Jan. 12, 2023

Projected to do 255k Euro, this Plant Based Food Startup is Sprouting with Jivko Djamiarov

Projected to do 255k Euro, this Plant Based Food Startup is Sprouting with Jivko Djamiarov
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Can you imagine a plant-based food that can help prevent diseases? Well it exists and is beginning to sprout globally. Jivko Djamiarov is the founder of Ancestral Superfoods. His mission is to bring the healing power and benefits of plants and foods to others. On this episode of Innovators Can Laugh, Jivko shares his entrepreneurial journey of opening the first vegan restaurant in Bulgaria and how he launched Ancestral Superfoods and gained traction. They have more than 3,000 customers and are projected to do $250,000+ Euros in 2023.


Oh, and he sent me samples of some of the products they sell and they are delicious! Listen to the show on Apple, Spotify, or other player here.


Show highlights:


-   1:00 – Pearl Jam

-   1:37 - $25k cash or dinner with Simon Sinek?

-   3:27 – a favorite book you would gift to others

-   4:51 – what a ‘perfect day’ would look like?

-   5:15 – how he got the idea for soul kitchen, the first vegan restaurant in Bulgaria

-   8:20 – average margins for a vegan restaurant

-   9:50 – why he left the restaurant to focus on superfoods

-   11:35 – taken into ICU, parting with my loved ones & the vision for Superfoods

-   16:55 – what do they like about Ancestral Superfoods?

-   18:41 – how did he get this product to market?

-   19:54 – what are the top selling products?

-   20:50 – what the investment experience has looked like?

-   21:45 – what are you excited about in the next 12 months as it relates to Ancestral?

-   24:10 – what is a mistake you made early in your startup journey?

Do you wish to connect with our special guest?

Visit Ancestral Superfood’s website: ancestralsuperfoods.com


Tune in to every conversation about exciting European Startups and Innovators on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon! Leave a rating and review so we can keep making amazing interviews!


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Connect with Eric:

Visit his website: https://innovatorscanlaugh.com


Tune in to every conversation about exciting European Startups and Innovators on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon! Leave a rating and review so we can keep making amazing interviews!

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Innovators Can Laugh in your favorite podcast player.

Connect with Eric:
Visit his website: https://innovatorscanlaugh.com

For the Innovators Can Laugh newsletter in your inbox every week, subscribe at https://innovatorscanlaugh.substack.com

Past Guests:
Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Yannik Veys, Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.
Additional episodes you might enjoy:
#55 Yannik Veys - From creating the Uber for service professionals to growing Hypefury
#53 Tzvete Doncheva - Overcoming barriers to get into a VC with Tzvete Doncheva
#50 V...


Can you imagine a plant-based food that can help prevent disease? Well, it exists, and my guest today is taking these foods globally. Jivko Djamiarov is the founder of plant based food startup Ancestral Superfoods. His mission is to bring the healing, power and benefits of plants and foods to others. They have more than 3000 customers and are projected to do $250,000 Euros in 2023. Yco, welcome to Innovators To Laugh. Yeah, welcome Eric. Nice to be your guest. Yeah, thank you very much. It's a pleasure. How do you hear, you know, we started the show off listening to Pro Jam. That was one of your favorite bands, and when you said that, it reminded me of, you know, back when I was growing up because I used to GM out to alive in some of the other greatest hits.

That was, that's one band I wish I could have seen live, but never did. Did you ever get to see them? Yeah, me too. I wish to be able to see them live, but never did. And I was growing up with this kind of music with Seattle sound, so it's Seattle Sound and Meto. It's the music I was growing up to. Yeah. Yeah.

So , it's special for me. Me too. Nirvana, pro Jam and a few other players bands from from that area. Great. Great time. All right, let's jump into it here. Fun few questions to get started. $25,000 cash or dinner. With Simon Sinec, which do you choose dinner with? Simon Sinec. . Alright. Fuck the catch. . Okay. What's an amazing place that you like to go?

Hiking or walking? Yuko again in to valley in Nepal. This is the place I lost my heart to. Okay. And Nepal, Toon Valley. All right. When were you there? When did you first go hiking there? 2018 with my wife. It was very special. Experience. Okay. Okay. Why was it a special? Was there an anniversary or did something occur?

Yco, it was like our spiritual journey, but also honeymoon and it was just amazing to be without any conceptions in a place which is full of beautiful nature and somehow kind of a mystery to it as well. Who is the altitude in that? Very, oh, it's around 4,000 meter. It's not, it's not that. But you have to get used to it as well because it's, it's pretty significant, at least for us it was.

Yeah. I'm guessing the time of year you went was probably summer. We went in in springtime. It was end of April till somehow end of May. I mean, it was perfect. It was just before the raining season in Nepal and it's. It was amazing quarter. It was like summer in Europe. . And your wife had a good time too, I imagine.

Yeah, yeah. Of course. She, she has experienced this kind of journey for first time too, and we were never been in N Asia before, especially in Buddhist country because we are in practicing Tibo Buddhism together, and it was very precious for us. It sounds, it sounds lovely. Yeah. Okay. It was alright. Right.

Next question for you. Yuko, a favorite, A favorite book that you would happily gift to others? Definitely The Dispossessed by also gui. This is what I would like to give to others. The depo for sure. Yep. The dispossessed. Yeah. Have you ever been mistaken for someone else? Actually no

I didn't have the honor to be, which taken for somebody else . I do that all the time. I see somebody, I think I know, I go start talking to them like, Hey, I haven't seen you in a long time. How you bet. And then, you know, and then they look at me, they gimme this strange look. And that's when it hits me. Like, oh, I got the wrong person here.

Sometimes my child is . He's taking somebody else to thinking that this is his father. But hell, you know,

Yeah, that is funny. Sometimes you see your little kid. Like they're not really looking and they start lugging on somebody's like jacket or holding somebody's leg, and they don't realize that's, that's not their mommy or daddy . Maybe he sees some kind of a, let's say, approximately ugly guy with beard on bald hair.

This my father

Okay. All right. Here, last question for you before we jump into it here. What would constitute a perfect day for? a perfect, perfect day for me. It'll be a day for of meditation in the morning and evening time, and to be able to spend a trip, my family in the nature. This is my perfect day. All right. Okay, so I wanna start with the hardest business that people say it is to run, which is the restaurant business.

And you were in the restaurant business for a number of years. You, you co-founded a restaurant called So Kitchen. How did you get the idea for that Chico? Oh, it was actually before we co-founded the restaurant or before we founded the restaurant. It was a catering project and at that time I was importing organic food from different European countries.

And a friend of mine, Vaseline, he was working as organizing the delivery to one of. Food change in Sofia, both of us, we were vegans and we thought, okay, how we can combine what we have as an expertise and at our hand in a meaningful project. And then we came to the d o k we, we start webpage for catering, for delivery of vegan food to let's say for lunchtime.

It. In the beginning it was, you can order your lunch from the webpage and you could choose your man manual device, your man manual alone. And then we shared the idea with friend of us and they thought that it was great, and we joined as a team and we started doing this catering project first. After that did, did it get any traction in the beginning when you first.

Yeah, it, it got, it got traction, but we saw also the difficulties because the kitchen that we were preparing the food was to another restaurant. So we actually was using it only for couple of hours a day before lunchtime, and also other difficulties. It was too novel. And too early to start a project like this in soft in Bulgaria.

And when we experienced the first difficulties, then our partner, Betsy, she came and offered us to invest in the project. And then with her investment and with her dedication, then. The restaurant was born. Get the word out initially and start getting some customers that you could cater to. The word of mountain Facebook.

In the beginning of Facebook, it was quite easy to, let's say, to spread out the message about these kind of projects because it was not that time that you had to do heavy advertising or you have to do some checking tricks so that people can see you and. It was, let's say, so the vegan scene was in the early stages and it was more easy.

And of course we told everybody who knows that we have started this project and it was started to spread out a little bit. And in the restaurant we never done any kind of advertising at all. So it was completely word of mouth and also media who like the place they make s about it and stuff like that.

But we. At that time, was it one of the first vegan restaurants in Bulgaria? It was the first vegan restaurant in Sofia, and there was a vegan place in PR, a little bit before that called Veggie, but a restaurant of this kind of concept, high quality go food, which is only plant based, completely plant-based.

It was the first place in, I think in Bulgaria. I need to work in and as a waiter for a number of years, a long time ago in a restaurant. And I've always heard, you know, talking to the owners or the managers that the profit margin was very small. But I'm wondering when it comes to a vegan restaurant, like what are, what are, what are some of the margins, average margins that you get?

Is it more profitable than your average re. So it's like you work with 100% margin or something like that. Depends on what kind of ingredients you're using. And what is your strategy, let's say in So kitchen, we have worked always with really high quality and price ingredients. And of course this makes your margin a little bit less because you cannot offer a meal in an insane price, let's say, , to the customer because then you don't, you're not going to have any business at all.

And it, we try to have like a balance margin strategy, which is more or less like any kind of forest restaurant, which is in Sofia, Bulgaria is going to, so it's like a standard. When you have a restaurant and so how long were you doing this and what were some of the, you know, why, why did you have to give it up or why did you move on to something else?

Because I'm assuming that it no longer exists. Oh, it's still existing. And I was in the project from 2012 to 2020. I just so played my role, let's say like this. I was feeling spread out between so kitchen and access to super foods, like sitting on two chair. And part of my energy was flowing to the restaurant and part of the other energies flow was flowing to ancestral superfoods.

And it was a little bit of a struggle for me. And then I just decided to focus all my efforts and energy in ancestral superfoods because in my eyes, this project could go global. And could spread out in other countries. And my goal with ancestral super foods, apart from producing these kind of plant-based functional foods, which are high quality and somehow unique, I just wanted to reach out to other people who have struggled or are struggling, like I have struggled, and just to try to help them with my experience.

This is the most important thing in my mission. Got you. Actually, so before we jump into ancestral, did you, were you ever the. At the restaurant, were you ever behind the kitchen? No, actually, no. With my partner, we have worked as waiters and we were in the whole process, of course, observing, just like managing the process and organizing it, but I was never chef, so this is really tough and specific job, and you have to have this.

Talents to cook in exceptional way, and it's like a meat grinder. So this is one of the most toughest jobs you can, I know, actually. Yeah, I, I know. Most of the chefs I worked for were like Gordon Ramsey or Ramsey. Always, always yelling at the waiters. . Yeah. I called something. Yeah. Most of them are sociopaths, actually.

but somehow I understand them as well. It's unique kind of stress they're experiencing doing this. They have to organize everything like a machine, so it's understandable. Yeah. It can't accept the delays. Like, oh, this is gonna be delayed five minutes. It's like, no, it can't, you know, it's, it's gotta get out right now.

Yeah. And start what you're doing. Yeah. Because. Customers are also complaining about it, you know, and they have always, right. So, okay. It's how it's . So I read somewhere that you had an incident that involved a stroke. Mm-hmm. . And when did this occur? Yeah. And what impact did it have on you? And And how you live your life.

Oh, it did occur in 2013. I was on a business journey in Austria. At that time, I was managing the branch office of the biggest Austrian Organic certification body, Austria BU guarantee. And it was a very stressful time because we had problems with the institutions in Bulgaria getting our approval. You know, in Bulgaria it's tough to get the bureaucracy, the this bureaucracy working and moving.

So probably like that here in Romanian too, I think. Cause most Romanians will probably sell , so Roman is better. I will say that. and yeah. And this was putting a lot of stress in me and maybe because of this trust. I got this incident with the brain hemorrhage. It was like blood vessel was somehow exploded, and then the doctors found only the, the consequence after that.

So this blood in the brain, so it's like, how should I say, super nodal stroke. Were you unconscious like that? Did you go unconscious? No, I was conscious. I had extreme headache, so this kind of headache I have never experienced in my life before the tour. After the tour anyway, , it was really like your head is going to split open this kind of a pain, which is never going away.

Oh my God. And I was. I was conscious, but I was in extreme pain and I was like feeling that time is slowing down. So it was like in a, some kind of a loop, which is you feel slow and time is slowing down, but you, you somehow are still conscious and you are experiencing what is happening around you. And I was unable to sleep because this incident happened in the nighttime, something around 9:00 PM and after that I have never slept like.

More so 33 hours or something like that. I was unable to sleep because of this headache, although I got painkillers for that. Like intravenous. Thank you. And yeah, it was a defining moment. And when I was like in the I C U, I was thinking, okay, now maybe it's a good idea that I say goodbye to every friend of mine and to my family as well, just to part from them, you know, in your mental.

To be able to have it like more easier for you, because otherwise I was thinking, okay, if I was not going to see them again to meet them again, so it, it's better just to say goodbye in any way. In any case, like an insurance, you know, and. I was starting with my loved ones. Also thinking about it if I don't get the chance to survive this, and also thinking what I would do if I survive this incident.

Actually, if I get over it and then. The vision for ancestral super foods came. So I just thought, okay, this would be a senseless, a sensible thing to do, something which could be beneficial also for other human beings, and somehow that I could help them as well to not go through this way that I was going to.

Did you think, or did the doctors tell you that part of the reason you had this stroke was due to your diet or did. Did you somehow feel like, okay, wait a minute, the diet impacts my health and maybe I just need to start eating better and, and so that way I could feel better. Alright, let's take a break.

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So make it a good one. Learn how better proposals can streamline your sales process@betterproposals.io. So actually, the doctors told me that my blood vessels are normally in a very, very good condition because I was seeking six years plant based. So they told me, okay, you are like 30 years old, but your blood vessel was really an excellent condition.

This is not the problem. Actually. The problem was maybe this unique stress that I was experiencing and also high blood pressure because of the stress and from the high blood pressure, this blood vessel, my brain exploded. So it's something like that. What was maybe the reason for this incident in the first place, but nevertheless, I saw the direct link.

So when they told me, You see the conditions of your blood vessel is really good. Then I thought, okay, so what was what I was doing with my diet? So with the way I eat is actually doing something on my general health condition. . It's not without purpose, let's say . Okay. Okay. So you, obviously, you made a good recoveries here.

You able to focus on just ancestral? Mm-hmm. . When customers discover ancestral superfoods, what is it that they really like about it? Gco. So they really like that the. Taste of the product is natural, that they are made from whole ingredients and local ingredients as well, and that they feel that they're working because most of our customers are females and when they consume the products, because we first started with the performs, so they told us, okay, our problem with bloating is disappearing, or we feel generally more energized and we have more balance and stuff like that because we make like survey.

With our customers on a regular basis. We just want to receive feedback, how or their experience with our products, what we could do better and improve maybe the ingredients or the packaging and et cetera. And then we have this feedback from them. So, Like I feel more energized, or my problem with bloating has disappeared, or I have better digestion, stuff like that, which is maybe because really something is happening or maybe this is part of a bigger change that they make with directly habits, because I do believe that food.

Is one part of the whole solution, and you have to put also the other parts in order so that you could have a holistic approach and live better. Because if you eat good and you have healthy diet, but you are not exercising or you are not physically enough, or you're not physical active, or you don't sleep enough, or you just don't work with your emotions, then you don't have the whole picture.

So it's just one part of the whole solution. So how did you get. Now, how did you get this to market specifically outside Bulgaria? Because you're in a, you're in a number of countries right now. Did you find a distributor? Yeah. Or did you do something else? So we work in a mixed model where, where it's possible we try to sell directly to our webpage and with the fulfillment centers and where it's not possible or there is good opportunity to have the right distributor.

Has to be a company which is more or less open for trying new products and innovative products and willing to take this kind of a risk to put them on the new market. Then we start working with them, of course, as well. For example, in Czech Republicans, Slovakia, we have an amazing partner. We are distributing our products there in the selling core products there, and he's our only partner for these.

and we try to use a model which is good for everybody. So if we work with the distributor, we are always open and fair to them, and we are discussing with them how it's going to be the general strategy so that we are not somehow, let's say, being con correct to them or something like that. Okay. Competing with them, which is, yeah, zero sense.

It's like, and so what are some of your top selling products? Oh, it's the top selling products is from the powders, of course, RDAs, which is the products for female health now, because also like 68% of 86% of our customers are females and new ones that we launched in this year. The granola, the breakfast products are really.

Best selling products right now and the one these bites, which are like sweets, like that , it's okay. Yeah. So I will send, send to you in Romania from the products, by the way. Yeah, please do. I I would love to try it. Yeah. Yeah. I'm trying to get my diet, yeah. I'm trying to make my diet a little bit better.

Eat less meat, trying to, you know, eat more, eat more greens or plant-based. So please, please do. Mm-hmm. and uh, yeah, it'll be great to hear your feedback as well. Yeah, I'd love to. Have you had any, are you boots dropping this entirely or have you had any investment? If you had any investment? What has that experience been like?

We are, we started first with our investment from like a co-founders of the company. Then a new amazing people joined the project who were like our first business STS investors. And they're also active in the project as well, because for them it was not only in business, but also like a passion. So they got this passion for the project, we connected with them based on my story and my spiritual journeys and experience, and this is how we are still operating right now.

And now we are preparing and we are open for discussion, of course, for additional investment, which will help us to prepare these new markets and do the marketing for, for them and just to, let's say, to explore this possibility and be able to sell sustainable debt. Okay. What are you excited about in the next 12 months as it relates to inces?

So in the next 12 months, we will be focused in building up the foreign markets, which we already have more or less presence in. Of course, in uk, our Amazon store, which already set up for, for real start. In Romania, we have a distributor and we have also our webpage, which. We want to start in a way that we are doing in Bulgaria too.

We have new partners for North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, which are going to start working on the marketing 2023 in January. And course other possibilities, like I told you, Czech Republic, sl Slovakia, Australia, we have partner already. The, we are building up currently for France and Germany and of course, My biggest dream is to go to USA and Canada as well, because these products will need almost to zero explanation to the public in USA and Canada, which know what is protein fermentation and this kind of novel default.

Yeah. Which is beneficial for the gut health in East Europe and in Europe is more difficult explaining these products. Let. It's, they already somehow novel for the very true, I mean, that, that's funny cuz you said 80% of your customers, or maybe even more than 80% are female. But I think once you go into the US you'll, you'll start to see a shift.

It may still lean forward towards females, but they'll, I think there'll be more male customers too, because, I was eating crickets like seven years ago. I would get crickets in the mail, put 'em in a protein blender, and have them with my shake. And so that educational aspect of educating the public or the consumer is about the benefits of plant-based food.

You won't really need to do as much in those markets. As you do here in Eastern Europe, in Paris already, you have like corn, you have otley, you have beyond meat and impossible foods. It's just like exploding the whole plant-based alternative scene and it's really, it's really nice thing for, I think for the animals and for the human bees.

Yeah. As well. Like I said, I'm starting to eat less meat, but coming from Texas, I grew up on barbecue, so I still love, I still love my, my barbecue too. That isn't going . I. Okay. Where can, so my father will be your best friend, . Yeah. We grew up on On barbecue here in adas. Yeah. Yeah. Last question for you.

What's a mistake that you made early in your career as you were trying to grow ancestral, and how has that shaped how you do things today? So, Made several mistakes, like relying maybe only on the biggest distributors that we can get in contact with, or trying to do everything to be in the biggest food chains, which turn out to be a mistake because our products work.

To novel for them. And of course, of course making some mistakes in the marketing department and also with sales representatives. Also regarding packaging of the products and the whole concept of the products as well. But we learned a lot from these experience. So it's somehow strange, you know, when you make these mistakes, you lose money and to say, okay, this was really fucked up because we work only.

Own investment and with the investment from our business. And somehow this has gone completely wrong because the money so is already spent. But from the other hand you say, okay, if we haven't made this kind of Mo Morse, we were never going to be able to see that it was a mistake and to learn from it and to see that it, it's was not our way to go.

So somehow we tried. Take the best from best lessons, from every mistakes we make. And just to let's say to not repeat them, so to have the, the best possible solution for us. Or you have a community or is there a community you're involved with where there's other entrepreneurs that have some sort of plant base or vegan food that they're trying to take to the market?

I mean, Cardinal Bites, which I'm, I'm, I know you're aware of, but is there any other mm-hmm. entrepreneurs that you are connected with, that you guys are exchanging ideas and learning from? Actually, yes. Mostly with everybody because I'm, since more than 12 years in the whole organic movement and plant-based scene in Bulgaria, and since the beginning, my idea was to build corporations with others, other innovative food brands and companies, because when you come.

A country like Bulgaria, first, you're far away from the, you are just too small. You have, which could not be. So theres in other countries. So if you connect to other brands and you can build a corporation with them so that together. All these companies are presenting themselves toward foreign distributors, or they share cost for marketing and stuff like that.

This is the much more, this is the better way, and this is what I try to build up and to send as a message also to my friends from other brands and companies as well. Corporation instead of competition. This is how you can grow up. Yeah. Uh, All right. Where can people learn more about you? Gyp? PCO Ian.

Ancestral superfoods. Yeah. They can learn more about Sun WW dot ancestral superfoods.bg, or they can connect directly with me in LinkedIn. So I'm quite active in the social network and I'm always open to share my experience to help anybody who wants to change his health or health habits. Wants to start projecting the plant-based team or need some kind of inspiration or I'm open to.

Fantastic. All right, Jeffco, thank you for coming on. Innovators Koala. For everybody listening, thank you for for tuning in. If you enjoy this, feel free to tell other other people about it. You can also sign up for our newsletter and see. Upcoming guests also ask me questions that you would like to me to ask them on the show.

And until next week, if you can help somebody else and have a great week. Cheers. Cheers, Eric.

Thanks for listening to the show. If you enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate it if you could give us a review in star rating. Also, don't forget to sign up for the ICO newsletter@innovatorskalaugh.com where you can get the bio and details of each. Thanks.