On Tuesday, BlogHer welcomed Haven’s Kitchen founder Alison Cayne to be interviewed by IFundWomen Director of Marketing and Communications, Julia Steele, on Instagram Live. Topics included how Alison took Haven’s Kitchen from bootstrapped brick & mortar to nationally distributed CPG brand, how she puts their community front and center in their product development, and, of course, how her business is pivoting due to COVID.
ICYMI, we shared the whole thing on IGTV! For key takeaways, check out an excerpt of their conversation is below. Let us know what you think in the comments and make sure to follow @ifundwomen and @havenskitchen on Instagram!
What resources do you recommend entrepreneurs utilize during today’s climate and in general?
I think strong businesses are built on strong relationships. With your team, co-manufacturers, logistics, investors, buyers and of course, consumers. Those relationships need to be sturdy because there will always be a storm, maybe not of this magnitude, but nothing is sunshine and unicorns forever. So when things get rough, it’s critical to have real, mutually beneficial relationships with all the various partners in your business. You may need to defer a payment, you may need to ask your customers to bear with out of stocks… whatever it is, you’ll want to have solid foundations with everyone in your business ecosystem. Founders don’t build great businesses alone. They tend to forget that in good times, but it’s the tough times that really show the value you’ve created.
IFundWomen is the go-to marketplace for women entrepreneurs and the people who want to fund them. How did you first get your initial funding in the door to open Haven’s Kitchen?
My first investor was a co-packer that I was hoping to produce with. They’re the best in the business and have the highest quality safety and quality standards among a whole host of other assets. We were way too small for them to take on as a customer, so I offered them equity in the company. It was the best decision I’ve ever made and that relationship is terrific. Once they were invested, it was relatively easy (RELATIVELY) to raise the rest of the seed round because investors knew my supply chain was strong and our margins were especially good for a fresh food company at our stage.
One of IFundWomen’s key components in supporting women entrepreneurs is coaching them to start and scale better businesses. Do you have coaches and mentors that have helped you along the way?
I approach the business much in the same was as I was taught to write a paper when I worked on my masters degree: Approach everything with a ton of curiosity. Research like crazy and get all the different angles and viewpoints. Then, sort it all out into a thesis. That’s how I think about mentors – I have a handful of advisors that I trust and can be vulnerable and completely honest with – when I have a decision to make, I get their input, sort it out and then come to a conclusion.
You started as a brick & mortar café and cooking school in Chelsea, and now you’re distributed nationally in Whole Foods. How did you know it was time to expand into CPG?
There were 2 main drivers: The first sounds a bit “woo woo” but I believe we can learn a lot from nature, and a HUGE rule of thumb is that a diverse ecosystem is a healthier and less vulnerable ecosystem. It was clear to me that having all my proverbial eggs in one basket (and a brick and mortar hospitality business in NYC is a pretty challenging basket at that) wasn’t a sustainable long-term plan. I wanted to diversify to protect what I had built. The other reason was our mission to help more people enjoy cooking – and we just weren’t going to reach as many people with a single location and a cookbook. The CPG business will help us get into millions of homes and help millions of people cook with confidence and pleasure. And that’s the whole point of Haven’s Kitchen.
IFundWomen is the go-to marketplace for women-owned businesses and the people who want to fund them. We offer access to capital through crowdfunding and grants, expert business coaching on all the topics entrepreneurs need to know about, and a network of women business owners that sparks confidence, accelerates knowledge, and ignites action.
ABOUT HAVEN’S KITCHEN
Since 2012, Haven’s Kitchen has been a place for people to experience and connect through seasonal food. For 8 years, our building was constantly humming, filled with creative energy and delicious food. Of course, things are ever-changing and we are learning how to remain ourselves while staying apart. Now, we video chat through the workday, we prepare meal-kits featuring our HK sauce pouches to bring ease into the kitchen, while some of us pack fresh provisions from 6 feet away. We will continue to teach you how to bring joy into the kitchen virtually while we help you connect with others over a screen.
ABOUT JULIA STEELE
Julia is on a mission to close the funding gap for women entrepreneurs everywhere. She currently leads marketing and communications at IFundWomen. Prior to IFundWomen, Julia marketed game-changing internet brands Gawker Media in Tumblr, before co-founding her own media startup, Ratter, which set out to reinvent local news for the digital age.