Madre Foods owner, aka “broth boss” Katelyn Hilburn, started creating her business before she even realized she was doing it. The new mom had been working in a different sector when she had her daughter (who is now about to turn three). She went back to work, “but after having my daughter…I kept trying to get back into what I was doing, but things weren’t matching up anymore,” she says. Rather, Hilburn “started finding myself at home, whenever I wasn’t working, wanting to be with my daughter or be in the kitchen.” So she started cooking. A lot. So much so that she began giving extra food to friends, many of whom also were new moms. When someone suggested she turn her cooking and distribution into a business, it “planted a seed,” and the first version of Madre Foods, in which Hilburn distributed home-cooked food, began.
“I wasn’t permitted to do catering or things like that,” she says.”I was throwing ideas out there and cooking what felt good and feeling out what friends and family and people around me were interested in, what they gravitated to.” Hilburn then applied for and was accepted into the bizMIX 2017 cohort. From there, the business began to evolve into one that was focused on broths and stocks.
“During bizMIX, I was doing a lot of test groups and trying stuff out,” she says. “Broth was always on the menu, but what started happening during that time was all of a sudden [customers] outside of the post-partum demographic started approaching me, and wanting in on it. I went through a panic moment, because I didn’t know how to serve that large of a demographic with a large menu.” At that point, Hilburn saw she would need to focus her offerings to keep up. Broth appealed to customers “across the board,” she says. “It just seemed like broth would stick.”
Stick it did. Today, Madre Foods offers 12 varieties of broths, from desert bison bone to mushroom melody. Broths, she notes, are “turning into a really big trendy thing right now.” What makes Madre’s special, she says, “is we’re really trying to make them extra dense and extra flavorful to encourage the sipping component. You can certainly cook with our broths and play around with them as an ingredient…but we’re trying to step people out of that box to see it as its own superfood beverage. The 12 flavors we have are all wildly different, and that’s all the way from flavor to the density to the different health components each of them has.”
Madre Foods has a delivery schedule for customers who want to order them, but also sells them at the Santa Fe Farmers Market and at Verde. The Farmers Market sales helped Hilburn secure the funds to build the marketing and branding component of the business, and have signaled a shift from a delivery-focused business to building her wholesale distribution list. Adding staff will also be a focus in the coming year, Hilburn says. “I’m trying to become a we instead of a me,” she says,”to and try to build a staff and a team around the business to give it its own arms and legs so it can walk and talk by itself.”
It’s no coincidence that Hilburn views her business as an endeavor to nurture, as nurturing is one of the core tenets for Madre Foods. “I heard somebody the other day comment on how even beyond our most intimate relationships, when you really think about it, food is by far the most intimate of an experience in a relationship we have throughout our life,” she says. “I am seeing a lot of people who are going through big milestones in their lives, and I just really have a belief that everybody, whatever those milestones are, has the right and the ability to be nurtured through that, and to not have that nurturing all come from them all the time. We’re hoping with all of our products out there, that from beginning to end, it’s all about that experience of nourishment…we want people to feel hugged by mom.”
We also tapped Hilburn to hear about her bizMIX experience. Madre Foods took home $5,000 from the 2017 bizMIX, and the prize was a welcome one. “It was exciting and great to be able to compete for cash,” she says. Moreover, the cash was no-strings, meaning Hilburn had the freedom to evolve her business and use the funds as she saw fit. “Not a lot of programs let you compete that way,” she says. “A lot of local city programs only have a mentorship component or the pitching or no cash or if they have cash, they have this set criteria, and that’s not a realistic landscape for an entrepreneur.”
MIX also asked Hilburn to offer advice to potential MIX applicants and participants.
Advice for those thinking about applying to bizMIX 2019:
“I think taking the time to reflect on your business. Something that’s nice about bizMIX is you’re not attached to strings. If I get halfway into this process and it’s is not what I want to do or I’m doing a huge pivot…nobody is holding you to [your] application. However, you, yourself, need to ask, ‘Am I serious about wanting to pursue something in the entrepreneurial realm?’ Just so that you’re not wasting your time or anybody else’s. But from there, knowing you don’t have to have all of the answers yet, you probably never will have all of the answers, and if you do have all the answers, you’ll probably get bored and so will everyone else. It’s more: Is the pursuit of entrepreneurialism really nagging at you? If so, go for it.”
Advice for participants:
“I think it’s twofold: You need to be out there, seeking information and hearing what people are trying to tell you; they are seeing it from a different perspective. But then, with that being said, I think that something that was helpful is taking all of that, taking what you will, but still really being loud and excited about your business…being willing to throw it out there, talk to strangers at the pitch competition. Every person you get to talk to is an opportunity to fine tune or put an idea together. Sometimes, just talking to people I was pitching, I would slightly change what I was saying [because] their response or lack of response would help inform a bigger concept I was trying to articulate to myself.”