Entrepreneur Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm partnered with Entrepreneur Media that is dedicated to backing passionate and innovative founders as early as day one. In this series, we are profiling the amazing entrepreneurs that Entrepreneur Ventures is working with to share their insights on building and growing a thriving business.
What’s the elevator pitch of your company?
My name is Raina Kumra and I am the founder of Spicewell. Salt and pepper haven’t been upgraded in over a hundred years and we’re at the very beginning of a clean food and food-as-medicine movement. And so seeing these two things, I wanted to create the perfect product for the times. Spicewell is superfood seasonings — with our salt, you get 10 percent of your daily vitamins from twelve organic vegetables in a pink Himalayan salt that is low in sodium. Our black ground pepper blend is mixed with turmeric and 12 organic vegetables to give you 10 percent of your daily vitamins.
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Both have been clinically studied for anti-inflammatory diets and are very good for digestion. These are Ayurvedic, a traditional Indian medicine system, so there are about 5,000 years of studies backing up why and how we use these combinations.
What inspired you to create it?
I was always in tech and I was investing out of a small fund I helped run in L.A. I realized I wanted to be a founder again, so for about eight years, I was actively looking for ideas but I didn’t find anything I liked. And then during the pandemic, my husband had knee surgery and I was preparing to do everything he needed because he couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks. Well, about seven hours after bringing him home, my five-year-old daughter broke her collarbone in a bike accident. It was completely bananas! So I started to tap into Ayurveda, which helped me heal quickly when I had broken my elbow in a bike accident. I healed three weeks faster than my orthopedic surgeon expected, and I had just eaten so much kale, spinach and turmeric and ginger. So for my family, I went a little overboard. I went into the garden, chopped kale and broccoli, dehydrated it. My husband and daughter also got better superfast, about 50 percent faster than their doctors expected. So not only did I have 5,000 years of studies, I had my personal experiences that showed me that this works.
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Where did you go from there?
I began studying food and health and learned that 94 percent of Americans have a nutrient deficiency of some kind. That nutrient deficiency is the gateway to chronic illness. And then I started reading labels and then became this label hawk. I was so angry about things I had been routinely feeding my children and trusting the marketing that said “It’s so good for you!” But in reality, this stuff was full of crap. People have no idea what they’re eating. There are four extra ingredients in most table salts — one of them causes gastro problems, rashes, and allergic responses. And I cannot tell you how much pepper that is in the supermarket today is full of toxic heavy metals. so I took a course at Cornell and got a certificate in plant medicine. From there I began developing Spicewell’s salt and pepper.
How did you get your product on store shelves?
That was the big learning for me. Retail is a really messed up industry — the buyers have a lot of power to make or break you. And if they do take you, it’s like a blessing and a curse because your margins are just slashed because there’s a broker fee, a distributor fee, and then the retailer needs their 40% to 50% margin. So it’s a really hard business that will only work in volume. We got lucky pitching our first retailer, then we got into Erewhon Markets, and then we got into The Fresh Market, which are in over twenty-five states with 161 stores.
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How did you get that first meeting?
Joining the Naturally Network was huge. In my case, it was Naturally Los Angeles. It is a nonprofit group that has a bunch of resources for new people in the food industry. Because here’s the thing: new people are what the food industry needs. It needs new ideas, it needs new products that are not coming from Big Food. So they’re sort of a support system and they set up this pitch day with Gelson’s Markers. I gave my pitch, the buyer loved it, put an order in and that was done. The opportunity only came because of the Naturally Network.
Besides the obvious things about understanding your numbers backward and forward, what is something that people pitching investors should know?
You have to really understand psychology. If you are not creating urgency and FOMO and making anyone you talk to understand that this is a very limited special time to be involved in this company, I don’t think it’s easy to be successful. An investor might say they’re interested, but it’s on the person pitching to force that relationship to move forward — let’s get this done. Because if not, it can go on forever.
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You have raised a lot of money over your career. What is one thing that is important to you in an investor besides their dollars?
There’s no “dumb money” on my cap table. Since my first startup, I’ve raised about seven and a half million dollars. I wouldn’t say we had dumb money, but we had kind of unengaged investors who gave money — which is great — but they really didn’t give their time, interest or connections. You want investors who are essentially saying, “Let us be part of your team.”
What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
Being a true entrepreneur means you just cannot stop yourself from building. I have to create something that doesn’t exist that the world needs that only I see. And if I don’t do it, someone else is going to. And they’ll either do it more poorly or they’re going to do great and I’m going to get really pissed off because I didn’t do it!
Entrepreneurship has no guarantees for success. How do you cope with uncertainty?
There are a lot of people who are true entrepreneurs but they are held back by fear. I think you have to look at that fear and analyze it. Is this fear of missing out on income? Is this fear of failing? All super valid concerns, but then you have to look at that fear and you have to compare the opportunity that lies ahead and ask yourself, “If I don’t do this, it would be much worse than me giving into my fears right now?”
What is a quote that motivates or inspires you?
I love the quote “Everything is a phase.” And it is actually from some parenting book I read. During the early days of being a parent, there are times when you’re like, “What is going on?!” But those times will pass. Same thing with a business. Right now, this business is two years old, so it’s a toddler. There’ll be some tantrums and confusing moments, but this isn’t going to be the permanent state. Entrepreneurs need to know that time and your business will continue to move forward. And I have found that when you put a product out in the world, it takes on a life of its own. And every day it kind of comes home from school and says, “Hey, I did this today!” Every single day there is another opportunity that I never saw coming.