them into my main newsletter platform. Have a think about all those daily tasks you waste time doing and make a list including the different software you use like google sheets and even things like facebook and instagram ads from here. You can automate almost any workflow imaginable, see for yourself why teams at air table, dropbox, hubspot zendesk and thousands of other companies use appia everyday to automate their businesses, tries a p A for free today at tapia dot com forward slash startup. That's Z A P E R dot com forward slash startup. You know when you were saying you started going through the process of doing a friends and family around. I know there's a lot of people listening who might also be in that kind of position and I'm wondering for you if you could kind of dig in a little bit to like how do you value your business in that early stage of doing a friends and family round where it's obviously people that you know and things like that, how much capital do you try and raise from that round and like what's the starting point?

And also maybe, I don't know if you're happy to share this, but like where were you revenue wise in those, that early time? The earliest time I was like $100,000 in revenue or something like that. Um even less I think like 60-$100,000 in revenue, which I was like this is amazing. I Was like if I could make twice this and like pay myself $50,000 to pay a nanny, like I made it, I was like every step of the way I'm like I've made it everyone, I'm like this is great um Yeah exactly. Um but your question was about like how like what was the process of friends and family? Yeah, like how do you value it? How do you decide like how much money you need to get going? Like the numbers piece? Um It's very, it's very tricky um putting your hand up in the wind. Yeah, exactly. It is kind of like that though, I mean pick a point in the future, that is not so destined like three years is what people typically say and I do think that's a good exercise, like where do you want this business to be in three years and then you walk backwards.

Um how, how are you going to get there? It's a crazy hard exercise, like, and that is part of the art of being an entrepreneur, is you have to make it up, you're like, I'm just gonna make, I think it'll be this way. Um and that's again, where like those key sort of elements that I mentioned earlier, like the passion attraction, a little bit of like track record, you know, it's helpful because I have a food product, people can actually taste the product right? Like then you come back to that and you're like, okay, I'm going to sell them with this story and I'm going to show them where I'm going and try to keep it as simple as possible of like I have this account, I'm gonna have, I'm gonna, any time you can do a multiplier of like this is what I've built, this is where I'm going, it's like I'm going to multiply this in this way, this is what it's going to take for me to create. Then what you're doing is saying, I need resources to create the system that can be the multiplier and I need time to build that system so that I can actually be the multiplier.

Like that to me is in essence, what raising venture capital is all about is convincing people that you're worth investing in to build a system that will work two be more efficient than what exists now, switch on more levers to add fuel to the fire. You've already got something proven now, How do you scale it? Yeah, but at the end of the day, in those early days it again comes back to your product, your passion and your attraction, you know, like it just always will come back to that. So I think that's something that I would have reminded my younger self is like put together the model come up with like, you know, you're going to go from $100,000 to a million dollars. It's 10 X. And three years and like know that it doesn't have to be perfect, know that the people sitting on the other side of the table absolutely know that no matter what kind of posturing or nonsense they're saying to try and like push your confidence and trust that like those key elements that are not measurable attraction is measurable, but like the passion and the product, it's like in the early days it has to just kind of stand on its own.

And so for the valuation side of things, are you saying that multiplier is like if you had done 100,000 in revenue then your valuation would be $1 million $1 million dollars in three years. Yeah I mean I was talking about making $1 million dollars in three years and I'm just making these numbers up right now. Um But I think we could continue with that exercise right? Like say you're at $100,000 you say you're gonna 10 X. In three years to a million dollars. You have your plan of how you're gonna do that in the dollars that you need to get there and then you look at the industry and what the multipliers are in your space and yeah it could be three X. What that future revenue is? It could be 10 X. What that future revenue is. If you're in a software business it's going to be 10 X. If you're in a food business it's going to be 2-3 x. And I don't know enough about some of the other categories but like you know you know you look at some of the industry um do the google and see what the industry is telling you.

The other thing I will say is that when you're early early raising you know like you're going to raise on a convertible note which means that you take the cash as debt. And this is only if you're going to be C. Route but or like you know friends and family you can raise in a convertible note easily. Um If you're not taking any B. C. Capital and what that just what that means is like you take it as debt so you're not actually giving any equity to anyone basically. It's everyone's agreeing like we're not going to value the company today you know and like that's a little bit of breathing room that the convertible note gives you is like you're not going to value the company today. We're gonna base the value on three years from now which is when we'll raise like the actual venture capital round, we will price the company and we're saying that the company is going to be worth really like we're gonna get our hit our highest milestone but I'm going to give it to you at this and that's when then like kind of the deal and negotiation comes through.

But in those early conversations I think it's more, I think it's so much more important to find your earliest like fan girls and fan kids who are just going to stand by you who are proud to invest in you instead of like buying another fancy car or going on a like really fancy vacation. Like you want the people who are aligned with you and your your mission and your vision for what you're building. Yeah absolutely having the right people around you who are going to be a cheerleader ongoing. For sure. I love that. So you have recently closed 12 million series B round and you've been doing all the things when you look back over you know, you had those early years and kind of getting the traction and everything like that, but then you've obviously switched into the VC route, you've kind of scaled it up. What would you say have been the most pivotal moments in growing the company to today, where you've been able to close that round and kind of shoot for the next, starting each new category has always been really pivotal for us at the end of the day, we are known for our food and so every time we've launched a new category um, and broadened our menu that has been really huge for the business and for the brand and how people view us and how the investor community views us.

So, you know, going from like we had like a soup and a soup cleanse was like sort of the earliest days and moving into breakfast and smoothies and then moving into grain bowls and all of the different ways that we have growing the ecosystem of the food product has been really, really powerful, like being able to meet the customer wherever they need you wherever they want you in there? Like food journey expansion. Got it. Cool. I love that when you think about the last few years, what are the main kind of challenges that people face in the food industry or in that kind of like delivery, fresh food industry. It's super competitive. You know, food is competitive by nature, it's like something we think about food like 2000 times a day and make like seven different food choices. Actually I can't remember the exact number but it is in the it's in the thousands.

It's like we think about food and food choices and it's something like over the course of the year, it actually adds up to about a month of time is spent thinking about food and food choices. Yeah, because that was um this is a tangent but that was something that I thought about a lot when starting splendid spoon. I was like what if you didn't have to think about what you were eating? You just trusted it. I think about food so much and I hate the conversation of like what am I going to have for dinner tonight? I hate it. My husband and I are like we're tired, we don't want to think about what we're gonna have for dinner tonight and go through this discussion every single day every single Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So challenges in the food industry. Oh my God. Yeah. It's very competitive and it's very operationally complex. Like making food is complicated, it spoils like it goes bad. Like people all, all of the metrics for flavor are wrapped up in each individual's like emotional experience and personal history with food like so it's really, it's really challenging when you're first starting out, you don't have any of that data from your customers to like identify what's a winner and what's not and be consistent, right?

Like making something awesome once is easy. Making something awesome millions of times is really hard. So I think that those like the consistency, the complexity of food and then in especially our space we call it like the sea of sameness. Like it kind of a lot of it really looks the same. And so how do you really differentiate? How do you create a unique position for yourself? And how do you tell that story? So people know that it's always uniquely you when they see Teal or when they see a certain font or when they see you know that notable that they loved? Mhm. Absolutely. Gosh, is there anything that you wish someone told you before you were starting out that you can share with our audience today? Um but I wish someone had told me early, I mean I wish if I could go back and talk to myself then I would tell myself to have the courage to say no more often and knowing what your boundaries are is like really, really important when you get derailed with trying to accommodate other people or trying to like make other people make everyone happy in the entrepreneurial world.

It can be like a death spiral because time is so precious. Do you have an example? What do you mean? I mean I was tempted early on to go into um yeah, this is I've told this example before, but there was a company that wanted to do wholesale with me and wanted me to be the manufacturer when I knew I was never gonna, I knew I was going to outsource my manufacturing eventually, But it was like low hanging fruit, it was another like 4000 was like a $4,000 account at a time when like that was huge and they asked me to be their manufacturer and it would be like co branded and all this stuff and I should have said no, I knew that that was not the path that I was going. I knew that was not the direction for the business, but I was tempted by like a potentially easy account. Yeah. And when you need the money. Yeah, yeah, when you need the money. Um and I also wanted to, like, I wanted to work with these people, I thought I was like, oh, like this would be maybe this, maybe this is like the right, and that's a really big challenge as an entrepreneur, but having the courage to say no, it's powerful.

Yeah, and I think it's something that takes practice like figuring out what your North Star is and trying to like block out all the other stuff that comes to you. That is kind of cool and you know, sounds like it could be great, but it takes your focus away from that North Star versus towards it, it's a tough one. I think we all kind of struggle with that and you know have to weave the path but you eventually get to the North Star, that's great, yep. Hey it's dune here. Thanks for listening to this amazing episode of the Female startup club podcast. If you're a fan of the show and want even more of the good stuff, I'd recommend checking out female startup club dot com where you can subscribe to our free newsletter, we send it out weekly covering female founder business news, insights and learnings in D. C. And interesting business resources and if you're a founder building an e commerce brand you can join our private network of entrepreneurs called hype Club at Female startup club dot com forward slash hype club.

We have guests from the show joining us for intimate, Ask me Anythings, expert workshops and a group of totally amazing like minded women building the future of DTC brands. As always, please do subscribe rate and review the show and post your favorite episodes to instagram stories. I am beyond grateful when you do that.

From a broken business model to 20,000 subscribers; 8-figure founder Nicole Centeno tells her Splendid Spoon journey (part 1)
From a broken business model to 20,000 subscribers; 8-figure founder Nicole Centeno tells her Splendid Spoon journey (part 1)
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