Episode 168
July 25, 2023

From Cooking Class to Condiments

with Alison Cayne, Founder and CEO of Haven's Kitchen

About this episode

Today, Lee is joined by Alison Cayne, New York native, mother of five, and Founder and CEO of the revolutionary cooking school turned fresh, squeezable sauce brand, Haven’s Kitchen. In this episode, we discover how Alison combined her love for cooking, teaching, and entrepreneurship to create Haven’s Kitchen and what inspired her versatile range of sauces for home cooks. She sheds light on the product incubation process and the lack of fundraising opportunities for underrepresented founders. Tune in as Alison shares her inspiring story of becoming a leader, and the philosophies she stands by as she guides her team (and her brand) to new heights.

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 In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

[03:02] Alison’s background: growing up in NYC, working in urban development, having five kids, and getting a master’s in food sciences.

[14:33] How Alison combined her love for cooking, teaching, and entrepreneurship to create Haven’s Kitchen!

[17:49] What inspired Haven’s fresh, squeezable sauces for home cooks (and what inspired Alison to pursue the business).

[21:27] The versatility, accessibility, and sustainability of the sauces.

[28:13] The product incubation and launch process (with help from Chobani and Whole Foods).

[36:24] Alison’s greatest challenges (COVID aside!) and the importance of redefining growth expectations for a new category.

[39:46] Fundraising challenges, particularly for underrepresented founders, and the importance of building a support network.

[49:56] Alison candidly shares her strengths and weaknesses as a leader and her vision for the company.

[58:31] What’s next for Haven’s Kitchen! Spoiler alert: a new product line.

[59:14] Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs to solve a clear problem and ensure sustainable margins.

 To Find Out More:

Alison Cayne on LinkedIn

Haven’s Kitchen

Haven’s Kitchen on Instagram

Chobani Incubator

Whole Foods

Blue Apron

Lee Greene on LinkedIn

Stairway to CEO

Stairway to CEO on Instagram

 Quotes:

“When my youngest son started nursery school, I went back to get a master's in food systems and food studies.” [0:13:48] 

“There's just so much correlation with cooking and personal, community, and environmental health.” [0:16:57]

“We had an all-day cafe and an event space and we were profitable within a year, which was cool.”  [0:17:32]

“Why are we teaching our students how to make things like, romesco sauce, Thai peanut sauce, chimichurri, and salsa verde, but these things don’t exist where they're shopping in the grocery store?” [0:19:46]

“I got into the business because I wanted to help people feel great about cooking.” [0:20:14]

“You learn as you go, but can save you thousands of dollars and hours and really prevent failure if you get those lessons early.” [0:33:32] 

“The companies that you're seeing that are raising gazillions of dollars and they look like they're doing it relatively easily — are not doing it relatively easily. Secondly, they are likely already in a group of people where they have access to capital and it is really unfair.” [0:39:55]

“Minority-owned brands [and] female-founded brands — are chronically underfunded.” [0:40:10]

 “It is very important to have a network of people early on who can write checks. Banks don't do it. You will not find a VC to do it. You need to have angels.” [0:40:33]

“We have an ecosystem where money begets money.” [0:46:17]

“Your strengths and your weaknesses are basically two different sides of the same exact tree.” [0:56:07]

Read the transcript

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