Alum of Business: Sōw Juice
Even before enrolling in FCI’s Business Course, Luisa Alberto was no newcomer to the cutting edge culinary world. From nationally recognized cocktail and spirit company The Bon Vivants to the local food delivery service Good Eggs, her resume includes some of the savviest start-ups in the sector. But it was while building the national wholesale program for Blue Bottle, the Bay Area (and now international) kingpin of third wave coffee, that Luisa was inspired to try her hand at business.
These days, Luisa and business partner Derek Castro (also formerly of Blue Bottle) are no longer slinging beans. They’ve found another way to press and pour their way across the Bay Area, all while staying true to the simplicity that inspired them to start Sōw Juice to begin with: Sourcing, craft, and customer service.
What is Sow all about?
Sōw, as in to plant (seed) by scattering it on or in the earth, specializes in sourcing organic California grown produce, herbs and flowers to craft juice combinations fresh to order. We believe that sourcing the freshest ingredients, sustainably grown, makes for the most delicious juice. We also believe that juice is best enjoyed moments after being made.
Who is your biggest food inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is definitely Blue Bottle Coffee. What inspires me most are the people who believe in what the company stands for and take enormous pride in their work. The company values are deliciousness, hospitality, and sustainability. They’re simple, inspiring, and attainable. And most importantly, they translate to a company that has grown exponentially over the past 10 years without compromising the quality of its product or customer experience.
How did the Food Craft Institute’s Business Course help you grow your business?
I have taken other business classes before. FCI’s Business Intensive was different, and a perfect compliment to the business basics I had learned and implemented. Every bit of information was relevant to my business and helped paint a clearer picture of the large landscape I was preparing to maneuver.
I gained the most from Anjali’s finance portion of the class. She focused on financial concepts more than balance sheets and cash flow. She helped me realize how critical it is to focus on the nuts and bolts of our finances as tools for better decision making and well informed strategy. These insights have allowed me to develop a financial strategy that suits the stage of growth we’re in and moves us in the direction we want to grow.
Speaking of, what do you envision the upcoming years will bring for Sōw?
This year we will open our first permanent retail space in San Francisco (details to come!) and we will grow slowly but surely from there. We also plan to expand our offerings, highlighting seasonal and California sourced fare. I envision the next five years to bring opportunities and accomplishments we haven’t even dreamed up yet.
What have been the biggest obstacles you’ve encountered?
It’s tough to identify our biggest obstacles. For every challenge we face, there is a resource or a network of people at the ready to help you overcome it. No money? Try crowdfunding through Kickstarter, Kiva Zip, or Credibles. Never started a business before? Take a class at FCI, Renaissance Center, or Inner City Advisors. No advisors? Go down to SCORE or talk to someone at the Small Business Association office. I could go on…
What advice do you have for new food entrepreneurs starting out?
Ask for advice every step of the way. There is always more to learn, a different perspective, a better way to grip the next rung. Find mentors – with varying experience, skills, and perspectives – and listen to them. Reinventing the wheel is a waste of precious time.
Stay up to date with Sōw by subscribing to their newsletter. Better yet, order online or follow them to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Thursdays (10am-2pm) and Saturdays (8am-2pm) to see what all the freshly squeezed fuss is about.
Dealing with your own obstacles? Enroll in the Food Craft Institute’s upcoming Q2 Business Module to learn all about finance from Luisa’s guru Anjali Oberoi.