"Ignoring the naysayers"

- Michael, Sprouted Minds

At Sprouted Minds we manufacture superfood and fruit bars of uncompromising quality with a goal of promoting environmental sustainability, closed looped-production, supporting Free-Trade practices, and promoting living-wages for all employees. We’ve combined our nutritional principles and athletic experience to deliver delicious nutrient dense products to ensure athletic performance and lifelong health to our customers. Just Imagine an energy bar packed with superfoods and sprouted grains, with no added sweeteners, preservatives, or unhealthy oils, and are so fresh they requires refrigeration.

Now that's something to get excited about. But before you get too excited about our products you might be wondering, how does someone even start a successful food business? I'm so glad you asked!

In 2011, as a young twenty-something, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. What I did know was that I was obsessed with Whole Foods Market, reading ingredients and labels, and speaking with local vendors was always a thrilling experience for me. That was until the day I sampled a refrigerated raw food bar at a Southern California Whole Foods Market location. My interest was immediately peaked.   I saw that this was an Oakland based company, like so many other Whole Foods vendors are.

I popped a small sample bar in my mouth and closed my eyes. It was at that moment I realized what I wanted to do with my life - I wanted to be a Whole Foods Market vendor! ... But I knew the first thing I had to do was to move to Northern California so that I could be in the thick of food innovation.

In reality, however, I had no money or family to ask any favors. After months of contemplation I decided that if I wanted to be in the East Bay launching a food startup with no money, no experience, and no contacts I was going to have to do something spectacular. And with this I knew that I was going to have to become a student at UC Berkeley so that I could get notable credibility as well as using Financial Aid and Student Loans to get the first part of my business rolling (warning -- not recommended to the faint of heart!).

And so I did something I never thought I would and I signed up at a junior college with the intention of earning straight A's -- a distant hope for someone who graduated high school with a sub-1.8 GPA. Nonetheless, I had my eyes set on being the UC Berkeley student who landed his product into Whole Foods Market.

Ignoring the naysayers, and holding onto what I believed I was capable of, I was able to accomplish exactly what I set out to do. Long story short, In my last year at UC Berkeley, Harv, the Local Forager at Whole Foods Market NorCal, approved Sprouted Minds to begin sales starting at the Berkeley Whole Foods location.

After the initial excitement of being approved for sales at Whole Foods began to settle I faced the reality of how much money this business idea was going to take to get off the ground. Still being in college my credit history was weak. And with zero sales to support my requests every bank turned me down for funding. Needless to say supporting my brand with marketing, in-store demos, free product, and simply my time as the sole employee of my company (unpaid, mind you) has a very short fuse. I started to freak out and really had few ideas left on how to keep going.

This was until I found out about Kiva.

My relationship with Kiva has been instrumental in Sprouted Minds' success. The hardest part of getting your business funded, especially in the very beginning, is that you have no way to prove to a bank that your business idea is a sound one. Banks don’t care how great your product is they care about numbers and if you don’t have the numbers to back you up there’s no way you’re getting a loan.

This is the space that Kiva really shines. Kiva doesn’t require business plans, sales reports, credit scores or the plethora of other requests that banks are increasingly demanding. Kiva provided me with the opportunity to get an $8,000 loan and all I had to do was convince lenders on their website to let me borrow the funds -this is the true beauty of Kiva.

It's unlike typical crowd-funding where lenders are giving you money in return for something. This is dangerous territory to be in and is where many companies are taken by surprise.

Typically, people raising funds on crowd-funding sites such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter are doing an exchange of goods for cash and although raising $25,000 or even $50,000 for a food startup sounds fantastic you must not forget all those funds are to repaid in product. Not only are you returning product for the money many of those customers aren't local to your area and so they won't be returning customers - which is the most crucial aspect of a local startup company, especially when it comes to food businesses.

Not only did Kiva make it simple to attract generous lenders, my loan was funded during one of their X2 campaigns in which one very generous lender matched any loan amount for all San Francisco Bay Area startups. In order for me to receive $8,000 I would only need to get $4,000 in funding from lenders on the site -- amazing!

And to top all of this off Kiva loans don't charge interest!

All said and done I received an $8,000 loan with 0% interest, plus every time I make a repayment business credit score increases. This will make it much easier for me to approach commercial banks for loans in the future. All around a win-win for Sprouted Minds. What else can I say besides, DO IT!

Visit our website at www.sproutedminds.com to learn more about us. Please support us on social media: Instagram, Snapchat: @sproutedminds


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About the author

Kathinka Nakstad