Alon Otis Of The Beet Box: Redistributing Health To Underserved Communities
One of the barriers in the wellness industry is the lack of representation of Black and Brown people. They're often left out, and their specific needs aren't understood. Most of the time, they're forced to travel outside their communities to purchase healthy products. There is a lack of access to products tailored specifically for Black and Brown people. This is why Alon Otis created The Beet Box, a cold-pressed juice that's made not from concentrate, no added sugars or preservatives, naturally free of the big eight allergens, and 100% GMO-free.
The Beet Box, the cold-pressed juice company, aims to shake up the wellness space by offering juices blended specifically for people of color. Alon explained, "Health and fitness brands don't target this population, nor do they know how to market to us with authenticity. It was important for me to create a brand that targets our people. I wanted to help people stay healthy regardless of their goals or circumstances."
During college, Alon worked at a juice bar. By being exposed to the wellness industry, she turned vegan and became passionate about health and wellness. Alon heard it time and time again that she should open a juice bar. This was never at the top of her mind. However, she did go to school for business and music. The Beet Box is a mix of the two things that Alon loves. Therefore it's a play on words, music, and wellness. She made Beetbox accessible to everyone by making it cost-effective. Most cold-pressed juices on the current market can cost up to $10 for a 16-ounce bottle or as high as $12 for 12 ounces. At $6.99, Alon's cold-pressed juices are below the average market price.
What are you most proud of when it comes to The Beet Box?
When Alon wouldn't let the customers know that she was the owner when she sold The Beet Box behind the counter. She saw someone drink it for the first time. No one knew she owned it. The customer's reaction is what made her incredibly proud. They would say the drink was good. To witness someone enjoy something that she created was a proud moment for her. And even now, people come up to her to let her know how much they love the juice.
What's the biggest fear you had during your business journey?
Like many entrepreneurs, Alon had many fears. She shared, "Failing like people won't like my stuff or what I'm making. Because my taste buds are really different from everybody else's, they taste good to me, but I'm like I don't know if they'll taste good for everybody else. Feeling like people actually receiving my brand for what it is, even like the beatbox thing––I didn't know if people were going to receive that well."
Often entrepreneurs aren't sure if what they're creating will be well-received in the market, preventing them from launching that service or that product. The best way Alon moved past this is by realizing that people will always have their opinions, and not everyone will like what you put out there, but someone will, and it doesn't devalue what you've created.
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition?
This was the first time she pitched––she was nervous. Alon explained, "I was really glad that Shelly had the questions before the actual pitch where we talked and got feedback." She wasn't aware of the elements of a pitch deck or the process of a pitch competition. She learned valuable lessons about what not to put in a pitch deck, and she watched other prior competitions to prepare herself. Through trial and error and listening to others, she was able to refine her pitch while also telling herself to relax.
Alon shared some valuable advice about pitching, "Get advice from other people, when we look at stuff, we look at something that you made, of course, you look at it like it's perfect and when somebody else looks at it they can easily spot the holes in it. Be receptive to what other people have to say but also don't feel like you need to take in everything. Your heart and your gut will kind of tell you what needs to be changed." Ultimately, you make the final decision, but people outside of your business are objective. She further shared, "Don't be too sensitive and not open to critique."
Tell us about a significant setback you had in your business, and how did you recover?
Alon doesn't like sales and doesn't consider herself a "salesperson." She prefers to be behind the scenes creating. However, she doesn't have a salesperson. But a product can't sell if no one knows about it. She's reliant on herself to go door to door to various stores to sell her products. Alon said, "I had to push past that and not let my nerves get in the way." Rejection is hard for entrepreneurs, but one no doesn't equate to all no's. There is a yes in between the noes. Alon realized if one store said no, there were 300 other stores that she could talk to, she had to stop taking things personally.
How do you measure success?
Alon measures success by the goals she sets for her business, whether it's how many pop-ups she does or the connections she makes. Often, people will DM her about her products, and she has no idea how they found her. But success to her is the amount of effort that she puts into achieving her goals.
Support is not always given to women of color in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Alon hasn't experienced this directly as she's a new business owner. She said, "The way the information is kind of hidden from us, I feel like that affects me a lot. Like stuff that other people knew already, just about how to get business loans, and how to make business plans, we have to dig find, and search for associations and organizations that are specifically geared towards black women, while other people had that information given to them, from like maybe that was given to them as a child, maybe they haven't directly said I couldn't have this because I'm a Black woman, but I definitely feel it."
What's the most critical lesson you've learned about business, in general?
"I've learned that I can't say yes to everything. Like a lot of people will ask me to do their pop-ups, and they'll think of me to do their markets. When I first started, I would say yes, yes, yes because I wanted to exposure." But after a while, she realized that some of these pop-ups weren't appropriate for her brand. She didn't evaluate the businesses, and she didn't do her due diligence, so she found herself at events that were deeply misaligned. She didn't get an accurate depiction of the customer profile for the event. As a new entrepreneur, you become excited when opportunities come your way, but it's crucial to evaluate whether that opportunity is right. Now she vets every opportunity.
Was there a time that you wanted to quit?
Alon has never felt like quitting; The Beetbox is something that she's passionate about. It's all or nothing for her.
What's the biggest risk that you've taken so far?
The most significant risk Alon took was moving to Atlanta from Chicago one week after graduating college without a job, without any family, no car, and no apartment. She took the risk with only $2,000 in her pockets and moved to a warmer city. Alon is glad she took the chance because Atlanta has been fantastic for her. She's created a lot of positive connections during her time in Atlanta. There's a robust entrepreneurial hub that keeps her inspired. She calls it the second Harlem Renaissance. She's grateful that there are lots of Black-owned vegan restaurants.
What's the most exciting part of your business?
The most exciting part of her business is the name, the connection between wellness and hip hop. It gives her brand character and personality. It helps people to think of healthy eating in a fun way. The association helps to excite people while the colors of her brand make it pretty to consume.
What do you think the future holds for Black women entrepreneurs and small business owners?
"I think it's very bright. The last time I read, like Black women is the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the country. I feel like we really are taking over things. People are underestimating us even with that number growing so much. But, I just be on Instagram and see something, and I'm like that's so innovative––like I would never have thought of that. And I also like the way that Black women are creating things for other Black women...I'm really excited about all of it." Alon continued to say that no one knows what Black women go through except other Black women, so when a Black woman creates products and services for other Black women, it's a huge win.
If you and I were meeting three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel happy about your progress?
Alon still desires to have a brick-and-mortar in the communities that don't have access to healthy foods like cold-pressed juices. In three years, she would like two juice bars, one in her hometown city of Detroit and one in Atlanta. Where Alon grew up, there is a lack of access to healthy restaurants.
She wants to start the conversation about how there aren't smoothie bars, vegan restaurants in Black and urban communities. When Alon shares that she wants to open up a brick-and-mortar, people encourage her to open a store in the more affluent neighborhoods. However, she has no interest in that. Alon said, "Why not bring it to people who actually need it, who are suffering from diseases that can be prevented by her product."
What do you think is an important skill or asset you need to be successful in business?
Alon said," I think you need to be adaptable. I feel like you can't just set your mind towards one thing, and this is how it's going to work, and everyone has to adjust to me. If you have to sell to people––if something isn't going right in your business, you kind of have to look at it and examine it. 'Am I not marketing to the right people? Maybe my target audience is not who I thought it was. Maybe I need to change the way things taste. I thought it taste good. Maybe I should just do a focus group or something and sample it out and ask people what they like or what they don't like about it.' You just really need to need to be adaptable to different situations. Even when circumstances come up, you have to think––what can I do to make the situation the best with what I have? And not just be stuck on no, it has to work out just the way I want it to work out. Because then you'll just be stuck, and nothing will get done."
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Alon loves self-care. She says Sundays are her chill days because it's her favorite day. Alon takes a bath, steams her face, binge-watches Netflix, or reads a book. She does activities that without any ties to obligations––she does what she wants. Alon also meditates twice a day, every day. She likes to run outside and works out three to four times per week. Alon enjoys being in nature and goes for hikes. She says being in nature allows her to reset herself and her brain.
What is your favorite quote or mantra?
You give what you put out, even if it's subconsciously or consciously.
What is your favorite book and podcast?
Book: Three Magic Words by Uell Stanley Andersen
Podcast: Melanin Cleverness
What's your favorite business hack or app that you can't live without?
Preview to schedule all social media posts and Canva.
Name one food item that you have a hard time saying no to.
What's next for The Beet Box?
Alon is looking to get into five more stores in 2021 and then focus on opening her brick-and-mortar. She is working on building a business plan to get funding and loans to do so.
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