Women-owned businesses have been essential to driving economic growth, creating jobs, driving innovation, and inspiring other women entrepreneurs. Consumers want to know about the people behind a brand just as much as they care about the ingredients inside the product. That’s why we recently sat down with two women-owned businesses in our DIVERSE Trade® portfolio to learn more about where they’ve been and where they’re going.

Carol Vanegas-Schuster 

Got Paella, Owner

Q: Why did you start this company?

A: Got Paella was started by me and my husband during the pandemic when our two catering locations were shut down. The pandemic slowed all aspects of life down, which allowed us to deliver fresh paella quickly and efficiently. After delivering 3,500 meals in 40 days, a fresh and frozen Spanish Paella skillet-ready meal was created.

Q: What are some of the challenges that you faced when you were first getting started and how did you overcome them?

A: Right when I joined this industry, I came to learn that it is based on an old-school mentality, which made being a woman an uphill battle in an already challenging industry. The first thing I did was partner up with a local advisory company for women entrepreneurs and then I got certified as women-owned. These affiliations eventually opened the door for Got Paella to enter and win KeHE’s Golden Ticket contest. Once people try our product, they love it. When you start, you are a small fish in a huge ocean but if you have a great product, keep moving. Someone will hear you, see you, and give you the opportunity. The hardest part is just getting your foot in the door and making those initial relationships.

Q: What advice would you give to other women who are thinking about starting their own business?

A: The most important thing I tell anybody starting out in this industry, especially women, is that you cannot do it all alone. There are many advisory services for women entrepreneurs with the purpose of providing help to women who are new to the business. Partnering up with women in the industry and asking for advice is especially helpful in avoiding unnecessary mistakes and costs. I’d also stress the importance of getting certified. Most players in the industry want to diversify their brand portfolio and this is an essential way to make sure you are seen by buyers who can connect you with many new opportunities.

Stefanie Turner

Tuyyo Foods, Owner

Q: Why did you start this company?

A: I have seen many amazing better-for-you brands launch over the past decade, however, only a handful of them were actually culturally relevant to me as a first-generation Latina. I started TUYYO Foods to bring modern Hispanic products to market that combined two things I grew up with —bright-colored powdered drinks we all remember as kids but were filled with questionable ingredients and my grandmother’s delicious aguas frescas that she would make from scratch. I wanted to create something convenient and culturally relevant to me while using better ingredients than conventional powder drink mixes.

Q: What are some of the challenges that you faced when you were first getting started and how did you overcome them?

A: The first challenge I faced was in creating the actual product itself. I had a vision but wasn’t sure if I could bring it to life the way I envisioned. Luckily, one of my friends had a background in food science and helped me to create my original formulations which allowed me to get my product off the ground. I later worked with an R&D lab to reformulate my recipes based on the initial feedback I received from customers, which led me to the recipes and products I have now.

Another challenge was timing. Everything takes so long to happen but once it does, it happens quickly! Overall, it is difficult to keep track of all the moving pieces but ultimately, building great relationships with your suppliers is the best way to ensure everything goes smoothly, or if a hiccup does happen, that they are willing to work with you to fix it. 

Q: From your perspective, what are some ways that the industry (retailers, distributors, even consumers) can better support women-owned brands?

A: Aside from simply buying from women-owned brands, take the time to shout out the brands you love! Social media has become so important for spreading the word about brands and the more people that share, the more recognition everybody receives. As far as retailers and distributors go, taking the time to talk to founders and review their products is huge.

KeHE customers can support these DIVERSE Trade brands by ordering on the KeHE CONNECT Retailer® platform.
Learn more about KeHE’s DIVERSE Trade program at https://www.kehe.com/diversetrade/.