June 28, 2013

Entrepreneur Spotlight: FlapJacked

flapjacked pancake mixFlapJacked, was started by two athletic parents who kept running into one problem again and again.  They wanted to be able to give their kids their favorite breakfast – pancakes – but didn’t want them to be hungry again an hour later.  As an active family that is focused on nutrition, Jennifer and David Bacon figured there had to be a better way.

FlapJacked is a high protein pancake mix.  How did you come up with the idea to incorporate protein and pancakes?

Jennifer Bacon: As athletes and runners, we are an active family often going out of our way to make healthy choices. Breakfast is always a big deal in our house. We wake up early to fix a hot breakfast, packing fresh healthy and well-balanced school lunches. We all LOVE pancakes but are never sustained after eating them and are hungry throughout the day when we do. We had been adding protein to our baked goods or changing recipes dramatically and found it a hassle to repeatedly follow these steps. Over time, we walked away from pre-made mix’s, as they required that the consumer add other ingredients as well such as eggs, milk, oil, etc.) and were often not the healthiest ingredients. Through trial and error we developed a healthy pancake recipe that we all enjoy using whole grain ingredients, is lower in carbohydrates, high in protein, has a significant amount of fiber and is naturally sweetened using fruit.  This remedy is one that sustains us for hours.  There’s nothing like it on the market today and we’re excited to offer a healthier pancake to others.

When did you start FlapJacked?

We “officially” started our LLC for JaceyCakes (the original name of the product, now turned into our company name) in October 2012.  Our Brand, FlapJacked™ launched online and began sales on February 1st, 2013.

What were you and David doing prior to starting this food company?  What are your backgrounds?

Jennifer grew up helping her mother grow and preserve the family garden, learning an early appreciationflapjacked2 of local and homegrown ingredients.  She double majored with a B.F.A. in Advertising and Photography from Columbus College of Art and Design which launched her into a career of brand building for (until now) 20 years.

Jennifer’s rich brand building history began in Chicago as owner of a small design firm, Definery Inc. 12 years later, moving to Cincinnati to join LPK as Sr. Design Director on the P&G Brands, Pampers® and Kandoo®. She spent her days learning about babies both at work and at home as a new mom of twin girls. Most recently, Jennifer led global design strategy for Kotex®, Poise® and Depend® brands at Kimberly-Clark, where, she not only grew as a mother, but she progressed as a design leader. Jennifer’s unique visionary leadership enabled the brands to push design, (just as life) beyond the expected. Her work on U by Kotex earned a Platinum Pentaward, was named one of “America’s Hottest Brands” by Advertising Age and awarded Product of the Year voted by 60,000 consumers.

Jennifer’s rich branding experience coupled with her core love for the outdoors and food has led her on this journey with her family.  And so a new chapter begins…Jennifer’s current goals include instilling the simple beliefs that bring her back to the rural town in Ohio…

Dave grew up in New York and New Jersey, but yearned to keep moving.  From the time he can remember, Dave was a typical boy into sports, cars and anything moving fast from wheels to wings. He quickly learned he wanted to fly airplanes for a living.  He attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL where he obtained a BS in Aeronautical Science.  From that point on, he was only going up (no pun intended). 20 years later he is now a pilot for USAirways based in Phoenix, Arizona flying the Airbus 320 series both domestically and internationally throughout United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America.

Tell us a little about the ideation process – did you start out trying to find a product you would start a company around or did you have a great product that you decided to start selling?

It was more around a great tasting product that we decided to build a business around BECAUSE we couldn’t find a product and realized there was a market void. We have searched high and low for the perfect pancake mix that’s nutritious, clean and high in protein and there are no such products sold to consumers who shop grocery, mass or farmers market stores, which, as busy working parents, we found irritating.  Additionally we struggle with getting good nutrition into our 9-year old son with Autism, Jace, whose diet consists of products produced with ingredients we aren’t exactly proud of.

We realized this is a missed opportunity and JaceyCakes was born; a quick and easy pancake mix that provides perfectly balanced nutrition for active families and people with active and fast-paced lifestyles.  The ideation process not only consisted of round after round of recipe versions and testing new grains and ingredients but we also spent a lot of time researching each ingredient, their scientific and nutritional values and innovating until just the right recipe was achieved. (Which had to pass our taste test “panel” of 5 kids) We took one recipe (buttermilk) and tested with 200+ people around the country for anonymous feedback and learned a great deal.  We modified our recipe from the collective feedback and were confident that we were ready to launch. The other two flavors came fairly easy after we had created our base formula.

Tell us about the need for protein at breakfast.  Why is it important?

Breakfast gives us the fuel we need to start the day as well as the energy we need to keep our metabolism up and running. Eating a breakfast high in protein and fiber is a great way to gain energy, feel full longer and to help us avoid snacking.

How long did you ‘tweak’ your initial product/recipe before you felt ready to actually start the company?

From the time we tested with our 200+ consumers, it was about 3 months.  Prior to sending out our tested recipe, we worked on formulations for a little over a year.  I’m constantly over-thinking my product and wanting to improve it.   High quality, great tasting pancakes are our ultimate goal.

It’s obvious that your five children are central to your lives and your company.  Can you tell us a little bit about how they provided inspiration for the company.

Our family has been a melting pot full of challenges that that we hurdle almost daily.  We have a set of twins, one child with Autism and one child with Epilepsy. They were the very inspiration, not only for the healthy pancake mix recipes, but the passion and personality of the FlapJacked brand. This has truly been a family journey from the very beginning.  Our children have inspired the flavors by being our relentless, hard to please taste-testers. They have inspired the playful touch to our graphics as they were our chalk artists for the packaging and they inspired our Identity through their playfulness of our everyday lives as reflected in the 5 silhouettes that represent each of them. Josie and Ellie assisted the product photography as they have an incredible desire to learn about photography. Lastly, our children have given us the drive and strength through their ever changing of minds, their passions and their individualism. We are all unique but we all strive for a common ground… great tasting, nutritionally balanced, delicious pancakes!

Do you do the physical creating and packaging of the product or do you work with a copacker?

Right now, Dave and I are the bones and the muscle. We designed the packaging, the product and our brand.  Dave or I physically touch every aspect of every package.  It is important to us that we deliver a quality product with outstanding service. We signed on with a Commercial Kitchen/Food Manufacturing facility called The Kitchen Coop, that offers us the equipment, space, etc. to make our product efficiently and effectively until we outgrow it.

Do both of you work full-time in the company or do one/both of you work elsewhere as well?  Either way, how do you manage the company and five kids (it looks in your picture like all kids are under 12 right now, is that right?)?

flapjacked3This is a great question! First of all, yes, all 5 are 12 and under. I work full-time building FlapJacked but also full-time raising the kids.  Since our children are all school-aged, we have the majority of the day to focus on the business, but the kids are also at that age where they don’t require us to entertain them 100% of the time. We always eat 2 meals/day together. I stop at 5:00 to have family time and pick back up (if necessary) after the kids go to bet at 8:00. (Life as an entrepeneur, we work all we can, when we can, but try to breathe in between) On days when we are really hectic, we do have family and friends that help here and there with the kids and in the summer, we have a full-time nanny during the day. Dave also works full-time with the company but in his “spare time” he’s an airline pilot.  He typically travels 4 days/week.

Where are your products mainly sold at this point?  Who’s your target market?

We currently sell online at www.flapjacked.com or through www.amazon.com. But are in the process of working two regional retailers. Hopefully soon you will see us on shelves! We target active athletes and families who want to improve their eating habits or maintain their health and care about balanced nutrition.

How do you spread the word about FlapJacked?

We’ve used a few channels:

1) Social Media. Social media is big for us and we spend a lot of time promoting online. We have heavily campaigned on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.  We sell on Amazon and promote through Google ads, Bing ads, and Facebook ads.

2) Sampling. We have been included in several online subscription sampling programs such as PumpUps.com, Boxtera.com, Bestowed.com and shipping this June is Bulubox.com.

3) TV. We will be featured on Let’s Talk Live, D.C. with Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D.

4) Bloggers / TV icons.  We have sampled with many bloggers who have posted reviews, Tweeted or talked about FlapJacked.

5) Everything else we can do to get people to hear about our product.

Are you willing to share with us the biggest mistake you’ve made to date with the company?

To date, the only mistake that we’ve made (that I’m aware of) ended up being more time-consuming than anything. We did not purchase our UPC codes from a certified supplier that a few large retailers require.  We printed 45,000 bags with the wrong UPC codes.  Now we have to sticker over (by hand) 30,000 of those bags in order to sell in retail.  I’m guessing, that this is a common mistake new business owners make when launching a product online prior to looking into retail requirements.

On the flip side, what’s your favorite part of the running the business?

The ultimate rewards of this business are the reviews that we get from our customers.  I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see a new (5-star) review posted on our website telling us about how much they have enjoyed our product; or getting emails from customers who have read our story and have their own to share about their families, their experiences, or simply the enjoyment they have shared with their loved ones over a FlapJacked meal.

Outside of pleasing our customers, we have learned a tremendous amount and the journey is just beginning for us.  We came into this business knowing very little about running a food company.  Every day we learn something new, if not about the industry, we learn about each other and ourselves and is just one more facet that brings our family closer with each milestone and step.  I can honestly say that I love my job.

Check out the FlapJacked website for more information about the company, complete with some great posts on their company blog. 

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2 comments on “Entrepreneur Spotlight: FlapJacked

  • Jim Lewis on said:

    I tried this product and the flapjacks are great! You didn’t have that heavy feeling after eating them for breakfast. The middle dough consistency is airy and tasty. I’m a convert to this protein packed pancake.