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Category Archives: Startup LIfe

You don’t have to be an expert to start a business

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You don’t have to be an expert in a given industry to start a business. When Chris and I started Bearded Brothers, A Wholesome Snackfood Company, neither one of us had any experience in the food manufacturing industry. Heck, the closest job in food either of us had was the one I had working behind a sea food counter in High School at Albertsons: which ironically became our first commercial kitchen. We worked out of a re-purposed Albertson’s building and our kitchen space was the old butcher block/sea food counter.

Anyway, back to my point. Lack of experience did not stop us from pursuing bringing our organic, raw, vegan, gluten & soy free energy bars to market. We believed we had a superior product that people wanted, and we busted our butts to figure out all the laws and regulations in order to get our business off the ground. We literally started knowing nothing about this!

We learned as we grew. Four years later, we are still learning, and our business is still growing and thriving. Just because you feel you can’t do something because you lack the experience doesn’t mean it can’t happen. You just have to make it happen.

We azig_ziglar_help_enough (1)lso relied on the generosity of others. We called other established business in the food industry and asked them questions. There really wasn’t anybody that I can remember that turned down spending a few minutes with us to ask some questions to help get our business off the ground. We are now returning the favor offering other small business the same advice we were given.

I love the Zig Zgilar quote, “You can have everything you want I life if you will just help enough people get what they want.” It is now a motto I put into practice because others did the same for me.

10 must know tips for starting a packaged foods business

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Chris and Caleb, owners of Bearded Brothers.

Chris and Caleb, owners of Bearded Brothers.

Starting a business is never easy, and starting a business in an industry that has a lot of red tape and is highly competitive is even more difficult. When Chris and I launched Bearded Brothers neither one of us know anything about the packaged food industry and very little about running our own business. Everything we have learned, we have learned by doing and by talking to other people that have been through it already.

Here are 10 tips that will help you get your new food business started.

1. Ditch the business plan
Don’t waste your time on overly complex business plans that you will never use. Do, however, know the market well enough to come up with a small marketing plan and a simple growth strategy. It can be as simple as; “We plan on growing our product in the natural channel and get into all Whole Foods locations across the nation.”

2. Have an awesome product
Before you launch make sure you have your recipe nailed down. Don’t launch something mediocre, because it won’t work. Share your recipes with friends and family to get feedback. Before the launch of Bearded Brothers we had eight flavors, but only launched the top four that we determined from a taste testing party we had with friends.

3. Follow the 10% Rule
If you have any chance of succeeding your product needs to be at least 10% better than anything else on the market. It’s going to have to taste better, contain better ingredients; the packaging is even going to have to be better. Bearded Brothers has a compostable package to help set it apart.

4. Don’t compete on price
Set your price so that you will have a 45% Gross Profit Margin selling to a DISTRIBUTOR, not direct to the store. We made the mistake early on of pricing our product as if we were selling direct to the store. Thankfully we realized our error early enough and raised our prices. The important thing here is to charge what your product is actually worth and cover your costs so you will become profitable as quickly as possible.

5. Knock on doors
Launching your product is going to be a full time job. You are going to spend half your time making the product and half the time trying to sell it. When I started Bearded Brothers my mornings were spent making the bars, and afternoons were spent delivering product and visiting store after store to try and get them to carry our product. This persistence paid off to the point other store owners now stumble across our product and call us to place orders without me ever having visited them.

6. Know the local laws
The local laws all vary, but you are going to have to secure several permits to start your food business. Some states allow you to operate out of your home in the early stages, while others will require you to rent commercial kitchen space. There are some places dedicated to just renting out space to startup food companies. Your second option would be to lease from an existing business that has extra space. The two major places you will have to register with are the FDA Reportable Foods Registry and the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. You may also be required to get a state health inspection in addition to your local inspection.

7. Develop an awesome brand
Don’t just come up with a clever name, but develop a brand around that name. Engage with your new customers online (and at product demos) and build a loyal following of fans. Your goal should be to build a lifestyle brand, not just a product. Bearded Brothers for examples embraces outdoor adventure, health, fitness, and healthy eating.

8. Follow one course until success (FOCUS)
is an acronym coined by Entrepreneur On Fire host Jonathan Lee Dumas. It means your focus should be singular until you reach success in that area. Don’t start trying to branch out and expand your business into other areas until you have truly reached success with your current product. This doesn’t mean you can’t launch new products, it just means they need to fall in in line with what you are currently offering (such as a new flavor, or similar product category), and your focus should remain on growing the brand until it is HUGE (if that is your goal).

9. Have a mentor, or mentors
I have a couple different people I can go to and bounce ideas off of. One is experienced in the industry, and the other is more business minded. It’s important to have other entrepreneurs to look up to and get feedback from. Many times you can learn from their mistakes without having to make them yourself.

10. Network with other companies
Get to know other food companies; reach out to them over email, ask them questions, talk to them at trade shows. When you first start out in the industry you probably won’t know that many fellow food producers, but the longer you are in the game the more people you will meet. It’s helpful to have other fellow food producers to chat with, get advice from, and share resources. Just in the past month I was able to get some recommendations for organic certifying agencies, which saved me hours research time.

Growing your food business will be tough, especially if you have zero experience in the industry. Many times you won’t know where to look for answers. Your best bet is always to ask somebody experienced. You would be surprised at how many people are willing to give you a moment of their time.

The Forced 4-Hour Work Week

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It’s a bit ironic that I have been forced into my own 4-hour workweek as I’m reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. I have been enjoying the book quite a bit, but at the same time I think a lot of his ideas are far fetched, stupid, and immature. I do however see a lot of value in things like, automation, limiting the time you check emails, and empowering employees.

I have long wanted to find a job where I can work limited hours and have more time to enjoy life, and not just WORK. Since starting Bearded Brothers I have been very disciplined to limit my work to around 40 hours a week on most weeks, but I still dream of working remotely in Colorado during the summer to escape the brutal Texas heat. Yet I have not seen this as possible for several reasons, until now.

These past few weeks have been a forced experiment of a 4-hour workweek. Three weeks ago my wife and I welcomed my son Joshua into the world. I took paternity leave the following week. The week after that started with a holiday, so the week was short, and I limited my time in the office to be with my wife and newborn. The week following my wife got sick, so I was spending yet another week away from the office.

I never stopped working completely during this time, but my work was limited. I only really checked my email a couple times a day – although force of habit had me checking my phone on occasion, but far less than usual. I only took phone meetings if absolutely necessary, and I put a couple projects on the back burner and spent a limited amount of time on them.

This experiment has taught me several things:

    1. I don’t have to be in the captain’s chair at the office for things to flow smoothly. I have known this for a while now, but after three weeks of being absent, or having a limited presence in the office, it is even clearer…. My team ROCKS! This wasn’t always the case, but the main lesson I have learned is to hire slow, and spend time finding the right people. You don’t want crazy working for you – THAT will stress you out and you will never feel like you can step away for a long period of time.
    2. Checking email several times throughout the day is NOT necessary. I’ve recently achieved the infamous “Inbox Zero,” and having a well-managed inbox has helped with this. During my time out of the office I limited my time responding to email to a couple times a day. I did however glance at it several times a day, out of habit, but even that I began to see was unnecessary. Moving forward I plan to only spend time in my Inbox a couple times a day.
    3. My business is much more automated than I thought. It took a long time to get there though. There was a point in time I was making the energy bars, delivering them, cutting checks, placing orders, getting new accounts, and running the payroll. Now, I’m more of a backseat driver. I’m not outsourcing anything, but I have put into place my own “in-house automation.” Bearded Brothers has built a solid reliable team that can be trusted in the absence of management.
    4. The concept of Lifestyle Design and Mini Retirements are not out of reach. My dream to spend my summers working remotely is a very likely reality next summer. Being away these past few weeks has shown me that I have a solid crew working for me that needs very little supervision. Any problems that arise can be solved with a simple phone call or text message.

When I first started reading the chapters in Tim’s book about outsourcing and automation, I was thinking there is no way my business can run like that, but in a way it already is. Just not in the sense of foreign outsourcing. I honestly have to say in the most humble way possible, it feels amazing to have built a business with the help of my amazing business partner that can run in our absence.

The only hard part about pulling the trigger on more remote working is being absent from my team. I love the relationships I have built with them, and love being available for them. But, the reality of it is, I’m more than likely using that as an excuse to not do something bold and exciting. More than likely, I will walk back into the office next week, my team will be happy to see me and things will continue to operate the same as always, which is the same with me in the office or out.

Fatherpreneurship, six tips for being a great business owner and father

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First of all I’m super excited to announce the birth of my son Joshua. He was born on Friday, May 16 at 3:44 p.m. He weighted 10lbs 9oz. My wife is a super woman, and has done something infinitely harder than any Ultra Marathon I will ever run.

Hello, World!

Hello, World!

The birth of Joshua got me thinking a lot about how much of a privilege it is to have a family and be an entrepreneur. Running your own business essentially allows you to set your own schedule so that you can have more time with family.

Here are six tips for being an awesome father and entrepreneur. For some entrepreneurs, this might not be easy, but I can tell you from personal experience these things work, and are totally worth it. It will strengthen your relationship with your kids, and your spouse.

1. Don’t make 50-60 hour workweeks the norm. Limit your workweeks to 40 hours or less on a normal week. If you do find yourself needing extra hours to get things done, wake up early in the morning to complete those tasks, rather than cutting into family time in the evening.

2. Establish a work cut off time. For me this is typically 5pm, but I sometimes take calls until 6pm because of time zone differences. Once I’m home, that time is family time. I even have my phone scheduled to enter do not disturb mode every day at 6pm, and it stays that way until 7am the next day.

3. The home life is your sanctuary. Guard the time you have with your family in the evening. Resist checking email, and don’t check social media. I admit these are actually hard ones fore me to be consistent with, but when I do I find the time with my daughter and newborn son much more rich, and my wife appreciates it A LOT as well.

4. Take your kids along for the ride. We all have hobbies, so include them in your hobbies with you. I love running and rock climbing, so I try to take my daughter on a run with me at least once a week, and I bring her to the crag to go climbing whenever I can. The running actually ends up giving my wife a break from taking care of the little one, and the trips to the crag give the entire family time to bond. Sure, your training plans are going to look different with a little one in tow, but sharing the joys you have with your children are far more important than setting a new PR in your next race.

5. Stop being selfish. Just as you have to focus on the needs of your team to have a successful business, you have to focus on the needs of your family to have a rocking family life. If you focus less on yourself and more on your little ones and wife, life will be much more rich.

6. Get your work life organized. If you struggle working 50-60 hours a week, chances are you are not working efficiently, and are wasting lots of time. The most valuable thing you can do for yourself and your family is to get organized so that you can peacefully leave work at the end of each day and be devoted to family time. I highly recommend the KanBan system for organization, as well as reading Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Being overworked sucks! Being in control of your work and spending time with your family is awesome. How do you manage running a business and carving out quality time with your family?

How to love your entrepreneur

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Caleb, Kristy, and Abigail

Caleb, Kristy, and Abigail

Today, I present you with a guest post from my loving and supporting wife, Kristy. She has been right by my side ever since starting my entrepreneurial  journey with Bearded Brothers. It has been amazing to have such a supportive wife by my side over the past three years. We have both learned a lot during that time, and today Kristy shares her advice for other wives of entrepreneurs.

I’m no marriage or business expert, but I have had the privileged of being married to a visionary man and learning from his entrepreneurial spirit. Our journey has not always been easy and most of what I’ve learned so far has been trial and error (mostly error). Every now and then, women will ask me how I do it. I imagine what they mean is how do I stay (somewhat) flexible and (mostly) sane under the pressure of starting a family business. Well, here are just a few lessons I’ve learned along my path of loving my entrepreneur

1- I am his biggest fan, not his critic. This is especially important in the early, formative stages of the business planning. When Caleb first entertained the idea of starting Bearded Brothers, there was a fair amount of uncertainty in both of us. I could have easily pointed out every reason why this was a risky move, but I chose to cheer him on. Thankfully, I had already learned from wiser women that encouraging my husband to follow his dreams does not mean passively saying, “Whatever you want, Dear.” What it does mean is giving him the space and support to figure things out on his own, knowing that I’ve got his back, even if his idea fails completely.

2- I am his sounding board. This one is probably the most difficult for me to master. Caleb and I have always enjoyed recapping our days over dinner. We share our highlights, problems and triumphs. This was all great, until we started a family business. Now, when he comes home with worries and set-backs, it is personal. I mean, if he comes home worried about making payroll or paying rent on the commercial kitchen, I naturally want to freak out. Because not making payroll means we don’t eat. I’ve had to learn the hard way that what he needs in those moments is for me to listen and let him mentally unload. My job is to let his worries be his worries and not take them on and try to solve them myself. Do I occasionally give him my advice? Yes. But I try to choose those moments wisely.

3- I help him separate work from home. It is so easy for entrepreneurs to be workaholics and I understand why. There is never an end to Caleb’s to-do list and, these days, business is happening 24/7. Making sure your family and marriage get quality time is tough, but so worth it. I suggest communicating early on about expectations. Does the phone turn off at 6pm? Are there appropriate/inappropriate times for checking email? Are tweets and status updates considered date night activities? Having these conversations will hopefully keep you from resenting his work and keep him from being consumed by it.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into our marriage and that you will find some benefit from it. Loving an entrepreneur isn’t always easy, but knowing you are following the man you love on the journey toward his dream job is an amazing experience. I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights from your journey!