It’s not often that you hear of a 35-year vegetarian turning into the founder and CEO of one of the country’s leading meat produces. Angela Mavridis, however, breaks the mold when it comes to startup health food companies. Today, Tribalí Foods produces and distributes organic frozen burger patties of assorted creative flavors. They focus on using only single-sourced ingredients and have built a resilient, sustainable, and transparent supply chain that delivers grass-fed and finished and 100 percent free-range beef to consumers around the country. Angela’s entrepreneurial journey is a testament to the importance of passion, persistence, and perseverance in the process of creating a thriving food brand.
Who is Tribalí Foods?
Tribalí Foods, a Certified Paleo and Keto Certified brand based out of San Marino, California, today offers a variety of seasoned patties and sliders made from organic, ethically-sourced, and humanly raised chicken, turkey, beef, and pork. The company has committed to only using natural herbs and spices for natural seasoning and doesn’t add any binders, fillers, additives or preservatives. Furthermore, the meats used by Tribalí Foods are also certified as free from hormones and antibiotics. In the United States, over 80 percent of all antibiotics are used in animals, posing a serious public health problem and reducing the effectiveness of antibiotics for human use.
According to the company’s website, “providing high quality, clean protein is our passion. We source organic, nutrient-dense, humanely raised proteins from the land and sea. We develop our recipes using only ingredients you’d find in any cook’s pantry — never additives, preservatives, binders, or fillers. Each ingredient is raised, grown, or gathered as humanely and sustainably as possible.”
Tribalí´s founder, however, spent over three decades as a strict vegetarian, which wouldn’t seem like a natural transition into the CEO of one of the nation’s leading grass-fed beef and free-range chicken suppliers. Mavridis writes that “at the young age of 13 and seeking a healthier way of eating, I became a Vegetarian. I was influenced by mainstream media and the marketing messages of the early ’80s and ’90s where meat, and specifically saturated fat, were vilified for their perceived health consequences. Fat was feared and meat was going to clog your arteries and cause plaque buildup.”
After strictly adhering to a vegetarian diet for over 35 years, Mavridis began to study nutrition and eventually became a holistic nutritionist. During her studies, she came to determine that sustainably-sourced meat should be an integral part of a holistic and healthy diet. She found that healthy meat products that are pasture-raised (in the case of beef) or free-range (in the case of turkey and chicken) provide the nutrient density and health benefits that she had been lacking in her own vegetarian diet. “I tried my first Organic, 100 percent grass-fed steak and never looked back,” Mavridis says.
Today the brand has retail agreements Target, Whole Foods, Walmart, and other nationally-recognized retail groceries. They also sell to Natural Grocers, Central Market, and other smaller retailers while maintaining a solid e-commerce presence on Amazon. According to Zoominfo, the company sells over $4 million in revenue every year and continues to show solid signs of growth.
Taking Advantage of Government Financing to Start her Health Food Brand
Starting a small food brand is certainly risky business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20 percent of all small businesses fail in their first year, and up to half of those businesses don’t make it to their fifth year. One of the toughest challenges for small companies is securing a source of funding to get their business off the ground. One recent analysis finds that small businesses face an 80 percent chance of rejection when applying for a small business loan through traditional banks.
Furthermore, the Small Business Administration (SBA) Dream Gap Report finds that when in need of funds, over six out of every ten small business owners had withdrawn their personal savings, while 22 percent had used their business credit cards, and almost one-fourth of those business owners had relied on their own personal credit cards.
Fortunately, the Small Business Administration also offers business finance loans specifically designed to support startup entrepreneurial endeavors. Tribalí Foods was one company able to obtain SBA financing through its CDC Small Business Finance program. The relatively straightforward and simple application process not only allowed Tribalí Foods to grow its business but has also been an important source of business finance at important moments throughout their business history. Mavridis states that Tribalí has relied on the Community Advantage Loan to fund the production of their holistic meat products, and also to help establish sales and distribution, throughout the country. SBA Financing has also been fundamental in helping the company design and implement different marketing strategies. The SBA Microloan program allowed Tribalí Foods to increase its overall production during important moments of growth through financing raw material purchases.
In a letter written to the U.S. Government’s Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight, and Regulation Mavridis says:
“At the early stage Tribalí was in, funding options were difficult to come by. The timing and importance of our SBA funding cannot be overstated. It jump-started our growth, fueled our expansion (our products are now distributed to 35 states), and enabled us to become a viable business. Our growth will allow us to hire two new positions within our organization by year-end with more (hopefully many more) to follow…I am a strong advocate for the SBA loan program. There are thousands of fledgling business owners who this program was designed for and who would otherwise have limited options to start and grow their businesses, hire staff, and enhance their communities. My own journey would be markedly different without the program. Without these loans, our success thus far could not have been possible. For that, I am very grateful. I hope you will continue this program for entrepreneurs with the passion and vision to fulfill their American dream.”
Business owners and entrepreneurs who have struggled to obtain financing through traditional banks and lending institutions and who don’t want to sell a part of their business to investors can look through the SBA loan application checklist here.
The Importance of Passion, Persistence, and Perseverance
Despite the obvious importance of funding to getting a business idea off the ground, even well-funded businesses often face an uphill battle in ever more competitive marketplaces. Angela Mavridis contributes much of Tribali´s success to the passion, persistence, and perseverance to keep her business idea alive and thriving. The American poet Robert Frost once said that “the best way out is always through,” and Tribalí Foods has endured several challenges, setbacks, and obstacles in order to grow into the flourishing food business that they are today.
In a recent podcast interview, Mavridis says “I think the three things that anyone has to have whenever they go into an endeavor like this is persistence, perseverance, and passion.” Whole Foods was the first major retailer to carry Tribalí meat products, and Mavridis relates that the partnership with Whole Foods actually began by her going up to the meat counter at her local Whole Foods store and presenting her product to the local manager. “If you have it, and you believe in it, don’t be afraid to just…bring it to the world,” she says.
To keep her company growing, Mavridis says that the spirit of perseverance often requires the ability to not take no for an answer. “No (really means) maybe not right now,” Mavridis says. “That’s what I hear. So (when someone says no to me), I’m like, ´Ok, great I’ll circle back with you in about a month or two.´”
Food brands and any business for that matter that is in it for the long haul also have to develop the passion and conviction that drive their business ethos. “Sometimes people don’t always buy the product, they buy the why,” Mavridis says. “If you have that passion and you can convey that to people in an authentic and real way, then that really resonates.”
Developing solid products is obviously important for any business. In today’s world, however, many consumers are equally interested in supporting food brands that have a mission, passion, or goal that resonates with their own set of values and ethics. In fact, one recent study found that over 70 percent of Millennial consumers prefer buying from companies that are aligned with their specific set of values.
Tribalí Foods obviously takes their commitment to putting healthy, organic, regenerative, and humanely raised meat products onto the dinner tables of their customers seriously. However, the mission that is driving their business idea is of equal importance. “It’s more about a mission of showing people that I think it’s time we return back to eating real, wholesome food from well raised, humanely raised, sustainable animals and well-tended plants,” Mavridis relates. “We don’t have to rely on factory derived or highly inflammatory processed foods anymore. And I want to educate people (so) that there’s a connection between diet and disease. I mean, it does start with food. So if we can make a connection to ancestral eating and get back to real foods, it really does make a difference in the way you feel, the way you perform, the way inflammation reactions in your body.”