Meet Hannah Hong & Mollie Cha, founders of the plant based dessert company, Must Love. Our team received the amazing opportunity to chat with Hannah & Mollie, as they spoke with us about their entrepreneurial journey together, their experience on ABC's Shark Tank and more!
Hi Hannah & Mollie! Thank you so much for taking the time to connect with our team! Can you first start by telling us more about yourselves and your entrepreneurial journey together?
H: We met when we were in undergrad nearly (oh man) 20 years ago. It’s 17 years to be exact. And we’ve been best friends since then. I like to say it was friendship at first sight! After graduating UC Berkeley we both had more traditional jobs. I was in management consulting and Mollie was in finance. We actually were roommates in SF together and got to experience our early 20s together too!
We ended up going to business schools across the country from each other. Me at UCLA and Mollie at MIT, but you know you have friends who always feel like home to you? That’s us for each other. Post graduation we both ended up in LA working in food at a larger CPG company. Not that we planned that or anything (jokes).
We both have a strong entrepreneurial streak in us - both our families came to the US to pursue their American dreams and we watched our parents hustle and work for their piece of that dream. So we always wanted to do something and hopefully together!
Then one day Mollie made for me banana based nice cream. Frozen bananas in a food processor and it whips up like soft serve. We call that our lightning striking moment where we immediately understood that we needed to package this. Of course it wasn’t that easy and we learned some hard lessons along the way. But that was the beginning of Must Love, your family’s go to brand for plant based indulgence!
Must Love was featured on season 13 of Shark Tank which is such a cool and amazing accomplishment! Can you talk more about that experience and how the company has grown since then?
M: Thank you! We were actually scouted when we were first starting out and we did go through the audition process but got cut. In retrospect, thank goodness because we were hand making the ice cream ourselves out of a tiny kitchen. It wouldn’t have been nearly that helpful in actual sales. This time around (s13), we felt we had the scale and retail presence that being on Shark Tank would be something that could help us reach more consumers and actually be available to purchase by them.
We had a super positive experience through the whole thing from auditioning to actually taping. But I will say if you are considering auditioning, it is a huge time commitment during which you aren’t working on your business. But we found it worth it. We actually offered ecomm on our website for the first time because we knew we’d have huge inbound traffic, which we did!
What would you say differentiates you from other companies who might provide similar products? How is Must Love providing a solution for consumers?
H: Must Love makes plant based indulgences for your family whether that means treats from the freezer or the pantry. We recently launched Frosted Cookies sweetened entirely with dates, not added sugar. All our treats are plant based, use real simple ingredients, and most importantly taste like treats. We want to be your family’s go-to brand for your treat occasion.
Since creating Must Love what would you say has been your biggest accomplishment? What is one major goal each of you would like to accomplish within the next 5 years?
H: I think the fact that we’re still here and still best friends is a huge accomplishment.
M: Overcoming our huge operational hurdles is also probably one of the bigger accomplishments.
H: In the next 5 years I’d love to reach a business size where we need to expand the team more!
M: Our cookies being available to consumers nationally through retail.
We would love to hear more about the journey of starting your own business and what that process has been like for each of you. What is one thing you wish you knew sooner or what is one thing you would have done differently?
M: We actually did like “pre-marital counseling” but for confounding the business together. So we came into becoming cofounders with eyes wide open on our values and priorities. And while we both knew enough about the food industry, we always say we knew enough to be dangerous.
H: The actual DOING is the hard part. When people are exceedingly secretive about their ideas I always want to tell them, 99.9% of everything is about actual execution. About actually doing it. Because most people never do it. I do wish I didn’t underestimate the actual operations of making our own ice cream and cookies ourselves. But then again if it were easy everyone would do it right? Haha that said I would’ve interviewed more people so I had any idea of how hard it would be.
M: We did write a business plan before we did anything. It’s real cute and real inaccurate. But everything needs a starting point or a best guess. I’d still write the plan though. If we could change one thing, it would have to be investing more time upfront to figure out scaling our operations.
When it comes to marketing strategy and connecting with consumers, what would you say has been the most successful platform for Must Love and why do you think that is?
H: Our consumer is honestly us. Millennial women with young kids. And our platform that consistently performs the best is Instagram. That said we are working on TikTok and also have a podcast and YouTube channel. All the things. Instagram continues to be our strongest platform right now, probably because we know how to use it… it’s the most native social media platform to us personally and to our core consumer. For now!
Can you dive deeper into the process for creating new flavors and product lines? What other products would you like to see Must Love offer in the future?
H: We have a R&D lead who is a trained chef who works on new products and flavors. We actually are constantly talking about new flavor ideas because we want to try to offer something new every year.
M: New product lines is harder. We had been working on Frosted Cookies for almost two years!
H: Must Love is going to be every family’s go- to brand for all indulgence occasions in the future. That means we will be available in a wide variety of flavors and types of products. Anything where we can offer something better than what’s out there now that’s in the sweets and treats realm, we’re here to make!
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own business? Is there a piece of advice that has resonated with you throughout your entrepreneurial journey?
H: I think having a cofounder has had a profoundly positive impact on me personally as well as for the company. We know there are cofounder relationships that are NOT good, but if you have a really good relationship with your cofounder it unlocks so much more in you and in your business. Having someone you implicitly trust and has your back just lightens the load (not in terms of work bc you will always always always have more work than time, but emotional 100% yes).
M: It's really difficult prioritizing all the one million things you need to do and that you could do for your business. Before kids we worked constantly. One of the many blessings of having small kids is that they force you to prioritize what is the most important thing that needs to be done. Getting comfortable with done vs perfect is something that any founder can benefit from with or without children.