Inspiring Stories From Female Food & Bev Founders
It's time to give a round of applause to the fearless female entrepreneurs taking over the food and bevvv industry. We're spotlighting some of our favorite Women-Owned brands in honor of International Women's History Month. From facing unique challenges to breaking through barriers, these ladies are proving they have what it takes to succeed.
Why should we get more female founders in the grocery industry?
According to a report by the Food Marketing Institute, women are the queens of household purchasing decisions, especially regarding groceries. The report found that a whopping 70% of women are the top dogs when grocery shopping for their households. And if that wasn't impressive enough, a staggering 85% of women are calling the shots as the primary decision-makers for household grocery shopping. So, if you want to make it big in the food and beverage world, it's time to start paying attention to the ladies. Trust us; it's just good business sense!
So could more women-owned brands mean better sales for the retailers carrying them?
Customers have shown a strong preference for certified women-owned brands in the grocery aisle. According to a Women's Business Enterprise National Council survey, 90% of female consumers in the U.S. are more inclined to purchase products from women-owned businesses, and 80% are more likely to buy from companies with women in leadership positions (ladies for the win)!!
What's the state of women-owned in the grocery business today?
The food industry is seeing a surge in women-owned brands. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), women now account for 42% of all food, beverage, and hospitality businesses (now that's a pretty impressive number).
More and more organizations recognize the value of supporting women-owned businesses and offering certifications to prove it. The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) is leading the charge as the largest certifier of women-owned businesses in the U.S. Currently, there are over 16,000 certified women-owned businesses in the food and beverage industry alone!
Some retailers are getting in on the action too. Whole Foods, for example, has created initiatives to support and showcase women-owned brands in its stores. And guess what? It's working! A few female founders quoted below have disclosed that these programs have significantly boosted sales.
But it's not just about business - female shoppers also make a statement with their wallets. They're more inclined to purchase from brands that prioritize personal, family, community, and environmental health. So if you're a brand that's doing good for the world, you're more likely to catch female consumers' eye (and the loyalty).
Are you ready to support more women-owned brands in grocery? Or curious about starting your own food or beverage company?
We asked some of our favorite female founders to weigh in on what it's like to start a business as a woman and the process behind it all. So, let's see what these trailblazers have to say!
What unique challenges did you face when starting a business?
"Everything! Kidding aside, I've adjusted to the mantra of '2 steps forward and 1 step back'. You are going to make mistakes and have challenges, you just need to learn from them so you can move forward." - Laurel Orley, Co-Founder & C.E.O., Daily Crunch
How can female entrepreneurs secure funding for their business?
"I bootstrapped the business for two years by freelancing full time, and then slowly decreasing my freelance workload as Lil Bucks took off. It offered flexibility but I will say, I didn't have a ton of boundaries around my freelance work at the time, and there was a year where I was working two full time jobs at once, it was not fun and I went through burnout.
Since then I've raised from Friends and Family, and Angel Investors, through convertible notes. I worked with a startup lawyer that worked with a friend's tech company to help with the paperwork. I was completely clueless on how to structure fundraising rounds, so use your network to find someone who knows it. There's no shame in not knowing. Honestly, to this day I have to *teach* investors (primarily all males) how the fundraising structure actually works. It's wild to think I went from being clueless to having to coach investors on how fundraising rounds are structured hah!
We also did a crowdfunding campaign on Republic, which offers anyone the opportunity to invest without being an accredited investor. This basically democratizes fundraising because it gives people that don't normally have the opportunity to invest and potentially make it big on very early companies because they are not yet accredited investors. Crowdfunding was an epic option for a woman-owned business, because to this day I still have a hard time with traditional V.C./venture firms -- less than 2% of V.C. money goes to women, so the odds are tough in what is already the most difficult part of the job, fundraising.
Last option I wish I explored earlier on was non-dilutive capital, so working with a bank or loan company specific to your industry on gaining a loan for working capital to help us take off.
TL;DR: For women, I think angels, friends & family and crowdfunding investors are a great route because these people are way more likely to actually write checks. Fundraising is a very difficult challenge so doing anything you can to maximize your odds will help." - Emily Griffith, Founder & C.E.O. Lil Bucks, America's Buckwheat Brand
Are there any resources or networks specifically for female entrepreneurs?
"I surround myself with female founders constantly! In addition to connecting with my female founder friends almost daily, I'm a part of several organizations that I highly recommend: the Enthuse Foundation, Women Founders Network, and the Entreprenista League." - Ashley Nickelsen, Founder, C.E.O., and Chief Snack Officer, B.T.R. NATION
What are some examples of successful female-founded businesses?
"So many!! All the ones in this post! Ty Haney from Outdoor Voices, and former Haus founder Price Hambrecht, are great female entrepreneurs. What stands out to me with both of their stories is how vulnerable and honest they have been about their business journeys, even when things didn't look perfect from the outside. As entrepreneurs you face pressure to seem like "everything is amazing!!!", after all you want your employees, buyers, investors, customers etc. to be confident in your product/business. But I think women founders especially have changed the game in terms of, yes, you can be confident and SHOULD blast all the amazing things going on with your business for those stakeholders, but you can ALSO be vulnerable and real about the journey. You're not doing yourself any favors by blocking yourself off from vulnerability and connection--my community, more often than not, has helped lift my business from difficult challenges." - Emily Griffith, Founder & C.E.O. Lil Bucks, America's Buckwheat Brand
How can women balance starting and growing a business with other responsibilities, such as family or work?
"Having the support of close family is crucial. It may be impossible or not worthwhile to run and grow a business without their support. Working around the clock requires everyone to be flexible, for the husband to come home early when needed, even ask for advance notice of his work-related travel. Things like Calling the neighbors to check on the dogs while stuck in traffic. Or even asking the Grandparents to pick up kids and driving them to their activities. It really takes a village. and the more you will be ok to receive help and know you are loved and deserve it the better." - Tal Garden, FUN Sesames
"It's hard and we have to be kinder and easier on each other. I have 3 kids and I asked them recently if I should quit and they say please don't quit. They are watching on the side lines." - Laurel Orley, Co-Founder & C.E.O., Daily Crunch
What are some tips for building a solid brand as a female founder?
"Share your story consistently and authentically through all your communication channels. Leverage connections with your community/customers, they can help you if you ask them to." - Regina Trillo, Founder and C.E.O. Nemi Snacks
How can women overcome imposter syndrome and gain confidence in their entrepreneurial abilities?
"I would suggest investing in killer branding, packaging as soon as you're clear on your direction and value to customers. Start out with initial testing at Farmers Markets or local events where you can sell products - or selling on social media! Gather as much feedback as possible. Take your customer feedback and turn it into the brand hierarchy, or how you'll communicate the brand value to your community. With killer branding, killer communication, and a clear value proposition, it's amazing how far you can get." - Kaitlin Mogentale, founder & C.E.O., Pulp Pantry
How can women network effectively and build connections in the business world?
"My number one tip is to shoot your shot! The worst thing that can happen, is that you get a "no" or no response, and you're no worse off than where you started. All connections I've made have been through showing up and asking questions - whether simply through LinkedIn messaging, or utilizing existing friends and contacts to better understand the overall network and potential connections in the broader industry. From our suppliers to some of my favorite fellow founders, all have been made through direct outreach and questions! Don't hesitate to reach out." - Renee Dunn, Founder & CEO, Amäzi
What are some strategies for managing the unique challenges and stressors of starting and running a business as a woman?
"Surround yourselves with female founders who are few steps ahead of you in your business. They've seen it all and heard it all. Processing your stress and challenges in a safe space with someone who understands is a great strategy to help you succeed in your business." - Ashley Nickelsen, Founder, C.E.O., and Chief Snack Officer, B.T.R. NATION
"Mental health is real and is our give back mission. It's important to take time for ourselves when starting a business and having a life outside of our company which is sometimes really hard to do." - Laurel Orley, Co-Founder & C.E.O., Daily Crunch
Have any follow-up questions? Feel free to reach out directly. We hope this article was helpful for your journey.
Happy International Women's History Month :)