Real Talk is an ongoing, co-branded article series in partnership with AccelFoods that aims to highlight workplace and brand building topics that often go undiscussed. The goal of the series is to not only shed light on these topics but to ultimately open up the conversation and spark a meaningful dialogue about it with industry influencers and beyond.
What’s it like to work alongside your spouse to build a brand? We checked in with clinical nutritionist Sharon Brown, the Founder and CEO of Bonafide Provisions, who launched the innovative bone broth brand alongside her chef husband, Reb Brown.
Read on to discover the story behind Bonafide Provisions and how the Browns have worked together to create the nation’s No. 1 selling organic, frozen bone broth.
Q: Let’s first chat about what inspired you to launch Bonafide Provisions. Why did you decide to go into business with your husband?
A: When our second son was six months old, he developed his first sinus infection. At this time (19 years ago) there wasn’t a lot of information regarding alternative remedies, so as a young mom I took him to our conventional pediatrician. He was placed on antibiotics and pretty much stayed on rounds of antibiotics until he was 6 years old. He suffered from chronic sinus infections, ear infections, respiratory infections, and the antibiotics were the only form of treatment the doctors would prescribe. In first grade, during a “back to school night, meet the teacher” event, Blake’s teacher mentioned that she believed Blake was suffering from ADHD and suggested we put him on medication. At that point, we decided we were going to do something different. We pulled him out of school, started homeschooling him, and I began to research alternative remedies. I came across the concept of food healing the body and the idea that bone broth healed the gut lining, therefore healed the immune system. I had nothing to lose so I told Reb we were making bone broth and to go find some bones. This was a challenge because not many butchers were selling their bones 12 years ago. However, we eventually found bones and Reb, who was a trained chef, started making bone broth for our family.
We incorporated bone broth into every meal we made for Blake, even the grain-free waffles. After three months, Blake had not had a sinus infection — a first since he was six months old. Six months went by, nine months went by, and a year later we were successful in healing him using food, specifically bone broth. This personal experience prompted me to pursue nutrition so I went back to school. I opened a thriving practice in Del Mar, California, and worked with thousands of people across the country, teaching them to heal through food. My biggest challenge was getting my patients to prepare their own broth so I asked my husband if he would make bone broth in small batches for my clients. He said, ‘no way,’ but I begged him (happy wife is a happy life, right?) and he agreed. We sold the bone broth in my private practice and would sell out daily.
That was our inspiration for starting Bonafide Provisions seven years ago. Working with Reb and going into business together was totally natural as we had met while working in a restaurant together in Pasadena 30 years ago. I was waitressing myself through college, he was a chef, and we have worked together ever since.
Q: Did you encounter any challenges along the way that made you question whether or not your husband was the best business partner?
A: Hahah! Yes, many. When you work so closely together, and then live together, you get to see each other’s weaknesses and flaws. Naturally, you bring that into your business relationship. Thankfully, we have worked together for 30 years and therefore have created open lines of communication to make sure we talk about our flaws and weaknesses and ask one another for help in the areas where we might need help.
Q: Let’s ‘real talk’: How has co-founding Bonafide Provisions with your husband changed your relationship?
A: It has aligned our passion for wellness. While Reb saw the success of healing through food with our son and my patients, ultimately the passion was really mine. He fully supported me and our family’s approach to wellness. However, once we founded Bonafide, he took ownership of other people’s health like I did. It feels amazing to have this passion together because it spills into everything we do at Bonafide. Everything we do with this company has purpose and intention and it all goes back to healing and the power of food as medicine.
Q: What brand building advice do you have for couples who are both work partners and life partners? What does it take to build a successful brand together?
A: Focus on your partner’s best attributes. Always keep those attributes at the forefront of your conversations and your attitude toward one another. Find out what each other’s weaknesses is in the area of business and rather than using that against one another, fill in and take over in those areas. For example, if your partner is a terrible organizer than help him or her by organizing things for them.
Q: What are some tips for achieving work-life balance when your life partner is your business partner?
A: There is no such thing as work-life balance when you own a business together and do life together.
To make your company a success you have to eat, live, and breathe the company.
Our approach has never been to divide the two because when we tried it felt forced and we were frustrated. After 30 years of working together, we simply know that we are better together so we embrace whatever the day holds.
Q: Were there any other couples in the industry who you admired and looked up to when launching and growing Bonafide Provisions?
A: When we launched Bonafide, we didn’t know anyone in the industry. We didn’t even know the difference between a distributor and a broker. However, in our lifetime of working together, there was one couple early on who inspired both of us: Sal and Joan Casola. They owned the restaurant where we worked and met 30 years ago. They gave their hearts and soul to their restaurants and they did so with grace and humor. Although they both worked feverishly, and a bit too much, one could see their strengths and understand why it worked, and why they complemented one another so well.
Q: If you could go back and do anything differently when it came to making business or personal decisions with your husband, would you? And what changes would they be?
A: Looking back over 30 years together in business there are many things I would have done differently. The early days were tough because we were together ALL THE TIME. Hindsight is 20/20 so there are bad decisions I would love to go back and change. However, if those changes meant changing where we are today, then I would have to say no. I respect my husband more today than at any other time in our relationship. He is my biggest cheerleader advocate, sounding board, and “gut check.”
When you have someone who is rooting for you, and is in your court, it enables you and empowers you to become the best version of you. I believe we have done that for each other.
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