Sabir x Kristina Bucaram Part 2
Growing Pains In Your Business & Personal Brand With Kristina Bucaram - Part 2 Of 2
Part 1: Growing Pains in Your Business & Personal Brand with Kristina Bucaram
To maintain her diet, she avoided the school cafeteria and took regular trips to an out-of-town grocery store. It required a 2-hour journey to get there, but it was the only way she could get the organic produce she wanted, and so she made the commitment.
This dedication and steadfast attitude stayed with Kristina throughout the next 15 years and helped her to grow one of the largest raw food brands in the United States.
She has featured on the Greatist.com’s list of the “100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness” every year since 2015, and her words and teachings have inspired many.
I recently sat down for an interview with Kristina Bucaram and discussed some of her success, focusing on what I refer to as “growing pains”. These are the changes she was forced to undergo to experience personal and business growth, the ones that made her what she is today.
You can watch this interview for yourself but, in this guide, I want to go into a little more depth, to elaborate on what we discussed and provide some top tips with regards to personal branding and entrepreneurship.
Personal Growing Pains And Business Growing Pains
Whether you have your eye on the entrepreneur life—fast cars, multi-million-dollar yachts, and an endless succession of online businesses—are building a personal brand, or are establishing a small family business, growing pains are a key part of the process.
These are the things that hurt you initially but help you to grow in the long-run. Some of the smartest and most successful people in the world have experienced the worst possible hardships.
It’s how you learn.
When your first crush rejects you, it teaches you that not everything will go your way, you can’t always get what you want, and you can’t control other people’s feelings.
When you experience your first family death, it teaches you about mortality, while the grief process helps you to feel more appreciation for the people you still have in your life.
You can’t avoid these negatives, but you can find a way to turn them into positives, and that’s what this guide is all about.
So, remember that:
1. Every Failure Is An Opportunity
Countless entrepreneurs have used failure as an excuse to take a risk, to do something they would have otherwise avoided.
People get stuck in a rut. They do the same things day after day because they feel safe, and this applies as much to business as it does anything else.
Only when they lose that security do they take a risk and launch that business they’ve always planned or go into that career they’ve always wanted.
The negative becomes a positive.
Kristin has experienced more than her fair share of struggles and failure, but she used all of them to her advantage and she’s not alone.
She was still at college when she started her co-op. Social media wasn’t around and she didn’t even have access to electronic checkouts. But despite this, and despite the fact that she was still at college, Kristina persisted.
When complaints came from the housing authority, she found a way around it. Years later, when the co-op was eventually forced to move, she was incredibly upset, but she stuck to her guns, created a Facebook page, and before long she had a wealth of offers.
That one negative experience, which crushed her at the time, quickly became a huge positive.
Another few years down the line, after Amazon bought Whole Foods, Kristina realized the business was no longer viable and she had to give up something that she loved dearly. Something that she had spent her entire adult life working on.
She was upset, but again, she used it to her advantage, creating a massive personal brand that revolves around raw food teachings and retreats.
Kristina gets to spend her days eating great food in Bali while helping people and making money.
What more could you ask for!?
During our interview, Kristina stated that she would have been happy to continue her work in that industry until she was 90, and it became very difficult for her to shut the business down and say goodbye to all that hard work.
It was heartbreaking for her and I’m sure she would go back if she had the chance. But that’s what growing pains are all about. Sometimes, even if you turn a negative into a positive, you’ll still yearn for something else, but the ultimate goal is to survive, to thrive, and that’s exactly what she did.
2. Profit Is Important
That headline may seem like a no brainer. This is business, after all, so profit is important. But more often than not, it takes a back seat, and businesses struggle as a result.
That doesn’t mean you need to be a ruthless profit-hungry entrepreneur who doesn’t care about their customers and their industry. It just means you need to focus on covering your expenses and keeping the doors open.
It’s about having a financial incentive as well as a personal one.
When Kristina began her Rawfully Organic store, she wanted to help people. She talks about how she would go to bed at night envisioning giving customers a big box of light, because she knew how much that box of organic produce could change their lives.
After all, if not for that produce, her own life would be decidedly different.
The priority for Kristina was to help people and, in doing so, she often undercharged them. In our interview, she discusses selling boxes of organic produce for $47, even though the same produce was being sold at Whole Foods for over $80.
To sustain a business over the long-term, you need to generate some kind of profit, and the smaller your customer base is, the greater your margins should be.
It took Kristina 6 years to finally turn a profit and that profit came purely as a result of increased numbers. In other words, she got there because a huge number of people were buying produce from her and this allowed her to buy cheaper, be more economical with her resources, and earn a profit from smaller margins.
In their desperation to help others, many entrepreneurs reduce the price to nothing. They read stories about successful businessmen and businesswomen who didn’t earn anything for several years and think they can follow in their footsteps.
But while that’s an honorable business plan, it’s not realistic and it won’t work for everyone.
It worked for Kristina because she didn’t have big overheads to worry about and she worked tirelessly to make the business a success. She had people helping her, but they were volunteers—they weren’t taking money from the business.
When you have someone who is so committed to earning that revenue and you don’t have to worry about rent and other superfluous costs, profit can take a back seat, for a few years at least.
If you have those overheads, it’s not a risk you can afford to take.
Establish your margins based on your current rate of expenses, not a projected one.
For instance, if you’re buying stock by the hundreds and paying $3 each, you shouldn’t be selling them for $2.50. It doesn’t matter if that stock will start costing just $2 when you buy in larger quantities.
You can worry about that when your business grows and you’re actually ready to make that commitment.
Until then, increase your prices and make sure you’re turning a profit after considering all operating expenses.
3. Understand That Everyone Is Different
The key to running a successful customer-facing business is to understand that everyone is different, everyone expects different things and reacts in different ways, but ultimately, they all appreciate the same warm and friendly approach and the same good service.
This understanding was part of Kristina’s growing pains and because she worked so closely with customers for so many years, it’s something that helped to shape her business and her personality.
If not for this understanding, she might not be the guru that she is today.
This is a subject that runs deep, so let’s address each facet separately:
People Will Hate You
One of the business lessons that everyone learns pretty quickly, whether they’re taking their first steps in a new retail business or working on their personal branding on social media, is that people can be very mean.
It’s something that more people are aware of these days due to the rise in social media but something you can’t really understand until you’ve encountered it yourself.
If you’ve ever worked in hospitality or retail, you’ll understand exactly where I’m coming from, but even then, the hate you receive face to face can’t compare to the hate you receive online.
This is something that Kristina experienced first-hand when growing her business. She greeted every customer with a smile and a hug and was genuinely committed to helping them improve their lives.
But because she was doing something different, something “alternative” she received a torrent of abuse online.
When you hear her talk, it’s hard to imagine how anyone would give her so much abuse. She is not arrogant. She’s not mean-spirited. And she’s definitely not out to make a quick buck.
It’s clear that she just wants to help people and has spent many years of her life doing that, but whenever you take someone who wants to help and is doing something different, and you put them in the public forum that is special media, they inevitably receive abuse.
Take a look at the Instagram accounts and Twitter pages of any popular user, particularly those in the health and fitness industry, and you’ll see this for yourself.
Some of it is attention seeking. Trolls get a kick out of the fact they are having a major impact on someone’s day, even if that impact is negative. But more often than not, they’re deflecting.
In any case, it’s something you will encounter and just have to learn to live with.
A key part of personal branding and content marketing is engaging with your audience. I discussed this in my interview with Nick Aldis and touched upon it when talking to Restream co-founder Alex Khuda.
To cement your videos, pictures, and posts in the platform’s algorithm, you need to engage the people consuming your content.
This means reading comments, responding to them as often as you can, and encouraging long dialogues between supporters and customers. Unfortunately, as you do this, you will encounter and even encourage negative behavior.
It’s just one of those things.
Customers Will Berate You For Nothing
Kristina recalls several situations when people complained about their boxes of produce, arguing that the apples were dented, or the fruit wasn’t as juicy as they had hoped.
They didn’t just express their displeasure, wait for recompense and then move on, they approached her aggressively—shouting, screaming, and generally being reluctant to hear an explanation or accept a solution.
It’s a similar kind of hate to the one mentioned above, but it comes from a different place. It can be worse, because the customer feels like they have an actual reason to be angry with you.
When you experience this for the first time, it’s hard not to take things personally. It’s your business and you’ve put a lot of your heart and soul into creating it. If someone is just going to trash you and everything you do over a few dented apples, it’s hard not to retaliate or get upset.
But, as Kristina noted in our interview, you quickly realize that it’s not about the apples. It’s not about your business or how you choose to respond to your customers. It’s all about them, and the things that are happening in their lives at that moment.
Imagine that someone buys your product, takes it home, and then has the worst possible day imaginable.
Their partner/children shout at them for something that they have no control over. Their boss complains that they did something wrong at work. And just when they’re settling down to watch some TV and take a break, the TV breaks.
At this point, something snaps, and if this is when they look at your product and realize that everything is not perfect, they get angry. All the frustration that should have been directed at their spouse or boss; all the anger that comes from not being able to watch their favorite show, is directed at you.
They can’t shout at their boss and they love their partners too much to shout at them, but you don’t mean anything to them, so you become their punching bag.
We’ve all done it.
You might not have lost your mind with an organic grocer because of a few bad apples, but you’ve probably snapped at a retail worker, cold caller, or delivery person just because they made a minor mistake and you’re having a bad day.
What’s more, the internet has given quieter and kinder people a way to vent their anger on companies that don’t meet their needs.
There are many people out there who would never dream of berating a retailer face-to-face. They might get angry and tell their friends how much they hate a company and how they’re going to give them a piece of their mind, but when they get there and that person smiles at them and greets them pleasantly, that anger disappears, and their humanity takes over.
With an online retailer, there is no friendly face to subdue that anger and it’s much easier to fire-off an aggressive email or Facebook message than it is to visit a store and shout at a teller.
Have you ever wondered why Live Chat features show you the name and the face of the person you’re speaking to? It seems like an odd thing to do—after all, it isn’t an instant messaging service and you’re not there to ask them on a date.
Companies do this because they know that when people see a friendly face, they are less likely to shout at them.
This is one of the hardest things that you have to learn. But it’s also one of the most important and is a big part of those “growing pains” that Kristina and I spoke about.
When someone trashes your business over something pretty innocuous, it’s tempting to fight back. If you’re living the modern entrepreneur life, with a large social media following latching onto your every word, it’s tempting to get your followers to fight your battles.
But in the long run, none of this helps your business.
I’ve worked with many companies over the years and I’ve seen many different approaches to customer feedback, some great, most terrible.
The worst responses are from companies run by one or two individuals who have a close connection to the business, either because they personally make the products or have invested all of their money into it.
If you ever saw the show Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay, you’ll have seen this approach yourself.
Many of the rundown restaurants he visited had received a torrent of bad reviews and complaints about rude staff, bad food, and terrible décor. Gordon would arrive, query these reviews, and they’d tell him that they were all left by trolls and rival businesses.
“We can’t be that bad,” they’d say, “because we have lots of regulars”. At that point, the camera would typically pan to a small gathering of elderly customers who were only there because they had no taste buds left, the food as cheap, and they had a coupon.
More often than not, the restaurants would respond to these bad reviews directly, accusing the customers of being fake and even insulting them.
And these are not isolated incidents, as it’s something I see all of the time in small businesses.
It’s true that a bad review can be hard to take, but it’s also an essential part of your personal and business growth.
The average customer will look at negative reviews first. They don’t care what the hundreds of 5-star customers have to say because they’ve seen it all before and it’s easily faked. They want to know want the customers with bad experiences have to say.
If these complaints are minor, they’ll dismiss them. But if the company has responded to those minor issues by arguing with the customer and calling them a shill, they’ll reject that company in a heartbeat.
By all means, respond but do so in a professional manner. Thank them for their review, address any concerns they have, apologize that their experience wasn’t up to standard, and tell them that you’ll do everything you can to resolve the problem.
It doesn’t matter if their review was “stupid” and irrelevant because you’re not really addressing them. You’re addressing all the potential customers that might read those replies and base their decision on them.
This rule doesn’t just apply to companies selling a product and a service online.
Anytime you have a customer-facing business, whether you’re an athlete speaking with fans and endorsing products for sponsors, or a professional service business selling through the web, you have to be friendly and courteous when dealing with customers in a public forum.
4. You Should Embrace Your Mistakes
One of the greatest ironies of running a small business is that your best reviews and greatest praise often comes from your worst mistakes.
Imagine, for instance, that you’re selling jars of homemade preserves online. If someone orders 3 of a particular type of preserve and you send them 2 of a different kind and 1 of those is open upon receipt, you’re going to have one very angry customer on your hands.
The right thing to do, as I’m sure any small business knows, is to give a full/partial refund or send a free replacement. You’ve displeased a customer, so you now have to go out of your way to please them.
In doing so, that customer is now infinitely more likely to leave a good review than if you just got their order right in the first place.
I often wonder if it would be better for a new business to keep making mistakes and then go out of their way to fix them, as it nearly always results in improved review generation and word of mouth.
Of course, that would be an insane business strategy, but it actually hints at something very important, which is that your worst mistakes do more to help your business than the best praise.
Negativity, and the criticisms it produces, are essential for business growth and this is true for all industries and all types of business.
If we return to the example of the preserve seller, let’s assume that you got into that business because it was a hobby and your friends kept telling you how great your preserves were.
They were always asking for recipes and heaping praise on you, so you decided to open a business and start selling those products to others.
But were your family and friends being truthful?
Let’s be honest, if you give a friend a jar of homemade preserves that you have lovingly prepared, they’re not going to criticize it and pick apart its flavor and texture. That would be mean, and that’s not what friends do.
As a result, you have just launched your business based on fake praise from people who only have your best interests at heart.
If there’s anything wrong with your product or its packaging, something that could be remedied and improved, you won’t know and could lose a fortune as a result.
No one likes criticisms, and that’s true whether the criticism is given by a friend, family member, or stranger. As a result, they’ll do all they can to avoid that criticism, from ignoring bad reviews to avoid critical individuals.
But this criticism can do more for you than praise. It’s honest, and it’s essential for your business growth.
The best products are created after years of tweaks and tests; the best companies evolve after endless criticism.
Put your products out there, ask for honest opinions, and stop avoiding and ignoring those bad reviews.
Stop seeing critics as mean-spirited individuals trying to harm your business and start treating their hurtful comments as free advice that will help your business to grow.
5. Competition Is Cruel
Kristina was forced to close her beloved business when Amazon bought Whole Foods. Prior to that, and as discussed during our interview, she had to move her co-op when a local grocery store complained that she was taking their business.
Her only goal was to help people. She wasn’t even making a profit at that point. But we live in a capitalist society and if you do something that takes money away from large and established businesses, whether you have good intentions or not, they will bite back and make your life very difficult.
Many times, it’s impossible to fight back, even if you’re right and even if you’re doing nothing wrong.
When you’re a small business being pressured by lawyers and threatened with lawsuits, it feels like the world is conspiring against you.
But the most successful businesses find a way to fight back.
You might not have the money to throw at lawyers and lawsuits, but maybe you can use this opportunity to get some valuable PR. What will the local press have to say about the situation, how will social media react, and can you crowdfund a lawsuit?
If a big company has begun selling a similar product and pricing you out of the market, it’s time to offer something different.
There’s always a way to stand out, whether it means selling a different product, repackaging it differently, or offering something that your competitors can’t.
Take independent bookstores as an example. For years, they fought against major retailers like Barnes and Noble by providing a more personalized service.
They claimed that they were more personable and helpful and that this helped them to stand out. In actual fact, the staff at Barnes and Noble were just as friendly and open. They were also cheaper and had a wider selection.
And then Amazon entered the picture. Everyone began shopping online and customers realized they could get eBooks from Amazon for a fraction of the price charged by their local bookstore.
To fight back, independent bookstores stopped claiming they were friendlier and began offering things that Amazon couldn’t. They added games to their stores. They installed coffee bars and some even began selling alcohol.
On the one hand, customers could buy a book for $5 from Amazon and have it delivered straight to their Kindle. But if they visited their local bookstore and paid $10, they could flip through that book while they sipped a coffee, chatted with fellow customers, and made themselves comfortable in a leather-backed chair.
Stop bemoaning your luck. We live in a capitalist society and if you find a niche that starts working for you, it’s a matter of time before a big company barges in and undercuts you.
To succeed, you need to innovate.
You should always be ready to change direction, to embrace something new.
6. Trends Change
Today, the world is obsessed with vegan diets, raw foods, and healthy living. A decade ago, it was all about the Atkins diet. Go even further back and you’ll encounter a culture that considered everything from microwave food to cigarettes to be healthy.
And this is just one extreme.
In the fashion, food, and beverage industries, trends often come and go every few years and if you’re not willing to adapt and embrace, your business will fail.
It’s hard to accept that the product that once helped your business to thrive is now a dead weight dragging it down. But that’s what growing pains are all about—it’s just one of the many lessons you need to learn.
The best businesses and entrepreneurs are the ones willing to adapt at the drop of a hat. It’s not just reactionary, either. They use data to see when the changes are coming, and they make sure they are prepared to meet them head-on.
2020 is a great example of just how important it is to stay on top of trends like this. It’s something I discussed at length in a recent interview with Jason Beauregard, and a subject that has also been raised in other This Week With Sabir episodes.
Simply put, 2020 has been the year of the unexpected; the year of the unprecedented. Businesses tried to predict how things would turn out, but they were trying to use existing data to predict something we’ve never encountered before.
At the start of the year, many predicted that everything would blow over and that nothing would come of it. So, rather than heeding warnings from abroad, they continued doing what they were doing.
When cases peaked, they estimated that there would be a summer slump, and so they prepared to leave lockdown with a bang, investing heavily in new stock and new opportunities.
That didn’t happen, and those investments just created a massive black hole in their finances.
Some businesses have been able to profit from this time, even with the knowledge that they couldn’t predict how things would turn out. They invested in the things that customers needed during lockdown and they made it easier for those products to be bought online and for their staff to work from home.
While their competitors were being rigid and hoping things would go back to normal, these innovating thinkers were beating the nationwide slump and raking in the profits.
They adapted quickly and acted based on what customers were actually doing and what common sense predicted they would do, as opposed to simply crossing their fingers, investing big, and then waiting for the world to do them a favor.
$100,000 Insights From Kristina Bucaram
At the end of my interview with Kristina Bucaram, I asked her what advice she would give to young entrepreneurs—advice that anyone just getting started with entrepreneurship can use to kick-start their career.
After all, Kristina Bucaram built a multifaceted empire. She has an immense wealth of experience behind her, and not just in the vegan and raw foods industry. To build an empire like Kristina’s, you need to know your way around retail, distribution, and negotiating, and you also need to know about personal branding and content marketing.
If anyone can advise on how to live a successful entrepreneur life, it’s her.
“With consistency and dedication, you can achieve anything”.
That’s the advice that she gave and it’s advice that will no doubt help many of you follow in her footsteps and in the footsteps of personal brand experts like her.
The problem with this advice is that people aren’t always ready to hear it.
There is an old cliché in creative professions like acting, writing, art, and music where aspiring creatives are so desperate for help that they ask their idols what the secret is.
They expect to be told that there is a magic platform they can use; a person they can speak to, a number they can call. They want to hear that the secret to being a successful musician is to play a specific type of music in a specific venue, and that the secret to being a published author is to send your queries to a specific agent or publisher.
But more often than not, they get the answer that they probably expect but don’t want to hear:
Just keep working hard.
It’s hard to hear because it means that you’ve probably got another few years ahead of you. In other words, there is no immediate secret to success, and getting to where you want to be is going to be a long and hard slog.
But if you keep it up, you will get there eventually.
There’s a reason that so many successful people give advice like this, and that’s because it works.
Kristina Bucaram is a prime example of this.
Kristina ran her own co-op while she was in college. She spent her days in school, her evenings studying, and her nights and mornings packing boxes, dealing with distributors, and selling to customers.
It took a lot of hard work, countless knockbacks, and endless toil, but eventually, all of that paid off and today she is the biggest name in the raw foods industry. She has helped to inspire a generation of people and, both directly and indirectly, has changed the lives of millions.
All those years Kristina spent earning no profits and working every waking hour are now paying dividends for her, and that’s the best outcome she could have hoped to achieve.
If you want to achieve the same level of success, you need to be just as consistent, just as hard-working and, more importantly, just as willing to make mistakes, suffer setbacks, and learn from all of them.
About Our Guest: Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram
Meet Kristina Carrillo-Bucaram. Kristina, founder of the brands, FullyRaw Media LLC., Rawfully Organic LLC., FullyRaw Juice LLC., and FullyFit LLC., is a writer, speaker, content creator, and vegan inspiration who aims to educate and to guide people towards a lifestyle of greater health and wellbeing. Visit her on the Web at https://fullyraw.com.
Kristina won her battle with type II Diabetes in 2006 after having switched her diet to a plant-based raw vegan lifestyle. Changing her diet not only healed her body and completely reversed her chronic disease without medication, but also it changed her life in many other ways. She is on a mission to share her knowledge about wellness through her social channels, retreats, and online programs.
Kristina has successfully branded herself as an extraordinarily talented health advocate, raw vegan culinarian, motivational speaker, best-selling author, content creator, and entrepreneur. She is a passionate educator — helping all individuals who want to be healthier physically, mentally, and spiritually.
The next chapter for Kristina's is an expansion into the fitness genre incorporating both an inclusive, vegan, and eco-friendly perspective with food and exercise. Her new channel FullyFit is dedicated to inspiring others to evolve into their best selves and to empowering them to take charge of their lives.