Knowing When to Trust Your Gut with Rachel Krupa of The Goods Mart

Summary of Episode

#69. In this episode of Startup Savant Podcast, Ethan interviews Rachel Krupa, founder of The Goods Mart. Rachel shares her experience of reinventing the beloved convenience store by offering better-for-you products. She discusses the importance of location in the retail and food industry and trusting your gut as an entrepreneur. Rachel also talks about her journey of balancing her PR agency, Krupa Consulting, with The Goods Mart, and how she redefined her definition of success.

About the Guest: 

Rachel Krupa is the visionary behind The Goods Mart, a socially conscious convenience store that is revolutionizing how customers snack. Focused on promoting emerging brands in the food space, Rachel's store is a haven for those seeking better-for-you options free from GMOs and artificial flavors. Before The Goods Mart, Rachel founded Krupa Consulting, a PR firm responsible for the public relations strategies of major brands such as Our Place and Goop in their wellness vertical.

Podcast Episode Notes

[00:04:07] The Sonoco gas station in Michigan was a beloved community hub for Rachel, offering convenience and a place to see friends. However, as she became more conscious of ingredient quality and environmental impact, they sought out better products.

[00:08:33] Krupa Consulting is a PR agency that focuses on food and wellness brands, helping them become household names through earned media. 

[00:12:50] The power of learning from past mistakes, realizing the importance of clear communication, and asking for help. Asking for help is not a weakness but a sign of strength and collaboration.

[00:17:10] The Goods Mart was driven by client conversations and alignment between Rachel’s two businesses. 

[00:19:19] Rachel expresses her frustration with the lack of healthier options in traditional convenience stores and a desire to disrupt the convenience store industry by selling products that improve the food system.

[00:22:36] Balancing two businesses, facing challenges as a founder.

[00:25:50] Trusting your gut, but seeking validation from others before making decisions. Pushing against negative reactions and asking why. Considering feedback to determine if your gut feeling is accurate. The importance of weighing pros and cons in decision-making.

[00:30:50] The Goods Mart is a community-focused store that engages with customers, holds cookouts with a local chef, and aims to help businesses and build relationships in the area.

[00:34:09] Location is crucial for business success. Rachel details initial mistakes and what she’s learned about the importance of analyzing foot traffic and customer demographics. 

[00:36:58] What expansion looks like for The Goods Mart. 

[00:40:16] The challenges facing brick-and-mortar businesses today and how investment uncertainty hinders brands.

[00:43:35] Rachel’s #1 piece of advice for early-stage entrepreneurs? There is no perfect time, just go for it.

Full Interview Transcript

Ethan Peyton: Hey everybody and welcome to the Startup Savant podcast. I'm your host, Ethan, and this is a show about the stories, challenges and triumphs of fast-scaling startups and the founders who run them. 

We are coming to you live today, that's not necessarily true, from an Airbnb closet here in beautiful Austin, Texas. We've got the pillows all stacked up. We've got every lamp in this place on and blasting, and we are ready to roll. 

Our guest today on the show is Rachel Krupa, founder and CEO of The Good Smart. The Good Smart is a better-for-you, socially conscious alternative to the modern convenience store. In 2010, before starting The Goods Mart, Rachel founded Krupa Consulting, and we're gonna touch a little bit on that as well because I think that is just as interesting as The Goods Mart itself. 

But before we get into that, I've got to pay the bills. And remember everyone, that the number one way you can help us to grow this show is to subscribe on whatever platform you're listening on. That's one small button tap for you and one huge leap in the algorithm for podcast kind. And if you subscribe, We thank you kindly. All right, no more dilly-dally. Let's get down to business with Rachel Krupa of The Goods Mart. Rachel, welcome to the show.

Rachel Krupa: Thank you so much for having me and I will say that your closet looks wonderful.

Ethan Peyton: It is beautiful, these nice off-white walls and harsh lighting, it's lovely.

Rachel Krupa: It's very good complexion.

Ethan Peyton: Thank you, thank you, I try real hard. All right, let's start at the beginning. Tell us what is The Goods Mart?

Rachel Krupa: Yeah, as you wonderfully introduced us, we are a better-for-you socially conscious convenience store. So basically, we're a convenience store filled with emerging brands in the food space, in the snacking space, everything that is better for you in regards of non-GMO, no artificial flavors. And we really love to look at the founders who's making the products that fill our store. You know, a majority of the brands in our store are female-founded or from diverse founders. But we also look at it from a standpoint of... how are the ingredients and what are they made of. So a lot of our products are also interesting new ingredients of banana flour or chocho flour, but also using regenerative grains or upcycled or heirloom. So we also look at it from like a not only how does it taste, how does it impact one's health or one's well-being, but also how does it impact our mother earth.

Ethan Peyton: That's a really interesting concept just in taking the convenience store and kind of upscaling the products that are sold in the store itself. But besides the products, are there any other differences between The Goods Mart and other convenience stores?

Rachel Krupa: Yeah, I mean, I think looking at it from a standpoint of, I think how we train our team, because our team is really trained to educate our customers coming in to talk about the snacks that majority of the folks that come in don't know anything about. So, hey, this is a better version of this or that. But then also it's, you know, I think every convenience store is completely different. 

So I think today's world, it's not. apples and apples, it's apples and oranges and pears and bananas and everything like that, but for us it's also really about the experience inside that it's very familiar in regards of wire racks and just like the overall like... kind of half unfinished floors, but also at the same time, we love having it white and bright because the products stand out versus like our coloring because our colors are black and white. But then it's also really about the music. It's about the vibe that you get inside because for us it's an everyday store, not a store that you want to walk in because you want to just come and find something cute or as a gift.

Ethan Peyton: So I know that there's a bit of a backstory with convenience stores having an effect on your life. Can you give us a little bit of that story?

Rachel Krupa: I love Sonoco gas station. You know, you're from Michigan, so you probably have had gas stations and you walked in there so many times, but the Sonoco gas station that was next to I-75 in Michigan, it was my happy place. It was a place that we got milk, eggs, cheese. I got my rocket popsicle or my good and plenties. But it was a place that you also saw friends that you went to high school with. You saw friends that, you know, neighbors and aunts and uncles. And it was a really incredible like hub of the community. And that's really was like the background of the goods. It was just more of how do you create a place that's surrounding food? Food is something that we eat when we're happy, when we're sad. basically every emotion, but then why doesn't the store have that same experience? But for me, that gas station was this place that always brought me happiness. But then as I became more educated in regards of quality of ingredients, I realized that all the things in the store was not necessarily convenient for me anymore. Because I think as we just progress with time and are educated more on quality of ingredients and pack down the environment, that it was more of this like... I don't want the same old products, but I want the better for you products that exist and they're expanding rapidly today.

Ethan Peyton: You know, I also have a, it was a gas station. I'm from a small town in Missouri and we had, you know, the town was kind of based around a factory. And next to the factory was a gas station, it was called DC's. And DC's was started by a couple gentlemen that were, you know, big names in the community. And, you know, there would be a gentleman there drinking coffee. And we always knew that we could go to the gal behind the counter, her name was Linda. And I never thought that necessarily had any sort of impact on me, but now, as you and I are sitting here talking, 15 years later, I remember Linda's name and I remembered

Rachel Krupa: All right. 

Ethan Peyton: That it was called DC's. And so, yeah, it's not something that I would have thought of, but it really seems like maybe those kind of are hubs of the community, especially in smaller towns. So it's really cool.

Rachel Krupa: Yeah, it's smaller towns, but why can't you have that in large cities? Because it's a place, again, it's like you can take a step back and look at it from a, you're, if you go to a coffee shop every day, you know the barista, or at least you maybe not know their name, but you know their face. And if they're not there for like a week, you're like, where'd they go?

Ethan Peyton: Hehehe.

Rachel Krupa: What's going on? And it's the talk of a town. And that's like for us too. It's like, you know, Lonnie is going to be working on Tuesdays. You know that Angel's is going to be working on Wednesdays. and people come in and they ask questions if they're not there. Like, who are you? Are you new? And it's just fun to build that community again of just friendly faces, especially within cities that are so busy that for us, it's like one of our rules is having a customer leave happier than when they walked in. That's through a friendly hello. That's through one of our great drip coffees for $1.25. that is for just finding and discovering something or finding your favorite thing and having it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack. But you wanna leave happier. And that could even just be from like someone being like, hey, how are you today? It goes a long way.

Ethan Peyton: It really does. The more I'm hearing this, the more excited I'm getting. Again, similar concept. I had a little bodega in my neighborhood that I actually just moved out of, but the gentleman behind the counter, just like what you're saying, I'm not 100% for sure what his name was, but man, he was so cool. And if you ever wanted something that they didn't have, you just ask and he'll order it and you'll get it the next day. And so these... Yeah, these really kind of are hubs of people's lives. All right, let's jump out of the GoodSmart for just a second and we'll definitely come back to it. But as mentioned in the preamble, you've also founded another company and that is Krupa Consulting. Can you tell us a little bit about that business?

Rachel Krupa: Yeah, so Krupa Consulting is my PR agency where we focus on food and wellness brands as well. And we've been fortunate over the years to have launched TasteMade, Thrive Market, Goop in their wellness vertical, our place, the pan that you probably see everywhere on social, the really beautiful pastel color pans that work incredibly. But we also have just like really worked with brands in the emerging space to help them become household names with earned media. And we wanna make... our impact on brands and impact with society by working with brands that to us are doing it right. Again, by understanding the quality of the ingredients that they are doing, how does it impact our health, how does it impact our environment, but also at the end of the day, does it deserve to be on a shelf in a retail, does it deserve to be on a shelf in your home? Because we all have limited real estate in our home and what makes that product actually deserve to be in your home? Not- create joy and all that, but like take that space.

Ethan Peyton: Are you currently still acting as the CEO, the main operator of both of those businesses?

Rachel Krupa: I am.

Ethan Peyton: How? How are you doing this?

Rachel Krupa: It's a lot of coffee. 

Ethan Peyton: Ah!

Rachel Krupa: No, I really do love coffee. I do have a five o'clock coffee every day, but they work very well together and I have an incredible team on both. And I believe that you can do a lot if you have great team member and support underneath you and then side by side with you, because I think without a great team, you're just always constantly pushing a boulder up a hill. especially as an entrepreneur because that boulder is always going to be there even though the boulder is like tipping on the other side you still think the boulder needs to go up higher but when you have people helping you with that rock kind of rolling it it's you're having more fun doing it but you're also again making a larger impact as a whole.

Ethan Peyton: Yeah, and you can definitely push, you can push a bigger rock if you've got more people pushing. So how did operating Krupa Consulting affect how you designed the kind of business and business model around The Goods Mart?

Rachel Krupa: I didn't. I am a type of person to a fault. We're thinking about it now. There was no business plan for the store.

Ethan Peyton: Okay.

Rachel Krupa: There was no financial model. There was no nothing. It was, I'm gonna create a better-for-you convenience store, better-for-you 7-Eleven. Okay, great. And so asked for help from friends because I've had the PR agency now for 13 years, but have been doing PR for 20 years. And so it was really of, I need to check things off a list. I need a storefront. Great, I found a place that I didn't even compare the rent to. I need to have a lawyer to look at the paperwork. Great, I need like, help somebody to help me with operations and teach me. Old client coming in, I need a contractor. I need to figure out how to order products. And so it was a lot of it was asking for help without having a plan in advance, which in hindsight, I've now had a master's in business because I think I did everything probably I would say wrong but right for me to get us where we are now but it was basically very just more like from the gut of creating something that I thought needed to be put into the world without looking at competitors without looking at anything else because I'm also a believer if you look at other things I can never do that because it feels like you're copying them. So if you don't look at anything and you just build based on what your vision is, then you're actually gonna create something that is authentically true to you.

Ethan Peyton: So not looking at the competition, that's one thing, but not kind of looking at the numbers and assuming that something is going to be, maybe not even profitable, but like sustainable. Did you look into any of those things before you jumped in or was it just like, I'm gonna do this and I'm gonna make it work and there's nothing that can stop me? 

Rachel Krupa: Yep. 

Ethan Peyton: Wow. 

Rachel Krupa: I wish there was more than that. And I think that's the biggest part where I've learned so much. And that was over five years ago. And I really relied on a business manager to help me because I got a line of credit from the bank to open up the first store and thought there was gonna be more of a budget but relied on someone that ultimately at the end of the day did not do what I thought they were doing. Because I also believe that you can bring in people to help you that are better than you at certain things. 

But now I know that there's checks and balances and there has to be clear conversation of “hey, this is the expectation, here's what we need to do.” But when I first started it literally was I'm gonna open this and I'm going to make it work. No matter what because I will figure it out. And ask for help when I needed but asking me for help it's also really hard because no one wants to ask for help because I think everyone in… I think society is getting better with it in the sense, but like if you ask for help, sometimes I looked at it as a weakness. And no one ever wants to look at like think of themselves as being weak or not knowing something. 

But I think as we continue to progress, I think particularly after COVID that you can ask for help. And people really want to be there to help you and actually asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness because you're asking someone for their expertise. that they're going to be really honored that you're like, you think I'm really great at this and I 100% I want to help you. And then you're going to have more fun doing it and be smarter at it because you have someone with a like-minded brain that is much more focused on another pillar, another area that you're best at. So why not use them?

Ethan Peyton: Yeah, why not? I mean, that's, I think what you're saying, it needs to be said more, that we need to spend a little more time on this because it's such an important thing for people to understand. And I think that there's kind of this thought out there, and maybe we learned it from school, and maybe we learned it from, you know, our parents at a young age, or something that if you have a weakness that you should work really hard to kind of build-up, build those... weaknesses into strengths and maybe that's true for some things, but I think it's probably more valuable to take your strengths and build on top of those and turn your strengths into true superpowers and you know, if you're the best in the world at something or if you're top 5% in the world at something, there's a good chance that you can get help on the things that you are. not the best in the world at, or you can hire for them, or you can hire an agency or a consultant to help you on these things. And so, yeah, I mean, if you, preach it, if you've got any more, give it to us.

Rachel Krupa: Yeah, no, I think it's your spot on. It's like you can't be an A with everything. And if you're like a B minus, like I think for perfectionists, you can never be less than a B. But like if you can be like a B, B minus C on like majority of things, have a common like understanding of what it is so that you have checks and balances of agencies and other people that are helping you, just to be able to ask questions that you become stronger. But you can't be like. your superpower can't be everything. Because every superpower and every superhero we know has like some type of weakness that really takes them down. 

So it's understanding what your superpower is, add to it, but also understand what that biggest weakness is. And like at least have like a foundational level of like, I know I'm not the best at this, but this is why I need these other humans to help me because it's not my skill set. But like teach me a little bit of what it is. So I understand and we're able to talk the same language on a category that I don't know anything about or don't know as much about.

Ethan Peyton: All right, thanks for tacking on. I'm glad that we covered that. All right, was The Goods Mart the first kind of outside venture as you were running Krupa Consulting or was there anything in there that you tried to start before that wasn't maybe as successful as The Goods Mart?

Rachel Krupa: No, The Goods Mart was the first one and it was through a lot of conversation with clients that kept saying, what do you want to start? You need to start your own thing. You're building X, Y, and Z for everyone. You need to start your own thing. And I'm like, I don't know what I want to start. Like thinking about it, you're like, I love spas. It's like, great. I would be health and wellness.

Ethan Peyton: Hehehe.

Rachel Krupa: But then at the same time, like, you know, like when you're, you have a superpower, like my superpower is I think connecting the dots with people. And like, I really want to elevate other people because they're doing incredible work. So like the thought process was more of, I'm doing this within like a PR perspective and being able to get like media and get them written about in New York Times, Fast Company, Wall Street Journal, you know, everything that you can think about. But then on the other side, how do you actually help them and actually grow? But that's also giving them a place to actually have their product be sold. And then being able to help them in. 

What about this distributor? What about this? Like, do you need help with investment? Do you need help with this? Or this is a cool trend that customers are actually wanting and needing. Have you thought about this? So then ultimately, I believe that the store, which didn't know at the time, because again, I just want to create a cool store, is also like a really great funnel for the PR agency, because we're also learning what customers want and how they resonate with messaging. And messaging is so important from the PR side too. so that while they're completely separate companies, they are such good synergy between them and the goals are very similar, but through different avenues.

Ethan Peyton: So maybe you just answered this question, so with the consulting company, you helped all sorts of different types of companies. A lot of them were in similar verticals and industries and that sort of thing, but there were so many different, just different types of businesses like you said, restaurants and brands and that sort of thing. So what was it about convenience stores that made you want to move in that direction instead of the million other directions that you could have gone in?

Rachel Krupa: It goes back to Sonoco. It was just, I love that experience. And I even love working in the store to this day. Like we have a day within our store that it's like corporate day that we take turns and work in the store because it's an interaction with customers. And I think that's the most rewarding part because like interacting and seeing what people think about a product is incredible. You can't do that to having a DTC brand. Like how much are you in there? You're not in retail, so you're not talking, it's D2C. So you could have a when I look at it from a snack perspective, I could have a coffee shop, but I don't want to have a whole barista program…

Ethan Peyton: Okay.

Rachel Krupa: …maybe one day. But it's more of like, I wanted a place filled with snacks. And from the PR side, we worked with a lot of CPG brands that were the better for you component. There's a better for you snicker bars. There's a better-for-you soda of a cola these days. There's a better-for-you Reese's peanut butter cup. There's a better-for-you Dorito that's Tia Lupita. So there's a better-for-you thing that existed in every convenience store. 

But I think a lot of the time it really frustrated me when I went to a traditional grocery store. I mean, this was 2000 and, you know, even 10, 2012, 13 that you had like an area in the room and everything was like. Organic was just like a small section. It's like, here's my one rack of organic. And so for me, it was more of like, what is everything else? If this is the better-for-you ingredients, does everything else mean that it's not? And like, how do you look at that? And if you're looking to be healthier, you're looking to do more for your health, then why do you have to shop in the one small section? Can't you have a store full of that? I mean, that was Whole Foods initially. We all were like, oh my gosh, this is like crazy. 

But then as I think you progress like convenience stores never progressed. And so that was like, I think the area for me, it was more of like, okay, this needs to be disrupted in a way that it doesn't contain the other things because ultimately if you want to improve a food system, you need the products that are improving the food system to be the ones that are selling. And how do you do that? You have to introduce that to customers.

Ethan Peyton: All right, so specifically from a business angle, like from a, I run this business and assuming that everybody wants to grow their business, and that's not necessarily always true, but assuming that that's kind of the general goal, obviously, there's massive synergy here. You're working with lots of brands and these brands can have a place on these shelves. And as you're building out these shelves, you need to fill them, and that's giving you contact with more brands, like that's huge, massive synergy, that's awesome, but you still are taking on two different businesses. What was your thought process when it came to, should I build Krupa Consulting even bigger, or should I do this second business as well?

Rachel Krupa: There was never a thought of should I continue to build Krupa and put energy into this or build the goods. It was more of I'm going to do both. And that is like one of my outlooks always is again, it's by when I started the goods market, Krupa Consulting was already eight years old. And so a lot of the PR that we work on, it came from referrals of clients that you know, or individuals that referred clients to us because we're very specific of who we want to work with because it is very much mission-driven brands that, again, we, that are making an impact. And then on the other side, it was just like, I'm going to create this too. I mean, I think during a little bit of like the building process and for the first year and a half, two years, I wasn't the best founder for either business because like I was figuring out how to be a founder and a CEO for both businesses. And how much do you want to cross over when you're in a service business, you are servicing clients, but clients knew that you also had your own company. 

You're not servicing them so much. How would they feel about you having another company? And so that took a lot of just time and just thought process of being like, you know what, this is a strength for us now because we actually know what to do from a retail perspective. So that's like our unique positioning to help us build the PR agency. And then from the store side, it's we know everything about a brand. We can help you grow. We can help you build the message. And so I think it just takes time and energy. And I think, you know, COVID was very impactful for a lot of businesses because it allowed you to sit and actually think about what you wanted for the future instead of being on the hamster wheel of I'm going through the motions to build it, because this is what a successful company looks like. I need to have X amount of stores by X amount of time to be successful. I need to have X amount of employees or X amount of clients to be successful. 

At the end of the day, success to everyone is so different. For me, it's the impact I want the stores to have, not the number of stores I want to have. From the PR agency, it's the quality of the clients and the thoughtfulness and the impact that we have on the team that is able to get the clients that we have because the team is incredible. And so for that, that's very successful for me. And so I think success in the past couple years have been able to re-figure and actually have an impact more than what classically success is for most people.

Ethan Peyton: All right, so if there's one thing that I'm hearing over and over and over here, it is that you trust your gut and you go with gut instinct and you're able to take that and it sounds like a lot of the time it's right. So on a tactical level, how do I know if I'm a founder and I'm having a gut feeling, how do I know whether that's accurate or not. How do I know how to trust my gut and how do I know when it's given me a false positive?

Rachel Krupa: I also believe that you trust your gut, but you also talk to your core group of humans to see if it Vibrates or vibrates with them Because you're gonna be able to get a gut feeling in the sense of talking to others and talking out loud to people because if you say something and you get the constant reaction of like push of like no that's not gonna work and You push again with that question of why and if it's like it's not gonna work just because then you're like, okay I have something here because I know that it can change. Or if it's, hey, I don't think it's gonna work because of X, Y, and Z supply chain, or here's this, or it's been tried four times already and this is the reason why, then you're like, okay, maybe my gut's not here. But if you ask enough people, and I feel like we all have that spidey sense if you tap into it, that it is like, I just know it's gonna work, or you're a little bit apprehensive, and it's just a matter of... getting to know your gut and I feel like that's like very, not like from like an entrepreneurial perspective of like it's not on paper and it's not black and white, it's not from a financial model of here this is. 

But a lot of the time like, it's, there's, you can, I think it's also the PR side of my brain particularly, it's like you can talk yourself into something and you can talk yourself out of something. And it's a good game that I love to play with a lot of people of like pros and cons. If the pros are greater than the cons, then you go for it. If the cons are greater than the pros and you don't know why the cons are greater than the pros, then you can't do it. But you could talk yourself into it and you can talk around something to figure out which path you need to go. But it's conversation.

Ethan Peyton: All right, so let's move forward. No, that's an awesome answer.

Rachel Krupa: Hey!

Ethan Peyton: And it sounds like you're not just trusting your gut, you're trusting lots of guts, guts everywhere.

Rachel Krupa: Guts everywhere.

Ethan Peyton: And we need good health, good gut health for that. And if you need a snack that gives you good gut health, you should go to The Goods Mart.

Rachel Krupa: Thank you. That was a very good…

Ethan Peyton: And that's my cheesy joke. 

Rachel Krupa: I thought that was a really good advertisement. And I was like…

Ethan Peyton: Hahaha

Rachel Krupa: …oh my gosh, you have someone that is like advertising that's gut health. I'm like, that's the perfect transition that we didn't plan.

Ethan Peyton: No, we didn't, and I wish that we had an advertiser…

Rachel Krupa: There you go, we

Ethan Peyton: but...

Rachel Krupa: …gotta get a gut health because that's like how entrepreneurs and people work by their gut and they need a good gut…

Ethan Peyton: Ha ha!

Rachel Krupa: …health brand. So, you know, seed probiotics.

Ethan Peyton: There you go. All right, well, your check will be in the mail…

Rachel Krupa: Hahahaha

Ethan Peyton: …for your consultancy, thank you. All right, so I read over The Goods Mart website and if you're there for any more than like 30 seconds, you run into the word community. And I know that we talked a little bit about the Sonoco and the DCs, but can you tell me what the word community means to you?

Rachel Krupa: Yeah, community means a handful of things because you have a community that is internal. So community to us is the team members that fill our store that make the goods the goods. Then you have the community of brands that fill our shelves. Because if we didn't have the community of founders and makers that filled our shelves, we wouldn't have a store. And then you have the external community of our customers that if we don't have them, we don't have a store because we're not selling anything. 

So for us, like community is three different parts. You can also say four, but if you could talk about the environment and just like a greater part of it. And for us, it was really pulling kind of like a card out of, I think initially with John Mackey with Whole Foods. It's just like all stakeholders needs to, all ties need to rise with the stakeholders. And your stakeholder is your community of all the different branches of your company and your business. So community for us is really all aspects working together. and elevating so that not one is taking from another. And so community, you know, it's built in so many different ways. 

And I could talk for hours about community inside the store with the team, community what we have with the brands and the external community of not only our shoppers, but you know, the incredible humans that keep our store going with the distributors, with our FedEx and UPS teams, with the US Postal Service, because without all of them. We don't have a store. So you have to recognize of all the people that help to make your business go and make a positive impact on the community at a whole.

Ethan Peyton: So speaking of the community that's being built between The Goods Mart and the customers of The Goods Mart, how are you cultivating that and ensuring that it doesn't fall to the wayside and just kind of become a, hey, you come in, you buy your gut health chips, and then you leave. How are you making sure that the community stays front of mind for everyone?

Rachel Krupa: Yeah, I think it's, yeah, a good question. And I think it goes back into like what you used to say with your, the place that you used to go to, but you just moved from. It's people asking and being like, I need this, or what about this product or this thing? You're like, great, let me get it in. Like, I'll have it into you in the next week or two. So you're listening to them. But you're also like engaging in a conversation and really just like being, you know, being able to have like a thought process of being like, good idea. great idea. But on top of that, we also, you know, because of COVID, and we stayed open throughout the pandemic, I started talking to our UPS driver, you know, Darren Williams. And during that conversations, he was just like, guess what, like, I'm a really great, you know, jerk chicken maker. And I was like, Okay, great.

Ethan Peyton: Hehehe

Rachel Krupa: Great. You make the best jerk chicken. I don't believe you bring me some because I was also hungry. And he…

Ethan Peyton: Mm-hmm.

Rachel Krupa: …brought me the best jerk chicken I've ever had in my entire life and then come to find out like he had a restaurant in Kingston and he then just like blew me away and just like his passion for what he was doing and like cooking and having just long conversations. Like, do you wanna just do a cookout outside the store? And he was like, yeah. And so we have like regular cookouts outside of our store with Chef Williams making jerk chicken, pulled pork, oxtail and like the money's going towards him, you know. And because that is like part of like the community, it's, you know, chef Williams connects each one of the people because like our area where our Soho location is, is very much like office buildings. And so he's dropping product off at everyone every day. So if he's going in and being like, Hey, what's up? And you have that relationship. He's like, I'm cooking outside the goods market next week. 100% everyone's going to be there, but it has to…

Ethan Peyton: Yeah.

Rachel Krupa: …be like the energy and the vibe of like, let's do old school way. Let's put buckets in the middle of the street. Let's have it and eat it with, you know, kind of like, it's more sustainable, reusable, not reusable, but like, you know, your fork and your knife, but use things and eat things and play music a little too loud on the sidewalk and just connect and say hi to people. And so that's, for us, it's really building the community, but it's also looking at it just like, how can we help? the businesses and the humans around us more than just help ourselves. Because that's a community corner store. That's what we talked about before. It's just like the impact that the community made on our customers, not just the products that they sold, but more of like the interaction every day that they show that they care for where they're being and what you're doing.

Ethan Peyton: All right, I wanna talk a little bit about location and expansion. And I know for these types of businesses, they're probably pretty important. I once heard that McDonald's isn't a burger company, it's a real estate company. And so I have to imagine that if you're building a brick and mortar that people need to continually come in and out of, that real estate is probably top of mind for you. So how do you think about location and the effects that it has on your business?

Rachel Krupa: Good question, I should have thought about that when I was first opening my stores…

Ethan Peyton: Hahaha

Rachel Krupa: …because I did not think about that. And I was like, it looks cool, it's next to our car wash, it was a parking lot. And I made horrible mistakes initially. Even our Soho location, I will say, is not the best location. It's finally five years later, it's gonna be great because we have a really cool store. Edelweiss opening up Kitty Corner from us in a few months. So I'm like, finally, five years, we have like...

Ethan Peyton: Ha ha ha.

Rachel Krupa: …a place that people are walking to. But location's everything. I once had a friend that said, when you think about a retail, especially familiar with a food side, that if you think of every day of the week is seven points. Each day of the week is three points because it's breakfast, lunch, dinner. And so out of a 21-point scale, what is your foot traffic? And I'm like, okay, for us, dinner's really not a good part for our SoHo location because it's just people are not in the area they work there so I have breakfast and I have breakfast and lunch. 

You know weekends are iffy because again it's more of like an area where people work versus live so those are done so like out of a point system I may have five days to a ten point out of 21 not great, you know. And so those are the things that I think over time, I've just learned as just looking at it of like, okay, I need to build a business and now I'm more, you know, I'm smarter. I have done a lot of things that were not in like typical ways, but it was like a path that I think helped me actually understand and like be like, okay, location, location is everything. And that's what we look for now. And it's just like, okay, what is like the purpose? Who's our customer? How many days of the week should we actually be open? And have a full analysis on it before we open up a location and you literally like have the counters outside and like sitting there and having people and like tick, tick, tick for every person that walks by. 

And like what is the idea that you're going to get 5% typically you get 1% of the people walking by and can you have a business with the number of your average like ticket sale of what you feel that should be with the number of people that are going to walk in every day can you meet your rent at the end of the day. You gotta look at those things and it's like easy math, but it's like something that I didn't have initially. But now I do. So now we're smarter.

Ethan Peyton: Well, that's awesome. And it sounds like you've got some like actual like tactical models to follow there with that 21-point scale and the like, let's literally sit out here and count foot traffic. So beyond those, I mean, what does, how many stores do you all have and what does the kind of like expansion model look like for The Goods Mart?

Rachel Krupa: Yeah, so we have three stores right now. So it's SoHo, 11 West 42nd Street, and then Rockefeller Center, all in New York.

Ethan Peyton: Okay.

Rachel Krupa: 11 West and Rockefeller Center, we took over existing newsstands and office buildings. So those, as we talked about before, those are five-day-a-week businesses because we're servicing the tenants above us because it's, you know, where NBC, Deloitte, Luzardo's and, you know, Michael Kors, Valentino Burberry corporate offices are. So we serve that customer. And then as we could look to continue to expand, it's possibly maybe more new stands, but we love small footprint of stores. Like our stores are less than a thousand square feet. Right now our biggest store is 500 square feet, if that. 

So we have a lot packed into… because I love small spaces because that allows you to have better interaction with your customer. But we're also doing other like verticals where we're starting to curate mini bars for hospitality groups. and do corporate pantries and doing a lot of things because for us it's like really helping emerging brands grow and expand their reach and their reach is beyond our stores but into the hands of others where they're snacking in their office, in a mini bar, a coffee shop. 

And so we're kind of expanding our verticals in that way. Stores and the number of stores for us will open more stores but for us are. drive is not having X amount of stores and X amount of years because real estate is expensive and the more, you know, it's just like logistically, it's like much harder because then you're also working with humans in the store that can be sick or with transportation to and from. And so it's for us, it's like, how do we make an impact in other ways? Because of the relationships, very fortunate that I've had through the years of PR. and being able to tap into those connections in order to make the young brands that fill our store have more reach.

Ethan Peyton: So it sounds like there's a lot of heart in this business. And I love that and it can go a long way. But at the end of the day, there needs to, for it to be a business, for it to continue operating, there needs to be, it needs to be financially viable. It needs to be able to pay the bills and support the customer, not the customers, the employees that…

Rachel Krupa: Yeah.

Ethan Peyton: …work there and everything. Now that things are kind of starting to look, and this may date the…

Rachel Krupa: We'll be right back.

Ethan Peyton: …show, we're recording this in mid-May of 23. And we just recently saw the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and this other banking stuff that's going on. And we're also seeing commercial real estate starting to fluctuate pretty heavily and of course, depending on the area of the country that you're in, it's more than others. But how are you seeing this? How is this affecting you? Are you seeing more opportunities or are you feeling a tightening as a brick-and-mortar business?

Rachel Krupa: I think it's a little bit of both because it's the brands that fill our store are having a hard time fundraising. And so if you look at emerging brands in the category itself, 80% are going to fail. So that is out of…

Ethan Peyton: Mm-hmm.

Rachel Krupa: …every brand, 80% are going to fail. So within like two years, you're probably not going to be here. So the time and energy that you want to put into them to be the next Doritos Cheetos of the worlds, they might not have it because they might not get investment. because people are more hesitant to invest in things right now because of the way that the market is. And then I think that when you look at a brick and mortar location, it's landlords and just like, you know, you're getting a lot of breaks to not have anything in your store. So you're making more money by not having a tenant because tenants are not actually able to pay huge rents because like sometimes you don't have the foot traffic or people are not buying the things that you want. But I think for us, Food is always gonna be that category that people are looking for. You need to eat every day and

Ethan Peyton: Yep, gotta eat.

Rachel Krupa: …you gotta eat and everyone's health, especially because of COVID, people are looking at their health more and understand what you put in your body also affects the quality of your health. So the better for you category, people see that. And so that's why you also see an explosion of like these new better-for-you products everywhere because people want them. 

And I also look at it as snack products and snack brands are in a more affordable luxury because you don't necessarily need it to live, to eat, to breathe because it's more of a thing that you want to try and experience, but it is something that is more attainable for most where you can have a tried experience over a really great cookie that's under $5. You can spend $10 and try things amongst friends and have an experience of, hey, I went to New York and I tried this really cool brand. And you talk about that. You're at a minibar and you try something and you're like, this is so much better than what I could have thought about or this was better than this $300 dinner that I went to or X, Y, and Z that food and snack are more of an affordable luxury. And I think as you look at the environment of our economic state right now that... Food will continue to be purchased, but I think the larger, more expensive is gonna be tough, but this is an experience, at least from a snacking perspective, that is more affordable for most. 

And the biggest thing I think is more of brands need investment and people are less, they're a little bit wary of investing in brands because you don't know the roadmap yet. Are they gonna be purchased, are they not? Are they gonna sell, are they gonna tank? What is that? And that's gonna be the biggest thing I think that could hinder us more than anything else is more of what's the future of the brands and the food that, you know, that's why we just say customers come and shop them because these are small brands that have the right intention to build something. And at least within our sort, they're super tasty. So you can get something and it's a win-win for everyone.

Ethan Peyton: All right, what is your number one piece of advice for early-stage entrepreneurs?

Rachel Krupa: Rip the bandaid off and do it.

Ethan Peyton: Say more about that.

Rachel Krupa: I think you always have this ability or you always think of like there's a perfect time to do something I got to have my X Y & Z in row in order for me to do this. I need to have this this and this lined up to do it. Guess what you have X Y & Z lined up and you do it Y or Z is gonna go askew so your plan is gonna get [redacted] up no matter what So if you just rip the band-aid off and you do it you're jumping in feet first and you're going to be able to swim. You're going to have a better actual understanding of what is changing and what is going in order for you to do it. Yes, have a backbone of what you want to do, but there's no perfect time to do anything. Just do it.

Ethan Peyton: Yep, the lights aren't all gonna be green at the same time, so you might as well blow a red here and there but don't tell anybody I said that.

Rachel Krupa: I would.

Ethan Peyton: Ha ha.

Rachel Krupa: I do it all the time now.

Ethan Peyton: All right, this has been a lot of fun. I've got one more question for you. It's pretty simple. Where can people connect with you online and how can our listeners support The Goods Mart?

Rachel Krupa: Yeah, you can connect with me on Instagram, whether it's The Goods Mart IG or mine at RachKrupa. You can shop And if you need corporate curation or pantries, then you can also contact us. So everything is there. Basically, you can go to the website and find everything.

Ethan Peyton: All right, well, we're gonna put the links to the website and everything else on the show notes over at So folks, go check that out. There's a lot of awesome stuff at the Good Smart and we want you to visit. But that's gonna conclude this episode and we had a ton of fun. Rachel, I'm gonna give you the last word.

Rachel Krupa: Oh gosh, I mean, thank you for having me. And, you know, I think it's more of just, I don't know. That's it like it's always hard to have the last word. I don't like having the last word. Please, you have the last word.

Ethan Peyton: No, yeah, I'll take the last word. Everybody rip the bandaid off. Go do something. You're gonna get punched in the face, but you're gonna get punched in the face by life, whether you start now or later. So you might as well start now and start getting them out of the way and learn things.

Rachel Krupa: Right? But then…

Ethan Peyton: So there, how about that for the last word?

Rachel Krupa: I like that. 

Rachel Krupa: But then also to piggyback on that, it's you're gonna get punched in the face, but learn from it. And it's not a failure

Ethan Peyton: Yes.

Rachel Krupa: and it's not anything else, but it's like a growth period that you're like, fuck, I got punched in the face, I did X, but like, I'm not gonna do it again the same way wrong. So just learn from it and look at every step back or every punch in the face as a period of growth. And then you're constantly growing and you're advancing.

Ethan Peyton: Right, yeah, we'll go right back to what you said at the beginning, every failure is not a failure if you learn from it.

Rachel Krupa: Yep. Mm-hmm.

Ethan Peyton: It's just growth. All right, cool, well, we could probably wrap all day, but I better end this thing, so Rachel, thanks for coming on.

Rachel Krupa: Thank you so much for having me.

Ethan Peyton: All right, that’s going to be it for this week’s episode of the Startup Savant podcast. Thanks for listening in. Quick reminder before you go that we have been challenged. We’ve got a goal to hit 100 reviews by episode 100 and they only way we can hit our goal is to ask you nicely to leave us a review. So, here it is, would you please, dear listener, leave us a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify? 

If you did, we would appreciate it ever so much. And if you do, thank you for your kindness and your good spirits. All right, we’ll be back next Wednesday with another awesome founder and more great stories. I can’t wait to hang out with you again. And until then, go build something beautiful. 

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