“The biggest lesson as an entrepreneur I have had is to be persistent. As an entrepreneur, we will always fail at some point, but an entrepreneur never loses when he fails. He fails until he wins,” biochemist and CEO Hider Rojas told FoodNavigator-USA.
He explained that his team has faced its fair share of failures and setbacks while perfecting the patent-pending process that allowed them to extract and nano-encapsulate a powerful, proprietary antioxidant Ramburatrol from the husk of a rambutan fruit that could reduce blood glucose levels, boost immunity and support healthy aging.
For example, the company faces a steep education curve to explain to finished product companies and end consumers the value of its unique ingredient. It also had to overcome manufacturing challenges when the pandemic broke out, along with many other more typical hiccups as it grew.
But, Rojas said, by keeping an open mind to unconventional solutions, taking definitive action and working respectfully with partners, Rojas said Rambuhealth was able to overcome each of these challenges.
It raised awareness for its ingredient and was able to educate consumers about its scientifically-backed health claims by launching a supplement into GNC that showcases the ingredient’s benefits. Likewise, it secured placement in a major snack brand with which it negotiated high-profile co-branding with a call-out on the front of the pack and a flyer outlining the company’s story placed in each box of snack bars.
Building on this momentum, Rojas said he wants to enter the US market this year by partnering with food and beverage companies under joint development agreements or with businesses that want a value-added ingredient that can make scientifically-backed health claims across a range of products, including soon clear beverages.
But to pull this off, he says he knew he needed help, which is one reason he joined the SOSV’s Food-X accelerator, where a mentor cemented in him that successful entrepreneurs are creative, action-oriented and always ready with a smile.
“One of my mentors always says you, as CEO, have to direct people forward, always,” otherwise a company risks stalling and an entrepreneur risks becoming overwhelmed with choices and indecision, Rojas said.
He explained that many decisions while running a startup are “ambiguous,” and therefore best approached with a level head and help from mentors and others.
And one of the best ways to get help, is to give it in the form of support to employees, business partners and clients – which is where the “smiles” come in.
“Smiles means that you have to be kind, and you have to be a good person” to others, Rojas said. But, he added that does not mean giving into pressure or allowing bullies to get their way.
“There are mean people outside,” and sometimes those mean people are clients, in which case “you have to be at the level where you can handle them without having any issues or problems,” Rojas explained.
Smiles also means supporting employees and keeping their morale up – something that is strained during the ongoing pandemic. Rojas said he does this by being transparent about the company’s and his personal struggles, and how he is managing them. He also constantly reminds himself, his team and his partners of the company’s ultimate goal so that they never lose sight of where they are headed and why.
As for creativity, the Rambuhealth team has it in spades as illustrated by its approach to branding and product formulation. But as Rojas adds, creativity is rooted in curiosity and an ability to spot and solve problems.
For example, when the university where the company was manufacturing its ingredient shuttered due to the coronavirus outbreak, the team had to quickly scramble to find another manufacturing partner.
“If you face a wall and you say, ‘Okay, we cannot go forward, but we can go around.’ So, you need to find different ways to do things,” he explained.
With this in mind, he adds that “an entrepreneur never stops learning,” and neither will he has he pushes distribution of Rambuhealth’s ingredient into the US throughout this year, while simultaneously expanding its existing footprint in Latin America.