Entrepreneurial Endeavors: The Interviews - Page 3
Caleb Simpson, 34, of Austin, TX
Simpson (right) with co-founder Chris Herbert.
Ultrarunner, climber and cyclist. Dad.
Co-founder, Bearded Brothers: Organic, vegan, mostly raw snackfood and energy-bar company.
1. Tell me a little bit about the history of Bearded Brothers. What gave you your passion for vegetarianism and raw foods?
The idea for Bearded Brothers came after I had been eating a high raw food diet for a couple of years. I had always enjoyed products like LaraBar but wanted something completely organic, so I made my own bars. After posting the recipes on my blog I had people suggest I sell them. The seed was planted, but it wouldn't be until I moved to Austin a couple of years later that we would actually launch the business. We saw that Austin was super supportive of local products and full of active people, vegetarians and like-minded people that would buy our product.
[Launching a] Kickstarter Campaign gave us some of the initial funds we needed to get started. It took us three months to raise $5000, something I believe we could do in way less time now that we have a fan base. We feel really blessed that so many people donated to our project before we were anything at all.
The bars I used to create were used to fuel my long runs (at the time was 10-13 miles) and rock climbing trips. Chris would make them to take with him while traveling for his full time job. He found it difficult to find good foods to eat on the road, and especially in airports.
2. What did your working life before Bearded Brothers look like?
I grew up in Denton, Texas. I went to college there at the University of North Texas, where I got my BBA in Marketing. I ended up working in Marketing/Graphic Design for eight years before realizing that wasn't really my cup of tea, even though I was fairly good at it. I was restless during those eight years; I mostly thought it was just the people I worked for but eventually realized I wasn't cut out to work for somebody else.
3. How did you get into trail running?
I started trail running just over a year ago. When I first moved to Austin I got hit by a car on my bike and tore meniscus in my knees. It wasn't bad enough to require surgery, but it was bad enough running on the road really bothered them. During my "recovery" phase, which lasted over six months, I read the book Born to Run. Prior to that, I had always shunned barefoot running. I thought it was a dumb idea. But after reading the book I realized it was actually probably the best thing I could do, and would allow me to continue running. Soon after finishing the book I bought a pair of Fivefingers and have been in minimalist shoes ever since, other than a pair of zero-drop Altra Lone Peaks that I ran in during my first 50 miler. I never really liked them, though; it was just too much shoe for me.
4. What are some races you’ve run? Races you want to run?
I have done several of the Tejas Trail races including Cactus Rose, which was my first 50 miler. Everybody told me I was crazy for picking that one for my first 50, but it worked out best for my training schedule since I had a child due a month before the race. I didn't want to be doing lots of training right after the birth of my daughter.
I would really like to do the Wasatch 100 one day. I recently ran part of the course when I was at Outdoor Retailer. I was in awe of the scenery. I was so taken back I ended up running faster than I had on any of my trail runs all summer, back in Texas. Granted, the temps were better, but I wasn't used to running at elevation, although I do take frequent trips to the mountains.
5. Where did you pick up the skills to launch your own business?
Chris had co-owned a Health Food Store, and I had been a freelance photographer for years on top of my full time job, I was also a business major, so had a lot of knowledge about business. But ultimately I don't believe you need to have loads of experience to start a business. It's really just a matter of having the drive and willingness to learn what's required. Neither one of us had experience in food manufacturing, but we have been learning as we go.
I meet with several local business owners during our planning phases of the business. They weren't mentors per say, but were very helpful to the start of our business. We had another friend that was the CEO of a popular social media app. that played a crucial role in our brand development. I'm also really inspired by people like Dan Miller (author of No More Dreaded Mondays) and Dave Ramsey (for his Entreleadership material).
6. What else do you like to do in your free time?
I'm an avid rock climber. It's actually what got me into running. As part of my training for climbing the North Face of Longs Peak I was running three miles three to four times a week. When I returned from that trip I kept running and eventually started running half marathons. Once I moved to Austin I switched to running trails, mostly. It fits my personality better. I also run more now than I climb, but that is mainly because it's much easier to get out for a run than to leave for a full day of climbing hours way from home. Living in Austin is nice because I have easy access to trails just five minutes from my house. I hope to start climbing more one day, but for now I'm finding a lot of solace in trail running!
7. Do you struggle to find time to run/train while also running a small business?
It's definitely a struggle. It's even harder now that I have a daughter. When I was training for my 50 miler I was only running three days a week. So, anybody who doesn't think they have time to train for an ultra is just making excuses, it doesn't take as much time as people think. Ideally I would like to be running 4-5 days a week, but my family and the business are more important than getting in the miles. As a small business owner you have to wear many hats and run many aspects of the business. I look forward to the day that I'm not as involved and can work some more miles in during my week. But for now I'm happy getting in two to three days a week of running, but I make the most of it when I do get to run.
8. What has been the most rewarding part of your work?
There are so many things I could say are rewarding. First of all it's pretty amazing we are still in business after two years, and we are only continuing to grow. It won't be too much longer and we will have a strong national presence. That is pretty impressive for a small company to achieve such rapid growth. Other rewarding things have been: meeting Barefoot Ted and Bryon Powell, attending Outdoor Retailer and running the Wasatch Mountains, and building the brand from the ground up, and seeing numerous people setup up to help support us.
9. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Just start! It seems so many aspiring entrepreneurs are held back by fear. Make a plan to make your dream become a reality. It doesn't require you to quit your day job from day one, but it's nice if you can do that. Also, be prepared to make sacrifices. Expect to live a lean personal life for at least a few years. You are going to want to invest as much money back into the business as possible, and for a while you likely won't even generate enough revenue to pay yourself.
For runners it might mean you even have to sacrifice training time, but remember it's only temporary. You are going to have to hustle a lot in the start, but in the long run it will pay off. We are still in the hustle stage, but it's easy to hustle when you know your hard work is going to pay off.
Read on for our Q&A with Mike Burnstein of Janji Running Apparel ...