Meet the Women of Union Kitchen
For over a century, International Women’s Day has been celebrated annually on March 8th. IWD is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy, and action. This year to celebrate, we have interviewed several of Union Kitchen’s female entrepreneurs on their experiences as business owners in the food industry.
Margarita Womack founded M’panadas as a way of providing a healthy and tasty family meal to fit in between business calls, soccer games, and carpools! Nadine Calderon and fiancé Dave started making keto-friendly Revol Snax when they realized how difficult it was to find delicious snacks that were also accessible to the low-carb community. This International Women’s Day, celebrate with us as we learn more about Nadine and Margarita’s experiences starting their own companies.
Why did you start your company?
Nadine: We started our company after removing sugar and carbs from our diet and realized significant health benefits can be achieved by eating this way. We also encountered a lack of high quality, low-carb snack options available in the market. We wanted a delicious snack with healthy fats, no sugar, and only clean ingredients. We began solving this problem for ourselves by making homemade recipes in our kitchen. After realizing this was a common pain point for others too, Revol Snax was born. We want to make keto-friendly snacks something you can actually be excited about. Revol Snax is proud to serve the growing community of people who are adopting low-carb/keto-friendly lifestyles.
Margarita: A number of reasons collided and generated enough drive for me to give entrepreneurship a shot. I grew up within a family business and had wanted for a while to try something myself. I also had started adapting typical Hispanic street foods to make them healthy but maintain the portability to feed my busy family on the go. I realized that many around me had the same issue (not enough time in the day, yet hungry kids to feed well) and that my own experiments with street foods were appealing to others. Why not then explore the option of turning this into a business? With the possibility of a low-risk, “get your feet wet” option through Union Kitchen it was a no-brainer.
2. How has your experience as a business owner been different from what you expected coming into it?
Margarita: In general, the experience has been fairly close to what I anticipated. I did not, however, anticipate how fast the situation can change, and how adaptable you need to be with a startup. Thus committing to something “big” that locks you in for a while is not necessarily a good idea: even if it seems perfect now, it might not be the case tomorrow. I certainly learned it with packaging: I ordered thousands of the same box. They seemed perfect, and I could save money with the big numbers. A month after receiving them, the sales were shifting in a different direction but I was stuck with my thousands of boxes…
3. What challenges have you/or another woman business owner you know, faced in the food industry? How did you overcome them?
Nadine: The food-specific business vocabulary is a major challenge when trying to start a new food business. There is so much terminology and formalities you would only know by having prior experience in this industry (e.g., sell sheets, wholesale margins, MOQ's, etc.). In addition to learning English as a second language, this was a challenge for me when speaking in public or interacting with potential partners. I overcame this by asking a lot of questions (thanks Union Kitchen!) and being authentic with others. If you can show you're truly passionate about building your business, people are really forgiving and there's nothing wrong with asking for help.
4. How do you balance work and life?
Margarita: I am not so sure that balance really exists between work and life. Sometimes you prioritize one, sometimes the other. Compromise is really the answer and coming to terms that sometimes you have to say no or pass on an opportunity. I define times that I focus on one or the other, and try to protect those. For example, during work hours I will hire a babysitter if my children are off school so I can attend to work (I have 3 boys, aged 2, 7 and 9). At the same time, I take very few work events in the evenings, as that is the time I dedicate to my family. Weekends right now are mostly about wrapping up an MBA. Then, of course, I have to be able to judge on the fly if an unexpected event occurs. For example, for the big event this Friday, I will be skipping class and spending less time that I would like to with my son whose birthday is that day.
5. What advice would you have for women who would like to become a business owner in this industry?
Nadine: TRUST YOUR INTUITION. Be brave and know that we all have fears of not being capable or enough or doubts about not being properly prepared. If you're persistent about your mission and keep moving forward one step at a time, these fears will begin to subside. When things get challenging you'll be surprised at how many people are there to help, and you will find the answers where you least expect them.
6. How do you think women entrepreneurs can support other female entrepreneurs?
Margarita: Sharing your experience. Not only from the business side but also the emotional side. We are all trodding a similar path and there is so much to learn from other’s mistakes and successes. At the same time, the path is really lonely. You touch upon many others throughout your day as you go as a whirlwind through the many activities to keep a budding company growing. But the bulk of the responsibility is on your shoulders, and it particularly hard when you are dealing with a young family at the same time. Talking to others about it all is a huge boost and helps you feel connected to others.
Meet Margarita and Nadine as well as other female entrepreneurs at our International Women’s Day event March 8th, from 5-8pm at 1924 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20001.