In the September issue of A-list Nation magazine we introduce you to some amazing women. Meet Angela Bicos Mavridis, CEO & Founder of TRIBALÍ Foods.
Tell us a little about yourself and your childhood.
I was born in Greece and my family moved to Pasadena when I was 6-years-old. My parents started a beloved burger restaurant in Pasadena called Tops Burgers, which is still operating today, and is part of Bicos Hospitality Group, which my brothers manage and has two other restaurant concepts. I spent my summers in Greece and my grandmother taught me the joy of cooking. She made everything from scratch, always using real, organic and heirloom foods, using traditional recipes that had been passed down for generations. I vividly recall village grocery runs with fresh tomatoes, zucchini, dandelions, or other fresh vegetables grown and picked fresh that week. We would visit the neighboring farm for fresh, raw goat's milk or cheese. Before making dinner, grandma would check to see what fresh fish had been caught that very day by local fisherman – and that’s what made up my plate growing up. My family was doing a diet very similar to Paleo – packed with healthy fats like olive oils – long before it was trending or well-known. However, in my own quest for personal health, I decided to become a vegetarian at the age of 13, even while flipping burgers at Tops! Thirty-five years later, after being a practicing holistic nutritionist and certified fitness trainer, I realized that high-quality protein from animal sources is what makes me feel the healthiest, and happiest. Becoming a mother also changed my viewpoint on food, and I’m proud to say all three of my children are healthy, happy and favor authentic, real whole foods. My upbringing, my personal health journey and my family were all big inspirations in the creation of TRIBALÍ Foods.
When did you decide you wanted to start your own company? I decided to start my company when Whole Foods liked my product, my brand and my story. I was hesitant and reserved to move ahead until I had proof on concept, and when Whole Foods encouraged me by placing an initial order, I felt confident that I had something that would appeal to not only the consumer, but that buyers would see the need, as well. I have owned and operated 2 brick and mortar businesses in the past and am a true entrepreneur at heart. It runs in my family and we thrive on creating and implementing a concept.
Do you feel it was more difficult because you are a women?
No, but it sure does help to have a male counterpart in the meat packing world.
Do you think social media is important? Very! I don’t think I would have the brand awareness and subsequent velocity if it weren’t for influencers, bloggers and social media.
Was there a specific moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do? It sort of evolved. I’m a true believer of the power of Food as Medicine, and I’ve always known I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. As a Holistic Nutritionist, I was helping individuals with their diet and health goals by coaching them one-on-one, and it wasn’t until I produced a product that I found my true passion. I now have the capability to touch more lives and make a bigger difference. The DNA of TRIBALÍ is: delicious, nutritious and affordable. And I believe I can now change the way people eat, one meal at a time.
After you made the decisions, what steps did you take?
There were so many steps to starting a CPG (consumer packaged goods) company. But first and foremost, I had to decide what kind of business I wanted. I hired an accountant and a lawyer to guide me into incorporating, then I trademarked the logo and the name, I then secured social media handles and a url. I fine-tuned my story. I hired a branding agency, I built a website, designed packaging, developed flavor profiles, sourced vendors, negotiated with a co-packer and set out to produce my first trial run.
What advice do you wish someone would have given you?
This is not so much of a business advice as it is a life advice. I wish someone had told me that it will be really, really hard so buckle up for the ride and don’t lose sight of yourself and what is personally important to you. I feel like I crawled into a cave for 2 years and have just resurfaced. I wish I had not let it swallow me up so much and I wish someone had told me to not let go of the balance in your daily routine. It's been one of the longest, hardest and most stressful years of my life. I was warned not to start a food company - that most fail in their first year - that it takes a monumental amount of money and the rewards are minimal. I learned that 80% of new food brands fail in the first year or in the first 5 years. Everybody warned me of the grind, the persistence and perseverance it takes to make it out the other end. I have learned that I am working, literally against all odds, that I am David against Goliath. I have learned that when you think things are going smoothly, there is another fire to put out, issue to solve or obstacle to conquer just around the corner. I answer every email, respond to every DM and customer service request, do demos, order inventory, oversee every production run and schedule meetings constantly for all aspects of this business. But here is what I have - PASSION - I am NOT in the 80% who fail in their first year and I've not taken a single investment. I plow ahead every day because I know I am making a difference, and I meet the demand because of my loyal tribe members everywhere.
How did you fund this project? I am a certified Woman Owned Business and have self-funded this project from the beginning. I count every penny, because they are mine.
What were the hardest hurdles? I am still a small manufacturer with small volumes. The biggest hurdle is negotiating pricing for raw materials on such small quantities. We have grown in our first year in business, and have been able to lower our costs, and I believe the larger we order, the better the savings. Cost and pricing have been the biggest challenges for us, while always keeping our margins healthy, so as to not only make money, but look favorable to future investors.
Did you have a mentor? I did have a few mentors along the way. I reached out to the owners of every brand I admire, and I also listened to all the podcasts that have to do with starting a CPG and how others have made it.
At any point did you want to give up? All the time - well not give up exactly, because at this point that’s not an option, but I do have doubts often. The “what if” scenarios play out in my head all the time - both positive and negative…what if we get a big national account and don’t have the money to produce…what if we produce at a national level and no one buys us and on and on it goes. I think that’s what keeps me up and night and also what excites me to start again every morning,
How long did it take to become profitable? Well we have been profitable in the first year, because we are running very lean. I have very little overhead and most money is going to marketing/pr and production.
What was the best thing you did to grow your business?
Hire a CFO and since I wasn’t able to pay him, I have given him equity.
Was there any life lessons you learned along the way?
Yes, keep your head above water and don’t let go of your personal life - social interaction, hobbies, workouts, rest and relaxation and good sleep. Balance is key to a healthy business owner. It took me to go through what I went through to realize how important this is.
What is the happiest memory from this journey? So many steps are bringing me joy right now, but I have two most memorable moments so far. First, when I won the Project Nosh Pitch Slam and was awarded $5K on stage in front of my competitors and the audience, and secondly, when TRIBALÍ won the NEXTY Award at EXPO West for the Best New Frozen Food Product. This is a highly prestigious award program in the natural foods industry, that honors the most innovative new products.
Where do you see your company in 5 years? I would love to be a household name, a national brand and a desirable company for an acquisition.
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