Alicia Long : Co-Founder & CEO of Nutr

Episode 450

How do you decide to build a company with a mission to make healthy, plant based milks accessible and convenient through the use of a machine that you create? A machine called the Nutr Machine. We hear from Co-Founder and CEO of Nutr, Alicia Long, as she shares her story and her journey including the many lessons. During this inspiring episode, Alica shared how purpose really drove her to create Nutr, but also keeps her going during those tough days. You are going to love this episode and I can’t wait for you to hear it. Now on the #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be, I want to be just want to make sure you will get knocked down but just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. It’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I am so excited to have my next guest, Alicia Long, who was the co founder and CEO of an incredible company called Nutr, and we were recently introduced by a mutual friend Megan ATIA. So thank you, Megan, if you’re listening, big shout out to you for making that intro to an amazing entrepreneur who has an incredible product and company and my 22 year old daughter just hollered in the room tell her we think it’s AWS and it’s so good. So, so, so excited. So Nutr is a lifestyle and wellness brand on a mission to make healthy plant based milks accessible and convenient through the use of their innovative product. Another machine and another machine is so much fun in available and a ton of stores, but also available online. Alicia was an honoree of inks 2023 female founders 200 list as well. And you may have also seeing her on Shark Tank in season 14. Like I said, she’s a force and I’m excited to have her here with us today to share her story and know a little bit more about her journey building meta, all of the incredible lessons I’m sure that she’s learned along the way. So let’s get started. Welcome, Alicia.

Alicia Long 2:08
Thank you so much for having me, Kara. So excited to be here.

Kara Goldin 2:12
So you’ve achieved tremendous success as an entrepreneur, and you’ve barely gotten started on this journey. I read a little bit about your background, so incredible. So you immigrated to the US at the age of 18. Such a brave move, and I bet you didn’t snap your fingers and become who you are today. There were lots of twists and turns along the way. Can you share more about your upbringing? And what were some of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned maybe from some people that were raising you?

Alicia Long 2:49
Yeah, thank you for, you know, the intro in I I’m really grateful for this journey, because I was in what, as an immigrant moving to United States. And that was not easy. Because I actually came to the United States right after my dad’s passing, because he had lymphoma cancer. And he’s that wish was for me to be able to get higher education, and be able to fulfill his dream that he was never be able to fulfill so. So with that, and my mom basically gave me everything to pay for my tuition, and I’m just super grateful and I can never, you know, really repay her. But at the same time, I just feel like, you know, all that was my motivation, my drive, to really make my family proud. And one day that, you know, not only just financially but also be able to achieve, I just remember when my dad said, no matter what you do, do the best that you can. So he was an electrical engineer. And obviously, for me, it was very different journey. And my family has always been an entrepreneur, and entrepreneurship. And then growing up my first interview that I observed was when I was 12 years old. And my mom brought me into the interview that she was interviewing somebody and trying to hire and, and I got to, you know, basically grew up in that environment. So I went to the Ohio State University, and then study marketing. And I just fell in love with branding. I fell in love with promotions, marketing, just all different ways that people get the brands out there. And I was like, wow, this is so fascinating. Now, how do I apply it in the real world? Right, and then what I learned before, you know, from 1012 years ago, that definitely does not apply now. But when I was working at Google, and I was working in tech for, you know, eight, nine years as an executive recruiter, so I recruited a lot of really smart the brightest people at south to Driving robotics machine learning. So what I saw is what I really got excited was to look at all these startups, right. And a lot of engineers that came from startups. And then I got the chance, an opportunity to build startups from just a couple engineers to a couple 100 people, and then eventually an exit IPO. And I saw that the startups trajectory, just skyrocket, right? The enterprise value is just skyrocketing. I was like, wow, that’s phenomenal. And it takes a whole organization, it’s a it’s a team effort. So given my background of recruiting, as well as marketing, and I think we will share a pretty similar story is that during the pandemic, and when everyone was, you know, working out from home, and then well, I became pregnant, and then I was on maternity leave. So, and I, I’m lactose intolerant, so I can’t drink dairy. So I drink a lot of almond milk and oat milk and a lot of big brands. And I realized has a lot of sugar. And I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant, too. So and I read your story. And I was like, wow, it’s just, you know, you have to watch what you eat and what you drink. I had to prick my fingers for days, four times a day. And I was like, oh my goodness, like, I can’t believe how much junk that they putting those storebought plant based milk all day most fires, gums, additives, sugar, rapeseed oil, canola oil. And I was like, yeah, like, I don’t want to pass it down to my son. So that was kind of my own problem that I wanted to solve. And I just remember one day that I looked over my counter, and I saw an espresso. And I remember when I was in school and study Harvard business, you know, study about Nespresso. And they’re just very much of a fantastic strategy, right? And you just, you know, have the hardware as the entry point. And they really get consumers to have that lifestyle change of making your own barista quality coffee at home. And I was like, why do we have a barista quality like, or just really high quality plant based milk with a touch of a button. And that’s when the idea was born. And my mom had just, you know, made some fresh plant based milk, she made walnut, black sesame milk, sweetened with dates. And that just blew my mind. My tastebuds were just like, whoa, like, this is plant based milk, it can taste this good. And I had no idea. And I was like, every single pregnant woman, woman, man, or, alternately, kids deserve to drink this, this is so nutritious, and it was good for your health is good for your brain. And that’s when I was like, wow, I wanted to make it available everywhere. Every single household should deserve to drink that fresh plant based milk, not the, you know, the overpriced water in the box. So that’s kind of what sparked my interest in entrepreneurship. And the rest is history.

Kara Goldin 8:04
So you didn’t have any experience developing a electronic machine. I mean, you obviously worked in tech, but this was totally new. And it was an idea that wasn’t being done. And you kind of wanted it for yourself. It sounds like first but also really believed like you could share it with a lot of people who’d be interested, too. Yeah. And I think that that’s a very similar kind of story to many founders who are starting a company I love it. How would you describe Nutr and its mission within the health and wellness industry? Like how how are you sharing what you’re doing not only with consumers but also with other people in the industry, whether it’s people that have invested in the brand or or advisors or any people that you’ve connected with

Alicia Long 9:01
our mission is very simple is to change the way we milk for a better future. Because the motivation is that you know, I am concerned about the food chain you know, the transparency, right? Because we grew up drinking Nesquik or drinking a lot of you know sugary drinks and we were just trained like sugar is it tastes good and you know, hey, if you’re you know paved and you get sugar or like, you know, chocolate and you know, but look at the the society there’s a lot of overs you know, overweight individuals and let leak can lead to long term, you know, disease or illness and, you know, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, etc. If you don’t watch what you eat and what you drink. So really our mission is to provide the transparency and In the future, and really for my mission, you know, coming from tax, because food tech was rising and and I looked at the food tech industry and thinking, wow, like 90%, or even more 95% of the food tech companies were funded by men. And but women has very special relationship with food. And women also 80% of the women make selections of food at home. So why do we get, you know, you know, to have meant to make that, you know, decisions on a higher level. But you know, it really, from a consumer standpoint, I just really think that, you know, me, myself, as a consumer, I can relate to a lot of consumers that have the struggles and have the problems that they’re looking to solve.

Kara Goldin 10:53
Definitely. So I’d love to hear some insights into kind of the development process, when you were deciding, okay, I’m gonna quit my job, I’m gonna go and actually developed this machine in order to fulfill your dream of actually starting this company. But what was kind of the first step, you have to figure out exactly how to develop the machine, right?

Alicia Long 11:19
Yeah, well, I will say, I have some unfair advantage. My husband is a 16 years mechanical engineer. So that, that helps saving a lot of engineering costs are so he evolved, he’s a co founder, he’s the co founder, but for the first year, he donate his time, basically, worked for free for the first year. And, you know, it’s just a lot of evenings, a lot of, you know, weekends, and we turn our kitchen into our lab. And we basically just test out this machine, you know, we had several different iterations and different versions. And, you know, he just, you know, study the electrical resolve and filtration, mechanical and structural. And then, but the most important thing is like finding the supply chain, the CO manufacturer that was able to, you know, help support us. So I think the first step is really important to find a partner that you are able to trust and work with, because there was a lot of manufacturers, and they, you know, they wanted that MOQ to be like, 10,000 units. And then we were like, well, we’re just starting out. And, you know, I was working two jobs, and I was being pregnant at the same time. And to to fund the business. You know, I had to work a separate job. So but, you know, I was like, what the first order we can only do 1000? Can you do that? And then, so we after interviewing probably hundreds of manufacturers, and I was like, finally we got one that that that believes in what we’re going to do and willing to move the minimum order quantity down to 1000. That’s how we got started.

Kara Goldin 12:55
That’s amazing. And what year did you technically start?

Alicia Long 13:01
was in 2000 22,000, so three years ago, so

Kara Goldin 13:03
right in the middle of COVID, kicking into gear, so what an excellent time to get started probably was super, super crazy. How long before when you actually decided that you were going to start the company to actually having a product

Alicia Long 13:22
probably took over a year for us to, you know, figuring out supply chain manufacturing. We didn’t have, you know, a lot of funding to start. So we bootstrapped for a long time. Until we are probably earlier, yeah, 2022. And then we started raising funds in order to scale. Our first batch. I remember, we start we launched in July of 2020, July 2021. And then from there, for the first five months, we just, we sold out three times. So that was the $800,000 that we made the first we’ve we did, yeah, first year, so within five months, and then we just knew that was a product market fit. And then we just decided to raise capital to scale.

Kara Goldin 14:24
So you talked about product market fit. So what strategies have you deployed to build a strong and loyal community that around the network brand and how important do you think social has been to not only build this community but also help you figure out product market fit?

Alicia Long 14:46
Yeah, so I think community it’s, you know, one is like data, right? And then we surveyed tons of our existing customers and then just asked like, hey, what prompted you to purchase our product and what do you like about what do you don’t like to? And then from there, we found out a lot of customers like, where do they shop, right. And then they’re very health conscious. And then very much invested in what they eat what they drink. So we don’t necessarily target everybody who drink milk or everybody who drink plant based milk, we are defined groups of individuals are people who are health conscious, and want things that are natural, or organic or Whole Foods, and they understand the importance of ingredients. And so yeah, and then from there, you know, usually is the moms the, you know, nutritionist or dietitian, chefs that cook at home and actually read labels, you know, of what what goes on the on the nutrition facts. So, in social has been really how people found us, right. And then when we got on the call with TVC they’re like, we’ve seen you everywhere. So, and William Sonoma, like precedent saw us on Instagram and had their associates reach out and that was like, wow, how do you find as though like Instagram? So most people know us, either from or from. Yeah, or from, you know, Shark Tank or PR. Yeah, so, Instagram definitely helped. And now we’re on Tik Tok, doing a lot of live streaming, to be able to help engaging with our community.

Kara Goldin 16:34
I bet that’s like a huge market for you being able to people actually seeing how you do it and make it work. And it’s so much fun, you and I were chatting, I was making some hemp milk last night and the cashew and it is absolutely so delicious. So it’s, I haven’t gotten through all of the different flavored ones that you’re doing too. But it’s just really, really unique and so much more yummy than some of the other products that are out there that are you know, storebought. So and plus, it’s just a lot of fun and lots of nutrition in there, too. So keep up with like, there’s so many different dietary preferences and nutrition trends that are going on. I mean, I just mentioned hemp. Few years ago, hemp wasn’t even something that people were actually drinking weed that you must have to keep track of so much that’s going on. I mean, you’re you’re really setting trends, in many ways to I mean, you’re helping people figure out recipes and how to actually take cashews and turn them into something beyond just straight cashews. So how to keep track of that. I mean, it’s just a lot of work.

Alicia Long 17:59
Yeah, we have a very a team of talented recipe developers, and also nutritionists and dietitians, food scientists that actually help curate these recipes. And we also have a very supportive community. So people actually share recipes all day long. And, you know, it’s really an upgrade for our younger customers that how creative they are. And there’s some times when they were making like vegan cheese, and they can actually make hummus like vegan hummus in the nether machine, I was like, wow, I didn’t even know that. And then because we had a heat function, so you actually can make like tomato bisque as well. So we actually have community of people exchange and share the recipes and just very organic way, and then people would tag us like, oh, look what I create. So it’s a very interesting, you know, and sometimes when I highlight, just go on social media, and then just see who tagged us and, you know, people they get their kids involved and their family involved and what they make, like, you know, different recipes. And then we posted them on not only social but on our website as well. And we also have an app. So a mobile application that captures all of the new recipes. And we’ll share with you know, hundreds and 1000s of customers that we have and just new recipes every single week and to inspire you to hopefully, you know, to motivate our customers to make healthy drinks for for them and their families.

Kara Goldin 19:31
I’d love to hear any great stories from your journey with with NAFTA that has had a significant impact on you personally, I always tell people that you know those first letters that you get from consumers telling you how it’s, you know, change their life, right and thank you so much. I mean, it’s such an amazing boost of confidence right especially on the his crazy days do you have any great stories that you can share?

Alicia Long 20:04
Yeah, I think my favorite one is like our customers, I just love to read their comments. So, and customers will say, Wow, I feel like I just discovered fire. So, and I was like, wow, you know, people just didn’t know like every time when we go to trade shows, and then uninspiring Home Show and then we just like have people lined up at the booth. And you know, we got just a lot of incoming like distributors are interested in US and international as well. And they’re like, Wow, I didn’t know you can do that. I didn’t know you can do you know cashew hemp milk or, you know, walnuts, sesame milk, or, you know, all these different your recipes. And our, you know, blends are really came from our consumers their feedback, and we have top five flavors, and we have matcha, and chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, these are typical, the milk flavors, but also tumeric, tumeric, and ginger that has been very popular and almost sold out every time. And so these are the top five flavors. And then we also, you know, get questions a lot, you know, just taking up collagen in there, or can you put calcium or vitamins minerals, superfoods, spirulina, Lion’s Mane, and we get all these questions. And we’re like, wow, these are so amazing. Because, you know, these are actually what consumers want. And they want to have functional benefits with whatever they drink. They don’t want those preservatives, they don’t want those sugary drinks, because they’re, they don’t benefit their health. What they do want is that, hey, I’m a mom, and how can I get rid of my mommy brain fog in the morning, and as my, you know, personal experience, mommy brain never goes away. So I always put Lion’s Mane in my matcha latte in the morning. And I make it with cashew. And, and I was like, and I just, you know, replace that replace my coffee that gives me all the you know, jitters. And, you know, I just drink Matcha Latte with it, you know, with cashew milk every morning. And I was like, Well, you know, I share that on I think it was an Instagram live with 600 people watching my life. And then they’re like, Wait, so you can put lion’s mane and your drink, and then in your cashew pan milk. And yeah, that’s what I make every morning. And then don’t like whoa, like, I want to try it. And then it just kind of like went viral and, and there it is. So this is our first blend is actually our matcha it has mental clarity, functional benefits. And after you drink this, you probably don’t want any coffee. And then total caffeine is like 30 grams, instead of like 200 grams. And I was able to drink it when I was pregnant. So which you know, is really, you know, really nice for pregnant, you know, women and then and also has to be early enough where they’re good for their skin. So. And I was like, wow, why do we need the preservatives and rapeseed oil and all of that nonsense, when you can just make your own? And we make it simple and convenient for consumers?

Kara Goldin 23:17
What is the most challenging aspect of building a company? Do you think?

Alicia Long 23:22
So there are many, I would say there are different levels of problems, I’m sure that you, you know, have a similar experience or, you know, obviously a much, much more experience than I have. So in the short amount of the years that I have built, you know, I would say, you know, when we first started and I would say the the challenge when we’re year one, and we’re like, just trying to get like $300,000 in, you know, Thanksgiving Day sales. And then we’re like, Wow, $300,000 and just, you know, when you first starting out, we’re just like, oh my god, I felt like a lot. And then how do we get, you know, $50,000 as the advertising budget, right? And then that was my kind of level one kind of problem when I first started. And then this business grew and grew and grew. And just like now we’re looking at that probably like that was level one problem. And I had no idea. You know, at that moment, you felt like there wasn’t a level 10 problem, right? And then but it’s always kind of like, when you look back on your high school, like whatever the you know, high school problem you had before and when you are in the moment, you’re like, oh my god, you know, sky is gonna fall and but then after you solve that problem, you’re like, Oh, that wasn’t that thing.

Kara Goldin 24:45
Isn’t that fast? So

Alicia Long 24:46
um, you know? Yeah, yeah. So So I think the challenge was always to balance in between, you know, the growth and you know, finding And financials and making sure that we are not growing too fast or, you know, we want it to grow sustainably in the long term. And then so that’s what we, you know, learn and figure it out, optimize. And along the way, the first try is always hard. But once we made some mistakes, and we figure it out, and we’re able to come out of it, and, you know, and we make way better decisions now, way better, smarter, you know, business decisions, and just capital efficiency, marketing efficiency. I’m not, we’re just getting started, right? And then once we, you know, kind of get to that level two problem. And now we’re just looking forward to how do we solve the level three and level five problems? Just taking one step at a time?

Kara Goldin 25:50
That’s amazing. So if you could go back, what would you tell yourself about those about those moments? I mean, you touched on this a minute ago that, you know, you’ll get through these hard things, right? I was equate being an entrepreneur to building a puzzle, right? You have to be okay with, you know, knowing that sometimes you have to stop and come back to something or, you know, you can’t really come up with the answers all the time, immediately, and that you have to just keep digging at it and just keep working on it. It’s a problem that you have to solve a puzzle that you have to solve. But I’d be so curious what you would say you would, you know, to your younger self, as you’re jumping into building a company, I mean, you’ve taken on amazing things, including coming all the way across the world alone, right to start something that not too many people do. But I’d love to hear from you kind of what would you tell yourself, maybe it’s a little different than how it played out?

Alicia Long 27:00
Yeah, I so to share a little bit story of my first job out of college, and it was actually selling cable door to door. And so that experience actually did that for five years. And there was just a lot of I did that intentionally because I know I need to grow the tough skin, to learn how to sell and how to handle objections. And, you know, for the first five years after I pivoted, and I just felt like it was a big waste of time, five years, oh, my goodness, like, why would I like, why would I do that. But fast forward, I think that was the greatest experience I’ve ever had. Because it taught me not only just the tough skin, the work ethic, the positive attitude, but also it just perseverance, the ability to be able to take on one more No, is so incredibly valuable. Because you know, now fast forward 10 years from now, 10 years later, I’m still knocking on doors, I’m still knocking on the every single, you know, venture capitals, door and family offices door. And, you know, had I not experienced that before, I wouldn’t be able to keep going. Because I would just be like, Oh, this is too hard. And, you know, I couldn’t raise my first you know, a million dollars or $250,000. I never give up. And now I’m just like, you know, thinking that every single door, that the person behind that door is a completely different person. They never seen you before. They never heard your last rejection before. And if you can just put on that face that smile face, and then just pitch them again and again with same enthusiasm, enthusiasm, and eventually it’s gonna get the Yes. And I’m a firm believer of that. And that’s how we raised the $2 million. And that was a seed round of, I probably got 200 nose. And then but I just got that, yes, that that we need it. So I would say the door door experience was the most valuable experience when you’re in the moment just feel like gosh, it was waste of time. But now looking back, I feel like that was the most valuable experience I’ve ever had.

Kara Goldin 29:21
That’s awesome. It also seems like you and I have had a bit of a conversation. But it seems like you’re not afraid to reach out for help to and when you have a problem that you’re trying to figure out. You’re obviously a very smart, very intelligent person that just is jumping into an industry that she knows nothing about or didn’t know anything about when she jumped in. But I think your ability to network and and take on a problem and and keep going until you figure out an answer that question is such a critical skill for any entrepreneur, would you agree?

Alicia Long 30:04
Absolutely. I think, especially during the pandemic, and I crave that kind of connection, because sometimes when we are working by ourselves, and we just like, you know, so alone, and you know, you know, not getting the result that we want, and then we’re just so you know, down or doubting ourselves. And, you know, and when I get any opportunity to chat with other founders, or entrepreneurs, and people who I want to be in, I will, you know, I, you know, I feel like, Hey, I, you know, just don’t be afraid to ask, and I was like, I never like thought that I would be, you know, able to connect with a, you know, a founder from a hundreds of millions of dollars, like who I want to be. And then, but I just asked, Hey, can I get on the call with you? And, and I think that kind of courage, and then also, it helps me in my, in my difficult times, and then it drives me because, you know, I think we all at some point need help. And then, so reach out. And, you know, because we can only, you know, this is the art world that we’re living. So in the when we connect with other people who has been through that route before. And I just feel like we can connect, and oh, I’m not alone. It’s not just me. And then, you know, I just remember that when we talked about and I’m like, Oh, my goodness, I didn’t know. And a lot of information is all about information that we get. And that I’m very grateful that I’m lucky enough to have the connection of people that I surround myself with, even sometimes it’s not face to face, if it’s not, you know, over zoom, even just podcasts that I listen to in my the person that I look up to a lot. And you know, there’s so many female entrepreneurs that I look up to Kara is always one. And also I, I look up to Jamie, currently, ma and she’s one of my favorite entrepreneurs, and just all that difficulties and a lot of things that she has been through and I was like, Oh my gosh, like, if she can do that. And then that gives me the confidence that I can do that too. So it just a little bit of like me too. And when things are not going the way that we want it to be, there’s always the good and the bad and the ugly. But you know, I think by talking to, you know, people have been through that route, and also surround yourself with people that you want to be and that gives me the confidence to keep going.

Kara Goldin 32:47
Yeah, definitely. Well, I think that is such a beautiful way to end this podcast. So, so great to meet you, Alicia, you are doing an incredible job. And I wish you all the best. And everyone needs to go online. As you mentioned, many stores are carrying it, including William Sonoma. But definitely you can find everything online. She also has the cashews and the HAMP and all of the different packets that you mentioned, the matcha and the strawberry and chocolate, lots of great, great things that you can use with the Nutr machine. So I really, really hope that everybody gets online right now and get some machine and Alicia, thank you again for talking to us about your journey and your story and have a great rest of the week.

Alicia Long 33:43
Thank you so much. Thank you for your time and Kara you always are so kind and about your time and I really am excited to be part of the podcast. Thank you so much.

Kara Goldin 33:56
Thank you. Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review and feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen or pick up a copy of my book undaunted, which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week. And 2023 And goodbye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward heard. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time, you’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight? Send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening