“We all play an important part in the food and beverage industry, whether we work in it or simply as consumers,” says Vincent Biscaye, founder of Step Two Advisors LLC. Biscaye is a former commodity derivatives trader with a strong passion for food and beverage. After spending 10 years between Paris, London, and New York, he left finance to pursue an entrepreneurial career and focus on developing brands in the CPG space, leveraging his financial expertise and business acumen.
In 2014, Biscaye joined as partner and CFO of Love Grace Inc., a New York-based cold pressed juice company. Shortly after, he founded Step Two Advisors LLC, a boutique advisory firm for early stage startups in food and beverage and became partner and CFO of BeyondBrands. Recently, he became the director of finance and co-founder of an accelerator program called BeyondSKU, which launched in September 2019 in New York City.
Specialty Food News spoke with Biscaye about his session at the Winter Fancy Food Show and how his years of experience can help those just starting out. His session, “Five Takeaways from Six Years in the Specialty Food Industry,” will take place on the Big Idea stage at the Moscone Center on Tuesday, January 21 at 11:30 a.m.
What’s a common pitfall that startups experience? How can it be avoided?
Going from idea to product is the first hurdle startups encounter. It is usually a long process and sometimes costly if done right (formulation, testing, and studies). Once you have a product, you need to work on branding and packaging. Most success stories in recent years were not necessarily the result of a great product. You can disrupt an industry by being creative on how a product looks on the shelf or how practical it is for the consumer to use.
Once you have great packaging and product, you need to focus on people. It is difficult for startups to recruit talent because often they do not have a lot of funding, therefore it is hard to attract the best. Another issue arises when someone is not a fit and you have to let them go; the cost to train and do it all over again is extremely burdensome for startups that rely on one or two founders to make all the decisions. There is just not enough time in a day to run a business, grow, and recruit.
Lack of access to investment is another common reason companies fail. There are lots of upfront costs for a new business. But lucikly, in the past few years, there has been more capital available to startups than ever before, even in the early stages.
How do you use your own personal experience of founding a company to work with startups?
Having had a role in a startup was instrumental in building my advisory firm. I don’t believe you can do a good job as a consultant if you don’t understand at least to some extent what your clients are facing every day.
Working with my partners at Love Grace for two years exposed me to the day-to-day of an entrepreneur in the food and beverage industry, the challenges they face during those early days, and how to overcome them.
I decided to take my learnings (mostly from my mistakes) and share them with my peers; and that’s how Step Two Advisors came to be.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the last few years and how did you overcome it?
I cannot count all the challenges we faced when building our beverage brands, let alone the ones we faced when we turned the company into a leading copacker of HPP beverages in the North East. But the biggest challenge I faced was during the transition when I decided to start Step Two Advisors.
Starting from zero all over again was daunting and having to build a new plan and a new budget while going after prospective clients was very difficult. I believe I was able to overcome it by being patient and having confidence in my abilities to help other businesses. As long as I was letting other founders know that I was an available resource to help them out, I knew I was going to get one client eventually. Luckily this persistence and confidence allowed me to get my first client, then another, and from there I knew I was on to something. It took at least a year however to see the signs that this could be a business. Nothing comes easy that’s for sure.
Where do you see the food industry heading in the next 10 years?
I expect to continue to see movers and shakers winning some shelf space from the larger companies that have been dominating the industry for decades.
We are seeing it in the cooler sets (plant based non-dairy foods like yogurts, cheeses, and butters, as well as alternative meats), in the grocery aisle (plant-based sauces, nut-based flours), in the frozen section (non-processed “fresh to frozen” meals, vegetables, smoothies) and obviously in the beverage category which is the most dynamic one (kombuchas, mylks, functional items).
From animal welfare, to regenerative agriculture, I expect to see new standards arise, driven by the consumer demand for environmentally-friendly and healthy food.