INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE RAZAVILet’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there. How did your company get started and why?
ELAVI was created for busy, active, health-conscious go-getters. I was juggling a full-time corporate job while also teaching high-intensity fitness classes in the evenings and needed something that could keep me nourished on-the-go and deliver the collagen our bodies need for longevity. Nothing existed to meet what I wanted: functional, delicious, non-inflammatory, and convenient. So I made it myself. I had friends at the gym and at work try them and all of them were blown away by the formula – noting how unique it was and how they also wanted to see something like that in the market. While many other companies cut corners with cheap ingredients, fillers, and sugar alcohols – ELAVI was thoughtfully designed and iterated to now be regarded as “the protein bar for people who hate protein bars.”
What is your product and how would you describe it?
ELAVI is a modern wellness brand providing the most delicious functional snacks to help your body thrive. Busy consumers are seeking convenient, feel-good ways to prioritize their health – without sacrificing on taste, texture, or time. You shouldn’t have to choose between delicious taste, functional benefits, or convenience – you can have it all with ELAVI. We came to market with the first multi-collagen protein bites – the first product to keep you both energized and nourished, while also delivering sustainably sourced collagen to help promote a stronger body. And we’re just getting started. Welcome to elevated, functional snacking with ELAVI.
Has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Absolutely not easy. We had only 3 months of sales before entering the pandemic but it made us stronger and focus on how to be capital efficient. We had to pivot our strategy to digital and get creative on marketing a protein bar at a time when gyms are closed and virtually everyone is at home baking banana bread. Personally, I got furloughed from teaching at the gym, lost grandparents to COVID, and had no emotional/financial support from my parents and leaned heavily on my co-founder for mental health support. We also had production delays due to COVID and difficulty engaging investors as everyone became more conservative.There were many moments when I wanted to curl up and cry from exhaustion trying to push our company forward with extremely limited resources (we bootstrapped everything with our savings) and obstacles outside our control. Needless to say, we crushed it. We launched two more flavors, got into Erewhon Market, maintained a high repeat purchase rate and consistent velocity at our retailers, and a strong understanding of our customers. This wouldn’t have been possible without such a strong, unique product and our loyal community of consumers cheering us on.
What is your next challenge to overcome? What help are you looking for?
We just got our lead investor (!) which is so exciting when less than 3% of institutional capital goes to women and people of color. As a Middle Eastern woman and first-time founder, I feel like I had to work 3x as hard to prove that we’re capable of funding. We’ve proven market validation, set up all the infrastructure to scale, and have a solid plan to stand out in a competitive category. Going forward, the challenge will be to stay laser-focused, build a strong, nimble team, and not fall into the temptation of saying yes to everything and into the dangerous comparison trap – things that I’m personally working on.
Tell us about a time that you received help from another entrepreneur or mentor, and how it helped your business?
I’m a huge fan of Tim Ferriss. I love how his focus is on optimizing for efficiency and effectiveness. It’s so tempting to say yes to everything and feel like you have to be accessible to everyone. When you’re in your first few years of a startup, you’re running everything so it’s important to set boundaries and prioritize your mental and physical health (I don’t drink alcohol, call friends frequently, + workout everyday).
What skills or resources have you learned along that you would like to share with the Foodbevy Community?
Get organized! My co-founder and I have shared notes files with passwords to all of our accounts, google drives that house everything in folders, and shared iCloud albums for photos to live in anytime we need to access anything. It’s been so helpful whenever either of us need to jump in somewhere quickly without having to communicate with the other person.I’ll close with this final advice: not everyone is going to resonate with your brand/product and that’s okay. You can’t be everything for everyone. But for those who really do love your mission, keep them close and build a strong relationship with them because they’re going to help you go further.