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The Importance of Having Accelerator Programs for Latino Entrepreneurs Featuring Junea Rocha, Brazi Bites

Co-founder and CMO of Brazi Bites

In this episode of the Gooder Podcast, host Diana Fryc sits down with Junea Rocha, the Co-founder and CMO of Brazi Bites, to discuss how she’s helping entrepreneurs succeed through the Latino Entrepreneur Accelerator Program. Junea talks about the program, the industry gap she’s trying to reduce, how the program will help startup leaders achieve success, and the criteria for joining the program.

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Key Takeaways

    • Junea Rocha talks about Brazi Bites’ new products

    • The Latino Entrepreneur Accelerator Program Junea has developed — and the inspiration behind it

    • How Brazi Bites’ journey is connected to the template of the program

    • Junea explains the gap her program is trying to reduce

    • How the Latino Entrepreneur Accelerator Program is going to help startup leaders achieve success

    • Who can join the Latino Entrepreneur Accelerator Program, and what’s the application process like?

Quotes

Chapters

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Transcript

Intro 0:05

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

Hi, Diana Fryc here I’m 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 and their insights on the industry. This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo, a brand development firm providing strategic brand and design services for brands in the food wellness and beverage industries. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind, Rei, PepsiCo, Highkey and many other market leaders. So if your goal is to crush your competition by driving growth, and disrupting the marketplace with new and innovative ideas, give us a call and let’s talk. You can visit retail-voodoo.com for more information. Well today, I’m going to reintroduce and welcome back Junea Rocha, who is the co-founder and CMO of Brazi Bites. Junea founded Brazi Bites with her husband in 2010. In the hopes that Americans would love the Brazilian cheese bread. You’re gonna have to pronounce it for me again. Pao De Queijo, oh, thank you. Okay, so that American we want Americans to love Brazilian cheese bread Pao De Queijo, which I just butchered. I’m so horrible at that. I’m so sorry. Oh. So after appearing on ABC shark tank in 2015 Brazi Bites grew a passionate cult-like fan base. This one here is part of it. And in the years since has expanded to 1000s of freezer sections nationwide. In her time running Brazi Bites Junea has gained experience in all areas of the business while remaining deeply passionate about sharing their delicious creations with the world. Welcome, Junea. Good to see you again.

Junea Rocha 2:31 

Thank you, Diana. So good to be here.

Diana Fryc 2:33

Yes, just before we started recording. We were both commiserating how our area here of the Northwest has been sweltering in the 90s this summer. So is it 90 today for you or is it overcast like in Seattle?

Junea Rocha 2:49

Forecast said it was gonna be 98, the day started cooler. So we’ll see if we get there. It has been hot.

Diana Fryc 3:00 

Well, I am so glad to have you back on the show. The last time you were on, we discussed all things Brazi Bites and your shark tank adventure and the importance of having a support network which I carry in the back of my mind all the time. How have things go been going since then? What’s happening in your world?

Junea Rocha 3:18

Things continue to grow, things are going well. We survived the two years of pandemic like, so many like all of us. And the last couple of years have been challenging in the food industry. I think that it’s just fair to say nobody was spared of the challenges. And as a business owner, navigating all of that, it’s been a challenging time in between all the things happening in our industry from supply chain, to the great resignation to inflationary challenges. It’s been choppy, it’s been a challenging couple years, but we’re emerging out of that feeling optimistic and excited about the brand. We launch new products. And we’ve got a great team and so we’re feeling positive. We have a lot of great things going on. And you just got to, but I can’t sugarcoat it to the audience and to you. It’s been a choppy couple years. to be a business owner, to be in the food industry. But we’re feeling optimistic as we emerge out of it.

Diana Fryc 4:40

That’s awesome. And what’s new with Brazi Bites? Now, you mentioned some new products. I’ve seen those products, but not in my grocery store, probably because I’m Instacarting it all the time now instead of actually going into the store. Just started going back did my first in-person Costco trip last weekend, and I think Instacart is a cheaper way for me. My impulse buying was bananas. But tell me a little bit about Brazi Bites, you got some new products? And how are those going? What are they? And how are those going?

Junea Rocha 5:15

Yeah, so our core product line that started the brand is the Brazilian cheese bread that you mentioned. We love that product line, we’re always launching new flavors and kind of updating that. And bringing excitement to that product line. In addition to that, we launch totally new lines and platforms, but it always kind of connected and like with the same values of this cheese bread. So a couple of exciting lines that we launched last year that are hitting stores right now. We launched a breakfast sandwich also frozen that is really amazing and delicious. I love it because it’s unique. We try to like solve a bunch of problems that consumers have in the frozen the breakfast category, because you’re always on the go, you’re in a hurry. You need something that is microwavable, but it’s tends to end up being kind of cold spots and being soggy. So anyway, we solve that problem by adding a Crispin sleeve to the sandwich. So it’s sort of toast the sandwich in the microwave. Very point innovative and also gluten-free, natural ingredients like everything we do, so love that item. It ended up launching at Kroger nationwide and Safeway nationwide is sitting a bunch of stores. Love that it just launched like this July that started on in store. So that’s why you might not have seen it yet. In addition to that one of our most exciting product lines right now that we’re all just here in our business is our pizza bite line. You might have seen that because we are talking about that a lot in our social channels. It’s one that we love, because it’s an evolution, we essentially took like our best-selling cheese bread and made it into a pocket and fill it with delicious pizza flavors. And it just hit the mark in a way that created so much excitement for a family. When I remember founding the company a decade plus ago, and having that first bite on the regional cheese bread in that moment of like, this is special. That is just its back again with the pizza bites. And we’re pretty excited about that product line, we feel like there’s a lot of opportunity to disrupt a massive market of a very well-known category. And we bring in, the better for you. Cheesiness, simple, wholesome ingredients, everything that our brand does well, in that product line is also just launching in a big way and getting a ton of traction. So, we’re pumped, we’re pumped about the pizza bites, they’re doing well. And we’re gonna keep building on that.

Diana Fryc 8:08 

That’s so cool. Just of course, superfan from way before from early on. But one of the things that really stuck in my mind from the last time that we were talking together was kind of the way you look at building your business and for you professionally kind of making some comparisons between the US market and the Brazilian marketplace as a business owner and as an employee. Now you have got and this is a really strange segue. But you have got some exciting news that I can’t wait for you to talk about this kind of related to this, you’ve always been really dedicated, providing countless hours to uplifting minority entrepreneurs and helping them succeed just based off of your experiences. So I think it comes as no surprise that you’re launching the Latino Entrepreneur Accelerator Program. Tell us more about this program.

Junea Rocha 9:13

Yeah, very excited about this Diana, it’s a big project for us that is very near and dear to my heart. And so, I’m very grateful that Brazi Bites after 10 years has developed into this strong growing wonderful brand that we have and with more resources and with a great following and distribution and so on. And so, I am very passionate about helping others. In any the journey of growing this business, I’ve been helped along the way we all have all of us that have achieved anything meaningful, we’ve been kind of helped along the way in many ways. And by peers by mentors by what have you and so, that has been a huge, like, important point for me. And so in turn, I am very passionate about helping others succeed. And in our industry, there’s so many lessons and so many mistakes. It is not easy to make a business viable. And there’s so many pitfalls that can take you down. So I launched the Latino Entrepreneur Accelerator Program to organize the give back. And so the way the program works is that, it’s a grants program that is sponsored by Brazi Bites. And so we are inviting Latino business owners and founders to submit, and they will have a chance to win a $10,000 business grants, so no strings attached, no equity, no, like rules of like, you’d have to spend the money here, there, or that are very challenging for entrepreneurs, when there’s a lot of rules and regulations. And most importantly, on top of that, we’re going to be offering 12 weeks of organized mentorship directly from me and my team of experts. So we have an amazing team here, resources in finance, e-commerce, ops, you name it, sales and marketing, all those things, that we are going to be offering that in a very tailored way over the course 12 weeks. So our objective with that is to organize the giving back a piece and hope that we can uplift an upcoming entrepreneur. And we’re very excited about the program.

Diana Fryc 11:42

That’s awesome. What inspired you to launch this, why this and why now?

Junea Rocha 11:50

It goes back to that fact of just like the passion for giving back the position that Brazi Bites is in, we’re able to do that now. And sort of like there’s an important piece of the program as in the criteria of the program, where in order to qualify for the program, you have to have under $1 million in revenue, annual revenue for your business. So that is a very important point. Because in my experience, and in my opinion, until you achieve, or you’re near that a million dollars in revenue annually, it is very hard to get attention, it’s very hard to get investors, it’s very hard to make your business viable. And so I felt like that is a very important criteria that’s going to allow us to help in the most critical time of the journey.

Diana Fryc 12:46

That’s great. And super important. Are you using your own journey as a template for this program in any way?

Junea Rocha 12:53 

Definitely. I mean, the journey of Brazi Bites is like, not 12 years long, it’s had all kinds of like, ups and downs are crazy things like Shark Tank, bootstrapping, private equity investments, you name it, right? It just gets more fun all the time. And when I look back, and I look at, like, what is the most critical time what was the most critical time on my journey? Until we get to that point, and I think a million dollars in revenue annually. It just there’s a lot that comes along with it, it means that your product has had some acceptance by the consumers that the retailer buyers are saying yes to you more often that you’ve been able to get some traction. So until you get to that point. I mean, the amount of rejection that you face is staggering. And that’s what happened to us. That’s our story. Right? It took us five years to get there. It took us a long time. And it was a lot of grind. And it was a journey that ended up paying off and it was an amazing journey, but it was a long one. So I felt like okay, where were the times that you almost give up on your achievements? That is that window. That’s the Brazi Bites story in that criteria kind of place. It’s very connected to that.

Diana Fryc 14:18 

Great, I love that I And what’s wonderful is that because you’ve been there, sometimes you can articulate it and identify it in a different way than somebody who hasn’t gone through that journey and having you lead that is going to be really powerful. So that’s great. I think it’s an amazing opportunity to grow leadership given that we need to better fill our leadership pipeline as a culture. I read that only 4% of large US companies most senior executives are Latinos, compared with a general population of roughly 18.5 18.7%. And knowing that leaders are often grown from an entrepreneurial space or opportunity, I feel like, this is a great opportunity to just help bridge that gap between where we need to be, and what is actually happening right now? Does that kind of sit with you right? Is that kind of what you’re thinking?

Junea Rocha 15:26 

Oh, it totally sits with me. There is a gap for sure. And so, our program is working towards, like trying to bridge that gap and reduce that gap. I think representation is so important. And I see that with the Brazi Bites brand, just like representation for like a story of an immigrant of like a Latino and a female founder, all those components. Representation empowerment is important resources. And when you’re building a business, and you’re building your skills, that’s going to end up leading you to that leadership role to that boardroom seat, you have those moments in your development where you need help, or where you need somebody to show you the way, you’d have to have a little bit of luck, you’d have to have the resources, right. And so the fact that this program gets in the weeds with the entrepreneur and helps them navigate, it’s going to be a great chance of best sort of success and to uplift them into new heights, and give them best chance the company. And I think one of the things that founders do well, that we’re going to be bringing to this program is just being like raw advice, right? Just never telling people, like everybody is proud of run to their company, you know your business, you should know your industry and your sub-segment better than anyone else. But I think when founders are giving advice to founders, business owners giving advice to business owners, you just cut to the chase, you just don’t sugarcoat it. But it’s really up to that founder and entrepreneurs to take that information, redeployed to their business and go to that. But I think representation is hugely important, support is hugely important. And the more Latinos we have in leadership roles, the more diversity we have, the more female founders, I’m really passionate about that piece as well. The more will common and so that gap that you mentioned, from population to the representation is going to start getting smaller.

Diana Fryc 17:46 

That’s great. And is this program limited to CPG?

Junea Rocha 17:51 

It is limited to CPG. Not limited to food company. And we love the food and beverage space. But we expand it to CPG. But it is CPG focus, but maybe if you have an apparel business, if there’s other goods that you might be selling, that is fine. That is fine to apply. That’s what we know, that’s what we do best. And so that’s where we think we can help the most.

Diana Fryc 18:20 

Yes. And kind of going back to what you were talking about earlier. In those early years of business, especially those first, I want to see the first five, usually they say the first 10 are the rockiest. But the first five is what I’ve seen a lot of like, real volatility in the startup and knowing that about 50% of businesses fail in those first five years, what are you hoping this program will help them walk away with? Are you looking to make it less rocky, or just a supportive network, all of the above?

Junea Rocha 19:05 

All of the above? Definitely all the above, but like less rocky. Because what happens is, a support network is essential, I think, to any business that’s going to be successful. I think that’s critical. And that comes in different shapes throughout the journey. I don’t think it’s maybe the same network that is follows you along the whole journey. When you’re like super young starting out, you need a network of people that are kind of going through the same thing you’re going through, and maybe like a few people that are ahead of you that can navigate. And as your brand evolve, your network needs to change sometimes with that so you can have the best supports and I find that to be absolutely essential. I also found that if you’re like super young startup and you’re just getting a recipe to market off the ground, you go to the CEO of like a 50 $100 million brand, maybe $500 million, that person is not going to be able to help you that much. And I find that sometimes people are like, oh my, I have access to the CEO of a giant company. I mean, you’re so far remote. So, you know what I mean?

Diana Fryc 20:18 

Yeah. And I also think and I’ve seen this happen to where somebody will startup, or entrepreneurial, young entrepreneur companies will often have, sometimes VC will come in, and they’ll have years and years of experience, and they’ll have worked with really big organizations. And the entrepreneurs will feel like the VCs are offering advice that is infallible. And oftentimes, we have the same kind of feedback that you’re talking about where it’s like, if that VC is not in the hot seat, or hasn’t been in the hot seat, which is what I think an entrepreneurial leadership is, is you’re in the hot seat all the time. If that person hasn’t been in the hot seat in the last five years, they can give you advice, but you really need to go to somebody else who has been in the trenches, and is doing the work or has been doing the hard work. I’m not saying that that advice is incorrect. I’m just saying that you forget.

Junea Rocha 21:29 

You forget. And so then you go back to your question. I think that your network is absolutely huge. We’re hoping to help a little bit with that in that moment, right now, it’s an exciting moment of the journey. But the sort of making it less rocky, I think it’s going to be a bigger impact that we can make because it’s the mistakes, it’s those decisions, right? You’re running a business, especially a startup, like, in younger years. You’re making hundreds of decisions a day. And sometimes you’re so head down, and then you’ll just go, go, go. And so it’s this opportunity to encourage a founder, leave the head a bit, let’s explore this stuff in a very realistic way. You have going to have limited resources, and so you got to have that type of approach.

Diana Fryc 22:24 

Yeah, agreed. Well, so let’s talk about the application process for those that are interested, or for those that are thinking about a friend or somebody in their community that they think would be interested in this. Where’s the application? How do they do it? Is it 40-page dissertation? Let’s talk a little bit about that a little.

Junea Rocha 22:48 

I mentioned, I’m making this simple, though, like you no strings attached. So we also made the application simple. So let’s talk about the criteria for a minute, because it’s important. So the criteria, I mentioned that it has to be a CPG business, it has to be under a million dollars in revenue. But it also has to be at an active website, the business has to be selling goods out there. If you’re just in the ideation phase, that is not the right program for you. You’re in business, you’re selling goods, you’re in CPG, and you’re under a million dollars. So that’s very simple. The Latino piece is also a criteria. So one of the founders, and or business owners must be a Latino, what qualifies as a Latino? You can visit our site, because there’s a huge list of what a Latino means, because that sort of work. And like, it can be confusing. It’s like, what is a Latino? There’s a list of countries that qualify you as a Latino. So how do you answer so the applications are open during Latin heritage months. The Latin Heritage Month runs mid-September to mid-October. The program application window is between mid-September 15, and the end of October, October 28. And how to apply, you go to brazibites.com. In the menu there, you’re going to see a tab that takes you to the applications, it’s very clear where to go. So bbrazibites.com. They remind you about the criteria on all the things that I’m telling you here. So if somebody’s missing a B, then right now, always go to the site. And then in there, like gives you a sense to an application page and the application page is very simple. It’s going to ask you questions about what your business is, like, why do you want to apply, your vision? What are you going to do with the money? Again, we’re not putting a requirement on that, but we’re curious about that. There’s just indicated to us like what are you thinking about you need money for. And then there’s an option to submit a video or submit pictures, that’s optional. And then you submit. The application process is going to close at the end of October, we will be reviewing, the whole Brazi Bites team will be involved as a panel, selecting the winner, and then the winner of the program begins in q1 of next year. When they get the check, and we get them on schedule? One thing to know, Diana, that’s important because we want to get back so much and we’re like, oh my God, why can’t we do that for like, 10 companies? But we’re still running a business. Time is not infinite. I wish it was, we decided sort of like, if you didn’t make the cut by, you’re in the top three, in addition to the winner, we’re going to give three up-and-comers each voucher to our brand. So we have a really robust social following, huge email list, a community of almost 500,000 very passionate followers. And so we’re going to use our platform to raise awareness for these brands. And so we’re going to tell our fans about them, and the why we love them and why they almost made the cut on the program.

Diana Fryc 26:24

That’s awesome. That’s so great. This is super exciting. And I love the focus and the emphasis, I think it’s really wonderful to see just like we’re adding like I’m seeing other efforts, Naturally Network is doing some amazing stuff with minority-owned businesses. And I think that that representation, I feel like the heavy lifting, or the rowing is really happening right now. And I’m happy to share this with our Gooder community. So thank you for coming on to the show.

Junea Rocha 27:04 

Of course, yeah, I’m happy to be here. And I am happy to see all those other programs coming up. I feel like I’ve been seeing more of them. And it’s great, we need more, more of that representation, more programs, more support. It’s an industry effort.

Diana Fryc 27:22 

Yes, absolutely. Well, we’re wrapping up our time together. It has been so great talking with you, Junea, to those of you just a reminder, we’ve been talking with Junea Rocha, co-founder and CMO of Brazi Bites. Want to thank you for your time again today, Junea. And I’m so happy to hear about this program and I’m going to go down, there’s a Kroger that’s walking distance from my house. So I’m going to make an effort to go down, need to get my hands on those breakfast sandwiches, because schools coming and the kids need some variety and I need some Brazi Bites. We go through the Costco-size bags of the Brazi Bites all the time. So it’s a no-brainer to get the breakfast products for sure.

Junea Rocha 28:09

Thank you so much.

Diana Fryc 28:11 

Yeah, and I want to thank all of you listeners for your time today. Hey, listen, if you liked this specific episode, or if you know somebody that could benefit from this Latino Entrepreneur Access Program, please share it with them. They can learn more about it here, we can get more information also at the Brazi Bites website. Otherwise, I’m going to wish you all a great day and then we’re going to catch you next time on the Gooder Podcast.

Outro 28:45

We hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you haven’t already, be sure to click subscribe and share with your network. Until next time, be well and do gooder.

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For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

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