Founder Spotlight: Yemeni Mesa of Heka Good Foods
Yemeni Mesa, CEO and Co-Founder of Heka Good Foods, is bringing high-quality and “heka good” keto snacks and food to the masses. Previously the Chief Sales Officer at Quest Nutrition and the former CEO of Know Foods, he’s no stranger to the health and food industry. Bringing his passion for food and fitness and nutrition, Yemeni is on a mission to disrupt the Keto industry with exciting new keto product lines centered around transparency and making healthy eating easier for everyone.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how Heka Good Foods got started.
I was actually born in Colombia, South America, lived there until I was 10, and have been here in the U.S. ever since. I've had a lifelong passion for both food and fitness and nutrition, and those two passions have often been at odds with each other just because yummy, delicious foods are often not that healthy for us.
I've had the great fortune of spending the majority of my career in a health and nutrition food space. I've been lucky enough to work with some great brands, and I've done some pretty cool, disruptive things in the market that I think have improved food for the better. Heka Good Foods is just the next evolution in being able to do that.
You've told me the challenge with this space, and I've experienced it myself, is transparency in products: being able to actually understand what I'm eating and how it's marketed versus how it's labeled and where it's sourced from. So, what are you really setting out to be able to change here?
Well, it's a crazy exciting time right now because we are finally getting a ton of validation through research and data and just all of the anecdotal feedback from people that eating a certain way can have dramatic health benefits for a vast majority of the population. So, when people switch from eating primarily a whole bunch of sugary carbs and grains to eating primarily healthier fats and very low carb or a lot less carbs, much like what you're doing, you experience some great benefits.
But, the challenge is, we have to give up foods that we just love and are just absolutely pleasurable to eat, things like ice cream and pizza. So, for that reason, even though keto is exploding, for more people to benefit from this great diet and for people to be able to sustain it, there is a great opportunity for companies to develop keto-friendly foods that mimic or replace the junk foods that we love. So, the opportunity is there to bring some absolutely delicious snacks to the market that are keto-friendly and make it easier for everybody.
You mentioned doing the research. Tell me about how you're going about the product development or what's really making these products different.
That's a good question. So, let's start with the types of foods that we want to try to bring to market, and it's basically the things that we have to give up on a ketogenic diet, so anything that's made out of grains, gluten, and flour. Just all those types of carbs, we can only consume them in very small quantities. So, that means having to go without, for example, cookies.
Cookies are made out of flour and sugar, so if there's a way to replace the flour and sugar with ingredients that are made out of either fat, fiber, or protein, then you've got something. That part isn't that hard to do, and a lot of brands are entering the market having done that, but the next step is how to make that taste delicious and actually like a chocolate chip cookie. That's what you're trying to replace.
So, there's where the science comes in.
Being on the cutting edge of ingredients like allulose and understanding how to use an ingredient like that in food is part of what will allow us to do that. We're not going to be afraid of potentially bringing something that could be artificial to the market if that's better for you, because what we're trying to do is replace carbs and sugar from some people's diets. We know that if things don't taste amazing, the average American consumer is not going to bother with it.
So, you've just gone through the process of building the Heka website, and now it's an exciting part as you open your doors. There's so much that you can do and focus on as you build this site. What are the go-to strategies that absolutely need to be in place as you're launching this new site?
Our focus in the very beginning will be entirely through our online sales, so of course making sure that everything there is working optimally is a big, big priority. We're on a Shopify platform, and there's a bunch of wonderful apps.
Lucky Orange, is a really great app that allows you to see visually how consumers are behaving on the website. So, you can get a very clear idea or picture of where conversions are happening and where they're not, so I like that one a lot. In Cart Upsell is a great way to remind consumers at checkout that there are other products that bundle nicely with whatever they may be checking out with. It just shows them that there's potentially a way to get free shipping or a better price.
What metrics are important for you to look at early on, and what are the things that you're looking for in those screen recordings and feed maps?
There are landing pages for each of the products, then there's a blog, and an about us page. The most important thing that I'm looking at, obviously, are those landing pages for each of the products and seeing if the funnels that were created are actually working the way we are anticipating they should work and/or where people get stuck and bounce from. So, just seeing enough of those over and over gives you a really good idea of, "Yep, okay, this funnel's broken right here, so we need new copy or a new image or whatever we need to do to optimize it."
We are in the customer service space, so we always like to ask, across your entire career, any individual customer stories that really stand out to you?
If I think about my entire career, there have literally been thousands of customer service interactions where obviously something went wrong and we had to make it right. There's probably no better example than one that happened while I worked at Quest Nutrition, and, as a result of this customer service "incident" (I guess I'll call it), a lot of really cool things came out it.
So, in the very early days of Quest, there was nobody to really man social and make sure that if people were asking questions they were being properly addressed, because people were busy making bars. But there was one customer who would answer them before we had a chance to, and she would offer helpful advice and if somebody was upset about an order, she would tell them, "You'll want to reach this person. They'll get back to you within 24 hours." But she also, on the flip side, called us out on anything that we were doing that wasn’t right or a mistake we made.
We stopped hearing from her at one point, and all of us were wondering what had happened to her. Sadly, and to try to make a very long story short, she passed away. She was young, and she passed away from the flu of all things. So, having never met her before, one of our founders, Tom Bilyeu, was particularly touched by that. He, in honor of her, created the Joy Remeta Customer Service Award at Quest. Each year, we would pick a fan, a customer, that had helped us in some way and kind of was a voice for us in some way, and recognize them with that award. So, that one comes to mind.
Having that award reminded everybody in the company that part of our culture, how we work with customers, is transparency. And we want to be as transparent as possible with our customers so they can be a voice for us as well. They're trying to achieve goals, and we're there to try and help them, and transparency helps with that.
You've seen the entire gamut from one side of a business starting and getting off the ground all the way through the process of growing into a seven-figure store, an eight-figure store, even a nine-figure store. How does interacting with customers change throughout those different phases?
Wow. It evolves. As it evolves, you have to find creative and ingenious ways to try to maintain a personal level and a personal touch with those customers. So, obviously, as a business scales, one person can't touch everybody, so a big part of that is building out a team that has a strong passion for customers. That's just who they are and what they do.
Thank you, Yemeni! Please visit Heka Good Foods for more information.