Meet the Maker: Val Rodriguez

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Val Rodriguez is co-founder of benni. She’s got an incredible take on health and wellness. She and benni co-founder Bryant Joseph both had experienced “toxic relationships with work, food, people and, to an extent, even our sense of self.” They started to explore wellness but realized that “none of the current brands spoke to us because we weren’t typical aspirational wellness customers. We don’t think that feeling good has to feel like punishment and that wellness should be accessible. benni was started as a product for people who see past internet fads and look within themselves for a wellness lifestyle that works for them.”

1. What time of day do you like to start working?

I used to think starting to work early in the mornings would induct me into “The Most Productive Members of Society Club”, but it felt incredibly forced and unproductive. I begin feeling like I enjoy my work more and am the most productive around 10 and 11 in the morning. My mornings belong to me. These days they’re spent practicing meditations, making deliciously messy smoothies, and spending time with my dog.  

2. Do you want to be liked or respected?

Ugh. I struggle with this as I imagine any typical Enneagram Type 3 would. Must they be mutually exclusive? I want it all, Jenny. If I had to choose, I’d pick respected because maybe I’d be able to get more accomplished. I don’t necessarily think I need people to love me, I’d settle for folks believing that my intentions are good and that my mind and heart are in the right place.

3. What does your support system look like?

My partner, Marissa, knows first hand how mentally consumed by work I can become. Her support looks like standing up to me when I’m being unrealistic with myself about the amount of pressure my projects require. My business partner, Bryant, is one of the most anti-bullshit business oriented people that I have ever met. We’re an unlikely match and I think we compliment each other quite well in so many ways. It brings me so much comfort to know I can call him with anything and know he will pull through. My parents, who come from humble roots in Puerto Rico and embody work-ethic and resilience, have unwavering belief in me which is just the best soul fuel I can get. I also have an incredible group of close friends and mentors that I look up to that keep me grounded and dreaming. 

4. What would your key entrepreneur advice be?

I’m still getting used to identifying as an “entrepreneur”, but what I’ve learned thus far is:

  • Invest in understanding who your customer is and what they care about. This takes time and never-ending curiosity.

  • Not everyone’s going to like what you’re doing and that’s okay because not everyone is your customer. 

  • Keep your head down and do the work. I learned the hard way what it meant for me to get consumed by the fear of failure because of what people expected from me and the ways that stress manifests through your mental and physical health. It’s actually what led me to start benni.

5. What do you find the most difficult part of your work?

I  didn’t study business, marketing, nutrition, or food science in college, so it’s all been difficult but I enjoy problem solving and having Bryant to figure it all out with has been invaluable. I wouldn’t say there is a particularly difficult aspect to working on benni, but as an “entrepreneur” I do struggle with the anxiety of not having financial security amongst many other “uncertainties”. There is no better time than the present to risk it all. Seriously, what do you have to lose when you’re already a broke millennial?

6. Have you ever made a mistake you wish you could take back?

I contemplated telling you about my previous startup, but I think all my failures with that were capacity building. I am a better entrepreneur because of that endeavor and my inner voice and gut instincts are stronger than ever.

7. If you could fix one thing about your business today, what would it be?

Rather than “fixing”, I think grasping a better understanding of our customers needs and what product innovations would surprise and delight them is something we’re continuously working towards. 

8. What does ‘wellness’ mean in Central Florida/Jacksonville?

Florida is going through an exciting evolution as people develop a more advanced understanding and appreciation for wellness and self-care practices that conveniently fit into their lifestyle. Making wellness as an industry a more accessible lifestyle to adopt is what we are passionate about and I believe that resonates well with communities everywhere.

9. Describe your typical Florida uniform. What do you wear when you want to feel like yourself?

You’ll find me in a snapback hat, a target t-shirt, and skinny jeans most days regardless of the weather and if I’m headed to kickboxing later in the evenings, I’ll rep leggings. #fashun ?

10. How does your city inspire you?

I’m fairly new to Jacksonville and am awe-inspired by the amount of people here willing to connect and excited to collaborate. I’ve never been surrounded by so many talented, genuine, and intentional people and I’m absolutely spoiled because of it.  

11. What do you miss most about home when you travel?

Besides my dog, I miss the comfort of my space. Usually when I travel I’m constantly surrounded by people and that can be rowdy and noisy and although I’m a true extrovert, I’ve really embraced my “me” time and find myself looking forward to it every day.  

12. Describe your ideal food day in Jax.

I’m still exploring new spots in Jax, but if I were to describe my eating out foodie dreams on a Saturday, I would say I’d start the day by grabbing a honey-vanilla latte with an extra shot of espresso at Bold Bean Riverside (if you ever want to meet up, you can find me there on any day). 

For brunch I’d swing by Community Loaves and get the pancakes. Listen people. These are not your average pancakes. They’re sweet with crispy edges and honestly my mouth is watering as I type. They only have the pancakes on the weekends, so I can’t get my hopes up as it’s only Tuesday. 

Dinner would be spent elbows deep in wine and the cheese plate at the hidden restaurant in Riverside Liquors #wellness

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benni is a single-serving plant-based wellness blend that's mixed into your favorite drink for daily sustained energy, sleep, and relaxation.

benni products are crafted around different functional uses such as "Stamina, Sleep, or Relaxation." All benni products are natural, Non-GMO, Vegan, Gluten Free, and Cruelty Free. 

benni is derived from the Latin "bene" (meaning "wellness") and exemplifies the fact that benni blends contain various "benni-fits." benni's herbal blends can be added to any drink such as water, tea, smoothies, and sparkling water.

One of benni's core values is wellness accessibility. We believe that wellness is for everyone not just individuals that meet the traditional wellness industry aesthetic.

Stamina will be the first herbal product benni launches. 

Look for it soon! Sign up on the website for launch updates.