by Paula Ficara for Kougar Magazine
"Let Mama Nature gather you a snack!" Or in this case, Mama Nature with the help of Alyssa Boyle. It was only two years ago that Alyssa came up with the idea of Cavewoman Bars®. Now she's on the fast track to success. After a chance meeting at a local Whole Foods Market, I was impressed and had to learn more about this entrepreneurial Kougar.
KM: You began this venture when you were 38 - you 're now 40 - and I think it's right around this time that a woman starts to re-evaluate where she is in her life. She takes a look at where she's been and if she's headed in the right direction. At this point, a lot of women feel it's too late to do what you've done, which is take a new direction and really go for it. Have you always loved food and cooking, or is it something completely new?
Alyssa: Well, I grew up in a tiny town in northern California near Yosemite, population 362. You could say I'm a country girl, and one of my favorite things to do was enter things in the county fair. I have to say I have prize-winning lemon bars! I loved baking, but what I really dreamed of being was an actress. So, as soon as I graduated high school, I moved down to Los Angeles in hopes of fulfilling that dream.
KM: That was brave!
Alyssa: I was scared to death! I had actually planned to go to university and major in communications or marketing and minor in acting, but I was accepted to UC Irvine, which had a drama major, so my course was set. It was a great way for me to make the transition coming from such a small town. The only problem was that I didn't feel prepared for making money once I graduated. I went to a local temp agency because I had some computer skills, and I ended up working at a small modeling agency in Newport Beach for about a year before taking the plunge and moving to Hollywood.
KM: Was it all you expected?
Alyssa: It was - hard but fun! I moved there and immediately started pounding the pavement. I managed to get some temp work by day while doing theater at night. I did a lot of plays. I did some commercials. Soaps. I once played a homeless person on General Hospital! Pretty much whatever I could get.
KM: But cooking always remained an important part of your life.
Alyssa: Yes. And it was the Food Network that really brought my two loves together. It became my dream to have a cooking show, and it just so happened that the Food Network had a competition show called The Next Food Network Star. I had developed a fascination with strange fruits and vegetables, and I started cataloguing them. I created a show around that called The Unidentified Food Object Show or The UFO Show. I co-wrote a script with a friend of mine where I was the chef and he was the "scientist." I would bring whatever crazy food I found to him, he would identify it, and I would try to come up with a recipe for it. We made a demo and sent it in to the competition, and we ended up being chosen out of 10,000 applicants as one of the 30 semi-finalists! That inspired us to try again the following year. We tried a whole new approach. We sent it in, didn't get called. That whole year I had been enrolling in every food contest I could find and wasn't having any luck, so not hearing from the Food Network hit me pretty hard. Not to mention, I had just broken up with my boyfriend at the time, so I spent the next few weeks in a really dark place. I'm not normally a negative person, but I was just really sad and lost. I started wondering what I was doing, if I should go back to school…I'm the kind of person who always needs a project, even if it's making dinner, because there's a goal, and even if it's short-term it makes me feel good.
KM: It's a great idea for changing your focus and giving you a sense of accomplishment.
Alyssa: Yeah, you're feeling like everything's in the future and there's so much uncertainty, but in half an hour this dish is going to be really good! So having said this, one day I was eating a vegan food bar. I was trying to clean up my diet and take better care of myself. It was OK, but I was wishing that I could choose my own flavor and voilà! I had a small project to inspire me. It took me a few weeks to figure it out, and I kept using my neighbor as my guinea pig, but I did it. And once I got the basic formula down, the creation of each new flavor got easier and faster.
KM: Was this the birth of your business?
Alyssa: In a sense. At first, I just made them for my friends and myself, but the seeds were definitely planted. There were nights I would be in my kitchen until 3AM figuring out what I needed and how I might scale it in the future, "OK, this is what I would need if I were going to do this in a big way." As well as learning the basics like, "Why am I measuring these with a ruler and cutting them with a knife? I need a cookie cutter!"
KM: [LAUGHING] Is that what you were doing?
Alyssa: Yes! Because at first it was just a hobby, but it wasn't long before I had 13 different flavors!
KM: What made you decide to take your project from being a hobby to a business?
Alyssa: Well, I just figured other people would like them and, because I'm a project person, I had already created labels, I was printing them out on my printer at home, and I wrapped them in foil - it took forever! And I used a computer program to do the nutritional panels.
KM: And this is where it gets good because it's the point where you thought, "OK. I'm going to start my own company, but I don't have any idea how to do it!" How were you surviving while you were getting Cavewoman Bars® off the ground?
Alyssa: I was doing hand and foot modeling, which was a whole other world, and I was working for a business consulting firm. I wasn't making a lot of money and because I was financing my company myself, everything went a lot slower than it would have otherwise. There are a lot of things required when starting a business, such as trademarking the name, which I wanted to do right away…
KM: Yes! Let's talk about this name! Why Cavewoman Bars®?
Alyssa: It's about the spirit of the bar. And the cavewoman - she's about gathering the fruits and nuts and feeding her family and it's healthy food. It's funny because, in the beginning, when I was telling people the name, the older women thought it was awesome. They were all about it. Some of the women my age and younger were like, "Well, what about Cavegirl?" And I said, "It's not empowering enough!" So they said, "Well, what about Caveman?" There's already a Caveman Bar. So then they said, "Well, what about Caveperson?"
KM: Are you kidding me? They wanted any other name except for "woman"?
Alyssa: Their excuse was with it being called "Cavewoman Bars,” half the population wasn't going to buy it. Well all I have to say is, I don't see Tampax having a problem! [LAUGHTER] But really, who does the shopping in most homes? The women are going to buy the bars - the men are going to eat them and like them. They aren't going to care.
KM: Just so you know, when you gave me the samples to try, every night when I got home, I would find a bar politely cut in half, and "my" half was put in the refrigerator for me and the other half was GONE - my husband was so excited. I'm surprised he left half for me to try!
Alyssa: Ha! See? Plus, Cavewoman's funnier! But you know, when you ask for opinions you're going to get them.
KM: Tell me about it! Imagine having a magazine called "Kougar"!
Alyssa: I love it, and people remember it! And if you laugh, you remember. I want people to know it's fun.
KM: What advice would you give to women out there who are considering starting a new business?
Alyssa: First of all, if you have an idea, just go for it! Second, do what you love. What could you do happily until three in the morning? Everything will come much easier if you're passionate about it. If you don't know what you're good at, ask people close to you. Everybody is good at something. Maybe you're an awesome mom, so maybe you could write an advice column on childcare. Third, don't overwhelm yourself. You don't have to go out there, get a big loan, and open up an office. You can do so much from home now, which opens the door to many different opportunities.
KM: What about women who have the belief that it's too late for them, that they're too old.
Alyssa: Too old for what? Well, if you want to go to a nursing home and rot away! Look at Grandma Moses! She didn't start painting until her 70s, and she ended up on the cover of TIME Magazine! It's never too late. I understand not becoming a ballerina at forty, but that doesn't mean you can't open your own dance studio.
KM: How have you stay inspired when times were tough?
Alyssa: Well, first, I wanted to do something substantial to symbolize my making the commitment.That is one of the reasons I decided to trademark my name first. It was expensive, so it made me want to commit. Find something of importance that will make you commit. Another thing I did was an exercise called playing "as if." When I was working out of my house, I had this little chalkboard, and whenever I created a new flavor, I would write, "Today's flavor is…" as if I were in a shop. It would inspire me and anyone who came into the house would see it and know I had created something new. I now realize that what I was doing was manifesting. And it worked! All along the way, it's been a challenge getting the information and the help I've needed, but I just keep trying and people and opportunities finally present themselves. It's just been a matter of not giving up.
Cavewoman Bars® are Vegan, Soy-Free, Gluten-Free and Refined Sugar-Free. In 2009, Alyssa contracted with a manufacturer to make her bars in larger quantities (but still by hand) and started selling Cavewoman Bars® to the general public. They are currently sold online and by select stores and fitness centers in Southern California.
Cavewoman Bars® is recommended by Gena Hamshaw of ChoosingRaw.com
and Dr. Kathy Gruver of TheAlternativeMedicineCabinet.com
The Because Show Episode #68 Click here to listen
Alyssa is actively involved with...
Compassion Over Killing www.cok.net
St. Martin's Animal Foundation www.stmartinsrescue.org
Animal Protectionand Rescue League www.aprl.org
Animal Acres www.animalacres.org
SpcaLA (Diamonds Not Fur) www.diamondsnotfur.com/event.html *NOTE: THE WEHO CITY
COUNCIL WILL VOTE ON THE CITY BAN OF THE SALE OF FUR ON SEPTEMBER 19TH
EarthSave's *Meals For Health* program www.earthsave.org
Women of the Green Generation www.womenofthegreengeneration.com
Forks Over Knives www.forksoverknives.com
Green Veggies www.greenveggies.org
Los Angeles Veg Society www.laveg.org
Alyssa also campaigned for the passage of Prop 2, Standardsfor Confining Farm Animals, that appeared on the November 2008 ballot in California. It passed with 63.5% of the vote. Prop 2 created a new state statute that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.
These vegan restaurants give generously to the community and are among Alyssa's favorites.
The Veggie Grill, Los Angeles: www.veggiegrill.com
Kind Kreme, Los Angeles: www.kindkreme.com
Sun Power Cafe, Los Angeles: www.suncafe.com
NOTE: We are not just a Los Angeles magazine! If you know of a great vegetarian, vegan, or raw restaurant in your town, please share it with us and post it below.
*Alyssa is offering a 10% discount to our subscribers so join up!