June 17, 2019

Taking The Time To Get It Right (PODCAST)

When Brenden Schaefer left his full-time job to start Bright Foods, he’s already spent considerable time doing market research and product development to make sure his product was market ready. But when a major retailer approached him about being carried on their shelves, Brenden took the bold step of saying he wanted to wait six months to make sure his product was perfect. It was a definite risk – would it pay off?


Jennifer: Today we talk with Brenden Schaefer, the founder and CEO of Bright Foods. Bright Foods, which you can learn more about by visiting brightfoods.com, is a Southern Californian-based health food company that specializes in chilled, plant-based whole food bars that combine organic veggies, fruits, nuts and superfoods into a delicious snack you can hold in one hand. Simply put: it’s real food that nourishes you (with ingredients you find in your local produce aisle). Bright Foods’ bars are stored in the fridge, but can be taken on the go for 24 hours. Now available in grocery stores in Southern California and Sprouts Farmers Markets nationally. Brenden, thanks for being on today.

Brenden: Thanks for having me.

Jennifer: I am interested in having you tell our listeners a little bit about your background, because you started up your company, Bright Foods, but you weren’t necessarily new to the food industry. So tell us a little bit about your background, and then also, I guess moment when you decided to take that leap and strike out on your own, because that can be a scary point.

Brenden: Yeah, it definitely can. Food is my professional and personal passion. I first fell in love with it in college, and at various points thought I was going to become a chef and try working in the kitchen at restaurants, thought I might do food PR. I basically was poking my finger into all different aspects of the industry to figure out where I fit, and over time, what I realized was I loved the creative side of food, but then I also found the business side of it just fascinating. I’m a total nerd, and I loved reading the trade journals and I loved thinking about consumers and marketing, and kind of what I’ll call the whole analytical side of things.

I ended up doing a stint in management consulting, and that actually just further cemented for me that what I wanted to do was work in food. I actually, about aged 21, decided I want to one day start my own food company. It just seemed like the way to be creative and be in business, combine those two things together in really a unique and individual way. When I was 27, I went to go work for Pepsi, and my whole really MO when I got to the company was, “I want to come here and learn as much as I possibly can, so that when I go do my own thing, I’ll be as prepared as I possibly can.”

Originally, I thought I would probably spend two to four years there. I ended up spending almost nine. I started my career in a pretty unusual group. It was the corporate strategy team. There were eight of us. We reported directly to the CEO of the company. It was a pretty surreal experience. And for the first two years there, whatever the CEO was trying to solve, those were the projects that basically got passed down to our team. At one point she sent a three line email which said, “Bottled water sales are falling. How do we bend the curve?” And we did a whole project understanding what’s happening with bottled water, what’s working well, what’s not, all the consumer backlash, environmental backlash, looked at different solutions.

I ended up spending six months in China working for the president of Pepsi Asia, and there the question was how do we win in China, so what products do you offer, how do you market them, where do you put your plants? I never went to business school. My undergrad degree was in English literature, and those two years in that corporate strategy group really were my consumer products business school.

Jennifer: They sound like an MBA course.

Brenden: Yeah. It essentially was. The amazing thing about this program was at the end of those two years, some people chose to go back to business school, but they said, “If you want to stay with the company, you can go and take a job anywhere in basically the company and anywhere in the world, so marketing, finance, supply chain, operations. As I mentioned, I love almost all things creative, and I really wanted to do something that was creative and analytical, and I also wanted the experience of running something, and so marketing seemed like the best fit, it felt like the best fit.

Brenden: I talked to a bunch of different teams and then I went to be the brand manager on a brand called Propel, which was an offshoot of Gatorade. It was like an electrolyte enhanced water. And I did that for a couple of years, and then Pepsi had opened up this venture and emerging brands group in Los Angeles, and the whole idea was we’re going to… They bought Naked Juice and they bought a brand called IZZE, and they said, “We’re going to leave them far away from New York, so that they can be on their own and not get sucked into the mothership.”

Brenden: It was kind of my dream to work on Naked Juice just because in addition to loving food I’m a cyclist and I do a lot of yoga, and it was a brand that I just thought, “Okay, I can wrap my arms around this. I believe in what they’re doing.” The company moved me out to California, and then I ended up running marketing for Naked Juice. Then at the end there were a couple of other brands, IZZE being one, Coconut Water being another, that I ended up running marketing for those as well.

Brenden: So really just an incredible education. Incredible company. And it formed the basis of a lot of what I learned, or kind of set me up to make that jump. And to that point, making a jump, there’s so much that we can talk about there. I think that the headline is terrifying, full stop. And there are many reasons why. I’ll stop here, and I’ll just pass the baton back to you, and we can either dive into that or if you want to go onto something else we can do that as well.

Jennifer: I was going to say, because you listening to you talk, I mean it sounds as though you still hold a lot of affinity for the company, for the people you worked with, for the brands that you worked on, for the mission of some of the products that you were working with. And yet, you still felt compelled to follow after that dream from when you were 21 that you wanted to create your own food product. When did you know that it was time for you to leave? Had you already done some ideation over what you wanted your product to be? Tell us a little bit about that journey of… What’s that crossroads between when you decided to leave, and how far along were you in your research and development and everything else with your current product?

Brenden: I think the crux of the decision came down to if I don’t do this, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life. The fear of not doing it was greater than the fear of doing it. And don’t get me wrong, as I said, the fear of doing it was immense. But I said, “If I project myself forward to age 80 and I look back and I didn’t do this, I don’t know that I’m going to hate myself necessarily, but I’m really going to think that I chickened out.” That had been with me for a long time. I had looked at lots of different businesses actually to start, many of them in food. At one point I actually went down the path of getting pretty close to starting a business in a completely different industry, and I just realized well, “I love food. Food is my passion, so I’ve got to do something there.”

That was this ever present feeling and really obsession. I watched probably every single video that Stanford had to offer through their business entrepreneurship. I read tons of venture capital blogs, and it was purely just because I loved it and I found it fascinating. It felt like this is how you become an artist in business.

When it comes to the nuts and bolts, I had this personal problem when it came to the snacks I was eating. As I mentioned, I’m really active and I eat a lot, and for years I was eating bars, and at a certain point I couldn’t do it anymore. Too much sugar, sat like a brick in my stomach. I drank some juice and then I stopped drinking juice because I thought, “This has tons of sugar in it, and it’s no fiber, so it’s a big spike and a crash. I don’t feel very good.” I was always trying to eat fresh fruits and vegetables but the problem was they’re sticky, they’re messy. I’d bring them to my desk and put them there, and then at the end of the day I’d come back and they were still sitting in the same spot.

I, at the same time, saw these five mega trends, which I still believe today are shaping food. One of them is veggies moving to the center of the plate. You think about Tender Green, Sweetgreen, Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat. The second was the demonization of sugar. Third was the rise of snacking. Fourth was a focus on fresh and real with third party certifications like non-GMO verified to back it up. Then the fifth was I saw that natural and organic had gone mainstream. I sat down in a café one day and literally was just putting these things together with my computer and typing them, and I thought… This question popped up in my mind which is how can I get veggie for nutrition in a way that fits my life?

I saw that a brand called Perfect Bar had created these refrigerated bars and they had trained consumers to go to that part of the store. I saw what was happening with this technology called high pressure pasteurization and how brands like Suja and Evolution were creating these products that frankly tasted a lot better than Naked because they weren’t being heated. And as the wheels were turning, I thought, “I’d be really amazing if I could create a refrigerated bar made from whole veggies and fruits, and get super foods like probiotics in there as well, and I could eat that during the day, because it would be real food, it would taste fresh, there wouldn’t be any sugar. That would kind of solve my personal problem, and it seems like it would solve… It kind of fits squarely in with these trends.”

This is where I think the Pepsi background was helpful. A friend of mine who worked in market research, I said, “Hey, I’ve got this idea,” and he said, “Well you should concept test it.” Concept testing is an online test where you show people a picture of the product and you write up a basic description of it, and the picture does not have to be pretty. Like the picture we put up, we were literally lifting… I don’t even remember the brand. Some bar, and then we found some brand in Australia that had a package, and we basically used their package. We wrote up, “Here’s this idea. It’s whole veggies, fruits, plus probiotics. It’s chilled. No sugar added. And it’s $3.99.”

And you put that online, and you can invite people to participate in the survey. There are companies that do this. And you filter them out to say I just want people who are going to be shopping at wherever, whichever channel I’m going to be launching in, which in this case was the natural channel, so I said, “I want people who shop at Trader Joe’s and WholeFoods and Costco.” Then you can ask them a series of questions. What you’re really trying to get at at that point is simply does the idea hold water? My friend helped me do this and got the results back, and he said, “These are the best scores I’ve ever seen in 10 years of doing market research.” He said, “Amazing. Then comes the really hard part where you have to go figure out how to make it.”

I was still working at Pepsi during all this time. I hired a raw chef, and on nights and weekends, I would taste stuff. I ended up camping out a Crossfit gym, and my friend again helped me write a survey, so we got some qualitative feedback, we got quantitative feedback, and it said, “You’re on the way to fulfilling what people expect from this concept.” I found a copacker. I ran some basic economics, and everything looked great. I ended up leaving Pepsi in January of 2016, and that’s when the story starts to get really interesting.

But to answer your question, that’s the process that I undertook, and what I was essentially doing is following what… There’s a famous venture capitalist in San Francisco. He calls it the onion theory of startups, and the idea is that every time for… You essentially want to create a process where you ask yourself, “What information do I need to spend more time or money on this?” And as you spend some more time and as you spend more money, you want to peel back a layer of the onion and basically de-risk the idea. That’s what I thought I was doing, and to a degree that’s what I was doing.

Jennifer: I’m so interested to hear the next part of this story. I will ask you… Just so people who may be listening who don’t understand, can you explain what high pressure pasteurization or HPP is?

Brenden: If you think about 99% of the food out there, the way that packaged food manufacturers get it to have a shelf life, to last for 90 days, 180 days on a shelf is through heat. Take a very simple example of potato chips. Potato chips are being cooked, and then they’re being… The potato chip is being cooked, and then it’s being put in a bag that doesn’t have oxygen and doesn’t allow light in. Through that, you’re creating a product that’s commercially viable, because it’s going to take time for it to get to the store or for somebody to buy it, then they’re going to have it in their house for a bit.

There’s this other technology. If you’re not going down the path of using heat to extend shelf life, there’s something called high pressure processing. The idea behind high pressure processing is you take this product when it’s in its final package, so think of one of our bars or a juice, and you put it into this… It almost looks like a submarine. It’s this big empty tube, and this tube goes inside of a really gigantic… It’s this box or steel metal box. And the tube gets filled with water, and then 90,000 pounds per square inch of pressure is applied to the products. It’s the equivalent of taking that bottle of juice or the bar and dropping it to the bottom of the ocean and then shooting it right back to the top three minutes later.

That essentially achieves the same thing as heat in that it kills the spoilage organisms, so yeast, mold. But the difference is it retains the flavor and it retains the nutrients, so you end up with something that tastes fresh as opposed to cooked, but you still can get 90 days of shelf life.

Jennifer: Thank you. I’m very interested to hear about the second part of your journey. But again, before you made that leap, I mean you know given your background that the bar market is… That’s a crowded space. But you’ve said that the product’s shape is similar to bars, but that’s where your similarity ends. I know that you just laid out for us really succinctly, thank you, these five emerging trends, and you were looking to how could you merge these all into one product. But could you tell our listeners what makes Bright Foods different?

Brenden: To the first point about the bar market, I would never want to launch a bar in the shelf stable aisle. It’s totally saturated, and you’re trying to get people to pay attention to these small differences on products, and it’s a terrible place to be. The reason why I thought that bars were interesting was specific to chilled bars, and it was because I knew from my Naked Juice days that if you’re in a cooler, that connotes premium and it connotes fresh, and I also knew that by being in a cooler, A, I’d be at the perimeter of the store, but B, I would have far less competition, because there were only at the time really maybe two or three brands that were in chilled bars. While it was a bar in shape, the actual location in store would be I think much advantaged.

You were asking… So bar and shape, and then the second part of your question, can you remind me?

Jennifer: I mean how do you market your product to other people? Aside from being refrigerated, what is it that makes Bright Foods different?

Brenden: Fundamentally, our product is essentially whole veggies, fruits, nuts and probiotics. It’s not dates and there’s no syrup that’s binding it all together. It isn’t just nuts. We’re not putting in chocolate. At the end of the day, our product is in some ways much more analogous to eating a bowl of fresh fruit with chia and coconut, or eating a salad that you can hold in one hand. If you actually look at our label, the first ingredient is always a veggie. All of the other ingredients on there are whole blueberries, as I mentioned before chia, coconut.

Brenden: When you taste the product, because we’re using HPP, this is not… There are two real big differences. One is… The comment we most often hear is, “I can’t believe it. This tastes like real food.” People will say it’s refreshing that it tastes bright. The other thing is you’ll notice the texture is different because it’s not a hard tacky brick that sits on a shelf for a year. When you’re biting into whole sweet potatoes and blueberries and oranges and cashews, again it’s much more similar to sitting down with having all of those things in front of you, but the difference is now you can hold it in one hand and eat it while you’re in the car.

Jennifer: I was just thinking in the car going to run errands.

Brenden: Totally, yeah.

Jennifer: You had mentioned with refrigeration, there’s not a lot of competition in that space. By the same note, there’s also not as much square footage. There seems to be, and you correct me if I’m wrong, that there is this myth that getting into refrigerated section in a retailer could be harder than just the normal shelf stable portion because that’s limited square footage for the retailer. Were you concerned about that at all, or is that even something that folks need to worry about?

Brenden: That’s not a myth. That’s a fact. There is far less square footage devoted to refrigeration, without a doubt, and I think it puts the burden frankly on the brand to create something that is truly differentiated and is going to have a reason to be in that set. Yeah, it’s highly competitive for sure. The thing that is interesting that’s happening right now is retailers are all realizing that this category is the next wave of bars. So there are major retailers with whom we work who have said, “I’m actually going to carve out space in all of my stores for this.” I think over time there’s going to be more space dedicated to it. People are talking about different things happening with retailers putting more refrigeration into their stores, but that’s more of a medium-term trend. It’s going to remain really competitive.

Jennifer: Now I want to talk about this… You’ve made the jump, you’ve left Pepsi, and you want to create something really innovative to the market. Creating something totally innovative isn’t easy, so how long, or what was the kind of trial and error and back and forth between okay, you’ve had a concept that you’ve tested, versus actually feeling like you have a product that you can take to retailers?

Brenden: That’s a great question. I thought I had a product when I left Pepsi, and I went to a copacker two months later, it was February, and I said I want to launch this at Expo West, this was 2016, next month. And the copacker looked at the product and I said, “Here’s all the machinery we’re going to use, and we’ll go source it, because I know that this is a new kind of product.” At the time we were dehydrating the bars, and they looked at it and said, “How much do you want to charge for this?” I said, “$3.99,” and the woman looked at me and said, “There’s no way you’re going to be able to make any money with the process you’ve laid out.”

Brenden: I said, “Well help me understand. What is it that’ not working?” At the time we were dehydrating, and she said, “You have to cut the dehydration stuff out completely. Right now there’s too much labor, and too many touches.” I went home and I realized that I had just quit my job and I had a one-year-old daughter and I didn’t have a new product. I was working with this other raw chef at the time, and said, “I’ve got all these different ideas of things that we can do, and we can try this and we can try that,” and I’m not a chef obviously. She said, “No, no, no. We need to figure out a way to cut the dehydration out completely. Let me see what I can do.”

About three weeks went by, and we had some initial products, and I took them to Expo West. Didn’t have a booth. I just walked around with a backpack, and I had some icepacks and I had these products that I had wrapped in Saran wrap with a sticker. I went up to people who I really respected. They’re industry luminaries, everyone will know their name. And I showed them the product. I remember one case specifically, this guy who was an idol of mine said, “Yeah, this one, the flavor’s okay, but I feel like I’m eating leftover salad. This other one looks like mished fruit and just tastes like apple. Maybe you need to go find another concept.”

That was a real low point. I finished Expo West, and was actually very physically sick. Not related to that, more just related to Expo craziness. A friend of mine said, “Hey, WholeFoods is opening a new store and the president of the region’s going to be there, and you should come and pitch your products.” So I threw them in my little insulated backpack again and drove down, and the store was a madhouse, and he said, “Here’s what she looks like.” I walked up to her, and I was sampling product for the Wholefood C members before that and I was getting the same feedback that this luminary had given me, of, “This one, the flavor’s good. This other one, no.” I found the president and I said, “Hey, my friend said I should talk to you,” and she said, “Okay.” Kind of, “Why are you bothering me?”

I said, “Well, I’ve got this new product that I’m working on. It’s a chilled bar.” I showed it to her, and unwrapped the plastic, and I only showed her the one that people liked the flavor on. She was with her brother and she tasted it, and said, “Let’s walk over to the shelf,” and we walked over and she said, “Where are these going to be merchandised? How much do you want to charge for them? If you do a super food, you can get $3.99. If you don’t get a super food, then you can only get $2.99. I like this. Make sure you follow up with me in a month. Christian has my address.”

That was the beginning, and I had a month basically before the meeting, so we worked furiously.

Jennifer: That’s what I’m imagining. Like, “Wow, yay, hooray,” but also a little panicked.

Brenden: Totally. I got a meeting with this person who ended up becoming our buyer in southern California, who’s fantastic. I remember walking into the meeting and she said, “Yeah, bars, like the problem is they all have so much sugar,” and I could tell she really didn’t want to be there. She’s like, “How do you know Diane,” who’s the president the region, and I said, “Well, we got connected this way.” Long story short, she ended up tasting the products and she loved them, and she said, “How soon can you launch these?” I said, “Well, I want to do something a little bit different.” This was April 2016. I said, “I’d like to take them to a farmers’ market and sell them there and get lots of consumer feedback, and that way I’ll be able to dial in the flavor and I’ll be able to dial in the marketing messaging and figure out the right packaging. Once we’ve done all that, then we can launch. And if it works at the farmers’ market, I would suspect there’s a lot of overlap between those consumers and the people who are shopping in your store.” So she said okay.

For six months that’s what I did, and every month I’d come back to her and say, “Here’s what I learned. Here’s what’s working, here’s what’s not. Are there questions you have you want me to ask?” I was originally planning to launch at the end of that year, but I started running into major problems with HPP because it was doing really weird things to the product. Then the copacker that I was going to work with found somebody else who was recommended, and they said they had the equipment, so I said, “Okay, I’ll move over.” This is when I entered the depths of hell, because I had to go source the machinery, and I talked to packaging engineers who said, “There’s no…” I found out that consumers wanted a bar package, and I talked to all these packaging engineers, and they said, “Forget it. If you put a bar package through HPP it’s going to explode.”

I talked to all sorts of other people who said, “It’s impossible for you to do this. There’s no way you’re going to get something that has kale in it to last for 90 days. It just can’t be done.” The binder that we were originally using, this is after tons and tons of research, I had learned actually couldn’t be put into a non-GMO or organic-certified product, so suddenly I didn’t have a binder again. The ingredient that binder… Actually, before I learned that, when I ran numbers on it, I suddenly realized that there was no way I was going to be able to afford it. I was so low this entire time. I was just working basically out of my garage with a group of contractors. The stories just compound one on top of the other. Months on end of trying to get stuff done. Then Amazon bought Wholefoods and I thought I might not be getting in at all.

That whole process of wandering in the wilderness was about two years, and things got materially better in February of 2018. That’s when a friend of mine who I had worked with, this guy Adam, came on board as my co-founder and COO, CFO, and he and I had worked together, and he had an operations and finance background, and then he was running KeVita and he was he CFO as well for Pepsi. Suddenly, when he came on board, I wasn’t a solo [inaudible 00:29:44] anymore. We had a team, and we had a team with complementary skills. We launched with Wholefoods then in April of 2018, and I would love to say that at that point it was all smooth sailing, but the reality is in some ways it actually got tougher, got crazier.

Jennifer: Oh really?

Brenden: Yeah.

Jennifer: I’m impressed that you could handle two years of… Not that you could handle, but that your belief in your product and your idea were so strong that you could sustain that just kind of two years of blow after blow after blow. That’s impressive because a lot of other people would throw in the towel.

Brenden: It came down to three things. I think one of them was that notion again of if I don’t do this, then I’m really going to regret it. That’s deep inside of me, or deep in me. Then the second one was that I knew the concept scores were crazy. Then the third thing was when I sold it at the farmers’ market, I would sell through 90 bars at $4 a pop in three hours. Then when I stopped going to the farmers’ market they kept calling me and saying, “People are asking for you to come back.” I had these points of like, “I believe this can work.” That’s really, combined with again that kind of internal whatever you want to call it, that’s what kept me going.

Jennifer: I’m curious about… Going to the farmers’ markets, which also… I mean that takes a lot of hutzpah, to say, “Okay, actually Wholefoods, hold on for a little bit because I want to do this essentially kind of customer research at farmers’ markets.” What were some of, let’s say, the big takeaways that you found? And I’m also curious, because you mentioned when you first sat down with the buyer, she was kind of… Didn’t really want to be there, saying everything has too much sugar. Have you found that for consumers you’ve had to market the product in a way to help educate them about what does differentiate your product?

Brenden: Yeah. On the farmers’ market front, I mean I encourage everybody to either go sell at a farmers’ market, or at the very least go out and get your product in front of your target consumer, but people who are not your friends and family. Just as an example, yesterday I spent three hours at a park here in LA with our food scientist and with one of our brand ambassadors sampling out a new product line that we were working on. Two weeks before I went to that same park with our current line to get feedback on some changes that we think we need to make based on feedback. The farmers’ market was an amazing place to do that.

What I learned was number one, people wanted something that tasted fruit forward. They wanted to know that they were eating their veggies, but they didn’t really want to taste them. I learned that in that environment, $4 per bar worked. When I experimented with $5 it didn’t. When I would say three for $10, they would fly. I learned that the form of packaging that I originally was working on was wrong, and I had been going down the path of looking at machines that could make it, and that was super valuable. I learned that I had to have windows on my packaging because people wanted to see the product. I learned initially how to describe the marketing, and the best advice I got here, or how to describe the product, the best advice I got here was you want to find those sentences that when you say then, people’s eyes all of a sudden get wide, and that’s what you put on the package.

I learned I think a lot of… I think it was a great experience because it was another one of those things I was terrified to do. I remember when I first set up, and I remember the first bar I sold, and somebody handed me a $5 bill and I was just in absolute shock. All of that was great.

As far as the education side, today we have to educate people, yeah. I think this is the double-edged sword of creating a new category. On the one hand, we’re the only ones who do what we do. On the other hand, people don’t understand what the product is without… I think part of it is we’re making some label changes, and I think that’s going to go along way towards helping people get it. But when it’s so different, you have to educate people. What we find works most effectively is to demo the product, because when we demo the product, people get it, and then we create new fans. But I think it’s far easier to take an existing product and make it better than it is to create something that’s new to the world.

Jennifer: Yeah, I can definitely imagine. What sales channels are you using thus far?

Brenden: We spent our first year just in Whole Foods and then two independent natural channels or natural retailers. So it was all natural channel. We are launching nationally with Sprouts in three days, which… That’s also a natural channel. Then we’re launching with Amazon in about a week. We’ve got our own direct to consumer. We’re at brightfoods.com. You can purchase it. Then we’re working with I would say some specialty retailers in the Bay Area, and we’ve got some what I’d call up and down the street customers here in LA, so high-end cafes, gyms, that kind of thing.

Jennifer: Speaking of Amazon and your own direct to consumer site, because your product is refrigerated, I mean just the logistics of shipping, especially in summer weather, I mean was that another piece of the puzzle that took a little bit of time to figure out?

Brenden: Yeah, absolutely. Candidly, we’re still figuring it out. Amazon, we’re going to launch in a few days, and we’ve figured out a solution to ship the product and we figured out how to make the economics work. That definitely took some digging. But it’s not easy. And there was a lot of work that went into, and a lot of testing that went into how do you ship something that’s perishable, how do you ship it across different timezones, to your point, how do you account for weather changes throughout the year? At times, I just think to myself, “Gosh, shelf stable stuff is so much easier.”

Jennifer: “I should’ve made a cracker.”

Brenden: Totally.

Jennifer: I mean you’ve shared a lot of great stuff today, and thank you so much. My last question for you… If there’s anybody listening who also has an idea that is totally innovative and new to market, what would you tell them?

Brenden: I would say a couple of things. I would say number one, research, research, research. You want to understand whether this is a real pain point for other people, and if so, you want to understand all of the things I was talking about, how you talk about it, how you make it, what it looks like as a business. I think the second thing is surround yourself with amazing people, which is… I mean that’s trite and it’s cliched, but it is trite and cliched for a reason. It’s been said so many times because it’s true. It really relates to the third thing I’d say, which is be prepared for something that’s incredibly messy and incredibly difficult.

Then the final thing I would say is figure out what recharges you and build that into your day, build that into your week, because intellectually, emotionally, at times physically, it’s a lot to take, and as you go through these things, there are fewer and fewer people who can understand what the experience is. Other entrepreneurs will get it. But you want to be able to build in time for yourself to process and deal and learn.

Then the last thing I would say is be really adaptive. There’s a quote that I really like, which is be stubborn on vision, but flexible on execution. I wholeheartedly subscribe to that. You want to be clear on what it is you’re trying to do at a high level, but you also have to keep evolving and you have to keep listening and researching and changing. And that goes back to that… That’s part of the messiness of it.

Brenden: Those would be my five pieces of advice.

Jennifer: Thank you. It’s funny you should mention it, because as we were talking about some of the challenges and your journey, it did make me wonder… I was like are you still able to go for bike rides and yoga and… Are you still able to have that piece of your life?

Brenden: Yeah. That’s changed a lot, and part of it is I have two children. I think this is something that’s not talked about. The short answer is yes, but in a very different form. For me, my life is fairly routinized now. I ride indoors twice a week, and I’ve got my two workouts, which I structure to be exactly what I need. I found my yoga, which is 30 minutes, two times a week, which is the right intensity level, and so I get my endorphins and I get all that. But outside of that, something that I don’t think is often discussed is there’s a cost to pursuing this path, if you dedicate yourself to it. There’s a lot of interesting writing on this that we can talk about.

But the cost is that you don’t… The business is always with you in one form or another. You might tune out for a bit here and there. I don’t go for four bike rides like I used to. I don’t see my friends as much as I used to. My life these days, and these are all things I love. This is in no way, shape or form a complaint. This is just to give people a true inside point of view on what it’s like. My life is work and family, and then I exercise to have energy to do both of those things. I think you figure out over time what are the things that you need in order to fuel you and make you feel content, but you also just have to accept that if you like to watch television, well maybe you do that but you’re going to have to give up some other things, for example, a simple example.

Jennifer: I appreciate you saying that because I think that there is this misnomer, especially in American culture, that you can have it all, and the reality is no, you do need to sleep sometimes and it is not possible to have absolutely everything and do absolutely everything without there being something else that’s got to take a backseat.

Brenden: 100%.
Jennifer: Well Brenden, thank you so much. Again, for folks who are listening, as always we have a copy of this transcript on the Small Food Business website that will also include links to Bright Foods and to some of the other resources that Brenden mentioned during the podcast today. Brenden, thank you. I really appreciate it.

Brenden: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

Jennifer: Thanks so much.

Related Articles: