Read our interview with Marcus that he answers our questions candidly on his lessons learned, highlights and challenges since he started KOYAH.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
- Starting a business is difficult. When I was working at my previous job before starting KOYAH, I always dreamed about the FREEDOM that would come with owning a successful business. What you don’t think about in that dream is how difficult it will be when the business is not successful as quickly as you dreamed. No longer do you get paid consistently for doing well at your job, but your new job is everything and anything that needs to get done and you don’t have anyone telling you what it is that needs to get done.
What have been some of the highlights since you’ve started KOYAH?
- KOYAH started as whole-food plant-based smoothie powders. Getting the first smoothie sale on my website from a customer who wasn’t a friend or family was an emotional high… however, a few days later when the customer asked for a refund because they didn’t like the taste, it was a bit of an emotional low (talk about a rollercoaster ride 😊).
- Our first product that wasn’t an instant smoothie was Organic Freeze-dried Kale Powder, and seeing it start to consistently sell well was a definite highlight. I had been trying to sell the smoothie powders for two years prior to that without many sales. So finally getting some traction on a product after struggling for two years was a pretty cool feeling.
What have been some of the challenges since you’ve started KOYAH?
- Being an introverted person, I wasn’t very confident in my sales ability. I’ve had to overcome that confidence challenge and have since learned that having the highest quality product and explaining to the customer why it’s better than others is a much better sales technique than stating with a low quality product and trying to “convince” people it’s great. From seeing many low quality competing brands with shady products come and go, I’ve learned that the customer eventually sees through poor quality and having integrity in your products and what you do comes across in the long run.
You started off with making your father powdered smoothie mixes while he was going through chemotherapy to help him eat more fruits and vegetables. Did you ever think KOYAH was going to grow into what it is today?
- I actually started working on KOYAH shortly before my dad was going through chemotherapy for colon cancer. It was cool to make a product that helped him eat more organic fruits and veggies at a time when he really wanted to eat them, but wasn’t necessarily motivated too because the chemo zapped his appetite and energy (I still make the smoothie powders for him and he tries to drink one every day). I did start KOYAH with the full intent of creating a business and hoped I could figure out how to make it grow into a business to help people eat more fruits and veggies. We’re still bootstrapping it and it is growing well, but we definitely haven’t “Arrived” yet. There is still a lot of work to do and I love that I get to do it.
What do you want KOYAH to accomplish in the next year and years to come?
- Our goal at KOYAH is to make it easy for our customers to eat more fruits and veggies. In the coming years we plan to continue to create additional organic, freeze-dried fruit and veggie powders to provide our customers with a larger selection of the absolute highest quality organic fruit and veggie powders. Longer term, our dream is to grow KOYAH into a brand that stands behind the highest quality whole-food, plant-based products. Meaning we want to create delicious products that are made from 100% whole-food, plant based ingredients.
You’re in a competitive market, what makes you different?
- Our main competitive advantage is an understanding of the quality of our products. Our customers buy KOYAH’s products because they are looking for the highest quality fruit and vegetable powder. In order to produce that, we need to understand the process from growing the fruit or veggie, to the freeze-drying, to the grinding so we can understand the integrity of the product and portray that to our customers. So many other powder companies just purchase a powder from a supplier at the lowest cost, package and label it without understand any of the processing that has been done to it. At the end of the day, our powders taste, look, and smell like the fresh fruit or veggie, so our customers are able to confirm the quality for themselves.
Did you have any relevant skills or experience that helped you start KOYAH, or are you learning as you go?
- I spent my first 6 years out of college working for one of the largest freeze-drying companies in the world. That is where I gain my experience in the quality of the products. Everything else, the sales, marketing, finances, etc. I’m learning as I go (on a side not, I do have a bachelor’s degree in business/finance, but I didn’t have a passion for learning when I was in college so my degree hasn’t helped me much). The on the job learning is much more exciting and it never stops which is one of the things I love most about it.
What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
- Read (or listen to) books and never stop learning.
In 1980 my husband and I opened a small Pharmacy in Portland,Or. We were surrounded by big box stores. We had something they lacked ,knowledge,service and the ability to connect with people. At the same time I bought a wire hair dachshund, he was trained for the show ring and people came from miles to see Harvey and his ribbons. We were in business almost 30yrs. We didn’t take any cruises but we did put our daughter through college, she owns the Bottle Tree Bakery in Oxford,Ms. Your beet product is great for my blood pressure. I am on the delivery plan.
I love your story. I have been looking for Organic fruit and vegetable powders for my organic cookies and anything that needs color in baking. I plan to try your products this coming fall. I live in Georgia and am an Organic Gardener and start my own heirloom seeds saved from the prior year every January. As of today, our summer vegetable garden has been planted with loads of my own organic compost! Thank you for providing this wonderful variety of powders!