Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kaitlin Mogentale, founder, and CEO of Trashy Chips, located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Trashy Chips turns nutritious, overlooked resources like fruit and vegetable juice pulp into wholesome everyday snacks and pantry staples that make it convenient and delicious to eat more servings of fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Less than 10% of Americans eat their servings of vegetables or fiber each day, with significant implications for general health and wellbeing. If we were to all eat our servings, we'd save over one hundred thousand lives and billions of dollars in medical costs. Trashy Chips is here to give people a more convenient, family-friendly snack that provides real nutrition.

Trashy Chips's flagship product is a line of veggie chips reinvented, aptly named Trashy Chips. They come in delicious, best-selling flavors such as Jalapeño Lime, Spicy Barbecue, Salt Vinegar, and Sea Salt. There's something there for everyone!

Tell us about yourself

My journey to Trashy Chips founding began when I became closely acquainted with the unsettling disparities in our food system. I was working at an urban garden attached to a low-income elementary school, where French fries and pizza counted as your daily vegetable. And yet, just down the street, I found myself at a friend's house watching as she juiced a bunch of organic veggies with handfuls of fresh vegetable pulp left behind. She admitted that she had no idea what to do with the pulp - that usually she threw it away (my friends knew I was a waste-free hippie!).

The light bulb went off - I took the pulp home to make carrot cake cookies, calling up juiceries the next day to find out what they were doing with their pulp. Of course, all of them were simply throwing this resource away! I knew we could do better than to waste nutrition.

So I partnered up with a juicery on my campus, creating a class project around the idea that we could turn waste veggies into real, nutritious snacks for kids - carrot cake muffins, beet brownies, you name it. I created Trashy Chips with a mission to transform upcycled ingredients - the overlooked, nutritional byproducts of fruit and vegetable processing - into products with the ingredients, nutrition, and values that contemporary, evolving consumers care most about. That's what inspires and motivates me every day - there is so much to do to bring us closer to a circular future for consumer packaged goods.

My greatest passion is at the intersection of food, people, and the planet. Food is the great connector - we share culture, history, and memories through food. We gather around a dinner table and discover new countries centered around our experiences with food. Food affects our health directly; it touches on mental well-being and the physical. And food requires resources, food touches the very soils we stand on, and food is dependent upon a healthy planet and water, sun, nutrients. We are all connected through food, which is why I love working in the food industry and trying to make our food system healthier for people and the planet.

Do you have daily rituals for work / wellness / fitness / mindfulness?

In today's world... and especially as an entrepreneur... It's easy to find every excuse (limited time especially) to skip a workout, meditate, or eat a healthy meal. One trick I use myself is to build a bite-size plan for myself to incorporate daily wellness rituals. For example, I might say, "Well, I just don't have time for an hour-long workout class," but it's pretty hard to convince myself that I don't have time for a minimum 20-minute walk. What often happens is that when I'm outside, I start to loosen up, and creativity and problem-solving flow more freely - and I find myself walking or running the full three-mile loop. From a mindset point of view, convincing yourself to just take that first step can be the thing that gives you the courage to climb the whole mountain, and that's in business and in the business of taking care of your body, mind, and soul. I start small so that I can accomplish big things, scare, or even things I don't have time for, like working out well. 

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I've created and sold five different products through the past four years of business, starting out in farmer's markets and even working weekends in a commercial kitchen in hours that no one else wanted. I pivoted from our initial five products, landing on our current product line, which took a lot of determination and work. It's been nothing short of hustle, so I'd say my biggest accomplishment is keeping a positive spirit, steadfast commitment, and knowing that I've learned more about myself in these few years building a business than ever before. Building a business will really test your limits -- and teach you just how capable we really are when we put our minds to something BIG.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Rejection is tough, and when you're wearing all of the hats - you are rejected so many times over. Rejected by potential partners, suppliers, you name it, I've gone through it! But I've come to learn that there are many great things to take away from rejection - and I love pushing harder to get feedback, to make sure I can soak in all of the potential learnings. Maintaining "pleasant persistence" is the key, and having gratitude for the journey, even on the toughest days.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Scrappiness is everything! You are the vision behind your brand - and you're powerful and capable beyond what you believe. We have been able to launch in nearly 600 doors, with some of the best retailers: Target, Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters, and that was all our doing - I had no brokers but built this business with personal relationships I nurtured along the way. Take a chance on yourself, and others will follow.
  2. I would tell any entrepreneur starting a business today to really make sure they're filling a need and making products that have real social impact baked into the business. The world needs more entrepreneurs that are driven with purpose and passion.
  3. Don't rush the process - don't be afraid to start small! Make sure you're honest with yourself about what you're great at and where you need help and ask for help often. It's a vulnerable thing to share your creations with the world, but ideas are powerful tools for connecting. They don't miss out on those opportunities to connect and learn from others by being bashful about where you are in your process.

Where can people find you and your business?


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