Today we’d like to introduce you to Axel Brave.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Axel. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My story begins with my parents. I’m the second son of two Argentine immigrant parents. My father was the son of very successful construction entrepreneur in Argentina, while my mother was the daughter of a very important diplomat. Having heritage from Argentina essentially means that my roots stem from the Mediterranean region; Italy, Spain & France.
Growing up, I was surrounded by Entrepreneurs, Professors, Diplomats, Writers, and most importantly family. Being from a Latin culture, I quickly saw how much time was spent around a table with others. Sharing food and drink while having the best of times.
I knew that when I was older, I would need to create the same environment for myself when I was around others.
Fast forward to 2011 when I started my Bachelors in Business Administration at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. By this point, I knew that my mind and body were designed for the business world. I knew that I wanted to be a part of something that would make those around me happy. By 2014 starting 2015, I returned back from a 7 month journey of “studying abroad” in Europe. I moved back into my old apartment, with my old friends with the anxiety of what I would be doing after I finished my last semester of college.
One of my good friend from college, Zaman, was always in my face about helping him start a business. He knew that I had a great deal to offer the world and knew that with our energy we could create something for ourselves. We quickly decided in the restaurant industry being as he had been in the industry for a couple of years and I had a great grasp with the culinary, structure and number aspect of a business. We designed a business plan that was very feasible, and I told Zaman that we should graduate university before putting all our chips on the table. This was in January 2015.
One day in early February 2015, Zaman storms into my apartment and shoves a lease agreement in my face saying “I signed a lease for the location where I use to work. We open up shop on Monday.” At the age of 21, not having completed university, I was one of the youngest restaurateurs in Austin, Texas’ infamous 6th street.
We kicked ass for a couple months and generated a revenue that not only did that locale never see, but revenue that I have never seen. By the end of the first month, I knew that I was the only one that can design a model that would satisfy me. I knew that I was going to go down the path of entrepreneurship. Shortly before we hit our 1 year mark, we were forced to close our location.
We leased our location from the business next door. The business next door leased from the landlord. After we negotiated a lease with the next door business owner, he passed away two weeks before anything was signed. The temporary business owner didn’t want to sign a lease because he was going to sell the business. The new business owner promised to keep us in because we helped her generate more revenue with our service.
Shit hits the fan; the new business owner ends up hating my business partner and refused to resign our lease even though we offered triple rent and a percentage of alcohol sales.
By December 2015, I became one of the youngest people I knew that lost a business. It was devastating for some time, but obviously when I look back at it now, I only learned from and appreciate the events that happened.
In May 2016, I was jobless and I knew I wanted to move back to my hometown-Houston, Texas. I knew I didn’t want to work jobs I would end up hating and couldn’t conjure up a project that would keep me busy. I remember sitting in my living room in Austin, totally depressed, trying to figure out what I was good at. Filling myself with self-doubt, anger and uncertainty.
One weekend while I was visiting my family in Houston, my father and I had one of our famous “Asados,” which is an Argentine-style grill out. We had endless supplies of meats, vegetables, sausages, wine, beers and of course my delicious Chimichurri. After everyone left, I sat in the living room thinking about the environment we create at home when we have guests. I never thought twice about it, but damn my parents were good at making guests at our house enjoy themselves. Yeah, the mixture of great food and exotic wine helped, but it was something that the home residents would set up.
It hit me right there and then after years of telling myself I’d never be the sauce guy. I was going to have a go in the manufacturing industry. It was always one of my dreams to create a manufacturing business that I could practice scaling and what better product to sell than my beloved Chimichurri. Ever since I was 10 years old, family and friends would rave about how well I made Chimichurri. If you don’t know, Chimichurri is an essential staple in Argentina. It’s out BBQ sauce or our Ketchup. Every family has it in their fridge and every family has their own recipe. Mine just happen to always be the tastiest.
The remaining time I had in Austin I did two things to prepare. First, I did tons of market research, FDA research, and tracked down suppliers that would work with me.
Second, I threw events/parties at my house where I would invite tons of people to try my Chimichurri. The latter part, made me realize that this could be a hit.
By September 2016, everything was filed appropriately, ingredients were ready to be mixed, and my little space at my friend’s gelato facility was ready for me.
From 9/16-11/16 I sold via word of mouth and online, 11/16-4/17 I sold via word of mouth, online, farmers’ markets, pop up markets and couple small retail locations, by the end of 4/17 I was accepted to become a vendor in one of the Texans’ favorite high-end grocery store, Central Market. I had taken a completely unknown product to market in under a year, which is highly difficult and almost unheard of unless you’ve been in the food industry for a number of years.
I found my niche and I was 100% into scaling the beast as much as I could.
By creating this new project, I was able to grasp my life once again and realize certain truths about my reality and how I can take full control of my life. 11 months later, I’m dealing with popular media outlets like VoyageHouston, mutli-million dollar manufacturers, distributors and retailers whom love my story and what I’ve created, and most importantly who I am.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Sometimes Yes, Sometimes No.
Like I mentioned, this was a completely new side of the food industry. Manufacturing. There was actual science behind how to create a sauce/marinade that I always made for 8-10 people, and manufacturer it to create 1000 units.
From making it myself in a kitchen, to making it on an assembly line. It’s completely different every time you scale. An example I always use when it comes to scaling a recipe. When you cook something and add let’s say a teaspoon of salt, you wouldn’t double the salt if you want to double the dish size. Dealing with FDA regulations also challenged me because Chimichurri is known for its simplicity and ease, but when manufacturing it became one of the hardest products my manufacturing teams ever dealt with. I told them all from day one, we’re keeping the recipe simple. No bullshit additives or preservatives when it comes to the Traditional versions of my three chimichurri.
Another struggle was thinking I could take advantage of a nonexistent online market. I quickly learned people want to try what they eat, so my first sales channel quickly became eliminated.
Another obstacle was the lack of initial funding I had, which was zero. I had a couple hundred dollars saved up, so scaling started very slow. I remember borrowing $500 from my little sister and telling her I’d pay her back after a couple events I had lined up.
Since the Chimichurri sells itself, I was able to pay her back in a timely manner.
The MAIN challenge/obstacle however, is myself. I hate using the word entrepreneur, but being one essentially means how well can one deal with his/her mind. How can you bring yourself to continue following your dream when there can be long days that all you see are expenses and no revenue. How can you feel confident, when there are no stores wanting to sell your product because “No one knows what it is.” How does one power through self-induced depression when NOTHING seems to be going their way? These are the real challenges I’ve dealt with along the way that I’ve realized have helped me move forward and become a stronger person. It’s about one’s attitude towards a problem, not the problem itself, that defies an individual.
Please tell us about AXEL Provisions.
AXEL Provisions focuses on quality food products from Texas, South America and the Mediterranean regions. Right now, I work in every part of my business, but taking out the trash, to paying peoples wages and invoices. We mainly focus on Chimichurri sauce.
It was our launch line and has taken us to where we are today and where we’ll be in the next couple of quarters. We’re known for having the best jarred Chimichurri, and I also think the best Chimichurri in general.
What I’m most proud of if watching people try my recipe and instantly seeing that they’re enjoying themselves.
What sets me apart is that no company out there has tried to create a delicious Chimichurri that one can purchase in a store and take home to share with their family.
Like I said earlier, the manufacturing process is quite difficult and costly. Lucky for me, I’ve partnered with risky manufacturers who have taken me on and have helped me with the production process. Spending all the time and money I have on perfecting the recipe so it safely gets to the consumer is what sets me apart from competitors.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Love this question. I would have gathered investment money, partnered with the proper manufacturers and distributors, and created a strong marketing and sales campaign. I would have also tried my luck with 9 launch products instead of 3.
Ask me the same question in three months and I’ll answer totally different.
- AXEL Traditional Chimichurri $8.99 on axelprovisions.com or in all Central Markets
- AXEL Verde Chimichurri $8.99 on axelprovisions.com or in all Central Markets
- AXEL Spicy Chimichurri $8.99 on axelprovisions.com or in all Central Markets
- Website: axelprovisions.com
- Email: email@example.com
Fritz Gartner Photography