In mid October, Zora and Josh Tabin, co-founders of meat and veggie bar company Wild Zora, won what many fledgling food brands covet: the Naturally Boulder Pitch Slam, which in addition to street cred, includes a $58,000-value prize package. One of the prizes? $5,000 cash and a booth at Natural Products Expo West.
Here, Josh Tabin talks preparation for the two-minute pitch slam, how he and Zora Tabin founded the company and their vision to get Americans eating better.
newhope360: How was Wild Zora founded? What’s the story?
Josh Tabin: It’s been almost five years now since we’ve started thinking about the gap we perceived in the market for savory and healthy snacks. The majority of snack bars on store shelves have either grains or sugar, and processed versions of protein, such as soy protein isolate.
And then there’s jerky. We like jerky, but many brands have added sugar in them. Plus, jerky can be tough on your teeth. So we thought, can we make a similar jerky and also put vegetables in it?
We started researching this a little deeper. We bought a dehydrator and met with a food scientist to see if we could safely preserve meat without too much salt, sugar or using any artificial preservatives.
newhope360: What challenges did you run into when trying to scale production?
JT: All meat products sold for resale have to be made under federal USDA inspection. So we called every USDA inspector in Colorado, but one by one they turned us down—they didn’t want to risk their license with something as novel as putting vegetables into meat.
Long story short, by a lucky break we had the opportunity to buy a former burrito-making facility that was able to combine meat and vegetables. We sold off the burrito equipment to buy our meat and vegetable equipment, involved another food scientist to oversee our production and finally started getting Wild Zora bars out to farmer’s markets. Then we were picked up by a few natural products stores.
newhope360: How did you prepare for the pitch slam?
JT: We took it very seriously. We didn’t think we were going to win, but we wanted to be in the finals. We organized our pitch to cover the problem [in the marketplace and food industry], the solution Wild Zora provides, the competitive landscape, our market strategy, our target market and our financials. The hardest part was to fit all of this information into a two-minute presentation.
We pulled our pitch apart and took away everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary—a painstaking process. It took four weeks of daily wordsmithing and practice. We crafted every word and memorized. We also practiced the speech a lot in front of our friends.
newhope360: What are your future plans? What’s the next steps?
JT: For the year, we just want to focus on [expanding] in the Rocky Mountain region. There are so many opportunities to grow here. This year I’m also thinking about our production. Our capacity is currently 100,000 units per month. We’re not yet there in sales—we don’t want to get close to those sales without production. But based on what we see coming down the pipeline, we’re going to start getting closer to capacity. My plan is to make a plan.
In five years, I think our product could really help people be healthier. I feel good about that. What I think could be great is for our product to be out there nationally. If Zora really had a monster to tackle, it would be to get real foods in schools. I think that would really make her happy. As we have more sales, our products will get cheaper and more accessible to a wider range of people.
newhope360: What advice do you have for other food entrepreneurs who are faced with opportunity to pitch their product?
The best advice is to get help. There’s always somebody out there who has done this before you. The more experienced advice and help you have the better. Get as many smart people around you as you can. Don’t do it alone.