MAVENS IN THE marketplace

Stories, profiles, and lessons from businesswomen who are out there doing it.

MAVEN PROFILE

Kathryn Bernell: Crafting smoothies for good health that reduce food waste

  • Name of Business
    reBLEND
  • Product/Service
    Frozen smoothie pops made of fruits + veggies + superfoods that do good for your body and the world.
  • Year Launched
    2017
  • Home Base
    Denver, CO
  • Website
    reBlend

Founder & CEO of reBLEND focuses on a multiple bottom line business

    FROM LIGHTBULB MOMENT TO FIRST STEPS

  • Why did you decide to start reBLEND? How did the idea for your business come about? I spent my entire career in the food world, working in R&D, sales, marketing, and innovation roles. While I was a grad student, I had an opportunity to see two clear problems:
    • Nearly half of all fruit and vegetables produced globally are wasted each year. I talked to farmers, distributors and manufacturers about the challenge of food waste; at the time, nobody was really speaking about this global epidemic taking place. Unfortunately, during COVID-19, food waste has increased because demand cannot keep up with supply.
    • I was tired of seeing crummy snacks being marketed as healthy that were not actually fueling my body. I started to make smoothies for myself every morning to get the good stuff in, but my kitchen quickly became a war zone each morning, and my freezer was a booby trap with produce that I didn’t want to go bad falling out when I opened the door. I started reBLEND to finally make it easy to eat right.
  • Did you know early on that you wanted to start your own business, or was your idea unexpected? Quite honestly, I didn’t attend Kellogg with the idea of starting a business, but building a better food system was at the crux of my career ambitions. My entry into the food world started at age 4, when I was rocking the neighborhood lemonade stand with items from my Easy-Bake oven. I have always loved the role of food in bringing people together–it is powerful platform for creativity and connection.
  • What is the very first thing you recommend others do when they want to start a business? Get product out in the market. Reid Hoffman [a co-founder of LinkedIn] once said: If you aren’t embarrassed by your first product in the market, you waited too long to launch. If you wait for your product to be perfect, you are going to miss out on the market’s valuable feedback.
  • What advice do you have about funding? Take advantage of pitch competitions and grant opportunities to secure as much as non-dilutive funding while you are in grad school. It will give you a runway until you have enough traction to raise capital.

    Also, some businesses may not need traditional funding sources–don’t immediately assume you need to raise funds externally.
  • GETTING GOING: THE HIGHS AND LOWS

  • What are some specific examples of activities you do on a daily basis? One thing I do regularly is plan the next day and next week ahead. It is really overwhelming at times to wear so many hats and put out so many types of fires. It’s important for me to step back each night and prioritize what is most important to focus on for the upcoming days and weeks ahead.
  • What were some of the challenges you faced starting your business? Were there moments you wanted to give up? My first year I was producing products while walking dogs to cover rent. I was self-producing product at a commercial kitchen during their off-hours from 6pm–6am. I was doing it all on my own, and it was lonely. Shouldering the ups and down and wins and losses is a taxing experience.
  • What has been most exciting for you? Nothing gives me more energy than when I open my inbox and receive a customer email thanking me for creating reBLEND. I can’t begin to explain how powerful it is to receive photos and stories from friends, family, and complete strangers that discovered reBLEND! I have moms telling me this is the first time they aren’t fighting with their kids to eat fruits + veggies, a 90-year-old grandmother who is replacing her daily ice cream with reBLEND instead, and busy professionals saying that reBLEND is replacing their mindless 3 pm snacks. Positive reviews of the impact the product is having make the ups and downs worth it all.
  • I know reBLEND has made donations related to COVID. Can you describe everything you are doing to make a social impact? reBLEND was built with the mission to be more than a product that just sits on the shelf. Impact is at the crux of who we are and what we do. We have looked at driving impact in a variety of ways:
    1. We work with an organization called JEDI [justice, equity, diversity and inclusion] that targets inequalities within the natural food space.
    Additionally, we have focused on three areas to extend our impact:
    1. We partner with distributors to offload excess produce and prevent thousands of pounds of produce from going to waste.
    2. We have donated product to frontline workers at hospitals around Denver.
    3. As a part of June’s Pride Month, we donated 10% of our June multi-pack sales to One Colorado, a statewide organization that advocates for LGBTQ individuals and families.
  • LEARNINGS ALONG THE WAY

  • What are some things that the entrepreneurial process has taught you that you can't learn in the classroom? The importance of thinking on the go. Being capable of rapidly making a decision, committing to it and moving forward is a skill that you can learn about in a classroom, but really need hands-on experience to build.
  • How has an MBA helped you in starting a business? There are three key ways the MBA has helped me:
    1. It gave me the space to build and fail. Kellogg offered a space where I could get feedback on areas to improve and gain confidence in my capabilities that I hadn’t realized before starting the program.
    2. My network continues to play an important role as a sounding board. The smart, talented colleagues and professors I met there are all still resources.
    3. My MBA provided access to pitch competitions and grant applications that gave me more runway in Year 1 to launch the product that I would not have had otherwise.
  • What ONE piece of advice do you have for women who are considering starting a business? Don’t go out there trying to be an ‘entrepreneur’. Figure out a problem that really matters to you that you are confident you are uniquely capable of tackling. It’s difficult to work seven days a week, and there are a ton of real challenges, so I recommend coming at this from a deeper place. For me, that deeper place was solving something that I cared about that I didn’t see anyone else doing.
  • What do you see as the essential qualities an entrepreneur needs to be successful? Passion, perseverance, and the willingness to listen to feedback. Understand that often you are not going to get it right the first time. Leaving a margin for improvement has allowed me to keep moving forward.
  • BOSS BRIEFS

  • Are there any books that have influenced you? Raising the Bar by Gary Erickson, founder of Clif Bar, understands the importance of product-market fit and the approach to scaling a multiple bottom line business. There are so many tidbits that have helped me in launching reBLEND and thinking about the role business can have in our larger society.
  • What do you do for fun when not being a boss? I like staying connected to friends and family–preferably with a good hike.
  • Is there a song you listen to that always makes you crank the volume? For me, it is less about the song and more about the mood. I have three key playlists that I regularly shuffle through: happy, focus, sleep.

Kathryn's Path To Boss-dom

2011

Graduated University of Denver (BS, Marketing) (Denver, CO)

2011-2016

Held roles with various food-related organizations, including Starbucks, Clif Bar & Co., Panera, Safeway

2017

Launched reBLEND while an MBA student

2018

Graduated from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School (MBA) (Evanston, IL)

2017-Present

Serves as CEO of reBLEND (Denver)

MAVEN PROFILE

Lundyn Carter: Making a bride’s most important day even more memorable

  • Name of Business
    Laine London
  • Product/Service
    Chic bridal dress rentals at sensible prices
  • Year Launched
    2017
  • Home Base
    Atlanta, GA
  • Website
    Laine London

Co-founder & CEO of Laine London is disrupting the bridal gown industry

    FROM LIGHTBULB MOMENT TO FIRST STEPS

  • Why did you decide to start Laine London? How did the idea come about? My co-founder, Tiffany, and I started not as bridal experts but as brides-to-be. We didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a dress we wore once – we wanted to offer another option. I had graduated from Goizueta and needed a break. I reconnected with Tiffany, and she was working on an idea for a wedding rental company, and dresses were one of the items. We decided to focus on one thing – the wedding dress – when we launched Laine London.
  • Did you know from early on that you wanted to start your own business, or was your idea unexpected? It came out of nowhere. My mom is a special needs teacher, and my father was a businessman. I grew up seeing entrepreneurs who didn’t look like me (for example, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos) so it is important for me to be a mentor and let girls know they can be entrepreneurs, too.

    At the end of my MBA, I had taken all my core courses and thought it would be fun to take an entrepreneurship course even though my intentions were to remain in corporate America. When I took the entrepreneurship course, everything changed. I fell in love with the idea of being a disrupter, not just owning a business. I saw an opportunity to change lives and make more of an impact.

    Society tells you hard equals success, but at the end of the day, the success is not really yours, it belongs to an organization owned by someone else. I know that I have what it takes to create something on my own, and that’s what I have set out to do.
  • What was your very first step: what is the first thing you recommend others do when they want to start a business? If you are married, or have a significant other, talk to them about it first. Starting a business takes a lot of time, effort and money so you want your partner to be just as prepared as you are.
  • What are your thoughts about funding? You have to start with your own money – if you don’t have skin in the game, why should someone else?

    Also, don’t quit your day job just because you have this amazing idea; there are so many aspects that go into it – it’s more than just the idea. Everyone has ideas, but not everyone can execute.

    Outside of credit card and savings, I decided to cash out my 401k in 2018. Definitely consult with your accountant on what is right for you! My company had been matching my 401k contributions, and when I was still working there, I made a calculated decision to double down on my contributions because I didn’t want to take on outside investors in starting the business.
  • GETTING GOING: THE HIGHS AND LOWS

  • What are some specific examples of activities you do on a daily basis? I wake up very early (5:30 am) during the week, and I can’t stress enough the competitive advantage of starting your day before the rest of the world. I have 3-4 hours of me time to work out, read or respond to emails before others even wake up. A business owner needs a clear mind and healthy body. If you don’t have that, you are not going to be a disruptor. What were some of the challenges you faced starting your business?
  • Whenever you go from a comfortable lifestyle with a steady paycheck to working for yourself, you are going to have days when you ask: what the hell am I doing? Know yourself so you can deal with the emotions that come with owning a business. There are a lot of ebbs and flows at every stage of entrepreneurship – one day you have $100 in your bank account, and the next day you have $10,000, pay your bills, and have no money again. A great entrepreneur has the emotional intelligence to deal with the ups and downs.
  • What has been most exciting for you? It all boils down to the look on a bride’s face when she says yes to her dream dress and hasn’t compromised because of money. We have over 180 5-star glowing reviews on Google. It’s really exciting to be part of the most memorable day of someone’s life. At the end of the day, this is why we do it.
  • LEARNINGS ALONG THE WAY

  • What are some things that the entrepreneurial process has taught you that you can't learn in the classroom? You have to trust your heart and intuition. That is not something you can learn in business school.
  • How has an MBA helped you in starting a business? The executive MBA is a little different than the traditional MBA – it emphasizes leadership and is designed for students who are further along in their careers and want to continue working full-time while in school.

    It also provided me the fundamentals of business – all things that I didn’t get in undergrad – and it made me well-rounded. I am not a finance or accounting expert, but I understand the basics – for example, how to read a P&L and understand cash flow.
  • What advice do you have for women who are considering starting a business? Know your numbers, know your worth, and know you can do it.

    And when I say know your numbers, I mean know how much financially you personally are willing to put into starting your business, how much it’s going to take to keep it running until you start generating revenue, how much it’s going to take until you’re profitable, and so on.
  • What do you see as the essential qualities an entrepreneur needs to be successful? Self-motivation; know what you bring to the table; and be willing to take calculated risks.
  • BOSS BRIEFS

  • Are there any books or publications that have influenced you? If I had to pick one book, it would be Leap Frog: The new revolution for women entrepreneurs by Nathalie Molina Niño and Sara Grace.

    I also love Harvard Business Review articles. You’d think I would never want to read another one after reading hundreds of them in business school, but they are the best-kept secret.
  • What do you do for fun when not being a boss? I love cooking and, since the pandemic started, I have been doing more. We also like to be outdoors – Atlanta has amazing trails and waterfalls – and we love to travel (when it’s safe, of course)!
  • Is there a song you listen to that always makes you crank the volume? 22 by Taylor Swift is the most fun and carefree song. I turn it on and feel like I can take on the world.

Lundyn's Path To Boss-dom

2006

Graduated Flagler College (BA, Political Science and Mass Communications) (St. Augustine, FL)

2006-2015

Held primarily talent development roles at various organizations, including Merrill Lynch and Cox Communications

2017

Graduated from Emory University’s Goizueta School (Executive MBA) (Atlanta)

2017-Present

Serves as CEO and co-founder of Laine London (Atlanta)

MAVEN PROFILE

Max Tuchman: Enabling kids and grandparents to connect from far away

  • Name of Business
    Caribu
  • Product/Service
    An interactive video-calling platform that helps grandparents and parents, read and draw with children when they’re not in the same location.
  • Year Launched
    2016
  • Home Base
    Miami, FL
  • Website
    Caribu

Co-founder & CEO of Caribu helps loved ones read and draw together via video-sharing app

    FROM LIGHTBULB MOMENT TO FIRST STEPS

  • Why did you decide to start Caribu? How did the idea for your business come about? I was running Teach For America (TFA) in Miami and wanted to make more of an impact, to get to my consumer more quickly. I left TFA and put up a profile on Founder Dating, a website that matches non-technical and technical founders. I was accepted as a White House Fellow, and my profile sat at Founder Dating for a year, until I got a message from a guy who had built an app and was looking for someone to help launch the business. I flew to Miami from DC to lock ourselves in a room and see if we wanted to kill each other after 72 hours. When you are building a startup, it is a marriage. You have to trust each other 1000%.

    A lot of women who can’t build something take themselves out of the startup world, but you don’t have to be the person with the idea. If I believe in a product or service, I will sell the &^%$ out of it.
  • Did you know from early on that you wanted to start your own business, or was your idea unexpected? I grew up wanting to be in charge, like a good Latina. My parents were immigrants who came to this country with nothing, and they don’t have college degrees. They owned a store in downtown Miami where I would go after school and on the weekends. That instilled in me a business sense and how to solve problems.
  • What is the first thing you recommend others do when they want to start a business? You have to do a trust fall with yourself. From the moment we enter high school, we are told to study, get a job with benefits and a salary, and pay off student loans. We try to de-risk our lives. The hardest thing with a startup is to take that free fall and give yourself the time to make it work and commit to it completely. You have to jump in “chancletas” [sandals] first. There was a moment I had $700 in my bank account. If you cannot handle that, a startup isn’t a good path for you.
  • What advice do you have about funding? Almost everyone thinks they have to get venture capital – but 98% of businesses do not have venture funding. When you start taking other people’s money, there are strings and milestones attached. We got super scrappy and creative. At first, I went to a bunch of angel investors who all turned me down so I did pitch competitions. I highly recommend them – I was able to test and iterate constantly, and the judges always asked different questions so I understood what people were thinking about the product.

    In one global competition hosted by 1776 and Steve Case [former CEO and chairman of American Online], we were competing against 72 businesses. We won, which included an investment of $100,000, and we became one of his [Steve Case’s Rise Of The Rest] portfolio companies. Once I told my network we won that competition, people started throwing checks at my head. A year later I became the first Latinx CEO to raise one million in equity crowdfunding.
  • GETTING GOING: THE HIGHS AND LOWS

  • What were some of the challenges you faced starting your business? Were there moments you wanted to give up? At least once a day I want to give up, but if you don’t experience a roller coaster of emotions, you are not doing it right. Starting a business is so hard, and it’s such a big risk because you are building something out of thin air. I have ten employees who rely on me and a global customer base who expects things to be perfect. It can be dramatic – like a telenovela.
  • What has been most exciting for you? When a customer tells me that Caribu has been game-changing or an employee is happy, I realize that something I have built is impacting someone’s life in a positive way.
  • Can you describe Caribu’s activities in support of COVID-19 relief and Black Lives Matter? During COVID, families have been separated and parents have lost jobs. We didn’t want cost to be a reason that children couldn’t connect with grandparents and other loved ones. On March 14 we took down our paywall and saw a 1000% increase in downloads in 24 hours. The next day AT&T called and said they would sponsor subscriptions in the amount of $560,000.

    For Black Lives Matter, we have a lot of books for kids about how to be anti-racist. We wanted to offer these books for summer reading, especially since libraries are closed, so we decided to extend our free offer through the summer.
  • LEARNINGS ALONG THE WAY

  • How has having an MBA been useful to you throughout the entrepreneurial process? Through case study after case study, Harvard Business School is really good at teaching you how to make decisions with incomplete information. Every day I lean on that habit to repeatedly make decisions with incomplete information and have been able to trust my gut more.
  • What are some things that the entrepreneurial process has taught you that you can't learn in the classroom? How to manage people.
  • What ONE piece of advice do you have for women who are considering starting a business? There is never a right time to start a business. You just have to do the cost benefit analysis and ask yourself if you can commit 1000%. If you can, do not underestimate yourself. There is only one person guaranteed to be rooting for you, and that is you.

    Also – it takes a lot longer than you think. People quit when financially they cannot keep going, when they cannot eat, take care of a child, or risk losing the roof over their head. Do whatever you have to do so you don’t have to quit too early.
  • BOSS BRIEFS

  • Are there any books that have influenced you? Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is a different way of seeing the world. Every year I read it and see something different.
  • What do you do for fun when not being a boss? I am never not working, and I am ok with that. I hate saying it, but I don’t think we could have accomplished what we have without this sort of commitment.
  • Is there a song you listen to that always makes you crank the volume? Let’s Get Loud by Jennifer Lopez – she is my spirit animal.

Max's Path To Boss-dom

2004

Graduated New College of Florida (BA, International Relations & Political Science) (Sarasota, FL)

2004-2009

Held roles at various organizations, including Teach For America, MTV, and the Office of the Mayor of New York City

2012

Graduated from Harvard Business School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government (MBA and Master Public Policy) (Cambridge, MA)

2012-2016

Received a prestigious yearlong White House Fellowship, and held roles at Booz & Co., a food startup, and as an executive director at Teach For America

2016-Present

Co-founded and serves as CEO of Caribu (Miami)

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