In this episode of the Physical Product Movement Podcast, we’re joined by Chris Kirby, Founder at Ithaca Hummus.

Chris talks about how, as a chef, he got burned out of the restaurant business and how he then used this love of food to identify hummus as a new potential CPG category.

Learn how Chris rented a commercial camp kitchen for $200 per month to make the initial batch of product, uses farmer’s markets for distribution and gets valuable, direct feedback from his customers.

Transcript

Ken: Welcome to the physical product movement, a podcast by fiddle, we share stories of the world’s most ambitious and exciting physical product brands to help you capitalize on the monumental change in how, why and where consumers buy. I’m your host, Ken Ojuka.

In this episode, I speak with Chris Kirby, Founder and CEO of Ithaca Hummus. Chris talks about how, as a chef, he found that he was burned out of the restaurant business and how he used this love of food to identify homeless as a CPG category. He knew he could be successful in Chris talks about the early days where he rented a commercial camp kitchen for 200 bucks a month to make his initial batch of product.

To the huge advantages he found selling his product at farmer’s markets. So he could get valuable, direct feedback from his customers. He talks about the value of an incremental approach to wholesale and how that allowed him to continue to develop his product into a nationwide CPG brand. Chris was an amazing guest with some great advice for food entrepreneurs at all stages. I hope you enjoy it! 

Hey Chris, how are you doing man? Welcome to the podcast. 

Chris: I’m great. Yeah. Thanks for having me. 

Ken: Yeah. Hey, we’d like to kick this off, um, with a quote, do you have something that’s, uh, that you’d like to keep in mind? That’s impactful to you? 

Chris: Sure. I have a lot of favorite quotes, but I think the top of the list would be, find what you love and let it kill you.

Ken: I like that. I like that. Um, you mentioned the top of the list. Do you have a couple others that you could share with us? 

Chris: Yeah. Another, another favorite of mine is the shortest distance between two points is often unbearable, 

Ken: right? Which is obviously a play on the drafting at that quote shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Chris: Exactly. 

Ken: I like that. Well, uh, why don’t you, uh, why don’t we just start off and just tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Chris: Sure. So my name is Chris Kirby and the reason I’m here I suppose is because I’m the founder of Ethica Hummus. But before I started selling hummus, I was a chef. And so I’ve always been in the food business and drawn to food and the power of food.

And the influence that comes along with that, but just focusing on as like a hummus, I reached a point in my chef career where I just felt burnt out in the restaurant business and wanting to make a change that allowed me to utilize the skills and the love that I had for food, but just in a different way.

And so I ended up. Going back to school. I went to culinary school when I finished high school, but wanted more business education and accounting and finance and behavioral stuff, you know, like human resources. Um, so I went back to community college for a year and then applied to a bunch of very aspirational schools and ended up getting into the hotel school at Cornell, which seemed perfect for me because it was just a good marriage of really strong business program, but catered to, you know, the food and hospitality business. So I ended up going to the hotel school. And for those of you who don’t know, Cornell is located in Ithaca, New York. And so I showed up in Ithaca as a 26 year old undergraduate eager for whatever was next for me and hungry to have some success beyond the restaurant business.

And so one of the first things that I did when I got to Ithaca was just take a stroll around the farmer’s market. And I was just looking for an opportunity to start a small local farmer’s market type business. And when I saw that there was not a local homeless company, I knew that was, that was the, you know, the, the thing that, that made the most sense for me and where I was and what the community.

Needed and could support. So a month later, um, I opened up a stand at the farmer’s market selling hummus. 

Ken: There you go. Actually, I have a lot of follow-up questions. So first of all, you mentioned, uh, in love with food, um, was that always true from a young age? 

Chris: It was. Remember when I was very young, um, before it was time to take a nap, my mom would always turn on Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on, you know, public television and sometimes that would run, you know, early or, or after that programming. And I would get to see some other chefs and just really loved that. I just loved the process of cooking and the ingredients and the story of all the ingredients. Just drew me in and yeah, so I, I, from a, from a pretty young age, I developed a strong liking and love for food.

Ken: Is your mom a good cook as well? Was she into that too? 

Chris: My mom was a great cook. Um, she like most moms, you know, with four kids was under the constant pressure of coming up with something every night that we would all like, and. Um, not, not kinda bringing out the same old stuff every day, um, and did a great job with it but as far as my mom’s concerned and my food’s Tory with my mom is she’s a big tea drinker. And so by association, everyone in our household growing up became tea drinkers, and what makes her tea different and just so unique and intense with flavor is she would always put fresh lemon in it. And I can remember being out of lemons and going into the refrigerator and getting like the bottles, you know, past concentrated lemon juice and trying to doctor up my tea with that and the experience was just so different. It was, it just spoke to how important the freshness of the lemon that she used was. And, it was an early experience for me that is still very relevant in my life and what I do now. 

Ken: Hmm. That’s awesome. Um, where did you guys grow up? 

Chris: We grew up in Maryland, right outside of Baltimore in a town called Linthicum.

Ken: Okay. Okay. Um, and, um, okay, so fast forward a little bit. You, you, um, you got into the restaurant business and were you a chef for a restaurant? 

Chris: Yeah, so after high school I went to culinary school and then I kind of bounced around. About seven years working at various restaurants in various roles, starting out as, you know, uh, a Komi and chef did part two, which is like the low level, uh, prep cook. Um, and then eventually worked myself up at a fine dining French restaurant line cook and sous chef, and just kind of ran the gamut for a few years and multiple restaurants across the country. 

Ken: Okay. Got it. Yeah, I’m really interested in, in, in that career change. Um, just because restaurant, you know, burnout is something that, you know, I’ve definitely heard more than once, um, that the restaurant business can be, you know, thrilling and exhilarating. It’s fun. Um, uh, but it’s also very demanding. Um, the hours and the stress and the pressure. Um, did you feel some of that or what, what was sort of, you know, if you can kind of fill in the details a little bit about why you were burnt out and what was going on in your life at the time? 

Chris: Sure. Happy to, I, I think anyone who is successful in the restaurant business has to be a little bit of an adrenaline junkie and that’s definitely the case with me. And so when I was young and. Really eager and ambitious to make my name and be the best in that arena, that really the adrenaline and the rush and the constant stress and pressure. And the long hours almost fueled me in like a weird way. But as I got older and had more time to experience that, I just started to think about, well, what other things are important to me? To live a full life. And what other goals do I have outside of just, you know, being a bad-ass chef, you know? Um, and I think when it was, it was that realization mixed with. I think something that I share with a lot of fellow chefs and cooks says is just going back to that a journal and adrenaline junkie characteristic like when you get through a long day and a long night of working in a kitchen, you need to do something to wind down. And a lot of times, for me, it was going to the bar and hanging out until three in the morning and then waking up early to get back in the restaurant and. It was just a lot of stress on my body and mind. And, uh, I just felt like it wasn’t sustainable. And that’s what led me to make that, that change. 

Ken: And how old were you at the time? 

Chris: 26. 

Ken: Okay. Um, and so obviously making a pretty drastic change, especially after you’ve invested so many years and, and school and everything, um, is difficult. Um, did you have any sort of fears about, about this or were you just at a point where something that had to happen?

Chris: Yeah, there was fear of the unknown. Just what I knew was I felt. Confident. And I felt strongly that I could start a business where I would, you know, make some food and then sell it in a grocery store. Like that seemed achievable to me. And I just didn’t really know what that was. And so there was some fear of the unknown, but I at least had that general concept to center myself around and try to, you know, start to build the skillset that I would need to be successful in that.

Ken: So interesting. So you, you already kind of had it mapped out that you could actually sell a food in a grocery store. Do you know where that came from? Or had you been thinking about it for awhile? How did, how did that come up? 

Chris: Well, well, in, I think there were just, maybe it was something at the time, maybe this wasn’t a new thing, but I started realizing that, you know, going into the grocery store, going to like low local, natural food stores. And co-ops like, there were all kinds of products on the shelf. That appeared at least to have been made locally by like, or some person, you know, or a group of people and then hand delivered there. And, you know, I just thought about that process and it’s like, I can do that. I mean, I’m used to working 12 hour days in a hot. Kitchen. And this seems like almost like a nice little break from that where I could focus on one thing, one recipe and not the face with the pressure of like constantly recreating and one-upping whatever I did the night before in a restaurant. And. So I, I hope that answers your question. I, I think I just saw a lot of evidence of it out there and, um, it seemed like something I could wrap my head around how that would work.

Ken: Yeah. Yeah, no, it does. It definitely answers the question. Um, you know, what’s, what’s interesting is just. The explosion of CPG products, um, and even just, um, the grocery store, how different it is from when, when I grew up, you know, I remember going to the grocery store. I mean, you had variety, but nothing like you see today. I mean, oftentimes you’re just seeing so many different brands and, you know, flavors and, um, you know, it’s just, it’s just fascinating. So, uh, you know, it’s interesting that you had that realization that you could do that too, but I think just a lot of people are having that realization. 

Chris: No question. And for me, I always knew that I wanted it to eventually lead to a big company, you know, like start small and then just brick by brick, slowly build to that. And I was okay with that scrappy, incremental process that I knew was ahead and, um, just, just felt really just felt, uh, just felt okay with taking that one step at a time. 

Ken: All right. So, so Chris, so you have this idea that you want to, you know, you want to sell a food and, um, you know, even distributed through grocery stores. It’s interesting that you already have that in mind. Um, let’s, let’s kind of walk through what you did next. Um, you did mention the farmer’s market, but did you, did you research on the internet? Did you have a list? You know, what was your process like in order to come to, um, what eventually becomes Ithaca Hummus?

Chris: Well, the first step for me was, was figuring out what I, what I needed to do to mass manufacture and sell a food safe product that was, you know, above, above board and legal and all that stuff. So making it in my home kitchen, you know, wasn’t going to last very long. So the first thing I did was I found a summer camp, kitchen in Ithaca that was not being used and I could and was available for rent. And I rented that for $250 a month, which was awesome. And then, um, after that, it just became about, okay, how do I sell as much of my product as possible through the channels that make the most sense? And farmer’s, market’s a great one because it’s essentially a cash business, which meant.

I could go out on a Friday and buy all the ingredients that I needed to, to make enough product to sell at the farmer’s market and convert all that raw material inventory back into cash within the map within a matter of like four or five days. So it was great for cash flow and with that cash flow and just cashflow cycle, I was able to also.

Um, start distributing by myself, you know, out of the back of my car to local co-ops and small grocery stores and wineries in the finger lakes region. And as I said before, it just, it was a very incremental process of going from distributing out of my car to finding like the local natural foods distributor.

And building a large enough size distribution to peak their interest, to start taking that part over for me. And, and, you know, and then just kind of up from there. 

Ken: So you were, you were able to find a, um, a kitchen for, what did you say? 200, 200 bucks a month. Something like that. 

Chris: 250, which was hard to pay some months.

Ken: Yeah. Especially, yeah. We wait early. Do you think opportunities like that are, um, are still around, you know, for somebody that might just be starting out, you know, and, and you mentioned it’s a summer camp, um, kitchen. What, what exactly is that and how did you find out about it? 

Chris: So luckily in Tompkins County, where we’re at tikka is, uh, there’s a resource there called. The cooperative extension. And I feel that, you know, probably a lot of communities have some form of like local economic development support groups or, or, um, organizations. And so through the cooperative extension, I was able to find a list of. Actually small co-packers and food safe kitchens that were available for rent. And this summer camp happened to be, to be one of them. I think while a lot of people’s instinct, when they start a business, like it to go home is, is, uh, I gotta go find a co-packer, you know, before they’ve even sold anything. And, and in my experience, it’s better to start small, figure it out, do it yourself for a little while, and then go to the co-packer once you’ve reached a certain scale. And I do think that those opportunities are out there and those resources are out there for people. They’re just hard to find if you’re channel visioned on like the co-packer Avenue and route. So I think they’re out there if you look for them. 

Ken: Yeah. And I, and I think that that’s great, great advice, you know, for a variety of different reasons, but I’m curious to hear why, why you thought that that was, you know, the, the best, the best course of action, um, you know, to find a kitchen. And, you know, kind of iterate on your product, you know, um, you know, that’s one of the things that comes to mind, um, if you’re doing it yourself, whereas that’s much harder to do with a co-packer. Are there any other reasons where you thought that, that, um, having the, the kitchen and kind of doing it yourself was, was a better route to go initially?

Chris: Yeah, I, I think I, first of all, just kind of have a very do it yourself, ethos to begin with naturally. But even more than that, like it was a, it was really just a matter of like simple economics of it. I mean, I, if I went to a co-packer then even if it’s small co-packer that I’m paying them something that. I can’t afford not to pay them. If it’s just me making the product. Like I can not, I can not be paid for a week or a month or however long it took in the beginning. It was just a more cost effective, more labor intensive, but more cost-effective way to start. So it was almost a, a risk mitigation strategy to, to start out.

Ken: Yeah, no, you know, I’m thinking about, uh, a business that we’re pretty familiar with called good to go bar. You know, they, they started out very similar. Um, they found a kitchen. Um, the guy, um, the founder Casey actually initially was, um, he could only afford the kitchen at night. And so he was renting it, you know, late at night. So he he’d show up with a couple people at like one in the morning. This was when he could afford the kitchen space. And then they would make bars throughout the night. Um, and so I, you know, I, I, I bring that up just to, um, say that there are creative ways to do this. If you, if you’re, if you look around and, and be resourceful, um, there’s ways to do this and keep the costs down quite a bit. Okay. So, you know, the other thing I thought that you were really smart about was, um, actually starting to sell in, in farmer’s markets, you know, and I think that there are advantages here that, that maybe, you know, aren’t really apparent, but you know, I’m thinking about the cashflow thing, which I think you articulated pretty well. Um, but even just, um, you know, marketing and selling your product, you know, and getting that feedback from your customers that are buying directly from you. I think that, that you get a good sense as to. What they get excited about what, what they like, what they don’t like. Did you, uh, did you find that to be true?

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s almost just as, if not more important than the, than the cashflow benefit that I mentioned earlier, you know, especially for me, you know, not having been in a sales role per se at any point before my career, it was just really a good experience to stand right in front of people who. You know, I have no skin in the game and get their honest feedback on the product. And luckily for me, you know, being a chef, like I had a really good product. And so what might be for a lot of people and certainly was for me, but what might be for a lot of people, an opportunity to test and learn and try different formulas and recipes and new flavors.

Um, for me, it was more of an energizing experience. Like I was in school. I was delivering hummus in the morning, making it all night, going to the farmer’s market on the weekend. And so it was critical for me to have some form of what I’ve referred to before and heard this from someone else as entrepreneurial currency, to just fill up the tank, you know, with energy to keep going and keep doing it.

Ken: Yeah. Yeah. And then that’s an awesome term entrepreneurial currency. And so did you find that you had to change your product at all? Or, you know, what was the feedback that you got? Uh, you know, from that early farmers market, 

Chris: This is going to sound really cocky and I don’t mean it to be at all, but there wasn’t no, there, there really wasn’t anything that we’ve changed about the formula or the recipe of the product we have. We have done considerable amount of work over the years to commercialize our products in a way that kept the ingredients the same, you know, we still use fresh squeezed lemon juice and fresh garlic and all that great stuff and no preservatives. But the big challenge was how do you add shelf life and commercialization to a product without taking away all the things that made it.

Awesome in the first place. And I really think that that’s been our biggest success from an operation standpoint since, you know, since we’ve been around. 

Ken: So is that, is that a process that you could talk about or, um, you know, and even, even how you, you came to that? 

Chris: Totally. Yeah. And it was like everything else. It was very incremental when I started, we had a seven day shelf life and, um, that’s obviously incredibly short, so. The next step was figuring out how we could handle the product and the ingredient ingredients in a way that kept them fresh, but extended the shelf life. And so the, the next stage for just seven day raw product essentially was buying a, a filling machine that had gas flush capability.

Um, within it. And what that means is you’re, you’re flushing out the container with a gas that’s heavier than oxygen. In our case, it was nitrogen so that the residual oxygen level left in the container after it was sealed was less than 5%. It’s the oxygen that makes. Things start to deteriorate and go bad. And so by controlling the oxygen level, we were able to take the seven day shelf life up to 28 to 35 days, depending on the pH of each flavor. Um, and yeah, so a little science-y, but. Uh, and then, and then beyond that, uh, our next big jump in shelf life was when we added high pressure processing to our, to our overall process. And, um, that was recently, I mean, that was two and a half years ago when we started doing that, but that took the shelf life from 35 days to a hundred. And that’s the, when we really started to spread our wings and and go after some bigger national distribution. That just wasn’t possible before that. 

Ken: Yeah. And can you talk about, a little bit about the economics of that? You know, um, I can imagine a seven, you know, even going from seven days to 30 days or so, um, you know, kind of changes the nature of the business. 

Chris: Yeah. Um, it’s a good point. There’s a couple different factors there. I mean, obviously as you add processing equipment and technology to your process. There’s a, there’s a cost associated with that. HPP is very expensive. Um, but as long as you maintain the same, uh, intense management of, of finished goods, inventory controls, and just in time manufacturing, um, You know, the cashflow can really remain on change and if you’re selling a lot and you’re growing very quickly, then you can do that and at the same time, Produce longer manufacturing runs, which are also more efficient from a cost perspective. So it’s a little bit of a balancing act like how much do we produce at one time to get the efficiency from a long run, um, that we now have access to because we’ve got more shelf life on the products. But at the same time, how do we keep our finished goods inventory low enough and convert it back into cash fast enough that our balance sheet isn’t just full of inventory and no cash. Um, so a little bit of a complex puzzle to figure out. And then of course there’s always the, you know, the factor of like, how do you negotiate terms with vendors and with customers on both sides, everything’s a negotiation and you’re smart. As you’re starting out, but, you know, throughout the business to use those negotiations on terms to, you know, make sure that your cashflow stays in the healthiest position that it possibly can. 

Ken: Right. Um, and you know, just the note about the inventory, especially when your product is perishable, you know, um, definitely keeping up on that so that not only do you have a lot of money tied up in inventory, but also it’s not, you know, the, the worst part would be that it’s expiring or spoiling, you know, uh, on your shelf.

Chris: It kind of links back to a question I asked earlier, which was, why would you recommend manufacturing yourself to start? And it was really like training. And like, and like developing habits as a business on how you manage to make something and sell it with it in a very short period of time. Like that was awesome. Right? I mean, it was hard, but it was awesome to go through that experience because we still do it that way. And it has a massive impact on our cashflow and also like when you start out with a really short seven day shelf life, it limits your ability to grow your distribution too far outside of your local geography, which is also a good thing because it forces you to figure out how to build velocity to grow instead of just going out and getting into a thousand new retailers in a year. To support your growth goal. You know, it’s, it’s much better, especially in the beginning, as you’re learning about your consumer and about your product and how those two things meet. Um, it’s much better to figure out how to sell more of your product through, you know, a limited number of channels then to add all these channels where you’re, you’re selling less product through each one of them.

Ken: Right. Yeah. I I’m glad you remembered that. Cause that’s an excellent point. Um, so I, I wanted to just, you know, um, you know, we’ve only got a few more minutes, but um, I wanted to. Just dig into that choice of hummus again. Um, I, you know, I, I don’t know that it would be necessarily the first product. I think the average person would think of, especially here in the United States, you know, I’m, I’m not even sure how, how popular hummuses I know it’s gaining in popularity. Um, but, uh, you know, I I’d imagine there’s still a large chunk of the population that doesn’t even know what hummus is. Um, So, what do you, what do you think some of the advantages of choosing a product like hummus has been, um, and then, you know, what are, what are some of the challenges? 

Chris: Absolutely. Um, well, I’ll start with, first of all, making hummus is not a difficult thing to do. You know, it did not require a, some massive investment in a special piece of equipment or packaging at all to start, you know, I. I needed some, some big pots, you know, a stove and a blender and a ice cream scoop to put it into the deli cups that were readily available. So the barrier to entry, so to speak was very low.

Ken: And you already had a recipe. I assume you, you had a recipe in mind or you kind of knew how to do this from, from being a chef. 

Chris: Right. I mean, the recipe development part was, was natural for me. And I realized that’s not the case for everyone, but in my case it was, um, so then, um, I mean, it just became about like, okay, where can this, how big could this get? And for that, I. I looked at things like household penetration of the category, um, which at the time when I started was around 30% and I believe it’s still, you know, in the mid to low thirties, which speaks to the quality of the product that exists outside of our brand. Um, which is my next point, which is. Man when I went to the grocery store and I tasted what was available, it just no wonder, like people, weren’t all, you know, obsessed with this product. And I just had a strong intuition that if I could do it, I could do it better. And I could put a product out there that people would become excited about and obsessed with. And, um, so now, uh, it, it really impacts like our, our, our. Everyday goals, which are things like, how do we grow usage occasions and make this a, a product that people don’t just bring around when they’re having their friends over for a barbecue, but they eat it morning, noon and night. Um, how do we expand household penetration by tapping into markets of consumers that aren’t currently being marketed to by the bigger brands in the category? Um, And so, you know, I, I hope, I hope that that answers your question, but just to summarize it just, it felt like something that I could get into that had a big potential, if I could do it the way that I thought it needed to be done. 

Ken: Okay. Yeah. Understood. And what about, what about some of the challenges involved, you know, with the product, like, like, like hummus, do you, do you find that, um, You know, let’s say that you’re you approach a retailer about, about, you know, stocking your product. Um, you know, if they don’t already sell hummus or, or something like it, do you find that much of a challenge or, or, you know, are most people pretty familiar with it at this point? 

Chris: Yeah. I mean, I would say 99% of grocery stores out there, conventional knack and Nash and sorry, conventional and natural, and even command, especially club too. Like everybody has home is on the shelf. It’s, it’s more of the challenge that I’ve faced has been more like just fatigue from these category managers who have seen so many, like. Challenger brands who want to come in and have shelf space that would otherwise go to the category leader, which is Sabra, which is owned by Pepsi. Um, you know, these category managers have seen so many failed challenges come along and try and get that, get the shelf space and go on the shelf and just not. Dig off, like, so like Sabra and match the velocity. Um, so I just, you know, over time we’ve been able to build demand for our product ahead of going in and physically meeting with a category manager about bringing our product in so that we have a story of like, Hey, there’s there are people in your area in your region that. I can prove to want this product, you know, we deserve a shot. And then after that, it just becomes about executing and focusing on what the velocity goal is and beating it. Um, so yeah, definitely it’s been a challenge, one of our biggest challenges to just gain access to the shelf. Um, but I think we’ve set ourselves apart by how serious, how seriously we take the responsibility of being on that shelf. And, um, what we need to do to make sure that we, that we hit our goals and meet the expectation we set with the category manager. 

Ken: Right. And even just through, with the quality of your product, you know, um, which I think has come out throughout this interview. Um, that’s, that’s definitely number one for you guys.

Chris: I say it all the time. I mean, I’m not, you know, uh, the best marketer in the world. And I think if you scroll through our Instagram and Facebook pages over the years, you can see evidence of that. But we’ve always put, I have always put it all into the quality of the products. Like if we can get repeat, then, you know, we’ll figure out whatever we need to do to get the trial. And the product is what is what. Gains you that repeat customer and that’s the key. So, um, it has been all about the product from the beginning. It still is. Um, I have a really amazing team now. And so our branding and marketing has gotten a lot better, you know, thanks to them. But, um, yeah, it’s been about the product and I think that’s, what’s, that’s, what’s kept us going for so long.

Ken: All right. And wrapping up here, you know, just looking forward, you know, what, what are you excited about for the rest of this year? What do you have coming up? You know, what’s, what’s going on with it with Ethica hummus. 

Chris: Yeah. So we just launched, um, a family size 17 ounce. Um, our normal, our, our core line is 10 ounces. So we’ve got a bigger size that’s out there and, um, beating expectations already doing really well. Uh, we launched the Buffalo ranch flavor earlier in the year, which. Again, as, as exceeded expectations, it’s like risen to the top actually of our rankings, surprisingly, which is great to see. And then 

Ken: that, one’s not surprising to me at all. In fact, that’s, that’s the one, you know, when, when I was looking through your website, it’s, that’s definitely the one I would, I would buy, you know, so I dunno. That’s, uh, you know, just another, another data point there, but I think Buffalo ranches, that’s a great flavor. 

Chris: Oh, I love it too. I mean, it’s a great product. It’s a great flavor. It’s a great recipe. It tastes amazing. Um, but going back to some of those goals I spoke to earlier, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s a flavor that speaks to mass market, you know, and if we want to drive change and be impactful in the category, We’ve gotta be able to bring new users into the category. And we have also, you know, we have to have products that people consume all the time and the Buffalo ranch definitely checks both of those boxes. 

Ken: Yeah, it makes sense. 

Chris: Yeah. And then for the rest of the year, we’ve got, um, some big national. Um, launches that are, that are happening in, in the spring. Um, which I’m excited. I can’t really talk about them quite yet, but, uh, you’ll see that soon, um, all over our website and social media, I’m sure we’ve got another flavor coming out in the fall for back to school. And we’re working on a two ounce, um, which we’re going to do in a new format, new, innovative packaging that, that the category has, has never seen before. So excited about that. Lots of exciting things going on from a product and, and a distribution standpoint. And, you know, I can’t. Can’t forget about the team. I mean, um, I’m so just lucky and feel, uh, just incredibly confident in the team that we have today, all just best in class, hungry, very ambitious and, um, hardworking people that are just like me, you know, hell bent on having success and ready are ready to run through walls.

Ken: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. So as we, as we close up here, just wanted to go through the quick fire round. Um, just for quick questions, just let me know what comes comes to your mind first. Um, what’s one tool or resource that has helped you the most in your career, 

Chris: Google. 

Ken: Uh, what is one book that has helped you?

Chris: Um, the hard thing about hard things. 

Ken: Yeah. Ben Horowitz, right? Yes, no, no. He’s, he’s awesome. Um, I love how real he is, you know, just even listening to him talk, but that’s that, that book too. He does not sugar coat it, you know? 

Chris: That’s great. Great reading for anyone who hasn’t read it. I highly recommend it sounds like you do too.

Ken: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Uh, what is one piece of advice that you would give your 21 year old self? 

Chris: Slow down. You don’t have to, you don’t have to do it all in a day. You know, you can slow down and enjoy the journey a little bit. 

Ken: Okay. And, and, uh, if you could take anybody to lunch, uh, who would that person be?

Chris: Mark Cuban. I love Mark Cuban. 

Ken: Yeah, he’s a lot of fun. Um, that’d be a fun lunch for sure. Um, just any, any parting advice for, for those that are, that are thinking about getting into the physical product space, um, thinking about becoming a food entrepreneur or currently grinding it out as a food entrepreneur, do you have any pieces of advice that you’d give to them?

Chris: Actually, I think this is a Mark Cuban piece of advice that I, that really resonates with me, which is don’t like, Don’t let great stand in the way a good, you know, don’t a lot of times people will just ruminate and just obsess over everything that could go wrong. When in reality, you know, if you are willing to take small steps and work really hard, the best thing for you to do a lot of times, it’s just, just start, just get started, try it. Don’t be afraid to fail. Admit that to yourself as quickly as possible. And then try again. 

Ken: Okay. And last, uh, Chris, if somebody wanted to reach out to you, what’s the best way to do that. 

Chris: Let’s try LinkedIn. And, um, I’m trying to give some advice. I, I do get a lot of like very salesy outreach on LinkedIn. I think that’s where we connected Ken.

Ken: Yeah. 

Chris: So LinkedIn is a good, good source. Okay, 

Ken: Then we’ll make sure to include a link to your LinkedIn profile on the show notes. Well, Chris, I look, I appreciate you, uh, doing this and, um, you know, getting real with us and telling us about your journey. I think this has been very, very educational and, uh, it’s been, it’s been fun to hear your journey, so thank you.

Chris: Yeah, thanks for having me kinda, I love, um, talking about, you know, my journey and experience in, in a very authentic way. And I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to do that. 

Ken: All right, man. Yeah, you take care. 

Chris: You too, Ken! Thanks. 

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