Raquel Gunsagar, devout Ashtanga Yogini, snowboarder, lover of all things food was born in Brazil and later migrated at age six to Northern California with her mother and brother in the early 80’s. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her family and is mother to two young boys. She is the principal creator of Tava Organics, LTD, parent company of Fourth & Heart. She prides herself on the ability to tackle family, work, self and play – she wants to milk each minute of each day.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
You know, I felt like it was a myriad of things all happening simultaneously. I knew in my bones I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I come from a lineage of successful Brazilian entrepreneur’s and am so guilty of being a workaholic when I get my hands on something I love. What inspired me and what I’d say my personal mission statement is to create something which would inspire individuals to follow their bliss – to lead by example.
I also want to set an example for my children so they understand that women work, women love working (at home or otherwise), and woman are fierce. If it’s true that children marry their mother’s then I think we’ll get along just fine!
Tell us about your business.
4th & Heart upgrades your everyday pantry staples – our first upgrade was clarified butter! We took something people eat and use daily and improved it by adding flavors, placing it in different uses like Ghee on the Go, and our Ghee Oil & Spray! Most recently we upgraded the everyday chocolate spread, Nutella, by making a nut-free, dairy free chocolate spread and in three different flavors – original, coffee-guarana, and passionfruit. Further to just making products, we want to create items that delight, enlighten and a brand which will awaken your senses and inspire you to Fuel Happy. What’s next? The sky is the limit!
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
We have ongoing giveaways on Instagram. I recommend following our handle @fourthandheart to stay on top of the latest. We are also on Ibotta, the new digital coupon format very popular with our audience, the millennial. Additionally, you can find us often giving coupons on Instacart! However, we did lower our price by $3 this year to alleviate the price burden to the consumer.
- Best of Show, Expo East 2017
- Nexty Nominee, Expo East 2017
- Certified Paleo Approved
- Certified Gluten Free
- Certified Kosher
- Best snack finalist for NCW’s Eco-Excellence Awards,
- Finalist for Clean Choice Awards by Clean Eating Magazine,
- Prevention Magazine’s Cleanest Packaged Food Award in Spring 2017
Where is your business based?
We are based in Los Angeles, California.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
After writing the business plan, I knew the next actionable step would be to write my first check into the business. My first check was for my design. I then found the largest natural food expo, Expo West, and signed myself up for a booth, writing my second check into the business. Simultaneously I went store to store selling my product directly to local stores in Los Angeles, while also selling on my website. Because I had no idea what I was doing, I also found my way to food consultants and other entrepreneurs to be my guiding lights. After I had my ducks somewhat in a row, I brought on a co-founder to be my strength where I had weaknesses. Then it was fundraising, making product, selling product, and repeating the process!
I’d say the two most important parts of the start-up phase were sourcing capital and being seen at the Food Expo where I started my relationships with the two largest natural distributors in the U.S.! But one thing is for sure, you can’t do it alone. At each growth stage, it’s imperative to choose the perfect partner/investor. When it came time to raise a Series B, Boulder Food Group was the perfect choice. We’ve found their experience fundamental to some pivotal decisions which will contribute to the greater good of our success.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
I’d say Social Media, PR, Amazon.com, and the quick proliferation of our brand into over 4,000 stores in one year. That helped consumers start to see our product online, in store and also on Instagram. Cumulatively these three avenues were not only necessary to build revenue, but also increase visibility. We have over 800 reviews on Amazon that has resulted in confidence in our product, which has built trust between our consumers so they rave about our products for us.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Our largest challenges are typically found in the manufacturing process and staying in front of our financing needs. Fundraising is in the top 5 job functions of a CEO and that couldn’t be truer. I’d say I spend about one third of my time managing cash flow with my COO and constantly being in touch with existing and future investors. Additionally, running a staff of 30 making ghee 24/7 poses the obvious challenges which are steadily managed by our COO and Director of Operations. We are actually only a management team of 4 so we run lean, therefore, we are always running. I guess that’s why we’re lean.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I leverage a myriad of advisors on a consistent basis. I don’t come from a finance background so I leverage those who are experts in the subject. With the help of my board, my advisors, general reading and research I’ve been able to teach myself about financing a business effectively. Building a great team helps you mitigate challenges, so it’s important to understand your strengths and weaknesses so you know exactly who to hire and when. Like I said, this is a job of many and it’s the village who can keep an eye on their area and funnel it up to where we either make a decision as a team or I will need to make the best decision I can and hope it was the right one.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
This is my baby and I can confidently say there has never been a challenge I came across which made me want to crawl into a hole. I’ve shed tears, I’ve had tough situations, I’ve felt stress I’ve never felt before and I have little free time, but the brand motivates me!
My kids and their pride in me do make me smile and keep me moving along. The time I spend away from my children additionally is the highest price I pay and therefore, I want to further inspire them while succeeding! My team supports me like a tight knit family. My investors are the apple of my eye and since I know each and every one personally, I don’t take their investments lightly. Whether they invested $10,000 or over a million, each dollar has made a difference and I won’t let them down. And I could go on but I’ll spare you.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I actually don’t look at my competition much or try to figure out what they are doing because I lose focus and start to move away from my core focus. What I can say, however, is we are not an ingredient, we are a brand, a voice and we are what we eat. Each of my recipes I designed and while some have had to endure some changes, they’re still my babies. We are also the first make it easier to use ghee and make it more affordable by offering our spray and oils. All in all, I actually think we are apples and oranges, but I admire any food brand sitting on a shelf because I understand the struggles and sacrifices it took to get there.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
I met with an advisor the other night who primarily said to constantly remain focused. To focus on core competencies and secure your place in the market rather than creating too many things and throwing too many balls in the air at once. After all, I’ve only got two hands.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
To plan, to listen, to ask for help as much as you can handle. I’d also recommend maintaining your health and an active lifestyle to keep stress low. Remember, if you’re not happy your company won’t be either.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
I’ve read many books which inspire me and I’d say they’ve been tools.
- Zero to One, by Peter Thiel
- The Hard Things About Hard Things, by Ben Harowitz
- Grit, by Angela Duckworth
- Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown
- Venture Deals, by Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson
Resources I’d say try to reach successful entrepreneurs and get their ear, attend trade shows and put yourself out there.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Whenever I travel, I pick up a Harvard Business Review. I’d say 99% of the time there is something valuable for any entrepreneur and the books I listed above most certainly!
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Growing pains. With extraordinary growth comes extraordinary pains, so we are financing again and I’d say looking for ways to grow our team successfully with those who match our culture, ethics and have strengths where we need them.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
To keep learning, reading and meeting with my roster of consultants regularly. That and lots of deep breaths.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
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