If you wanna work smarter, not harder, you’ve got to MoSCoW it! And, we’re not talking about the mule variety. 🍸 It’s an acronym for… M – Must have, S – Should have, C – Could have, W – Won’t have. Or, creating priority-based systems that truly move the needle.
Joi Chevalier is the Founder and CEO of The Cook’s Nook – a culinary incubator at the intersection of food and tech made for CPG entrepreneurs as well as the plethora of professionals needed to develop consumer products. Many more thoughtful nuggets of wisdom await on this episode of UMAI Social Circle.
[0:44] Introduction[1:23] Joi Chevalier’s background in big tech. Personalization and customization of consumer experiences online. Attended culinary school at night – from 5 AM to midnight![9:00] Voluntary separation with Dell.[10:20] Planning for Joi Chevalier’s newest product – a place for entrepreneurs to host events and discuss challenges when launching their own product.[13:00] The value of systems/processes – repeatable = successful. And, how this applies to consumer packaged goods entrepreneurs.[17:00] Where does Joi Chevalier’s passion for food come from? Issues in food and tech. Lean into what’s most important – even if it’s uncomfortable! MoSCoW it.[28:00] Did you lean on your community during these busy developmental times? Entrepreneurship as a mindset – and a scary one at that.[31:00] Registering for Tech Ranch Austin, because: “You can’t build your product in a vacuum.”[34:30] What can the tech world learn from the consumer packaged goods industry?[51:00] Food is medicine.[52:45] Modern-day entrepreneurs need to think of themselves as the product, but what exactly does that mean?
Follow Joi Chevalier –Instagram + @cooksnookaustinFacebook LinkedInWebsite
Mentions –Tech Ranch Austin Ventureforth
Join UMAI’s Facebook Group: CORE 3
[AUTOMATED TRANSCRIPT MAY BE SUBJECT TO MINOR TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS/VARIATIONS]
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Karin Samelson:Welcome to the UMAI Social Circle where we talk consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Karin and Alison, co-founders of UMAI Marketing, and we’re being joined by Joi Chevalier, founder and CEO of the Cook’s Nook, a truly mission-driven food and tech culinary incubator cultivating community here in Austin, Texas. The Cook’s Nook provides commercial kitchen space to its members, as well as business and entrepreneurship development consulting. Thank you so much for joining us, Joi.
Joi Chevalier:Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate it and like being with you guys.
Karin Samelson:Yeah. Awesome. Well, let’s dive a little bit into your background. You have an extensive background in product management and strategy in big tech. Can you tell us how the Cook’s Nook even came to be?
Joi Chevalier:Well, sure. I make light of it. I was working on my PhD and literature in technology, and talking about this thing called a product manager, and where we turning our instructors, teachers, into product managers in early days of developing online pedagogies and tools and systems and network-based classrooms. I was one. I was building an entire classroom to teach British literature, 16th century, 17th century, British literature, in fact, in network classrooms.
Joi Chevalier:I was actually in building asynchronous chat systems, tied to them, and all kinds of things. Companies saw all the stuff I was working on and writing and doing talks and papers on. You could still find them all online, probably in the way back internet way back card type somewhere. I ended up working for technology companies, director of marketing and products. Eventually, after startups here in town and acquisitions on some products, my focus was really around community personalization and customization of technology and data and platforms and experiences.
Joi Chevalier:I wound up at a very large Fortune 50 here in the area in Round Rock, and basically eventually owned all of their authentication systems as the senior product manager and strategist global. Got to be the in-house… Product management, I’ve always believed, since you have a number on your back is the owner for a strategy and a revenue. It is the inbound marketing owner. It is the one who determines what needs to be in the market, how to get to market, what is the product market fit, the customer market fit? What is the thing that is supposed to make money? What is the thing that is supposed to drive the business?
Joi Chevalier:I mean, the idea of getting a product to market means you have to have a process and a means and a vision on how to get products to market, and what is the product. And you have a clear notion of your relationship to a customer. There is nothing but them. Then the rest is, how do you organize the business and how do you speak clearly to a development and operations process, in a form of a series of requirements that are clear, unequivocal, and represent a set of features that you know speak to a persona or personas that have real utility to them in the market that will help them solve a problem and get something done? And give development a real set of criteria that are acceptable and you know the cost of those things.
Joi Chevalier:But the cost of those things, if they’re done well, will be far less than the revenue you know that you can make with that audience at the end of the day. And you have a pretty high confidence that you can do that in that feature set. I just define product management. And to get that product to a launch effectively, knowing what that market needs and expects, and to go out and talk to a whole bunch of folks and a whole bunch of analysts and get my product marketing teams, and then eventually PR teams and others to do the work, to speak to those folks, doing their outbound work, to get that out there.
Joi Chevalier:You get good at doing this process over and over and over and over and over again. And so, after doing it so much, and you start to get to a point where it’s all you think about, and it’s what you know how to do. That’s great, and it does lead to success and it does lead to… I mean, I had a very successful career doing that. But after a while, you know that that can be put to good utility in other places and for other benefit.
Joi Chevalier:For me, that other benefit was how do I see other people being successful in this way? Can I show this to someone else? Are there women? Are there Black and Brown entrepreneurs who need to know this? I see so many products and people trying to make products. And to me, it is by that time is now natural. It was learned, but it now comes naturally. And so, I decided to go to culinary school at night while I was running those kinds of things. I would run a program that runs stuff during the day, and about four o’clock, I would jump the car, come back down I35, put my little Cami hat on, put my little jacket on, and run into school here at Escoffier, right across from a Highland Mall, jump out.
Joi Chevalier:Nobody noticed I wore chef pants during the day. Black is black. Black is black. They didn’t notice, and would do that from 5:00 to midnight. I would just show up at work with a lot of food during the day. “Would you like some brioche?” They were like, “What are you doing? Brioche?”
Karin Samelson:Made it last night.
Joi Chevalier:“Made it last night.” Exactly. Most of my team knew. “Got focaccia.” It was funny. They just started coming around to my desk. “What did you make?” “That was rice last night. You don’t want that.” They knew. They knew because it wasn’t a secret. Had a great circle. I had great vice presidents and I had great others. “Joi is always doing something, because she could do products all day long. She’s been doing them for a long time.”
Joi Chevalier:And so, it just happened to be that one year in 2014, Dell stuck something out. It said, “Put your name on this list for a voluntary separation.” What the hell is that? It was like a lottery. It was like secret Santa or something. You’ve got to pay to play and stick your name on it, and find out what it’s about. You’re like, “Okay. The hell.” Well, a lot of people put their names on it. Let’s just be honest. There was a lot of names, and my name was on it.
Joi Chevalier:Vice-president, actually CTO of the company, saw my name on the list and said, “Your name can’t be on this list.” I mean, what’s the list? We don’t even know.
Karin Samelson:I just want to find out what the [crosstalk 00:08:31] is.
Joi Chevalier:I want to [inaudible 00:08:31] what it is.
Narrator:I want to win.
Joi Chevalier:I want to win. I know, exactly. Is this [inaudible 00:08:39]? What is this, seriously? I mean, I had an idea, but what is it? He said, “Your name needs to come off the list.” I was like, “Okay, well, make me an offer. I’ll take my name off the list.”
Narrator:Does that basically mean they over-hired or were having a year that they didn’t expect, and that’s how-
Joi Chevalier:No, that typically means they’re trying to get rid of an entire sort of thing they’re [crosstalk 00:09:04]-
Narrator:Program? Oh, okay.
Joi Chevalier:It’s a band of folks. They were looking to get rid of everybody between seven and 15 years. They were just trying to cut dollars.
Karin Samelson:Corporate world. We’re not a part of it.
Joi Chevalier:That’s just corporate. Yeah.
Joi Chevalier:That’s exactly what they did. They got rid of directors, all of us who were at director level.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. They were-
Karin Samelson:Well, they gave you the opportunity to do a passion project that’s turning to a career.
Joi Chevalier:I saw it as an opportunity, and that’s why I was okay with my name being on the list. I mean, I wasn’t crazy. Come on, I was corporate.
Karin Samelson:I’ve been here.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. I knew I was putting my name in a hopper.
Karin Samelson:Okay. That happened. Then the Cook’s Nook. Was that always in the back of your mind or did it-
Joi Chevalier:It was. It was.
Karin Samelson:… take you a while?
Joi Chevalier:No, it was actually my project while I was in culinary school.
Joi Chevalier:When that happened, if I was going to go, I was okay with it. If I was going to stay, I was okay with it. That’s why I suggested for them to make me an offer. You had to make me an offer to stay.
Karin Samelson:Love it.
Joi Chevalier:They did, actually. They made me an offer to stay. It was a good offer too, actually. But I ended up leaving. And so, it gave me the opportunity to execute upon the project that I product managed, which was this thing I had written out while I was in culinary school. I had drawn the pictures for, had done the SWAT analysis, and the feature lists, and written up the requirements for. I did exactly the same work. I had gone around, gone around town, done the zip code work, done the demographic work, and then the same exact work I would have done for any new product.
Joi Chevalier:Determined that there was a gap in the market that was not here, which was how do we have a space in a place that spoke directly to entrepreneurs, that gave me centralized place to rally around, to talk about entrepreneur issues and functions was a turnkey solution for entrepreneurs to come in, to use the space, have a co-working space, a smaller event space, the production facilities space, and the business services around them to try to help them launch their products and least get first initial traction into the market. That was the definition. And then it had a set of requirements, what needed to be there. Sounds like a product?
Karin Samelson:Sounds like a product.
Narrator:Yeah. I love how you somehow simplified it. I mean, it seems like this abstract idea about the way, I guess, your brain works is you’re able to simplify it and make it something that makes sense, and as consumable, really…
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. That was it.
Joi Chevalier:It needed to have these features. I wrote out all the features. I Moscowed the features, just like you do, must have, could have, should have, would have. I gave each feature an approximate cost. I started to prioritize them and an approximate cost for those features. Right. And then I had to go to a development team, aka general contractor, and an architect to tell me how much it would cost to get those features.
Narrator:You’re solo, besides your devs? Is this just you? Awesome.
Joi Chevalier:It was.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. Me and my devs, and I went and got a marketing team, aka Flywheel Creative. That Karen Barry and her company. Yeah. That was pretty much it.
Karin Samelson:I think the one thing that’s really sticking with me as you’re talking about the product management and how it has translated into the Cook’s Nook is the huge importance of processes. Once you have them down, they can be repeatable and they can be successful. How important is it for CPG business owners to have these established processes in place before they really start doing the work?
Joi Chevalier:They can be, but they don’t have to be. But once you realize that you have a process, you should commit to it, write it down, and know when you do it again, that you have to edit it, which means you had to write it down and put it someplace. So you can’t come back to it and say, “Here’s how I just changed it. Was it better or did I make it worse?” If you’re not willing to commit to the mental work of process management, or process change, then you’ve captured nothing about what you’ve done. You’ve captured absolutely nothing.
Joi Chevalier:You can’t even examine what you’ve done. You can’t even learn from what you’ve done. You can’t take any benefit from what you’ve done. And so, you’re learning it every time you step in it, and that’s slow. It’s slow and costly. Let alone take benefit of looking over and seeing what somebody else has done. You’re not even looking at what you’ve done. Some people get that and it just pains me, because you can hear it in my voice when I can’t get that across to somebody, to look at what you’ve done for yourself.
Joi Chevalier:I get that it’s overwhelming for some people sometimes, and maybe that’s just I’ve got to find a way to not make it so overwhelming. The idea is to get that under control over time, but it’s still not pretty at first. It is not. It is not. Your days are long and heinous until that process improvement starts to kick in and you start to realize the benefit of it, because you’re not stepping in it as much. But you’ve got to commit to writing down when you do learn things so that it benefits you later, so that you get control of your time, your SOPs, your processes to benefit you later.
Joi Chevalier:You’re going to invest the time upfront, so you get it back in droves later. You can share it with others because you’re going to have to give it away. You will not just be you by yourself hopefully soon enough.
Karin Samelson:Such [crosstalk 00:15:42].
Narrator:Right. That’s so [crosstalk 00:15:43]. That’s a good lesson all in itself. I mean, you have to get your process that may be so apparent to you, and the explanation about your product, that’s so apparent to you… I mean, we see it a lot in the marketing world where you’re not communicating it properly to your team or your consumers really. But thank you for that.
Joi Chevalier:I will tell you. That’s the reason why I was struggling today is because I was doing the transition with someone, and felt that things were not written. It was somebody transitioning for another role, somebody else in my company was transitioning. And because it wasn’t written, I was having to go back and do that for somebody else.
Narrator:Right. Yeah. Just, I mean, systems should be in place with any business, because, I mean, it’s not just a tech thing or what have you. It really is important for every business. So I love how you explain that. I can’t wait to learn more about how you think about entrepreneurs as how entrepreneurs should think of themselves as product really. You talked about that earlier, but I really want some more background first on-
Narrator:… big tech to food. I’m assuming you have a passion for food. If that’s correct, where does that come from? What does food mean to you?
Joi Chevalier:Great question. I would say it’s in my own family. The week of Juneteenth, I did three food demos. It’s so funny because we’ll talk about this and CPG and food and tech don’t actually ever see me actually do foodways work. Foodways folks, who I do, lots of talks with, don’t ever see me do this stuff. It’s really funny how these are really completely split. But yeah, I do a lot of talking on foodways and African-American foodways and food history. One day I’ll write a cookbook. We’ll eventually get there.
Karin Samelson:Ooh, cookbook.
Narrator:[crosstalk 00:17:51] for that.’
Joi Chevalier:On coastal Texas cuisine. I’ll get there. My family’s from Houston, and East Texas, and Southwest Louisiana. My family was one of the first early families in old French town in Houston, which is in Kashmere Gardens, 5th ward, in Settegast, and started a couple of the Black Catholic churches in the area. That’s just a tradition I grew up in, fish fries and [inaudible 00:18:21], and bazaars. Went to Catholic school all of my life until I came to UT.
Joi Chevalier:And so, grew up around food, and cooking food, and making food, and especially the food on special occasions. Just real food made… I don’t say real food, but just that very earthy food. In particular, the East Texas, that was very vegetable forward, through my grandmother and her family, and still the food that I work a lot with and celebrate. I still cook. I cook a lot. I’m notorious for food and my friends love coming to eat when I cook.
Joi Chevalier:And so, the idea that when I was sitting there at days wondering, “Adele,” What my next act was going to look like.” It was, “Wow. I could be yet another technology company, but I don’t think that’s what it is. What is that thing?” I think it’s in food and, God, it is not a food corporate. Geez. Can you imagine me at a brand company? I think I would look at those folks even crazier than I was looking at tech corporate.
Joi Chevalier:I have a tendency to look at my own uplines like, “Really?” It’s a terrible habit of mine, because I was notorious for that too. They’re like, “You can’t even hide your face in a corporate meeting.” No, I can’t.
Karin Samelson:Zoom camera off now.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. I’ve done that. I mean, I wish. If he would just go, “You’ve got something to say, boy?” “Oh, no, keep going.” But again, it just ended up being it was in food. And then what is that? And before for Dell, I had been at startups. I mean, I was in startups more than I was at Dell. Going into a fortune 50 was… I mean, to this day, my friends who I was in startups with for the longest time here in the Austin area, are they still laugh? Because they were like, “Really?”
Joi Chevalier:When I said I was going to go to Dell, they were like, “Really? They still crack up at that. That was a shocker for me to go someplace so big. They all stayed in startups, very successfully so. But that’s all they ever did. And that’s what my crowd always did. And so, it was going back to something small. If it was entrepreneurs, food entrepreneurs, all right, then. So what does that look like, and who is that, and does that make sense, and what are they missing?
Joi Chevalier:Then that’s how I got into that product process. What is this? And let me go figure out what that is and what that looks like. Yeah. Yeah. And so, it’s afforded me a platform to be able to talk about these issues in food and tech, label it in food and tech. I mean, we were some of the first to talk about that five, six years ago. And first started talking about it, “This food and tech, what is it?” It’s not big ag. It’s not corporate food. It is this marriage of food and entrepreneurs.
Joi Chevalier:I’ll yank that back all the time when I’m in corporate food conversations or national calls because big ag tried to yank it. Nope, not you all. This is entrepreneurship in tech is about entrepreneurs. It’s about new food and it’s about innovative food. It’s not brand food stop and it’s not big ag. Well, big ag is a source of new technology. I understand what you’re saying about technology. And a lot of new tech is coming out of ag. But when we say food plus tech with the little plus, food plus tech, we’re talking entrepreneurs, kids. In specific one of those categories, and that is CPG, let’s be clear. But they did try to yank that.
Joi Chevalier:And so, what does food in tech. Food in tech is this ability to try to take what we’ve learned in technology about these iterative processes, getting to launch as quickly and getting through iterations quickly and bringing that into a culinary space, to the benefit of entrepreneurs, the food entrepreneurs, and teaching them these same methods and methods of thinking, in order to get them there fastest because they need to get there fastest.
Joi Chevalier:It’s not restaurant work. It’s something else. Even at the Cook’s Nook, we have a minimum of… A lot of times, people, when they go into a space, they have a year’s lease. Our minimum has been four months. Why? Because the idea is that you should be able to get into a process quickly enough, fast enough, get launched and get some early traction. And if we’re good, it should take you four months.
Narrator:Wow. Are you saying on average, generally… I know a lease is usually a year, but because of that year lease, does it take others on average a year to get up and running and you’re able to cut that down to four months?
Joi Chevalier:No. What we’re saying is we ask them for a minimum of four months. And then folks can just go month to month after that.
Narrator:Do a lot of them get there that quickly?
Joi Chevalier:Many of them do.
Joi Chevalier:Yes. If they get at least something out into the market and get themselves and trying to get others to talk about it. Yeah. Some people don’t, but most of them do. I’d say more than 50%, 60%, they get something in there and out the door that they’re comfortable with, and start to try to talk about it, try to get a sales process going. Get into a store, get into some early events, try to co-brand, a little thing with someone else, do pop ups. Whatever the events might be, they start to do some things. Yeah. Yeah.
Karin Samelson:That’s so interesting because so many CPG founders, they have full-time jobs. They’re doing what you did after their corporate job, 5:00 to midnight or later, grinding for this mission-based product that they believe in. That’s who we honestly love to work with as well because when they have a product they believe in, they work hard.
Joi Chevalier:They work hard. The question is, do they know the right things to work on, and say no to not work on the stuff that’s easy, that comes easiest to them. Even I had to. It was, “Hey, let’s go build a website, Joi.” Yes. Of course, Joi wants to go build a website and make some brochures. No Joi. You’re not going to go build the website and make some brochures. What are you going to go do, Joi? You’re going to go do the horrible hard thing.
Joi Chevalier:Well, not horrible, hard. It’s just the one you don’t enjoy. Go Moscow this stuff. Go and stand down there in the development office, and try to get this building done, that you don’t know how to get done, that you can’t get these people to move on and go do the horrible parts. Or what is your process for getting entrepreneurs in here? Go figure out how you’re going to go find and meet entrepreneurs and tell them about this place. It’s easy for me to sit in the background because I do products.
Joi Chevalier:The day I woke up and said, “I need to go find somebody else to build me a website and an e-commerce process,” that was a revelation for me. I had to give it away. That’s not mine anymore. It’s not me. Wow.
Narrator:That’s hard. That’s hard as an entrepreneur.
Joi Chevalier:I can’t do that. I’m not allowed to do that. Okay, then what do I do? Well, but I’d save money if I did it. But, God, it would take me weeks.
Karin Samelson:And somebody can do it better.
Joi Chevalier:And they’ll do a way better job than I would. Way better job. Okay.
Karin Samelson:Leaning into the hard stuff, even if it’s not the things you want to do. I think that’s a good lesson for anybody who’s wanting to build something with their own two hands.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. Joi, go stare at your spreadsheet and figure out where your holes are and make equations in an Excel table and spreadsheet. I could do high level. Sure. But having to really dig into Excel, that was painful. I mean, [crosstalk 00:26:46]-
Karin Samelson:I hear that.
Joi Chevalier:… I can always get that back from the finance group. I had somebody else to do it for me if I really had to. Nope. Not anymore. God, I hate that. I had to have a Come-to-Jesus about them, I mean, literally in the middle of the night, “There’s nobody else coming for you, Joi. There is nobody, and you have to know these numbers. You have to make at least an attempt to figure out how to make these sums, because if you don’t know this math, you are going to screw yourself and your husband, and it’s your money. It’s not Michael’s money. It’s your money. And it’s your retirement money. And there’s no more money coming because you’re not making six figures anymore. So suck it up and figure it out.”
Karin Samelson:Yep. I’ve got to grind.
Narrator:That’s such a leap of faith. It’s really cool to hear.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. Can you do this or not? Are you good enough to do this or not? You have done this and you know how to do this. Can you do this or not? Then shut up and do it.” Yeah.
Karin Samelson:Yeah. When you were in this process of the shut up and do it, how much did you have to lean on your community to support you?
Joi Chevalier:That’s an interesting question. This is one of the areas I will say, “Do as I say, not as I do,” because I’m unusual in this regard because I did do this professionally for a long time. It was my job to build the spreadsheets, build a business case, build plans, demonstrate this to somebody else, get the funding, and do this work. So I could sit at my desk and build this because I’ve been doing it for 20 years.
Joi Chevalier:As an entrepreneur, I think you will find it very difficult. I’ll be honest, I don’t think people understand entrepreneurs. I think sing and think, “Wow, entrepreneur is great,” but I don’t think people really understand it. I think it’s a mindset that people don’t get because it’s a level of risk in faith, in leaping, and risk that most people will never, ever, ever consider. Not do, just not even think about. There’s something wrong with you at the end of the day underneath it. There’s something not there’s something not right.
Karin Samelson:You’re putting yourself in just a huge non-safe place.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. It’s the ultimate non-safe thing, and you made some other people non-safe around you.
Joi Chevalier:No, I’m serious. There are some that [inaudible 00:29:28] safe.
Narrator:That’s absolutely right.
Karin Samelson:There’s a true vulnerability. Absolutely.
Joi Chevalier:There’s an exposed thing about you, that people go, “Oh.” I mean, you could feel it. There’s a slight thing, “Okay. Wow. That’s amazing. You’re entrepreneur…” I just look at them. And so, I think it’s really hard for entrepreneurs to find a community of non entrepreneurs, family, friends, and others who will commit to them in their endeavors. I think that’s tough. If we keep knocking on that door, I think it’s really hurtful because they’re not going to be that vulnerable, exposed with you in that way. I think that is a very tiny universe that will.
Joi Chevalier:Spouse, partner, maybe, and maybe to an extent. They’re going to commit the dollars or the relationship or be there, but not be with you in it all the time, every day. But they’re in it with you because they want you to be successful. They’re going to commit their home, their household, their dollars. But they’re not going to be standing next to you in the business, doing what you do every day.
Karin Samelson:They’re just not going to fully get it.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. They’re not totally get it, but they’re [crosstalk 00:30:47].
Narrator:I like what you said. It’s not fair to pull them into our crazy world sometimes.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. And I’m okay with that. My husband’s down. He’s been down. He knows it’s his money. This is his household. It’s his business, X, Y, and Z. Call him for anything, he’s down. But I’m not asking him to be right here every day. He doesn’t understand what’s happening in here all the time, and I don’t ask him to. He’s got a corporate job. And so, there’s always a little bit of distance about this topic, and that’s okay. That’s okay. I think we need to understand that and be okay with that.
Joi Chevalier:Where do we find that that community you ask? I think that’s why it’s important to find other entrepreneurs. I think you’re going to have to. Here’s what I eventually did. A 20-year seasoned product manager, I went and registered in Tech Ranch’s Venture Forth class. Can you believe that? Kevin Koym looked at me like, “Well, don’t mind me. I’m going to sit right here in this class.” It wasn’t a negative to hear all this stuff again. But it was to go and meet people. I’m an introvert anyway. And to look at people and listen and see what’s being done and be okay with my own vulnerability in this.
Joi Chevalier:“You’ll do a pitch at the end.: “No, I’m not.” “Yes, you will.” “I don’t need to do a pitch. I’m not looking for money. I don’t need to pitch anything.
Karin Samelson:I’m just here to meet people. Don’t get me.
Joi Chevalier:I’m just here to see people. Oh, I don’t need to do that exercise.” But I did. Then they brought the mentors in and I talked my company and it got better each time I talked about. I went, “Oh, I’m getting better at this.” My pitch got better, and my definition got better, and my four-piece got better. E Even my requirements got better. Then my pitch got better. Then I did do the pitch on the last pitch night. I did have an ask where I didn’t use to have an ask. Okay, I get it. An entrepreneur has to have social capital because you can’t build your product in a vacuum. That became the-
Narrator:That is a great statement. I just have to point that out.
Joi Chevalier:That became the brand new definition of the Cook’s Nook. None of us build a product in a vacuum. I could in a corporate, but you can’t out here.
Karin Samelson:We don’t have Michael’s money out here.
Joi Chevalier:We don’t have free money out here. That’s exactly right. Even in there, you weren’t supposed to either. That’s an artificial thing where we can’t go out and talk to every customer and jet on jets everywhere and go do what we need to go do. That became a defining statement in the Cook’s Nook. We still said that you can’t build a company in a vacuum. We are the first line at the Cook’s Nook for you to meet other entrepreneurs and start to get into places and events and activities, so you can meet others who help make you and your company better and your product better.
Narrator:I love the tie to community, and that leads me to the next question we wanted to ask, is previously you were talking a lot about how [inaudible 00:34:30] should influence the CPG world, the changes that the CPG world needs to do based on what tech is doing. But what can the tech world learn from CPG?
Joi Chevalier:Oh my gosh, remember that bit I just said about not making products in a vacuum.
Narrator:It’s what I was hoping you would tie in here.
Joi Chevalier:[crosstalk 00:34:52]. Oh my God. One of the things that we still do in our corporate section, if you stand aside, is we still engage with corporates in a lot of arenas. Some of that is still on product innovation. If I could tell you what some corporates are doing, you would just… I mean, there’s a reason why that some of them just are not growing in food spaces. They’re just not, and why they are desperate to do acquisitions, because they don’t know how to grow new products.
Joi Chevalier:They don’t have a process from within to grow entrepreneurs. They are driven by R and D because we made some stuff and we should do something with it, or better yet file it. A brand group that says, “You know we don’t have anything in the CBD gummies sector. Did you all make something and put it on file?” That’s what happens. “Well, this is going to be a $300 million space. We don’t have anything in it. Let’s make up something.” Then they go build an AB tester package. A package, not a product. A package.
Joi Chevalier:Then they dump $30 million in the hopes that they’re going to make a two, $300 million product. Then it doesn’t work and then they look confused, and it takes them two or three years to do it because it comes out over here in R and D and they have to test the heck out of it. They can’t make any claims about it. They have protocols about it. It takes these guys two years. These guys are testing a package on Facebook, seriously, on Facebook, and do some intercepts. Then they get somebody in China who’s going to do a scaling operations. That is how products come together. That does not work.
Karin Samelson:What’s the first thing you would say to someone who took that route?
Joi Chevalier:First thing I said was, “That’s not going to work.”
Karin Samelson:What’s the second thing?
Joi Chevalier:Second was, “Who’s actually making a product? Who owns product management? Who’s making a product? Who actually asked anybody, did they want a product, and what’s the product they want, and what’s the product they want to eat?” They didn’t have an answer for that. Those roles did not exist. They have brand marketers and then they have R and D. So who owns product? Who has a target on their back with a number? Maybe brand marketing. Yeah, but who owns the thing that somebody has to consume and ingest?
Joi Chevalier:And so, we actually worked with a company to actually build a rather detailed product innovation process to try to get them there. Extremely dealt with deliverables at every step. “Here’s the documents deliverables that should come out of that and here’s a map of the process. And then during the process, here are the deliverables at each of these points. Yeah. And then here are the roles that are still missing for you.”
Joi Chevalier:I mean, they were about ready to start having a entrepreneurial process, and out the gate, at the AB testing of a package, they were going to give them a quarter of a million dollars. But they didn’t show anything. They didn’t have any deliverables. Well, they AB tested a package. That gets you a quarter of a million dollars? Shoot. I need to come over here. You do something else and you got another 500,000. They were trying to create a portfolio that was somehow going to return in three years, $300 million portfolio.
Joi Chevalier:I was like, “[inaudible 00:38:43].” I come back to your point, what can they learn is what does it take to really do innovation inside a corporate environment? What does that really look like? How do you carve that out? What are the roles? What are the timeframes and targets, or the expectations? We talked about what do those months look like for us? And what does that time look like? What does that time look like for them? What does it mean not to be in a vacuum?
Joi Chevalier:What does that mean giving the leeway and the ability to actually allow people to go back out into the field? What are the real dollars around that? What are real expectations around products? What does that start to look like? And put that back in. What are real processes to get to the shelf, that are reasonable? It’s reasonable for those kinds of companies to believe they can get a good, solid product to the shelf in six to eight months.
Joi Chevalier:If you told that to a large brand company, they would laugh at you. They would laugh. They don’t know how to do that anymore. They don’t know how to do that. But I bet you guys do. You guys know how to do that? They can’t. Okay, a year. They would still laugh. But you guys know how to do that, and on less than $250,000.
Karin Samelson:Benefits of being small and nimble.
Joi Chevalier:How do you be small and nimble and really need it and let them pull out a quality product with processes?
Karin Samelson:Can’t bring up the processes.
Joi Chevalier:With processes that they can see, because they’re going to want them, and that’s understandable. They don’t want people to be sick. Totally get it. Nobody wants people to be sick. Nobody. Entrepreneurs don’t either. They’re traceable. They still have SKUs and UPCs, and has some distribution, and affect an audience. You could still do that. They wouldn’t know how to do that. But you guys will, and that’s the thing that we can give back to them. They don’t have to buy it. They can learn it.
Joi Chevalier:They don’t have to buy it and mess up another company or just leave it alone in isolation. But have it become part of their culture. That’s what they still haven’t figured out how to do.
Joi Chevalier:That was a bit long.
Karin Samelson:No, I love it.
Narrator:I just love that, speaking from someone who has 20 years of experience, knows that the food, CPG in specific, can show tech something, give them a little run for their money.
Joi Chevalier:Absolutely. Absolutely.
Narrator:Good to hear. Good to hear.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. I mean, it doesn’t matter. It could be food corporate or it could be just pure tech. I mean, if I walked in certain Fortune 50s today and said I was going to do that, “You couldn’t do that.” I was notorious for getting large products done on no money. No money. The year I made 10 billion, I probably spent two million. One year, I was supposed to make two billion. I asked for three million. There were companies were around that were valued at 30 million who were doing the same work, and I think I got 750,000. I mean, it’s crazy. I mean, it’s crazy. You get nothing and expect to make big dollars.
Joi Chevalier:But you don’t get the opportunity to be innovative and you can’t get quickly to market. And those things may or may not be persistent product to use. [crosstalk 00:42:37]-
Narrator:That’s, I mean, something-
Joi Chevalier:End up being throw away.
Narrator:Right. That’s something that we tell the small, extra small, even medium-size CPG companies, is that you have the ability to pivot where these big brands can’t. It’s going to take them a long time if they need to. That is what can set you apart and make you successful, is you can pivot and you can listen to your audience and quickly change your offering or your communication, your messaging.
Joi Chevalier:You absolutely can. But that means you had to already be thinking about it, and it’s okay to think about it.
Narrator:But just listening really.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. Or just listening or spending the time, what’s next and what else could we be doing? And putting it in your back pocket. It’s not a betrayal of your current audiences and your current work to always think about, what else can I be doing and how can we be doing it better, or what’s next for us? You’ve got to have it on the side, and exactly last year showed that. That’s exactly those who in our space survived. That’s exactly what they did.
Joi Chevalier:Because they already had a sense of what they could be doing or thoughts that they had had in the past, that they had set aside, that they came back to, or whatever it was.
Karin Samelson:Yeah. Speaking of innovations, are there some innovations that you can think of right now that you’re seeing in the CPG space that are exciting?
Joi Chevalier:Innovations in the space that are exciting? I think delivery… I don’t mean delivery mechanisms, but how things get to audiences, in that I like that somehow we’ve been forced to say we really need to meet people where they are. So we need to find ways to get food to where people are. If that is really finding solutions around vending mechanisms, then folks are going to do that.
Joi Chevalier:I am thinking, “Well, I mean, I guess it’s not that far away.” You’ve seen people with lockers, but I’m thinking about getting beyond lockers. Remember, I come from a place where it is all about individualized, customized, personalized experiences. So how do I have a vending system that is ultimately customized, but it is your food customization? In that, here’s the example. Let me be very specific. You remember Alpaca Market? You guys remember?
Karin Samelson:I don’t.
Joi Chevalier:Okay. There has been food vending, cold food vending systems, or prepared meal vending systems that have been in markets and stores in places for a while. But they’ve not gone over horribly well because it can be high touch to supply to them. And if the prepared food does not sell very quickly, then you’ve got a lot of turnover in those spaces. They can be high cost to do that. But how do you have fresh food for salads, for smoothies, or things like that? And some sort of co-branding mechanism.
Joi Chevalier:Even more so, how do you have something like prepared meals in them? Even more so, how do you have groups of prepared meals in them, especially if you’re doing food in secure places. And so, finding ways to solve those kinds of challenges and issues I think is the next great thing that still has to get solved because I’ve got to not only have it be able to be indoor-outdoor, I’ve got to be able to have it locked. But I’ve got to have it know you.
Joi Chevalier:I’ve come back to this authentication question and how much it knows, not just the storage of it. But I’ve got to be able to manage it remotely. It’s easier for it to know you than for me to have to check it, if that makes sense.
Narrator:That makes total sense. It’s hard to think on how that’s possible now since we’re leaning into this more era of privacy, I guess, is the way I would put it.
Joi Chevalier:Oh, this is the ultimate in privacy. It’s easier for the system to know you, than for me to have to check on it. I only want to check to make sure that it’s gone. I don’t want to have to handle or manage it knowing you. And so, whether that’s fingering, knowing this is the Smith family, or somebody from the Smith family who’s coming to get all of their food out of one of the slots, and all of the meals.
Joi Chevalier:It could be anybody from the Smith family, I don’t care, to come by and pick all the meals up. It’s only the things on that one slot, not opening the whole thing. It’s by slot. So I can put 15 meals for the Smiths in there, six meals for the Samuelsons in here, whatever that is. That can control that level of individual personalization and customization.
Narrator:I see. Okay.
Joi Chevalier:But manage the system.
Karin Samelson:I feel like we need to put this in a time capsule, come back to it in five years and be like, “Wait. You’re talking-
Joi Chevalier:I’m waiting for somebody to come and talk to me, the product manager.
Karin Samelson:I look forward to this. It sounds so spacey right now, but-
Joi Chevalier:Oh, it’s not that spacey. I mean, if you can have an individual small robotic vehicle drive up to your address with your hot pizzas inside, that costs way more and has way more technology in it than a standing multi-door locker that has individual coding on each of those-
Joi Chevalier:[crosstalk 00:48:54] the recognition.
Narrator:And face recognition. How are you thinking the food is produced? Is there…
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. Somebody would have to produce that, but yet.
Narrator:Okay. Okay. I wasn’t-
Joi Chevalier:[crosstalk 00:49:06] those items in there. That’s fine. That’s actually pretty standard transport. It is about the mechanism itself and making that viable and affordable. And having to write [crosstalk 00:49:21]-
Narrator:You can partner with Amazon.
Joi Chevalier:I’m sure Amazon already has. I used to talk to them. I need them to call me back. [inaudible 00:49:27]. The real issue is, yeah, but that one slot, the Smiths don’t use it anymore. Now it belongs to the Chevaliers. I don’t need anybody ever to touch it. I just need that to be reprogrammed. And then tomorrow it’s the Smiths again?
Karin Samelson:Food and tech.
Joi Chevalier:That is pure food and tech. I want that. I want to make that. I want to be the product manager who does that. I need somebody to call me.
Karin Samelson:Call her.
Narrator:Hold your line, please.
Karin Samelson:We’re going to have your information in the show notes. If anybody hears that-
Joi Chevalier:I need to own that. I want the IP for that.
Karin Samelson:Yeah. You heard it here. I mean, [inaudible 00:50:13] down.
Joi Chevalier:That, to me, is huge. Then the other part is I still think we haven’t gotten there yet in CPG. I think CPG can get there, but I’m still not sure how. I don’t think it will take a huge investment. I think it’s just a commitment in the teams and that really is the move to food is medicine. I’m not sure we have the right tech for that yet. It’s not something like a food lab determined the pH of your food it is. I’m not quite sure we have the technical support for that yet. And it’s not just a nutritionist on staff. It’s something else.
Narrator:That is a tough one with lobbyist and big pharma working maybe against food is medicine.
Joi Chevalier:No, I don’t think so. I think that’s going to be driven by the insurance companies. I think the insurers want it as part of their benefits packages, because it’s risk management and it’s quality.
Joi Chevalier:They’re driven by quality scores, like NPS scores, except there are benefits and insurer scores. They see more dollars by higher NPS scores. What drives NPS scores? It’s those benefits packages they call you about in saying, “Hey, do you know we also have a gym membership that you can get and we have food that you can get? And we have these other things that you can get. Your diabetes strips and your glucose monitor is also free in our programs. Those additional what they call those, the support programs or benefit packages programs, that’s all about quality and risk management.
Narrator:So that’s saving them money in the long term. I mean, I wish my insurance company would call me twice a week and tell me to go work out and eat a salad. I mean, I would-
Joi Chevalier:Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so, some programs you can, and having CPG realize that they’re looking for you. What do you need to have in your company to have your food be eligible to be in these programs? What does that look like? And what does that start to look like?
Narrator:Very cool. The big question I wanted to ask, and you had mentioned it before the call, and just really want to wrap my head around this, from a products expert, you have said that the entrepreneur needs to think of themselves as a product. What do you mean?
Joi Chevalier:That at the beginning of your company’s life, the thing that most often is being sold and thought is you, that you are the brand of the company that people will… What people and what investors often look for, you know this, they will take an 18 and a B product, right?
Narrator:Yep. That’s so right.
Joi Chevalier:And many entrepreneurs don’t realize that. I had to have one of my own friends and mentors remind me all the time. They tell me, and I know people don’t believe it, I am an introvert. He says, “You will never get away from it, Joi. You are the face of the Cook’s Nook. No matter what you do, no matter how you try, no matter how many people you elevate, no matter how much of a website you stick out there, it will always be about you.”
Joi Chevalier:He saw me do this in the chair. No matter how many good ideas, it will always be about you, and I just have to say, “Okay.” And it’s true. People are going to invest in you or me, and that’s okay. I tell my other fellow introverts, “That’s okay.” For the extroverts, they’re like, “Okay.”
Narrator:I’m ready. Been born ready.
Joi Chevalier:[inaudible 00:54:39].
Narrator:So CPG founders, think of yourself as a product.
Joi Chevalier:As your product.
Narrator:As your product.
Joi Chevalier:As the first product. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? What are your best features? What are the ones you have to work on? Where do you need to make those investments? Where are the cells that you have to work on, on that spreadsheet? Those same questions you have to ask about you and the business because you and the business are the same. No, that didn’t say product, but you and the business are the same. And you have to sell you in that business.
Joi Chevalier:That’s where those processes and all those other things become really important. Have you done those things to make sure that they see that there’s a healthy company around you, that you come as a healthy package and it’s something they could do business with. They can do business with you.
Narrator:That’s not only going to help you attract the actual consumers, that’s going to help you attract that rock star team that everyone wants.
Joi Chevalier:That team you need and the investors you need. Exactly, exactly.
Joi Chevalier:And we haven’t even talked about the product yet.
Joi Chevalier:The other product, the one you actually eat.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. The other product.
Karin Samelson:Yeah. We talk about that so much in marketing, how people buy your brand story and how important that is. Really believing in it is the first step solving that pain point for yourself or for others.
Joi Chevalier:Exactly. It is. You know what’s so hard, is feeling like you’re always delivering on the brand promise, and delivering on it every day as best you can, delivering on it every day, and having your team deliver on it every day too. We can always get so caught up in the weeds, and reminding your team about it too. Here’s our brand promise, and how are we delivering and shaping and delivering on it every day. God knows, some days you feel like you didn’t.
Karin Samelson:A lot of days.
Joi Chevalier:Yeah. You’re just like, “Ooh.” You’re sticking at it every day. Every day.
Karin Samelson:Well, Joy, it’s been such a pleasure. This has been such a nice conversation. We’re so excited that we got to meet you and learn from you. I can’t wait for our next conversation, hopefully in person.
Joi Chevalier:I know. You guys actually had real questions and stuff. I had to actually think and talk. I can’t believe you got me to talk about Venture Forth. I haven’t talked about that in a while. Kevin’s going to go, “Oh my God.” [inaudible 00:57:33] tell you was that, I mean, that affected me enough where I had to put him on my little board of advisors.
Narrator:Wooh, Kevin. Okay.
Joi Chevalier:I know. I know. I learned a lot in Venture Forth and a lot of it was about myself.
Karin Samelson:Hey, that’s good learning.
Narrator:That is really cool. Yeah. Thank you so much. You’ve shared so much wisdom and just the marriage of tech and CPG, I just love it. So thank you, Joi. If people are listening to this and they want to reach out or check you out, how can they find you?
Joi Chevalier:Oh my gosh. You can find me, I am Cook’s Nook Austin on Facebook, and on Instagram, and I think on LinkedIn. But you can just find me as Joi Chevalier on LinkedIn. You’ll find all my professional stuff there. But definitely Cook’s Nook Austin. And on Twitter, Cook’s Nook Austin, on Facebook, Instagram-
Narrator:Okay. Ooh, on Twitter. Okay.
Joi Chevalier:And on Twitter, yeah. Sometimes we’re on Twitter. Actually, everything from Instagram goes to Twitter too. Yep. And then I think that’s it. Then on the website, cooksnook.net. Then we have workshops on different topics with folks in the community. I think there’s one on Saturday with Brian Marshall of BCL, Business of Community Lenders of Texas. He’s talking about getting new channels and new partners.
Joi Chevalier:You guys remember Ben Ponder and the guys in [inaudible 00:59:07]? Well, we’re supposed to have a talk with Ben, though he’s gone to Dallas and they’re running their co-packing facility up there. We convinced Ben to have a talk and hopefully he will be on one of our talks in a few weeks. So it’ll be good to talk to Ben again.
Narrator:Awesome. Check out the events page at cooksnook.net.
Joi Chevalier:[crosstalk 00:59:29]. Yeah, cooksnook.net, but we’ll also post it up elsewhere too.
Narrator:Okay. Great. Joi, Thank you again. This was really great, and great to meet you as well.
Joi Chevalier:Oh, thank you guys for coming. You guys [inaudible 00:59:41]-
Karin Samelson:Thanks so much, Joi.
Joi Chevalier:And thanks for all the stuff that you all are doing.
Karin Samelson:[crosstalk 00:59:45].
Narrator:We try to show up every day, just like you said [crosstalk 00:59:48]-
Joi Chevalier:I know. Every day. All right. I’ll talk to you guys later.
Karin Samelson:Thanks, Joi. Good luck today with everything, all the systems.
Joi Chevalier:I know, right? Exactly. All right. Talk to you later.
Narrator:Bye. UMAI Social Circle is a CPG agency driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind the scene insights, chats with industry leaders, and whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram at UMAI Marketing or check out our website umaimarketing.com. Catch you back here soon.
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