Behind every successful entrepreneur is a thriving community mentoring, nurturing, and encouraging them. This explodes their personal and professional growth. Paying it forward to emerging brands is at the heart of what makes natural natural.

Today’s story has several different parts. The first is a story about someone who is passionate about food, who grew up in an industry that was inspired by the thought leaders around her that took that energy and that passion and turned it into a viable business that’s very successful today.

The next part is about how she inspired others around her by helping to build that community to help support other small nurturing brands. Her passionate, bright spirit is infectious. She’s able to communicate that to help other brands, giving back to her community to help foster that spirit of growth and innovation to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The next part of our story is about how Alex was able to successfully build her brand in an alternative channel and help leverage that to gain traction at traditional retail.

Download the show notes below

Click here to learn more about Alpine Start Foods

Click here to learn more about Naturally Boulder

BRAND SECRETS AND STRATEGIES

PODCAST #46

Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #46

Welcome to the Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

I’m your host Dan Lohman. This weekly show is dedicated to getting your brand on the shelf and keeping it there.

Get ready to learn actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.

LETS ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES AND GET STARTED!

Dan: Welcome. Today's story has several different parts. The first is a story about someone who is passionate about food, who grew up in an industry that was inspired by the thought leaders around her that took that energy and that passion and turned it into a viable business that's very successful today.

The next part is about how she inspired others around her by helping to build that community to help support other small nurturing brands. Her passionate, bright spirit is infectious. She's able to communicate that to help other brands, giving back to her community to help foster that spirit of growth and innovation to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The next part of our story is about how Alex was able to successfully build her brand in an alternative channel and help leverage that to gain traction at traditional retail. Here's Alex.

Hi Alex. Thank you for coming on today. I really appreciate all you do in the industry and I really am looking forward to having you share with us what you do for your brand, Naturally Boulder, and the community. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Alex: Yeah and hi, thanks so much for having me. I am a Boulder native, born and raised in Boulder, Co, and that was really where I got my start in the food industry. It's sort of the hub and the epicenter, if you will. I was exposed at an early age to all of the amazing brands that were coming out of Boulder. Justin's was a startup at the farmer's market when I first met him, and Evol was a small company handing out burritos out of a cooler at climbing areas in El Dorado Canyon; just to give two examples of two brands that have obviously had really great exits in the last couple years.

That's kinda where I fell in love with just the food worlds and the people that were in it. I was lucky enough at an early age to get really great jobs, and meet amazing mentors, and they just coached me all the way through my career until I started my own business here almost two years ago, when they're all still very involved, but I've kinda got to spread my wings and try it out for myself.

Dan: One of the things I really enjoyed learning about you when we met up in Boulder a week or so ago is the fact that you were able to connect with so many thought leaders in the industry. Now obviously the reason that we're connected is because of Robbie Vitrano, so Robbie thank you.

The fact that you're able to meet with, and connect with, all these mentors — Justin Gold, Phil Anson, Jane Miller — I will hopefully have all of them on this show in the next month or so. Can you share a little bit about your education, and what I'm really getting at Alex is can you share a little bit about why this relationship that you've cultivated with so many industry thought leaders has helped you, and why it's so important?

Alex: Yeah, absolutely. So like I said, growing up in Boulder, I went to school here all the way through college where I went to community college in the beginning. I knew I wanted to be in business, but I wasn't totally sure what angle to go to. So as I was going through community college just testing the waters of learning a little bit about business, and just the other commitments that you have to have by going to school, and through that I also was meeting amazing people.

So it turned into this balance of where I was actually feeling like I was getting more education, industry specific, by meeting with Justin, and Phil, and Steve Hughes, and Jane Miller, and all these other amazing people that were in the community. They were hiring me to do jobs for them and Naturally Boulder was just another amazing organization that was really specific to what I was wanting to learn about, and by that, I eventually didn't graduate college. I just kept doing what I was doing in the industry and I was landing these amazing jobs, which arguably is the whole point of going to college, is to exit and find your dream job.

So I kinda had done that before I graduated, and with many debates with my parents, I eventually just said I'm just gonna go down this path for a little bit longer and I'm gonna work at Justin's, which is the first job that I landed. I just loved everything about it and I felt like I was continuously learning, I was launching new products into the marketplace, I was doing marketing, and learning how to do sales, and just all these fun components; at that time it was a pretty small business.

Eventually I met Jane Miller. I give all my thanks to her for the chance to work for her. Jane was the CEO of Rudy's at that time. So I left Justin's to go work at Rudy's and that was when they were launching another brand. They were launching Rudy's Gluten-Free and that was just an amazing opportunity to jump at and work for a medium-size business, but also, again, learn what it what was like to launch a brand from scratch.

They threw me on the road and I got to drive a 1976 VW Bus from San Diego to Seattle, and again, it was just meeting with stores, and going to events, and just the whole coordinating of watching a brand and I just kept going from there.

Dan: We talked about that when we were together last week. Just to preface this, I was talking with Gary Hirshberg last week about education, the importance of it and why it matters. Of course I've been talking with a lot of other industry thought leaders along these topics too, and the point being is that education matters, from the standpoint of developing a relationship with mentors that can help further your success, but that doesn't mean that you necessarily need a four-year degree.

I've got one, but to be honest, there are a lot of things that I don't use that I got out of my degree. I guess the real thing that I learned from, after going to school for several years, is that I learned how to ask the right questions. So my point is that you've learned how to do that, you've learned how to excel at that, and more importantly, you've learned how to connect with and identify who are the leading people to talk to within the industry. I know all the people you've talked about. They are all such tremendous mentors in the industry and shining visionaries.

One of the things I really wanted to highlight about you is that I think you really are a bright, shining star. You're so enthusiastic, and so passionate. You’re a sponge, you love this stuff and it is such a part of your DNA. Can you share with us a little bit about how you were able to take what you've learned, and how you were able to bake that into your DNA so that you exude such confidence, such an awareness, such a presence about this is why this matters, our natural community; because being able to help brands with Naturally Boulder, for example, that is, I would think, a very difficult position if someone were to just come in off the street.

Yet, you personify all that is natural. So can you talk a little bit about that connection? How you were able to get that, and again, bake that into your DNA?

Alex: I think I would just start off with we're really lucky that this industry just kinda already has that very positive vibe built into it from the beginning. So I think stepping into that has been really amazing to just feel that from other people, and you're right, the whole thing is kind of like a sponge where you accept other people's enthusiasm and you just want to cheer them on. It's food; at the end of the day. Who doesn't love food?

I think when you combine somebody's passion with what they're creating, and then just the community that's there, I think it's just a recipe for excitement and it's growing very fast. So I think when you look at the industry as a whole with the success that we've seen from really large companies all the way down to the success we've seen from really small companies, it's really interesting how they support each other.

This ecosystem is kind of unlike other industries that are around, and we really can't have the industry without the big guys, and the big guys can't really be in existence without the innovation and the growth from the little guys.

Dan: Well said.

Alex: So I think that's why we all work so well together because it's just a wealth of knowledge, and a wealth of experience. When we put that all together in a room, it's amazing what comes out of that and there's definitely a lot of vulnerability, but I think that again comes down to just the vibe of the industry of just that very strong passion, and excitement that feels natural to be vulnerable, and it's okay to open your book and share what you've experienced.

Even if you're a competitor. I worked for Rudy's and I also worked for Udi's, and I don't know of two other brands that are more similar in a space. But again, it's just like everybody works well together and everyone just wants to see everyone do well, and that's, I think, the most important part.

Dan: I'm glad you shared this Alex. That’s one of the things I really want to contribute. People are always asking me what makes natural natural, they really don't understand this. The point being is that big brands tend to commoditize us, tend to commoditize our products. To go a little bit further and help what you're saying resonate with the audience, I was talking to John Foraker and I was thanking him for being such a big part of our industry, a big part of our community, and he said no, this is our community. This is how we do this.

In another conversation I had with Robbie Vitrano, he said that he was meeting with Justin Gold. Ideally, they're competitors, direct competitors, but yet they are collaborating to help spread the wealth in terms of the mentorship helping brands get on the shelf. As you know, my mission is to help make our healthy way of life more accessible by getting natural products on more retailer's shelves, and into the hands of more shoppers.

So you're bringing together this community under an umbrella or a big tent, to really unite the industry and help spur other thought leaders and entrepreneurs, so it's such a rich environment. Being in Boulder, in the center like you said, the hub, what a great place to be.

Do you have any other thoughts along that line that you want to share?

Alex: Yeah. I think at the end of the day, the word natural and all that, has been an evolving word. I really like the better-for-you component, and that falls into two components. There's the product itself, and then there's the brand. When you look at Justin's and Good Spread, when you look at the brands themselves, Good Spread has the give back component, which is the supplying of product to malnutrition kids. Justin's doesn't do that, which isn't a bad or a good thing, it's just different.

So I think that when you look at it from a product standpoint, but then you also have to look at it from a brand standpoint and just say what's the difference between the missions, the visions, who are the people behind it. If you look also one step further into the Good Spread brand, Alex is the founder and he's, I think, my age. He has an impressive background as well who is just again, somebody who's just really passionate and really just wants to make a better-for-you brand out there.

I think that it's really important to also just look at what brands are doing outside of just products, because at the end of the day, products can be a commodity and anybody can really recreate them. But it's the mission that's behind it and the good for where that's going.

Dan: Absolutely, and that's what I talked with Gary Hirshberg and Seth Goldman about. The point being is that the mission, the people that buy the brands that we're talking about are the people that look beyond the four corners of the package. What I mean by that is that we want to know who's making it, why they're making it, how they're making it. Consumers want to feel good about their purchase. They can't necessarily go to a third world country and volunteer, contribute, etc.

So the fact that a customer can feel good about buying a product because it supports an important cause that they're interested in, and more importantly, be able to give back while supporting the mission of the brand, the overall mission of the brand. Robbie was sharing with me how much more it costs for him to be able to do that with their product. Consumers that are buying the products that we're talking about are not price motivated. They’re driven by purpose, by mission, by wanting the value from the product that they're buying, the nutritional component.

Can you share a little bit about that?

Alex: Yeah, absolutely. I think either I look at what my parents and I, our shopping behaviors, and when they were shopping for our family when I was a young kid, that didn't really exist. There wasn't really this mission behind the products that we were buying. I'm a CPG nerd and I love to look at packages and all the food brands that are around. I look back at the products that my parents bought for us when we were kids, and they just didn't have that, that wasn't a thing.

Then I kinda look at Annie's as one of the leaders that came in and they still do a great job of finally putting a mission behind some products and then that wave started to emerge and now the consumers are more of myself. So from me being someone that just came home, to having all these products in the cupboard and the fridge, to now; I'm the one that's actually going out and buying them and I think that that behavior has changed a lot over that time of us growing up.

Now, us being the ones that are voting with our dollars, if you will, and I think that very much is coming down to it's a huge importance to us to make sure that that brand is walking their talk and trying to do something more than just producing a product, or having to give back, or highlighting the founders. I think that's also a really interesting component to brands; like who's actually behind this. You look at social media all the way to just traditional PR, and those are the stories now that are being highlighted, and I think that really effects our shopping behavior.

Dan: Absolutely. The story-telling is such a critical part of that, and I have to put myself, by the way, in that same bucket —CPG-nerd. I love going to the stores and walking the aisles, and especially in your backyard, there's so much innovation. Your backyard is so uniquely different in that you're seeing trends long before they show up at a mass retailer. The point being is that this is where that innovation takes place.

I've always said that natural is the R&D of the CPG world, and the point being, that that's where you see that true innovation and to your point, you're right, we are more closely aligned as brands as in industry to our consumers. Therefore, we're providing that level of innovation, that product innovation, that customers are really wanting, as opposed to just slapping a new label on it, or adding a new flavor.

It's that real innovation that's really driving sales across every category. Would you have any stories around that? Maybe some stories that a brand has shared with you that you could share with us?

Alex: Yeah. When I think of what you pointed out earlier, of starting out at a smaller scale before the mass market picked something up, I think that's really important because when you look at retailers, they almost have the same story. For example, Lucky's Market is Bo; he's the founder. I know the whole family that started Lucky’s Market. They're a small, independent, several stores and now they’re really growing. I look at Alfalfa's and the people that were behind that, and again, it was only like one or two stores.

I think it's still that same idea of where if you're a shopper and you want to support these local brands, you go to your local shop and to your local grocery store. I think that's so important for brands to just start there because there's so much similarities that come with that. There’s founders involved, it's small, it's local, and I really feel like that's where you get your edge as a brand. All the brands that we've been talking about, I feel like that's their story as well is they've all started out at Lucky’s and Alfalfa's.

Once you kind of feel out there and you're like okay this is how distribution works, this is how I fill an order, and vice versa for the store; this is how I find new brands, this is how I receive a new product, and where in the store does it go, and how do you support each other by doing demos, and whatnot. You learn how to build a relationship with a retailer. I think when you're both so small, or maybe not small's the right word, but when you're both so passionate about your brand, then that's when you can kind of expand.

I've just seen such success with that and I love when I get to see a new product for the first time at Alfalfa's, or Lucky's, and then a year later I see it at Kroger. I just think that's the path that so many brands have taken and it's just really cool to watch that success happen.

Dan: Absolutely, and on that note, I had a really amazing conversation with Ben Friedland with Lucky’s Market. He’s going to be on our show this Thursday. We had a great conversation about just this and the point being that it's that community. It's not necessarily being small, it's that community where we're partnering together and so you're not just a number, or a box on a shelf in some retailer. You’re a part of what's helping them drive sales into their store, helping them meet their customer's needs.

So it's that symbiotic relationship that you see when you're blessed by natural, which is so critically important in this industry. It gives you that extra authenticity.

Alex: Absolutely.

Dan: I appreciate you're mentioning that. One of the reasons I really wanted to have you on the podcast though Alex, is because you've done something really unique and different. I'd like you to tell us a little bit about your brand, and more importantly, why you chose an alternative channel. Most people really don't think about this is the way I have to do it because this is the way everyone else does it, but yet you broke the mold and you've got sales in REI.

Alex: Yeah. This has been one of my biggest learning curves, which has been a really fun one, is a different industry. So bringing food into the outdoor industry; it's always been there, but it's never really evolved very quickly. Again, going back to that better-for-you, when you are in the outdoor industry, you're generally a very active person and along with that, generally becomes health and awareness, and so it really only made sense to continue to grow the industries together.

I own Alpine Start, an instant coffee company. We're one of the first to kind of break that mold of instant coffee, or innovation in the instant coffee. We definitely did not invent instant coffee, but we took it to the next level where, again, being born and raised in Colorado, I've been an outdoor junkie. My business partner is Matt Segal, who is a professional rock climber.

He climbs for The North Face and National Geographic, and he does big wall expeditions, so he has lived a lot of his life, literally, camping and in the outdoors in the back country. When you live that lifestyle, you really have to be careful about how much stuff you bring with you, and coffee was a really big part of what got him up in the morning, and got him inspired and on the wall to perform as best as he could.

So he was bringing all sorts of the coffees. It was just the enthusiasm that he had of what he was bringing was a very large lack, if you will. It was not good, it didn't taste good, it wasn't organic, there just weren’t good options. So he came to me and said "Hey Alex, what do you think about reinventing instant coffee, for selfish reasons, because I want to drink really good coffee when I'm in the back country?"

It took us about two years for me to get on board with it. I was at Boulder Brands at the time and just absolutely loved my job. I was working for T.J. McIntyre, and Steve Hughes, and they are just amazing people. I was like, I'd be crazy to leave, but then there was an acquisition that happened. Boulder Brands was sold to Pinnacle, and previously I was at a Hain Celestial. That size of a company just wasn't my cup of tea, if you will.

So it provided me a really great opportunity, going back to that education conversation, I feel like I had gotten everything I needed to out of that size of company and I was ready to go see if I could do it on my own. So Matt and I had that conversation and said I think I'm ready to try this out, and he was ready to take another path in his career as well. So we learned everything we could about instant coffee. Everything from where do you get beans, where do you produce, what is instant coffee, what are the pros, what are the cons? Does the market even want instant coffee still, or is this just a dying commodity that's known as your grandma's burnt coffee on the counter?

So we did a lot of testing, and rapid prototyping, and everything that I had learned from launching products into the market. We learned really quickly that the market was ready and we had to be careful about where we were going with it. But we got a cold call one day from REI and I was driving, and I picked up the phone call, I don't normally pick up my phone cause I'm a millennial and I text, and I don't talk on the phone. But I picked up my phone and it was the buyer for REI and they said we've heard about you and right now we have one option, which was Starbucks VIA, and they were ready to try something else.

So I said cool, let's do it and I said we could probably start pretty small, maybe we'll do a test region with you guys, and they said okay that sounds great. Then the next day I get a call back and they said we really would like to just take you national and that's like a dream conversation to have when you're starting a business. So I called Matt and I said you think we can pull this off? REI really wants us to go national and what does that mean from a financial standpoint? Are we gonna be able to produce? And all the conversations that come up with that.

But we said this is what we signed up for and so we're gonna figure it out, and I think that was our mentality always, was we're just going to figure it out.

I have a group of mentors that I immediately called and said hey will you guys help me figure out pricing, and how to make sure that we've figured out all of our finances, and this kinda looks good because I have to present a spreadsheet of costs, and projections, and whatnot to REI. So we were able to figure it out and not soon after, Whole Foods came on board. So then we were in a cool space where, kinda like what we were talking about before, is we we’re juggling both now the outdoor industry and now the food industry.

They're very different from each other. The consumer may actually be very similar, which was to our benefit because from a marketing standpoint, we were essentially marketing to the same person. But on the backend, they're very different from distribution models, to markups, to product placement, shelving, slotting, everything could not be more different from each other.

Dan: I'm glad you pointed out it is essentially the same consumer. I mentioned to you when we met, I use to spend a lot of time doing extreme backpacking and all that kind of stuff, and the point being that it is a very conscious, eco-conscious, consumer and it's that consumer, that same consumer, that you're going to find in the natural channel.

As a once big time backpacker, it was really, really hard to find quality products that were backpacker-friendly. I had set things up so I had taken all my perishables and I'd eat like a king the first day, then I'd be eating grubs and things like that after that because it was so difficult to find quality nutrients.

Rock climbers are a special breed in that they want what they want, and they personify the consumer, I believe, that you would find in the natural channel. The more extreme athlete, the the less that consumer is motivated by price, but more importantly, they want quality they can trust. It's these consumers that are leading the trends that are making this healthy way of life more accessible and more understandable to everyone else.

So the fact that you're able to have REI reach out to you, that's amazing. Then be able to leverage, or connect, or reach out to all your mentors; you wouldn't have learned that in college. So kudos to you for being able to not only say yes, but more importantly, being able to ask the right questions, being able to involve the right people to be able to help you solve this problem.

You shared with me a story that was really fascinating. You said that Walmart reached out to you. I’ll let you tell the story, but you actually provided, or produced, a special blend for someone in their network. Can you share about that?

Alex: Yeah. The other fun words I use a lot for our industry, and Alpine Start, are kind of two things; one is it's just very serendipitous. I think that every person you meet, whether you connect with them immediately or you connect with them down the road, it's just very serendipitous. I laugh a lot that Alpine Start is definitely our company, but it's kind of a community project.

Dan: It is, well said.

Alex: We have so many people and it's fun. It's just absolutely so fun, but yeah, it's definitely a community project.

We've been approached by larger retailers now that we've been in the market and we have some points on the board now. But from the Walmart perspective, I won't say his name, but one of the very high up people at Walmart is also a big alpinist and he wanted a special blend of instant beverage to take with him and he wanted to take our competitor, which was Starbucks. He wanted to take their Mocha, Mocha Latte, and when you look at that ingredient list, you're like oh wowser, that's disgusting. There's so much sugar, there's things in there that I don't even know, and when you think about it, you're like it's just hot chocolate and coffee. How does that have to be so complicated?

So we said we could probably make you something a little bit better and we have a friend who is his guide that takes them up, they're going up Everest. So we made them a special blend that they're taking with them, and who knows, it wasn't even necessarily for a sales pitch; it was just a pure like don't drink that other stuff cause that's just nasty. We'll do you a favor here and we're gonna just make you something better.

So that was just a fun, again, that serendipitous like, and we've been presenting to Walmart just for fun, and then this happened. So we're like wow, this is a fun talking point to share in our presentation that that was actually happening. So again, very serendipitous of just how all of that came together.

Dan: That's what I really wanted to celebrate is the fact that people are reaching out to you, people that you would not ordinarily expect to say look, I wanna try this little brand that's small, that you can only find at REI, it's slowly expanding, but obviously you're doing something right. The fact that you've got mentors that are helping you chart that path to those type of retailers, to have those conversations, again, that's really cool. So again, kudos to you.

I love your brand. I think it's amazing. I love the fact that you've found a unique and creative niche, and the fact that you're solving a problem that a lot of this outdoor community, the natural, the organic, the consumer that is really eco-friendly, or eco-connected; connected to the community.

Can you share a little bit about some of the other components of that? How does your partner help you? How do you work within your group? What size is your company? How much help do you have? For you to be able to grow like this, you would expect to have a huge organization underneath you, and yet, I find that your organization's extremely lean.

Alex: Yeah. So kinda a two-part question. I think first of all our brand, Matt, he really started the brand. I have the food side, the production, product development side, and he had the brand side, and so we asked a lot of favors of people. We have a lot of, again, really high-profiled people in the outdoor industry that are friends of ours, they're just really great friends. Again, going back to that whole point of people just wanna see you do well, so right out of the gate we had so many amazing influencers just talk about us.

So that was kind of a big part that we got a jumpstart in and with that, we continue to just build our own community. We have an ambassador program which is absolutely so much fun. Anybody can join and it's basically if you're just enthusiastic about being outside and wherever you want to drink coffee is kind of the whole story that people are telling. It's awesome. It makes my day every time I go into the office, or look up social media. I love seeing other people's stories about where they're taking their coffee, and so that just absolutely makes my day.

So we kind of just built our own community out of that and so from an internal perspective, that really made our jobs a little bit easier because we had that jumpstart. But I just gotta give props to my team. We have six people including myself, and we're all self starters, we're all hustlers.

So it just worked out. I can’t really describe it. We’re all very similar in the sense that we don't really all need to manage each other. We just manage ourselves and we love being with each other. So when we go into the office, it's just really high energy, really positive vibe, and not to say that we don't have problems that we're always problem solving. But I think that's why we problem solve so well together is because we all have our own little thing that we're working on, and it's really hard to explain, but we just work so well together that we don't need very many people. We just work so well together that it's a dream team for sure. Absolutely a dream team.

Dan: I think that makes so much sense. Certainly I understand, so to me, that's what makes natural natural. So the entrepreneurs that are so great at problem solving, they're more invested in solving the problem; whether it be their mission, or what they're tryin' to do, they're guiding principles, the guardrails that they follow, etc., as opposed to looking at a paycheck and clearly you've done that.

I'm so impressed that you've been able to bring your community together to help you sell your product, your brand. That's far more powerful than spending a lot of money on TV ads, or publication ads, and so kudos to you.

I wanted to also talk a little bit about your role at Naturally Boulder. What is Naturally Boulder and what do you do? You were talking about Boulder Startup Week, can you share a little bit about that? Where I'm going with this is that you were able to cultivate those relationships to help you drive your business forward, which is the ultimate of what this community's about. Then you were able to take that education, that information, that learning, and foster the community around you and give back.

Could you share a little bit about that and talk about, again, what is Boulder Week, what is Boulder Startup Week, what is Naturally Boulder; why they matter, who's involved, and then what do you do? What is your role there?

Alex: Absolutely. I kind of joked that I don't know how I have a social life, or a life really, outside of the natural products industry because I am so involved in other projects, and I absolutely love it. But to start off with Naturally Boulder, I'm the Vice-President on the board and it's a non-profit. We have two full-time employees, but it's a working board otherwise, all volunteer based. Essentially the mission of Naturally Boulder is to nurture conscious growth, leadership, and innovation in the natural products community and we do that in a few ways.

It's all event-based, essentially, so we do a lot of networking. We've got monthly networking nights where we'll generate between 100-200 people that come, and really the goal is to just meet people. Everybody has one thing in common, which is the CPG industry, and you could work for a big company, like a Hain Celestial or a Pinnacle, or you could be just curious about wanting to get involved.

So it's a high range of people, which makes it really fun, and then we also have an education series, which is a little bit more specific to a topic. For example, we just did one last week and Gary Hirshberg came, which is great, amongst a few other really great panelists, and we just talked about conscious capitalism and how to raise money, and what that looks like from all different stages of companies. Again, it's very vulnerable. We learned a lot about specific brands and companies, and what went well, and what didn't go well.

So we do an education series just like that, and I could go on, but on our website we've got all of our events, one or two a month. We've got about 1200 members, over 70 sponsors, all, again, in the industry and we do two really big, fun events a year.

One is kind of my baby, which is the Pitch Slam. It is what it sounds like. We have 20 brands that we pick from a pool of applications, and they basically pitch to a room of 700 people. We've got a panel of judges and it's about $10,000 worth of prizes including a booth at Expo West, which we all know is a very valuable place to be when you're an emerging brand.

So that's what Naturally Boulder is. It's amazing. I've been on the board for five years now and the other people that are involved, again, it's a dream team. I could take this whole hour and just speak highly of everybody who's on the board, and it's just so fun. Our board meetings feel like a social catch-up and also we're problem-solving some of the bigger topics that are going on in the industry, which again, is really cool to see a lot of movement.

We just launched this philanthropy program last year with Metro Caring. That was basically to get volunteers outside of Naturally Boulder so other brands that are involved with Naturally Boulder, but to get their teams to get out and volunteer with Metro Caring and they basically are helping others in need. So that felt really good to just sort of cultivate that community to help others.

Dan: Thank you for sharing all that. In mentoring young brands, it goes back to the education thing we keep talking about. Being able to leverage the insights and the support of the community, the Pitch Slam and being able to work with those young brands, it's so inspiring. I had the privilege of being on this year’s selection committee and one of the mentors for the Expo West Pitch Slam. My brand made it into the final four, Made Of, and I want to say yea to them, but the point being is that it's so much fun to watch these young entrepreneurs that are so hungry to grow and to learn like sponges.

We've talked about how you were and still are, and to be able to further that education and then they want give back. So it's that community that just continues to evolve, and continues to bring others in. I know that there are a lot of people that belong to Naturally Boulder that aren't necessarily in the community, meaning that they don't physically live in Boulder. So the fact that you reach out.

You mentioned that you're actually having, and I don't know how I want word this, but franchising it, is that the right term? Or do you have a better term where you're going to see chapters popup in different areas?

Alex: Yeah, exactly. We haven't really figured out what the right word is yet. I think it's just duplicating our model in other communities. We've just seen such success with Naturally Boulder, and like you said, we've got people that fly in from all over to attend, which is just absolutely so magical. I feel so thankful that happens.

We have been approached by a few other cities, and they've kept an eye on what we're doing, and they want the same thing for their community, and so we're testing it out right now. We announced it at Expo West that Naturally Bay Area will be our next chapter, and it's been going great. We're going to start with that and see how it goes. They’ve been doing a great job, their enthusiasm, and just the passion that they have is absolutely great.

I think if that goes well then, again, just the growth opportunity for what is to come next, I think, is wide open.

Dan: Absolutely. Again, it's giving back to the community, it's enriching the community, and more importantly, it's growing a community. They like your brand, you're able to take those insights and really help a lot of other brands foster their dream, their vision, and help them stay true to what they want to be, who they want to be, and all these great resources.

It's just great that there's so many people that are willing to give time of themselves to even the smallest brand, even the startups. Like I said, it's so rewarding. It makes you feel good about what you do. That's why I like this industry so much more than mainstream. There’s a different vibe, it is more of a community. You feel like you're part of a family, as opposed to just being a paycheck or a number. It’s so dramatically different.

I really appreciate you sharing all these great insights Alex. Is there anything that we've missed that you want to share that we haven't covered yet?

Alex: I feel like we covered a lot, but I would just say keep going and I think that the innovation is endless, and the people you could meet, as you know, again, just continue to build network. This industry is so fun and I just want to continue to see it become more diverse, and I love seeing all of the brands that are emerging. I love seeing the larger brands, too, that are now creating their own accelerators — Kraft and General Mills to name a few, who are stepping into the spotlight of helping these smaller brands. I think that's just so encouraging and the mentorship that, again, just continues to evolve.

I just want to continue to see that grow and I love the people that are involved. I think we're going in a really good direction and it's just super important to keep that community going.

Dan: It is, and so any brand listening to this — new brand, old brand, doesn't matter what your size is, the point being is that there are a lot of quality resources out there, many of them are free - like this podcast, like the programs at Naturally Boulder, and it doesn't take a lot more to sign up other then some of your time. There's so many people in this industry that are willing and actually eager to give back, to see people succeed, to help improve our healthy way of life.

Thank you so much for your time Alex, and I look forward to the next time we get to connect. We're actually doing a webinar this Friday, so thank you for agreeing to that especially late notice, and the purpose of the webinar is we're actually teaching mainstream brands and retailers what makes natural natural. We're having similar conversations with three other brands and thrilled that you're going be a part of it, so thank you for stepping up and joining in on that as well.

So anyhow, thank you for your time.

Alex: Thank you. I appreciate you.

Dan: Thanks.

Alex: Yep, bye.

Dan: I want to thank Alex for coming on the show today and for sharing her thought leadership, her insights, and her passion for this industry. It truly is contagious. I'll include links to Alpine Start Foods and to Naturally Boulder on the show notes, and on this podcast webpage. You can find them at brandsecretsandstrategies.com/session46.

Today's freebie is my merchandising checklist, a tool designed specifically to help brands get their product on retailer's shelves and in the right position to help customers find them. You can find it in the show notes, or in this podcast webpage, or you can get it instantly by texting "merchandising checklist" to 44222, and don't forget to checkout my free Turnkey Sales Stories Strategies course.

As always, thank you for listening. If you like the podcast, share it with your friends, subscribe, and leave a review on iTunes. I look forward to seeing you in the next show.

Alpine Start Foods https://alpinestartfoods.com

Naturally Boulder https://www.naturallyboulder.org

This episode's FREE downloadable guide

Real shopper loyalty is earned not found on plastic cards. Your brand’s real strength is its ability to convert casual customers into brand ambassadors.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE STRATEGIC GUIDE: Merchandising Checklist To Grow Sales and Shopper Loyalty

Thanks again for joining us today. Make sure to stop over at brandsecretsandstrategies.com for the show notes along with more great brand building articles and resources. Check out my free course Turnkey Sales Story Strategies, your roadmap to success. You can find that on my website or at TurnkeySalesStoryStrategies.com/growsales. Please subscribe to the podcast, leave a review, and recommend it to your friends and colleagues. Sign up today on my website so you don’t miss out on actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.

I appreciate all the positive feedback. Keep your suggestions coming.

Until next time, this is Dan Lohman with Brand Secrets and Strategies, where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

Listen where you get your podcast

Like what you’ve heard? Please leave a review on iTunes

FREE Trade Promotion ROI Calculator:

Click Here To Maximize Sales And Profits

Merchandising Checklist To Grow Sales and Shopper Loyalty

Real shopper loyalty is earned not found on plastic cards. Your brand’s real strength is its ability to convert casual customers into brand ambassadors.

Empowering Brands | Raising The Bar

Ever wish you just had a roadmap?  Well now you do!

Don’t miss out on all of these FREE RESOURCES (strategic downloadable guides, podcast episodes, list of questions you need to be asking and know the answers to, weekly newsletter, articles and tips of the week.  You will also receive access to quick and easy online courses that teach you how to get your brand on the shelf, expand distribution, understand what retailers REALLY want and address your most pressing challenges and questions.

All tools that you can use, AT NO CHARGE TO YOU, to save you valuable time and money and grow your sales today!

Image is the property of CMS4CPG LLC, distribution or reproduction is expressively prohibited.