You may have heard of bone broth, but you may not know exactly why it’s all the rave in the beauty industry right now. Meet Melissa Bolona, a model and actress turned successful female entrepreneur. Bolona started a bone broth business in 2020, inspired by her personal health issues growing up. The broth is organic, provides many amazing benefits, and is available on a subscription model. Read on to see how Beauty & the Broth is making a name for itself in the industry.
Start by telling us about your business and what exactly Beauty & the Broth is.
Beauty & the Broth is what I like to think of as the first of its kind – direct to your front door – bone broth company that is massively unique because it is shelf-stable with no preservatives, in a single serving and concentrated format that you dilute with water. It’s very customizable to your taste and integrates bone broth anywhere and everywhere as part of your wellness and beauty routines. The broth was created out of my need because I had chronic digestive issues that initially started when I was a kid and that caught up with me as an adult. I tried bone broth in New York and became obsessed. I couldn’t believe that it not only healed my gut, but aided me with mental clarity, aided with lines in my face, my hair, skin and nails. So when I saw that in L.A. there weren’t as many places to grab it and go, that’s where the idea came from. As I did more research, seeing all the bone broths on the market, I realized that there was a true need for a very clean, convenient and tasty product.
What are the benefits of bone broth?
Bone broth is incredible. It really is the fountain of youth. What I like about bone broth is it’s been around since caveman times. Back in the day, they would hunt and use every single part of the animal for food, shelter, clothing, down to the bones where they would simmer them to heal themselves after battles. Moving on to modern day, bone broth’s purpose is for leaky gut. And what is leaky gut? Leaky gut is when you have poor digestion, which a lot of people have. No one has perfect guts. And of course there are people that eat healthier than others, but even their guts are most likely not perfect.
Bone broth is very healing for the gut. It’s amazing how much information we are finding out about the gut – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Like our personalities – people don’t know this – our personalities literally come from the gut. They’ve done testing and labs are doing fecal transplants on mice, and when they transfer the stool into the other mouse, they take on the personality of the other mouse. That is tried and true. And the “gut feeling?” It’s because emotions come from your gut. And oftentimes, if you suffer from anxiety or depression, that too comes from the gut. And then 85% of our immunity comes from the gut, and our gut’s been known to be called the “second brain.” The fact that bone broth goes into your gut and regulates the trillions of microbes in your gut, while lining it and while nourishing you with the nutrients your body needs, is an absolute homerun.
It’s also really high in naturally occurring collagen which is great for your skin. It physically fills in the holes in your gut. Good skin comes from the gut. You could put all of these face creams on, spend all this money on facials and you could still be wondering, “Why do I still have these pimples?” And you really have to look internally: what are you doing from the inside to reinforce the things that you’re doing from the outside?
I’m someone who’s come from a modeling and acting background. I tried everything on my face and I would even get botox. And when that botox would wear off on my little crow’s feet, I was like “Oh my god, I have to go to the doctor!” because to me, it was super noticeable. From drinking bone broth, that little timer of the botox wore off and completely went away, which was shocking to me, because I’m someone who has spent ridiculous money on face creams, and they don’t work this well.
When I was starting this, people were saying to me, “Oh, it’s a trend,” and this was many years ago, and I remember doing all my research, and this was blowing up in 2017. People to this day think it’s a new thing, but I think it’s something that’s here to stay. I firmly believe it’s going to be drunk like tea and coffee. People even replace coffee with it, because it gives you that much more benefit. I would never create a company based on a trend.
How did you figure out how to make it as a product to sell? What goes into selling a product like this, especially a food product?
It wasn’t easy and I don’t have any kind of background in this. It felt a bit like a video game, where you would talk to as many people as possible, go down the route you felt was right, only to find big learning curves around every corner and pieces of missing information. So initially when I started this, I started talking to cooks and chefs and nutritionists and coming up with recipes, and I thought I’d be producing this myself in an off-site kitchen to serve the Los Angeles market. So, that’s how we started. I quickly learned that running a small kitchen in L.A. was massively costly and pulled the plug. It took a really long time to source a co-packer, especially to produce a product like bone broth that’s really time-demanding with cooking, because otherwise it would just be stock. You want it to cook for a long time (for the bones to break down). A lot goes into it and it’s really really hard to get it to be consistent as well. Every slight little gram of change makes a huge difference to the flavor component.
So then, I finally found a co-packer. It was then working with the co-packer to adapt my kitchen recipe when I learned about this concentrated format. I did a pros and cons list of shelf-stable vs. fresh, only to find that it was apples to apples, they were the same exact thing in fact. To me, shelf-stables are more convenient and, in ways, I almost think they are more fresh because of the whole element of putting a fresh broth throughout the packing, shipping, and eating stage, from the freezer, then fridge, then freezer, and it goes bad so quickly.
How do you manage your work-life balance?
I am fully in “Beauty & the Broth.” If you want something to be a success, you really do need to be all-in. So, I am all-in, and all my talent and my careers have definitely come to flourish at this very moment. All those talents with modeling and acting, my efficiency with photoshoots, whether I’m in it or I’m getting models for it. I run a tight set – I know what shots I need, I know how to get it done thriftily. Even with podcasts, or any sort of interviews, I’m not shy– I can talk, so my whole career, I swear, has prepared me for this moment. It’s crazy.
Did you ever think you would start a business like this?
I wouldn’t say like this. I think I knew one day I would start a business. I went to school for international marketing and business, and I’ve had kind of, like, the little entrepreneurial bug since I was a kid. I was always raking leaves, I would raise money for the American Heart Association, I would order little inventors kits, and I’d maybe once a year wake up in a cold sweat with an idea, but I never executed upon it because it’s just an idea and it’s just something I came up with. This is something that came from a need, which I feel is different, and I never thought I’d be making a product, especially a food product. It’s beyond my wildest dreams.
Is there something you can specifically pinpoint that has made you successful?
I think everything we’ve done has helped us as stepping stones since day one. Every brand we’ve worked with, every influencer, every retail account, every place to get your product name out there, even if it doesn’t translate right away. People have to hear things a few times, so I think constantly pushing and finding different ways to educate people about your product and have them try the product. I’m a big fan of doing tastings. I’ll go do them myself at either a workout studio, a hotel or one of our retail accounts. Some people walk by and ignore you and some people engage, but I have to tell you, every time I’ve done a tasting, something big has come out of it. All it takes is meeting one person and that one person loves it, that one person tells their community, that one person has their own workout studio. So I think the larger you can cast your net and have as many people find out about you, the better.
Where are you going from here? What are the plans for Beauty & the Broth?
We’re launching a vegan broth. We call it vegan broth, because there are no bones in it, and this is something we wanted to initially launch with, but it is incredibly difficult. It’s also USDA organic. It has mushrooms, chickpea miso, whole chickpeas, ginger puree, pea protein and seaweed in it. So while it doesn’t have collagen in it, it has these ingredients that mimic the benefits of collagen, and it tastes really good. It’s one of my favorite recipes.
We’re not alienating a market, which was important to me. We do have a lot of vegetarian customers where this is the one way, with our chicken and beef bone broth, that they will take their protein because they don’t associate it with eating meat since the bones break down over a long cook time. Then there are people who don’t do that at all, so the vegan recipe is a great option for them.
Dogs are such an important part of my life, so we’re working on a bone broth for dogs. We’re working on a few flavors for the dogs but one of them is turkey. Obviously I tried it, because it’s for dogs but it’s human ingredients. And now I’m going to work on a turkey one for the fall for humans as well. Then, I’m working on something I like to call “beauty blends,” which is pretty much like luxury herbs that you just drop in your broth to change up the flavor.
What do you wish you knew more about when you first started?
I wish I knew more about the digital marketing landscape. That’s an area we spent a lot of money on and tried a few times in different ways. You would just have to trust people, because I didn’t know what I was doing. Also at the beginning, I spent a lot of money on branding and the website because I said, “Okay, this website is going to be my shop, my storefront, and effectively a lot cheaper than a real life storefront” so I got swayed by these big ticket items, only to find out you could get it done way cheaper and honestly way, way better.