Meet Erica Bethe Levin
We were lucky to catch up with Erica Bethe Levin recently and have shared our conversation below.
Erica Bethe, appreciate you joining us today. Let’s kick things off with your mission – what is it and what’s the story behind why it’s your mission?
Globowl’s mission – to spark curiosity about the world through internationally-inspired baby and toddler food – is more critical than ever in today’s fractured world. Globowl strives to introduce babies and children to culture through food from their very first bites. Developed by award-winning chefs, Globowl’s first four SKUs – Pad Thai for Tots, Veggie Tikka Masala, Baby Spice’s Bean Bowl and Yaya’s Medi-Bowl – inspire the foodies of tomorrow while setting them on a path of less picky and more adventurous eating. While our earth seems helplessly divided and the future uncertain, Globowl provides hope and a way to emphasize that what connects us is greater than all else, that food is a universal unifier, and that these teachings begin with baby’s first bites.
Additionally, every jar will have a QR code on the label that opens a virtual window to the world – a video showcases where the food comes from, why it’s important to that culture, and babies can see a child on the other side of the world eating the same food as they are. Globowl goes beyond the plate, building a better, more welcoming tomorrow.
Erica Bethe, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
Globowl is my third start-up, which may make me a little crazy! At 24-years-old, I created a digital community for women called CheekyChicago.com that ultimately became the number one online resource in Chicago for the young cosmopolitan female. Through this venture, I became the first female founder at 1871, Chicago’s largest tech hub and incubator. It fully launched me into the world of entrepreneurship. Following Cheeky, I led expansion initiatives by launching the Chicago market as one of the first employees for venture-backed startup Reserve, which sold to Resy in 2018. In 2021, during a global pandemic, with a new baby at home, and a dream to help unify a world that felt hopelessly divided, I decided to launch my new start-up, Globowl. My favorite part is incorporating my kids in all that I do – from helping me ideate on recipes to starring in our social media videos and helping me prep for pitches, it really is a family affair.
Since the invention of baby food (yes, it was “invented” – prior to the 1920s, parents typically waited until a baby was close to one-year-old to introduce any solids, and even then it was cut up table food for the most part), there has been limited innovation in the space. The biggest revolution is probably the spouted pouch, which is debilitating for a baby’s oral motor development. The result? Huge increases in childhood food allergies, picky eating habits and subsequent texture aversion. Enter Globowl. The first baby food line to include texture, flavor and spice to prevent future picky eating and mitigate common allergies, which the majority of baby food companies would never dare ‘risk’ despite the latest U.S. pediatric feeding guidelines (with a nod to common sense!) recommending ‘early and often’ exposure to potential food allergens as the best way to prevent future allergies. Curated by renowned chefs, Globowl’s organic, preservative-free meals are packed with international flavors in sustainable, reusable glass jars, encouraging spoon and self-feeding, which are best for babies to learn to chew and develop important oral motor skills.
I want fans and followers to know that this product was created for my own children; they are the inspiration, and we want to share our knowledge, recipes, love for food and culture with others, all while helping them develop into healthy young children and adults. Globowl uses fresh, real ingredients, is convenient by not requiring refrigeration OR heating, helps mitigate food allergies and encourages adventurous eating! By offering four unique internationally-inspired meals, Globowl helps parents take advantage of the coveted “Flavor Window” – a period of time between 4 and 18 months of age when children are most open to trying new foods and flavors, and parents can more easily influence the way their child eats forever. As a first time mom, I was a bit scared to give my son texture, flavor and spice, even though my pediatrician recommended that I give him everything (minus some obvious exceptions!). And now he is the pickiest eater I know. Heed my warning: always listen to your pediatrician! My husband and I are both in the food business, so my son’s habits are even harder for us to digest (pun intended!). With our second child, we weren’t messing around. In addition to the coconut shrimp curry we gave as her first food, she enjoyed pesto, tuna salad and saffron pasta all within her first week of eating solids. And she is our more adventurous eater today! Both of my children are also allergy-free because we gave them peanut butter, egg, sesame, etc. starting at six-months-old.
Our greatest hope is that through our organic, preservative-free, low-sugar, low-sodium, all-natural and sustainable (served in glass jars vs. the plastic pouches that dominate our landfills) food, we can usher in the next generation of future foodies. We firmly believe that these foodies will become citizens of the world, fostering acceptance, open-mindedness, curiosity….and change. In a divided world, we believe our innovation can bring people together…all through the power of food.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
Anyone that’s ever started a company – from a lemonade stand to a household brand – knows that every day is a story of resilience! The fact that start-up number one didn’t scar me for start-up number two, and start-up number two didn’t scar me for start-up number three is definitely one definition of resilience! When I started my first company right out of college, I went into business with someone I didn’t know well at all. Unfortunately, that was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. This person was of questionable morals – which, fair or unfair, reflected on me – and she ended up stealing from the company for many years. Although traumatizing, I was taught a very important business lesson at a very young age, and I now make decisions through a very different lens. I am far less trusting than I was 15 years ago, which forces me to analyze everything a bit deeper. I now 100% listen to my gut every second of every day. Because my gut told me not to start a business with someone who had exhibited major red flags…yet, I didn’t listen. Just as I didn’t want to make the same mistake with my daughter as I did with my son as it pertained to feeding him bland, one-note purees instead of robust, flavorful meals, I’ll never make that business mistake again. But I am grateful for that company, and for my ex-business partner, because the experience taught me everything I know today. We learn more from our failures than we do our successes, and if you embrace that philosophy and learn from the past, you’ll continue exhibiting resilience, strength and fruitfulness.
Can you talk to us about manufacturing? How’d you figure it all out? We’d love to hear the story.
This is my first time starting a business that requires manufacturing of any kind, so I can say with full confidence that as of 2021 I knew absolutely less-than-nothing about creating an actual physical, tangible product. A founder I’ve long admired was advising me about “co-mans” and I had to look up what it meant (it means co-manufacturer for those that are also in the dark). I knew that finding someone to co-manufacturer the product was going to be difficult because we had no purchase orders, no track record and no traction. Manufacturers know that we need them more than they need us; they rarely even return phone calls or emails. After hundreds of calls, I actually moved forward with two different manufacturers, both of whom fell through. However, at this point we were two years into product development and testing, so I had learned enough to “talk the talk” and was able to relay exactly what we needed in a co-man to a CPG advisor friend of mine. The ability to share our shelf stability and ph testing levels, discuss the cooking process, the labeling requirements, etc. expedited our “courtship” with the co-man and, given the referral from a well-respected industry insider and our very clearly-communicated requirements, we had a signed contract within a couple of weeks. Our partnership with this manufacturing facility has been such a blessing to our business. It is the cleanest, most hygienic production environment my chef development team has ever seen (and they do this for a living) and we feel so safe in their hands. When feeding babies, that is all that really matters.
- Website: www.globowl.com
- Instagram: theglobowl
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theglobowl/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/erica-bethe
- Twitter: theglobowl
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theglobowl/
- TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@globowlfoodie