UMAI social circle cpg podcast

#25: Early Stage Essentials for CPG Brands with Sari Kimbell

Join Alison and Karin, Co-Founders of UMAI Marketing, as they talk CPG business tips that brands need to know before marketing with Sari Kimbell, founder of Sari Kimbell Coaching. Learn all about what you could be forgetting, and what you need to be keeping in mind, with running your CPG business.



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#25: Early Stage Essentials for CPG Brands with Sari Kimbell 


Karin Samelson: [00:15]

Calling all consumer goods business owners and marketing professionals, does planning content ahead of time stress you out? Do you want to run Instagram and Facebook ads but just aren’t sure where to start? If your answer is yes, and yes, then our minicourse was made for you. It’s 100% free and packed with essential tactics that you can implement as soon as today. To join in, visit our website at All right, let’s get on with the pod.


Alison Smith: [00:45]

Welcome to the UMAI Social Circle, where we taught consumer goods tips to help business owners and marketers grow. We’re Allison and Karin, co-founders of UMAI Marketing, and we’re being joined with Sari Kimbell, coach and founder of Food Business Success. Welcome, Sari. How are you?


Sari Kimbell: [01:04]

I’m amazing. Thanks for having me today. I’m really excited to be here.


Alison Smith: [01:08]

We’re excited as well. So let’s just jump right into your background. I’d love to hear how you got into coaching in the food business in general.


Sari Kimbell: [01:18]

Yeah, I will try to keep that short, but I like to say I’ve had every position, just about, in the CPG industry. I started this career a long time ago as a server and worked in restaurants, front and back of house, but I started working for a farm in 2009 and I was selling wholesale into retail and restaurants and Whole Foods. And so I was on that side. And then I went over to the other side and started working for Whole Foods Market. I started out as a buyer, went to the regional office and I was helping local brands onboard and finding local brands to bring into the store, and really helping them be more successful because they were so excited to be on the shelves. But then it’s like, I always say you just started when you got on the shelf, now we got to get you off the shelf. So that’s a whole journey in that area.


Sari Kimbell: [02:19]

And then I was a marketing director for the third largest grossing store in the Rocky Mountain region at Whole Foods. Local food was really my focus and my passion, again, helping those small brands get off the shelf into people’s carts. So when I left Whole Foods, I started my own thing. Well, as I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do after leaving Whole Foods, I started managing a commissary kitchen that a friend ran. I was meeting with all these want-to-be entrepreneurs. They were bright-eyed and idealistic and excited, and they just wanted me to sign this piece of paper that said, yes, you can work in this kitchen.


Sari Kimbell: [03:03]

I would start asking them all these questions about their business and just the foundation pieces. They would look at me like, can you just sign this piece of paper. But I realized that this was my niche, these were the people I really wanted to serve. I was like, “How do I go about doing that?” Because when you’re a very early stage entrepreneur, I get it, you’re bootstrapping and you’re just trying to get this thing launched. So Creative Food Business Success, which is an online program meant to really help those early entrepreneurs. And then I also have Sari Kimbell Coaching where I really work with people who have a product, they’re ready to grow. Most of my people have never been in the industry before, so it’s a whole new area for them. So that’s kind of hopefully the quick and dirty of how I got into this space six years later.


Alison Smith: [04:05]

I love it. I mean, I love your track record. You’ve literally done it all from the beginning to where you are now. I just feel like that experience is just so valuable and you’re probably able to relate so well with anyone that wants to work with you. So I really like that.


Karin Samelson: [04:28]

Yeah. We have such a tight bond. I feel like we relate so much to anybody who is in small CPG because it is such a different world than big business, big CPG. It’s just like, these founders are grinding, they are ready to work and they have huge dreams. And so it’s amazing that you’re in this space as well. So how does your expertise translate and help people in the food industry now?


Sari Kimbell: [05:01]

I mean, I love it. I have such a passion for these early stages. I always tell people, just try to enjoy this journey because I know you’re trying to get so far ahead and you’re like, “I just want to be over there.” It’s like, slow down and actually enjoy this journey because you’re going to look back someday and be like, “Oh, that was so sweet. I was so cute back then. Remember when I worried about X, Y, Z and how cute that was.” So try to enjoy this part of the journey as you’re in the early stages.


Sari Kimbell: [05:37]

The first thing is just so important that people understand the foundations of their business when they’re setting it up. But legally and profitability, with profit in mind, I think a lot of times people skip ahead to the fun, sexy parts, like branding and marketing and social media and content. A lot of people are drawn to that and they’re like, “Yeah, let’s get that going.” But unfortunately there are times when I start working with people who already have a product and it’s like, we got to dial it back and go back to the beginning, like your cost of goods sold. Did you trademark? Are you legally set up? Are you invoicing or are you doing 1099-S there?


Sari Kimbell: [06:24]

Some of the QuickBooks and just are you set up for profitability? I think those are the less fun parts of starting a business. So definitely starting there. That’s what a lot of Food Business Success is about, it is branding and marketing, but it’s also, how do we scale up a recipe? What is our cost of goods sold? What’s our path to profitability? Otherwise, we’re just running an expensive hobby.


Karin Samelson: [06:53]

Oh, that’s awesome. Path to profitability, that’s gotta be one of your taglines, right?


Sari Kimbell: [06:58]

Yeah. I use that a lot because-


Karin Samelson: [07:01]

I was going to say that just rolls off the tongue.


Sari Kimbell: [07:03]

Yeah. Well, what I find is that when I start to do COGS work, cost of goods sold, so we’re looking at our inputs and what does it cost to actually physically create this product. First of all, people rarely put in their own labor. So they’re like, “Yeah, I have great margins.” But they’re actually not paying themselves or potentially paying somebody else to make their product. But I always say when you start out, you’re going to be at your worst case scenario. You’re not going to be buying in large quantities, you might be buying in retail, your ingredients. You’re not going to be as efficient. But like I said, a path, is there a way for, like can we look at what are the steps that need to happen over the next year or two to create profitability?


Alison Smith: [07:53]

Yeah. I’m sure there’s so many conversations, whereas people come to you and they’re like, “We’re ready to scale and grow and do all this marketing.” I’m sure you’re just like, “Hold on, let’s come back “


Sari Kimbell: [08:06]

Back to the basics.


Alison Smith: [08:09]

Yeah. Let’s go back to the basics, make sure we got it right because we’re marketers and you can’t scale if your COGS aren’t there. I also like that you help them understand how much are they putting in their pocket, is this going to be rewarding and fun five years later, or they’re still going to be grinding. So that’s really great to hear. So what are the biggest mistakes you see these early stage food entrepreneurs make? Is it those basics that you usually have to go fix or what else are you seeing?


Sari Kimbell: [08:48]

I mean, it kind of falls into a couple of camps. It’s definitely the basics. I look at it like the foundation of a house, if you put layering, marketing and fancy content on top of an unstable structure, you can add all the great content and marketing and all those things on top. But ultimately if you’re losing money over three years or breaking even, that’s not a very solid foundation.


Sari Kimbell: [09:21]

And your point about the grind and the hustle, it’s going to feel terrible and you’re not going to really want to keep going. It’s like, I want to help people create a business that they love. I’m sorry, but you’re a business. So that means that you need to be making money. And if every month you’re just grinding it out and there’s no profit, there’s no like, I can support my life and my family or switch out, I work with a lot of people. This is a side hustle. They want to grow it into their full-time job, but they’re working another job right now. And so it’s like, we got to build those foundations first so that you can create a business that’s fun and gives you the freedom.


Sari Kimbell: [10:09]

I think so many people go into entrepreneurship and I love it. I love that people have the call of entrepreneurship. I know the three of us have talked about being entrepreneurs ourselves and it’s the hardest thing, in my opinion, you will ever do. You want to bring up all your crap to the service, then all your baggage and all your limiting beliefs, go become an entrepreneur. And so I’m going about this roundabout, but I think the foundation of your business needs to be really strong. All the setup pieces, the legal, the financial, all of that.


Sari Kimbell: [10:52]

But then I think one of the other mistakes I really see is the entrepreneur mindset and just thinking that it should be so easy, and why isn’t this happening faster or not working through your own personal growth. Because I think entrepreneurship is an opportunity for us to become better humans and to grow ourselves and have fun in this business as well.


Alison Smith: [11:20]

Yeah. It’s not always fun, but that should be a goal, for sure. That reminded me of something that you say on your site that I really loved and I would like to hear you say more about it. You said creating a business you love requires more than a great recipe. It takes industry knowledge, strategies to achieve your goals, discipline, confidence, and massive action. Then you say most people aren’t willing to do this for their dreams. Can you tell us more about that thought?


Sari Kimbell: [11:50]

I’m like, “Oh, that’s good.”


Alison Smith: [11:52]

Yeah. You’re like, “I’m good at copywriting.”


Sari Kimbell: [11:55]

Right. So I heard a great quote of, if you want to be in the 5% that achieve their dreams and become a great successful entrepreneur, you have to be willing to do what 95% of people won’t do. And so you can start a great cookie business or kombucha, or have a great product. But if you’re not willing to become a CEO and step into doing really hard things, putting yourself out there taking action, you’re going to fail more times than you’re going to succeed if you’re doing it right. And so just do you have the discipline to show up even when it’s hard and even when bad things happen?


Sari Kimbell: [12:46]

Because the only problem people have in their businesses is that they think that they shouldn’t have any problems, when you’re just in that place of like, why is this always happening to me? I shouldn’t be dealing with this. This shouldn’t be happening. Why are there so many problems? I’m like, “Every business has 10 problems in their business all the time. You just get way better at solving problems and being like, okay, there’s another problem. This is totally supposed to be happening because I’m a human and I’m an entrepreneur.”


Karin Samelson: [13:18]

I love that so much. I think that that is so important for us to remind ourselves because sometimes it looks like everything is going smoothly for everyone else, but you just don’t see it. I mean, it’s very much like social media and just having this beautiful feat of amazing things that happen, but you don’t know what’s happening in the background. So, I love that


Alison Smith: [13:40]

People don’t post their failures on social media.


Sari Kimbell: [13:43]

Very rarely.


Alison Smith: [13:47]

Very rarely. There should be more of it.


Sari Kimbell: [13:49]

It’s the compare and despair. Yeah. Compare and despair is really tough. I mean, I was just telling you guys before we started recording, I took a group of clients to Fancy Food and before we walked in, I said, “Okay, I want you guys to set an intention ahead of time.” Because everybody that I was with, all my clients had never been to a trade show before. Some have a product and are a little farther along, but some of them don’t have a product yet. I said, “It can be really easy. You’re going to walk in here and think all these people have got it figured out. They’re all unicorns. Who am I to be in this room? I’ll never be there. Look, they have it all together.”


Sari Kimbell: [14:31]

I’m like, “You got to set an intention ahead of time and say, I’m here to just learn and I’m here to get inspired. This isn’t about me. I can’t compare myself to where they’re at.” I mean, some of those brands have been in business for 10 years or longer, and it’s really easy to project wherever somebody is at so far along and you’re like, “I’m never going to get there. There’s so much farther along than me.” It’s like, yeah. You can use that against yourself or you can use that for yourself and say, “Well, that’s really aspirational. I see pieces that I want to do that’ll like, oh, I really like that and I like that, or I never want to do that. That’s terrible.” So we can use that for us or against us, but it’s really tough when you become an entrepreneur, not to compare yourself to others.


Karin Samelson: [15:26]

That’s such great advice to set an intention to combat those thoughts in your head. I think that’s something all of us can do no matter what industry you’re in as an entrepreneur. So you did mention a little bit ago about it taking time, and you are working with some wannabe entrepreneurs that don’t yet have a product. So what would be your advice to those people who either haven’t launched yet or have just launched and it’s just feeling like a slog taking a little bit longer than they expected. What would be your advice?


Sari Kimbell: [16:10]

Oh, I love that. Time is our worst enemy sometimes because we compare ourselves, we think it should be happening faster. Other people are doing it faster, why aren’t I farther along? Stop shitting on yourself for one. It’s taking the right amount of time. To me, it goes back to just your thoughts. First of all, I was like, “It’s taking the right amount of time. It’s taking the exact amount of time that it should.” Some products are just way more challenging than others. Everybody’s going to have problems, like I said, but we have to recognize that some products are just going to take longer and that’s okay.


Sari Kimbell: [16:52]

So I think just resetting our time. We always overestimate what we can do in a short amount of time, and we underestimate what’s possible in a year or five years. We can actually get way more done, but we often want to be like, “Well, in the next three months, I’m going to launch this and do this.” And then we beat ourselves up when that three months come and life gets in the way, things happen, pandemics, family. I mean, those things are going to get in the way, that’s life. And so how can we be a little bit, maybe more realistic with the timeframe and not set ourselves up for failure?


Sari Kimbell: [17:30]

I heard a great quote today that something like time does not equal your results. And so if we can like, it’s great, I love goals. Set a goal, in six months I want to be launched, because I think goals help give us structure and it’s like, okay, I’m going to take this action, this action, this action. We start to develop a plan, but also who cares if it takes you nine months or a year? It’s just going to take the time it takes. We can release ourselves from, “I’m going to go after it with everything I got to do this in six months.” But then I’m also like, “So what if it takes me nine months to do it?” The end of the day you’re going to be like, “I did it. I launched my business.” You’re going to be so happy. You’re not going to be like, “Well, but it should have been in six months and not nine.”


Karin Samelson: [18:28]

Yeah. A lot of practicing forgiveness, for sure, in that.


Sari Kimbell: [18:33]

Yeah. A lot of self compassion. Again, I think it’s that we overestimate. So we just have a bad relationship. I mean, there’s all these studies and things of what we think we can accomplish in one day, or one week, and we set ourselves up to fail so much in that realm. But then if we just stay consistent, we just keep taking small actions, you can actually accomplish so much in a year or longer. But oftentimes we do that start, where we’re like, “I’m going all in. I’m going to do this crazy thing.” All these things in one week and then we don’t do it, and then we give up and then we take all this time to recover, and then we start again that way. It’s like the New Year’s resolution effect versus how can we just do small things and keep going?


Karin Samelson: [19:26]

That’s exactly what I was thinking. I was like, “Yeah, at the beginning of the year I’m working out five times a week, I’m doing this and that. And then by week three I’m a piece of garbage.” And it just start small and have realistic expectations. So [crosstalk 00:19:42] totally fine.


Sari Kimbell: [19:43]

I mean, I know you guys talk a lot about just having content that is quality, not necessarily in production quality, but just quality content. It’s like, I look at it like a body of work. If you post it every day, even if it wasn’t the best post, or you posted five times a week and you were consistent and you just kept doing it, over time your body of work is out there in the world and people can find you. There’s just something about consistency, which goes back to what was on my website. It’s like, consistent, small action is going to trump giant leaps of like, I’m going to get it all done in one day, and then giving up for two weeks and not doing anything.


Alison Smith: [20:31]

Well, you talk about three buckets that you hit on with your clients, with your members about launching an idea. And let me know if I’m getting this right. First one, product and business. Second one, branding marketing, and then your go-to market strategy. Is that right?


Sari Kimbell: [20:52]

Yeah. So those are …


Alison Smith: [20:54]

Yeah. Talk us through them. How do you walk everyone through those three buckets?


Sari Kimbell: [20:59]

Yeah. So whether it’s Food Business Success or my coaching, one-on-one, it’s like, we always start with just what we talked about at the beginning, like the fundamentals, the foundation, we’re going to make sure we’re on solid foundation that we’re building our business. I find food safety is another area where people gloss right over, like what? FDA recall, record keeping. So like I said, your financials, your product, your cost of goods sold, food safety is a big one. All of your legal pieces, just getting all of that set up.


Sari Kimbell: [21:42]

And so I look at that as your product too, like your business and product, like your product, your FDA compliant with your labels, you’re not making health claims that you shouldn’t, your nutrition fax panels are the right size, all that stuff. And are we maximizing your cost of goods sold as best we can with wherever you’re at right now? So all of those business foundation, super important. Branding, marketing, we go through the exercises and the work of knowing who our target customer is, that we get out of the thinking of, but everybody loves my product and it’s meant for everyone.


Sari Kimbell: [22:27]

There’s so much resistance to that of, but I don’t want to just choose one customer. I always say, “Listen, other people can buy your product. It’s fine.” Other people can love your product and be a customer, but when we’re talking all of our marketing and when we design our branding, we need to have a customer in mind. I don’t know if you guys have told this story before on your podcast, but Lululemon, they have Ocean. And then I think the guy’s name is Duke, which I think are just like Lululemon names, but in all of their marketing, they only speak to Ocean. There’s lots of other people who buy Lululemon, but that’s who they’re … She’s like, yoga, pilates. She has two kids and they’re these ages and this is what she eats and this is what she does and her hopes and fears and family and all of that. So important.


Alison Smith:[23:36]

Yeah. I completely get brands or entrepreneur sentiment of being like, everyone would love this product, completely get that, but it is so difficult to speak to everyone. So you have to niche that down or otherwise marketing your assets, your voice is going to be so hodgepodge and it’s going to be a lot more difficult on you. It’s going to put a lot more work on you in the end to try to speak to everyone.


Sari Kimbell: [24:06]

Yeah. Absolutely. It muddles your message. I mean, and I always think about, there are brands that I love that are like, but they’re talking to me. That’s why I love them. And the brands that are trying to be everything to everyone, you don’t connect with anybody. So pick a path, be willing. So I work on that with people one-on-one or in the groups. We just really try to dial that in and get over our fears of, but if I choose one person, nobody else will buy, which is not true. And then getting the branding all aligned, your voice, your messaging, your keywords and of course, visuals are super important, do they align with that brand identity? Like if I met your brand on the street at a cocktail party, who would I meet? What are their human qualities and personification?


Sari Kimbell: [25:10]

So just getting all of that dialed in all of your assets, all the things you’re going to need to go out. And then you have a product and you’re legal and you have a great foundation and you have great branding and marketing. I know I work with a lot of early stage entrepreneurs and I know you can’t always afford some amazing graphic designer out of the gate. It’s an iterative process and you’re always just trying to be a little bit better and get just a little above, keep evolving it. And so start wherever you’re at. I think it’s such an important investment to work with a graphic designer at some level.


Sari Kimbell: [25:54]

I was just talking with a gal, one of my clients at Fancy Food and we were looking back on her old brand, and she had created it. She had some design skills, but she had created it. Now she invested in a design firm and we look back and she’s like, “I cannot believe that I had that. It looked so elementary.” I’m like, “Yeah, but it served you at that time.”


Alison Smith: [26:21]

Yes, he did it.


Sari Kimbell: [26:24]

He did it. He got it out there. Just get it out there in the world with the best that you can, and then get it out. So I put together a program called CPG VIP where I just said, “If I was going to create a brand, if I was going to become a CPG food entrepreneur, what would I want?” And so it’s my graphic designer or a copywriter brand strategist, and myself for compliance and legal. So just if you can hire a package like that or hire somebody, but just start wherever you’re at, get something out in the world. Especially if you’re starting at farmer’s markets or whatever, I’m like, “Fine. Start with Avery labels and some craft bags. Just get it out into the world.


Alison Smith: [27:11]

Just start.


Sari Kimbell: [27:12]

Just start. So all of that leads to a go-to market strategy. That’s where, we’re just talking about farmer’s markets or what are your sales channels? Where are you going to go with this? Markets, online, direct to consumer? Are you going to go wholesale strategy? Amazon? There’s lots of … Food service is another one. I usually say, pick one or two, but don’t pick wholesale on Amazon at the same time because they’re such big elephants, you got to pick one of those.


Sari Kimbell: [27:50]

But at that point just start and have a social media strategy. You need to start posting and creating content, creating that body of work. But if you’re going to go wholesale, then you need a sell sheet and you need to understand the questions that a buyer’s going to ask, how do I work with stores and be a great partner versus how do I go to a farmer’s market and be really successful there? Or how do I launch a website? All the other sales channels. So having a strategy of depending on where you’re going is really important.


Alison Smith: [28:26]

Curious, do most of your brands start with retail wholesale or are you seeing more trend towards starting e-commerce first?


Sari Kimbell: [28:39]

I think generally I have people who really want to start a farmer’s market and, or small retail, like online, their own website. I love it when people will start that way, when it’s a brand-new product. If they can, I realize farmers markets aren’t for everyone and it doesn’t fit into everybody’s lifestyle. But the more you can start small, even if it’s Avery labels, just get the product out there, get feedback. I mean, it’s basically like a focus group, you’re going to get feedback pretty quickly in a farmer’s market. E-commerce, I love. It’s a little bit product-dependent. If you have a frozen product or refrigerated product, there’s a little more challenge there, but get it out into the world.


Sari Kimbell: [29:32]

Again, a strategy is important. And this is where thinking like a scientist is so important because I find people are like, “I got my website up.” Then they’re like, “Friends and family.” And everybody orders. So they get this like, woo. And then they’re like, “Wait, I built the website, where are all the people”


Alison Smith: [27:56]

If you built it, they don’t just come.


Sari Kimbell: [29:59]

They don’t just come. So then it becomes like, it’s really about content, social media, but also playing around, like what else can I do? I have a client who, he launched his hot sauce and it’s been pretty consistent, but a lot of friends and family, and then you level out and you’re like, “Okay, so everybody has their hot sauce. They’re really good.” And then he dropped off hot sauce at a radio show where a friend of his works. It’s like, how can I get the DJs talking about this hot sauce?. It’s like playing around with different influencers. I always say start in your small circle first, who do you know?


Sari Kimbell: [30:45]

I have another client who has a friend who writes books about health and wellness. He makes this great energy bar that’s super clean and plant-based and all of that. He’s like, “I reached out, and he’s going to try the bars.” You just have no idea what’s going to click. Anyway, that’s about building your website, and that’s really important. So I have people that started that way. And then I definitely have people who are like, “No, I just want to go wholesale and the traditional route that way.” Which is a totally different strategy. I mean, you still need content online and on social media, but it’s a really different strategy.


Karin Samelson: [31:27]

Yeah. I want to touch on, so you were just mentioning the power of just influence and word of mouth recommendations. I think that smaller CPG founders don’t realize the leverage they have and the opportunity really, because we’ve managed profiles with millions of followers on them and you see the DMs. Of course there’s some famous people who have managers managing it, like mega famous people that aren’t seeing all of the DMs, but somebody with 50,000 followers is seeing their DMs. It’s silly to think they’re not.


Karin Samelson: [32:06]

So reaching out as a founder is so powerful to these people, especially if you think they would have some interest in your brand, like that hot sauce brand of yours. Do they follow somebody who’s always eating hot sauce or really loves spicy food and they’re posting spicy recipes and things like that? It’s like, reach out to those people, ask if they want to try some stuff. Obviously we’re not asking for free work or anything like that, but when there are true advocates of your brand that can offer some influence and awesome word of mouth recommendations, you never know what’s going to hit. I think that that’s something we constantly have to remind people.


Sari Kimbell: [32:45]

Yeah. Because people really, they’re like, “[inaudible 00:32:49], I got to …” I don’t know. They think their growth and their business is going to come from these people way out there. I’m like, “No, we have to start with …” I look at circles of influence, you kind of start with that first, second degree of influence. Most likely what’s going to happen is, it’s really more of the fourth, fifth, sixth degree of separation. It’s like, loose ties, where you’re going to tell all of your friends, your family, you’re going to be like, “Who else do you know that would love this? Or who do you know?” And then somebody’s going to be like, “Oh, well, I know so and so who works at such and such. That’s where you start getting the really interesting ideas and those circles of influence.


Sari Kimbell: [33:37]

So I think people, they’re hesitant to put themselves out there. My most successful clients when they launch are the ones that utilize their entire network and they tell everybody and they ask for help and they think outside the box and they go to think about influencers and keto, like who’s doing keto out there? Let me send them some examples. And then the ones that struggle the most are like, “Well, I don’t know. I don’t want to bug people. I feel weird or I don’t want to tell anybody at work I’m doing this.” I’m like, “No, this is the only way you succeed at entrepreneurship, in my opinion.” Unless you have big, deep pockets. If you have deep pockets and you can pay for content and you can pay for ads. But the people I work with, they’re not in those shoes.


Alison Smith: [34:28]

People love food and beverages.


Sari Kimbell: [34:31]



Alison Smith: [34:33]

Most people are so excited to try your hot sauce or your new tea drink. That’s exciting for people. I don’t know anyone who would be like, “No, I don’t want to eat delicious food.” That’s like right in my category.


Sari Kimbell: [34:49]

Yeah. It’s interesting, but that goes back to the entrepreneur mindset of you’re going to put yourself out there and some people are going to judge you and be like, who are they to start a business? What are they thinking? Yeah, people are going to judge you. So are you going to still do the thing or are you just going to try to manage the judgment of people? I say, go do the thing. Go live your best life and start your business. Most likely, often the people who criticize you the most are the ones that wish they were doing it too. So you’re just doing the thing. What 95% of people won’t do, you’re doing it.


Alison Smith: [35:32]

That’s really cool. I feel like that’s why it’s so important because it’s so easy to get trapped in your head and just get into this cycle of am I going to be judged? Are people going to think I’m weird for just telling people about my life and what I like to do and things like that? Yeah, there’s probably people who are going to judge you, but that’s why it’s so important to have someone like you or have a support network in general that you can bounce ideas off of and see other people who are putting themselves out there.


Alison Smith: [36:08]

I don’t know where I would be personally if Karin wasn’t my other person to talk through everything, it’s so important to have that network. And like we spoke about before, entrepreneurship is hard. No one gets it in your friend group or family, unless they are entrepreneurs for the most part, because there’s a lot of different things that you go through.


Sari Kimbell: [36:36]

So I think community is so important to people’s success, I think, especially solopreneurs, and if they’ve never been an entrepreneur before. If you don’t, you’ve got to get out of your little bubble, and your friend group and your family group who don’t get it anyway. That’s why I created a community group and we do group coaching in Food Business Success, but also just go find other networking groups, whether it’s in the CPG space, like Naturally Boulder or Naturally Chicago, or I’m president of Colorado food works where I’m at in Colorado. But there are other organizations out there in CPG, but then also business and the entrepreneurship groups too, because they’re going to get what you’re going through, even if they’re not in the same industry.


Sari Kimbell: [37:26]

I mentioned, I took some clients out to Fancy Food and there was 12 of us total, and we all sat in a group each day and just had a couple hours of pow wow and the conversations and the connection and the energy that came out of it was just like, my heart was exploding. It was so fun. Now we have this group that’s even tighter and they’re all supporting each other and cheering each other on and have ideas for each other. It’s just, you cannot do this alone. I don’t recommend it at all.


Karin Samelson: [38:05]

Yeah. It’s a good reminder that you don’t have to, you absolutely don’t have to. That’s not just meaning like having a partner in the business, there’s just endless communities that you can be a part of where people are super inviting.


Karin Samelson: [38:19]

Yeah. So talking about scaling a brand from inception to profitability, and you mentioned an obstacle being, like when you launch you have a bunch of friends and family, you have a lot of traction. You’re like, “Oh my gosh, my sales are so good. I’m amazing.” And then the next few months you’re like, “Uh-oh, what happened?” So what are some other obstacles that you see the entrepreneurs you’re working with facing when they start to try and scale?


Sari Kimbell: [38:53]

Yeah, that’s a huge one, it’s just like, okay, I got to keep putting myself out there. I always say, you think it’s really hard to create a business and get the product launched, but actually the real work starts when we launch and we get it out there because now we got to go hustle. Now we got to go create content, we got to talk to people, all of our circle of influence or, we need to start reaching out to buyers and going and visiting stores. I have clients that are scared to death about approaching a buyer, so how do we create more confidence there? Part of it’s like understanding the terminology, the industry, so that you feel more confident to answer questions, but then also practice.


Sari Kimbell: [39:41]

Sometimes it’s just like, I just need to practice with other people first before putting myself out there. But other obstacles, I think there’s an investment mindset that needs to happen. It’s kind of a turning point where people are like, “Okay, I’m really doing this. I’m in a real business. I need to be a CEO. I need to step into this role of my business. It’s not just a hobby anymore. It’s not just this idea and my kitchen, wouldn’t it be nice. Now I got to do the real work of being a business owner, and it does require investment. It requires time, of course, and then money.”


Sari Kimbell: [40:26]

I think one of the big obstacles, people will fund themselves up to launch, but then they are like, “I don’t know.” They get really scared about that next level of investment. That could be investment in capital, like equipment and efficiency. It could be investment in people, like okay, I got to this point with my social media, but this is not an area of zone of genius for me so I’m going to hand that off, or a bookkeeper. There’s other roles that you might want a co-packer. You launch it, you’re making yourself, but then you’re going to look ahead to manufacturing.


Sari Kimbell: [41:07]

But that investment, it’s a total ass-kicker for some people. It’s just like, they have a mindset of now that I have a product, the business should be funding itself and I should be profitable. And if you’re really going to grow and you’re going to scale from let’s say, a lot of times people are like, “Oh, I’m making 20K a year in my business or 50K.” It’s like, if you want to grow to 250K or 500K, which is really like, I always say the magic number is that 250 where you’re paying yourself. This is a full-time job and you are really running as the business, which some people listening might be like, “What? I’m doing 1,000 every month in my business. That’s really far.” But it takes the level of investment to get there. You’re going to have to keep putting money into your business and investing in it, and probably more than you’re making at first. So, just get used to it, accept it, go in.


Alison Smith: [42:17]

How did you get to that, why 250K? Is that just where you see most of your members be able to pay themselves and things just start compounding past that point?


Sari Kimbell: [42:30]

Yeah. I always describe things as a stair step. So in entrepreneurship we have a startup world. We have what’s called the valley of death. So, sounds terrible. But it’s that time in your business where you’re starting up and you have not started selling, you’re making zero money. You launch, and then hopefully the curve starts going up where you’re actually making money. You start figuring it out at whatever level you’re at. And then, like Uber or something as a startup is going to keep that trajectory going.


Sari Kimbell: [43:05]

But as a food business, I describe it as a stair step. So you’re going to have multiple values of death where you’re going through peer growth periods, where maybe you start out at the farmer’s market and you self-fund, or a little bit of friends and family. But every time you scale and grow, there’s going to be a new level of investment, a new level of pre-funding, where you’re going to dip back down and be like, “Oh, man, I’m not making any money again.” Unfortunately you have a product business. The way that game works is that you have to fund everything ahead of time, and then you get the money. You’re not a service where you can pre-sell and then deliver on that service. So you got to put the money into having a product. It’s got to be packaged, all the marketing, all the things, and then you can go out and start making money.


Sari Kimbell: [44:03]

So I studied under Tara Johnson for a lot of my financial background, and she always talked about 250 being that magic number, where your cost of good sold can come down enough because you’re more efficient, because you have the sales to support it so that your margins are a lot better, and you’re able to be more efficient with your manufacturing and your time and you’re probably starting to pay some people, you’re not wearing all the hats from janitor to marketer, to manufacturer and on and on and on.


Sari Kimbell: [44:41]

So you’re starting to pay some other people. You’re able to put the money you need in the marketing to keep growing the business and keep the awareness going. So there’s just that sweet spot where you’re like, “Oh, I’m paying myself a salary. I’m able to hire some of the services or even an employee that I need. My manufacturing can come down to help create better margins for me.” So it’s a really scary number for some people. I mean, in this industry I have colleagues that are like, “Oh, yeah. They’re one million, five million.” I mean, they throw these numbers around like, yeah. No big deal. I’m like, “My clients are like, 250 is a giant number.”


Karin Samelson: [45:28]

It is a giant number. I mean, that’s amazing, running over 20K months, people are buying your product that you built because you were solving whatever pain point of yours, because it wasn’t out there already. That’s a huge deal. I think that’s such a big milestone that should not be overlooked. It’s that comparison thing again. It’s like, that brand is at $9 million years, but how much funding do they have? How much support do they have? They have a lot of things that you may not have already.


Sari Kimbell: [46:00]



Karin Samelson: [46:02]

And so talking about-


Sari Kimbell: [46:03]

There’s no overnight success. It’s like a nine year overnight success.


Karin Samelson: [46:08]

Yes. Unless you have deep pockets. It’s just like, so many people don’t. Well, and talking about profitability, scaling a brand, you also talk about scaling a brand to profitability and fun. You say that often, and that’s part of your process. Can you talk a little bit more about the fun side?


Sari Kimbell: [46:32]

Right, because everybody gets into this thinking they’re going to have so much fun. Like, wouldn’t it be fun if I just made salsa and everybody ate my salsa? It’d be so fun. And then we let all of the fears and the judgment and all of our limiting beliefs come in. And so for me that is the value of a coach. As I’ve grown my business, I think we always go and we help people with the things often that we struggled with ourselves. So I was not a natural born entrepreneur. There were no entrepreneurs around me and I was like, “This is the hardest, scariest thing I have ever done, putting myself out there in this world.”


Sari Kimbell: [47:16]

So when I got a coach and I had made that investment. I was able to really start learning tools to manage my thoughts and create more fun and have more fun in my business. And so that’s really where I want to give back as a coach in that area. Because listen, fun is just a frame of mind. It’s a thought. I’m having fun. I could be doing something I don’t love, but you could still be like, “This is fun.” It’s getting me to an end goal, doing my weekly cash flow.


Sari Kimbell: [47:50]

There’s lots of tools and tricks out there that can make less fun tasks, like cash flow, more fun. So I talk with people a lot about that, but I think so much of it, it’s a mindset. And so we can be doing all the things we should be doing, doing the how, but then we could be hating it. You’re not going to stick with something you hate, like amount of diet or a workout or anything like that, you got to find ways to make it fun. That’s where I think coaching is just the key. It’s been the key for me, and I’m having a lot of fun in my business. Not that I love every single thing I do, but I have a lot of fun generally in my business.


Alison Smith: [48:34]

Yeah. Once you learn how to filter out all the negativity, then it’s a lot easier to have some fun. So thank you, Sari, for everything. We’ve learned so much. I love your process. I love how you work with clients. Absolutely amazing. So do you want to leave the audience with any call-to-action or how can people get in contact with you?


Sari Kimbell: [49:02]

Yeah. So I have my two brands, Food Business Success. You can find everything @foodbizsuccess, so the website. Social media, BBIZ, foodbizsuccess. And then I have Sari Kimbell Coaching as well. So I just started on Instagram in 2022. I’m a little fiery over there. I kind of have two personas a little bit. Food Business Success is very like, come on in. We’re very nurturing. We love you. Just get started. And then coaching’s very like, we’re going to get to work. We’re bad asses over here. So you’re going to get a little more fire over there and or So I also have a podcast and a YouTube channel, all under foodbizsuccess. So you can find me in a lot of places.


Alison Smith: [49:56]

Awesome. We’ll link all those links in the show notes. So you can easily find Sari across all of her many platforms and channels.


Sari Kimbell: [50:05]

Yeah. It’s been so fun working with you guys and bringing your expertise into Food Business Success and working with some of my clients. So thank you guys for doing what you’re doing.


Alison Smith: [50:15]

Oh, so sweet. Thank you. We’ve enjoyed it.


Karin Samelson: [50:19]

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 @umaimarketing, or check out our website, Catch you back here soon.


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