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Keep your branding simple

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Keep it simple branding

The coffee house sketch that sparked the Bearded Brothers brand.

I can’t tell you how important it is to have great branding, and one of the keys to great branding is to keep it simple. In a sea of consumer packaged goods that are screaming for your attention, simplicity is often the best way to grab somebody’s attention. When every other package on the shelf is LOUD, when ever color demands your attention, taking lo-fi approach is quite possibly your best option. This was the idea that sparked the Bearded Brothers branding. Keep it simple, “the more simplistic the better” were the words a mentor scribbled on a Moleskine journal page! We maintain the same philosophy when creating products too. Keep it simple!

If you found this post insightful or plan on launching your own food business in 2015 you may want to sign up for my Food Launcher email list, and be the first to know when my new site launches (March 2015). Food Launcher will focus on inspiring food entrepreneurs and providing valuable information to help you get your product to market.

My three favorite Austin based companies

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Kammok LogoIf you are looking to start a business, Austin is a great place to launch from. The city is full of entrepreneurs. Even though a lot of those new businesses are tech related, there are also several amazing consumer packaged good companies started out of Austin, including my own company, Bearded Brothers.

Tech companies are a dime a dozen, but entrepreneurs producing tangible products are far fewer, so if you plan on starting a business for the world’s next greatest widget then Austin, Texas is a great place to launch from. They city is full of like minded entrepreneurs, which makes for a great pool of friends to draw from for support and encouragement.

Since starting Bearded Brothers I have meet the owners of several other companies. All of them have interesting and inspiring stories. Below is a list of my three favorite Austin based companies in the consumer packaged goods market.

Kammok
Kammok makes the most comfortable and easy to use hammock you will ever lay in. Prior to meeting these guys and trying out their product I could care less about hammocks, but now I love my Kammok.

Kammok is a 1% For The Planet member, and they donate their 1% of total sales to CTC International, as well as helping children receive life saving treatments through Malaria No More. Their mission is to Equip and Inspire for Life Changing Adventure.

SPIbelt
The world’s first, and best Small Personal Item Belt. Developed by Austin local Kim Overton to solve the problem of not having a good place to store keys while running. After her, “there has to be a better way” epiphany, she created the first SPIbelt: a small no bounce waist belt to hold small personal items such as keys and cell phones.

Her company has strong local roots. In the early days of her company she provided jobs to people in the local community that allowed them to work from home producing the belts. Kim has since moved her production process to a warehouse close to downtown, but still provides jobs for people in the local community.

Chameleon Cold-Brew
This is hands down the best cold brew coffee on the super market shelves. Started by the owners of Bennu Coffee as a side project, this small company is taking off like wild fire, and now has its product on the shelves of Target in the Southwest Region. While Chameleon is still fairly small, they are available across the nation in select stores.

I have had the pleasure to meet both of the owners, and both are very generous and always willing to talk business and offer advice. Chameleon and Bearded Brothers actually recently attended Expo West in Anaheim California and were just two both spaces down from each other!


There are many other amazing companies in Austin, making it an excellent place to start a business. The community here is very supportive of local products, making it easier to get your business off the ground by getting support from the people you live closest to.

Although you will find the cost of living in Austin quite a bit higher than a lot of places, the trade off is worth it for the community of like-minded entrepreneurs you will have access to. If you are thinking of starting a consumer packaged goods business, Austin is the place!

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.