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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.

Food Launcher Coming in March 2015

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It’s a new year, which means new goals, new projects, and new adventures. I feel 2015 is going to shape up to be an awesome year for me. I have decided to take on a big personal project, a side business if you will. The project is going to be called Food Launcher. Food Launcher is going to be a website/blog dedicated to helping startup food businesses get their project off the ground.

I haven’t decided for certain what all the site will have, but rest assured the site will be full of useful content for aspiring food entrepreneurs, such as blog posts, interviews, podcasts, and even a valuable ebook. This project is starting out of my own desire to help other aspiring food businesses launch and get their product to market. I remember vividly still all the frustrations and struggles I faced when starting Bearded Brothers. My goal is that Food Launcher will make it MUCH easier for new food businesses to launch.

So with that said, please sign up for my email list and you will be the first to know when Food Launcher goes live!

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.

Just label it with a YUCK FACE

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Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are in foods everywhere, but you would never know it because there are no labeling requirements for manufacturers stating that they must let consumers know what is really in the food they are eating.

California recently tried to pass a law that would require GMO foods to be labeled, and Washington state is currently trying to pass Initiative 522. California’s Prop 37 was defeated as a result of a last minute propaganda push by food giant Monsanto and other large food manufacturers.

I find it ridiculous that we require food manufacturers to PAY to disclose clean ingredients, i.e. Certified Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten Free, Kosher, etc. THIS is what is causing our food prices to rise:  not requiring labeling for GMO foods. The only price increase for manufacturers would be a change in the packaging, which is minimal compared to the annual fees clean food producers have to pay to get certifications.

I’m proposing a couple of easy changes in the food-manufacturing world that would help reduce the cost of clean foods for everybody.

  1. Stop requiring food manufacturers to pay to make the organic claim. Notice I didn’t say stop charging the farmers to get their certification. There does have to be some checks in place to ensure the product is clean, but if a food manufacturer buying ingredients from organic farmers wants to make the organic claim on the package, they should be able to without paying to do so.
  2. Start requiring manufacturers using GMOs in their foods to use one of the following icons on the package, so consumers know what they are really getting
    Yuck Face - GM

    The poison control yuck face….this should be required on all products containing GMO’s.

    Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 9.22.18 AM

    An alternative GMO labeling requirement…the skull and crossbones.

The new awareness would help drive an increase in the demand for clean food, thus driving down the overall cost to consumers. It’s simple economies of scale.

The reason why there is so much push back from major food manufacturers is they don’t have a large line of organic products in their mix. They are afraid of losing busin ess to smaller companies that provide clean foods.

I will say this, though… these changes and requirements can’t be made overnight. Whole Foods is requiring the labeling of GMOs in all foods on their shelf by 2018. They reason they gave a deadline so far in the future was to give vendors/manufacturers time to source non-GMO ingredients and to make the appropriate changes, so they aren’t required to get the mark of death on their product (via a shelf tag).

Considering there is a lack of organic farming, there would have to be a reasonable timeline given so farmers could make the transition to organic to meet the new demand. It’s a needed change. It just won’t be made overnight.

I’m constantly frustrated as a food manufacturer that we are being penalized for providing clean, organic, non-GMO products to the market, and yet companies that are poisoning us are going unchecked and un-penalized. It’s high time we make a change, before we all get cancer and die from the food we are eating.



8 Reasons to start your business in Austin and 4 reasons you may want to reconsider

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So, you want to choose the best city to start your new business? If you have asked yourself that question, I’m sure you have thought about Austin. Having lived in Dallas before moving here I firmly believe Austin is one of the best places for any startup, whether it be tech, product oriented, or food.

Here are 8 compelling reasons to start your business in Austin.

  1. The community screams, “Support Local.” With several farmers markets, several organic farms, and hundreds of locally owned coffee shops (as well as other businesses), this community is local proud, and loves supporting local brands.
  2. Business incubators abound, and not just tech incubators. It’s home to Incubation Station, a business incubator geared towards consumer packaged goods, and there are plenty of office spaces geared towards co-working.
  3. High net worth community. If you are looking for investors, Austin is filled with people of high net worth in a relatively small area. Austin may be big, but it has a small town feel.
  4. Networking is a breeze. Because Austin has a small town feel it’s easy to network and meet new people to partner with. And, since the community is so supportive of local you won’t have a problem finding somebody willing to give you a moment of their time to help you with your startup.
  5. Looking to start a consumer goods food business? Austin is the Silicon Valley of food. There are numerous packaged food companies in Austin, some already large, some on the rise. A few of them are: Sweet Leaf Tea, Oatmega Bar (Boundless Nutrition), Bearded Brothers, Kosmic Kombucha, Daily Greens, Food for Lovers, Zhi Tea, and many more.
  6. Festivals abound! Aside from the business side of things, there is some sort of festival going on nearly every weekend. There is not shortage of quality entertainment here in Austin, and many of the events are free.
  7. If you love the outdoors then Austin is a wonderful place to live. There is access to the Greenbelt trail system from downtown, cycling routes through the beautiful hill country, and you have loads of State Parks within an hour and a half driving distance from town.
  8. Food trucks, food trucks, food trucks. LOTS of them, on every other corner! Not only that but Austin is also home to several other fine eateries. Austin is often known as the music capital of the US, but it is also a great place to eat!
Town Lake Austin

Austin’s Town Lake from the I35 pedestrian walkway.

 But Austin also has its drawbacks; here are some reasons you might make you reconsider

  1. Traffic is a nightmare. If you think traffic is bad where you live, Dallas I’m talking to you, try living in Austin. It may take you forty-five minutes to an hour to drive 35 miles in DFW, but in Austin it will take you an hour just to drive 12 miles during rush hour.
  2. The population is BOOMING. Hundreds of people are moving to Austin every day, condos are going up on every other corner, especially near downtown. Yet nothing is done to improve the roads. The population is getting dense.
  3. If you need your own office or production facility built, the city is currently backlogged with permits. It may take months to get your plans approved.
  4. Even finding already existing office/production space can be difficult because so many other startups are looking for the same type of space.


There will be cons anywhere you live, but even in locations like Austin that have a list of cons, the pros far outweigh them. Otherwise, why would people flock there? I love Austin, it’s one of two places in Texas I would want to live, the other being Denton. But, as a business owner and a lover of the outdoors I feel Austin is the perfect home in Texas.