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Sari 0:04
I'm Sari, Kimbell, and I've done just about everything in the food industry. I have helped hundreds of packaged food business entrepreneurs. And now I want to help you make your delicious dream a reality. Whether you want to be successful at farmer's markets, online, or wholesale on the store shelves, Food Business Success is your secret ingredient. I will show you how to avoid an expensive hobby, and instead run a profitable food business. Now let's jump.

Welcome back to the podcast. Today we have a really amazing guest. I'm so excited to welcome Melonie DeRose and Melonie is the founder and chief gold digger of Empact a woman own mission based natural snack food company. The E M stands for empowering women and girls the pact for helping them make an impact in their families and communities. Empact works with nonprofits that help empower women and girls in various ways. A once upon a time corporate and securities attorney at an international law firm, Melonie puts the many lessons she learned about shattering glass ceilings to us no matter what she does. Her personal passions include motivating, empowering, inspiring, inspiring other women and helping them to be the best versions of themselves. Melonie also has three beautiful independent daughters and an amazing fun loving, and fellow health nut husband. So welcome, Melonie, thanks so much for being here today.

Melonie DeRose 1:42
Thank you so much for having me. I'm honored to be here. Oh, thanks.

Sari 1:45
And we shall say You and I both serve on the board for Colorado Food Works, which is where we found each other and connected. So

Melonie DeRose 1:54
An absolutely wonderful organization, by the way.

Sari 1:56
Yes. So if you're in Colorado, and you're a food brand little shout out to join us over there. It's a big $25 a year investment. Totally worth it to for what you get for that amazing. I know we just launched a Slack channel or having some really great conversations with with CPG brands over there. So come join us. I'll put the link in the show notes. Anyway. Well, we won't go on and on. So Melanie, I just want to like I you know, I know a little bit about you. And obviously when we were talking about you joining the board, I learned a lot more. But tell me your story. Tell us your story. Because I think it's gonna resonate with so many people listening who have professional jobs. They're wondering if they should pursue this dream. So take us back as far back as you want to go and just tell us your story.

Unknown Speaker 2:52
Yeah, if I can relate to that group of people that was me for a long time with an idea. But you know, frankly, I was scared to pursue it. I as you mentioned it, and by trade a corporate and securities attorney, which is about the most risk averse profession you could ever have in your life. So if you start thinking about taking the risk of becoming an entrepreneur, it's like all these things flare up, like Oh, God, then I won't have the security and I don't have any, you know, job security, or what about my income. So it was a struggle for me to take the plunge, if you will. I was working at an international law firm, I had a great job. But I had two really compelling things that were working against that job. And one was this burning desire to be an entrepreneur and to pursue this passion of really helping other women. You know, I could mentor people at the law firm, and it was an exciting job. But I just, I just always felt like that was lacking. And that was a big part of my identity. And I just had this burning desire to do something in that field.

Sari 3:58
And then you grow up with like an entrepreneur, family or anybody.

Unknown Speaker 4:03
I didn't know I didn't either. My dad was a lawyer. My sister's a lawyer, you know, my cousin's a lawyer. That was the track right? I was going to be a lawyer. And I not really entrepreneurial at all. And I don't know where that came from. I think it was just it excited me. You know, law is very rigid, and there's not a lot of, it's hard to be creative. Yeah. So I yeah, and I was lacking, you know, this ability to help other women. And then also I started having babies. So what happened was, you know, I had my first daughter at the law firm and a lot of things I mean, we could do a whole podcast about that. You know how I left the hospital. feeling like I still looked pregnant. And like being in tears when I had to pull my maternity clothes out of the attic because I put them away. Nobody warns me that like you still want pregnant when you hit back my by in my latest Brexit three girls, my second daughter, when we left the high the hospitals. She said, Mom, is there still a baby in there? So you know I'm in this I'm having a difficult time as a new mom finding fitness solutions or wellness solutions. As I'm at the firm, I have no time I'm working like crazy. I can't find anything to do in my home. And I have this wild idea to go launch a fitness video company for women for new moms geared towards new moms. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no, I wasn't a trainer, like I've always been pretty fit. But I was just like, looking on way back then. I'm not gonna age myself. But you know, it's like, I could find a few YouTube videos on some yoga workouts. And that was it. So we decided to launch this health and fitness company for women geared towards new moms. And I was doing it on the side. And it got some legs. And it's got nothing else going on. Right? You Baby, you know, the legal career. I mean, husband, you know that my poor pets, my poor dog. Actually, at the time, we had one dog totally neglected. So yeah, there was my life has always been very full. My mom says I thrive in chaos. So apparently I like it that way. But anyhow, we decided to launch this company. And at some point, it was just unmanageable to do both. But it took me a long time. So I was pursuing my dream. And I still couldn't let go right. I was still going to the office and you know, kind of working two full time jobs. It was very challenging. And it was challenging with my daughter also, because I always felt guilty. I felt like I was a bad mom and a bad lawyer and a bad spouse or bad everything. And yeah, I wasn't taking time for myself. And that starts to weigh on you at some point like it really it was weighing on me. And so at some point, I just decided, Okay, I'm going all in like we're just gonna go for it on this fitness company. You know, and it's so funny because most people are like, You did what? You were referenced security's a journey, and you turn it, you launched a fitness company. And this is coming from, by the way, a girl when I was a kid, I was that kid who was like last person picked on every team. It was like, mortifying, I was scrawny, I can never do a pull up here. And it's like, you're doing fitness. Like what happened, I think maybe that like turmoil or trauma from having to endure that as a kid sort of inspired me to to prove that I could do it, then so we launched a fitness company. And then what quickly grew out of that was we had a bunch of customers saying fitness is great, but the nutrition is my problem. And I can't find any snacks. I can't find anything healthy. I can't find anything on the go. I'm not eating, I don't know how to get protein. And so again, I found myself in a situation where I was walking down the protein bar aisle of grocery store one day going, I don't know what the hell to eat. Like, if I'm cross that I know what to eat. If I'm my husband, and I need you know, 50 grams of protein and 300 calories, I know what to eat. But as a woman who's trying to get good quality ingredients and good amount of protein, but not crazy high and low carbs. Just there wasn't anything for me that I that I thought was for me. And so here we go again, you know, idea number two, like, we've got to do some food. And so we started launching some bars. And then quickly, you know, empact kind of just spun out of that. And we started this whole new company because food and fitness are very different businesses, you know, a lot of overlap there.

Sari 8:28
Like I service you can Yes, you can do whatever you want and one like which I want to talk to you more about like the fit like oh, we just created some bars. You glossed over that really quickly.

Unknown Speaker 8:38
Yeah, that was a process. It's always the fitness video. I'll tell you funny thing about the fitness videos. We I mean, we do a trainer. We were in Austin, Texas at the time she she trained moms, so we were like we're using her. But the other women in the video we literally put up signs I'll ever Austin was like casting call, you know, did you and we had women come out of the Woodworks man, they were like, Oh my god, this is on my bucket list. And so we found these amazing women to be in this video. And similarly, you know, we're like, okay, we don't know anything about food. I mean, I'm not like a chef or anything by trade. But we were like, We got to find somebody who knows how to make really high quality bars. And we started with recipes in our kitchen. We were like, We just started messing around with stuff using different nut butters and dates and putting some dried fruit nuts together and seeing what we could we could make. And we would finally kind of come to a concept. And then we would take it to an expert and say okay, this needs to have, you know, five grams of sugar and we don't want any more than 170 calories or something like that. We would give them parameters. And then and and there has to be really high quality ingredients. We're not putting any crap in these bars. Excuse my language, but we made it work. You know, we had a lot of people tell us you can't do this. We had. We had countless you know, dieticians say not possible. We had manufacturers say you can't produce the bars like this unless you extrude them which is great. Kind of a process where they put it in a machine and it pressurizes it free, something disgusting. And I'm like, we are going to do it this way we're gonna do it, we're that it's almost raw. And we did, we found a way. I don't know how but God willing, we found a way. And so that is sort of been my story. And then with that, you know, we made impact mission based because that is hugely important to me. And I'm incredibly lucky that I get to fulfill my personal passion of helping other women through my job. And you know, we made it that way. We were like, we're going to work with nonprofits that help women, and it's not going to be conventional. So funny story about that, and then I'll shut up because I know I'm talking too much. You're the guest. So we approached a really big nonprofit, and we said, we want to work with you. And we were trying to find supplements to go to pregnant moms. That's what we that was our thing was, and that I'm not going to name the nonprofit, but they told us, Okay, great, give us $25,000. And we'll put you on our website that was like, that doesn't sound like a good idea. Like I'd rather I'd rather give that $25,000 to women who need it. So instead of going that route, which is a great route, I mean, I think it's awesome to donate to nonprofits, we have taken a very hands on approach where we work, we do all sorts of different projects. We've done projects with the women's being project, which is a nonprofit here in Denver, where they've packaged goods for us, you know, they help chronically underemployed and impoverished women transition to full time work. So they create a job program.

Sari 11:35
Such a great program.

Melonie DeRose 11:36
Yeah, I mean, it's amazing. Their their statistics on placement and retention are incredible. They're doing some amazing things over there. And if you don't know that nonprofit, check it out. But we will, you know, we'll have the women over there, prep gift packs for Amazon, or, you know, prep our online orders, whatever we need to do discreet projects. But you know, on my worst day, and there's a lot of those in startups CPG business, on my worst day, if I walk into that organization, and see women working on our stuff, and you know, I can remember very clearly this one time, this woman came up to me and said, I just want to say thank you very much for giving me the job. There is nothing better than that. I mean, that just gives me chills to reenact it.

Sari 12:17
That I totally gave me chills.

Melonie DeRose 12:19
Very grounding. When that happens. You know, we took we've worked with the Denver rescue mission, we've worked with an organization that places people who are immigrating into the United States, but are kind of in this stuck position like almost like and also refugees who don't have full time work yet. So we've, you know, I remember one time, we had some projects for some refugee women, I think they were from Ethiopia, they came to our warehouse, we did this projects, and they were like, they pulled out their mats, and they were praying in the middle. And it was very humbling just to be part of that. And so when we get to do stuff like that, and really, you know, the our my newest endeavor is working with a couple of nonprofits that help victims of sex trafficking. Like that is just, I mean, that just fills my bucket in every way. And so I'm very fortunate in being able to do that and sort of position my business to help me do that.

Sari 13:15
Yeah. I'm curious. I want to go back to when you made the leap from leaving law and your full time, I'm sure well, pain, yeah, injectable job. What do you think you were thinking when you were like, I'm going to leave that and I'm going to go all in on my entrepreneurship?

Melonie DeRose 13:38
It was not an easy decision. I mean, my husband will tell you that I tried multiple times to make that leap. And the fear got in the way, right, the fear of the security, I mean, everything. It was just I had a routine. I had habits. We had a network, I knew what I would do every day. I mean, there's variety, but I knew what my day would look like. And it was predictable. And yeah, the the salary was great. I mean, I missed, I missed that. For sure. And the security that came along with it. And I, we, you know, we had a daughter, and we were really nervous about health care, and all these things that you don't necessarily get when you start your own business. But at some point, you know, I kind of looked at my husband and we just decided, like, I can always come back to this. Yeah, I can come back to what I'm doing now. Or I know I'm marketable enough, I can find something right. And I'm very ambitious. And so I and I'm driven. And so I knew that I would be able to find something. But the thing I didn't want to do was wake up 20 years from now and have all these regrets of what would my life have looked like if I had gone this way and yes, there's way more risks and it's scary. And it would you know, I had stomach you know, pains just thinking about what could go wrong, and I'm that person that's what I was paid to do as a lawyer right identify red like, oh my god What if this and what if Oh crap, what if this and of course, when you're an entrepreneur, you know, you have those those Oh sh t moments like every day. And it's it's a challenge. So it took me a while I don't want to make it sound like it was easy to say that I made haphazardly. It took a while I was saving money, I, you know, I needed to have a certain amount of money in the bank, just in case. And it but ultimately it was, you know, I don't want to look back and regret this. And the other thing that was pulling at me was, what am I modeling for my daughter? You know, I have three daughters now. And what is it I'm modeling for them, I'm obviously I'm all about empowering women and shattering glass ceilings, I've worked in very male dominated industries I've seen, you know, also, I've seen the gamut on sexual harassment to just not giving opportunities to women, that's, I feel very strongly about advancing, you know, women in any profession. And I'm like, What am I and it wasn't that I was not modeling that as a lawyer. It's just I knew at some point, they would figure out that I wasn't pursuing what I was really passionate about. And that is what I wanted to demonstrate for them, that you can pursue your passion, it's much more fulfilling, you should do that. I was just taking the Safe Road out, you know, great job. Easy, was not easy, hard job, challenging job. Great job, but not ultimately, what was really like grounding me and having a fulfilling life.

Sari 16:31
Yeah. So good. I mean, because I always wonder, like, you got to have a reason I call it your, you know, compelling, why, like, you got to have a reason that's big enough, that will overcome all the crap, right? All of the fears, all of the doubt. And I get strong.

Melonie DeRose 16:49
Yeah, I want to say one more thing, because I think a lot of people could can identify with this. I was on autopilot. Like, I just, I felt almost numb, you know, like, I didn't have these really amazing highs or lows. It was just medium. It just felt I felt like I was stuck in mediocracy. And I wasn't really inspired. And I was having a hard time having fun. And also just that, like, you know, we always say we empower women to feel alive and impact, like I was lacking that. And this was a huge motivator for me. I mean, I was like, something's got to change. Because I'm just feeling like, I'm not feeling all that joy, and that, you know, energy, and that passion to attack life every day. And that was really lacking for me. And I think at some point, you know, you either let that build up, and you do something about it, or it defines you the rest of your life. And, you know, you look back and you go, God, I wish I would have done something different. I could have, you know, so that's what that was another catalyst in me leaving is I just was like, I don't want to be in mediocracy anymore. Right?

Sari 17:54
Yeah, you had you had a very strong, hardwired. So you you went, you made the leap. Thanks for sharing that so good. Because I know so many people. And I'm not saying everyone should become an entrepreneur, but I am working I'm getting so many people joining Food Business Success that are feeling like I've been wanting to do this for 10 years, 20 years, like what am I waiting for? I think the pandemic has really, like help spur modifier on a lot of people like,

Melonie DeRose 18:24
I mean, like, I'm not like what I guess what I also would say is what is the biggest thing that can happen? Like, if you get you have some financial hardship, possibly, that was my big thing. That's my, you know, I've got this scarcity mindset that I'm dealing with and have been for a few years after discovering personal development, and emotional intelligence. And it was, that's, that's a real thing that like fear of, you know, you know, you're in a position and losing all that that's a real thing. But in the end, I mean, I think most of us could probably find a way. It's not like I was going to be out on the street, like my family or friends or whatever, we're not gonna let that happen. And I think you just have to make amends with that, and do it.

Sari 19:02
And do make Yeah, go like, follow that line all the way down. What is the worst that can happen? And like, keep going with it? And it's like, the worst that could happen for most people is like, then I go get a job. Yeah, that's right. I have maybe I have a little bit of debt. And I can start, I learned some great loves.

Melonie DeRose 19:19
That's right. And what I will say this, I mean, talk about a learning experience, you know, I would take this experience over any kind of graduate program. There's just no better way. I mean, I was really before I became a lawyer, I was to kind of flipping a coin between law and business in terms of going to graduate school. And I mean, this is the best schooling you can get an MBA. Yeah, that's that's right. I mean, this is you should actually just get one by default by starting a business and having to go through all the stuff you have to go through.

Sari 19:49
Yeah. And are the Do you feel like I'm guessing the answer is yes, but I'm guessing like the joys and the highs are pretty high. And then there's probably some really sucky parts.

Melonie DeRose 20:00
There are you know a mentor of mine once said that working in CPG is like getting punched in the face and hugged every day and you just hope to get more hugs than punches. And that is true. It is not an easy industry. And yes, there have been some lows. And I think what happens is I've built a tolerance, you know, in the beginning, if something would happen, and I would just freak out, this is the end, you know, we're done. And we always survived. And now I'm like, you just, it really does build, you build this tolerance, and I brushed it off, and I'm like, okay, we'll figure out how to deal with that. Nobody planned on COVID like talking about the biggest, the biggest Punch in the face to most businesses. And we're like, Okay, what do we all do? A lot of our customers just got shut down. What do we do now? I mean, you just, you have to pivot it. On the other hand, man, there's some amazing things like, you know, when we got into our first retailer, this is such a cool when I walked the stores of HGTV in Texas, and I saw our product on the shelf like that. That was so cool. I mean, the hi associated with that. And maybe that sounds really lame to some of your listeners. But to me, it was such an endeavor to get it there that I'm like, holy crap, there. It is like it's real. Yeah. And same thing when we're working with nonprofits, and we really affect people's lives. I just there's no trade off. Like there's, there's no, there's nothing better than that. So yes, the highs are much better than what I was doing. And, and this isn't to say like, this isn't for everybody. Like you said, I have a really good girlfriend, a few of them. Like they love practicing law. They like get all psyched about contracts. But like that just wasn't me. I mean, I like it, but it was, it's, it's not like I'm gonna, you know, get all pepped up and do jumping jacks whenever I finished a contract.

Sari 21:47
Yes, signature? Yes. I love it. Yeah. Well, this one thing is so good. So we've been talking, I've been kind of doing a little series, interviewing some great guests on on customers and making it about your customers and not always about you. Because that's a tendency, when we start a business. We make it all about us, which of course there is that element. But then we got to sell product, and we got to sell it. ourselves. And our mom. Yeah, that's exactly right. And so we've been talking a lot about brand identity and voice and and i just i was thinking about like, who would be a great guest. From the flip side, not not the people doing the work that that's their job, but the, you know, a brand owner like yourself, and I thought of impact and that you'd have a great story. And I think you do such a great job, you guys will definitely put their their link and website in the show notes. And I just I actually use you guys as a model, when a lot of times when I'm working with clients when we talk about branding, because it's so obvious to me like who your customer is, and how consistent you are. So I'd love to just we can dig into that topic some more. Like, how did you create the brand voice the brand identity identity? I mean, obviously, we talked about women and kind of using weight after pregnancy. So you you kind of knew your customer pretty well. But

Melonie DeRose 23:15
Yeah, I'd love to go into this because this is this is my jam. Because when we started this company, like you said, it's all about, it's all about what do I think the brand should look like? So the first thing we did was develop core values, right? Number one core value, we everything we do is to empower women, right? But we had a lot of core values that were like, we're gonna have fun. You know, we everybody takes out the trash, like just this whole list, we actually had it mean the lawyer I am I think I had 25 core values. And I had to wean it down to five, or 10. But you know, the first thing was everything has to be about empowering women. We're all about women, you know, people ask me all the time, why don't you make bars for men, I'm like, I don't know how to do that. I know, I know what women want. I know what I wanted. And and when we started this company, you know, one reason it that it got legs and it started as I was asking all my friends and they were having the same concerns. They were having the same complaints about lack of options. And so, you know, I took all that feedback, and it happened to be consistent with mine. And we developed this company. So in terms of branding, you know, all the way from the name. We wanted to pick a name of our company, that every time we said it reminded us that we were all about empowering women. And that's why we have them plus packed you know, and you already said what that stood for. Then when we started working on the voice. I wanted to be like the anti corporate. That was very personal. Yeah, because I had been and it's very professional, you know, granite countertop, like the way I like to talk about it law firm, which was great and very professional and very prestigious. But I didn't want to have to wear a suit anymore. And I wanted to just be myself and I didn't really feel like I could 100% be myself in that environment. You know, you walk into a courtroom. I think pantyhose are still running. And some of them, that was not me. So we were like, we're gonna have fun with this. And we're gonna make it a little sassy. And this is the audience I think we're going to appeal to. But we're not going to worry about what that audience necessarily thinks about how we're, you know, our brand voice or our, you know, our, what we're saying our branding, we're gonna just create what we think is gonna be this awesome brand that helps empower women. That is sassy, and fun, and colorful and bright. And when we say we empower women to feel alive, we want people to see that when we were developing our packaging, and so on, and so forth. So we started that way. And we chose as our avatar, we chose Jennifer Lawrence, who, like I have the biggest crush on ever, I love her. And we and I love her because she's an incredibly powerful woman, but she doesn't take herself too seriously. And she's really funny. And so we started out developing things like the way I would see her saying, like, how would Jennifer Lawrence say this, and that was our person. And it just became really easy. And part of that is because I can identify with her and I like her her voice, it became easy to start spitting out content and write emails and develop, you know, Greg, we have a graphic designer, but we would give her the phrasing or whatever. And it became really fun. And part of this is like, you have to have fun with it. If you're just doing it to make a buck. It is going to show I think, so we were having fun. But obviously we'd like to make a buck too. But we were having fun. But then something we want

Sari 26:29
If you want to make a buck, I don't know that CPG is the way to go for quick.

Melonie DeRose 26:33
Not the best industry where you start there to start there. But so what was interesting is we were we were spot on, I think with our initial idea of who our customer would be. But at some point, we realized that we had a large part of our customer base that skewed older, like I want to say mid 50s, and that were very conservative. And it just baffles me because we're we're a little bit risque, you know, we kind of took the line sometimes. And there are times where I think we probably crossed it. And we definitely have situations where our customers will call us out on that they are not as you know, on social media. Shout out what you don't like you often hear what you don't like more than you'd like. And I think as a brand owner, it's very tempting to try to pacify all customers. But we realized early on that was never going to work. I mean, we had a subset of people that loved our humor. And then we had some people that were like, that is You went too far. And you know, because we'll make some innuendos. And it went as far as, look, whatever your political affiliation is, we're a non political brand. But when we've got, you know, a US Supreme Court Justice, or we've got the Vice President, that's a woman and a power for powerful role, we're gonna say something about it. And did we get we really ticked off, you know, we ticked off people when we did that, but I'm like, that's okay. Because we're staying true to our brand. And our brand is about recognizing women empowerment. It's not about political, you know, affiliations. So I think, for me, it is always been staying true to who we are. But recognizing like, Okay, we've got this subset of our of our audience that we didn't plan on. And that's amazing. They're awesome. These these women are awesome. How do we make sure we're also including them? I don't want to you know, I don't want anyone to feel like they're not included. And so how can we make sure we're, you know, when we approve copy, or whatever, we're thinking about it through the lens of who we know, our target customers are. So it didn't influence necessarily our voice. But it is something we take into consideration now that we know more. At this point, we know who our customer bases. And, you know, if we're trying to go after a younger crowd, or a crowd that is really concerned about health, like crazy, you know, really rewrite reads every ingredient on a label. We might design posts specifically for that and just see, kind of test it and see what happens. But I still think we come back consistently to we're fun and playful and sassy. And we're all about women's empowerment. And that's just who we are. And I'm kind of like, you can't appease everybody, you know?

Sari 29:13
You guys heard it here, because all three of the people are on previous podcasts all say the same thing. And I say it over and over again, that you can't be everything to everyone. And yes, I know everybody wants, like, my products for everyone. But I think it's such a good example. And the bar example is is amazing, like, anybody go walk down a bar aisle, right? And very clearly, like, record, you know, you can very easily see all the different types of branding. And if you're aware, you can say oh, I can see who their customer is like, I mean our x bar is appealing to a very different demographic or, you know, Clif Bars or something like that, right? I love it that you're like, I'm creating a product, a bar for a specific group of people. And now I can like, get really narrow and focused. And there's a lot of those people, you just have to go find them. So it's so cool. You guys, like you started that way from the beginning. So you've heard it now from a brand owner.

Melonie DeRose 30:20
Yes, I actually think if we had been a bar for everybody, we wouldn't have gotten the retail placement that we I mean, I think that's how we got into stores is that, you know, snacking is not one size fits all. And your primary consumer is a woman, you know, what, you know, why would I make some I mean, it doesn't mean there aren't male consumers, but let me try to appeal to this group that you have walking through your store. And and by the way, you know, men just generally, generally speaking, snack differently than women. So, you know, most food is developed for everybody. But we just wanted to take a different approach. And I think honing in on something very, you know, you were it's not like we're super, super tight, narrow, narrow, narrow. I mean, we're talking about women. But honing in on a subset of the population is what I think is going to propel you as being a differentiator.

Sari 31:14
Yeah. But women have a certain probably a certain age. Yeah, with certain values, right? I mean, yeah, absolutely. So do you use have some, some more definitions, but I always look at it like, it hit me on another interview that I did with a guest that's like, you're trying to get all these people in your funnel. And if you can narrow down, then you spend a lot less money and time trying to get everybody in the funnel? Because ultimately, you got to narrow them down anyway, right? Not everybody's gonna be and your customer.

Melonie DeRose 31:47
I think that makes messaging so much harder. Because Where are you? Who are you trying to appeal to? I mean, you know, another look, we've got a lot of kids eating our bars. That was news to me. I mean, they're very healthy. And one of the reasons we made them so healthy as I wanted to be able to give them to my daughters and know that they were eating clean food. But we did not change our messaging, right to go to kids, right? Because then it gets really, I think people start getting confused. I mean, we're all in on women. Now. Maybe one day, we'll do a kid's bar. But it does not make sense. Just because we have a subset of our customer base being kids, you know, obviously they're their parents are buying it for them for us to then try to change everything to appeal to kids, like, you know, exactly, it doesn't make sense.

Sari 32:26
And if other people want to buy your bars, some guys were great. Like, we're not saying no, we're just saying, we know who we are. We know what we stand for, as a company. We know our brand voice and if other people want to come along for their journey. Great, right? Absolutely. That's awesome. So it sounds like it's changed a little bit. I like that, you know, because how old is Empact, we should probably.

Unknown Speaker 32:51
So we like it, we're a few years old, we launched at our first retailer at the end of 2016. And then we grew and retail pretty quickly after that. One of those things where it's like, I wish I knew now, I wish I knew then what I know now, kind of like a you know, you just learn as you go kind of situation. And then from there, you know, lately, we've really started to pivot and focus more on e commerce because we've never really been an ecommerce brand. I am gravitating towards that number one because I can control the experience with the customer. And control is a bad word. But it may be not the best word. It's just if a customer, whatever experience they have with our product, if it's in the store, I don't know unless I'm there sampling. And right now, that's very difficult to do with COVID. So without sampling opportunities, you know, online, I actually can communicate with the customer. And I do that all the time. I am very hands on I call our customers, I'm emailing I think everybody in the world at this point as my cell phone number and my email address, I just, like just call me. And you know, customer's always blown away when I call and I'm like, Oh my god, you bought my product. Thank you. Like, I'd love to talk to you. And so that is sort of the direction we're heading as a traditional retail brand. But now pivoting more to the e commerce.

Sari 34:08
Okay. And so, did you get into a big retailer to start?

Melonie DeRose 34:14
Yes, we launched and I don't know, a couple 100 HCBS. In Texas, when we first started an ACB is the big grocery store chain in Texas. We had an opportunity, we had an amazing buyer who who saw a lot of potential. And we just that was the route that we had an opportunity for. So that was the route we took and then after that it was like okay, distributors and trying to understand this business and how to make it work. And like you said, it's difficult to make money when you're working with the distributor and the store. And then you got marketing and co packing and yeah, yes, everything right. It's a it's a complicated business. It seems like it shouldn't be so complicated, but the way that it's been designed and you know, kind of the default structure either Have lots of pieces. So that was the route that we took. And just because we had our first opportunity, we learn how to do it. And then we expanded from there. But now I'm pulling the reins back a little bit just because it hasn't been the easiest to work with retail. lately. It's been a challenge. I think a lot of people now also are gravitating to ordering groceries at home. I think COVID really just jumped the statistics on that. And now you know, I know I will get my groceries sometimes from Amazon Fresh or whatever. instacart just because I don't have time to run to the store. And that, I think is where we're headed.

Sari 35:37
Yeah, no, I agree. It definitely has changed things. It'll be interesting to see how it changed, you know, shifts again and yes, kind of goes back as things open up. But But yeah, it definitely shifted consumer behavior. And I think all some people were looking for solutions. elsewhere. an open door ecommerce, for sure. Yes, yeah. And you probably had to wait a little bit to see like, initially, everyone's like, I'm gonna eat all the pasta and eat all the cheese. And now and then they're like, Oh, wait, I mean, now I have a pantry full of beans. Now my pants don't fit and

Melonie DeRose 36:17
So true. Well, you know, another thing is, we thought, Oh, my God, this is going to be explosive for us during COVID in the beginning, because everybody's going to be eating at home. But what happened was a lot of the grabbing go, yeah, the category as a whole it. I mean, it was really, like I said a punch in the face. It was not an easy year. And I know that goes for a lot of businesses out there. I'm just glad I'm just like, I survived. And I felt good about that survive. 2020 but you know, you're right. I mean it, nobody could predict what was going to happen. And I still think that's the case. It's a little unpredictable, even though things are starting to open up a little. But the convenience and the grab and go category. I mean it it suffered quite a bit this last year because the you know, travel was down and going anywhere. Yeah, there was no go. There was no go there for no need for a grab that, you know, that definitely affected us.

Sari 37:09
Yeah. And you pivoted though you did launch a new product? Yes, you're

Melonie DeRose 37:14
Yeah, so we launched a new protein shake. And it that's because I tried about 40 of every I think I've tried every shake on the market, I couldn't find one that I thought actually tasted good. They, I mean, I was spitting them out. And so finally, I was like, we're gonna develop a vegan protein shake plant based, that tastes good. And again, every you know, food developer was like, not possible. All the protein powder, all the vegetarian proteins tastes terrible. Like if you're getting pea protein, it tastes like pee. And for the for the most part, they're right. And it took us 45 versions or so to get to one that actually tasted great. And it's because we found a protein that it is vegetable protein. It's a mix, but it's fermented and for whatever reason it's fermented fermented with mycelium of the mushroom, which actually sounds like it wouldn't taste good. But that process removes the earthy taste that you get with a lot of the vegetarian proteins. And so I was like, Oh my god, we've done it. They told us we couldn't do it. Here we go again, we created something that actually tastes amazing. And we're going to roll this out. So we've launched a protein powder, and then we're on in r&d right now we've got a chocolate version. I think we're on version like 20 at this point. So we're getting closer, but it you know, we're we're picking my three girls or the our chief taste testers, because if you want honest feedback, ask a child, you know, they are very honest. And they will just look at me and go, mom, this sucks. Go back, do it again. So once I've got all three of them signed off, and we're close, we will launch that one, but they and that is a way for me to to involve them in this business and to see what it's like and to make them a part of it. And that's very important to me. Yeah, it's

Sari 39:00
so fun. It's got to be Yeah, it is fun, super fulfilling to bring them on and have them be part of the company. Right?

Melonie DeRose 39:08
That's right. They help. We asked we when we're naming a product, you know, peanut butter party, my oldest daughter, I think she came up with a party apart. We were just spitting out names and I was like, that's it we're doing it. And so if you know to the extent I can make this something they can have some ownership in it. That's so cool for me and I know it's cool for them so I try to Gosh, man Yeah.

Sari 39:30
makes me not feel as bad my mana version 28 with a project right now in r&d. So you're making it I was like, Oh gosh,

Melonie DeRose 39:41
I know it sometimes it takes a lot but you know, the payoff is great. Once you get it. I don't like to settle and that might be a big character flaw because sometimes, you know, it doesn't need to be perfect. You just need to get it done. But with food, I have found that if I mean people are not going to eat it if it doesn't taste good, so it's got to taste good.

Sari 40:00
Kind of got to meet your stamp of approval. Yes, I typically do tell people b minus work, we got to get it out there. Although with the actual food product, I do think it's worth spending. Yeah, and want to get a good product out.

Melonie DeRose 40:13
It's one of our brand propositions too, right? I mean, our one of our core values is we only make high quality products, and we're not going to sacrifice or settle on what we put in our products to save $1. And so because of that, it does make it makes it more challenging and make you know, there's no artificial preservatives. So our shelf life isn't three years, which really, you know, it shouldn't be on anything. It does make it we've run into some challenges with that, you know, internationally, other countries, when you're exporting, they need products that have like two year shelf lives. And you're like, well, I could sell you that. And I could put that date on there, but it's not going to taste good. So we're not going to do that. And I just think you know, it maybe isn't the case for every brand. But for us having really high quality ingredients is important.

Sari 40:58
Yeah, it's part of your core values and your brand identity. And you got to you got to live up to that. Yeah, exactly. And I for all the people listening, you're like, Oh, we got an our first major retailer right out of the gate. I'm like, I want to just caution people like that's unusual. It is true. That is unusual. That is and you It sounds like you know, there are multiple paths that people go down, like a lot of my people are like, let's start at a farmers market. And let's scale up gradually. Sounds like I mean, you went in you never manufactured the product yourself. Right? You went straight back Packer. That's right. When in bag you did the branding up front, you did all of this work upfront, you invested in it, and then you had a crap ton of product. But you? Yes,

Melonie DeRose 41:47
Yeah. Because as you know, when you're working with a co Packer, their minimums are very high. But we were able to You're right, we skipped a lot of the steps that we almost went backwards, because, you know, one great thing about starting out at a farmers market or with e commerce is you get to vet your product. And we did not I mean, we had a we had had what we created in our kitchen. And then we had a food scientist involved. And then we have the CO Packer made. And that was it. And I will tell you that our first our first run and the bars that we sold was not our best work. Like we definitely had some tweaking, you know, the bars got sticky. And we weren't prepared for that. And we were like, oh God, who knew because as you know, a food product over time it changes. And you start out with a farmer's market or you start out low volume, you get to test that. And it is true that no matter where you start, once you get to the CO packing level, the product is going to change. There's just no way to replicate it the way you've been doing it at a smaller volume. But the only way that you're going to figure out what happens is to make, you know, probably a minimum of what 30 or 50,000 of these things and then see what they do over the course of a year.

Sari 42:54
Time. You can't replicate time. That's right.

Melonie DeRose 42:57
So that is that's a challenge that I think what we could have done better with if we had started off, you know, on a small scale, I can I'll never forget our first run. Some of my friends were like, Oh, yeah, these are great. And I'm like, Oh, God, you really got to do better. And we did. But with any food products, when you first start out with a co Packer, it's just gonna take a couple times, but you can't like, Well, let me just write off those 50,000 bars we made. I mean, you have to sell them. And you just the the key there is you have to sell them really fast. Because you don't know what's going to happen. And you're like, Okay, we're just gonna make this many we're gonna sell them and then we're going to hold some back and see what happens. But I think starting off on a smaller scale affords you some of that trial and error and ability to tinker with your recipe till you get it where you need it to be.

Sari 43:44
Yeah. And one thing I noticed, I've talked a lot about sort of a generous spirit. And I think probably, I guess when I think about, like, what leads what has what I have seen that sort of a non tangible for food brands is having that generous spirit of like, I mean, just the fact that you are serving now they're women, and you've made that part of your business model. But I think so many people hold, hold it so close, and they're like, I can't give away product or I can't, you know, do like, there needs to be a spirit of like, Okay, I'm gonna be giving away a lot of product here. And I'm probably not gonna be making a lot of money right at the beginning.

But I do think it comes back to you.

Melonie DeRose 44:29
Oh my god. First of all, like, that's the best advertising dollar spent. I me that got your product food out. You know, we always when I'm running the numbers, even on margin, there's always a percent there's a percentage for waste, because we know we're gonna have some waste when we're making the product. And then there's a percentage that's going to samples and prefill and that's part of this business like you cannot especially in retail, you cannot deal with stores unless you're willing to give them a whole lot of free product. That's also the key. As with a lot of our wholesale customers, because they need to test it, and I get it, it is very expensive. But my the way I rationalized that is I'm like, Well, I could go spend that money on a internet banner ad, which is great. Or I could get this product in people's mouths. And once that happens, you know, typically I've got them, it's just, yeah, as a small brand, and you're competing, especially even in the stores, you're competing on end caps. And if you don't have the kind of budget to afford any of that, you got to get creative. But for me, you know, I even to the extent where we'd stand out in parking lots of grocery stores and hand out bars. I mean, go outside of big events, guerilla marketing. Yes, totally. I'm not sure if I'm violating some kind of what you can't I love, I love partnerships with other companies, where they're like, Can I include a bar? And these you know, because then I know, I've got somebody who will buy something, right? Yeah. And there's their consumer of this baby like product. And not, it doesn't work to compete, usually, but some kind of like product or maybe they have they're just healthy. You know, I I'm doing one this month, actually, with the she does like kind of organic toothpowder and all sorts of kind of dental and organic skincare. And so we're putting she's doing a beauty box, and we're putting some of our shapes in there. Because I'm like, this is probably our same consumer. Yep. So much easier for me to let them test it, then you know, them seeing internet banner being like, I've never heard of that company. You know, I have no idea if that's any good. Now, it's got a seal of a stamp of approval from this business owner over here who they respect. And for me, it's just kind of a win win.

Sari 46:42
Yeah, I love it. Come on out there be generous. No, you're gonna give away a ton of product. Yes, you are time, like the fact that you're calling up customers. Right? That's also a generous generosity.

Melonie DeRose 46:54
That's personally fulfilling for me too, though. Yeah. I mean, I just like it. Yeah, and I love if there's, I'm always like, what can I do to help you? You know, and if they're struggling with something I've had women call me, you know, I've got really can't lose weight, or I'm really trying to improve my skin. Talk to me about your collagen, you know, because we've got one bar with collagen in it. I'd like more than happy to have those conversations. Yeah, the way I see it, especially for customers, I'm like, Man, you took the time to put down your credit card or what however you bought our products, like the least I can do is is talking to you and say thank you. Yeah.

Sari 47:27
I'm curious to how do you spend like a typical day? Like, that's a?

Melonie DeRose 47:32
That's a question, man. I don't I don't even know how to answer that. I Well, I can tell you so much. my morning routine is consistent. That, you know, the funny thing, the great and bad thing about being a lawyer is that you can never lose that title. So, you know, I get the most random calls for legal I'm like, I'm doing a food company. But yeah, you know, still on the side, I will I definitely like to help people. And when I especially when there's a situation where I feel like somebody is getting the short end of the stick, I will jump in. But you know, it just came to mind. Because yesterday morning, I woke up, you know, I had a couple of calls scheduled, I have my morning routine. And at 6am I start getting calls from a good friend who's like, my, you know, my cousin or my brother got detained at LAX. And we, they we don't know what to do, they're telling you, they're going to send it back to where it came from. It was you know, Kevin from a different country. And I was like, this is a new one. And that's something I really thought would ever be on my plate much less today. But okay, let's dive in. You know, I'm on the phone with the British Consulate to try to get this resolved. So my days are pretty nutty. But I will tell you that I I very much protect my morning routine I have to there's there's so much to be done. And you can never get it all done. So that's the first thing I had to make amends with because I'm a to do list person. And there's never enough time. So I will not sacrifice my morning routine, which typically just involves a good hour long chunk where I have to myself, where I'm listening to I'm getting ready, but I'm listening to an audiobook, or you know, some days if I'm exhausted, I'll just have music on but if I don't have you know, a really head clearing moment in the morning where I'm not I if I find myself start worrying about work stuff. I have to clear it or it just kills my day. Yeah, I have my morning. I do. I have this ritual in the morning where I do three gratitudes three brags, and I'll tell you about that in a minute. And then three desires and the Bragg's came from myself and my husband recognizing that we never really celebrate our wins. You know, it's just easy to dismiss and go on to the next thing. But we will every day, whatever it might be. It might be like yesterday, my my oldest daughter got second place on the science fair, that is a true story. And I'm gonna brag about that. That's my brag. You know, I feel like I had some part of that her science fair project was about food. It was really cool about taste testing. So, you know, I think we probably influenced that and how awesome that she is. That she placed second. So we've got the three, Bragg's gratitudes, and then desires. And that really frames my day. And I think that gives me in the great, you know, in a good state of mind. And then the other thing is I've pretty much, I'd say six out of seven days a week I work out. And that is something I'm not willing to give up either. Because if I don't have that as a stress release, that's really what I won't get it, I'm gonna try to stay in shape, but I have to have it for stress. Then my I have found, you know, my sleep suffers. And you know, I just don't feel generally well, for the rest of the day. It's a total crapshoot, like I tried to schedule my calls, you know, on the same couple days a week, I try to schedule meetings on the same days. But it is I always build in time every day for a what's going to happen today situation because that day react. Yes, and I do schedule it out. So every day I wake up, I've got a little planner, I don't know if you've read the one thing, but to me, I attack the hardest challenges in the morning, the first couple hours, when you're fresh, I build in some time to go in emails, and I've done a really good job of not consistently checking my email, because of course, that will then put you on the wrong track. So I build in times per day where I check the email, or my phone because I get a lot of texts. And then you know, the other thing is just tasks. And I'll just block out time. And you know, I usually have three big things every day that I try to get, you know, I've got to get these three done, and then everything else is gravy, right? Oh,

Sari 51:28
I love it. I'm definitely gonna do a podcast about being more productive because I do very similar tools like that. And I think it's so good for people to hear like you as a business owner, you got to prioritize those things and what gets scheduled gets done and what gets measured. gets done, right. So

Unknown Speaker 51:46
yes, you feel like we're brought up to or maybe it's just me to like the low hanging fruit to take care of that first, right? That is the that was the death of me for so long. Because there's so much low hanging fruit, you can never get to the real meaty stuff. So I just flipped that model. And you have to attack the hardest first.

Sari 52:05
Absolutely. That's how you're going to actually move your business. That's right, right. That's right. So all right. Well, I was an amazing what final words of wisdom? What would you tell somebody who's thinking about? Should I leave my professional, cushy job, or?

Melonie DeRose 52:23
Yeah, I would say just do it. I'll just use Nike slogan. And then I would also say don't let fear get in your way. Because I am that person. I mean, I am the one who was scared, and who doubted myself and who really didn't feel confident. And you have to take that step to get rid of all those things you address, if it's if it's confidence, or fear, or whatever it is that's holding you back, that will never go away unless you push yourself to do it. And I always say, you know, like, don't worry about the other stuff. It's gonna work itself out. Whatever it is on my darkest day, I know it will work out. So go do that thing that you've always wanted to do so that later you don't regret having never done that thing. Yeah.

Sari 53:08
Yeah, like so you have to have courage first to get then then you make the leap. Right? But courage doesn't feel great. It's not this like super happy, fun emotion. It feels terrible.

Melonie DeRose 53:19
That's true. We probably know that between the two of us, we probably know very few people that were like, I'm gonna make I'm gonna do this and then felt amazing about it every step of the way. And never second guess themselves. I mean, that's, that's very hard to find.

Sari 53:33
Yes. So find that courage. take the leap. Yeah. come work with me in Food Business Success. I'll make it a little easier. Right, exactly. Right, awesome. Well, thanks so much for this conversation. Melanie. It's gonna be so fun for for people to listen, and I know it'll really resonate with them. And you guys definitely Oh, where where can people find find you like house? Yeah,

Melonie DeRose 53:58
Absolutely. So Empact bars, calm is the best way and it's impact with an E. And then I mean, you can find us on Amazon. Those are probably the easiest two places to lead you to initially. And you know, we'll probably launch our new protein powder on our site first and then Amazon with the vanilla cinnamon shake is already up on Amazon. But the new chocolate one will probably be on our website. First. I always like to kind of give those customers VIP because they've stuck with me through all this. Yeah. But that's that's the best place to find me. And I have really enjoyed being here today. I could talk to you all day. This has been a lot of fun.

Sari 54:32
Good. So good. And you're on social media, of course. Yes. And Adam hectars. Yeah, that's right. And I signed up for your welcome sequence and I definitely recommend people do that as well. We talked in a previous previous episode about welcome sequences and getting you know, brand identity and all of that so you guys are good one to go check out for sure.

Melonie DeRose 54:56
Well, thank you. I'm flattered that you've done that and that you use this as an example. Amazing. Yeah. You're welcome.

Sari 55:02
All right, Melanie, thanks so much and have an awesome day.

Melonie DeRose 55:04
You too.

Sari 55:13
Are you ready to start that delicious idea that you make in your home kitchen, or grow your existing packaged food business and take it to the next level? The most successful food business entrepreneurs have support, guidance, focus and accountability to help them make it happen quickly without wasting time or money. Plus, I think starting your packaged food business should actually be fun. Food Business Success is your secret ingredient to creating your food business dream. Please don't go this alone. Check out the private free Food Business Success Facebook group to connect with other foodprenuers, get your questions answered quickly, share your wins and receive special training and tools I only share inside the private community. Just search for Food Business Success on Facebook, or get the link in the show notes. Curious about how Food Business Success can help you? Head over to Foodbizsuccess.com and fill out the application to see if you're a great fit for the program. Together let's make your food business dream a reality.

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