In celebration of Women’s History Month, we had the honor to interview MacKenzie DeVito, CEO and Founder of No Bones Beach Club, a plant-based food company founded in Seattle in 2014. Starting from just a single pop-up tent to expanding into a 3-restaurant chain, DeVito offers up her experience and guidance in navigating the industry as a womxn founder and leader and lets us know who in her network inspires her the most.
No Bones Beach Club notably started out as a single pop-up tent. How were you able to scale up and evolve the business into what it is today?
Grit, hard work, and passion to save animals. It was incredibly difficult to build No Bones into a three restaurant chain and then have the pandemic wipe us out.
We are still pre-launch with our frozen brand but the restaurant industry groomed me for the re-launch. The experience from the last six years showed me where the holes are in the industry, and how my products can help other restaurant owners solve some of their biggest challenges operationally and do it while providing very delicious, chef-curated menu solutions that feature allergen-friendly whole food, plant-based menu bites.
During the pandemic, you made the decision to shift and expand your business from brick-and-mortar restaurants into the foodservice space. How did you navigate that transition and what tips would you offer other business owners looking to take a similar leap?
The early phase of my pivot was to focus No Bones on becoming a household CPG brand. For years while I was operating the restaurants, I wanted to start a retail line but the restaurant industry just controlled all of my time and resources. Throughout the pandemic, I had about three different pivots. I spent a lot of time re-writing a business plan to include why our CPG brand was solving a problem, but I was having a conflict trying to make a brand story that involved how our food was solving a problem by selling in the natural channel. You can already find frozen cauliflower wings in the store–we like to think ours are better but it’s just a hard sell to grocery chains. In July of 2020, however, I joined a women’s group for restauranteurs called @Let’stalkwomxn and that’s when I realized the issues I was having in the restaurant industry were definitely industry-wide issues. This group of women really allowed me to get energized about pivoting once again from CPG focused brand to a B2B focused brand! I am very excited and feel confident that our line of frozen beach bites and sauces will solve a lot of issues for other business owners.
I would tell other people in this space to find a network, like PBFA or other food-focused incubators. Get out. Meet people, join new groups, build relationships. Explore finding mentors, show up, and get involved.
Over the course of your professional journeys, are there any women in your lives—friends, family, mentors, public figures—who have inspired you along the way?
So many womxn have helped and inspired me along that journey. Historically speaking in the plant-based space, Miyoko has been a huge inspiration. Christie Legally, the founder of Rebellyous Foods has been a personal mentor and advisor of mine. Rohini Dey who is the founder of Let’s Talk Womxn is a woman that I find incredibly inspiring.
What has been the most rewarding moment for you in your journey with No Bones—as both plant-based business owners and women business owners?
We donated $100,000 to animal non-profits during the time of the restaurants and as a passionate vegan, this was always the most rewarding side of my business.
Why is it critical for the plant-based foods industry to have strong, intersectional women representation at the highest levels and to be hospitable for women starting their own brands?
We need womxn represented in the plant-based industry to level the playing field. Womxn need money to build and grow their businesses. With the large amount of traditional meat processing companies coming into the space (Tyson, Cargill, Unilever, etc) it is incredibly important for women to hold their own and represent. In order for that to happen, bankers need to make sure they prioritize funding women so we can compete.
What advice would you give to women looking to start their own companies or assume leadership roles in the plant-based space?
Grow your network, do your homework, hire an attorney and a really good accountant.
Where can people learn more about No Bones Beach Club and find you online?
You can find us at nobonesbeachclub.com