The Power of whole foods: Balancing Health with the Humble Legume
An introduction to WellBean
Health was the motivation that the founders of WellBean needed to make a new product that combined wholesome nutrition + a feel good snack. When Patty needed help to keep her cholesterol in check, she turned to her trusted friend Caroline (who has a background in nutrition) and together, they came up with a solution - a whole food snack-able bean bar. When they first began developing the product in 2018, it was the only one of its kind worldwide!
There are a lot of snacks out on the market these days, many of them formulated for health conscious consumers. Few of these, however, use whole ingredients, but rather rely on extractions that don’t always provide the well rounded nutrition that some crave. This offered a challenge that Patty and Caroline rose to meet, and today they have 5 bean bars and 5 bean nuggets to share with consumers.
“The inspiration was I (Patty) was having trouble with my cholesterol and Caroline is a nutrition consultant. She said I needed to eat more beans! But I needed to be able to eat them on the go in a snack. I started looking at bean based snacks - bean chips, crackers - but those have oil and salt. So, I told Caroline, ‘We need to make a bean bar.’” - Patty
Women owned WellBean wants to introduce folks to the power of beans as part of a healthy diet. Photo courtesy of WellBean.
Starting a food business comes with myriad challenges from accounting, to financial projections, to marketing, to food science, and more. Once Patty and Caroline got their formulas worked out though, they found that their biggest challenge was quickly becoming where to manufacture and store their product. The duo had begun slowly ramping up the business, using a shared kitchen to produce and package their bars and nuggets. They worked on marketing WellBean and identifying the best venues for the snacks. Once COVID hit, they turned to shipping products, which meant they needed more storage space. It became clear that as consumers continued to want their product, a production facility of their own was paramount.
“We need to have our own space. We’ve been sharing kitchen space with a local cafe and we anticipate a ramp in production in the coming months.” - Caroline
The Slow Money SLO Solution
Caroline and Patty connected to the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship where they met Jeff Wade (Founder/Executive Director of Slow Money SLO) and learned about Slow Money SLO. The entrepreneurs were still in the process of building the business, consulting with professionals and getting their ducks in a row. Wade helped to connect WellBean to consultants that advised pro bono, which enabled Caroline and Patty to grow the business at a manageable pace. When they found they were ready to take on a loan, Wade explained that Slow Money SLO is a Kiva trustee, and how to navigate through the lending process.
“He (Jeff Wade) hooked us up with a variety of professionals that have consulted with us for free. That has been tremendously helpful. When we were ready to do the Kiva loan, Jeff said Slow Money could be the trustee which would give us some validity. ” - Caroline & Patty
Simple ingredients set WellBean products apart from other snacks on the market. Photos courtesy of WellBean.
Asking for funding can be a little nerve wracking, but the partners stayed the course and kept in touch with lenders and potential lenders to encourage continued support. Communications about updates, and thank-yous made a difference, and Wellbean reached their Kiva funding goal! Furthermore, Slow Money SLO mailing list members supported the business through Kiva and directly as new customers!
The funding will allow WellBean to move into their own production space and build it out to meet their needs. With continued online sales, as well as local retail outlets, they are excited about offering their product to more locals, as well as bean aficionados further afield.
“We found a site that will work for us. We are pushing the contractor along so that we can start using it and hope that will wrap up soon. It’s plumbed, it has electricity, and built in shelving. It’s pretty ideal for us. We are very excited!” - Patty
What’s next for WellBean
WellBean is a passion project, and the founders will continue their day jobs in accounting and nutrition consulting while they support the business’ steady growth into the health food sector. As they move into the new facility, Caroline and Patty will market their product in the area to find outlets and collaborations that align with their values. Sourcing ingredients from California has been a priority since the beginning, and the company will use their platform to promote local, healthy food options, especially whole foods and Farmers Markets! They look forward to more plant-based entrepreneurial ventures popping up in the county to help boost community health.
If you or someone you know has a great product idea but isn’t sure how to make the dream real, head on over to our Grow Your Business page and fill out the form! We want to hear about it and how Slow Money SLO might be able to assist!