Screw the Naysayers. Learn From Beryl Stafford and Her Vegan Snack Success
Sometimes, having the world against you is a good thing. You realize whatever you’re trying to accomplish is bigger than what most people believe is possible. And if you were to accomplish it, the world would bow down in adoration. You wouldn’t think the world would be against a new kind of vegan cereal bar. But only 6% of U.S. consumers claim to be vegan. And most people don’t understand vegetarianism let alone veganism. (You’re vegetarian? Ok, I’ll fix chicken!)
When Beryl Stafford began baking oat bars and wrapping them in Saran wrap, she wasn’t exactly gunning to change the world’s mind about vegan snacks. Instead, she was hoping to avoid a boring 9-5 and the whole panty-hose and uncomfortable pants-suit culture.
Here’s how she fought through the naysayers and came out on top. Hint: she never gave into the pants-suit culture.
1. Stafford Started Small and Local
Whenever you buy a cookie at your local cafe, you might be eating the next great snack food. Often, part-time bakers will sell primarily to local cafes with no thought to conquering the world with their baked goods. Beryll Stafford was no different.
Recently divorced, Stafford’s lawyer told her to get a job. She thought this was rude and instead decided to start a business instead. She rented a small commercial kitchen and began baking a few hours a week. She joined up with a local food accelerator to learn about the food business as well.
She spent several years baking part time and selling to local cafes. She never expected her products to leave her small city in the Colorado foothills.
It wasn’t until the local Whole Foods purchasing agent tried Stafford’s bars, did the possibility of larger dreams become a reality. All it took was an impromptu pitch and she had the regional office giving her a call about expanding to 20 different stores.
It was then she realized it was possible to turn her side business into a main gig.
2. Sometimes it Takes Boots on the Ground
Like all great revolutions, Beryl Stafford’s vegan snack product relied on a ground game to rival the biggest political campaign. She actually went to southern California and hand-delivered bars to Whole Foods reps in store.
She eventually found a distributor in the area willing to ship her product en mass. This was the gateway to a larger operation.
A boots-on-the-ground strategy isn’t exactly glamorous. The trouble with having the world (and even your accountant) against you, is that you’re the general and the army. You work all the hours and do all the work. Yes, you have nobody telling you what to do, but your ambition becomes your slave driver.
3. Early Struggles During Growth
If you look at a Bobo’s oat bar now, you would think it was baked locally. While Stafford ditched her original Saran wrap packaging, she wanted her product to remain as “homemade” as possible.
But homemade isn’t exactly easy to scale. Imagine going back in time to when we had no machines. A bread factory employed thousands of people to bake bread.
In our society of fast and efficient everything, it seems crazy to insist on hand baked goods sold in bulk. But Bobo’s accomplishes this with only 100 bakers and about 7,000 pans.
Stafford’s quality control actually looks for “imperfection” in their product’s shape as a sign of that precious homemade look.
On top of how to maintain a homemade look, Stafford struggled with packaging. She wanted customers to see the actual bar and not some picture or graphical depiction. The packaging needed to be clear.
But clear packaging decreases shelf-life. This caveat would decrease revenue and growth, but Stafford stuck to her guns.
4. Where is Bobo’s Going Today
It’s been 15 years since Stafford named her oat bars using her daughter’s nickname. We wouldn’t be talking about Bobo’s today if Stafford hadn’t fought for her vision. Her vision looks like $8 million in investment funding in 2017.
Bobo’s is doubling the number of accounts and revenue each year. They’re also increasing revenue from existing accounts, meaning existing inventory is flying off the shelves.
This brought Bobo’s inventing new products.
The Vegan “Pop-Tart”
Bobo’s was merely a cereal bar made with natural ingredients until recently. Now they’ve introduced a toaster-ready product to their line-up. The Bobo’s Toast’r comes in Blueberry Lemon Poppyseed, Strawberry Jam, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Almond Butter.
These flavors aren’t something you’ll find in your typical box of sugary, health-destroying Pop Tarts. And they’re made with gluten-free, non-GMO vegan ingredients to boot.
The basic ingredients of Bobo’s hasn’t changed. The new Toast’rs are just a new configuration of the classic Bobo’s oat bars.
Since the beginning, Bobo’s has expanded beyond Whole Foods. You’ll find the tasty snack at your local Kroger and Wegman’s and other regional chains thanks to creative digital marketing.
Bobo’s also recently partnered with Barnana, a company that tries to eliminate food waste on banana farms. They upcycle “imperfect” bananas to food companies who will don’t care if their bananas are bruised.
An Unabashed Vision
When you walk into your local grocery store and walk down the snack aisle, you’ll notice a glut of major corporate products on the shelf. It takes the bravery of a few to introduce a better product into such a competitive market.
Bobo’s is proof that sticking to a vision founded in unabashed and solid values can bring success. It takes dedication and more work than you might imagine. But the reward is great.
What is your vision? Are you ready to launch out and face the world? Let me know in the comments below.