How plant-based cheese startup, Good PLANet Foods, is creating sustainable growth.
Sustainable is more than just the latest buzzword. Timing is extolled as a primary success factor for startups. Identifying an idea whose time has come is easier said than done though. In recent years, there’s a trend toward reducing the impact manufacturing and food production has on the environment. Many startups are launching sustainable counterparts to traditional products. The plant-based food phenomenon is one example. One of the most talked about plant-based food companies is Beyond Meat. Yet, there’s more to plant-based, sustainable food than burgers.
Serial entrepreneur, David Israel, CEO and Founder of Good PLANet Foods, has impeccable timing. His plant-based cheese company is growing by leaps and bounds for all the right reasons. He shared the lessons he has learned through the creation of two extraordinarily successful food companies with us.
Lesson 1 – Stick to your beliefs
There’s nothing like learning through firsthand experience. These are the lessons you never forget. When you are growing a new company, there’s nothing more important than staying true to your values and the philosophies you originally founded the company upon. This often comes up when identifying investors and board members.
“The most important thing in taking on investors is to ensure you have common principles,” begins Israel. “Today, I am very clear about my strategy and how we will grow the company. The only investors we partner with are those that are aligned with our direction and strategy while adding value. I made the mistake of taking on investors earlier in my entrepreneurial career that were not aligned with our direction and values. Not only did it lead to big headaches, it damaged the company reputation and hurt company performance,” says Israel. “Our board for Good PLANet Foods is made up of people that understand our category and understand what we are chasing. It’s made all the difference in the world,” concludes Israel.
Lesson 2 – Avoid surprises
In any successful relationship, trust is central. Part of building trust is to communicate clearly and openly. When you don’t want to disappoint someone, it can be difficult to share bad news.
“One of my number one pieces of business advice is, don’t surprise people. Give bad news immediately and don’t find excuses,” shares Israel. “The best way to develop strong business relationships is to simply tell it like it is. Whether you are communicating with your investors, employees or partners, nothing is more important than trust. The best way to build trust is to let people know what is happening and avoid sugar-coating it. When they see you tell both the good and the bad news, they know they can count on you to be honest with them,” continues Israel.
Lesson 3 – Broaden your view
When something you are not familiar with comes to your attention, it’s not a bad idea to be skeptical. Yet, keeping an open mind can lead to uncovering opportunities in areas that are new to you. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone and continue to do what you know.
“When I first learned about plant-based cheese, I wasn’t interested in getting involved in the business. There wasn’t any particular reason except that I wasn’t deeply knowledgeable about the market,” explains Israel. “I had been in the food industry for quite some time, but I had to be convinced to learn more. I distinctly remember when I first did a side-by-side comparison of our initial cheese prototypes next to other vegan cheeses. It was so good, I was blown away. There was no comparison. Once I learned more and got involved, I realized what a phenomenal product we could produce. Now I specifically look at areas where I have some knowledge, yet I may not be an expert yet,” concludes Israel.
Lesson 4 – Believe in serendipity
One thing remains constant, and that is change. Things don’t always go as planned in life or in business. At the same time, when plans are thwarted, it can ultimately turn out to be the best thing that ever happened. Sometimes, you are exactly where you need to be when you need to be there.
“Sometimes you are just lucky. When the opportunity to build Good PLANet Foods came up, I was at a good point in my life to take it on,” shares Israel. “Yet, perhaps even more importantly, the market was hungry for sustainable plant-based food options. Consumers have become increasingly aware of the impact we are having on the planet. Not only was the timing right for me, it was right for the market. I can’t help but believe there’s just a little serendipity going on here,” say Israel.
Lesson 5 – Value partners
Partnerships build successful businesses. Ask fifty entrepreneurs about their success factors and no one will say they became successful solely as a result of their own efforts. Partnerships, in whatever form they take, are what strong, growing startups are made of.
“Today, our cheese is produced in Greece. Without the partnerships we have, Good PLANet Foods wouldn’t exist today. Our partnerships have helped us create a family,” shares Israel. “In the beginning everyone was a little skeptical, but once we were creating the products to be successful together, the relationships grew. I learned that Greeks base their relationships in trust, heart and action, not on contracts. If you are not a good person, we will tear up the contract. In a true partnership, both parties do whatever it takes. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m even more motivated to be successful for them because they have been such great partners,” concludes Israel.
Let’s review the startup growth lessons David shared with us.
- Stick to your beliefs
- Avoid surprises
- Broaden your view
- Believe in serendipity
- Value partners
Learn more about Good PLANet Foods at www.goodplanetfoods.com.
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