On today’s episode, my guest is a man who is the very definition of someone who wears many hats. Raoul Benavides is a lifelong entrepreneur who has proudly never had a job where he had to answer to someone else, which has allowed him to live a life of freedom on his terms.
We’re talking about balancing feminine and masculine energy, accepting failure as part of the dance, and seeing a vision so clearly that you know in your heart it’s already a reality. I’m eager for you to hear his philanthropic vision because it is really inspiring. And maybe you have connection that can help him get there.
As you’ll hear, Raoul truly believes entrepreneurship is all about the balance between creativity and vulnerability. His diverse career of making his dreams come true has had many chapters. From graffiti artist to fashion student to 25 years as an editorial photographer to artist agent, grip house owner, vinyl record merchant, bug farmer, movie executive producer, chicken whisperer, and now a condiment brand founder.
With a passion for sweet heat combinations, Raoul’s latest venture is Heart Soul Heat. This one-product company makes Ghost Honey. If you haven’t tasted this all-natural ghost pepper, vinegar and honey mash up yet, you are missing out. Mmm. Mmm. It is really delicious. And Raoul was kind enough to offer listeners of this show 20% off your first order when you go to HeartSoulHeat.com and use the code FINE at checkout.
Raoul’s hype song is Marquee Moon by Television
If you’re interested in finding peace of mind and learning the tools and techniques for staying grounded no matter what’s going on around you, you can get in on the next group. It starts in a few weeks. Find out more at ZenRabbit.com or text me at 571.317.1463.
Lori Saitz 0:01
Hello and welcome to Fine is a 4 Letter Word. My guest today is Raoul and I horribly do not ask you how to pronounce your last name then that would have guessed that Raoul Benavides. Welcome to the show. Thank you so much for joining me. So the first question I always start with is what were the beliefs and values that were instilled in you as you were growing up?
Raoul Benavides 0:34
Um, for me, it's I mean, it's funny, my parents, I mean, my parents had been together forever, my father passed away 10 years ago. And then my parents would count two separate people, they kind of are joined up, my father was the disciplinarian. And everything was about hard work. And he's also like, an old-world like Mega provider, you know, and but his, his family was very kind of broken. And my father was in his very, very kind of hurt, you know, he's never, he never spoke his father's name. Because he was really abusive. So he, you know, my father has kind of got this story and my father's a whole weird character all by himself. And then my mother is like, the light and love. And I think my, my mother's the value that I got from my father was hard work. And the value that I got from my mother was kindness and emotional intelligence. And somehow they made a good couple. And, yeah, it was a sort of some good raw materials to work with.
Lori Saitz 1:52
Yeah, that's a really great combination, to have melted into.
Raoul Benavides 1:58
Yeah. It took me a long time to see it. But I see it now. Yeah.
Lori Saitz 2:03
Yeah. And how did those values play out? As you were growing up as you became a young adult? Or how did you incorporate those into what you were doing what you started when you started your career in your adult life?
Raoul Benavides 2:19
It's a little, it's a little difficult, because my, my relationship by follows was kind of tough. My father worked. You know, I grew up in Chicago, my parents are immigrants. They came to the country in 70. I was born in 1972. And for most of my father's life in the country, he worked for General Motors. And he's kind of, he had that job that sort of no longer exists. He was he worked for General Motors. And he started in tool and dye in their locomotive division and sort of worked his way up and around. And when I turned 18, he said, Hey, I got something really great for you. That was like, Okay, well, what do you got? My, you know, I come also, you know, kind of son of the late 80s. And, you know, very much a lover of punk music and hip hop, and very much the rebellious one of me and my brothers. And he said I got you a job at General Motors. And I said, No, you gotta be crazy. I'm not going to General Motors. I'm going to art school. And he didn't talk to me for two or three years. Yeah.
Lori Saitz 3:37
Wow. Are you the only Oh, where are you in the hierarchy? too. So of course, he was expecting you to
Raoul Benavides 3:45
The interesting part is that my middle brother got the job when he turned 18. Yeah, anyway, that was wonderful. You know, it got them off the streets, in a certain way. Yeah.
Lori Saitz 3:56
Yeah. What drew you to the idea that one, you could do something different than your dad like, that you didn't have to follow in his head? Because I'm asking because a lot of times, we want to do the thing. We don't know any different. If he if that's what he was doing. Where was your model for entrepreneurship or for art? You know, the art.
Raoul Benavides 4:24
I think it's, you know, it's very different for me, you know, I kind of have a very classic first-generation story. You know, my parents both had a fourth-grade education. They didn't know anyone, you know, it's not like I had, there was nothing. No, there were no mentors or anything they didn't know anyone else college-educated. They didn't know anyone that was was that wasn't exactly like them. So it was kind of like a day-by-day existence. We weren't poor growing up. You know? Uh, but they worked. Both my parents worked. But it was very much like, you know, working-class, you know.
Lori Saitz 5:11
Right. Yeah, that's why I was asking because you decided to do something different and you didn't have necessarily a role model to show you what that would look like. So I'm curious how you decided to go that way.
Raoul Benavides 5:23
It was because I didn't, okay, the world was wide open. I mean, I also grew up in a place, you know, I grew up in a, in a gang-infested neighborhood, you know, most of the kids I grew up with were in jail, or gangs, or had a baby. It um, I, you know, I had a dream when I was four, of being a photographer. And I had a 25 year run a 25 year, run as a photographer, I live my dream, you know, I, I feel that I'm My gift is is that I love work. But I hate authority. I've never, I'm not I don't you know, I'm not a drug user, kind of person. I love work. I'm so passionate about creating and doing things. I it, but I'm only passionate about that when it comes to the things that interests me and my, my vision, you know, the idea of going to have a job and getting the same check every Friday like that. Just I've never embarked I'm literally gonna be 50 this year. And I've never had a job. Yeah, I How did how did it? How was the same go? I work 80 hours a week. So I don't have to work 40.
Lori Saitz 7:01
Right. Well, this is why we become entrepreneurs. We don't we're unemployable. Because we can't follow rules.
Raoul Benavides 7:09
You know, that's one thing. But it's also true that the thing that drives me that's always driven me from a little kid is freedom. I will do anything for freedom. Yes. And we're not worried about work doesn't faze me, I love whether it's manual, whatever it is, I will do whatever needs to get done.
Lori Saitz 7:31
How do you define freedom?
Raoul Benavides 7:34
I define freedom. Freedom for me, is the ability to have another at bat to fail. You know, yeah, for me, it's, it's that freedom is the ability to you know, do it again, to make the magic again, to attempt to make something beautiful. If you can't, if you aren't in a place where you can make beauty or art, then you don't have any freedom.
Lori Saitz 8:16
Interesting. Okay. And then you mentioned the word failure. So next question was gonna be how do you define failure?
Raoul Benavides 8:24
Um, how do I define failure, you know, the funny thing about failure is that I have this, I guess, healthy, maybe even a super comfortable relationship with failure, I think about the pursuit of, of art or the pursuit of creation, the pursuit of, of trying to get an idea into the world. Very much like a boxer, you know, not in that violent way. Not in not in that I'm interested in beating up someone or I think someone's trying to beat me up. But more to the effect of that, um, you know, my body is the idea. And, you know, my right-hand glove is creativity. And my left-hand glove is vulnerability. And I'm trying to carve this idea into existence, by wielding these fists into the air, into the whatever. And every now and then you do get hit in the face and you fall down. And when you come to this crossroads, where that idea does have any more legs, either it's no longer valuable to you, that you've, you've tried to express that idea to the fullest and it can't go any farther. Or the society or the world depending if it's a commercial idea. Lets you know that that's not gonna work, you know? But for me that there is no there's no growth without failure. And there's no creation without a little distraction.Lori Saitz:
Yes, wasn't it Michelangelo who said that when he was carving statues or that he was digging out what was already in there. Think about that, that the person the statue the thing was already in there in the rock, he was just carving it out of it. So he wasn't creating something that didn't exist. He was like really? Yes. Exposing I was gonna say releasing exposing well.Raoul Benavides:
I think it's a quote from Mike Tyson is that you always got a plan until you get punched in the face.Lori Saitz:
Right, right. Yeah, I've heard that one. Yeah.Raoul Benavides:
I also think that in the boxing metaphor, there is boxing can also be about grace and form. It could be about discipline, in purpose, and passion. It doesn't. I don't think of this metaphor in a negative way, a violent way, or a super masculine way. I think, yeah, I also think that, you know, that it takes this balance of the feminine in the, in the masculine, to create, no matter what you're doing.Lori Saitz:
It's really interesting that you're bringing that up, because that has actually been a topic of conversation for me lately, in terms of the masculine and the feminine energy and how it, let's just stop and say, no matter what your gender is, we all have feminine and masculine energy, it's that yin and yang. And we don't, it's a balance, the most balanced people know how to use both of them in different amounts, you know, different times. And I think a lot of times, a lot of entrepreneurs, myself included, are much more heavily reliant on the masculine energy, because that's how our society, that's how the business world has functioned for so long. And that masculine energy is pushing and pushing and making things happen, as opposed to allowing the natural flow and the creativity to tap into. What's been your experience in terms of implementing or putting to use put that balance of those two,Raoul Benavides:
I mean, they're, they're both, they're just so needed, you know, I think that there's, for me, it's something that I learned, I didn't know I didn't grow up with it, I didn't grow up with this kind of stuff. It's just sort of something that you, if you're lucky, you pick up along the way. But when I think about myself in the feminine, I also think about myself and paying attention to listening, you know, to what I'm feeling, but more than anything else to what's happening, you know, to when you create something, that there are ripple effects. And that's kind of important to pick up on what they are not in a self-critical way. But in the How can we help or touch more people kind of way?Lori Saitz:
That ability is no doubt what made you such a good photographer, right? You have to be Yeah, paying attention.Raoul Benavides:
But it's also this part of it. Yeah, being a photographer, the way that I was in the time that I was, it was a very intimate thing. You know, people are letting me into their world and if they're artists or writers or what have you, they there they have guards up to in finding a way to defuse it or to be humbling or to connect with them is very much feminine energy and very, very much a you have to disarm them. You know, the camera in general, the lens, this whole situation is very masculine maneuver, if you let it be thatLori Saitz:
Yeah, yeah, can be very intimidating. Okay, so tell me more about your journey. So you were working In an amazing capacity as a photographer for you said, 25 years, right, yeah. And so since the name of the show is Fine is a 4 Letter word, wherein your journey was everything fine, but not fine.Raoul Benavides:
Um, I mean, every day is kind of that way. I mean, I, I find, I find this is one thing, but I think some of it is that I, I am one of those people who lives on things that I dream up about. And because I do, I can't let negative self-talk. Either way, it's something that I'm working on. Or what I'm doing towards that idea. There is kind of, I think of it as a dam. And on the other side, is everything you've ever wanted success in any way that you picture it, beauty in everything that you ever wanted all the things. And on the opposite side is some acid that's picking away at your idea, picking away at your self-image picking away at your dreams telling you you can't, or you shouldn't? Or why do you have the audacity of bringing this idea into the universe? Who do you think you are, all of that stuff, lives in me, and I don't know how other people do whatever. And I have to find myself what other people pick up and whoever they are, is another thing, these battles of creativity and vulnerability, or battle in myself, that I, I also need to wake up and say that I'm fine. Even if I have no idea what I'm gonna do, or how I'm going to do it, or I am a man on a gravel road, and I need to get up this mountain. And I don't even have any gym shoes. I need to manifest shoes, maybe running shoes, maybe a bicycle. And while I'm manifesting might as well make that a motorcycle. Be here because if I don't, then I will look down in my feet will be bleeding. And this mountain will be nowhere, I will be nowhere on top of the mountain. So it is different than the way that you think about fine, but it is sometimes I have to fantasize myself into fine as a survival mechanism.Lori Saitz:
Right? Well, yes, fine, better than fine. Because fine is that place where everything is it's okay. It's kind of complacent. But you from what you've said, in our conversation before and today. Complacent is not does not fit in your life.Raoul Benavides:
I think to like, like, you know, my clock is ticking. You know, the there's only you know, nothing is guaranteed. And if you want to be in the zone of creativity, I suppose to see how far it takes you. And I can't let that negative self-talk or other things affect me. Even if it's all pure fantasyLori Saitz:
That's where it starts in some fantasy visualization, and imagination. That the imagination it was Walt Disney who said that imagination is a preview of coming events, I believe. That's where it all has to start. What are some of the tools that you've used to keep yourself in that positive focus?Raoul Benavides:
I think I'm you know, doing everything I can to be present. Even though the way that I'm picturing this thing this dreamlike sort of like state that I'm talking about? Doesn't sound present. It is extremely present. It is kind of like I'm dealing with them now and instead of letting the now be something that defeats me I'm making the now into a moment of gratitude. Here. Yeah, now I'm here. Now I'm still in this race, I'm still on this journey. This dream is still viable. I am loved I'm, I feel great. But you know, the mountain is still there. But I'm not gonna let the mountain take away from the beauty that I have now. Does that make sense?Lori Saitz:
It makes complete sense. And it's something I think most people struggle with is living in the now. Because really, now is all we have. You can't live in the past, you can't live in the future. Although people spend a lot of time trying to do that they worry about things that have happened, that they can't change, because they're in the past and can't change the past. Or they worry about things that may or may not happen in the future. And they're not focused on living in this very moment, which is what you're talking about. And that's where your powerRaoul Benavides:
is. Yeah. And I also think it's one of those things like, I don't, I don't fear failure. So I'm not, I'm not trying to be too ahead. In the failure that happened yesterday, I'm not trying to be too behind. I know that they're part of the dance. You know, I'm not trying to welcome them. But I also know that their characters in this play yeahLori Saitz:
Yeah, yes. I love, that failure is part of the dance. Brilliant. Speaking of the Now, let's talk a little bit about the reason you and I met was that I found your current company, the company that you're building now. And we were talking about your product and sponsorship and all that good stuff. And so I want to talk about how you got into building this company because tell me, tell me how that came about. And I want to talk also about what your product is and how it is?Raoul Benavides:
Well, my new project. My new company is very much COVID baby. You know, as I told you, I was a photographer for 25 years. And then I owned a grip house, which is like a lighting rental company for photographers. I ran that for 10 years and was very successful. And, you know, the world kept changing, and it's like, it was a good time to get out of it. I was an executive producer on an indie film, that was fun. And they owned a record store for three years. And then I started then I was like, Okay, I I been longing to do something tactile. So I started this bug farm. And I made these, I made these super high protein bugs that I oven dried, and they were used as a supplement for hobby farmers. I don't know how I got there. I just got there because I just got there.Lori Saitz:
Yeah, I haven't talked to anybody who's had this career.Raoul Benavides:
What I what I've been longing to do, is do a project with more reach. And that's kind of how I got to my new company, which is called Heart Soul Heat. I because I'm the oldest son. And my parents used to have a restaurant. And my grandfather started a candy company in 1940. in Monterrey, Mexico, it's still around now. It's called Legata Venya the garden and they make sort of like sugar, gumdrops sugar kinds of stuff. Yeah, kind of like a Mexican, like, gummy sugar. Rock. Remember, the company Brach? I don't know if it's still around. It's in Chicago. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I had a dream. It was COVID. And, I don't know, it was kind of like longing for a new project. And I don't I don't know where this dream about my grandfather and a condiment company in the name Heart Soul Heat all came into focus. And I was like, okay, and I like and I've had a couple of these these visions and these dreams in my life, and they always served me well. For me, it's kind of like if I'm, if I'm tuned in enough to listen. It always it just always been a wonderful platform to start something.Lori Saitz:
So you're talking about like a dream-like you were asleep and had a dream?Raoul Benavides:
Yeah I was asleep. Yeah, yeah. And yeah, and I've been, I've been making every meal and I started. For me, I'm really passionate about Sweet Heat combinations. And I just, it all kind of came in, was I had some ghost peppers that I was growing in my garden. And I made up mash, like ghost peppers and vinegar. And I infused some honey with it. And I was like, Oh, this is amazing. And then I started doing it on a bigger and bigger scale. And then I was like, I shared it with some friends. And they're like, You got something hot here. Yeah, this is something we're doing. And there it is, was born. And so I started Yeah, I started I, I knew that the company is called Heart Soul Heat, I looked online, and I bought the domains and all that stuff. And then I started there was a bunch of like, hot sauce review places, like review websites. Instagramers. So I sent as many as I can find a bottle, no label, no, nothing. I'm thinking about making this soup project where you think it all everyone came back with totally positive reviews. And I was like, Okay, this now it's like kind of undeniable. And, yeah. So, at this moment, I have a one-product company, which is Heart Soul Heat the product called Ghost Honey, three-ingredient, hot honey. It's incredibly easy. And I love the idea that when you have really good ingredients, you just get out of the way. You know?Lori Saitz:
Yes, I completely agree. It's because it doesn't need that's what makes it so good. Is that it's, I don't say basic makes it sound. It's just yeah, you just have some good stuff and you mix it together. And then you have something so good. We don't need all this extra stuff in food.Raoul Benavides:
Well, no, of course, you know, that's what some of it is also to that, you know, everyone's driven by different things in there. And I'm, I'm not driven by making money. I'm interested in making things and making connections, you know, so, yeah, I mean, what my goal for Hearts, all he does, is I'm interested in using as a platform for philanthropy. You know, imagine doing like a limited run hot sauce, or limited run jelly or spicy jelly or I'm not even sure what with an artist or a musician, and like every dollar goes to like No Kid Hungry. I love right. That's what I'm really passionate about. Yeah, I think that sometimes if you're lucky enough, you this for me like this company isn't a company about hot honey, of course, I love it. I'm passionate about it. I want to, you know, get it as far and wide as possible. But I am interested in companies as platforms for other things that aren't obvious. I mean, I'm really passionate about inner-city arts programs.Lori Saitz:
Yeah. I'm just, I'm over here. People are like, what's happening here, I'm just sick. I'm like, got all these ideas, because I love what you're doing. You know, my first business. When I started out on my entrepreneurial journey, I was selling a product called the gratitude cookie. And it was based on a family recipe, a kind of a cross between a butter and a sugar cookie. And I was packaging it as a way for businesses to say thank you to their clients and people who sent them referrals. And like you very basic ingredients like real honey. I mean, not honey. Now thinking honey on mind, real sugar, real butter, real vanilla. The good stuff, which is why they were so good. And having a portion of profits donated to philanthropy, and philanthropic endeavors. And yeah, so I love the whole idea of a small entrepreneur food business. Because they just, there's so much passion behind it, like you have a whole story. And I had a story with mine and it's just it brings another layer of complexity or not meaning to what you're doing. It's not just another product.Raoul Benavides:
Some of it is the beauty about being so small, is that you get to be nimble. The part that's so fun, is that like you can You can direct message somebody on Instagram. And you could put things into motion so fast and in, in a certain way, have such a true connection with people that you don't know, in a way that's just really powerful and just and humbling in a way that the companies could never do.Lori Saitz:
Right. And so when people think that they're too small to have an impact, it's actually a benefit to be small, because like you said, you're nimble, you can have a time title.Raoul Benavides:
I also think, yeah, our audio is all about who, you know, we're all so different. It's about who we are, and what our world vision is, you know, right, because I, I was a photographer and because I rented equipment to photographers, I ended up being the medium for creation. So I'm like, okay, you know, we can do this in a different way. And I just love the idea of doing a limited run. You know, imagine, yes, 10,000 Lizzo super sauce saucy sauce, in every dollar goes to empowering inner-city dance programs. You know, there are so many things so many. Who doesn't want to get behind that? Especially if it's part of the culture that you already have? You know? Yeah, yeah. So have I haven't talked to her, but I've reached out to a couple of people. They're undisclosed at this point, asLori Saitz:
But now that you just said that we're putting it out to the universe. And well, I mean,Raoul Benavides:
I mean, the idea of doing something with a musician that isn't necessarily connected to a food brand, and then everything goes to like, inner-city music programs. Oh, my heart just melts. That's awesome. I'm just, I'm, I'm going to squeeze this thing together. And it's gonna be a diamond that you will be like, Oh, my God, he did it. That is my plan. Yeah,Lori Saitz:
I can see it. I see. Your vision is clear. Well, maybe not as clearly as you but pretty clearly. And I have no doubt you're going to make this a reality.
It already is. It already is. Because when you can see it. It is the whole thing. You can't see it. You can't be it.
Yeah, there you go. So speaking of music, let's let's wrap this up with what is the song that you go to when you need an extra boost? You know?Raoul Benavides:
What I mean? I say it's on the record store. All these things. I grew up in Chicago, but the most important time for me in American music is New York City-based 1968 to 1988. Disco, New Wave post-punk, the beginning of hip hop. And I am in love with this band called Television. I don't know if you know the band Television. An epic record called Marquis moon. And yeah, Marquis Moon is that is my jam.Lori Saitz:
I have to go listen to this. Because I'm so yeah, soRaoul Benavides:
Tom Verlaine that was in that band used to write stuff with Patti Smith. Richard Richard, Hal was in that band and Richard Helen the voids the blank generation you're not gonna nerd out on music forever. But Mark I love my marking I love is like I can hear it anywhere. And I'm literally like, just energy level is up and I might literally the back of my hair just tingles. It's amazing.Lori Saitz:
Cool, well, well, I will put a link to that in the show notes so everyone can go listen to it and become familiar with it. The other thing I'd like to do is put a link to how people can get in touch with you. So what is the best way to do that? And to get their hands on Heart Soul Heat. And so funny, because that stuff is good. I didn't say this before, but you sent me a bottle. And I used it this past weekend on a shrimp and vegetable dish. And it was delicious. So I got everybody listening to run out. Buy a bottle of this stuff because I it's yeah, it's good.Raoul Benavides:
A little, a little goes a long way. How can they get it you can go to heartsoulheat.com. And I'm a real love I'm on Instagram heartsoulheat.com And if anyone's interested in talking about entrepreneurship or hip hop or New York City, post-punk they could send me a DM on Instagram. I'm open to chatting with anyone who has a similar journey or is looking for some inspiration.Lori Saitz:
Awesome. Well, as I said, I'll put links in the show notes to all of that. And thank you so much for joining us today.On Fine is a 4 Letter Word.