What started as a way to inspire professional athletes to eat healthy, nutritious food soon developed into a chef-crafted sauce brand that caught the attention of Whole Foods. Founder and Chef Kirsten Sandoval of Mesa de Vida says that having a digital presence has been key to her success — her Instagram account has proven to be a valuable resource for getting her brand noticed.
We caught up with Sandoval to learn more about Mesa de Vida. Check out our interview with her below as she dishes on being discovered, building a business from scratch, and what’s ahead for the brand. Watch her episode of Accelerating Brands — a video series from ForceBrands in partnership with SKU — here:
Read the interview below:
Hi, I’m Chef Kirsten Sandoval and I’m the founder and chefio of Mesa de Vida. I created a line of recipe starter sauces that started off when I was a chef for professional athletes in the NFL, NBA, and WNBA. I had to get them to eat healthy food and snuck a lot of vegetables in and I wanted to give them a taste of their home or heritage or what they grew up eating so that I could help them really understand that healthy food can be really delicious. I started all of the meals with that sauce and I thought, ‘This is something I can share with the world to help other people.’
On starting her own business
To start your own business, you’re betting on yourself so you have to have so much confidence. What I would say is what I did not do: ask for help. Just ask everybody for help. Tell everybody what you’re doing and share what you’re up to and people will start to come to you if you’re on the right path, but definitely just keep on it. And as soon as you feel like you want to give up, things are tough, you have no money coming in the bank, you don’t know how you’re gonna pay your own rent… things start happening when you’re in that flow. Just stay on the path. Figure out a way.
The biggest challenge for me has been not being good at asking for help. I felt like I had to go it alone and decision fatigue is real. It’s something that I have definitely experienced. So keep asking for advice. Reach out to people. What I’ve learned is that people, especially in the CPG business, they’re open to being contacted. I didn’t know that beforehand. I was a little shy to reach out. Email people. Shoot them a message on LinkedIn. Ask somebody for an intro. People are really collaborative and really do want to help others.
On being discovered
This was a farmers market business that I was running as a part-time side hustle up until Whole Foods called. It was just wild. They discovered us on Instagram so definitely have a presence on there and show confidence, and show your products, show what you make. Whole Foods saw that there’s a real opportunity in this category that needs some innovation and we just fit the bill.
On the future
Five years from now, Conagra is going to be ready to buy Mesa de Vida or going to be on that path. I really hope that Mesa de Vida is a trusted pantry staple by then, maybe even getting into like freezer staples or frozen meals or things that people really trust in their life to help them eat really healthy. I really want to impart more into my business where we’re talking about people’s stories about where these foods are from and the flavors that were built upon them, like what’s the story behind that. So I hope we’re international or about to be and just really helping people — that’s all I wanted to do was help people.