When Callie England changed how she ate, she changed her life—in more ways than one.
Six years ago, Callie England, then just 21 years old, began eating a plant-based vegan diet to improve her health. That diet freed her from a life of prescription pills and taught her how to take control of her own health, holistically. She decided to start a blog to share what she learned. In just two months, she had 100,000 readers—and they were demanding product.
Rawxies—where raw foods meets foxy marketing—was born.
Callie says she’s not “hippy or granola”—she just wanted to introduce regular people to the transformative power of good food. She created Rawxies to bridge the gap between indulgent desserts and nutritious food bars. She started selling her trademark heart-shaped bars online, with the motto: ‘Stop Eating Crap.’
The product took off. She quit her job as a full-time creative director and packed her bags for California, the home of healthful eating.
She spent 15 months in the Bay Area, growing the Rawxies brand.
“I could throw a rock and hit a CEO of a food company,” she remembers. Although saturated with good eats, the entrepreneurial culture, however, was not friendly or inviting. After a year there, she discovered that she was selling three times as much product in Kansas City as California. She realized the uncharted and untapped Midwest could be her gluten-free bread and cashew butter.
In 2013, she moved her Rawxies back to East Bottoms in Kansas City and started building her manufacturing facility and her resource network. Her first mentors were Kelly Pruneau, network manager at the Women’s Capital Connection and Jill Meyer, senior technology and commercialization consultant at the UMKC Small Business and Technology Development Center.
“I never doubted my brand, but I doubted myself as a CEO of a food company,” she says. “Kelly and Jill helped me grow as an entrepreneur, helping me understand business. They helped me know what was normal in the entrepreneurial process and I became a better business owner an operator because of their mentoring.”
Like many startup entrepreneurs, Callie had bootstrapped her business and learned some really hard lessons. She was reluctant to take anyone’s money.
That all changed when she got an offer she enthusiastically refused.
The food industry is competitive. It’s a pay-to-play market: owners have to invest heavily in manufacturing, distribution, suppliers and marketing channels before they ever see a return. In the spring of 2014, Callie received a ticket to get off that ride. She got an offer from a successful food entrepreneur to buy out Rawxies.
“I realized he could pursue any company he wanted, and if he saw something in my company, I may be sitting on a gold mine. I wasn’t going to sell it for nothing,” Callie says. “At that point, I knew what I was doing and realized that if I continue to doubt myself, I’m never getting anywhere.”
The buyout offer gave Callie a renewed confidence, not only in her product, but in building a highly successful business. It was a huge boost that told Callie she was ready to seek outside investment.
“Sometimes it takes winning an award, getting a buyout offer or securing the investment to endure the next six months of hell that an entrepreneur goes through. Right when you think you can’t go any further, something good happens that pushes you through to the next step.”
She took that confidence into a meeting with Kelly and Jill and told them she was ready to raise money.
In January 2015, Rawxies secured her first investment, $175,000, from the Women’s Capital Connection (WCC) and Mid-America Angels.
WCC is a regional network of accredited women angel investors, high-net-worth individuals who invest in early-stage companies. Angel investors provide cash to young companies in exchange for equity (typically in the form of preferred stock.
WCC launched in 2008 with 33 founding investors committed to investing in women-led ventures in the Midwest. To date, WCC comprises 94 women investors who have funded 14 companies, with more than $2.2 million dollars contributed to the region.
That confidence led her to other opportunities. In August, she received another $500,000 from an undisclosed investor. With those combined investments, she hopes to expand her distribution beyond the coasts and the Midwest to all U.S. regions.
“I didn’t start this business to become a millionaire,” Callie says. “I started this business because it is something I believe in.”
When asked what advice she would give to other entrepreneurs seeking investment, Callie says not to pursue investment until you are ready. For a product-based business like hers, she says you need to be post-revenue, knowing your business is solid and the product is marketable.
“Raising money is hard, no matter who you are, so be ready before you take on this stage of growth.”
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