Intrapreneurship in the Veggies-As-Snacks Industry Featuring Katrina Borisjuk, Dirt Kitchen Snacks
Want to maintain a healthy lifestyle by snacking on veggies? Here’s how one intrapreneur is helping you do so.
With her love for veggies and passion to provide people with healthy options, Katrina Borisjuk founded Dirt Kitchen Snacks. She shares tips on how they came up with a healthy snacking brand of veggies within a multinational established big brand and how they overcame most of their challenges during the process. So, tune in and learn about intrapreneurship and how you can leverage the advantages you have as a startup in a big company.
In this episode of the Gooder Podcast, host Diana Fryc sits down with Katrina Borisjuk, the Senior Director of SnackFutures and Intrapreneurial Founder and Lead of Dirt Kitchen Snacks, to discuss her intrapreneurial journey in the healthy foods industry. Katrina explains the value of intrapreneurship and lessons she has learned, the process and challenges they faced launching a startup during the pandemic, and her advice to other entrepreneurs.
In this episode we learn:
- Katrina Borisjuk talks about Dirt Kitchen Snacks and why it exists
- Katrina explains the value of intrapreneurship and lessons she has learned
- Katrina talks about Dirt Kitchen Snacks’ path in the right direction
- Challenges Katrina and the team faced launching a brand during the pandemic — and how they overcame them
- How experience in a multinational established big brand impacted Katrina’s startup process
- Katrina’s advice to other entrepreneurs
- What’s next for Dirt Kitchen?
- What’s a fun fact about veggies?
- Other women leaders that Katrina admires
About Katrina Borisjuk
Katrina Borisjuk is the Senior Director of SnackFutures and Intrapreneurial Founder and Lead of Dirt Kitchen Snacks Brands, the first business launched under Mondelēz International’s Innovation and Venture hub. Dirt Kitchen Snacks is on a mission to make real veggies irresistibly snackable and help consumers get more veggies into their lives.
Katrina has been with Mondelēz International and its precursor Kraft Foods for over 15 years. Through several roles in the global growth organization, Katrina has had the privilege to travel the world, gaining consumer insights and international experience through project work across both developed and emerging markets, including Western Europe, Russia, China, and Mexico. Katrina’s current role as an intrapreneur has her growing a startup across both e-commerce and brick and mortar retail from the ground up. Prior to joining the food industry, Katrina worked in investment banking for Bear, Stearns, & Co. and Barnett & Partners LLC in New York.
Guests Social Media Links:
LinkedIn Katrina Borisjuk : https://www.linkedin.com/in/katrina-borisjuk-08b7335/
Website : https://dirtkitchensnacks.com/
- Dirt Kitchen Snacks
- Katrina Borisjuk on LinkedIn
- Sahale Snacks
- Julia Collins on LinkedIn
- Hayley Brown on LinkedIn
- Diana Fryc on LinkedIn
- Retail Voodoo
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo.
Retail Voodoo has been building beloved and dominant brands in the food, wellness, beverage, and fitness CPG industries for over 30 years. They’ve served multinational companies like PepsiCo. and Starbucks, startups like High Key, and everything in between.
Their proven process guides hundreds of mission-driven consumer brands to attract a broad and passionate fan base, crush their categories through growth and innovation, and magnify their social and environmental impact.
So, if you are ready to find a partner that will help your business create a high-impact strategy that gives your brand an advantage, Retail Voodoo is here to help.
Visit retail-voodoo.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Welcome to the Gooder Podcast where we talk with powerhouse women in CPG about their journeys to success. This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo. A brand development firm guiding mission-driven consumer brands to attract new and passionate consumer base crushed their categories through growth and innovation and magnify their social and environmental impact. If your brand is in need of brand positioning, package design or marketing activation, we are here to help. You can find more information at www.retail-voodoo.com.
Diana Fryc 0:43
Well, hi, Diana Fryc here I am the host of the Gooder Podcast where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage and wellness categories about their journeys to success in their insights on the industry. This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo. Retail Voodoo is a brand development firm. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind, Rei, PepsiCo, Heigh Key, and many other market leaders. We provide strategic brand and design services for brands in the food wellness, beverage and fitness industries. So if your goal is to increase market, share, drive growth or disrupt the marketplace with new and innovative ideas, give us a call and let’s talk or visit retail-voodoo.com for more information. Now, today’s guest somebody I’m very, very excited to introduce you to as a founding team member of SnackFutures Mondelez International Innovation and Venture Hub. Katrina Borisjuk is thrilled to have an opportunity to align her work with her personal passions for creating delicious food and helping people to live healthier lives. She is an intrapreneurial co-founder of Dirt Kitchen Snacks, which is on a mission to help people get more veggies into their lives by making real recognizable veggies into delicious snacks. Katrina has been with Mondelez International for nine and a half years. And this precursor Kraft Foods for 6.5 years having served as Director of Global Innovation for the gum and biscuits categories. Director of Global Kid, holds some biscuits brand equity and strategy and various brand management roles in the US including Ritz Crackers, and Plant Nutrition. Prior to joining the food industry, Katrina worked in investment banking for Bear Stearns and Company and Barnett and Partners LLC in New York. Well, welcome Katrina. How are you today?
Katrina Borisjuk 2:47
I am great. How are you?
Diana Fryc 2:49
I am okay, I had a lot of words coming out of my mouth there during your intro, you’ve been up to a lot. I love, yes. You’re on the East Coast. Is that right?
Katrina Borisjuk 3:01
Yes, I am. I’m in Jersey City today.
Diana Fryc 3:03
Jersey City. And you and I met at Expo this year which was a pretty crazy show to return back to in this whole trade show world, did you happen to go to sweets and snacks that was just this last week?
Katrina Borisjuk 3:21
I did not, no, I did not, Bridget went, she’s a fearless leader. Yeah, she went. I went a few years ago, I guess the last time they had it. But we decided to divide and conquer. I was actually doing store visits in California earlier this week. I did not go to sweets and snacks.
Diana Fryc 3:38
Important store visits too, we’ll talk about that a little bit more. Yes, I did sweets and snacks last year when it was in Indianapolis and it was a really quiet show but really active meaning all the booths that are there had lots of great conversations. So I’m really hoping that Bridget had that experience or the team that she took with her had that experience in Chicago this last week.
Katrina Borisjuk 4:07
I hope so too. I have not gotten the download from her yet.
Diana Fryc 4:10
Okay, I’m sure. Yeah, because it’s like just wrapping up. So she’s probably in a coma, I’m sure somewhere, trying to figure out how to get everything back to home base. Okay, well, hey, I love it when brand owners get to tell us about their brand now. You are part of the Mondelez Snack Futures team but your baby right now is Dirt Kitchen. Can you tell us a little bit about Dirt Kitchen and why it exists?
Katrina Borisjuk 4:36
Yeah, absolutely. So Dirt Kitchen, as you mentioned in my bio is we’re on a mission to help people get more veggies into their lives. And that’s actually why we started. We had an insight that everyone’s trying to eat more veggies actually we did a survey and found out that 91% of American adults would agree that they’re trying to get more veggies into their life. The CDC says only 10% of American adults actually do not veggies every day. So there’s a huge veggie problem that American adults have. And we learned that the reason people want to help eat more veggies is because it helps them meet health goals, either short-term or long-term health goals. But it’s hard, right? There’s a lot of barriers to veggies. And in particular, when it comes to snacking, they just don’t offer the taste or excitement factor or convenience that people are looking for in a snack. So they weren’t even really thinking about veggies for snack like carrot sticks and celery sticks are wonderful, but they get a little boring if you have them too many days in a row. So when we learned that insights, that kind of became our Northstar of how do we make the real veggies into delicious snacks. So we came up with actually three at this point three different ways to do that. Our original offering was what we call its air dried veggies and nut mixes. So they are kind of like a savory trail mix a little bit flavor forward. They’re actually inspired by culinary side dishes. This is not the OG, the OG is green beans and almonds with great lemon and sea salt, which is inspired by green bean almondina, which is a side dish that my family cooks at like every holiday. This is zucchini chickpea pistachio, which was sort of inspired by Mediterranean cuisine. And then we have another one that we’re actually working on reformulation right now which is it’s now going to be carrot, zucchini, and cashews with spicy chili lime, also kind of inspired by Thai salads. So that’s the veggies and nuts. And that’s the product line that we originally developed and did sort of the validation on the brand. And validated sort of created the brand against that product bundle and sort of validated the whole bundle. And then we brought in air dried veggie crisps, which are simply season real veggies. So these are zucchini, whites doing weird things. Because zucchini with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, and a little bit of black pepper. So just simply season like you might cook veggies in your kitchen on a daily basis. And then our third creation, which is new and we just finished a test and learn and we’re in the process of making some little tweaks now is what we call pressed bars. So these are veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds pressed together. We have a proprietary technology that allows us to hold everything together without the use of a binder. So no binders, no added sugar. So a bit more what we call sweevory. So they’re not sweet, they’re not savory. They’re a little bit in between sweevory’s the entire brand. I love that word. I did not invent that word by the way. Well, fabulous woman in Mondelez r&d said that word to me years ago and I was like I’m taking that word with me because I like it. Everything is no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, no added sugar, gluten-free vegan, non-GMO, or just trying to make real veggies into like clean delicious snacks as best as possible. And what we found is that consumers are particularly more health-oriented consumers just really want to snack on real food, they don’t want the processed stuff, they don’t want the added sugars. And so, creating a snack out of real veggies that can satisfy your crunch craving in the afternoon or that can go on a hike with you, getting over those convenience barriers of fresh veggies that you don’t have to prep that really delights you not only as a nutritious food for your snack, but also delights you and satisfies those emotional needs that we have when we snack like satisfying cravings or lifting up our mood. Giving us a little bit of a break. So that is Dirt Kitchen Snacks. I’m super proud of it.
Diana Fryc 8:49
Well. So now, of course none of y’all would know this. But this is Katrina’s and I take two of this recording because the first take one disappeared, we won’t go into how it disappeared. But when we spoke last time, the bars were just about ready. So now I get to see them in the real but the bars I think are going someplace special.
Katrina Borisjuk 9:15
Everything is yeah, so a whole line is actually in sprout stores nationally for the next couple of months. So we have a phenomenal opportunity. We’re part of the innovation tables as they call them. So there’s like most sprout stores they have like a big kind of multi-tiered table, either by the interests of the store or by produce in the middle of the store. They’ve got signage on it like new for you. So we have the opportunity to be part of that for a couple months and then if we do well hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to move to the shelf more permanently. So all three the crisps the veggies and nuts and the bars are actually on those displays altogether.
Diana Fryc 9:59
Okay, well, I think what I love about that is like the consumers get to kind of vote with their dollars, but they get to vote with their dollars, by way of like, there’s a little special place. I don’t know what other retailers might be doing something like that, where they’re bringing in new product, and it’s in a centralized location, I kind of like that. That’s really cool.
Katrina Borisjuk 10:24
It’s cool. It’s really cool. And actually, walking into stores earlier this week, it’s the other fun thing about it is like, Oh, I met that brand at Expo. That’s pretty cool. They’re on it too. It’s fun.
Diana Fryc 10:35
I know. So my husband thinks I’m nuts, right. But anybody that works in CPG, all y’all that listen that work in CPG, whether your retailer, distributor, or manufacturer, probably do the same thing. If you are responsible for the groceries, you probably take two to three times longer to grocery shop and probably walk out with 500 extra dollars of stuff, just because you’re curious as to what 500 is, of course, an exaggeration, but you’re usually walking out with a couple of items that you’ve got to try just because you want to know what it’s all about. So I love going to a show about three or four months after Expo and going yep, yep, yep, yep, just down the like met them. Oh, saw that, oh, that made it onto a shelf, just all of that kind of stuff is fun to do.
Katrina Borisjuk 11:26
Yeah, it is fun. And I have the same problem, my partner will not go to the grocery store with me. Either he’s like, we’re in a hurry, I’m going to sing in the car, or you go because you’re going to take an hour.
Diana Fryc 11:39
I know Instacart, I’ve used Instacart for almost the entirety of the pandemic, and our grocery bill. I’m no joke, even with the markups of Instacart our grocery bill has reduced by probably 25%. Because I buy only what’s on the list. I buy almost nothing extra, it’s so funny. So now I’ve started go back into the grocery store. And my husband’s like, oh, here we go. Here we go. I’m going to have to take out that second mortgage again. All right. Okay, so we’ve got this founders, do you have a little bit more of a founder story? Like when you talk about the brand from a consumer-facing perspective, what’s the language that you use, to share with consumers about what this brand is all about?
Katrina Borisjuk 12:33
It’s funny, because we don’t really have a founder story. I mean, we kind of do, but it’s an intrapreneur-founded thing. When people talk about their founder story, they’re expecting startups, food strapping, and we didn’t want to, we’re not trying to pretend to be something that we’re not exactly. So what we say at least on the website, in terms of a founder, we’re in place of a founder story, like, we’re a bunch of veggie lovers with a big imagination, which is true. We had high hopes for veggies and we are a bunch of veggie lovers. And internally, it was a little bit of a SWAT team that started DirtKitchen was a side gig, I was working on a big global innovation job at the time. And we’re like, let’s see if we can create a brand and validated on e-commerce, like, see if it works. Maybe it won’t work. But let’s try. And we did. And we got down the path. And then that actually started that and Snack Futures ball was already rolling in parallel. Like, let’s create this innovation hub. And this is what we want it to look like. And then when that was moving in the right direction, and DirtKitchen was moving in the right direction. We’re like, Alright, we’re gonna pull DirtKitchen and just knock features. This makes completely complete sense.
Diana Fryc 13:49
Let’s talk about, we use the word intrapreneurial. Mondelez and there’s a couple of other multinationals, I would suspect just about everybody now has kind of an innovation team internally, that is trying to duplicate or not duplicate, mimic how the small entrepreneurial brands develop out in the real world when they’re in a garage or in a basement, kind of capture some of that passion, that some of that test and learning the trials, gut instinct approach that when you’re trying to enter, become the next Oreo, you don’t have the luxury of doing because you have a lot of boxes to check. But when you’re smaller, you can do things differently. So let’s talk a little bit about that exercise and how you and your team are moving forward with it at least right now.
Katrina Borisjuk 14:48
Yeah, I think what’s key to what you said and I think what we were trying to mimic that the startups do so well is two things, is just closeness to the consumer. Like really understanding the consumer, the consumer problem that you’re solving, the consumer opportunity that you’re going after, the human aspect of it, right, like talking to real humans going to a farmers market with your product and getting feedback that way, instead of in the back room of a focus group facility. That was the sort of closeness to the consumer that we were trying to emulate. And then the agility and the ability to move quickly in reaction to that feedback to make the changes. So those were, I think, the two things for us that were most important. And so because of that, we had to set ourselves up a little bit differently. So SnackFutures is not part of a business unit or part of the global growth organization, we’re kind of like, over here, we’ve got our own set of resources, we leverage a lot of external resources to allow us to move quickly so that we don’t have to go through. In a normal innovation cycle from idea to commercialization could be years depending on how big of an investment you need to make, and go through all those very important processes that keep big companies from making really big mistakes, right, like those are there for a reason. But for us, we couldn’t take that long, because we’re also trying to create the future of snacking, right? If you wait three years, from when you have an idea to when you start selling it, then you’ve missed the trend, right. So we really do operate very differently, and leverage a lot of external resources, commands and co-packers, and even external Rob to market right now, just to allow us to move quickly. And we came to market with what we call, other people call it a minimally viable proposition, we call it minimally lovable proposition, because it’s food and you need to love it, right? People need to love your food. So we came with minimally level proposition, there were decisions that we made, in order to move quickly and get the consumer feedback that we wanted, that I would have never made, if I were working on one of the big brands of Mondelez Proper. So I think it’s the best of both worlds a little bit, because I get the experience of growing in the learning. I mean, I’m learning literally every day I tell people, this is the most fun and the hardest job I’ve ever had. Because we knew we needed to operate smaller, like we were used to being up here at this big company, we knew we needed to go smaller, but we actually needed to go like way smaller. So we there even things we did wrong. In the beginning, were like, oh, we didn’t go small enough. And we’re constantly adjusting. So I get to really do the startup thing. Yet, at this point, we’re fully funded by Mondelez International, so I don’t have to worry about like fundraising and things like that, that founders need to do as they grow their business. There may come a time where we need to do that. But at this point, we’ve been able to fund everything internally. So it’s a really interesting, unique opportunity. And I’m so grateful for it.
Diana Fryc 18:11
Have you had any moments through the process now, so far, where you’re like, this learning that I’m having here in this moment in this kind of, I mean, you don’t have the true experience to be like, literally strapped and trying to figure out, do I want to spend $12 on a box or $11 on a box? You’re not fretting over that. But the other elements, are you walking out of there going, oh, my gosh, why aren’t we doing this over here when we’re working on these big giant global brands? Like some of the thinking or processes. Is there any learning that you’re like, this needs to cross come on?
Katrina Borisjuk 18:51
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And we’ve actually, we’ve done many, either, like work sessions with kind of base brands or based innovation teams, they’ll pull us in to be like, challenge our thinking, teach us about transactional learning. What have you learned? How can we apply it? We’re constantly consulting to other particularly innovation teams within the mothership, as we call it. But, sir, yeah, a lot. And that’s been fun, too. I mean, I, I say a lot like my brain has been completely rewired by this experience. I just think that way now, like, how do I do this? How do I get this learning quickly? How do I do it? What can we shortcut blah, blah, blah? And it’s, I almost forget that not everybody has that, like, muscle memory to be able to do that.
Diana Fryc 19:39
It’s the truth. Yeah.
Katrina Borisjuk 19:41
So yeah, it’s actually really fun to be able to share that knowledge with the broader organization.
Diana Fryc 19:45
Yeah. Oh, that’s great. I love hearing that. So now, going back to Dirt Kitchen, specifically, as you’ve been working on this brand, is there a moment where you’re like, we’re headed in the right direction? And do you remember what that was?
Katrina Borisjuk 20:00
There have been a lot of them. Honestly, I think the way we set it up, this is where I get into, like marketing nerd speak a little bit. We’re very much like a little bit scientific method that we applied. So for each learning stage as we were creating the brand and validating the brand, and then adding platforms, and tweaking, positioning and stuff like that we always came with hypotheses. And like, what are the KPIs that we’re going to read to validate or invalidate that hypothesis? So we work with learning partners to help us do that. Particularly with the creation of Dirt Kitchen, we worked with sparks charter studio, Deborah Crowley, who was sort of the mastermind behind this way of transactional learning for us. But Deb, and I would just riff together and be like, okay, what are hypotheses? What experiments do we need to design in order to validate or invalidate those hypotheses? And she would lay out the learning plan, and we would do them one by one. And sometimes we’d be like, Alright, great hypothesis validated. Let’s move on to the next one. Other times, it’d be like, oh, we were wrong, but not actually, I shouldn’t even say we were wrong. Our hypothesis was not correct. Here’s the new hypothesis, or this isn’t working. And here’s the hypothesis for why so now, what can we go? What experiment can we do to validate or invalidate that hypothesis? So it sort of becomes this iterative process. So there have been many to answer your question where we’ve said, yeah, okay, we’re on to something the initial positioning. We did some work like workshops with consumers to kind of nail the positioning, but then we had sort of three different ways in creatively that we wanted to try. So we put a bunch of different ads into Facebook and Instagram and read the data and said, okay, this one’s working best. Now, let’s keep this constant and make this other variable. And let’s do it again. And okay, this one’s working best. And yes, our click-through rates are actually stronger than our KPI. So that’s like our top two bucks purchase intent of a bases, we’ve got purchase intent. Okay, great. Now, do we have purchase? Go on to the next bunch of experiments? So it was, there were somewhere we were like, get we’re on something, let’s keep moving. And then there were some we were like, oh, Houston, we have a problem. Something’s not working. And really early on, we had one of those actually. We started our validation and Amazon. We wanted to do DTC through our website, but we couldn’t like get the back end quickly enough. And we were working with a partner who had a seller central account on Amazon. So we’re like, okay, we’ll do it on Amazon instead. Because you can do it where you have your click through, you send them to a website, they place the order, and then you say, sorry, we’re out of stock, we’ll email you when we’re in stock. But we didn’t want to do that. Right? Because we had products. So we’re like, we want to actually be able to send them product and get feedback on that, too. So we are in Amazon, we had great click-through rates, and then our conversion rates or like, percent that we’re buying out of the clicks was way too low, way too low. We’re like, oh, no. So we could have given up at that point and said, all right, something’s broken, it’s not working. Instead, we said, okay, what are the hypotheses why this is not working? Hypothesis A is too expensive, we had a 12-pack of single flavors at the time. For like, 25.99. Like 25.99 is a lot to ask someone to buy for 12 packs of something that they hypothesis B, don’t think they’re gonna like, because they have a healthy dose of veggie snacks skepticism, because a lot of veggie snacks out there haven’t tasted as good in the past. So those were the two things it was like price and veggie skepticism, as we call it. And so said, how can we get over those barriers? So we quickly created and I think my packaging team to this day would say that they have PTSD from this because I was like, okay, we need a variety pack. And they’re like you said, we were going to do a variety pack. I’m like, yeah, I know, I changed my mind. They’re like, but the packs are different sizes. I’m like, I don’t care, we can still get the feedback like, again, something we would have never gotten in the mothership.
Diana Fryc 23:54
Katrina Borisjuk 23:55
Quickly put together a six-pack with three different flavors, so to each of three flavors for 14.99. And then all of a sudden our conversion rate skyrocketed. And we started to generate what we wanted to and hit our KPIs. So like, okay, that was the right hypothesis. It was too expensive, and people didn’t think it was going to taste good. And now we’ve made it cheaper and we give them the choice of three flavors. So that’s become a big part of our strategy going forward is like, especially in DTC get that trial pack at a price where people can stomach it. And then our repeat rates, thankfully are strong enough that they come back and buy what they like.
Diana Fryc 24:33
Yeah, and we’ve run into that with a few of the brands that we’ve worked within the past. Sahale is the one that I remember most specifically, living in tensions as well, where the price per unit on some of these brands is pretty high. And if you are trying something for the first time, you may not want to drop 12 bucks on it. If I don’t like it, I’ll feel like it’s wasteful. et cetera, et cetera, and put them in those little, I think what is a one and a half-ounce sleeves, put it up by the register, easy, quick grab for under 20 bucks. All of those things that people go, if I don’t like it for two bucks, that’s okay. If I like it, then I’ll buy the bigger one. I think people forget, I think all brands forget that because we get really hunkered down on numbers, and I need the margin and the blah, blah, blah. And we’re like, if people don’t want to try your product at that $12 or $17, or even $9, it doesn’t matter what your margin is, you’re it’s negative at that point. So we got to get the food in people’s faces. So take a little bit of less margin, put it make it more convenient, easy for people to like it and go okay, and then move them up to the next size. So that’s really awesome that you guys were able to move that quickly. I think that is an opportunity that not a lot of brands take advantage of because they have that mentality. Like you’re crazy. It’ll take too long. We’re not going to make as much money. I mean, you throw in all of the things, but as an entrepreneurial brand, you’re like, I don’t care. Let’s do it.
Katrina Borisjuk 26:13
Yeah, well, same. I mean, it was an even on principle people like okay, yeah, we get it. But then somebody on the team was like, but we have all this product already packed into 12 packs. I’m like, Yeah, but if we don’t sell it, we’re going to have to throw it away. So let’s get some people in and hand pack it in six days, and see what happens. And they’re like, oh, yeah, good point. Okay. So yeah, money to pack it into six-packs on, it’s going to cost less than throwing all this product away.
Diana Fryc 26:35
Yeah. So I think that’s great. And all of this is now, of course, happening, you guys are getting some traction, things are happening and COVID kind of comes in and starts blowing the party, how did your team take advantage of that opportunity? Is this when the whole trial packages and e-comm scenario came into play? Or something else come in?
Katrina Borisjuk 27:03
Yeah, so the original learning and Amazon that I just talked about was before COVID. We had started our brick-and-mortar test and learn right before COVID. So that was when we brought these guys in. So we brought in the crisps, we have the veggies and nuts. They were sort of originally not. They were like cousins, and we wanted to make them siblings. So we went into a brick and mortar tests and learned to put both of them on the shelf together and say, okay, is our product shelf-ready? Like we validated an E-commerce. But is it going to jump off the shelf in a competitive retail environment? And can these two things live together as a brand? So we went into about 20 store tests and learn in Los Angeles, and about four weeks in COVID, shut everything down. So we had like four weeks of good data, and then nobody was going to stores. So we’re like, okay, like, did we learn what we needed to learn? Not quite yet. So we actually pivoted back to DTC. And at that point, we had fixed the back-end issues that prohibited us from doing DTC in the first place. So we’re like, Okay, we’re going to go to you to see now had a team put up a website, well, we had a website but converted to an E-commerce site, within a couple of weeks, get the experiments laid out, and we pivoted big time. And we were able to get through the rest of our learning, do our price testing and our some positioning testing that we wanted to do, or learning I should call it. And we got through that. So that was like, I think we turned on the site and call it early May of 2020. We did 10 more weeks of learning. And we said, okay, we’re ready, we’re ready to try to scale now made some more tweaks to product and packaging and stuff like that. So our kind of official launch quote unquote of incubation mode, as we call it was October of 2020, which, still the middle of the pandemic, still not really easy to grow a food brand with no sampling. And now that the world is more open, we are starting to finally get the momentum that we want to see him. So that’s been a long road since those early shutdown days. But yeah, it’s fun.
Diana Fryc 29:21
Yeah. What do you have a milestone? Is there a moment? Or is there some event that you’re like, I can’t believe that that happened and I’m just so proud of our team being able to get through that or to accomplish that?
Katrina Borisjuk 29:36
This whole journey, honestly, I feel that way, like the extent to which our team and our team is all people that came from the big company. We architected Snack Futures, to look the way we want it to look and operate the way we want it to operate. We wrote our own culture. We said this is how we want to be and we’ve lived it day in and day out for the last couple of years. yours and we’re all learning as we go. None of us really know what we’re doing. And startup world like none of us came from none of us have ever worked in startups. So I feel that way every day about this team, like, every time we do something, I’m like, This is amazing that we’re a bunch of big company people figuring out how to do the startup thing. Then again, like, by no means, has everything been perfect. There have been plenty of things that we’ve done where we’ve been like, oh, we did not do that. Okay, now we do it again and do it right. And that’s fine. Like, it’s part of the game. Yeah, I mean, Expo was a recent example like we made the call. So yes, we’re going to do Expo, we’re ready. We feel like the brand is at the phase where it can benefit from that time and effort and blood and sweat and tears and expense and everything like that goes into Expo. And we pulled it off. I was so happy with how the booth turned out. I was so happy with the traction that we got, yes, feedback that we got.
Diana Fryc 31:04
And you guys were in like the mosh pit of the show. Like for real.
Katrina Borisjuk 31:10
It was crazy. I mean, it was that. What was it? Wednesday afternoon, right? Yeah we were along the right-hand perimeter. So everybody acted just like you act like in a grocery store, you walk in, you walk to the perimeter, and you’d be up. And that was where we were like, literally, there was a mosh pit outside waiting to get in on Wednesday, or whenever it opened. And people just, we were.
Diana Fryc 31:32
Body surfing, even.
Katrina Borisjuk 31:34
Like nonstop people for the first few hours. We ran out of product after like an hour and a half. And it took us a couple hours to get more to booth because we thought we knew how to get more product to the booth. And then we didn’t know how to get more product in the booth and like, we learned a lot. We’ll do better next time. But yeah, that was one that was like, we had people helping us and we had guidance. But still there are things you can’t learn until you’ve done that show.
Diana Fryc 32:06
Yeah, is the truth. And sometimes you have to do that show a few times before you really kind of get the rhythm of it because it’s just huge.
Katrina Borisjuk 32:16
It’s huge. It was exhausting. I was I had like a month-long introvert hangover after that show, it took me a month seriously to be like, okay, I can talk about Expo.
Diana Fryc 32:27
Oh my gosh, I am an extrovert. Like I am not on the furthest, like on a scale of one to 10 I’m a 9.7. And I was living my best life at EXPO I got to tell you like and when COVID happened, my husband who’s an introvert was like the world has finally changed me. And I was just in tears for months because I need people so for me it was like I got like two years fix all at once. It was awesome. But I can imagine for an introvert that would be just like, help me, help me. I need a spa week.
Katrina Borisjuk 33:09
Yeah, it was overwhelming. It was like day three, and must have been morning of day three. I think it wasn’t even the end of day three. Some random person who came by the booth looked at me like well, you look really tired. Oh, no, that’s because like I have way more energy than most people like if a stranger thinks I look tired relative to like a normal person scale. I must look exhausted. Like that is not good.
Diana Fryc 33:33
Let’s test the EQ on that person.
Katrina Borisjuk 33:36
Yeah, no, it was fine. I actually appreciated it because I was delirious at that point. Yeah, it was fun.
Diana Fryc 33:44
Well, I wonder for you how 15 years of work experience is helping you 15 years of multinational established big brand work is helping you or maybe hindering you or hindered you during this process. Did you feel like you were walking in with your hands tied behind your back or did you feel like you had like and can you explain that experience so there’s a lot of people who are like I work for Kellogg’s and I’m working on this special K brand and I want to go work for a startup being like you don’t know what you don’t know coming into entrepreneurial world. How did that go for you? Was it a little bit of a whiplash? Or how would you describe that? Or was it a little bit more of an easing because you guys kind of got to get the bumpers and you still have them on the mothership kind of guiding you a little bit?
Katrina Borisjuk 34:44
I would say it’s kind of in-between like it was like a slow kind of rewiring is the best way that I could describe it like we went in very humble, I think. We said we don’t completely know how to do this, we’re going to lean on partners who can help educate us and learn together. I think there are things that went very smoothly and continue to go I mean, 15 years of classical marketing training have a quick to me quite well to be everything from the CMO to the most junior marketer, I’m their kitchen snack, to everything right now.
Diana Fryc 35:35
Katrina Borisjuk 35:36
I’m creating our positioning in our in our strategy and our books, like the high up strategic stuff all the way down to approving every single piece of copy, or everything that goes out the door right now, hopefully going to have some help soon. But being having all that marketing, 15 years of marketing bulls on the innovation and the bass brand side of things, because I’m now doing well, I was doing more innovation as we were creating Dirt Kitchen. Now, it’s obviously more kind of what would be the equivalent of running a base brand. But all those fundamentals are there. And that’s a skill set that I have that I’m grateful to have, and to be able to sort of flex between strategic and execution. So that’s all very easy. And then there are harder things like on the sales side of things, I mean, SnackFutures was set up to be an innovation hub. We didn’t bring in sales in the beginning. We didn’t have a salesperson. We still don’t have we don’t have a sales headcount internally. So we’ve had to bring in external folks to be sales for us.
Diana Fryc 36:36
That is very much like a startup brand.
Katrina Borisjuk 36:38
Yeah. That was a big learning that I had early. I was meeting with one of the startups from our co-lab program last summer. And he’s like, first of all, you’re a first-time founder, you don’t know what you’re doing. I was like, that is very true. I’m a second-time founder. And I learned a whole lot the first time that you can only learn by doing this. I’m like, yes, I agree. And then secondly, he’s like, you guys need sales. Like you need salespeople. We’re like, oh, yes, we need salespeople. And then people that know the market that know the retail landscape, and yes, we bring in brokers, but you still need an internal sales expertise to help you manage that. So that was like a big thing that we learned, like, oh, yeah, we don’t know what we’re doing on the sales side of things, even creating our initial financial forecast again, we knew to go small, but we didn’t go small enough. Like, oh, yeah, we’ll get into 1000 store, we’ll get to 250 stores, and then 1000 stores, and then I was read something pretty early on in that journey. I was like, oh, God, that’s not what we should be doing. We need to scale more slowly. We need to grow velocity and distribution at the same time.
Diana Fryc 37:43
Velocity before distribution.
Katrina Borisjuk 37:46
Yes. And what I love so much about SnackFutures and about our team and about Bridgette as a leader of our team, is that A, I was comfortable to raise my hand and be like, we need to stop what we’re doing. We’re doing this wrong, like, stop, we need to quit it. And she was receptive to yes. Okay, that makes sense. I’m like, read this book. I read this book, read this book. And we both read it over the course of a weekend. And we talked about and we’re like, oh, yeah, we’re doing this wrong. So it’s been, again, like, I think we approached it in a very humble way. But knowing we had a lot to learn, embracing that learning, embracing the pivots when we needed to. And, yeah, it’s been silver I mean, that there’ll be something I learned tomorrow that I’m like, oh, I’ve been doing that wrong, too. It’s like, I have to be able to kind of stomach that stuff, I think to make a pivot, like going from like, big food to going to this startup world.
Diana Fryc 38:39
Yeah. I’m going to take a break. here real quick. We’re up on the hour. I’m thinking we have maybe seven more minutes. Are you good?
Katrina Borisjuk 38:49
Hang on, let me just make sure. I’m pretty sure I blocked right after this so that I wouldn’t be late for something. Can I look on calendar? Yeah, I’m good.
Diana Fryc 38:58
Okay, good. Okay. So then this leads me to my next question, right? What advice would you give somebody because you said something. First, I’m going to start with this. You said something about you came into this humbly. And I want to just kind of emphasize this, we’ve worked with a number of founder-owner brands that will say, hey, we’ve just brought in this safety person innovation person, this marketer or the COO, that comes from insert multinational, they are going to solve all our problems. And these people come in a little bit with a little white knight cape on and ends up being a little bit, not what anybody expects, because they’re completely two different cultures. So I want to say, brilliant that you guys knew to do that. But when you are talking to other people that might want to enter into a venture similar to yours or even just kind of little literally moving into an entrepreneurial brand. What advice are you giving these folks?
Katrina Borisjuk 40:08
Just have a learning mindset, I think is the most important thing like, you don’t know what you don’t know. And just always be embracing the learning and the opportunity. And that’s where I think leveraging the network can help a lot. And this is something I need to remind myself constantly. I love going to places like expo, meeting other founders, actually entrepreneurial founders versus intrapreneurial founders, like people that are walking the walk, doing what we’re doing, building those relationships, and being able to bounce ideas off of people and just brainstorm together. I think every startup and we see this right now with our co-lab, cohort, 10 phenomenal startups that are in a co-lab program right now, all mission-oriented brands are so cool. We had our midpoint workshop a couple of weeks ago, and it was in person. And it was not a super-packed agenda intentionally to leave time for people to like bond and just chat. And I met with my buddy yesterday, and she’s like, we ended up mostly talking about our businesses, versus like other stuff, social, whatever. But it’s so cool, because we’re all kind of going through the same growing pains. So we’re able to actually bounce ideas off each other. And that’s what that’s for. Right? So even for me being an intrapreneur remembering sometimes that I have that network of actual startups that I’ve been building, and being able to ask people for advice, or bounce things off of people and stuff like that. Or ask them, when you were facing this challenge, how did you attack it, stuff like that, I think is really important. Just again, like, be humble. Have a learning mindset. Be open, be open to pivoting constantly. Don’t take it personally, when something don’t go the way you think it should. It showed is based on big company, we’re all in that little company world. And be ready to work harder than you’ve probably ever worked in your entire life. I worked pretty hard in my life. So just like a different kind of hard work. It’s fun, but it’s really hard.
Diana Fryc 40:16
Yes, I can absolutely imagine. Wow. Okay, so what’s next for Dirt Kitchen?
Katrina Borisjuk 41:29
Hopefully continuing to grow and grow and grow and grow. I mean, we want the sprouts program to go well, obviously, if any of you listening to this podcast, live near sprouts, please go check out Dirt Kitchen Snacks on the innovation displays, love your feedback too, hopefully that goes well. And we get to land on the shelf that will be an absolute step change. In terms of the scale of our business, that’ll open up a lot of opportunities. And we brought, we just started working with green-spoon as a broker. And so that’s opening up a lot of opportunity as well. And they’re phenomenal. So much fun. Again, really hard. Like they’re like I need a deck for this presentation. I need samples. Awesome, because this is what we want, right? I want to get the brand in front of the right people. So our goal is to be $100 million veggie snacking brand. We know that’s going to take way longer than $100 million bread would take in the mothership, because that’s how the startup life is. But that’s our goal.
Diana Fryc 43:32
You can be surprised, you probably do that. I mean, it’s certainly you could not do that with like, a mothership brand when but three to four years is really incredibly fast, but completely doable.
Katrina Borisjuk 43:48
I hope so. I mean, that feels really fast. It’s funny. You’re like how long did it take you to get to this point? They’re like 15 years, we’re like, okay, a long road ahead of us.
Diana Fryc 43:58
No, we’ve built a few brands that have gone from two to over 100 million in four years. So it’s possible you can do it. You can do it. I know you can do it. It’s very possible. Oh my goodness. Well, Katrina. I have really enjoyed this second conversation and take two, our time is almost up. There’s a couple of questions. I’d like to ask everybody before I wrap up. So the first one is kind of like happy hour tip. I don’t know, feedback, insight. Anything about the product that you’re working in or even about Mondelez that there’s 1 million Oreos eaten every single day or something like that. Do you have anything you want to share with the audience?
Katrina Borisjuk 44:46
A fun fact. You caught me off guard on that one. A fun fact that I would share is that, I already use my 91% of Americans want to eat more veggies, that’s the one I usually use. Okay. Yeah. 91% of American adults are trying to get more veggies into their life. They want to eat more veggies, but only 10% actually do eat enough veggies according to the CDC. But we all got to eat our veggies. My veggies you dig shirt. I know a lot of this is audio. But we love veggies in Dirt Kitchen. We love veggie puns. So yeah. All about the veggies.
Diana Fryc 45:35
All about the veggies. Okay. Are there any women, other women leaders out there rising stars that you would like to elevate for the work that they’re doing right now? And if so, who are they? And why?
Katrina Borisjuk 45:48
Yeah, I’m actually gonna give a shout out to my co-lab buddies. So I’m working with buddying with Moonshot. And the founder Julia Collins, who actually has not one but two startups that she’s running. So Moonshot, and then Planet Forward and they are all about carbon-neutral, environmentally sustainable snacking. So I don’t know how she does two startups, and I can barely do one, right. And then Haley Brown who’s the marketer for Moonshot who’s kind of my day-to-day contact with him budding with, so that is who I will give a shout out to because they’re amazing. They’re doing amazing sustainability work with their awesome little brands.
Diana Fryc 46:25
Excellent. I’ll have to check them out a little bit more. I love that. Okay, well, we’ve been talking with Katrina Borisjuk, Senior Director of SnackFutures and Dirt Kitchen Snacks, brand lead. Katrina, if people want to learn more about you, or Mondelez, or Dirt Kitchen, where do they go?
Katrina Borisjuk 46:26
Lots of places. So me, I guess LinkedIn is probably your best bet. Finally updated my LinkedIn profile during COVID. Yeah. Dirt Kitchen Snacks. Our website is dirtkitchensnacks.com. Or you can follow us on social media, please do. We’re on Instagram and Facebook and Mondelez. Obviously Google, the big corporate site Mondelez SnackFutures. We also have a Snack Futures webpage. If you want to learn more about what we’re doing a SnackFutures or co-lab program, that is on the SnackFutures website.
Diana Fryc 47:22
All right, and reminders us what regions is Dirt Kitchen in right now.
Katrina Borisjuk 47:28
So we have a lot of distribution in Southern California, many retailers Erawan lessons, Bristol Farms. Gelson somewhere else stores more to come. And then we’re in sprouts nationally. So at Sproat stores. And then we’re working on expanding up the West Coast right now. San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento area, and then up to the Pacific Northwest.
Diana Fryc 47:53
Yeah, that better happens sooner than later, sister. I’m in the Pacific Northwest. We cannot be last on the list, cannot have that.
Katrina Borisjuk 48:01
I’m getting lots of green-spoon emails every day of them presenting to lots of stuff in your hood.
Diana Fryc 48:07
Excellent. Well, thank you again for your time today. I am so happy to have spent this time with you and I love even just in the last month just like an entrepreneurial brand, seeing the progress that you guys are making. And I want to thank all of you listeners for your time today. If you liked this episode, please share it with a friend. Otherwise, have a great rest of your day, and catch you next time on The Gooder Podcast.
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