Daniel Lubetzky knows a thing or two about launching a business. PeaceWorks, the food company he launched in 1994, has encouraged economic cooperation in areas like the Middle East. KIND, the business he established in 2004, is now one of the most popular healthy snack companies in the world. And since 2021, Lubetzky has been working on a new venture: SOMOS, a plant-based food company dedicated to making authentic, ready-to-eat Mexican foods accessible to all.
Lubetzky sat down with Hispanic Executive to share his top pieces of advice for other Latinos who are interested in founding a company of their own.
What is your top piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are just beginning to look for funding?
When considering bringing on funding partners for the first time, ask yourself whether you truly need financial support to get to the next level. If you don’t really need the money, you may not want to dilute yourself. If you do decide to move forward with funding, think about not just bringing in money but about bringing in smart money from partners who can help you grow strategically and whose values align with your own.
In your experience, what makes the “perfect team”? Is there anything in particular that early-stage founders should look for or prioritize as they begin hiring new team members?
We tend to hire for skills and experience and to overlook culture. Make sure you are also evaluating candidates based on their demonstration of the values you prize. For me, some of the most important values are integrity, curiosity, and entrepreneurial grit.
When you are just starting out, it makes sense to build a team of generalists. As you grow, you will want to bring on team members who are experts in their fields. Find people who know more about their type of work than you do and invite them to challenge you. Look for partners whose skill sets complement your own.
A great team is made up of people who feel comfortable being themselves. Try to foster a culture that allows for that by promoting authenticity, freedom to make mistakes (so long as team members learn from those mistakes), and the ability to joke around and have fun.
In a post-COVID world, it’s vital that companies can adapt to uncertainty. Is there anything founders can do to protect or prepare their company for the unexpected?
The pandemic accelerated disruption in an unprecedented way, but the marketplace has always moved through periods of volatility. To prepare yourself for inevitable uncertainty, focus on the tool kit, not the playbook.
A playbook is a quick-fix rule sheet outlining what worked for someone else. By definition, it is unoriginal and predictable, and so it inherently lacks competitiveness. Worst of all, it quickly becomes outdated and doesn’t give you what you need to pivot and adapt to disruption.
On the other hand, the tool kit is composed of all the skills and values that define not what you do but how you do things. These are qualities like wit, grit, and creativity, which will help you navigate challenges and solve problems more successfully.
What is the best approach to marketing a new endeavor? How can founders get the word out about all the incredible work they’re doing?
The best marketing is authentic marketing. Consumers today are savvy, and they can sniff out a gimmick. While more brands today tout a social mission, it’s critical that those missions are grounded in real purpose. If a mission does not come naturally to your brand, it’s better not to pretend you are working toward a social aim. What is most important—mission or no mission—is to practice integrity and be true to yourself and your brand.
When you do this right, consumers are far more likely to fall in love your brand and become authentic brand ambassadors. There is ultimately no better way to market than to ensure satisfied consumers will speak highly of your brand and encourage others to try it after having a positive experience.
Tactically, brands need to focus more than ever on investing in digital media strategies. A strong marketing program should include a concerted focus on capturing opportunities via social media and influencer partnerships.
What is the number one thing that founders can do to take their company to “the next level”?
It’s normal when things are going well to want to expand quickly by launching new products into more categories. Unfortunately, this approach often comes at the expense of maintaining a standard of excellence for product quality.
When I was building KIND’s predecessor, PeaceWorks, we fell into this trap and expanded too quickly too fast. Our product quality suffered as a result. By the time I launched KIND, we had learned from our mistakes. We would not bring a new innovation to market unless it was as good as, or better than, our existing line.
A brand is a promise, and a good brand is a promise well kept. Set strict guardrails for yourself to ensure that as you grow, you never falter on that promise. With my newest venture, SOMOS, we aspire to bring the best of Mexico to the world in a way that is accessible for those who may not be familiar with traditional Mexican cooking. This is the promise we are setting out to keep.