Gooder Podcast Featuring Junea Rocha
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No one ever said starting a business was easy. Frequent rejection, industry learnings and long crazy hours. But for those of us that have started one – you know why we do it. We BELIEVE in the idea. Sparked from a need in the community to a beloved recipe from mom – food and beverage brands have seen an explosion in innovation that all started with a simple idea. But somehow women seem to struggle with the multiple demands of running a business and personal life. Perhaps we’re looking at it all wrong?
In this episode Junea Rocha, Co-Founder and CMO of Brazi Bites, and I talk about her brands spectacular “overnight” success. She shares tools she brings with her from her life in Brazil and working in the construction industry and how they have helped her grow her brand. And we discuss that running a business is hard enough – but together, we can all succeed.
In this episode we learn:
- The history of Brazi Bites
- That rejection creates the opportunity to perfect anything
- How to plan for Shark Tank or any once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
- The stronger your support network, the farther you can go
- That focusing on the small wins, will get you through each day
About Junea Rocha:
Junea Rocha is the Co-founder and CMO of Brazi Bites. Junea founded Brazi Bites with her husband in 2010 in the hopes that Americans would love Brazilian Cheese Bread (pão de queijo) as much as they did. After appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank in 2015, Brazi Bites grew a passionate, cult-like fanbase, and in the years since has expanded to thousands of freezer sections nationwide. In her time running Brazi Bites, Junea has gained experience in all areas of the business, while remaining deeply passionate about sharing their delicious creations with the world.
LinkedIn: Junea Rocha
Brazi Bites – Latin-inspired, gluten-free and hand-held snacking. Cheese bread and empanadas created with Brazillian flavors.
Diana Fryc: Welcome to the Gooder Podcast, I’m your host, Diana Fryc, as partner and CMO of retail, Voodoo and award winning branding agency. I have met and worked with some of the most amazing women in the naturals industry as such, I have decided to create the Gooder Podcast to interview these great people and subject matter experts and have them share their insights and expertise to help businesses all around the world become gooder. Today, I’m very excited to introduce our guest Junea Rocha, co-founder and CMO of Brazi Bites. Hello, welcome.
Junea Rocha: Hello, thank you so much for having me.
Diana Fryc: Of course. A little bit about Junea, she is the co-founder and CMO of Brazi Bites, which she founded with her husband in 2010, in the hopes that Americans would come to love Brazilian cheese bread and you’ll have to tell me how to say this. “Pao poddy kiddo” I say that
Junea Rocha: You almost got it.
Diana Fryc: As much as they did after appearing on ABC Shark Tank, which I hope we get to hear about a little bit. In 2015 Brazi Bites grew a passionate cult like fan base and in the years since have expanded to thousands of freezers, and freezer sections nationwide. In her time at Brazi Bites Junea has gained experience in all areas of business and all while remaining passionate about sharing their delicious creations with the world. Well, that was really fun. I am excited to hear a little about Brazi Bites, the experience on Shark Tank, but before we get there, I really wanted to talk a little bit about how did you get there? So maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background, when did you come to the US and what was it about the US at the time that was so exciting for you to make that move?
Junea Rocha: I moved to the US in 2005 it was right after I graduated from college, I have a civil engineering degree, went to start engineering school in Brazil and then moved to the US right after graduating. It was an exciting move. When I moved to the US, I had been in the US many times before and grew up in Brazil, until the end of my college years and prior to that, in my teenage years I was an exchange student. I was one of those awkward foreigners that you’ve seen high school that come from abroad, I was 16 lived in a suburb of Chicago for six months. So I had already a pretty good foundation and understanding of American culture and American way of life, knew a little bit what I was getting myself into, was excited after you graduate from college, wanted to start my career and just get to work as soon as possible. I always had the feeling and sort of like that American dream, American culture in Brazil is very strong, it was even stronger 15 – 20 years ago of the place of opportunity, the place that is modern, that is forward thinker, that all the innovation happens so I was excited to come to a place where I could work hard and achieve my dreams.
Diana Fryc: When you say the American culture was strong, what do you mean by that? Was there a lot of Americans there? Or was there just a deep feeling that people understood what the culture was?
Junea Rocha: There is a lot; if you live in the US, like Americans have an idea of what a perception of exceptionalism, like what American culture is. In South America, it’s really like there is this admiration for American culture that starts from a young age when you watch more like from movies, music, there’s a lot of access to the US from Brazil and South America. There’s flights it’s easy to get to, there’s a lot of South Americans in Florida so there’s this sort of like the US is this amazing developed place where your dreams come true mentality. At least I grew up with that feeling, when you’re young your parents will save up and in your first trip abroad is to Disney World in Florida.
Diana Fryc: Oh, wow.
Junea Rocha: Yeah. There’s a sort of like their dream is to go to Disney World and so that was part of my culture growing up.
Diana Fryc: Oh, wow. Okay, that’s fun. I just think it’s hard;
As an American or any patriot, whatever country that you live in, to understand how peoples outside of your country see your culture. That’s fun, a little insight there. I find it so intriguing and maybe you could talk about this a little bit more as how does somebody go and this may not be how does somebody go from construction to food so much like, how did that happen? Or why did that happen? And is there anything from your construction days that you found to actually help you grow Brazi Bites?
Junea Rocha: So I’ll kind of walk you through how I even got into construction to begin with. Brazilian culture similar to Asian culture has a thing where if you’re growing up like middle class, your parents sits you down and tell you, “Hey, you can be anything you want, as long as you become an engineer, a lawyer or doctor.” There is a lot of pressure in that society to go to those professions which are safe. So you need to select your career add your entry point to college. At that entry point, I was kind of call it push towards engineering because I wanted to go to business school, I knew that kind of my personality and my thought process and who I was eventually would end up in business. But then the culture said no, business is not safe, go be an engineer, then you can go into business later if you choose when you have engineering to fall back on.
That’s how I ended up going through engineering school. Then obviously when I moved to the US, I needed to work on my field, I was fresh off college and I got a job. Luckily, engineer is a wanted profession so you can travel around the globe and get a job that will sustain you well. I got a job and started my career here in Portland, as an engineer as a project engineer in a large construction company and began to develop my career in that field, only because I had gone to college and that’s what I needed to do. I worked on that for seven years and it was a great starting point I learned a lot. I was very green, fresh off college, needed to develop myself as a professional and I was in a place where it was very high pressure. It was very high stakes. It was a big contractor that was building this multimillion dollar projects like airport, wings and had large condo towers, so it was really high pressure. Typically, like five of us building this $200 million building in 18 months, a lot of decisions and problem solving in a day. Here I am in my early 20s just in that environment.
I begin to fill up very quickly and on top of that, there’s a little bit of a twist because it’s a male dominated industry and here I am this younger girl, very driven working really hard. They quickly saw me and said, “Well, let’s kind of bring her into our presentations to win new projects because she has this energy, she’s female, and we will kind of get our diversity points with developers.” So lots of layers to uncover there, for me, gave me a ton of exposure to a lot of strategic thinkers very early on, they put me in that room, that was really cool. Set that aside, I learned a lot for seven years. Get into my late 20s something is kind of that bug in the back of your head, that from decade before we’re saying this is not what I was meant to be doing. I needed to do something else. It took kind of almost all of my twenties working and learning and starting to build confidence to even listen to that voice in a way that I could make a move. Align with that here comes this brilliant idea which I had together with my husband. It’s this sort of like passion for Brazil and like this amazing snack that is a staple in South American cuisine, it’s everywhere there and we saw this product and we said, “Okay, Americans are missing out on experiencing this product in a way that is high quality in the best possible way, available in grocery stores where they purchase.” We saw this product here in the US market, very low scale and low quality international markets, Portuguese language and it wasn’t approachable. We almost feel like we had gotten married at that time.
We went back to Brazil had our wedding and realized that all of the Americans had gone, had this like amazing, beautiful experience in Brazil and they came back and all they could remember is how delicious the cheese bread was. We were like, hold on, there’s something here. It’s so memorable; people are flying from South America with flour in their luggage, wanting to recreate the cheese bread. All of this data points as this is a ding! Ding! There’s something special here. That’s what drove me to make the leap from construction to food.
Diana Fryc: Wow, The idea of going into business with your husband was that part of it? Or was that a watch out for you or was that just like a no brainer because you guys are in sync and talk a little bit about that?
Junea Rocha: Parallel as I have my career as an engineer, and I’m like, this is not where my future is and I had this idea for the cheese bread. He was doing the same thing with his career. He was industrial sales and he was doing well, had been doing that for 11 years. He said, “You know, there’s something more.” And so we both look at each other and we’re like, there’s something here. Let’s try to do this together not unique, husband and wives, friends, cousins, you name it very common in the entrepreneur space to having an idea like that. For us, it’s been great; we’re very different we run different sides of the business, we have different perspectives and we’ve worked really well together; 10 years in, still working together now more separate than ever, because a company got quite a bit bigger. But it’s been an absolute pleasure and win. It works really well for us.
Diana Fryc: That’s really great because it always goes one way or the other. So that’s fantastic.
Junea Rocha: Absolutely. I think in the early days, don’t get me wrong there’s been a lot of moments of friction and you’re not always willing to work all hours of the day together. There’s days where I’m like, I can’t keep going longer, I can’t go all evening and Cameron is a little bit more I’m done, I need to switch the gears and so that’s hard to separate. In the early days of growing the company, we felt like there was a huge advantage, we would say the following; people are now going their separate ways, they finished their work, their workday continues, we keep creating, we keep igniting ideas and inventing, it was our passion and it never felt like work. The weekends, all that good stuff and also picking up when somebody can give a little bit more, are there less co- founder dynamic? It’s challenging.
Diana Fryc: Yeah. Can you talk a little bit though we talked about the idea of Brazi Bites? Talk maybe a little bit about those first few months or years did it go quickly? What was that path there? Did everything just kind of go like everything just the boxes checked and things move forward? Or was there a little bit of ebb and flow in the beginnings?
Junea Rocha: So what’s that saying? Like every overnight success has been in business for a decade trying to make it work. A lot of people discover us today and like, wow, this guy just came up. We’ve been in business for 10 years. I will say this; we always had a vision; the vision that happened 10 years ago is the same that remains today, which is really awesome. Obviously, it’s expanding to much bigger things, but the idea was that we’re going to sell Brazilian cheese bread to grocery stores in the US in the frozen format. We are going to get wide distribution because the only way they can make a viable business is to get a lot of points of distribution. If your breakthrough to grow the brand very well in all your work.
That vision remained and we were highly focused always for years just cheese bread, just pros and just retail, where do we breakthrough? Who is buying it? How do we replicate? We were very lean, focused and execution driven maybe that’s from my years in construction that comes is all about getting it done. It’s all about completing a text and moving on to the next thing to build a huge project right that applies so much in running a food company. We started small we didn’t have knowledge in the food industry but very quickly start acquiring knowledge.
We decided that early on looking at the market and everything that we had learned, even like really early was how do we open up this distribution network for frozen, and realize that one of the gateways to growth was going to be Whole Foods Market for us at that time. Today, still could be a gateway to growth for many brands. There’s more options today, you can go direct to consumer right away, you can do so many things but for frozen was very limited. Places like conventional places 10 years ago weren’t picking up natural brands like they are today. It was kind of the beginning but it wasn’t like that. You had to go to Whole Foods, you had to go to natural and specialty as a way in and then maybe Kroger, no target wouldn’t even touch it the way they do it today. We were like Whole Foods is the path forward on to growing this brand because then they can open up you and they’re fine we can go so we had that strategy and we really executed on that.
We’re not on the one wholefoods door we got one store then we got Pacific Northwest moved on to another region, another region and another region it probably took us many years I would say hopefully our first retailers just a couple years ago we became global. That’s how long it took to just build, build and build and today Whole Foods sells over a million, two million dollars of cheese bread alone a year, in their network and bringing more of our products and wanting us to make more for them. We really thought that Whole Foods was a big player. Breakthrough for us if you look at growth of the brand, identifying that strategy of Whole Foods frozen and opening up the distribution networks, we can go get other accounts and we grew through the natural channel, we went to sprouts to the very expected path of a frozen butter for your brand. Especially think about growing distribution like seven years ago, slight different dynamic then we got distribution at Costco and very quickly in the same calling week, that all the magic happened we went on Shark Tank. Then everything took off because now we’re at Whole Foods, we are in a natural channel, we are at Costco, we go on Shark Tank and boom, the brand takes off from there and it changed everything.
Diana Fryc: Wow. In that journey there was there anything that when you look back you can say that you were surprised? Something I don’t know if there was anything surprising or like I can’t even believe that that thing happened, whether it was something operational, an opportunity or something?
Junea Rocha: You would be shocked by how many times- no, you won’t be shocked. How many times we got rejected for everything and turned down by everyone from fundraising side to distribution to consumers at first? The amount of rejection in the beginning was unbelievable. Consumers were like what is this? I don’t understand this product. To retailers saying no, I already have one to your surprise, there was another brand of Brazilian bread cheese right in Portland selling products and new seasons that we had to compete against, to fundraisers and all up to the moment we went on Shark Tank rejection across the board by every single Angel Investor in food competition, you name it. We did so many of those and we got rejected a few. When you look back so many times out of this group of brands there were each one of these phases most of them are not even in business. Why we are in business is like so many layers but when I look back in those rejections actually served us really well. They allowed us to really be focused on what was working. If we encounter that I’ll give you an example, of a food like one of those incubators that you go in and you spend multiple weeks, and you learn, pitch and you may end up writing a cheque. Everybody would find us interesting, like the investors they’re like, “Well this is Stacy, this idea is compelling, but really, I just want the 12 nut butter because I know that then makes me feel safe.” Now it will be too hard.
To competing pros and it will be too hard to bring any international product of like a global palette to the market. We start realizing that people like investors and some people there we’re not seeing what we were seeing. It was all about how the consumers are reacting to the product. We kept anchored into that when we put the product in front of people at a food show for example, very quickly, the line was the longest at our booth, and very quickly it was igniting this. I can’t believe this is gluten free. I’ve tasted this 10 years ago when I went to Brazil and this brings back so many memories, my kids will love it. We start hearing all these things that actually created the brand target, persona today like all those things and we’re like there’s something special here but we got to run like hell to drive demand of the way this thing is not going to go.
Diana Fryc: Oh my goodness!
Junea Rocha: It’s a dance.
Diana Fryc: It is a dance so interesting because I think I’ve heard this from so many entrepreneurs just in the world that I’ve been playing in but then also my close network of friends, it really is being able to get up after each rejection, just keep going and take the learnings from the rejection or understanding what learnings to take from each rejection keep moving forward. I feel like the brands that win are the ones that are just tenacious enough to say No! I’m going to keep going and you’re going to like me whether you want to or not.
Junea Rocha: Yeah, but because you’re only the people running the company in those stages are usually just the founders and nobody else are seeing everything. Sometimes it’s like we can’t quite articulate what we’re seeing, or there is not an authentic proof of overseeing it. So then you get those rejections and you’re going to be like, “No, you’re wrong,” and it’s hard to think that way. I only say that today, we’ll get back at the time when you get your rejection; you’re like, oh my God! Am I totally missing the mark on this idea?
Diana Fryc: Understood. I want to ask you one quick question about Shark Tank before we get into what we had gotten into a conversation with a few weeks ago, but on Shark Tank, everybody’s familiar with Shark Tank. Everybody at least watched one episode or a session of an episode. I would love to just get your opinion when you were going in to Shark Tank, can you talk about a little bit about how you were feeling and what you were hoping? Did you walk away with what you would hope for outside of the investment or did you walk away with learnings that you would not have expected coming out of a Shark Tank episode?
Junea Rocha: So we went on Shark Tank, we signed up to go on Shark Tank, we had been in business for almost five years. It was 2015 we founded the company, in 2010 hit mark in the left hand product is out there for three and a half years. We had already been through a lot of those learnings and things and we really felt like this show was a really great opportunity for us to expose the brand. We were fundraising at that time and the money was important. We felt like if we ended up getting a Shark into our company that would be great. It would add value. We wanted to get on TV and we wanted to tell our story.
Why? We were growing to see many category of Brazilian cheese bread that didn’t exist; we were getting traction in the marketplace. The company was really small. We were under a million dollars in revenue and we realized that we needed to find a way to breakthrough, otherwise it would be very hard to keep going and create a viable business really needed that exposure that magic. That’s what Shark Tank was about, similar to Whole Foods where we saw that plan and laid out this is the ticket to grow. Shark Tank was the next thing that we said this is the ticket to exposure. We needed to scale that feeling of the events. We were doing smaller events in the Northwest. Oh, my God! Am falling in love with this, I can’t believe this is gluten free, I can’t believe cheese bread is now in the US available for me and all those things. We needed to scale that so this show was the perfect opportunity to scale back. Think about it, you get in front of like 9 million viewers, the week before thanksgiving. It’s closing; its cold outside and warm bread is exactly what you want. We prepared for that appearance more than we prepare for anything in our whole lives because we realize everything was at stake.
It was five years of working, grinding like mad and all that we needed was a breakthrough. It’s high risk because we need the Sharks to love this product, otherwise the consumers are looking at it and it’s not going to do what we came here to do. Every word even if you watch her episode is like, “Oh, it looks seamless. You guys look relaxed,” that’s in the back of hours and hours of preparation, hundreds of hours every word was calculated, everything because we’re like, this is so important. We practice so much every detail everything. We turn our living room into we printed pictures of the heads of the Sharks and for like a week so we walked in front of them because we wanted to feel relaxed in front of their faces because you don’t see them before you pitch. You don’t do it because they’re recording one after another every hour. There are founders because they’re recording the whole season compress and every hour you don’t see anything you just go in.
We’re like how do we make ourselves go in and be relaxed and be as confident as possible? It was an amazing experience because I believe we prepped so much, we put everything that we could on the line for the show it really materialized that way Sharks took a bit, they loved the product. They close their eyes, there are images of Mark, Cuban, Laurie saying, “I can’t believe this is gluten free. This is amazing.” And then we got multiple offers that created just the demand that we needed. Well, 9 million people watch this show, thanksgiving timeframe they go crazy. We sell out nationwide within two days it’s very hard to get when you’re selling retail, it’s easy to do when you have a site and everybody goes shop when you’re on TV. When you’re asking people to get in their car drive to the store, free grocery delivery days and people did and then a week later we sold out the distributors and then we sold out Costco and it became this crazy frenzy that have been building ever since. It was amazing. Love the show. Love the show.
Diana Fryc: Oh, my goodness! Yeah. It feels intense at least when I’ve watched the show there feels like I’m sure that has to do with how they film and the cuts and everything like that. Are they intense group of people? I’m just curious.
Junea Rocha: Well, it feels intense because there is intensity of the entrepreneur going insane and thinking like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity because it is because it’s like American Idol just to be there. You’re just already eliminated hundreds of people and then there is a sort of like the nature of being television and being like they want to create drama, they compress, like a 40 minute recording into 13. They’re really going to want to show the most like dramatic fit, the TV, it’s engaging, and it’s fine for the viewer. There’s that piece as long as you kind of understand that, it’s okay. You sign up for that invite. You’re like, I’m going on TV, and it’s a TV show.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, it’s a TV show but I think even those of us that have been on TV shows or have done any kind of video recording. Sometimes you forget, there’s hours of this stuff, and they’ve just chopped it up into the most exciting bits and that’s why there’s the energy behind the conversations.
Junea Rocha: Yes, absolutely. It’s not like the whole time but they’re just like editing the perfect dramatic pieces.
Diana Fryc: Well, it seems like that your last 10, 11, 12 years have been pretty exciting; the growth and between the rejection and the growth and the demand and all of that. It just makes for exciting times. One of the things that we talked about, I’m going to now start to change to this topic that you and I had discussed and one of the things that you said, I feel like we’re going to kind of step away from here’s Junea, she’s co- founder, CEO and the thing that you had said to me is I feel there’s a gap of women or there’s an outage of women once you get certain way up the threshold as a conservative or not conservative, but as you’re coming up the professional ladder, and for some reason, there’s like women suddenly disappear at the VP Level, C suite level.
As we got to talking, you felt or maybe we came to this conclusion together, that there might be something in the way, the Brazilian society versus American society supports women and families in particular, in encouraging people not just to become engineers and doctors, but to just continue to grow. I wanted to talk a little bit about that here. I think the question I want to say is, can you share with us how you feel the Brazilian culture? How different is it than the American culture? In regards to when you talk about women in and careers, we could just talk about careers in general.
Junea Rocha: I think in our conversation I mentioned to you recently, we did a deal with private equity and I get to be in the boardroom and I get to be a decision maker in our company. I realized again that I was back to almost like the construction fabric of the room just me as a female and I started kind of thinking about that. At the same time, I had my first son, three years ago, and have several friends that had their have kids now and I start seeing how they change their careers, post kids, and then recently start thinking about like, why do I have a certain approach to it versus other, American moms and business women. I think that our conversation went to the raising family making impact and one of the things that I noticed about how sort my mindset is; when I grew up in Brazil, so I grew up in the 80s. It was the first generation where my mom was a school teacher, my dad was a business owner and engineer as well. She was very much like a stay at home mom versus teacher kind of had that sort of mentality. My generation calls it like people born in mid 70s to the 90s. It’s almost they’re trying to overcompensate a little bit and just give us opportunities.
In Brazilian culture, there’s sort of a different dynamic of how you structure your day and how you do chores and how you do work, so you can have free time to develop skill sets. Whether you’re middle class or any social economic class, it’s very similar that’s not unique to a certain class.
But you’re encouraged to free up time from chores or anything else from cooking, to focus on developing your skill set to develop professionally. The environment that I grew up in, I’m not saying that’s like positive or negative, it’s just was, we were never like this game is for boys and girls. We never like learned how to cook, we never even learn how to clean, we were just career focused and sports focused a lot more time and we were encouraged to just develop skill sets. We were always encouraged as girls- Brazil is a very progressive country in that way. People might not know but there’s already been a female president, there are female leaders in many pieces of the coach and lots of issues, but it is developed that way where there are female CEOs. So I grew up in that environment. Seeing that there are female CEOs, there’s female business as owners, females are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and they’re leading things that was the example that was set to me.
Then it’s a bit reversed from American culture where when you have kids, it’s looking down upon if you’re a stay at home mom it’s a little bit France. I’ve read many books when I was pregnant with my son had a little bit that way, it’s not necessarily good. Again, I’m not endorsing this but it’s like, how fast can you bounce back? How fast can you get back in your career, in your body, in your shape? That’s kind of been green mindset. I moved to the US, I start my career; I don’t have a kid, for many years in my career, so I’m growing. Suddenly, I have a kid and I start to realize that a lot of my friends who have kids, suddenly I’m the only one structuring a whole layer of support around me so I could keep my career going at this same pace.
Because it was my choice; I love what I do. I love running the company, the companies that have really fun stage that I want to be a part of, at the same time, it’s time for me to grow my family. I wanted to do that as well. I start looking at both things and I was like, “Okay, how am I going to keep that going? I had to structure my life and organize my life to get help. My son had support and he had a structure that allowed me to work full time, that allow me to stay in my trajectory, with C suite executive in my company.
So we got me thinking about it, then suddenly, I’m seeing a bunch of friends, take a step back and been so embarrassed about seeking help at home, whether it’s with cleaning, with grocery shopping, childcare, those things that really are important to keep our family lives going. They take up a lot of time, and it’s really hard to do it all; it’s not like it’s not possible. So I’m still developing perspective on that because it was most recently and here there’s so much pressure to be the perfect mom, to be stay at home mom, a friend of mine, I was sharing my perspective with her. I said, “The end of the day, I thought about what makes me really happy and I love my job. I love running this company. This company is at a very special time right now that might not be here for me four years from now. I don’t want to step away for a year or two and miss out on this amazing story and in this work that I’m just like, keep growing and growing.” Then I was sharing with a friend and she was struggling with pressures from family. Well, now you stay home, now you do less at work but what is it that you want? How do you empower yourself to structure your life to do what you want?
Diana Fryc: Yeah, I think that’s where you and I were talking a little bit because I’m there as well. I feel guilty for wanting; I call it Alice, Alice from the Brady Bunch. I want an Alice like in the back of my brain in the back of my head. I’d like somebody to just run the day to day. But I feel guilty about wanting that and asking that because we live in a culture where I shouldn’t be checking out like that, so I can understand that. When you are thinking about that, are there any learnings or do you have any perspective on for women or families or employers? Yeah, and even employers are there things that employers can do to help women and families because sometimes men are the ones that are carrying the brunt. It’s like sometimes the mom is doing something else or even you might have same sex couples. I don’t want to like exclude anybody but somebody is bearing the brunt of the day to day. Is there advice that you would give employers? Or do you feel like it’s more on the person to kind of feel comfortable with the asked? Do you have an opinion there?
Junea Rocha: Obviously, the US has major issues with maternity and paternity leave and family support. There’s a ton that needs to change to really support families like that. Where do we start? Don’t leave to flexible schedules but I do want to recognize that when you’re running a small business, some of these things might not be possible, like our company, up until like two years ago, couldn’t afford to give a leave or to give flexible schedule. I think now in the COVID era, we’re all learning that we can have a little bit more flexibility and the companies will still function. That was I think a good thing that’s coming out of this pandemic, we all learn to work remote. I was very hesitant with our team, going remote, but I think everybody has proven that the company still runs and still works. That’s how it is, that piece can help parents quite a bit. I think there’s a ton that companies need to do.
Diana Fryc: Do you feel that kind of to step back a little bit in this whole like women are changing their roles or whoever’s running the family is like changing the roles? You mentioned, you felt people were stepping away, shying away from leadership roles because of that. Do you feel that that’s true? And is there really a way that a company can support somebody who maybe is really talented?
And you would want to foster and nurture that? Is there anything that can be done? If you’re a smaller company; probably that’s what I’m thinking.
Junea Rocha: Yeah. So that’s a tough one because if you think about it, if you’re competing for a role, and you’re saying to an employer, one person is saying like, “Hey, I can be available at all times, I can work full time, I’m here for you.” The other person says, “Hey, I need this really flexible schedule, I want to work part time.” That is when you get into a situation like okay, then this person is going to get the higher role and you can come lower. It is just the nature of how businesses are run. My point is, if you want to achieve that higher role and you’re a female or you’re in charge of the household, and you have those responsibilities, it is okay to get help to do that, you will not be able to do it all. It’s just acknowledging and structuring your week and your life to get support. Oh, but it costs money like Americans love this, which is very different in Brazil.
What if I can do my yard on a Saturday and spend eight hours doing my yard work? Why am I going to pay somebody to do it? Because you’re spending eight hours on your Saturday doing yard work, that is why. If I can clean all of my cars, you can, you actually can you’re capable of doing everything. You’re capable of doing all of the grocery shopping, of all the yard work, all the cleaning? Yes. So it’s like that mentality I’m capable versus like, what am I doing like this time? Everything is a trade off, and you’re going to have to pay for it but sometimes it’s a fraction of it. Like for me, for example, pay a nanny or have more structure at home in terms of taking care of the household allows me to stay the course of my career. While I’m taking a financial hit for a few years when my son is very young, I believe that I will recover that tenfold as I keep progressing in my career and don’t fully stop. Again, my choice because I love what I do and I think that just the problem that I’m seeing is when you want to keep going in your career, but you don’t give yourself permission to get help, and to structure your life that’s for the type of person that I’m speaking.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, I agree. I almost want to say and tell me if you think I’m crazy about this, but I almost want to say that even still, the language that we’re using is like, I’m going to take the financial hit or I’m going to ask for the help is actually if we can start going- this is the family asking for help. This is the family that’s taking the hit so to speak for every one of that. I think that if we can start looking at this as rather than my responsibility, but the family’s responsibility, then we already start stretching into that help mode, because now it’s more than just me in the role. How do you feel about that?
Junea Rocha: Agreed? I couldn’t agree more. I guess I’m saying like me a lot, but in our household, it’s definitely the duo, making those decisions together and if either one of us wanted to slow down for whatever reason, but we both happen to be working full time and we’re enjoying what we do in thinking that this is what we want to do and so in order to do so the family had to make that decision together and create the structure around it.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, I like that, because that already starts us thinking outside of me or outside of I have to do this. Okay. I like that. I also found it really interesting when you were talking about how in Brazil, the emphasis was on really just career and sports, and that you’ve got a whole community supporting you in growing who you’re going to become or whatever it is that you want, I like that a lot. I want to talk a little bit about just kind of the industry and maybe you can talk a little bit about what are you excited about in food manufacturing right now and it could be with your specific product, but it could be anything it could be supply chain, it could be interesting new product or ingredients. Is there anything that you’re excited to watch right now?
Junea Rocha: What excites me the most about our industry; I love the natural foods industry. I love food and how much that feels your body and makes everything like you’re healthier.
It makes you function better, it’s like a huge believer in natural foods and love everything like one of my favorite things about this industry is the passion. This founders that are just like won’t stop, won’t give up on creating and cleaning ingredients and recreating products and cleaning label; the delicious creations that come on the market. How creative and innovative the industry is. It’s unbelievable there are so many founders, there’s so many new companies coming up with the coolest products not all will survive but the creativity is awesome. Like recently for example, we’ve been drinking La Croix for years and La Croix is a very innovative product and moves you from soda to water. Very cool, very innovative recently we upgraded to Spindrift. Now we go water with just a splash of real fruit, you think that there is no more market for bubbly water? No, here comes Spindrift whole new creation. That is so cool to watch.
In our company right now we went through a huge innovation process to go into the breakfast category and we started looking at everything in the breakfast, how people eat breakfast, who eats frozen breakfast? Have a really cool innovation coming out the pipeline this fall. That is really exciting to me. We started eating the product here in the office and just couldn’t get enough that’s when you know you’re ready to push the product out. But this industry is just relentless and creative and so innovative. People are really passionate, and they are just really to do what we did. They just get faced tremendous amount of rejection, because their product makes sense and the consumer eventually is going to want the product. It’s a great industry to be in. Much cooler than construction I’ll tell you that much.
Diana Fryc: I think it would depend. I’m a huge fan of like Zaha Hadid, and had I ever had the opportunity to work on something like that. That’d be pretty amazing as well.
Junea Rocha: It’s fun over there too. Food is very vibrant, it’s challenging, competitive and dynamic and it’s a great industry.
Diana Fryc: Yes, I will agree with that. If you could reach back in time, is there anything, any kind of advice that you would give yourself about maybe take something a little bit less seriously or pay more attention someplace else; anything like that?
Junea Rocha: If I could look back and like what would I tell myself? I would say trust your God, everything will be okay. Everything will work out the way it is going to work out. There was so much stress, in those beginning years, until we kind of broke through and created a viable business, it’s hard to trust your God. Like you know your God is telling you to go somewhere, but you’re getting so much rejection, the path there’s so much hardship and it’s hard to trust. I would say that’s okay, trust your God. That’s okay.
Diana Fryc: Maybe I think you may have already shared something earlier, but I’ll ask you again anyways, is there anything fun or interesting about the Brazilian culture around food that maybe Americans aren’t aware of that would be just kind of been fun to know? I don’t know if it influenced Brazi Bites or not.
Junea Rocha: Couple of things, I’ll share that’s interesting about Brazilian culture. Brazilians are very social. They’re always gathering; families are always together you’ll probably see your extended family every weekend for a meal. One kind of like interesting thing is and sort of that ignited also as part of our founding story in Brazil, that family will typically always have frozen cheese bread at home waiting for a guest to pop in. If you think about he always made me have chips. Yes, in your pantry or you have a couple things. You have some cheese. Who knows what’s going to come at you? In Brazil cheese bread is always a staple in your freezer, waiting for a visitor for unexpected family to drop by. You’re going to pop it in the oven, 20 minutes later, it’s delicious. It’s got a beautiful smell in your house and then you’re sitting at a table just talking and gathering.
Diana Fryc: That’s fun.
Is it common for families to live close in proximity in Brazil?
Junea Rocha: Yeah, very much so and it’s still like a Latin culture. Now that the world is like more global, it’s shifting just so slightly but still it’s more common there to be born and raised somewhere, to get married in your community, to raise your kids, to have the grandparents close to the grandkids very much so they’re usually going to stay. Now in the major cities there’s a bit more moves with professionals like real, some power but KCD is there, but much more common that you’re going to stay put and you’re going to stay close, than here.
Diana Fryc: That’s nice. We’re kind of we’re coming up here on the end. I have a couple more questions for you. These are always my fun ones, to talk a little bit about what kind of rituals you have in place right now to keep yourself positive and focused and this might be something you’ve been doing for years or maybe it’s something new.
Junea Rocha: I’ll share something that we did for during the early days of Brazi Bites that served us as well to this day like during those years of, the things didn’t go well or knocking on doors, we’re getting so many No’s before we get to Yes. We would kind of end the day and always say three things we’re grateful for, and try to focus on like maybe the one positive thing that happened that day. What that did for us and this is me and Cameron in our exercise at home, like end the day, had a tough day. It’s amazing how that can just like change your brain chemistry and how you start just being grateful for things and you start to just like see everything positive, it can be very small; it can be like the weather, a nice walk or like something about your home like Portland, so many great things about Portland you can, have a big list. Suddenly we forget about all the tough stuff that are going on and like in our business, we always say we can get 100 No’s , we forgot one Yes, we focus on that one Yes. That’s how we build this company and that’s how we think about our lives. When things are challenging, we say but there’s all these things that are great, you there’s all these things that are opportunity. We’re healthy, you can focus in your health, can focus on the fact that you have a job, that they connected with a friend, I think that that’s so powerful. It’s not a tough exercise to do take practice, but it starts to shift your thinking. You start to become grateful for all these little things, like for the tea you’re drinking, like start very small, for this conversation you and I are having, for this opportunity to talk about this things like all those little things, and then suddenly you become a highly grateful person and when you are highly grateful, you’re just like go through life, such more ease and grace and trust.
Diana Fryc: I like that highly grateful. That’s a T shirt.
Junea Rocha: It helps it is a T shirt.
Diana Fryc: I always like to kind of end our conversation with my guests with this one particular question. Tell us a little bit about, I guess an interesting travel, business meeting or worst business trip that you’re willing to share?
Junea Fryc: I ran sales for the company for many years. I was traveling around the country like every week, pitching the product to retailers and stuff. My biggest fear was always to like you get on the ground somewhere, like travel all the way to the east coast, get on the ground and have the buyer completely forget that they’re to meet with you. That never happened to me. Actually, I was so fearful of this potential problem that I was always emailing ahead and like, I’m coming, I’m coming. Anyway, but one of my most memorable trips was when we were doing so much and all over the place and I happened to have like a Unify Trade Show that was in Portland in the Convention Center for two days and couldn’t get anyone to work the show, I had to be there with an assistant. The next day and I had nailed the meeting with Paris Theater. I get 8am and I think South Carolina I believe.
Across the country, we’re in Portland, Oregon and I’m like, I’m the only person who has to be in that meeting, that meeting cannot move. I remember working two days of the unify show, non -stop talking to buyers, you’re pitching, you’re doing this from the convention center, going straight to the airport, taking an overnight flight to the East Coast. Immediately taken an Uber, Starbucks, coffee, breakfast wrap, going straight to the air strip; that was pretty memorable, because it’s not how you would want to be arrested, you want to be clear headed, don’t want to take an overnight flight. I remember that really well. I actually ended up having a decent meeting, that placement was successful. I don’t know how; don’t remember what I said in that meeting. The pitch becomes so seamless but I ended up finishing the meeting going back to the airport and coming back Portland. That was the only time I went to the East Coast and never got a hotel room. I won’t, recommend this but it was a very memorable trip.
Diana Fryc: Oh my goodness. Oh, that’s fun. It’s not fun.
Junea Rocha: It’s not fun at the moment, but it just a push, what tone like that tells me what am I capable of? It just I push myself physically and learn that it was kind of hit a wall there, but I got it done.
Diana Fryc: Awesome. Thank you so much. Before we wrap it up, if people want to reach out to you, how would you like them to connect with you? Would you prefer that on LinkedIn? Or do you have a different way you’d like people to connect with you?
Junea Rocha: LinkedIn is great, for the network professionals. It’s the best place to find me.
Diana Fryc: Okay, great. And there’s just one Junea Rocha correct?
Junea Rocha: I believe so.
Diana Fryc: Okay. Well thank you so much for joining me today. I hope that you had fun.
Junea Rocha: I did, it was awesome.