On Starting a Food Business

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Joni Kindwall-Moore

Joni Kindwall-Moore

Founder and CEO
Snacktivist Foods

Team Size

5

Revenue

Under 50,000

Location

Coeur d’Alene, ID

STart Date

2015

Meet Joni Kindwall-Mooreand, a founder and CEO of Snacktivist Foods, a specialty food business that sells baking mixes, specialty flours and finished cookies made from healthy and sustainable ancient grains.

Joni worked as a nurse before she grew Snacktivist Foods into a full-time business. In this interview, she shares her story on starting and growing her specialty food business and challenges she faced along the way.

snacktivist foods

INTRODUCTION

PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE BUSINESS YOU STARTED.

I started my journey as a mom of three kids and an ICU nurse. My professional background before nursing and motherhood was as an ethnobotanist where I had the opportunity to study how people use plants for medicine and for food.

After years of healthcare and science, I realized the most impactful way I could help people was through improving our food systems. I was already involved as a food systems activist but realized that B-corp, mission-driven brands are a major way to impact consumer trends and demand on our global supply chains. This is what led to the creation of Snacktivist Foods. 

WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE AND HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE?

I usually get up before the family does so I can drink my coffee peacefully, catch up on emails and plan my day. Usually my kids go to school and after I drop them off I go to the gym or out for a walk/hike. Now my walk happens after they eat breakfast.

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We have a warehouse with a commercial kitchen and office space where I spend part of the week. Now I am working from home more to keep an eye on the kids. I frequently have to work in the evenings too which I am trying to reduce as it is exhausting and takes time away from my family. We use project management software and I am a “to-do” list person.

THE JOURNEY SO FAR

PLEASE DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS.

We launched Snacktivist very slowly because we had 3 small children at home and I was working as a nurse. I could not leave my nursing job and continue to make ends meet so we had to juggle both. My husband is a nurse as well so the hours were very long and unconventional.

We wanted to make faster progress but were met with very significant hurdles at the beginning. My Dad became ill and passed away during year one and because he lived in another state, I spent much of my time traveling to assist with care and support my Mom.

I also developed some medical issues myself and ultimately ended up with a surgery where they removed part of the bone behind my ear. I had developed symptoms of dizziness, facial paralysis, and nausea so they were concerned that I had a tumor. Fortunately, it turned out to be benign, regardless it was very difficult to continue scaling the company during that time so it has really slowed us down. It was very frustrating plus the expense of the travel and the medical bills were overwhelming and made us have to slow down growth. 

Then in 2018, suddenly things started to go our way! We were approached by a huge retailer and  we entered the pitch competition for Boise Start-Up Week and we won for the food track, which was a huge boost and we had amazing publicity! It had a cash prize and also a contract with a major grocery chain.

We had momentum and I brought on a team to capture the opportunities, but then within a couple of months, everything began to go very wrong.  My only other FT person and key employee left the country for 6 weeks at a very critical time and 2 other key people became unavailable for other unforeseen reasons.

It was devastating because I was left almost on my own just when the momentum was absolutely critical and left struggling to keep the business moving forward. Not having a team while the burn rate continues will kill your company as you run out of cash. If you are not constantly moving forward you get swallowed up by that burn rate. It was devastating because I felt so let down by people that I believed in.

Also, our office mate stopped paying rent too so we literally bled to death last year and came within inches of shutting down. Then, as things were coming together again, in fall of 2019 I was hit by a careless driver which totaled my car and left me with head and spinal injuries. 

I was out of work for 6 weeks during our peak season and again, an important employee flaked on us at a critical time leaving me high and dry. This was the final blow, I really wanted to give up, I had never been so beat down in my entire life.

But I woke up one day and realized that I could not give up. We can’t give up because we are a mission-driven company that is determined to make a huge and lasting impact on our food system. I CAN’T GIVE UP, this is not about me, it is about doing what is right for the world!

So I rise even when I don’t have the energy left to do it because honestly, I would rather die fighting to make this world better than I found it a better place than to sit around and complain about it, living in fear. Generations ahead of us deserve better.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT AND YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?

Biggest achievement: Still having a company after what we have been through, I am so proud of my current team (they are amazing) and what we have achieved!  We have grit and tenacity that is for sure! 

Biggest challenge has been learning to live with losing trust in people you thought you could count on and learning to trust again. 

WHAT STRATEGY DID YOU USE TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS? AND HOW?

Goal setting is super important. Getting your team to rally around that goal and report on what they are doing to get you there is even bigger! And much harder.

I have spent a ton of time on this and because I have no management skills it has been very challenging. As a scientist and Nurse, I always worked very independently.

So investing in software programs and outside skills (people who are good at this, consultants) has been critical.

WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS?

We just brought on 2 talented executive board members and expanded our team. We have been having record sales which is very exciting. We really think that this will be the year that puts Snacktivist on the map and helps us make the changes in food, agriculture and the environment that we want to see!

RECOMMENDATIONS & FINAL THOUGHTS

ARE THERE ANY RESOURCES OR TOOLS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH OTHERS THAT HAVE HELPED YOU RUN YOUR BUSINESS?

Absolutely, community resources such as SNAP Women’s business center, Business incubators/communities such as Innovation Collective in Coeur d’Alene, Trailhead in Boise, Venture Capital.org in Salt Lake and Ignite in Spokane.

SAAS platforms: Monday.com, Slack.

Podcasts: Guy Raz and How I built this has given me more inspiration to just keep going than anything or any other book.

WHAT OR WHO HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST INFLUENCE IN BUSINESS AND WHY?

Gosh, so many mentors have given their time to help me along the way. Too many to list, I am so grateful for their investment in me.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS?

 

Be ready, it is risky and exhausting but ultimately rewarding! And if you are raising a family, you will show your children grit, tenacity and work ethic. 

WHAT BUSINESS IDEA DO YOU HAVE THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO SHARE WITH OTHERS? 

I wish someone would create an app that captures text threads and translates them to a PDF to store in other places. I have lost so much great info to texts that really needed to be archived in Dropbox, Gdrive, etc.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?

Be sure when you launch a business that you are prepared to be working longer hours, harder hours with less pay while it builds. You will stay motivated if it is for a larger purpose, to inspire, to help, to change anything. It keeps you going at the end of the day.
Also, be that helpful friend who supports a fellow entrepreneur!!

Violeta Semenova

Violeta Semenova
Founder
theBizLadies

Welcome to the Biz Ladies interview series!

If you’re new to these series, I interview women entrepreneurs on how they started their business, what was the idea behind it, how they got where they are, the struggles, the reality and more.

By sharing their stories, we want to inspire other women to get started.

If you are interested to share your own story on the Biz Ladies LET ME KNOW!