CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Gail Becker
BUSINESS: Cauliflower pizza, pizza crusts, gluten-free products.
NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 1
NOTABLE: Caulipower products are on shelves in 25,000 stores.
Caulipower has caught the updraft of the cauliflower craze by producing gluten-free cauliflower pizzas, pizza crusts and tortillas just as consumer demand is booming.
The company, headed by Gail Becker and based in Encino, ranks No. 1 on the Business Journal’s list of Fastest Growing Private Companies – and Becker expects the growth to continue. With expansions in the product line to include sweet potato chips and cauliflower-breaded frozen chicken tenders, she looks forward to estimated revenue this year of $100 million, compared to $45 million in 2018.
At corporate headquarters, crews have literally knocked down the walls of two adjoining office spaces to make room for a burgeoning staff – an employee count of 48 is due to go up to 70 in a couple months, Becker said. And she plans to take over one more suite in the building at 16200 Ventura Blvd.
“We were busting out of our space,” Becker said. “There have been challenges with scaling the business and meeting demand. Fortunately, we’ve been able to. We didn’t know the demand would be so great. The chicken – that took us a little bit by surprise.”
She is referring to the “New Chick on the Block,” the brand name for frozen chicken tenders made with cage-free chicken, no antibiotics, and coated in cauliflower and then baked instead of fried. An entire bag of the tenders is 490 calories.
The newest product is in 8,000 stores nationwide and will be front and center in the company’s first television spot on streaming services.
“We’re on everything from Lifetime to The Cooking Channel to everywhere on Hulu. … From a brand perspective, what has been really great for us to see is we have permission to play here. We weren’t sure how people would feel about us going from all of our current products into chicken, but the response has been fantastic,” Becker said.
Caulipower products are currently in 25,000 grocery stores nationally, including all Kroger divisions, Walmart, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Target and CVS, as well as regional players such as Gelson’s.
Restaurants like PizzaRev also offer Caulipower pizza as a healthy option. Out of state, Caulipower is offered as a healthy meal at certain gyms.
The company’s demographic appears to be wide-ranging, attracting all ages, the health conscious and gluten-free eaters, solo adults and families. A lot of women buy Caulipower products, Becker said, but it’s not exclusively so.
The company benefitted from good timing – the market was waiting for a product like this – and the company’s ability to make a healthy, easy-to-make option that also tastes good and happens to be gluten-free, she told the Business Journal.
“We have about 95 percent of the cauliflower crust pizza market. There have been competitors in the market, and that’s fine and expected and part of doing business,” explained Becker. “One of the reasons why we’ve been able to maintain our advantage is the quality of our product. We will always lead with quality and taste.”
Becker came to Caulipower with knowledge from a variety of fields that apply to her business. She spent time in various marketing and communications positions with Edelman, Warner Bros., the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and even as a staffer on the Clinton/Gore campaign in 1992.
“I worked in marketing for so many years, where I really wanted to help people build brands and now I get to do it for myself,” said the Caulipower founder. “I learned along the way what worked and what didn’t work. Even my time in government, when I was trying to help people, I always had an inclination of trying to help people lead better and healthier lives, so this fits right alongside that.”
Becker was also a broadcast journalist before she nabbed a government position too – she sees some surprising parallels between starting a business and her time as a reporter, particularly a constant thrill of learning new things.
“The best thing about being a journalist is the ability to learn about a thousand different things,” explained Becker. “Starting your own business and getting into a category where you knew nothing is very much the same way. I learned so much about the business, about people, about building a brand, about myself. It has been an unbelievable learning experience and it reminds me very much about being a journalist.”
Along the learning curve, recruiting the right talent has contributed to the company’s success.
“The most important thing that you can do as an entrepreneur is to be really cognizant of what you don’t know, and then hire around that. There are lots of people that can help you fill in the gaps,” said Becker. “I’m an older entrepreneur; I didn’t start right out of college. I think one of the things is that you really realize that all of your life experience has helped you in this new life.”
To her fellow entrepreneurs, Becker had two bits of advice: First, to know you’re not alone in facing challenges, and for those considering leaving the corporate life, to not wait for the perfect moment to jump ship, because that moment doesn’t exist.
“It’s sort of like having kids. If you wait for the right time, you’ll never do it,” Becker said. “The thing that scares me the most about Caulipower is when I think back to how close I came to not doing it. It was that split-second decision to do it versus not do it. My life would be very different today and I wouldn’t be anywhere near as happy.”