Photography by Sanaz Photography
WORDS: Nazz Ebrahimi, Chrissy Blair and Jayla Harnwell
MURAL: Kim West @westkim
Illustration by Nicole Fani of The Avantgartist www.theavantgartist.com
READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH @KALUMIHEALTH TO LEARN ABOUT THEIR PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PROCESS AND BUSINESS JOURNEY. LOOK OUT FOR "THE ENTREPRENEUR'S PLAYLIST" TO SEE WHAT TUNES THEY ARE CURRENTLY LISTENING TO!
What motivated you to start a business and how did you choose the name of your company?
CB: The need for truly healthy snack options and our results from consuming marine collagen over a year (no more hormonal acne, no more need for extensions, glowier skin and less makeup) inspired it all! The name came about after months of deciding WHO our brand was as a person… she was a girl, classy & elegant, loves the beach and nature and has a cool vibe. We made up the word Kalumi by combining “Kalon” (greek for the ideal of physical and moral beauty) with “illuminate”.
JH: We decided to start this company because we knew we had a great and unique idea on our hands. We originally made our product for ourselves as there was a big gap in the food industry- snacks are either packed with "natural" sugar, have no/low quality proteins or were completely un-natural. We wanted to create a whole new category- delicious, healthy snacks that could actually help improve your appearance! Snacks these days are designed simply to temporarily satisfy hunger, we wanted to take it a step further! We had seen noticeable results in the quality of our hair, nails and skin since taking marine collagen and wanted to make it easier and more delicious to consume!
Who are your ideal clients?
CB: Our ideal clients are women seeking long lasting and natural beauty through health. These women don’t sacrifice when it comes to eating right and they reward themselves with health.
JH: Women and men who reward themselves with health and understand its importance in the functionality of the entire body.
How did your journey of living a healthier lifestyle begin?
CB: Struggling with horrible hormonal acne (couldn’t model for 4 months), eczema and thin, brittle hair. I knew something had to change when nothing I did topically helped and I refused to take medications to band-aid the issue.
JH: Growing up with a mother as a Naturopath definitely taught me a lot from a young age. She was always so ahead of the curb when it came to health. She literally has the answer to every problem. All my friends (including Chrissy!) have always come to me with questions about health and issues they may be having. And if I don't know the answer, mum sure did! So I learnt a LOT from her! I feel so lucky to have grown up in an organic household with no antibiotics and amazing healthy foods around me! I took my health journey to the next level when my hair started falling out a few years ago, I also had skin issues I was dealing with. I made a few further adjustments to my diet and worked on healing my gut with collagen and saw amazing results! I can't go a day without it!
Marine Collagen is a main ingredient in your bars. Can you break down what that is and it's benefits?
CB: Marine Collagen should be EVERY GIRLS BEST FRIEND. It is derived from wild caught cod fish skin and scales. Because collagen naturally exists in our bodies, it is easily recognized when consumed. Marine Collagen is the most easily absorbable type of collagen (compared to other such as bovine & porcine) and is known as the BEST type for hair skin and nails as well.
JH: Collagen is the building block of the entire body! Keeping collagen levels high is essential in preventing the signs of aging. Consuming collagen promotes collagen synthesis in the body (production of new collagen) which gives us noticeable results in the appearance of our hair, skin, nails as well as improving mobility. Because collagen is found naturally in our bodies, marine collagen is a highly bioavailable and pure source of protein with an amazing amino acid profile. Can you see why we're obsessed?
How do you determine what kinds of products to sell that ensure satisfaction to the customer?
CB: We look to the needs of ourselves and other busy girls on the go that hold everything they consume to a high standard. We know if we need it, others needed it too.
JH: We take so much care and pride in the ingredients we use. We take absolutely no short cuts! We cater to people just like us, who read every ingredient in every label and want to know where everything comes from. It is also important to us that our products are functional and taste amazing.
How important do you think customer reviews are, such as the ones posted on Yelp and Facebook?
CB: VERY important! I think it’s important to remember not everyone will get your product or like it, but the ones that do like it- should LOVE it and be committed to the brand. I always want to see what others are saying about a product to see if they mention the things I'm looking for or not looking for.
JH: Super important! We love hearing feedback from our customers, it helps us continue to improve.
How do you feel one should approach potential investors, or ask for funds?
CB: I believe approaching investors should be something later down the road, especially if it’s your first venture. There are so many products being developed every day and it’s important to build SOMETHING that clearly stands for itself and its' worth before expecting to raise funds. Once you're ready, I think its best to ask the people in the industry you know and trust and start with people in your circle.
JH: Do your research! Every brand is different and will have different needs when it comes to an investor. My advice would be to feel out all of your options and never jump on the first offer. Ask for advice from industry professionals and trust your gut. Always stay true to your brand and vision.
Your 3 keys tips for negotiating a deal:
CB: 1- LISTEN
2- Know your brand, your vision for the future for it and WHAT YOU WANT
3- Find like-minded brands successful at what you're doing to use as examples
1- go in having a very clear idea of what you want to get out of the deal.
2-plan exactly how you want the deal to go. It's ok to be open to negation to close a deal, but always know clearly where you draw the line.
3- Be confident in yourself and your product. You will negotiate so much better when you KNOW you have something amazing to offer.
The illustrations on your Beauty Food and variety packs are so charming and beautifully done! What was the design process for your packaging like?
CB: We wanted to create something super chic with a high-end feel that made you feel special. As a designer, I wanted to design the bars to remind people of their favorite beauty product or fashion magazine so they could think of eating well as something that would make them more beautiful, naturally. The truth is, makeup and fashionable clothing are fun and make us feel great- but they don’t feed our cells and nourish our bodies like nutritious food does- but why sacrifice a fashionable package?
JH: The package design was a lot of back and forth. Chrissy did a great job at bringing our visions to life, it was so fun watching it all come together! I remember sitting in a hotel room in NY together and making the final touches :)
Do you have any advice on getting a product in front of retailers?
CB: Conventions are a great way to get your product out there and in front of retailers.
How do you communicate with one another when you feel differently on what steps take or decisions to make?
CB: We are VERY open and honest with each other. We just communicate how we feel respectfully. We are both willing to see the other person's side and we both fight for what we think is right and present reasons why. In the end we have to sacrifice our opposing view sometimes if we think the person has a clear point. But for the most part, we truly see eye to eye on almost everything!
Did you have any doubts when you were first starting out/ how has failure changed you to keep on pushing?
CB: Not really… we loved what we were making so much for ourselves and other people were wanting to purchase it from us, so we knew we had something amazing. The downs we’ve had so far haven’t been failures but they have challenged us to get back up and make a new plan. Most of the time challenges just make everything better in the end.
JH: I'm the kind of person who over thinks everything so I would be lying if I said there weren't times that I was nervous. Having said that, I NEVER doubted our product or what we were doing with our company and that is what keeps me going every day, keeping my eyes on the bigger picture and seeing all the possibilities for Kalumi.
If you are not a "people person", but have great ideas, can you still run a business?
CB: Yeah of course. The most important thing is to know your strengths and team up with someone that can balance the business out.
Do you think you can start a business if you don't have a degree from a University?
CB: Of course! Jayla is proof as well as many other successful entrepreneurs. That’s the beauty of starting a business… there really aren’t too many rules, it’s all about what you are creating and offering to the world. Jayla is very well-traveled and intelligent from great schooling back in Australia and she’s dealt with real-life business situations in various countries, to me that is just as good as a degree if not better!
JH: Absolutely! Life experience can teach a person a whole lot more than sitting in a class room!
What is your management style?
CB: I’m a huge planner and love to organize and Jayla is really great at carrying out those needs and bringing my crazy ideas back to reality. For now we really manage the business on our own. I do a lot of mapping out and overseeing the whole picture and Jayla really zeros in on details and gets us there.
Advice on standing out in a crowd and maintaining a competitive edge?
CB: You have to offer something in a unique, great and honest way to stand out these days. If your heart isn’t fully in it, if the story behind it isn’t great and if your product doesn’t fix a certain issue well- it’s not competitive.
What's next for Kalumi?
CB: So much! We are just getting started ;) More bar flavors, more line items and soon to hit by the end of this year- a plan that will help women learn more about their bodies and how and what to consume for long term healthy weight and overall optimal health.
Looking back, what would you tell yourself when you were first starting out?
CB: Balance, balance, balance. We got a lot done quickly from idea to launch because we literally devoted every second to Kalumi… but I quickly realized I wasn’t cooking dinner at home enough, wasn’t spending enough time with friends and my boyfriend etc. and we realized we really needed to set time aside to be human. Even just an hour workout a day and time to cook dinner every night really helped us have balance.
JH: Probably not to worry so much about the unknown. We were brand new to the food space and there was so much we didn't know yet. It caused a lot of sleepless nights! If you're passionate and willing to put in the work, there is nothing you can't learn, just take it one day at a time. Google helps a lot more than stressing does!
Best lesson you've learned in business:
CB: Don’t be scared to ask for help! We took this advice early on and literally spoke to everyone we could about their successes and downfalls, learned what we were getting into, got feedback on our products each stage it was in and kept asking questions. Without their great, honest advice and feedback, we wouldn’t have gotten this far in the time we did.
JH: Organization is key! Also, talk to as many people as possible, you would be surprised what amazing advice/ connections people have to offer! Give everyone a chance, you never know what you could learn/gain. And of course, offer the same in return!