We had the good fortune of connecting with Inna Aracri and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Inna, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
In my mid-twenties, I began to understand the value of nutrition and developed a passion for a healthy lifestyle. I started applying what I was learning to my own life because I wasn’t feeling as healthy as I should. I found myself feeling fatigued and drained on a regular basis, and I didn’t enjoy those phases. I knew that I had to finetune my mind and body in order to maintain my health; therefore, my goal became to align my positive thoughts with nourishing foods. The more time I invested into my efforts, the more I understood that I wanted to pursue this long term. Creating a food product was a way of giving my passion the creative outlet it needed, as well as granting my entrepreneurial curiosity a chance.
What should our readers know about your business?
I often compare business to art. Just like any artist, the beginning of your process starts with a rough sketch of what you want to create, AKA your business plan. With each brushstroke that follows, you are placing more paint on canvas and the vision reveals itself more clearly; during this time, you may realize that you want to add or subtract some details from the initial idea. The image changes and morphs many times until it becomes its own entity, and you are left with a beautiful end product that is better than you had imagined. Growing a business is a similar process; it requires a lot of creativity and thinking outside of the box. I believe that in order to become a successful entrepreneur, you must have the virtues of resourcefulness and patience. While the idea of having a thriving business is very glamorous and romantic, the truth is that you have to spend years of completing less attractive tasks before you can finally sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You have to learn how to be grounded and patient, because there will inevitably be a number of difficult moments that test your resilience and commitment. There will be days when you feel overwhelmed and behind, days when you will question the project altogether, and days when your business feels left in the dust as you watch others prosper. Believe me—every business owner has those days. In those moments, simply be patient and stay the course. Remember that many of those successes you compare yourself against are often one-hit wonders. Your goal is not to become an overnight success; you aim to create a viable brand that can survive trends, fad diets, and fashion swings. Now, moving on to resourcefulness. I think that raising money for your idea is a valuable method. However, proving that your product is good enough to sustain itself and its own growth is a much safer route that can save you from painful financial mistakes when attracting investors. It is, of course, a much slower and more difficult path; but again, a long, steady product history only proves the viability of the product/service. It also demonstrates your ability to navigate through entrepreneurial storms with little assistance. The protein bar market is a highly competitive and saturated arena, and it’s more than likely that your business will meet similar standards of competition. My advice is simple: don’t get discouraged. During my entrepreneurial journey, I learned that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel—you just have to effectively improve the existing product/service. Prioritize your customers and quality first before focusing on growing your sales numbers. Use all of the available social media platforms to sell your idea. Get used to being uncomfortable and sometimes incompetent; otherwise, you will never truly learn. Take advice only from those who have experience building a successful business (believe me, you will have countless people giving you all sorts of advice; protect your time). Listen to your gut, but don’t forget the data and statistics, as numbers don’t lie. Double down on what works and cut out everything else that doesn’t bring you closer to your goal. Also, don’t forget to communicate to other entrepreneurs. It is so refreshing to know that other folks go through similar business situations. Plus, this network can serve you greatly down the road, whether you need a referral for a new business insurance or a good graphic designer. Go with the flow! Have a few stress management techniques in your toolbox and always remind yourself WHY you started the project in the first place. For me, Good Cravings was always a way to express my passion and to create a legacy that will exist beyond myself. That is what feeds my enthusiasm and motivates me, even to this day. It’s a thrilling experience to witness your idea, which was once a thought in your head, manifest as a real business in the physical world. People were constantly left in awe when they learned that we make our product ourselves by hand with little equipment. This was unique; traditionally, once a new brand is formed and backed by investors, all the manufacturing efforts usually get outsourced, leaving the brand with less control over the quality of their product. Buying a new brand name item that you don’t know anything about is always a gamble for a consumer. Being on the other side of that chain as a product manufacturer, I wanted to make sure that every time someone eats one of our bars, they are pleasantly surprised by how good the product actually is. No fancy wrapper tactics, no misleading statements—just a tasty, wholesome protein bar that is made of wholefood ingredients and has an amazing texture and flavor.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I have lived in Houston for five years now, and I absolutely adore this city. There are always things to do, places to visit, and refreshing things to experience. For a fine dining night out, I would choose the Spindletop revolving restaurant located on the 34th floor of Downtown’s Hyatt, which reminds me of Seattle’s Space Needle. They have the best caprese salad with the tastiest tomatoes I’ve ever had at a restaurant. For a casual grab, I would visit Bosscat Kitchen and Libations on Westheimer. It’s a lively urban venue with a great whiskey selection and a yummy mushroom quinoa burger for those on a plant-based diet. For the freshest gourmet buffet, you have to try Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill. The place has a great atmosphere and a lot of tasty choices for both meat lovers and vegans. I absolutely love their baba ghanoush, dolmas, and garlic dip. On the weekdays, I’ll usually take visitors to the Museum of Fine Arts (my favorite museum in Houston) and NASA, of course. On the weekend, I would offer for us to see a show at the Miller Outdoor Theater when the season is on, or a small trip to Galveston if it is summertime. I hope my guests are foodies like myself, and if that’s the case, we need to have a shopping spree at the Central Market (Texas gourmet grocery store) and Phoenicia Specialty Foods on Westheimer (locally-owned gourmet international food depot). I am a nature lover and love walking. A few of my favorite green spaces and parks in Houston that are a must-see and must-experience would be the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens (if you go there in February or March, you will find yourself in a magnolia blooming fairytale), Hermann Park, Discovery Green, and the Edith Moore Nature Sanctuary. Also, we can’t forget about dancing. If you love Latin music, then we have to go to Gloria’s. While we are in Midtown, we can also visit the Hightower Night Club and 360 Midtown.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
When Good Cravings launched and started to bring in its first sales, I soon realized that I couldn’t run the entire company all by myself. I absolutely loved learning every aspect of the business, but my commitment to all the elements—making products by hand, packaging, sourcing ingredients, marketing, selling, and the other 20 hats that I had to wear—very soon led to a brick wall. I was sleep-deprived and enjoyed my work less and less. Unfortunately, as a young company and a one-woman shop, I couldn’t afford to hire staff. Eventually, I turned to my support system for help. Luckily, my parents recognized my need and the future potential of Good Cravings. They started to help me with making the products so that I could focus more on what I was good at, which was sales and marketing. My parents also played a big role in developing protein bar recipes, which are still our best-selling product. My mom is still with the company and is the best quality control manager I could ever ask for.