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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Seeq-ing A Better Protein

Meet Ben Zaver and Hannah Perez of SEEQ, a local supplier of a high-quality protein drink that drinks more like a clear juice rather than a creamy shake. Zaver takes us through his journey of starting the business and the growing pains they have experienced, and Perez shares the marketing strategy that has helped them fully sell out their stock, before it is even delivered! To learn more about SEEQ and to place an order, visit SEEQSupply.com. 
You will also meet Travis Barvke, Chief Strategy and Operating Officer at Choice Bank. Barkve shares about a new initiative called #PeopleFirst Pantry, which provides food free of charge for the community. Inspired by the Free Little Pantry movement, #PeopleFirst Pantries are a community-driven solution to make food available to families and individuals who may not be able to meet their everyday food and personal needs. Whether it is a need for food or a need to give, these pantries will help feed neighbors and nourish neighborhoods. To learn more and to make a donation, visit BankWithChoice.com.

Shownotes:


[00:00:20.510] - Candi Broeffle
Good morning and welcome to Green Tea Conversations, the radio show that delves into the pages of Natural Awakenings magazine to bring you the local experts who share their progressive ideas and the latest information and insights needed so you can lead your best life. I'm your host, Candi Broeffle, publisher of the TwinCities edition of Natural Awakenings magazine, and I am honored to bring these experts to you. Today on our show, I am so excited to introduce you guys to two people, Ben Zaver and Hannah Perez of SEEQ. SEEQ is a local supplier of high-quality protein drinks that drinks more like a clear juice rather than a creamy shake. Welcome to the show, guys.
 
[00:01:01.710] - Ben Zaver
Thanks for having us.
 
[00:01:02.960] - Hannah Perez
Super happy to be here.
 
[00:01:04.360] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah, we're excited to have you with us today. So, Ben, I'm going to ask you to kind of start us off. You are the founder of the company, and so I'd like to know from you, how did this all start for you and what got you interested in it?
 
[00:01:20.260] - Ben Zaver
Yup. So like you said, a quick overview of the product is I kind of always we always are used to the chocolatey vanilla shakes, the consistency, like a juice almost. And I just always thought that there was a better option out there, a more fruity option. And about two years ago, I stumbled across a company that had a very similar product. And the thing about supplement companies, I feel like, is they have thousands of products and it's kind of tough to just market one of them. And I thought this was such a good idea, this juice consistency, fruity flavored protein powder. I'm like, why don't we take this idea and just solely focus on it? And so that was kind of what I decided to do, I guess. So yeah, I started about two years ago. I was going to school for mechanical engineering, and right when Koba hit, it kind of gave me the perfect reason to start working on the business, I guess. And so about three or four months into the journey, I brought on Hannah, gave her some protein samples, and she was on board ever since. So me and her have been working on it for like a year and a half now and just launched in October 2021.
 
[00:02:20.480] - Candi Broeffle
So that is a very quick synopsis of your journey. And I know there's a lot more to this, but one of the things that I neglected to tell our audience about is where you guys are located. So the business is located in Plymouth, correct?
 
[00:02:36.990] - Ben Zaver
Correct. Yeah.
 
[00:02:38.550] - Candi Broeffle
And you started the business, you said, kind of out of your family's home, out of the garage.
 
[00:02:45.330] - Ben Zaver
Yeah. So the first year and a half. We were at my parents' house in Plymouth. Stored all the protein out of there. Did our first couple of shipments out of there. Actually shipping it out of there. Packing it. Had the whole family packing orders and slowly outgrew that well. Actually pretty quickly throughout that in. Like. A month or two. And then got our warehouse employment about eight minutes away from my parents. They're still able to come out and pack orders and stuff.
 
[00:03:09.150] - Candi Broeffle
And so with protein powders that we see on the market now, is that something that you were used to drinking? I mean, is that something that you had kind of as part of your nutrition?
 
[00:03:19.350] - Ben Zaver
Yeah, I was really into fitness, and so I knew I kind of wanted to go into that space. I just know it's a very competitive space, obviously, and so you need a pretty innovative product in order to stand out. And that's what kind of caught my attention with this product. I felt we could market it a little bit better. And I feel like one of our goals is to kind of be like White Claw. How? White Claw didn't necessarily invent the hard seller, but they're the ones who made it mainstream. So our goal with this product is just to make it mainstream before I think it's inevitable that other people start copying us, if that makes sense.
 
[00:03:52.880] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah. So when Hannah and I were talking before the show, because Hannah helped us in being able to feature you guys in Natural Awakenings here for the month of July, so we have an article coming out in July that talks more about your business as well. And when Hannah and I were talking about it, I was so interested in it because it's something that we use a lot in our home, is protein powders. A lot of our listeners know that I have a home for elderly people, and one of the things that we use to supplement for them is protein powder. And it really helps with brain health. It helps with maintaining muscle and just overall health and being able to get them the nutrition that they need. The problem is they don't always like the shaky consistency.
 
[00:04:40.680] - Ben Zaver
Right, exactly.
 
[00:04:42.270] - Candi Broeffle
Because for them, especially if you're a 90-year-old woman, you kind of look at it like, why am I drinking this strawberry shake for breakfast? That doesn't make sense. So Hannah gifted me with a package of sea protein powder. And it really is it's just like a clear juice. It drinks wonderfully. I have given it to our clients as well, and they like it. They just think that they're drinking a regular juice in the morning and seemed to really be enjoying it. Yeah. So I'm excited about the product.
 
[00:05:16.270] - Ben Zaver
Compared to the consistency, like, Gatorade almost. It's just a nice, light, refreshing thing after a workout or even just, like, any time during the day.
 
[00:05:25.110] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah. And as someone who is of a certain age who does not like Gatorade, I'm not a big Gatorade fan, and it doesn't taste like Gatorade to me or kind of has that same consistency, but it really is it's something that's very refreshing, and especially in the summertime, too. I think sometimes the protein shakes get kind of heavy. We've always mixed them with fruit and that type of thing to try to get it so it's more palatable and it seems kind of heavy, especially in the summertime, so that the fruit juice is very light and refreshing, and clients seem to like it as much as I do. So kudos to you on that. So tell us about how did it come about? You said that you had seen it in the past, that you had experienced it from another producer. So what did you do in order to be able to create this product yourself?
 
[00:06:21.270] - Ben Zaver
So I don't really have a nutrition background, so I kind of relied on our manufacturers, food scientists, to kind of dive into all the ingredients, all that kind of stuff. Really, the only feedback we had for them is whether we want the flavor to be more, stronger, less sweet, all that kind of stuff. And obviously, we picked the flavors and all that stuff. So I kind of relied on food scientists to start to formulate our first rendition of our product. And then now we're kind of slowly diving into our own changes that we want to make, like maybe substituting some ingredients, all that kind of stuff.
 
[00:06:54.330] - Candi Broeffle
So tell us about the ingredients that are in there. What should people be aware of?
 
[00:07:00.210] - Ben Zaver
So the main base ingredient is, which is probably 95% of our product, just clear Whey isolate protein. And essentially what that is, is its microfiltered Whey isolate. So if you're familiar with Whey, whey isolate is just Whey protein with the lactose removed. And essentially we're taking that Whey isolate and micro filtering it in order to make it have that juice-like consistency.
 
[00:07:23.670] - Candi Broeffle
And do you have other vitamins and nutritional properties in there as well?
 
[00:07:30.390] - Hannah Perez
We didn't add any other vitamins into it, but by taking protein, you're getting your branch and amino acids. So we do have 4.5 grams of branch and amino acids in every scoop, so that's something to note as well. But we don't amino spike anything. We don't add any other vitamins on top of it. We wanted to make this first product of ours, just plain and simple, and it is what it is without making it too complex.
 
[00:07:52.890] - Candi Broeffle
And that's really great too because so many of us have our own nutrition that we use, our own vitamins, multivitamins, and other supplements that we use. So sometimes you can almost get a little bit too much if there's added nutrition into some of the other things that we're using. So you guys have a really interesting story. So you have not been in business very long. You have not been actually, the business started, and it was more of an idea as you were planning and creating this. And I think it's really important for people to know, what that journey look like, because a lot of people think they have an idea and it's just going to happen a month or two, they'll be ready to start shipping things out. So what's it like a month or two for you, Ben?
 
[00:08:41.370] - Ben Zaver
I actually had written it down in my journal at one point, I still have like hung up in the warehouse somewhere, but it's just like I wanted to launch. I think I had the idea probably about a month before I was going to graduate college. I remember writing down in my journal all these action steps to try to launch the company before I graduated, which was like 28 days, and it ended up taking around a year and a half over a year to find a manufacturer that could actually make the product, have that good mixability, foaming, all that good stuff at a decent price point. The only problem with the manufacturer we ended up going with is their Mop was really high. So other ones we talked to had minimum order quantities of like 500 bottles, but this one was like 4000 to start, which was the big upfront investment when we had no clue if people even want the product yet. So that's kind of the risk we had to take upfront and ended up paying off.
 
[00:09:35.550] - Candi Broeffle
And why did you decide to go with that actual supplier? Because they were able to create what you wanted.
 
[00:09:42.390] - Ben Zaver
Yes. At the time they were the only ones that really could make our product at a decent cost and they were also a one-stop shop. So like I said, they had a food scientist in the building. They do all our blending, they source all ingredients. So it was good for us because we didn't have experience doing any of that stuff yet. So it was nice to have a one-stop shop to kind of do it for us.
 
[00:10:04.660] - Candi Broeffle
Yeah. So like many entrepreneurs you guys have faced, that idea of it doesn't happen overnight, it takes a long time and all great plans need to be changed many times. Right. And it really is whoever thinks about when you're starting a business, like, you're going to have to try to find somebody who can make this, that it would be that difficult to do that and be able to pack it and packaging it and shipping it out to you. So you said it took about a year and a half of that part and then you guys actually launched last fall.
 
[00:10:42.630] - Ben Zaver
We officially launched in October 2021.
 
[00:10:45.600] - Candi Broeffle
Okay. Yeah. So it's only been a few months, less than a year. And when we come back, we are going to talk about what that journey looks like because that is a really interesting story that I'm excited to get into and share with our listeners, especially because it is one that just warms my heart when I think about young entrepreneurs and what's actually possible. So for people who want to learn more about Seat and to place an order visit SEEQSupply.com and that's sequence. To read the online version of Natural Awakenings magazine, visit NaturalTwinCities.com. You can find a podcast of this show on AM950Radio.com, on Apple and Google Podcasts. And anywhere you get your podcast. You're listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM950, the Progressive Voice of Minnesota. And we will be right back. Welcome back to Green Tea Conversations, where we delve into the pages of Natural Awakenings magazine and talk to the professionals who share their expertise on natural health with you. I'm your host, Candi Broeffle, and today we're visiting with Ben Zaver and Hannah Perez of Speak of Local, supplier of a high quality protein drink that drinks more like a clear juice rather than a creamy shake.
 
[00:12:26.530] - Candi Broeffle
So, just before the break, you guys were starting to tell us about kind of the history of how you got started and really being able to get your first order. And you said, Ben, you had an order of 4000 units that you had to make for that first order.
 
[00:12:43.570] - Ben Zaver
Yes. We started with two flavors, strawberry and mango pineapple, each with 2100 units. That was 14 pallets that showed up to my parents' house.
 
[00:12:52.870] - Candi Broeffle
And it was all in the garage?
 
[00:12:57.610] - Ben Zaver
All in the basement. We bring it down a little assembly line. We throw a box by box down to the basement.
 
[00:13:03.130] - Candi Broeffle
Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. I can't even imagine. Your parents must be very supportive.
 
[00:13:10.870] - Ben Zaver
Oh, yeah, very.
 
[00:13:13.450] - Candi Broeffle
So, Hannah, when you and I were talking, you shared with me a really interesting story about kind of how you guys got launched and something that you brought in. So you guys were not friends before this. You met each other during this kind of escapade that Ben was on. So tell us a little bit about how you met.
 
[00:13:36.730] - Hannah Perez
So, I was full-time working at a marketing agency. I was going to school at that point for marketing, so I was working full time. It was a start-up, small business, and we were looking to hire some interns to just help with the daily tasks. And Ben sent over a video basically pitching himself on why we should hire him. And that video is what brought him on to the team. And we were shocked to see a mechanical engineer to want to be an intern for a marketing agency. But that's where we initially met, was at the Social Butterfly in Mankato.
 
[00:14:10.060] - Candi Broeffle
Oh, interesting. I was going to ask that. So, Ben, this idea about becoming an intern with a marketing agency, did that come to pass because of the business?
 
[00:14:20.230] - Ben Zaver
That was before I even had the idea for the business. I just knew I wanted to start a business kind of like my junior year of college. I remember I was going to buy a course on how to start a marketing agency, and I was like, why don't I just go to a local one and learn from them?
 
[00:14:34.030] - Candi Broeffle
Interesting. That is really interesting. I didn't know that part of the story. And that sounds yes. I would be very curious as to why a mechanical engineer wanted to be a marketing intern. You must have different varied interests.
 
[00:14:48.440] - Ben Zaver
Yeah, I would say my whole family growing up is engineers like my dad and my grandpa. And so I actually never thought I would ever be anything else other than an engineer until my junior year of college, where I was kind of just hearing about starting a marketing agency, all that kind of stuff, and I just realized that starting a business is possible. So that's why I just kind of want to try it out and see if it would be good for me, I guess.
 
[00:15:13.580] - Candi Broeffle
So, Hannah, how did you learn about SEEQ, then?
 
[00:15:16.700] - Hannah Perez
So after his internship, I was just working in the office. I was full-time at that point, and he stopped by to drop off some samples just because he wanted feedback. This was when he was just subjecting everybody to sample out the product to narrow down the manufacturer at that point. I had worked at a supplement company previously, and I had, like, a fitness account on Instagram, so I was very passionate about supplements and fitness, and I knew at that point as well. I've known since I was 19 that I wanted to start a business. I just never knew what that business was going to be. So whenever anyone has ideas, I'm all in on their idea and trying to figure out any way that I can provide any type of help. So when he brought that in, I was like, supplements, check. Fitness, check. Entrepreneur that needs help, check. Let me know if you want to meet weekly. And we can just bounce ideas off of each other and I can just be a soundboard for at least the start before you launch. And I've stuck around since.
 
[00:16:16.750] - Candi Broeffle
Who brought in the idea of TikTok?
 
[00:16:21.070] - Ben Zaver
I remember probably about two years ago telling my parents, like, every night after work, I would just tell them all these ideas I had to start this business and stuff. Obviously ended up taking a year to kind of getting into we're actually going to place the first order to launch. I remember just telling my dad, like, two years ago, I totally think that we're going to get all our sales from TikTok. I just remember seeing a lot of other business owners on there, like, really succeeding on there. I've never been a social media guy, but I was like, I'm going to figure it out just to help the business.
 
[00:16:50.230] - Candi Broeffle
And so how did you figure out TikTok? Because it's not like Facebook or Instagram so much. It is kind of a whole other beast on its own. So how did you learn about marketing on TikTok?
 
[00:17:03.910] - Ben Zaver
I will say I think me and Hannah are the perfect age to where we're young enough to understand the trends on social media but we're also old enough to understand the business side. I think we're at a really good age, I guess, for that. And so I grew up on social media and stuff. I just never created content. So really the tough part for me was just being comfortable on camera, like learning how to make videos. I already knew what videos were good because I've been watching videos on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram for probably six years before making my first video.
 
[00:17:38.950] - Candi Broeffle
So what kind of marketing or plan do you guys put into place as far as when it came to tick tock? Was there a plan that you made, a social media marketing plan, or did you just kind of take it as it came?
 
[00:17:55.390] - Ben Zaver
So I think the best decision we made very early on was posting them on my personal account, my personal Tik Tok, rather than the seed business Tik Tok. I feel like people would way rather follow a person than a business. And then it was more just the idea of sharing our journey on TikTok, not necessarily like explaining the benefits of the product or trying to sell our protein powder. It was more just like we started the business, my parents house, watch us grow from my parents house, getting a warehouse, to growing a team, all that kind of stuff. And that's kind of really the reason we actually got a warehouse. It's four content, so we can live stream to those orders, we can show around the warehouse, our team, all that kind of stuff.
 
[00:18:42.310] - Candi Broeffle
So you guys have very active, you both have no tick tock accounts and then you have the business tick tock account as well. But Hannah, you were sharing with me about a story that helped you guys to kind of go viral. What happened that made you go viral on TikTok?
 
[00:19:00.790] - Hannah Perez
So I don't remember the initial conversation that we had because at first when Ben was posting on his Tik Tok, it was mainly, like he said, showing the journey and the behind the scenes. And then we decided to go downtown Minneapolis and take out our samples of our protein and just go ask random people on the street if they wanted to sample our protein. And that was the first video that went viral, was a construction worker came down off of his little workstation to try our protein, had a really good review, and that was the first video that actually took off for us and actually correlated to sales. So with TikTok, if something works, don't try to reinvent the wheel. Keep doing that same thing. So we keep doing sampling videos. We're going to Crunch Fitness in Maple Grove weekly almost at this point, just getting more sampling content because that is what works. But then one thing that did help a little bit as far as going viral, I would say, is a story that happened at the end of November when we were basically sold out at this point. So when that video took off, we had a couple of other sampling videos that took off around the same time.
 
[00:20:09.780] - Hannah Perez
So we almost sold out of that first run of 4000 units in just a matter of one month. And then the end of that month, we had maybe 100 units left or something like that. And we saw an order, Benson's order comes through with the name Jake Cuban. And I think he thought about it after a couple of days and was like, I'm going to go back and look at this order. And it just seems weird that a Jake Cuban from Dallas, Texas. I have to see if this could potentially be Mark Cuban. And I remember him FaceTiming me when he Google Earth the house, and he was like, Yo, this is actually Mark Cuban's house. He definitely get his attention on TikTok and get him to maybe, like, comment back and just reply, just saying that he got the order and the day that he was making the script for it, Mark Cuban. We got a notification that we were tagged in the video from Mark Cuban. And it's still one of his most recent videos on his TikTok page to date. But, yeah, he tried our product. Unfortunately, his endorsement, we were sold out at the time, so it didn't do much for us.
 
[00:21:17.840] - Hannah Perez
But that's definitely a really cool milestone in our little history timeline.
 
[00:21:23.230] - Ben Zaver
Yeah, you rated a ten out of ten. It was pretty sweet.
 
[00:21:26.500] - Candi Broeffle
That is amazing. And to have a shark be able to talk about your business is really cool. So you guys now have had you were able to get product back in because you were having some trouble getting some of your product ordered and back into stock, correct?
 
[00:21:48.670] - Hannah Perez
Yeah, we were sold out for four months at that time in November. Like I just mentioned, we sold out at the end of November, and lead times are about four months. So we had placed an order, I think, like a week after that happened. And our lead time was 20 weeks almost at that point when it finally showed up. So we were sold out for four months.
 
[00:22:09.010] - Candi Broeffle
And so today, how are things going as far as supply?
 
[00:22:14.530] - Ben Zaver
Well, what's crazy is out of the eight months we've been in business, we've been out of stock more than we've been in stock.
 
[00:22:21.190] - Candi Broeffle
Are you out of stock now?
 
[00:22:23.950] - Ben Zaver
Yes. Release.
 
[00:22:27.140] - Hannah Perez
We're back in stock for good. Our shipments should arrive next week.
 
[00:22:31.920] - Ben Zaver
I think a lot of people also think we're selling out for the scarcity factor when I tell you we could not be ordering more product. Our first order was 4000 units. Then we ordered 6300. Then we ordered 15,000 and we ordered 20,000. Now we have a 35,000 bottle order showing up this summer. That's like over £100. We just could not be ordering more has just been insane. The crazy growth we've been seeing which has been awesome.
 
[00:22:56.700] - Candi Broeffle
You guys have just a great story. It's really exciting to see what is happening for you and to see two people who are just taking a business idea and being able to run with it and being able to make it into a legit business. This is exciting. And to top it all off, the product is really good. So congratulations on all of that. I really want to direct people if you are interested in learning more about SEEQ and to place an order, visit SEEQsupply.com. And again, that's Seque.com. You're listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM950 the Progressive Voice of Minnesota. And we will be right back. Welcome back to green tea conversations. I'm your host, Candi Broeffle, and today we're visiting with Ben Zaver and Hannah Perez of Speak, a local supplier of a high quality protein drink that drinks more like a clear juice rather than a thick shape. So in our past segment here, you guys were telling us about how Mark Cuban became aware of you. And for those who might not know, Mark Cuban is one of the investors who's on Shark Tank. And I was kind of curious, how did he actually become aware of you?
 
[00:24:29.590] - Candi Broeffle
Did he see you on TikTok or what was it that prompted him to try your product?
 
[00:24:35.190] - Ben Zaver
Yeah, so I think the main thing that sparked it is a long time ago I started probably this is like some of the first few TikToks I made was a road to Shark Tank series. So it's essentially just me pitching to TikTok why I should be on the show and have everyone like tag Shark Tank and stuff. And to start, it wasn't really our goal to get on the show, but when it started gaining traction, we were like, okay, why don't we at least try to get on the show? And I think the reason it did well initially is that the hook is the most important part of a Tik tok, I would say. And we got to put the Shark Tank logo in the first 3 seconds and I call it like I've heard a term called social hacking, which is like it's almost like we're able to mention Shark Tank. Even though we're not affiliated with Shark Tank, we're able to tag Shark Tank in the comments, all that kind of stuff, even though we're not affiliated and people know what Shark Tank is. So it's just a really captivating hook. And so I started that series after probably about the fifth one and started getting a decent amount of traction.
 
[00:25:37.830] - Ben Zaver
And that's where, as we mentioned the last segment, mark Cuban's son was following me and then ended up placing an order, had Mark try it. Mark made a TikTok about it, rating it at ten out of ten. And after that we kind of had even more momentum for the series to where someone who was on a Shark Tank about five years ago, reached out, and they're like, okay, I'll get you in touch with the producers. So we got in touch with the producers, and they're like, oh, okay, you go ahead and apply to the show. And the application process is super rigorous. It was probably about 50 to 60 hours of paperwork. It was like saying questions. So, yeah, we ended up doing that. And then we heard back from them probably about one month later, maybe a month later that we made it to the next round. And so they're like, okay, now you have to submit a ten-minute pitch, essentially video pitch, to us. So we ended up sending a ten-minute video pitch to them. We made it to the next round. At this point, we were working directly with the executive producers to kind of prepare for the actual pitch on the show.
 
[00:26:41.860] - Ben Zaver
And the producers were like, anytime we can cut you guys without a reason, really, you guys start creating the pitch, and then we'll see where it goes from there. And so that was probably a group of around maybe three to 500 companies, I would assume. And so we got about a week or two into that, and then we got a call I was actually grocery shopping. We got a call, and the guy just said, we got a list from the executive producers, and you guys were not, unfortunately, you guys are willing to apply next year.
 
[00:27:12.450] - Candi Broeffle
So do you think you'll apply for it again now that you know what all that involves?
 
[00:27:19.290] - Ben Zaver
Yes. I'll just say I wasn't bummed out, honestly, for a second. I feel like we got a lot of stuff going on this year, and I felt like if we went on the show this early, we kind of just I just felt like our evaluation the next six months or so, we'll just be selling ourselves short if we went on this early. So I really wasn't too bound at all. It's obvious you can't pass the shark tank, but I'm not too bound that we didn't make it this year.
 
[00:27:43.230] - Candi Broeffle
That's really good business sense, too, to be able to think about that when you look at where you were at then, compared to where you're at even now, your valuation has gone up so much already, and this is through not having product to sell, to be able to sell as much product as you have, and having been out of product for as long as you have. So it's been wet now about eight months since you had your first shipment come in. And altogether, you said that you've sold, what, about 60,000 units or more already this year?
 
[00:28:21.870] - Ben Zaver
This year we sold around 20,000, and last year we sold that 4200, so around like, that 25,000 mark. And our goal.
 
[00:28:32.050] - Candi Broeffle
Over the years, our.
 
[00:28:34.680] - Ben Zaver
Goal for the year is to sell 100,000 miles.
 
[00:28:37.300] - Candi Broeffle
Okay. You have a lot of product that's still coming in, so now you have. How many different flavors.
 
[00:28:45.490] - Hannah Perez
We have strawberry, mango, Pineapple, and we just released Blue Rads back in April, so that's our newest flavor to date.
 
[00:28:54.670] - Candi Broeffle
Which one seems to be the most popular with your buyers right now?
 
[00:28:59.340] - Hannah Perez
I'd say Mango Pineapple just because it's been around longer, but I have a good feeling that Blue Razz will become the new best seller.
 
[00:29:06.870] - Candi Broeffle
Yes. You said that was actually kind of one of your favorites. Correct?
 
[00:29:10.990] - Hannah Perez
That is definitely my favorite.
 
[00:29:14.950] - Ben Zaver
Blue Raz is the best on, like, an initial taste test, but I also think strawberry is better if you want to have it every single day. I don't think it's as sweet, so I think it's just better to have every single day. But I think if you're going to try one just one time, I think blue rats would probably be the best, in my opinion.
 
[00:29:30.860] - Candi Broeffle
So do you guys have any kind of, like, recipes, anything that you're playing around with at all and how you can use the product in different ways or you keeping it clean and simple?
 
[00:29:41.710] - Hannah Perez
Funny that you mentioned that. I really want to release a campaign called the Secret Recipe Campaign, where we basically just ask our customers to send us their recipes. We've had a couple of people tag us in their creation, so we had one guy make a SEEQ strawberry frosting for a cake, actually had someone make a cake with our strawberry protein. We have, like, slushies Popsicles, just other random things that I've been shocked to see from our current customers that I think that Secret Recipe Campaign will get some interesting other recipes to include. But there's so much you can do with protein, it's really crazy.
 
[00:30:22.690] - Candi Broeffle
That is a great idea to do Popsicles, especially as we're in the middle of a heat wave right now. Correct?
 
[00:30:29.650] - Hannah Perez
Exactly.
 
[00:30:30.970] - Candi Broeffle
So you've been on this journey now for a little bit of time. So Ben, it's been, what, about a year and a half, two years that you've been on this now? A little over two years. So what do you think is your biggest the thing that you've learned the most about being an entrepreneur, your biggest lesson?
 
[00:30:50.510] - Ben Zaver
I would say one that applies to our specific scenario. The most obviously is with supply chain stuff. Every single shipment we've had has been delayed, so we kind of learned to knock about an exact date on when we think it's going to arrive and just be really cautious when we make events and all that kind of stuff. And just always expect delays with everything, especially with the pandemic and stuff.
 
[00:31:13.550] - Candi Broeffle
It is interesting to have started a business at this kind of very interesting time in our history, and you guys are facing some issues that typically are not there for entrepreneurs. So they always say small businesses, about 70% to 80% of small businesses fail in the first five years, and you guys are coming into this and really you're killing it and you have so many other obstacles that other people typically don't have when they start a business. So you're really getting kind of the lessons of entrepreneurship and especially things that a lot of us don't even think about normally, which is like the supply chain issues and that type of thing. So tell me a little bit about your producer. Where are they from?
 
[00:32:04.190] - Ben Zaver
They're in Wisconsin.
 
[00:32:05.480] - Candi Broeffle
So it is a semi local business as well. So you're getting your product sent to you from Wisconsin. What are your plans now for the next couple of years? What does it look like? What does SEEQ look like in two years from now?
 
[00:32:21.240] - Ben Zaver
I think our plan the next few years as far as product goes is just solely focused on clearway, I slip processing. I think there's a lot of potential there. I still think when you go into a gym and ask, maybe nine out of ten people still have no clue what it is. So I just think there's a lot of potential for us to just double, triple, quadruple down on this one product. One other thing I could see us doing is making the same product in a ready to drink version. So just like in a bottle. And only issue I see with that is getting into retail, which hopefully will be better with that in the next one or two years with our protein and then we'll learn from that and be able to launch our TVs and stuff.
 
[00:32:59.360] - Hannah Perez
Yeah. I would also say some other future goals, some near future goal is to be on Amazon. So by the end of the year you'll hopefully see SEEQ on Amazon at least one of our best sellers because we have a lot of traffic currently searching for us on that platform. So Amazon is definitely top of mind for the very near future as far as other channels go. And then retail will probably be launched in Retail in sometime late 2023. So you'll be seeing us on the shelves. Hopefully don't want to quote right now, but I'm going to manifest that will be on the shelves of Target.
 
[00:33:32.250] - Candi Broeffle
I was going to say which store do you want to start with, Anna? Let's put it up there.
 
[00:33:37.730] - Hannah Perez
Low Hanging Fruit. We're going to be testing out a couple of stores, the one that I worked at previously. We're going to test out the store in Mankato and then they have a bunch of other companies as well. So if it goes well there, we'll work through the Kinks and then by late 2023 hopefully have a game plan to launch Full and Retail. So those are some two channels in the near future that hopefully you'll find us.
 
[00:33:58.130] - Candi Broeffle
Excellent. Any inside information about anything new coming.
 
[00:34:01.770] - Ben Zaver
Out with SEEQ, we're trying to go for one flavor for every color of the rainbow. So right now we got red for strawberry, orange for mango, pineapple, blue for blue, raz. So you can expect a new flavor come in the next month or so. That will be another color of the rainbow.
 
[00:34:18.470] - Candi Broeffle
Interesting.
 
[00:34:20.270] - Hannah Perez
Depending on this is released, it might already be out, but I think I might have teased it a little bit in the Natural Awakenings magazine post as well.
 
[00:34:29.270] - Candi Broeffle
You did. So people can go and read your article, read more about SEEQ in the magazine as well. Well, thank you guys so much for being with us today. It's really interesting to hear about the business and what you guys are accomplishing already and congratulations on just huge success and we look forward to seeing you on the grocery store shelves as well as on Amazon. Just quickly, why don't you tell people ho w much the product is and then we'll give them your website again .
 
[00:35:03.290] - Ben Zaver
 Products $44.99 for 25 servings.
 
[00:35:06.710] - Candi Broeffle
That's a great price. Well, and again I've tried the product, it's excellent. Highly recommended. So again, thank you guys for being with us today. Exciting to see what all you're accomplishing.
 
[00:35:19.970] - Hannah Perez
Amazing. Thank you so much Candi.
 
[00:35:21.630] - Ben Zaver
Thanks for having us.
 
[00:35:22.920] - Candi Broeffle
So to learn more about SEEQ and to place an order, visit SEEQSupply.com. And that's S E E Q Supply.com. You're listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM950 the Progressive Voice of Minnesota and we will be right back.
 
[00:35:53.430] - Candi Broeffle
Welcome back to Green Tea Conversations where we delve into the pages of Natural Awakenings magazine and talk to the professionals who share their expertise on natural health with you. I'm your host. Candi Broeffle. And now we are welcoming into our studio Travis Barkve, who is the executive vice president and chief strategy and operating officer at Choice Banks. Choice is currently taking on a new initiative called the People First Pantry, which provides food free of charge to anyone in the community. Welcome to the show, Travis.
 
[00:36:27.280] - Travis Barkve
Thanks for having me.
 
[00:36:28.660] - Candi Broeffle
We are really glad to have you here and really excited to hear about the People First Pantry and how you got involved with it. So before we get started, why don't you just kind of share with us a little bit about what the initiative is and how you guys got involved with it at Choice.
 
[00:36:46.120] - Travis Barkve
Absolutely. Last August, Choice Bank teamed up with Legacy Children's Foundation to build the free little pantries in Minnesota and North Dakota to really help feed residents within our communities. It's something core to Choice Bank and our People First commitment to our communities because we recognize that there are individuals within our communities that currently are struggling with hunger. And the really great thing about these pantries is that they're open all the time and so it really does fill an emergency food service gap when the local pantry may be closed and is making food available for those in need.
 
[00:37:34.530] - Candi Broeffle
Okay, and you said you have created these around Minnesota and North Dakota. So how many different locations are you looking at?
 
[00:37:42.930] - Travis Barkve
We have two locations here in the metro and then we have a number of locations that are spread out through our communities that we serve in North Dakota.
 
[00:37:56.190] - Candi Broeffle
And when you say it's like a little pantry, can you give us a description of it? Because we're on radio, so we don't have any way of showing people what they look like, but you can kind of describe it for people so they get a vision.
 
[00:38:08.620] - Travis Barkve
Yeah, I think the easiest way to think about it is it similar to the little books when you're in the communities and you see the little libraries. Little libraries, exactly. And so very similar to that, where there is shelving looks kind of like a little house. And so you can go and you can see items within the pantry. But very visually, if you think about the little library, it resembles that in our People first pantry.
 
[00:38:42.150] - Candi Broeffle
So it really is accessible to people all the time.
 
[00:38:46.080] - Travis Barkve
Yeah, exactly. They're in the locations and they're there, and those are kept stops.
 
[00:38:53.430] - Candi Broeffle
So I'm curious, are there plans to have more of those put around in Minneapolis, or are there ways that people can do that themselves?
 
[00:39:02.850] - Travis Barkve
Well, there are certainly ways to get involved locally. Within our Metro location, we have four branch locations, and you can drop off your donations inside any one of those local voice bank locations. And really, it's been in the spirit of giving what you can. And so whether it's a nonperishable food item or unused toiletry items, there's an absolute need for your donation. And a full list of those items that can be donated can be found on our website and you can visit us at BankWithChoice.com. And as we continue to see the success and the need within our communities, the other two branch locations are also in the process of identifying where those People First pantry should go within communities. And so if you have currently we have locations in Minneapolis and in Egan, and we also have branch locations within Bloomington and Roseville. And so as a community member, if you know of an area that potentially would be a great fit for one of the pantry, you're welcome to get in touch with myself or someone within that local branch location and we can continue to build upon what we've started.
 
[00:40:37.410] - Candi Broeffle
Great. And how do people get a hold of you if they wanted to contact you to do that?
 
[00:40:43.370] - Travis Barkve
The easiest way is to go directly to the website, and there is listing of the individuals on our website, and so I'm happy to fill any of those questions, or they can call me directly if they want to. 763-398-5839.
 
[00:41:03.540] - Candi Broeffle
Okay. And can you say that one more time and a little bit slower?
 
[00:41:06.900] - Travis Barkve
Yes, call me at 763-398-5839.
 
[00:41:14.490] - Candi Broeffle
Okay, great. And we'll also have that in our show notes for the podcast as well, so we'll be sure to include that. Now, I know that one of the locations is that, so if people are interested, first of all, before I say that. Let me ask you, if people are interested in directly donating, can they go right to the pantry and donate or do they have to bring it into choice?
 
[00:41:39.930] - Travis Barkve
We would prefer I think it can be either. I mean, certainly we're not going to, I would say discourage, but I think we've been trying to make sure that what is in there, it falls within the suggested donations. And so I think it's just best if individuals drop at our locations and then we sell. But I wouldn't discourage.
 
[00:42:07.110] - Candi Broeffle
Okay, so the location in case people want to need something and they'd like to pick it up, the location I have is 1830 Glenwood Avenue in Minneapolis and that's between venture North Bikes and Coffee and Redeemer Lutheran Church.
 
[00:42:25.030] - Travis Barkve
Yeah, that's correct.
 
[00:42:26.460] - Candi Broeffle
You said that there's a location also.
 
[00:42:28.620] - Travis Barkve
In Egan and that is at Artworks on Pilot Knob Road.
 
[00:42:36.450] - Candi Broeffle
Okay, thank you so much. So people are interested. You have four locations, you said.
 
[00:42:43.050] - Travis Barkve
The bank branch locations are egan, golden valley, roseville and Bloomington. And then the People First pantry is located closest to Golden Valley in Minneapolis of that location.
 
[00:42:58.710] - Candi Broeffle
Okay, great.
 
[00:42:59.400] - Travis Barkve
Benson. North Bikes and coffee and Redeemer Lutheran Church.
 
[00:43:04.230] - Candi Broeffle
So tell us a little bit about why this was so important to Choice Bank.
 
[00:43:08.230] - Ben Zaver
To get involved with one of Choice.
 
[00:43:11.260] - Travis Barkve
Bank square values is better in the places we live. And we are continuously investing in the communities that we serve and knowing that our decision making happens locally and we are working in our communities, for our communities. And ultimately it's more than banking for us. We invest in our surrounding areas by volunteering, donating to local charities and establishing these types of programs.
 
[00:43:46.770] - Candi Broeffle
That is really great and I love the idea of this. I think being able to get involved in a way that is so directly involved with the community is just so important for all of us. And especially now, people are really struggling now to be able to feed their families and really do what needs to be done to take care of with the inflation the way it is and all that as well. So congratulations on this initiative. It's really exciting. I do want to let people know that if they are interested in donating to the People First pantry, you can drop off non perishable food items at your local Choice Bank. This includes any item that's unexpired food, non perishable food items, so cereal, canned goods, packaged goods, as well as personal care items such as toothbrushes, hygiene products, shower gels, that type of thing, and any kid friendly products as well. So that's really, I imagine, very important this time of year when people are getting ready for back to school. Are you finding that there's a need for back to school products for your pantries as well?
 
[00:45:01.550] - Travis Barkve
Absolutely. And it really is about giving what you can and just if there's something that you can think of, you yourself or your family is in need, there's someone else in the community that needs that as well. And so we're here to support that and want our People First Pantries to really be a place for those individuals and families in need to be a resource.
 
[00:45:30.390] - Candi Broeffle
So Choice Bank is really a community bank. And for people who may not be familiar with it, why don't you tell us a little bit about the bank and the products that you buy?
 
[00:45:42.330] - Travis Barkve
We are a community bank. We have locations in both Minnesota and North Dakota, and we have business banking as well as individual and insurance wealth benefits. And we recently began work within our fintech space. And so really a play where if you value a relationship and you value getting to know your banker and someone who also values people first, that would be a great fit for you to explore Choice Bank and going to our website and learning more about us.
 
[00:46:24.450] - Candi Broeffle
Well, Travis, thank you so much for being with us today and for sharing with us the initiative that you have around the People First Pantries. This is such an important initiative that you have taken on and we really appreciate that. I really want to let people know if they would like to donate or learn more about the Peoplefirst pantries, visit BankWithChoice.com. And on their website you can learn all about the different products that you can donate as well as where the locations are. Again, Travis, thank you so much for being with us today. To read the online version of Natural Awakenings magazine or to check out our complete online calendar of events, visit NaturalTwinCities.com. You can find a podcast of this show on AM950Radio.com or Apple and Google podcast. Thank you for joining the conversation today as we awaken to natural health. You've been listening to Green Tea Conversations on AM950 the Progressive Voice of Minnesota, and I am looking for you a lovely day.
Read the full February 2023 Magazine