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pomme bébé
Industry: Organic Children’s Foods
Location: Newport Beach, CA

pomme bébé: Establishing a Natural Food Niche

UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business alumni and married couple Robin and Svetla Kibota (’99 and ’00 respectively) founded pomme bébé, Newport Beach and Orange County’s first, freshly-made, organic baby food establishment, in October 2007 to make up for the dearth of natural food options for infants and young children in the local food service industry. Ms. Kibota, the company’s CEO, originally from rural Bulgaria, grew up eating homemade meals made from fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables. She first became motivated to establish pomme bébé after becoming pregnant with the couple’s daughter, Marina, in 2005. Kibota’s goal was to provide Marina and other children with access to the same healthy foods that she had as a child while also capitalizing on the untapped freshly made, organic baby food market.

Pomme Bebe “We started planning for the business 2 years ago when I was pregnant with our daughter Marina,” recalls Kibota. “I grew up in Bulgaria, where we grew and prepared our own food. I wanted to replicate that experience. As a mother, I wanted to be able to be in control of my schedule and to provide something of benefit for the community.”

Overcoming Challenges

Like most start-ups, pomme bébé has faced several early challenges such as finding the ideal location, acquiring funding and obtaining high-quality produce at low cost. For Kibota, however, the main challenge has involved how best to manage pomme bébé's many vendors and suppliers.

“We offer a high-quality product, so we require high-quality from all of our vendors,” explains Kibota. “As a small business, we don’t always get top priority from our vendors. I find myself talking up my business to convince vendors to supply pomme bébé with their best produce.”

Obtaining funding presented some initial challenges as well. The Kibotas self-funded pomme bébé early on to demonstrate their commitment to the project before approaching banks for SBA loans. They obtained seed money from a private investor as well. The couple consulted with SCORE when they were ready to apply for SBA loans. “We did use SCORE before we approached banks. They are the ones that gave us the contacts for the bankers.” SCORE business councilors directed the Kibotas to specific bankers whom they knew would be receptive to the couple’s innovative business concept. The combination of self-funding, private investment and SBA loans has afforded pomme bébé a strong foundation on which to build its core business.

Something to Believe In

Today, pomme bébé is quickly gaining a reputation for providing the highest quality, freshest, organic baby food in Southern California. pomme bébé's five star Executive Chef Laurent Brazier constantly works to prepare seasonal menus making use of wholesome and flavorful ingredients. Ms. Kibota notes that pomme bébé has already established a strong customer base who greatly appreciates the unrivaled food quality. “The response to our business from our customers is really exhilarating to see.”

Kibota is excited that her entrepreneurial vision is becoming a reality. She attributes much of pomme bébé's success to her belief in the value of her product. In starting and running your own business “there will be many unforeseen challenges, and as the owner, you will have to see them through. So it has to be something that you believe in to keep going. Find something that you can truly believe in at your core. If you are just in to make money, its going to be difficult, the money will be unattainable many days, so you need that added motivation to push through and get to the other side.

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