Raina Kumra: Founder of Spicewell

Episode 245

Listen as Raina Kumra, founder of Spicewell, shares her experience launching her newest venture focused on receiving and maintaining health through spices. Tune into this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow to find out.

Resources from
this episode:


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, you 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’m super, super excited to have our next guest here we have Raina Kumra, who’s the founder and CEO of spice well, and spice well as a brand new company, a so thrilled to have her come join us because as you know, we love having founders on here. And we really love to hear about their journey. And Rain is just getting started. Not just getting started in her career, she’s had this amazing, amazing career. And she’s dabbled in lots and lots of different things, from activism to entrepreneurship. And spice well is really game changing in the spice industry. So, Raina, her background is incredible and unique. She’s been a media and marketing expert. She had done some work on the Biden Harris Transition Team overseeing US Global Media Technology Strategy for Voice of America, radical Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, I didn’t even know all this about you, by the way, Raina, and Raina and I know each other too. And she’s just this amazing, amazing, you know, resource for early stage technology companies. She’s also an investor too. She’s an investor with the fund, which is an early stage venture fund. So I’m really really thrilled to hear her go hang a shingle and and start this company that she saw this hole in the market and knew how to solve it. And so welcome Raina

Raina Kumra 2:17
Thank you, Kara. Thanks for having me. I’m so happy to be here and getting to chat with you. And love this podcast. Oh, thank you fan.

Kara Goldin 2:27
Super, super excited. So explain spice well in the mission.

Raina Kumra 2:32
So spice well, is the world’s first nutrient dense salt and pepper. And I have added 21 vitamins and minerals about 10% of your daily recommended intake of these vitamins in about a half teaspoon serving. And it’s also iron Vedic and it also has adaptogen. So the pepper is blended with turmeric and which is a very powerful ancient recipe for anti inflammation. And the salt has a little bit of ashwagandha in it, which helps your body deal with stress. And I just sort of looked at salt and pepper. And it’s something that has not been really innovated on and about a century since we added iodine to it. And it’s something that I know everyone eats and drinks with every day. So I thought, hey, this is really something that needs an innovation. And I would like to be the person that brings it to the market.

Kara Goldin 3:27
Well, they are so tasty as well, so you can cook with them. And it’s just this amazing, amazing product. So tell me a little bit more about your background. So who was Little rhina?

Raina Kumra 3:42
Little Reiner was a introvert who always had her head in a book as often as possible. And I love learning I loved reading and I loved also not necessarily having to talk to people was part of part of like this shyness. And then somewhere, you know, I learned to be an extrovert and I really learned to enjoy all of the great, wonderful things that happened from just talking to people all day. So I’ve done a total 180 on that.

Kara Goldin 4:10
What did you think you were gonna be when you grew up?

Raina Kumra 4:13
Well, like every Indian kid, you are told that you are going to be so you know, you rehearse it and every time you were asked, What are you going to be? The answer is a doctor. And what’s kind of funny about this is like, coming full circle after a whole career in tech. I feel like what I’m doing with spice law. Obviously, I’m not a doctor, it’s as close as I can possibly get to helping in the healthcare industry, which is through food and healthier food. But in many ways, it has been something that’s really important to me to always try to help people and make them healthier. And when I was a little kid, I was always making little potions and I was always trying to create medicines and I was you know, taking peppermint and He was out of the backyard and making a tincture and you know, telling my mom that it was going to help her stomach. I don’t know. I don’t know what I was doing. But there’s some probably like mitochondrial DNA information somewhere in my system that tells me what to do on this stuff.

Kara Goldin 5:16
Where did you grow up?

Raina Kumra 5:17
I grew up in the bay area, so first in San Jose and then moved to Los Altos and Los Gatos. Awesome, total Bay Area kid.

Kara Goldin 5:29
Very awesome. So do you think it was your mom who was kind of sharing a little bit about, you know, just plant medicine and natural healing overall?

Raina Kumra 5:39
Yeah, it was definitely my mom. And it was 100%, my grandma. So there’s all of these amazing things that Indian women just know. And they do. And I learned it when I was a kid, you know, like, if you have a stomach ache, you take these seeds, and you boil them, and then you drink a tea out of them and all of your stomach ache issues are over any digestive issue is over. And you know, a lot of properties of ginger, a lot of properties of turmeric, and a lot of the spices that we use in everyday Indian cooking, were just part of daily life, they were also part of daily medicine. So if you had a bruise, you would make a patch out of turmeric and put it on that bruise and it would heal faster. So there was things that I picked up definitely just from, you know, being Indian and growing up in a household that understood it better. But where I really found that it came back and full source for me, because I forgot all about it was when I had kids, and I didn’t want to give them over the counter. I didn’t want to put red dye in them when they were sick. I I just wanted to find a better way to treat them. And I went right back into the kitchen instead of the medicine cabinet. And I pulled tears out of my pantry and out of my garden. And that’s sort of when it began now, you know, I had kids like five, five and eight year old So a while ago. So I’ve been kind of toying with plant medicine again, in an in a different format.

Kara Goldin 7:14
So interesting. So you will come back to spice Well, in a minute, but you so you left the Bay Area you ventured off to? Did you work right after school? Or did you go straight to business school?

Raina Kumra 7:28
No, I’ve actually never been to business school.

Kara Goldin 7:32
For some reason, I thought you did. So join the club here. And

Raina Kumra 7:35
I’m so glad I know. I’m so glad I give off that vibe. But no, when I was 17 I was I was about to go to Berkeley or UCLA. And I wanted to go to film school. And then I just want to Fluke checked off another box on the general app for Boston University just thinking you know, I’m, I’ve grown up in California, I’ve never left California, what about potentially going far away. And then I just I went and visited I loved it. And I was like that’s it. I’m leaving. I’m going as far as I possibly can from the Bay Area, and ended up at BU in the College of Communications, studying film and television production. And I did and then I was on the East Coast ever since. So I stayed, I stayed Boston, I graduated a year early. Then I went to New York, and I enrolled at NYU ITP where I learned a lot more about technology and media. And then I went to Harvard for a year but not for Business School for Design School. And I was the I was the technical person in the urban planning and architecture side of things. So cool. Totally random education.

Kara Goldin 8:50
And what did you think you were going to do with that? Um,

Raina Kumra 8:53
so I had aspirations to really help the built environment with digital media. So that was sort of where my head was at the time. And I, you know, before 911, I was very convinced I was going to be a video installation artist. I’ve always loved art and design. I’ve always loved immersive environments, creating worlds. And just creating because the through line for everything I’ve done has been creativity. But what’s great in very practical was after 911 I ended up working on a documentary for Cantor Fitzgerald. And that documentary brought me into advertising. I worked at Bartle Bogle Hegarty under the infamous Cindy Gallup who was my first boss, I know that I was very lucky. Yes, love her. She definitely taught us a lot. And, and then I went on to RGA to be an interaction designer working on Nike and then I moved to widening Kennedy, where I was running digital for the New York agency. then working on all sorts of big brands, you’ve heard of.

Kara Goldin 10:04
Amazing. That’s so great. And then you went into the Obama that you worked on in the Obama administration. And,

Raina Kumra 10:15
yeah, definitely. I think this happens to a lot of people who spend more than a decade in advertising is that you realize that you have amazing skills. But maybe you don’t want to sell anymore shoes and Cokes. You just wanted to do something else with those skills. And the State Department opportunity which came off the heels of me doing a complete one ad moving to Africa and starting a solar training nonprofit called light up Malawi was a great opportunity. And that actually happened via conversation with Katie Stanton, who has always been like such a good luck charm in my life. And she’s like, Hey, you know, they need people like you, the State Department, you should totally talk to this guy. And she connected me and then I got a job.

Kara Goldin 11:03
That’s absolutely incredible. And what do you think you? Do you feel like that was an instrumental point in your life, where you started to really think about making a difference. I mean, I feel like in spice Well, it’s not just about doing spices and and like, you’re really trying to turn the world on to helping them. And I feel like when I hear about your journey, you have incredible experience. But I also feel like there’s this need that you have to really help people which by through products through great things that you know how to do. And so

Raina Kumra 11:46
I think that’s what was eating at me during the last couple years, my advertising career. And it was funny, because the gateway drug for me was working on the ONE campaign with this incredible group of people and you know, with an incredible mission, and it was a pro bono client for widen, and I just, like fell into it. It was like, I love this, oh, my gosh, we could do so much we could really cure diseases we could really work on, you know, really getting so much money into onto the table for things that matter. And so that that was like a good precursor sort of a test testing ground to see how my skills that I can poured over from the world of commerce could actually help solve a true juicy problem. And then after that point, anything I did had to have the bifurcated goals of both being commercially successful and being really good and shifting the world forward.

Kara Goldin 12:47
Between running multiple businesses, including recording the Kara Goldin show, I know how hard it can be to keep it all together. And when it comes to administrative tasks like running payroll, you want to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. Luckily, this episode sponsor gusto helps you handle payroll, and just a few clicks. In fact, three out of four customers say it takes 10 minutes or less to run payroll with gusto. time saved to record another interview, or start another business gussto helps with the harder stuff to like filing taxes, compliance, international contractor payments, and more. They also offer a wide range of health and financial benefits so that you can have all of the info you need to make the right decisions for you and your team. In today’s busy world, making your life easier is the name of the game with gusto. Everything you need to pay, manage, hire and support your great team is in one place. And just for our listeners gastos offering three free months at gusto.com/kara. That’s gusto.com/kara. Going back to spice well, so what’s been the most surprising thing you’re just getting going, by the way we’re not in stores, not in retail stores yet. You can go on to the website spice well and order it. But what do you think has been the most surprising thing because this is really, you’ve seen you’ve invested in a lot of startup companies, you’ve worked for amazing advertising companies, but also seen the way that companies like Nike do things I mean, definitely. You’ve had an incredible experience. But what do you think is the main thing that you’ve seen? That’s really surprised you?

Raina Kumra 14:41
I think there’s there’s two things so we’re only two months in markets. We’re literally in newborn infants of a of a company. And so the learnings are coming very fast and and they’re and they’re great from, you know, from storytelling to you What which platforms are we getting a lot of traction from? I mean, definitely after IDFA, nothing is working on anything meta related. So we’re we’re pulling out of there. That was, that was a quick, quick learning. But I think the most critical learnings for me were before we launched, and even before I started the company, when I was just still messing around with the idea. And it was so clear to me how much I was in my own way. And I reflect on this, because when I read your book, while I was sort of in that phase of like, am I going to do this? Am I not going to do this, and you gave me so much courage, this listening to your story. And I highly recommend this book to anyone who is even thinking about starting a company and feeling any level of fear. Like it was just so good. I felt so not alone, I knew that there were other people who have been on this journey and just had to jump in and try something. So there was two things that were a big insight one, I had to really sit down and talk to myself about what is it like? What are the moments that I am happiest in my career? Is it working for someone else? Or is it starting something and it was all again, about creativity, but more importantly, unbridled creativity and unchecked creativity, which means I had to be in charge. So that was, that was a realization, one of the happiest times in my career have been when I’ve been in charge and realization to was that I thought I was a tech person. And so I had really railroaded myself into you are a tech and media person. Anything else is not a career option for you. And I had like have this conversation that was really holding me back from doing something incredible. And I almost didn’t do it. Because I was just like, that’s not my identity.

Kara Goldin 16:52
Yeah, no, totally. And I think like, that’s the danger that when you start getting experience in one industry, other people view you as being an attack, and then suddenly, you think you can’t do anything else. Yeah, right. Yeah, you’re just, you convince yourself and it’s a bizarre thing. I was there. I mean, I know when I was at AOL, I kept thinking, I need to go look for a job in tech. And then suddenly, I thought, okay, it’s gonna be hard. Maybe it’s harder for people to understand that I can have different interests, and I can go and do something else. But I just need to convince myself and I need to believe it myself that I can go do it. And so I get it. I’ve I’ve been

Raina Kumra 17:37
there. No, you know, it’s, it’s not easy, because the world does really like putting you in a box being like, Oh, you’re that person who, you know, went to business school. And does this one thing, right?

Kara Goldin 17:48
No, totally. And I think that that is, that is definitely the case. And the most interesting people for me, are the ones like you rhina Who, who try different things to write and recognize that you liked pieces of this, you didn’t like pieces of this. So I’m, I’m super excited for you on on this journey. So around 92% of Americans currently have a vitamin deficiency read that, largely due to the food that they’re eating? Why do you believe that spice well can help solve some of these problems for people?

Raina Kumra 18:25
Okay, so we are all walking around with some vitamin deficiency because and this goes into like a whole movement around in activism sort of stance around how we grow our food, the soil in which it is grown, the lobbies that control how the government spends its money and on which crops get grown and which ones don’t. And the sheer fact that USDA FDA have a very long list of grass, which are generally regarded as safe chemicals that are allowed in our food. So even the purest organic broccoli that we eat today, if you ate as healthy as you possibly could, it is not it doesn’t have the same level of magnesium that it used to because it used to get that from the soil. So now we are low on magnesium because we’re not getting it from the fruits and vegetables that we were getting it from before and so Okay, great. So we have this wonderfully billion dollar trillion dollar, pharmaceutical and supplement industry, and they really capitalize it’s just this like horrible cycle of eating poorly Nutrish poorly nutritive food, which then leads to chronic disease, which then takes you into medication and supplements and all we’re doing is this horrible cycle. And so how do you break that cycle is by eating Adding not just supplementing your vitamins, but eating it with your food, which improves your digestion and improves the absorption of these minerals. So the reason why spice well is not in a pill form and never will be, is because we need to eat our vitamins with food. And that is how our body will process them. And also, all of these vitamins are sourced from plants. They’re not from the lab, which, for a lot of people who have explained this to me, like, Oh, I didn’t know that items came

Kara Goldin 20:30
from vegetable well, and it’s not regulated and supplement industry isn’t regulated at all. Yeah, so that’s a whole other, it’s not.

Raina Kumra 20:38
It’s not regulated. So it’s just, it’s better for your body to eat plant based vitamins. And there’s a build up over time, especially around some of the adaptogen. So the other ingredients in spice, well, the turmeric, if you and there’s many studies on this, if you have turmeric every day, for eight weeks straight, you start to really improve all of the anti inflammatory functions and your body. And so you really start to fight that inflammation that comes from eating bad food, packaged goods, all of the things that we might have a mild reaction to, but they build up over time. So it’s helping to mitigate some of what is a bad cycle that we’re all in because of the way we eat. And because of the way our food is regulated in the US. And it’s just my contribution into fighting against big food and big

Kara Goldin 21:33
flower. I love it. So it’s part education, obviously great products that you can throw in on your chicken. I mean, it’s like, it’s, it’s amazing. So it tastes really, really good. So can you share a story about a challenge that you had? Or maybe a failure? You’re too soon? And this and it couldn’t be with spice? Well, because it’s so early, early on where you felt like you were just, I don’t know if I can do this, right. Like you’re, you’re really struggling, you know, to try and figure out is this the right thing for me to do?

Raina Kumra 22:08
Yeah, well, I thought everything was really Cruzi. You know, I’m like doing my product development, I started in my kitchen, then I worked with a food scientist. And we got it all formulated, we got the vitamin levels where we wanted them, we got the costs where we want it, like I got sort of so much stuff done so quickly. So it just felt like it was really smooth and really fast. And then the biggest snag that I hit that I thought I could not overcome was packaging. It’s insane. And I have no idea because I’ve never done a CPG product before. I had never really had to work on this level of operations. And the funny thing I always tell people is like I’m so used to pixels and bits. In my whole career, everything has been like moving pixels around and moving bids and moving money around, electronically. And this is so different because these are atoms and atoms do not obey the way you want them to. And so I was like, I do not know how to solve some of the problems. I don’t have the connections. I don’t know the people. I don’t know the good guys, I don’t know the bad guys. It’s not at all like where, you know, I can walk into a room at a tech conference and be like, Okay, I know exactly what I need to talk to you for what. And so the packaging thing is just like, it’s amazing how bad the packaging industry is, and how much they just push you to the worst possible environmental packaging option because it’s the cheapest everything, you know, from China, because this was during COVID Everything that was coming from overseas, I was like not touching. So I was very fixated on finding packaging suppliers in the US that can also do what I wanted, which was compostable or recyclable packaging, smart. And if you know something I thought was only going to take me two, maybe four weeks took like eight to 12 weeks. So it was just amazing what a snag that was. And I learned a lot. I learned a lot.

Kara Goldin 24:14
And so you do everything in the US on the Yeah,

Raina Kumra 24:19
actually we do everything in Southern California, except for our pouches which are compostable and are manufactured overseas. Yeah, but the rest of it is all packaged in California and paper, you know, 100% paper, or our sachets and our shaker tubes, which I’m really proud of are also paper

Kara Goldin 24:42
paper. That’s great. Well, I think for like that’s the one thing that I’ve heard people it’s been the biggest shift I think Since COVID started was that people are really trying to get their supply chain as local as possible. And you know, definitely at hint, we were always doing that. We, but I think we had the founder of bear beyond a few weeks ago, and she was talking about how her costs for shipping had gone up, like, five or six times. I mean, a pallet from India was five grand. And now it’s 30. I mean, it’s just insane. Like how much costs have gone up. And it’s really it. You know, it’s hard. It’s hard to, especially when you’re a small company, and you’re trying to make sense of everything. It’s just, it’s, it’s real. So I think it’s really smart to get things as local as possible, especially in the beginning, as you’re trying to figure things out and figure out costs a lot better. So well, that’s, I mean, so amazing what you’ve been working on. So when can we see spice? Well, you said you’re focusing on the online business right now primarily, and then probably not stores until 2023? Well, we’re

Raina Kumra 25:58
in we’re in a few small stores that have been like really supportive partners. So farm shop, here in Santa Monica, they’re going to bring it up to Moran too. And then yeah, and I think like 2023 is probably good, I really want to use this gear to learn as much as possible and also grow our communities we you know, people are, we’re just at that point where the First Orders are coming back and reordering. And like, you know, we’re starting to build some fanaticism and I really want to have our people behind us before we go into retail. So right now best thing, like the best way as you know, to support new business is to buy them from direct or from Amazon, in our case to and in write reviews are so critical, right?

Kara Goldin 26:51
You know, and your reviews and your social are great. So it’s, you’re doing an awesome job. Well, thank you so much for coming on. Ryan. I really appreciate it. And where do people find spice? Well, it’s just spice well.com

Raina Kumra 27:06
The spice well.com.com. Okay, you can also find us on Amazon, but you have to search with us with quote marks. So quote, Mark spice well.

Kara Goldin 27:17
Perfect. So And thanks, everybody, for listening. Definitely subscribe to the Kara Goldin channel. So you hear from great founders and CEOs like Rihanna, and please support spice, well go to the spice world.com and purchase some of her incredible spices, you will love them. And like I said, they’re great to put on salads, they’re great to cook with them. They’re just really, really terrific. And definitely give this episode five stars. And giving us ratings definitely helps the algorithms. So I try and share that with everybody. And definitely check out Kara Goldin on all social platforms as well. And definitely pick up a copy of my book or go to audible and grab it if you haven’t. Already. There’s so many challenges and my journey. I love hearing other people’s challenges, as you all know, because I think we all learn from the challenging times. And the more we can hear about those better we become as leaders as founders or CEOs as people. So thank you so much rhina for coming on. And Kara, totally great to be here. Goodbye for now, everybody. And we’ll see you here every Monday, Wednesday, and we’re going to be adding an extra day very, very soon. So thanks again, everyone. 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. 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 book.com 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