In this episode, we’re joined by Kimberly Le, CEO & Founder of Prime Roots. Kim studied Food Science and Technology at UC Berkeley, graduating Magna cum laude, and immediately started looking for a way to put her degree to use, leading to the founding of Prime Roots.
Kim talks about product development, specifically focusing on plant-based diets. She also opens up about the effects COVID had on her business and shares her experience fundraising in the CPG space during the pandemic.
Most importantly, Kim tells us about one of her basic ingredients “Koji”, a fungus commonly used in Asian cooking that is high in protein.
This ingredient helped her to produce a delicious line of plant-based meat alternatives, starting with bacon.
Listen on Apple Podcasts here or Spotify here.
Ken Ojuka: Welcome to the Physical Product Movement, a podcast by Fiddle, we share stories of the world’s most ambitious and exciting physical product brands to help you capitalize on the monumental change in how, why and where consumers buy. I’m your host, Ken Ojuka.
Ken Ojuka: In this episode, I speak with Kim Le, CEO and Co-founder of Prime Roots. Kim was a great guest and we had a wide-ranging conversation about product development, plant-based diets and the effects of the COVID pandemic on her business. We also talked about her experience fundraising in the CPG space during the pandemic, after studying Food Science and Technology at UC Berkeley and graduating Magna cum laude.
Ken Ojuka: Kim started looking for a way to put her degree to use. She looked back to her childhood and started playing with an ingredient her family used to cook with regularly. The ingredient she started innovating around was Koji, a fungus commonly used in Asian cooking. That also happens to have many health benefits like being high in protein.
Ken Ojuka: She decided to found Prime Roots using this ingredient to make a delicious line of plant-based meat alternatives, starting with bacon. This conversation was very insightful to me and really opened up the world of plant-based meat substitutes that companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are riding to success.
Ken Ojuka: It’s a huge and growing market that is really just starting to take off. Kim was a fantastic guest and I expect to continue to see great things from her and Prime Roots Yeah. Hey Kimberly, how are you doing today?
Ken Ojuka: Hey, I’m doing pretty good. I appreciate you taking the time to jump on. Where am I finding you?
Kimberly Le: I’m at our office in Berkeley, California.
Ken Ojuka: Okay. Yeah. I love a little bit of the Berkeley area. How’s the weather these days?
Kimberly Le: It was pretty gloomy today, but it’s a pretty normal morning for us in the bay. A little cloudy and overcast. So it should be sunny.
Ken Ojuka: Well, I love San Francisco and that whole area. I had a brother who lived there for quite a few years and my family likes to go visit. We had some fires. We got a lot of smoke here in Utah from fires there and sort of Northern California. Was that close to you at all? Or did you, were you guys affected?
Kimberly Le: So we were not affected because the wind was blowing it away from us, I guess, towards you all in Utah. But it was actually pretty close. I’d say probably like an hour and a half away. And I mean there’s fire maps, you can look up. So the world is basically on fire all the time, which is really sad but also very motivating for what we do as a company.
Kimberly Le: Trying to make our planet a little bit better.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. Yeah. And I definitely want to jump into that. You know, and I’m sure that’s a lot of the motivation behind, behind your products and your company. But why don’t we just kick it off by hearing a quote from you, is there one that you have in mind that’s been impactful to you or that motivates you?
Kimberly Le: Yes. I am a really big star wars fan actually found it later in life, like after college. And I watched the whole trilogy in one go because I was really sick for one week. And the one quote that has stuck with me, I knew the quote beforehand, cause who hasn’t heard a fair amount of star wars quotes.
Kimberly Le: But my favorite quote is from Yoda. It’s do or do not. There is no try. And it really spoke to me and really is how I live my life and how I run Prime Roots and just very emblematic of who I am. And so I love that quote because it’s really about giving your all and really just making the most of your time and your energy.
Ken Ojuka: Right. Right. And as a dad, I may have been known to quote that to my kids on occasion. So I love that quote as well
Kimberly Le: Ageless and timeless.
Ken Ojuka: Yup. Yup. So let’s hear just a little bit about your background. Where are you from? What’d you study in school and maybe that could lead us to the founding of Prime Roots.
Kimberly Le: Yeah. I was born in the Canadian prairies, many years ago, and I was born into a family where food was really the center of our universe. My mom is a professional chef, and throughout my whole life, I’ve been very embedded into restaurants or hospitality, and started working when I was 11 years old, kind of running back office learning, kind of the ins and outs of business, got into management before going into college, really didn’t realize how strange of a childhood I had.
Kimberly Le: But really got to see intimately how food came to be and how people interacted with food. And food has been central to my family. From the very beginning on, I mean, I’m still doing it today, in a very different way, of course. But I think that looking backwards and connecting the dots, kind of the formative years of learning to cook with my mom. And then going to college, I went to Berkeley, a very big school to study a lot of different things. I fully took advantage of that. And studied microbiology, which was really part of the inspiration for starting Prime Roots as combining my love for science, with my passion for culinary and food.
Kimberly Le: And just learning that, you know, the meat that we eat protein is one of the biggest environmental impacts that we have as humans on our planet was very motivating to kind of combine all my passions and skills to create, uh, a solution that works for people like me, who eat meat and want to keep eating meat, but don’t want it to have such a negative effect on the air that we breathe and the water that we drink.
Ken Ojuka: Right, right. Yeah, just a quick question. Do you think that, did you know how good you had it, you know, having a mom as a professional chef, did you, did you realize that early on, did you realize that was, you know, not what everybody experienced.
Kimberly Le: I never really put two and two together when a lot of people wanted to, you know, come over to my house to eat. I just took it for granted honestly. It’s like, no, it’s, it’s easy to do when that’s your whole world. And I realized it was very strange going to college and like, you know, being one of the only people who knew how to cook.
Kimberly Le: And I love hosting people over at my house like cooking. So no, I didn’t realize how strange it was until after, when you experienced other facets of life.
Ken Ojuka: I bet people loved being your roommate. I’m guessing in college. So I had a few roommates that would, uh, you know, work in restaurants and stuff, and that was great just because they bring home stuff, you know?
Ken Ojuka: And so there was just always good, good food around, but, uh, even better if you can make it. And, uh, so that’s pretty great. So, what did you study in college again? What did you say that you studied?
Kimberly Le: I spend a fair amount of days, but well, one of my main concentration, so as in microbiome, and so really looking at the things that people don’t usually see, and was a lot of inspiration for, actually what we do at prime rates, which is we use Koji, which is a traditional Japanese found guy.
Kimberly Le: And we grow it in a way where it replicates the texture of meat. And it’s completely a whole food, protein, all natural, all that good stuff. And it’s really like, you know, we’re making a better product. Doesn’t have all the chemicals and doesn’t have a lot of the baggage that the traditional plant-based industry.
Kimberly Le: And it’s a product that I’m really excited about because as someone who does eat meat, I think that it will change the world. They will change the hearts and the minds of lots of mediators.
Ken Ojuka: So, as you were in college, did you know about Koji before? And, were you thinking about, you know, different applications for this and potentially starting a company for it or, or what was, you know, your introductions to Koji and then kind of realizing that, that, that might be a good idea.
Kimberly Le: Yeah, it’s another one of those things that looks backwards and connects the dots. Started growing Koji with my mom, and learning how to ferment foods when I was four or five years old. And we use Koji. And so when, kind of when we were starting ideas around like different places, different types, Ingredients we could use.
Kimberly Le: And how do we replicate the texture of me and looking at like, what makes the texture and the taste of meat? I was thinking about, you know, what, what out there has that like fibrous texture, what has like the umami flavor of me? And, I had a part of that. I was like, Hmm, like there’s Koji, it’s like something I’ve worked with before.
Kimberly Le: And so you kind of take inspiration, and try things that are already in your toolkit and Soji was one of those things. So, I can’t say that, you know, I’ve been doing this since I was five-year-olds old, but I can definitely say that those formative experiences in the kitchen are learning about the art of fermentation.
Kimberly Le: And now very much know the science of fermentation. Combining those two things is just a sweet spot, for really stumbling upon and discovering how we could use this as a traditional ingredient in new ways.
Ken Ojuka: So were you thinking about starting a company? Did you have that in mind as you were studying in college or, or when did that really become something that you wanted to do?
Kimberly Le: It was, I’ve always wanted to control what I spent my time on, the impact that I had as an industry. And so I think entrepreneurship and having your own company is a great way to do that and direct your own energy towards something that you can see come alive.
Kimberly Le: And when it was actually very difficult for me, it was either choosing to pursue a PhD for 10 years, and really dedicating my, my brain and my energy towards solving, you know, the technical side. Of the large food problems that I identified. And then, or like, you know, using my skills and applying it to something that may or may not work, and commercializing something that has a really big impact immediately.
Kimberly Le: Yeah. And I, I chose the ladder, and yeah, I just really excited about the ability to actually mobilize change with the actions that me and my team take every single day. And building something is just really exciting. And so that’s ultimately like why I am here today.
Ken Ojuka: Sure. Sure.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. I’m curious, what you think about, you know, your geographic location, right? Being in the bay area and in an area where entrepreneurship is so widely celebrated and encouraged, do you think that that had an influence on you?
Kimberly Le: A lot of entrepreneurship is also box and resources and community. And all of those things kind of lined up for us. And you know, we had the support and the encouragement of people who were friends and now some of our investors. Who were motivating us early in the early days. So, you know, Hey, just keep trying, like, keep going.
Kimberly Le: You can do it. I mean, just as simple as someone saying, like, no, like I think this is a good idea is motivating enough to just keep going. Entrepreneurship, especially in the early days, is very lonely and it is hard because you don’t know if it’s going to work or not work. And just being in the, in the bay.
Kimberly Le: There is just this entrepreneurship. As you know, everyone who is an entrepreneur wants to be an entrepreneur, or it feels like it at least, is, is very infectious. So I definitely attribute a lot of where we are today with location.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah, got it. Got it. So let’s, let’s talk about, okay. So, you know, you’ve identified Koji as, as, okay.
Ken Ojuka: This is a potential, but potential, product. What was the first product you guys brought to market? You know, if you go to your website, you know, you guys have quite a few different skews now, but what was, what was the first one? And then what were some of the initial steps that you took together?
Kimberly Le: So our first product using the Koji that we commercialized was our bacon. And it’s still our most popular product to date. And, uh, you know, a lot of people say, oh, I’m vegetarian except for bacon. It’s just one of those people. My little brother eats like a pack of bacon. Almost every single day. Uh, so, uh, I, I personally also have a huge bacon fan, and there’s just not very much out there in terms of plant-based bacon.
Kimberly Le: So, we ended up finding this huge opportunity to go after a product that really wasn’t being served, and started developing the bacon and launched that I think. A little over a year ago. At this point we did our first, uh, product drop, our first launch. And when we launched it, we sold out in four hours.
Kimberly Le: And it was, uh, really exciting, also around the time of the pandemic. So it was also very. Difficult to actually get all of those products out to people initially. So it was a challenge, but we’re so, so happy that it was well received and their community has been really receptive to all of our launches.
Ken Ojuka: Well, and I can, and I can vouch for that. You got, you were a Christian enough to send me some, some of this, uh, bacon and some of the bacon bits. And it’s awesome. So I didn’t know what to think when I first got it, what it was, what to expect, but, but it’s great. I think it’s a wonderful substitute for baking.
Ken Ojuka: You know, I’m probably closer to your brother where I eat a lot of bacon as well. And, uh, I usually. You know, warming up some bacon in the oven or sorry, in the microwave. And then just. So that’s, that’s how I got yours and it’s great
Kimberly Le: the way to go for sure.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. And I’ve been doing keto, so you’re always kind of looking for, you know, quick, quick snacks that are easy, that can kind of satisfy that craving. And so this was, this was fantastic. So I actually want to dig into a little bit of, uh, How you made the product initially.
Ken Ojuka: How, and then also I want to hear a little bit more about that product drop in what were, what the marketing strategy was, what’s behind that. So, so you had the idea, you knew how to make this. Did you go to a co-packer immediately or how did you actually get your first batch of product?
Kimberly Le: Good question.
Kimberly Le: Then, we do everything in house. So we grow the Koji, we turn it into the end products like bacon, and we even ship it directly to our customer’s doors. So we really are, like, you know, everything is done in house and, you know, kind of farm to table. You want to think about it like that.
Kimberly Le: And to go. The initial stages of the Koji, to the end product of it being like bacon or any other products we make , takes a matter of days, not years, to be able to get there. So we actually fundamentally just rethought. How can we make protein better, more efficient, and obviously like less environmentally taxing through that.
Kimberly Le: And so now we do everything in house. A lot of. A lot of the things that we do, we’re the only people in the world who can do them or who will have done them. And so it is difficult for us to be able to co-manufacturer. But it’s also part of what makes us really unique and special, because we are doing different things that result in a much better product.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. Could you, could you dig into that just a little bit? So, uh, you know, I realized that, you know, a lot of people listening to this may not know what Koji is and you know, may not have any experience with it. What is it? And then how do you actually grow it? And, and, and, you know, what’s the process like to turn it into, you know, these, these delicious bacon.
Kimberly Le: Yeah. So Koji is a traditional Japanese diet. It’s been consumed in the human diet for over 10,000 years. So it’s actually something that most people eat on or interact with or, or like, you know, have on a daily basis, it’s found a lot in soy sauce and me, so it’s Koji is a, as an ingredient is something, that, where we were very fascinated by it.
Kimberly Le: Koji by itself, not grown on rice or on soy, which is how it’s traditionally done. Just Koji itself, like the fun guy. And we like to think about them. Roots of mushrooms. So it’s actually very fibrous in nature. It’s white in color. And if you want to kind of visualize it, it’s kind of like when you tear apart chicken breasts, like there’s fibers.
Kimberly Le: And so that’s kind of like how Koji looks, and the way that we grow it. And we literally just throw the coachee itself. It is grown in liquid. So it’s pure clean, and it’s a whole food protein, and the Koji does a lot of the work for us to actually make like the meaty textures and the flavors.
Kimberly Le: And what we do is we combine other ingredients such as plant-based fats, and flavors and colors, just so we can replicate the look, the feel, and the whole experience of eating different types of meats. So we’re actually able to. Much more than just bacon. We can make bacon, we can make seafood products, and you know, kind of everything in between, and it all starts with the coachee.
Kimberly Le: So hopefully there’s a little bit more color in Koji. And if anyone wants to find out more, our website does have some more information.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. And so you mentioned different types of meats. Have you guys considered, you know, what, what the next product lines might be?
Ken Ojuka: I see sausage in some of the pictures here. Do you guys currently sell the sausage?
Kimberly Le: They believe we have the sausage inside, like one of our meal products. But we’re always playing around with making a wide variety of different meats and stuff. So yeah, a lot is in the works, and we’re excited to be launching more products in the near future.
Ken Ojuka: And, what about, you know, like equipment and, sort of the initial, funding to, you know, build a facility or to rent out a facility? What did that look like in the beginning?
Kimberly Le: So in terms of equipment, we use a lot of equipment that you would find in a commercial kitchen. Unlike a lot of, uh, traditional, plant-based paths saying, or like meat based processing.
Kimberly Le: We don’t have a lot of, you know, the heavy industrial machinery that makes something like ultra process. And so it is a lot more natural. And artismal the way that we make things. And, you know, actually make like the meat products, uh, look like] me and feel like me, in terms of like the facilities and initially getting up and right.
Kimberly Le: Because we did a significant amount of research and development early on. And I need the facilities for that as well as to have to clean up the kitchen and the facilities to scale up. We did have to. Capital to be able to support those efforts. And we have a great group of investors who bring a wide variety of experiences who are backing us and helping us to scale things out.
Kimberly Le: So very, very fortunate for our investors and partners who help us, uh, find it.
Ken Ojuka: Now did you guys get, did you guys go after, investments before you did your product drop or sort of at what stage did you decide that you needed to go get investors?
Kimberly Le: Very early on. And a lot of investors were actually encouraging us and supporting us, like even in the pre company days before we had incorporated or even said, like, Hey, we’re going to make this into a company.
Kimberly Le: So we were just doing a lot of the research and, and the, the initial recipe testing. We had just, a lot of, this is kind of part of being in the bay area where we were, it’s just, there is a lot of support. Resources out there. Yeah. Even pre- incubate companies and ideas. So we’re very fortunate to be able to have that support.
Kimberly Le: And we could do a lot of the initial testing without a lot of capital. And when we got to a point where we said, Hey, like we’re going to go in full time. And really trying to make this into a company is when we, we, we sought out our initial funding through an accelerator. So a lot of, I think, accelerators and incubators.
Kimberly Le: Our great, uh, stepping stones we chose to do in the bio, which is a really infamous, uh, uh, they’re primarily biology focused, but they do a lot of food tech. So a lot of companies, like perfect day, Memphis meet a lot of companies who have very different approaches to how to tackle the issues in the food system.
Kimberly Le: But a lot of companies that we all know today, did come from a new bio. So we are very similar.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah, very cool. Yeah. And obviously, you know, plant-based and, even the, the plant-based meats, you know, it’s, it’s kind of, uh, it’s a sector that’s experiencing a lot of growth. There’s a lot of interest in it.
Ken Ojuka: You see what some of these companies like beyond meat have been able to do? What, what, what is your thought about, you know, I guess that industry in general, after. You know, successfully raising, raising money, how to, uh, investors look at this and you know, what, what sort of the, their worldview on, on this category of product.
Kimberly Le: The reception over the past few years has definitely shifted as people form their theses and understanding of why the industry exists. And so I think that people are a lot more receptive today than they were, you know, out four or five years ago when we started. And It is really exciting because there is a climate crisis going on.
Kimberly Le: And this is, I mean, not just the problem with animal agriculture, but there are many climate related issues that can’t just get swept under the rug and that can, you know, company-based initiatives and interventions that can really help. So I’m excited to see that there’s a whole new interest amongst the investment community in sustainable technology.
Kimberly Le: And putting dollars to work where, you know, it’s not just about FinTech or, uh, whatever the next new shiny object is, but people are actually starting to actually care as like people, individuals, and also where they put their money.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. Interesting. So you talked a little bit about your product drop, and we said that, uh, that you guys sold out within what four, four hours.
Ken Ojuka: Is that what you said? Yeah. So can you tell us just a little bit about what that looked like? What, what the strategy was and why do you think it went so well?
Kimberly Le: Uh, yeah, I think we had been kind of just in R and D mode. Probably three years before we actually said, Hey, let’s do a small launch of our bacon, and see how it goes.
Kimberly Le: And so we hadn’t really done anything in terms of marketing or PR. Everything we had gone through was just people generally genuinely interested in what we did. And so I think at that point we had like over 10,000 people on our mailing list. And we said, Hey, let’s, let’s just do this, this limited time offering and see.
Kimberly Le: Who’s going to buy it? And who wants to support this and who wants to try this plant-based bacon? And so we did a release, and, you know, made it public, but also obviously going after our mailing list and our community that we had built up. And I think it’s really just having those, very, very excited and passionate followers early on.
Kimberly Le: And. We did a lot in terms of getting out into our community. We hosted a few events, kind of in the bay area, beforehand. So I met a lot of people face to face and, you know, a lot of people came out and supported us. And then I think that was, I think that the main, the main driver was really just having people who are following our journey and who are really excited.
Kimberly Le: Yes. It was all pre COVID days and we hosted different workshops and topics, and people could learn about fermentation and fun guys. And yeah, we used to host a fair amount of events, and just being able to talk and, and sample and get people’s feedback. So. There are people who are listening or who did come to our events, they got to sample before everything was officially released.
Kimberly Le: So thank you to everyone who did it was we, we took all of the feedback from all of our, like in-person sampling, and incorporated it into making the first release product. That’s one of the reasons we love being. You know, focused on the customer experience. And we only sell online today, and have, are able to get that feedback is, were always able to iterate and make the product better directly with the support of, or like direct consumer feedback.
Ken Ojuka: And that’s a really interesting point. Especially, you know, when you’re talking about a startup, there are some huge advantages for trying to do this in house, if you can, for as long as you can. And a lot of, you know, one of the biggest advantages is that you can iterate much quicker. So you can get that direct feedback and the next batch that you create, you can directly input it.
Ken Ojuka: So, uh, is there any piece of, you know, is there any feedback that you got, initially that you thought was especially helpful?
Kimberly Le: Uh, I think all feedback is really helpful. And so we welcome positive and constructive feedback. It’s really fascinating to see how. You know, something, we, we had tested a lot and done a lot of sampling too. Like could always be refined and the product can always get better. So, we’re really committed to making the best product.
Kimberly Le: So that means like always iterating and always, making the products better, the feedback. So, there’s a lot of things also that we learned early on, that you just can’t really learn, by being on the shelf or by just not getting out there into the real world, like how to ship products, how, you know, how to have different sets of cooking instructions, based on like the.
Kimberly Le: Based on the handling based on the, I mean, even things like, it was interesting. A lot of people wrote in and were like, Hey, like I’m at altitude. Like how do I cook this product? Because instructions don’t work. And just thinking about all those things, like how to make the customer experience better, that’s just something you don’t get to do when you, unless the product is out there.
Ken Ojuka: Right, right. Yeah. Those are some good points, you know, in one of the ways that you’re seeing a lot of people go to market these days, in the food spaces. Doing stuff like farmer’s markets. And a lot of it is for exactly what you’re talking about, which is you get to be face-to-face with your customers and, uh, you can see their feedback.
Ken Ojuka: You can see their facial expressions, you know, when they taste your product. So I, you know, it’s not always the easiest thing to, to receive, uh, feedback or, you know, to. To have people critique, you know, your life work. Uh, how do you, how do you approach it? Uh, and, you know, has that been something that you found difficult in the early days?
Ken Ojuka: You know, what, what are your thoughts about that?
Kimberly Le: Uh, it’s definitely been a learning curve about how to receive feedback and then, transform it into actionable results. It is difficult to receive. Like you said about your life’s wear. But I think that, for me, like my life work and like the reason we exist is to make a big impact.
Kimberly Le: And so listening to feedback is so important. And feedback is just really a learning opportunity. And I think so. There was a really, really good Ted talk that I watched, early on. That was very, very important, kind of like how I think. Taking food feedback specifically. And then, I think this is probably applicable to a lot of people building physical products.
Kimberly Le: It’s a Ted talk that was given by Malcolm Gladwell. And it’s, he is actually talking about. A man named Howard Moskowitz, who is regarded sometimes as the father of modern sensory science. And he did a lot of work, with, uh, big companies and small companies alike to really like, identify like, how do you do sensory testing?
Kimberly Le: How do you understand what people really want? And what he found was that, he’s, he’s the one that basically had the insight that people. Don’t really know what they want when they’re like telling you, or when you ask them, you have to read between the lines and. Be in front of people and ask the right questions.
Kimberly Le: So the best example, which I love, is if you ask a hundred or a thousand people, how do you like your coffee? The majority of people will tell you that they want it like dark, a dark deep party roast. But in reality, As humans, we love sugar. We love that. We love cream. And so in reality, what people really want is probably like a frappuccino or something that’s creamy, light and sweet.
Kimberly Le: And that’s like, I mean, yes, there are people out there obviously who love their deep, dark, Hardy rose, but to make a product that would sell really well. That’s very well received. And obviously Starbucks has done great with their frappuccinos. You know, people really want sugar and cream.
Kimberly Le: And it’s also, he realized that people don’t like thin pasta sauces. They like thick pasta sauces with chunks in them. But if you like conceptually think about it, do you want a chunky pasta salad or like a smooth, clean pasta sauce? So it’s just, that was a really enlightening pet dog. Highly recommended.
Kimberly Le: And so we take all of our feedback, but we really think about like, okay, what, what is the problem? The customer really is trying to solve, what experience are they trying to have? And it’s, it’s nice when you are also the consumer of the product. And like, as someone who eats meat, I can also say, okay, like, it has to be like the experience of eating regular bacon, and kind of like thinking through, okay, like what, what are they really trying to say?
Kimberly Le: So I think it’s. And there’s another, there’s a book that I think is really good and productive for people. It’s called the mom test. It’s like, yep. It’s kind of like the paddock Bible for a lot of people, but like, how do you, How do you ask the right questions to get the right feedback and then read between the lines to be able to take those insights and turn them into actions.
Kimberly Le: You also can’t listen to every single person or you will drive yourself nuts.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. So let’s, let’s talk just, just for a second about shipping. You know, and I know we’re getting close to time, but, you know, obviously, uh, a perishable product, It is a tough thing to do direct to consumer, you know, what are some of the lessons around, around shipping and how you guys approach that?
Kimberly Le: Uh, we use common carriers, but, we do, you know, all of our fulfillment and packing in house. And that also enables us to, you know, add in, you know, instructions and little things and little touches that you wouldn’t get, like going to a grocery store. But we handle everything in house. We, we, we only ship from the west coast, so it is difficult to get products to the east coast.
Kimberly Le: And you know, as we scale, Chris, we’ll expand our distribution capabilities, but today it is difficult for us to get to the east coast. So we just charge whatever the carriers charge us, which sometimes is a lot because it is a perishable product that needs to go pretty far. And it’s pretty heavy.
Kimberly Le: But with that being said, everyone always asks about packaging. And it’s something that, you know, we care a lot about. Just, obviously, the sustainability of the products overall. So we have fully compostable liners, uh, uh, the ice packs and go into the drain, safely. And so everything is either compostable or recyclable.
Kimberly Le: So we are very proud that like we have reduced a lot of the, the non reusable non-recyclable, or non compostable elements from, Entire product experience
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. And I think anybody who’s who who’s looking at this space, you know, that’s something that they really need to factor into their costs, because all of that, you know, the ice and the, the installation, all of that, you know, adds to, uh, To the bottom line or I guess takes away from the bottom line.
Ken Ojuka: And so you just have to price it into your, into your product costs. And it’s something I think that, that, you know, a lot of people are surprised, you know, How much, how much it can be. What was there, you know, were you guys expecting, uh, those types of costs or, or were you guys surprised as well or, or, you know, how did, how did you approach it?
Ken Ojuka: Did you hire somebody from outside to come in and advise you on this? Or how did you guys think?
Kimberly Le: I think we kind of knew what to expect going into shipping. I think the thing that we did not expect and no one expected was really the impact that COVID would have on the supply chain at large. And so it just, uh, when we initially launched, the, I know like FedEx and ups and USBs were just having such a hard time.
Kimberly Le: Just getting packages on time to, uh, people just in general. And there were huge shortages of workers and huge delays. So that was really difficult. And so navigating, that was a big challenge. I think a lot of us. Challenges have been more or less, mostly all COVID related. A lot of companies ship directly to consumers now.
Kimberly Le: And so we have a lot of knowledge that we can pull from an experience there.
Ken Ojuka: Okay, great. Great. Well, you know, just the last question, before we jump into the quickfire round, you know, what’s, uh, what’s next, you know, what’s what are you guys looking forward to, what’s you know, what’s next for prime?
Kimberly Le: Yeah, what’s next is we are really excited to be able to bring a lot more of our products to life. We’ve been working obviously very hard for a very long time on developing. The ability for the Koji to make a wide variety of products. So, we’ll have more products coming out, then this year and early next year, so that’s going to be really exciting.
Kimberly Le: And yeah, that’s mainly the, the, the main focus right now is as launching additional products.
Ken Ojuka: And how are you guys thinking about wholesale, you know, trying to get into some stores, to make your product more accessible, to more people. Is that something you guys are currently doing?
Kimberly Le: So we’re definitely really excited about potential partnerships, in all different conventional channels.
Kimberly Le: So I’m definitely interested in looking into different opportunities, and really trying to find the highest impact way of getting to our consumers who are. Flexitarians who are people who may, uh, who still eat meat, but want to do better, and are intentional about their food choices. So how do we get to that customer?
Kimberly Le: How do we get to people like us, who still eat meat, but who are excited about plant-based meats? So just really thinking about like, how, how do we do that? This is something that has been on my mind.
Ken Ojuka: Okay. Awesome. Awesome. Well, let’s jump into the quick fire round. We’ve got just four quick questions for you.
Ken Ojuka: What’s one tool or resource that you feel has helped you a lot that you’d recommend to people.
Kimberly Le: I don’t know people that say this, but, uh, YouTube university as I call it the Google training resources. Whenever I have a question, that’s usually the first place I go and there’s just, the internet is such a treasure trove of knowledge.
Kimberly Le: And on the flip side, I also love books. I think books just tell a story and like, there’s so much knowledge that isn’t on the internet as well. So it’s usually the internet or the library.
Ken Ojuka: Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. And, uh, yeah, YouTube university. That’s a good name for it. I spend a lot of time consuming YouTube videos and you know, it’s generally not the cat videos or the, you know, people hurting each other videos, but it’s, it’s more of the educational type stuff.
Ken Ojuka: I find that there’s just a ton of great stuff.
Kimberly Le: My YouTube recommendations are like cute dogs and cute cats. And then lots of like serious, tough,
Ken Ojuka: I imagine. So what’s a, what’s one book, you know, you mentioned that, uh, that you, you like, you like reading and you like consuming a lot of books. What’s one book that you could recommend that’s been helpful to you?
Kimberly Le: I just started reading a book. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m loving it so far. It’s called eeky guy spelled I K I G a. It’s a Japanese word and it’s really, it’s like, it’s a book about finding what I would call the bliss point in life. And like your life personally is. And so it’s, it’s about like, how do you spend your time and your energy and find things and do things that are the intersection of, you know, what you love, what you’re good at is something that brings you.
Kimberly Le: And it’s, it’s been really exciting to read cause it’s like, I obviously do what we do every day. I have, like, never been able to put a word to it and I feel like eeky guys like, uh, it’s close. And so I’ve been kind of reading more about it, so highly recommended I haven’t finished it, but it has been a great personal book.
Ken Ojuka: Okay, awesome. Uh, what’s one piece of advice that you would give to your 21 year olds.
Kimberly Le: I would say, trust your gut. A lot of the decisions and learnings that we’ve made that have been kind of against my gut feeling have been what I would say wrong, or have become learning experiences more than they have become decisions that have resulted in like the intended results. And that’s really been just 21 year old Kim kind of second guessing or doubting her own judgment. And so seeking out the advice of others and not realizing that, Hey, like you’re probably the best person to like to make this decision and you know, all of the different parts. So just trusting your gut and not necessarily going with what experience says, although I think it’s still really important to listen and to learn and to absorb, but at the end of the day there’s just something about entrepreneurship and trusting your gut. That is so important that very few people talk about it.
Ken Ojuka: Right. Right. And, last question, who is, uh, somebody in your field of work? I guess in the world of physical products or entrepreneurship, or just somebody that inspires you in some way that you’d love to take lunch?
Kimberly Le: My mom, I mean, I can, I should probably. Take her to lunch more than I do. And just talk to her more. I think she’s just such a huge inspiration. And she raised, you know, four kids, uh, while running a business, being a kick-ass chef and amongst a field of just like tons of old white men. And so I.
Kimberly Le: Uh, I’m just so privileged to obviously be her daughter and know her. And I would love to, to spend more time with my mom, and talking about food, cooking with her, cause a lot of the inspiration for a lot of the things we do comes from. My childhood. And I think there’s just so much knowledge and experience that I would love to just download from my mom that, you know, I, I think I now know the questions to ask and like the things that I’m struggling with that she can most definitely advise on.
Ken Ojuka: Oh, very nice. Very nice. So if somebody wants to contact you or reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to do so?
Kimberly Le: You can reach out to pirates, and, and most things do get to me. Or I’m also on social media, uh, on Instagram or on, Instagram or. Joining our community and our email lists that are primary is a great way as well.
Kimberly Le: We do share bits and snippets of the journey. We are a small team, so, you know, I’m more than happy to answer questions via our, yeah, our website’s really the best way. So it’s dot com. You can join our email list there. And then we’re also social.
Ken Ojuka: Nice. And do you have any parting words or advice for those people?
Ken Ojuka: Those of us who are in the physical products world, you know, maybe have a physical product or are considering launching one, you know, any, any advice for those in that situation?
Kimberly Le: Just try it, just make it happen. I think a lot with physical products is that you can do a lot of research and market research and all of that, but when it comes down to it, you have to have a physical product and you probably personally want that product.
Kimberly Le: So make it for yourself, try it, love it, evangelize it and kind of grow it from there. So I’d say just, I mean just really solid life philosophy that I have is just do it in general. So just make it happen.
Ken Ojuka: Yup. Brings us back to the open quote do or do not.
Ken Ojuka: Well, Kim, this has been a wonderful interview. I appreciate you taking the time. And look forward to getting this live and getting some feedback on this. But you’ve been an awesome guest and I appreciate you doing it.
Kimberly Le: Thank you. I appreciate you as well. Have a great rest of your week. Thanks Ken. Bye.
Ken Ojuka: Alright! Yep.
Ken Ojuka: You’re welcome. Hey, see ya.
Ken Ojuka: Physical Product Movement Podcast is brought to you by Fiddle to find out more about Fiddle and Howard industry. The leading inventory ops platform is giving modern brands and manufacturers full visibility into their inventory and operations. Visit fiddle.io, and then make sure to search for Physical Product Movement in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts, or anywhere else, podcasts are found.
Ken Ojuka: Make sure to click subscribe. So you don’t miss any future episodes on behalf of the team here at Fiddle. Thanks for listening.