Tara Haddad is the CEO of Modern Meat. She started Modern Meat and has been building the company from the ground up. Modern Meat focuses on creating plant-based meat alternatives that are non-GMO, soy-free, gluten-free, and even preservative-free. The company went public on June 26, 2020. They started selling their product through food service markets in February and won an award for Best New Product of the Year at a recent trade show, but when COVID hit, they pivoted out of food service since all of the restaurants had shut down. At that point they have focused on retail and selling their products to local retailers, getting into 37 different retailers by April of this year.
Tara had an entrepreneurial bent from a young age and began a tutoring/learning center business that she managed even during her college years. She continues to be involved in that field as the Director at Aspire Learning Academy which is a Certified Singapore Math Learning Center.
While in college she studied biology with a plan to attend medical school, but when she did some volunteering work at a hospital, she decided it was not the path for her. She continued to manage her learning center while she studied accounting and became a CPA. She worked for Ernst & Young, doing tax work and risk management work. When she became a mom and need more flexibility, her entrepreneurial skills kept her busy as a real estate agent and also focused more on consulting in the areas of accounting and financial analysis, all things that prepared her for her leadership role at Modern Meat.
Where did the idea for Modern Meat come from?
Modern Meat was conceived out of the desire to make premium plant-based products that are healthy and delicious. I recognized a huge gap in the market, and I wanted to fill that with authentic, nourishing products. My mandate was to keep all recipes free of soy, gluten, nuts and GMOs and to never use preservatives or additives in any Modern Meat products.
While looking for plant-based products for myself and my family, I started to read the nutritional labels of the plant-based foods that were currently on the market. Many contained ingredients that I could not pronounce or understand so I decided to test out a project to create plant-based products that had sufficient protein and nutrients that I would want to feed me and my family. The obvious way to this end was to assemble a team of chefs to develop our plant-based meats. We wanted to create signature recipes with chef inspired flavors allowing consumers to experience restaurant quality foods that can be cooked and enjoyed at home. The unique flavors, satisfying texture and taste appeals to vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian consumers.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day starts at 7am. I usually spend a few minutes checking emails and responding to urgent emails.
I head to my home office and start the day with responding to emails and listing out the organization structure for the day. I start meetings by 9am. I work on strategy, meetings and other business-related items for most of the day. For any off-site meetings, production related operating items, I will schedule those for the afternoons.
I find it most productive to schedule all meetings online in the mornings and off site in the afternoons. With the global pandemic, it has been essential to stay safe and healthy while maintaining business.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I love cooking and I look at the things that my family likes to eat to get new ideas. I make lists of ideas and have sourced them out with different chefs to see if they are feasible to make into a plant-based option. We have team meetings to decide whether to move forward on the ideas.
With significant amount of research and testing of products and the market, we test our products with consumers for feedback. If we have positive feedback, these products will start in a test market and the idea is live!
What’s one trend that excites you?
The plant-based industry is one area that is moving quickly and is moving at such a fast rate globally that it excites me with the opportunities that are available.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am always working and thinking about the business. I always try to be very organized. Being really prepared at the beginning of each week helps me to stay on top of things.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Push through the hard times as the rewards will pay off later. There are always people who don’t believe in you, but it is best to keep those people out of your life.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A lot of people think they cannot go without eating meat, but our product enables them to still enjoy the taste of meat but also have the health benefits of more plants in their diet. You do not have to become a vegetarian to just enjoy the health benefits of more plants in your diet through our product.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Keep an open mind.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Making connections and developing relationships has really helped push my business forward. It is not realistic to think that I have all the answers and information needed to grow and develop this business, so I strongly believe in getting advice and listening to different views and opinions. This has given me so much insight into the strategic directions I have taken thus far.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There are many failures as you go along the learning path but as an entrepreneur, you have to move forward, pivot and change with the business to overcome failures and to achieve success.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
With changing times, the direct to consumer market is growing rapidly, consumers are shopping differently, less time, less interaction, less patience. It is easier now than ever before to get your goods right when you need them to your front door.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I spent lately has been on my online task manager, I am such a pencil to paper person and moving to the online task and goal setting has been a positive change.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
My Monday.com software allows us to quickly determine the team tasks and helps the entire team to be more productive.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen. Growth and change are necessary to advance your business. There is always growth and opportunity, but you need to think outside traditional methods to be a disruptor.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Maya Angelou
There are so many things in life that are out of your control. This is the best way to think about life so that the expectations aren’t disappointing.
• Figure out a way to make healthier choices that will also fit into your lifestyle.
• Get advice and listen to different viewpoints.
• Don’t be afraid of change.