The Consumer Packaged Goods industry is a massive market for a startup to navigate. And if you are a food startup one of the most critical decisions you have to make is to determine which SKU you want to bring to market first. Well, in this episode we unpack this incredibly important decision and learn how to determine the right product to go to market with. Bill Glaser, co-founder of Outstanding foods, walks us through the strategy he employed when determining which product to launch with and why that decision has long-term implications for the brand. If you are not aware of Outstanding Foods, you soon will be because they have some of the most recognizable celebrities and influencers evangelizing their products!
This week’s episode my guest this week is Bill Glazer Co-founder of Outstanding Foods.
Bill is a serial entrepreneur with numerous successful exits. And in this episode, we get to hear about some critical decisions he made in bringing outstanding foods to market. Tactics that if you're bringing a product to market in this category you might want to listen very intently on. The Startup Story continues to deliver the founder’s direct guidance and this week’s episode is no different.
Yet, despite all of the massive successes that Bill has experienced his journey had to start somewhere, and oftentimes that origin Storey isn't too far off from our very own. Yet, it's the many subsequent decisions that make all the difference.
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Bill Glaser: I'm Bill Glaser. I'm cofounder and CEO of Outstanding Foods. We make Pig Out Pigless Pork Rinds and Take Out Puffs, and this is MY startup story.
James McKinney: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of The Startup Story. Before we jump into this week's episode I want to share a few opportunities that you have to bring your business and brand to my audience of 85,000 listeners, and the first one is absolutely free. If you want to plug your brand in an upcoming episode of The Startup Story then make sure to leave a written review on Apple Podcast and make sure to plug your brand in that written review. That way when I read your review in an episode it will be like a free add within an episode of The Startup Story. Again, this opportunity is completely free. It just takes a few moments of your time.
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And one more thing before we jump into this week's episode. On April 21st we begin a three part livestream series with three incredible founders, and during this event you will have the opportunity to ask your questions directly to some of the most successful founders of today. Founders like Matt Meeker who cofounded Meetup and BarkBox. Both had massively successful exits, and are in two entirely different sectors. One event will feature Renae Bluitt, the creator of She Did That, that has since been picked up by Netflix for distribution. She Did That is a platform that tells incredible stories of some powerful black female founders. Our third featured founder is David Barnett, the inventor and founder of PopSockets. They have sold hundreds of millions of units, and he started as a philosophy professor. Again, this event begins April 21st, a three part series, and you can register for access today. All three of these featured founders have a tremendous amount of value to share and you will have the opportunity to bring your startup or business questions directly to them. So visit live.grindology.com to learn more. Again, live.grindology.com and that's where you can register. Of course we're going to include a link in the show notes for easy access. Now let's jump in to this week's episode.
My guest this week is Bill Glaser, cofounder of Outstanding Foods. Just last week we had CPG expert Ryan Lewendon on the show, and one of the trends that he spoke about as being the next big boom in CPG was in plant based foods. Well, Outstanding Foods is on the forefront of this industry shift. Bill is a serial entrepreneur with numerous successful exits, and in this episode we get to hear about some critical decisions he made in bringing Outstanding Foods to market. Tactics that, if you're bringing a product to market in this category you might want to listen very intently on. The Startup Story continues to deliver founder direct guidance and this week's episode is no different. Yet, despite all of the massive successes that Bill has experienced, his journey had to start somewhere, and oftentimes that origin story isn't too far off from our very own. Yet, it's the many subsequent decisions that make all the difference.
Bill Glaser: My father was someone that walked the line of wanting to be an entrepreneur but also liking the security of getting a paycheck. He struggled with that, and as a kid I saw both sides of that. My father was in advertising and he had his own agency at least twice, I believe maybe even three times he had three different agencies. He worked for other advertising agencies. When he worked for other advertising agencies he didn't have the stress of managing a business, and all of the intricacies and ups and downs that come with that. He was getting a weekly or biweekly pay check, and he liked that. He struggled though with not being able to spread his wings and being his own boss, being able to take the swings that he wanted to swing. And so I saw both sides of the equation of what it was like to be an entrepreneur and what it was like to work for a company, and my father who struggled with both because he was never all in on either. I think for me I saw that I wanted to do my own thing. I didn't want to be contained. That's really how I got my early entrepreneurial influence of wanting to take those swings.
James McKinney: You know let me ask that question though because obviously there is an attraction to doing your own thing, to living without… I was about to say living without boundaries but that's not really true. It's just a different set of boundaries and guidance which we live by. But you also saw the less amount of stress in your dad's life in the paycheck era if you will. Why were you still drawn to the entrepreneurial lifestyle?
Bill Glaser: Freedom. I saw that when he was stressed it wasn't about a paycheck, it was about that his ideas weren't heard. It was about the politics of the company he was working for and whether they were going to recognize his work, or whether he had the freedom to do what he wanted to do and bring in the type of accounts that he resonated with, that he was connected with, and not just be involved with companies or businesses that he was promoting as an advertiser that he didn't connect with. So the freedom not only to pursue what I wanted, but the freedom to do things that are meaningful to me. Those were lessons that I saw every day as a kid, the struggle that my father had with that.
James McKinney: I love that, and you're absolutely right. That resonates so deeply with me. Again, I have to ask this question because I love some of these early day hustle stories. When did you start testing the water? Even as a kid, when did you start testing the water on entrepreneurship?
Bill Glaser: A lot earlier than my daughter will be able to do in the same vein. I have an eight year old daughter and when I thought of what I was doing at an age much younger than hers, I'm like there's no way that she would be doing that now. That was when I was literally four years old, four and five years old, I was motivated by things, and I wanted to get things. There were these boys magazines that I used to read, and in one of them in the back of it was a magic kit that I wanted. The way you got the magic kit was by selling greeting cards and vegetable seeds, and earning points from those sales to get enough points to then get that magic kit.
James McKinney: I love it.
Bill Glaser: I ordered all the supplies - the greeting cards, the vegetable seeds - with the help of my parents to send it in. Surprisingly when I look back at four and five years old, I literally was by myself going door to door, and this is in the suburbs of New York, knocking on people's doors, opening the door. I didn't know a lot of those people and at four and five years old I had a pitch. I was selling vegetable seeds and greeting cards so that I could make those points, make that money, to get that magic kit.
James McKinney: I love it. And I love that you start off by saying definitely nothing that I would allow my daughter to do. It is a different era. I remember mowing the lawn in third grade for neighbors, and it's like you don't see kids that young these days out there doing that kind of work. It is definitely a different era.
Bill Glaser: I encourage my daughter to pursue the things she wants to pursue, and there's a lot of ways that she could be entrepreneurial if she chose to do that, but knocking on people's doors and going door to door at four years old, I sense that I probably would be reported as some type of parent if that happened these days, nor would I feel comfortable letting her do that. But if she wants to pursue something and spread her wings, I would fully encourage it and I have encouraged it, just not going door to door at four years old, or even eight years old.
James McKinney: Yeah plus kids today have online resources that we never had access to. My daughter is 15 and she populates her arts on Redbubbl and Etsy, and is making money that way. It's just amazing to me the resources kids have nowadays to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams if they have any. So your daughter probably has a bunch of different ways that she can monetize some of her passions. But for you, as we come to the end of your high school years, as we continue to unpack your entrepreneurial journey, what did you think you wanted to do at the end of high school? Because high school is a natural end of one chapter and beginning of another, so what was that for you? What did you think the next steps were and what did you want to become?
Bill Glaser: When I was in high school I was really good at math, and I was also very creative and drew very well. So for me that combination was architecture. I looked, when I was applying to colleges I was looking at colleges that had an architectural program. I also had an interest in finance. In high school I was part of an investing club and had mock portfolios, and also had my own stock that I used some money that I earned and bought stock, and was exposed to that. I was thinking whether I want to be an architect or I want to be in finance in some way. The finance won over because I thought about while I'm creative and good at math, I don't want to sit at a desk in a station all day. I want to go out and live life, and experience other things. So that was the part of the architecture that drove me away from it.
Then I went to college, I got a finance degree, economics minor. Throughout my childhood I did things to make money and they were often entrepreneurial things. I was mowing people's lawns, shoveling driveways during the wintertime. My father was in advertising would often bring home samples of products he was advertising for. Watch straps, rings, things like that. I would take them to school and I would sell them. And so I had that entrepreneurial drive, I had that ability to just figure out like okay here's a product, let me go sell it or here's my service let me go sell it. But when I went to college I studied finance and economics. When I was graduating and interviewing for jobs, they were mostly focused on finance. I fortunately got a very good job offer at a big investment banking firm, well known, very respected. It was one of these jobs that you start out at a certain point and rise through the ranks. I accepted it, and I accepted it in part because that's what my parents wanted me to do. They felt this is a very prestigious investment banking firm, this is a good job. But there was a part of me that was uncomfortable with that decision, that was okay I'm getting into someone's corporate hierarchy. I'm going back to my father working for someone else and this isn't me. So I contemplated up until the day I was supposed to start. That first day, I call them up and I said, "I thank you very much for the opportunity, but I've decided I'm not going to take it."
James McKinney: Wow.
Bill Glaser: Of course that didn't go over well with my parents. They were very disappointed. How do you give up such an opportunity, we paid for four years of college and you're ruining it. All of the things that a lot of kids hear when they want to pursue their own dream that's different than what their parent's expectations are. I heard that, and I heard that in a very heavy way. But I still pursued what resonated for me, despite those naysayers, ,and I understood where their perspective was but it wasn't my perspective.
I ended up still getting a job in finance but one that was more sales oriented in financial sales. I was initially a financial advisor, and then progressively moved into investment banking. But I was in a role where what I made was determined by my efforts, and that was very entrepreneurial to me, and very skill building for me as well in terms of how to sell. When you could sell one on one, you could sell one to many. So I learned those skills doing that. Then of course three months later after I quit the job that I had taken, that disappointed my parents, when I got the financial sales job it was also at a respected company. So after three months of hearing, "What are you going to do with your life?" Finally it was, "Oh, I see now, and that makes sense, and it's a good decision." But I think it's really important, no matter what age you are, to make decisions for yourself that you know are going to be true for what resonates with you and that you're committed to doing, and that you're passionate about and not just take a job based on other people's expectations.
James McKinney: Oh, I love it. I'm going to make an assumption here that in that role you saw great success. Now, between that role and your first entrepreneurial venture, what were the steps and how did you navigate that journey and why did you end up leaving it all to take the risk of starting your own thing?
James McKinney: All right, before Bill explains why he took the leap into entrepreneurship, I need to ask you a question. How valuable would it be to have direct access to some of my past guests so that you can learn exactly how they executed certain strategies to grow their business? I have to believe that would be extremely helpful to your entrepreneurial journey. As someone who has access to these founders I can tell you first hand it's incredibly helpful. And it is now available to you because that is the experience and knowledge sharing that is delivered to you each quarter when you become a Grindology member.
Grindology is an entrepreneurial subscription box that ships every quarter full of resources to help fuel your grind and your hustle. Now you might be asking what's included in your Grindology shipment? Well, first and foremost every single Grindology shipment will include a copy of the Grindology tactical manual. Every single issue of Grindology will be chock full of real tactics from real business builders, not journalists. Within the pages of the Grindology tactical manual we will be delivering to you tactics and strategies you can integrate into your business immediately. How great would it be to receive Facebook ad strategies from those who are doing it? Wouldn't it be helpful if a successful founder laid out specific user acquisition strategies that they use to grow their business? Well those are the types of tactics that will be found in each issue of Grindology. Like I said, real tactics from real business builders.
In addition to the Grindology tactical manual, each shipment delivers two bags of uniquely crafted coffee specifically roasted for you, the founder, the hustler, the entrepreneur, the maker and creator. Each shipment also includes an exclusive mug that speaks to the unique nature that is you, the entrepreneur. I've said it numerous times, everything I do is about helping you in your entrepreneurial journey, so visit grindology.com to learn more. We will include a link to grindology.com within our show notes for easy access. Now let's jump back into our episode with Bill Glaser to find out why he would leave a corporate role that he was succeeding in to start his own venture.
Bill Glaser: Yeah so I did start out in that role very successfully in the whole national class that I came into in this program. I was the number two person in sales and the number one person inherited the book of clients from their father that worked at that same firm. And so I was making more money than my friends. At that time I thought that was a measure of success. I don't think that's a measure of success in any way in terms of how much money you make as the level of success. I think it's the level of success is what value you're creating, how you're helping other people. But at that time I was more materialistic and was measuring myself that I'm essentially number one in this program and I've achieved something. But it wasn't enough for me. I started seeing some trends in the market, and there was something that caught my eye that I saw an opportunity and started a business when I was I believe 23 years old. It was my first post college entrepreneurial company.
James McKinney: Wow. And what was that business? What was the trend you saw and what was the business you started?
Bill Glaser: Yeah, that was during the first Persian Gulf War and there was this tremendous surge of patriotism, and a tremendous shortage of US Flags. Ironically at that time, and still now, you'd see a lot of US Flags that say "Made in China" on the sticker on the flag. So I saw an opportunity that there was a demand and a shortage of supply, and so I figured out okay how do I make flags? I sourced out all of the manufacturers. They all had backlogs in some cases for years, and decided then okay I'm going to make flags, and I'm going to figure out what are the components of the flags, how do you produce these flags, and then how do you sell the flags.
While I was figuring out how to make them, I started selling them. So I used a strategy that now is very akin to how email marketing is or text marketing. It was fax marketing back then where I was sending out mass faxes, but instead of pushing one button to send multiple faxes I was pushing each button for each call, and each fax number I was dialing. They were buyers of chain stores, all types of pharmacies, discount department stores, department stores, and a variety of others. So sending one fax at a time, all day, all night, with an offer, with a headline, "We have US flags," and in three weeks generated $1 million worth of purchase orders.
James McKinney: That's amazing.
Bill Glaser: And so the hustle of figuring out how to make them intensified. I sourced out all of the raw materials. I contracted a company to print them and assemble them. And I even figured out how to finance some of that with receivables because I was dealing with some bigger companies. I borrowed money from my father. That was uncomfortable for me to ask and uncomfortable for him to provide. He wasn't the richest guy in the world and so it was a stretch for him, but he supported me. When I went to fulfill that first order I got a sample of what was going to be sent to this big chain store, and I open up the box extremely excited that okay I have $1 million of sales in three weeks and this is going to turn into tens of millions.
I'm counting, I'm seeing the vision ahead of me, and I open up the box, take out the first flags and everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. They were printed with the wrong color ink. They were cut unevenly. They had glue on the sticks. And all of that dream, that vision, came tumbling down. What do I do? How do I pay back my father? How do I remedy this? Is there a way to remedy this? And ultimately I wasn't able to fulfill those orders. The $1 million of purchase orders evaporated. Owed my father what was for me a bunch of money at the time and for him as well. And created a bunch of dynamics. But in retrospect and soon after that, there were a lot of lessons that came out of that first journey with that I took into other businesses that I started.
James McKinney: That's amazing. As soon as you said Persian Gulf man my mind just went back to one of my entrepreneurial hustles when I was in middle school during that time. For those that don't know, the Persian Gulf War, one of the most efficient wars we've ever had, that patriotism was at an all time high. And all I did was create images on an 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper that people could put in their binder sleeves to show on the front. I'd sell them for $1 a pop and I was making hundreds of dollars in middle school, just selling these 8 1/2 by 11. So I love, as soon as you mentioned it, when you talk about flags I immediately went back to that place like oh my goodness I remember that.
But as you were telling that story, there's so many lessons that I think people would never have the opportunity today to learn because of just it's a different day and era. You mention the faxing, the fax marketing. For most people, there's probably a significant population of my audience that doesn't even know what faxing is. I remember when we transitioned from faxing to e-fax online, that was a big deal. They probably don't even use e-fax anymore. But when you think through the many lessons that you've learned from just that period, how crucial in your entrepreneurial journey is that season, those let's say 30 to 90 days, however long that venture was, how critical is that season to where you are today?
Bill Glaser: Very because one, I learned about financing a business. I learned the right way, I learned the wrong way. I also learned that it wasn't just that a business didn't succeed and that I owed money back. It was that I didn't set the proper expectations. I showed my father these purchase orders, $1 million, this is a can't lose proposition, and didn't understand the risk to even be able to explain the risk. Had I properly explained the risk, it wouldn't have created as much friction that came into the relationship with my father and myself. So I learned not only how to raise money but how to be transparent with not only the opportunity but the risks. I learned that selling is only one aspect of a business.
You can be very good at selling a product, very good at marketing a product, but if you don't have the substance of the product and the product to deliver then none of that other stuff matters. You need all of those elements. So I was really good at the selling. My first role outside of college as I mentioned, I gained a lot of very good sales training selling one on one. It makes it much easier to understand the psychology of individuals to understand how to position and sell to the masses. But I wasn't very good at creating a product at that stage in my career. So I learned very deeply that the product matters, and the quality of the product matters, and the delivery and the value that someone gets matters a lot.
James McKinney: Absolutely love that. It's so rich and I hope all of my listeners caught onto that, because there's so much wisdom in what Bill just shared in the last four minutes. If you didn't get a chance to catch it all because you were driving or you're running, go back, rewind it, get a notepad and pen out, and just make notes of all the things he just unpacked within that lesson. Again, that was a fast period. Persian Gulf War was a 30 day war, I think maybe 40 days. So that season, that flag company that you had started, I assume again it was a 30 to 90 day venture, a 30 to 90 day experiment if you will. What happened after that for you?
Bill Glaser: Yeah, so I went back into finance. I then became more of an entrepreneur in finance on the investment banking side where progressively I started taking companies public, raising capital, advising on the growth of those businesses, advising on mergers and acquisitions. I had many deals that I did over the years, some with companies that I worked with and others on my own journey. I had my own financial advisory company that did very well for many years. And then being involved with other people's companies where I'm helping with the resources and the strategy, but not pulling the levers of making decisions. It got me much more motivated to going back in and being the entrepreneur. I was an entrepreneur in my finance business, but being an entrepreneur of creating a product, and marketing and selling the product.
James McKinney: Was that next product, I know it's not Outstanding Foods, we're not there yet. What was that next product?
Bill Glaser: I've had a number of different companies along the years. I had a multimedia company that produced and marketing fitness DVDs and yoga DVDs. I had a nutraceutical company that we sourced all the raw ingredients, sold them as blends to supplement companies, and had proprietary supplements as well. I had the financial advisory company, a tech company that had mobile platforms and web platforms. So a number of different things along the way. I think what is… people should always follow what they're passionate about and what they're interested in, but it doesn't mean you have to live in a box.
Because when you become an entrepreneur you gain certain skills of marketing, of selling, of financing, of hiring and managing. Those are applicable to any industry. So each industry, each product, has its own nuances and its own market that you have to approach a little bit differently. But the core of being an entrepreneur of those things that I just mentioned, and so if you're good at that you could be good at any industry. I found things that I was interested in, but it was really until Outstanding Foods that is my true passion, something that I've personally lived, and something that I can really make an impact which is really what drives me.
James McKinney: I love it. We're on the cusp of Outstanding Foods and I'll say we're on the front door mat, ready to open the door and jump into what Outstanding Foods is. Let's talk about that season right before. Right before Outstanding Foods, right before the idea of Outstanding Foods comes into your brain, into your environment, what were you doing and where were you at in life at that point?
Bill Glaser: So the idea didn't just come in at the time that I started the company and I think this is also important for people to understand. I had a seed that was planted that it wasn't the right time when the seed was planted, but then the timing aligned, the people aligned at a later point. So I think a lot of times people try to force things, and they try to they have an idea and at all costs try to jump into that idea. Sometimes the idea is not ready, the market is not ready, the people that you could attract is not as high level as it can be.
So I've personally been plant based for 31 years. I thought about doing a plant based business years ago, and I planted that seed. I had the dialog with my current cofounder back then, and it wasn't the right time. It wasn't the market wasn't ready, the partnership wasn't ready. He was involved in other things that were hard for him to extract himself from. So we had that seed planted, and then it was at the time that he reached out to me, my current cofounder Chef Dave Anderson, that I said okay let's do it. I dropped everything I was doing and progressively unwound myself from the things that were more core.
But prior to that I had a tech company. We were developing mobile apps. We had acquired a number of mobile and web properties. Growing business, good opportunity, something I was interested in but when I got the call that rung the bell of "this is your passion, this is something you live, this is something you understand, and this is something you can make a big impact," it was an absolute no brainer. It was hell yes, let's do it, let's figure out the details from there.
James McKinney: I love it. Now, let's put a timestamp on that. When did that "hell yes" happen?
Bill Glaser: The "hell yes" happened about five years ago, and so there was a period of time for me to transition out of what I was doing at the time, full time, which was the tech company, and for my cofounder to transition out of what he was doing. He was at Beyond Meat. He led R&D and product development at Beyond Meat for about four and a half years, led the team that created the Beyond Burger, and he single handedly created all their early products as well.
James McKinney: Wow.
Bill Glaser: And so there was a process for both of us to transition to then form outstanding foods, but then also to figure out okay, we're partnering, you're a genius at creating plant based food products that taste just like meat, that don't require a sacrifice for consumers. I'm an experienced entrepreneur, we're doing this together, but what are we doing? We didn't know yet, and so we had to figure that out too.
James McKinney: Oh, I love it. So now we are about to jump into what Outstanding Foods is. So for my audience that doesn't know what Outstanding Foods is and maybe not have heard of any of the products that you offer, can you explain to everyone what Outstanding Foods is?
Bill Glaser: Yes. We make plant based foods that are primarily snacks that are replacing meat and dairy products. So our first product was a plant based pork rind under our brand Pig Out. It's the Pig Out Pigless Pork Rind. It's got the highest amount of protein on the market as a plant based snack at 7g an ounce. Tastes ridiculous. People are addicted to it. They love the taste and they love the fact that it's plant based and high in protein. We then launched a cheese puff that's completely dairy free, that is loaded with vitamins and nutrients. It's got 20 vitamins and minerals in it. It's got a good source of things like iron and calcium, and vitamin B12 and D, things that you would never expect to have in a snack. You're not only getting guilt free snacking, you're actually getting a lot of nutrition and also a lot of protein.
We came out recently with a plant-based bacon seasoning product under our Pig Out brand, and we have some other really high level innovative products that we lead with taste. Everything has to taste really great and have a similar texture to what people are used to, but we're innovating with nutrition. Really not only just taking out the bad stuff, but adding in really high level, high quality ingredients but high levels of nutrients that you would not normally expect to find in things like snacks or cheeses or other products that we plan to do.
James McKinney: Now when you had this idea for Outstanding Foods, what was the actual problem you were wanting to solve? You were in this mobile tech space. An idea came, you were living a meat free lifestyle, a plant based diet. So I know as part of who you were, but what was the problem you were trying to solve that led you to this concept of Outstanding Foods?
Bill Glaser: So I think the biggest problem was that there was an interest in people wanting to eat more plant based foods for a variety of reasons, but I'm big into psychology and consumer behavior. If someone has to make a sacrifice to be able to incorporate a new food into their diet, it's very hard to do. We all know January 1st we get inundated with all the gym commercials and advertisements because people are motivated January 1st, "I'm going to make change, I'm going to go to the gym, I'm going to lose that 10 lbs, I'm going to lose that 20 lbs." But it's hard to stick to something new. It's hard to create new habits and new behaviors for most of us. So we didn't want to have to have new habits and behaviors created for people to enjoy our products. We wanted to make it very easy for anyone to incorporate more plant based foods into their diet because they taste great, and there's no sacrifice, no loss of taste, no loss of texture. They're sold where people shop, they're at a price point that is similar to what you would buy meat and dairy products for. And those were the essential ingredients so to speak of what we brought into our products. But that was the problem solution, making it seamless to incorporate our products into their diet, and then into their lifestyle without having any sacrifice.
James McKinney: Just last week we had an episode with Ryan Lewendon who is an IP attorney that specializes in the CPG space, and he unpacked for us some of the trends that he sees as the opportunities within CPG. One of them was plant based products. But not just from the consumable perspective, but also from hygiene as well. I just thought in the plant based space, it's just a tremendous market. People are wanting healthy alternatives on the consumption side. So when I first heard that Outstanding Foods had a pork rind with X amount of grams of protein I thought that's super interesting.
Because I remember, to your point about consumers not wanting to sacrifice, there was a season where my wife and I lived a vegetarian lifestyle, but it only lasted for two years. I'll tell you what my sticking point was as to why I jumped ship and went back to meat was I found lots of great substitutes for all kinds of different meats. I could not find a substitute for bacon. And I know that sounds petty, it sounds small, but to your point about consumer behavior, we all have a threshold in which we are willing to sacrifice and what we're not willing to sacrifice. When you have innovators like yourself that are looking for ways to solve those thresholds and bring people into this healthy lifestyle for even a little bit longer is if you can solve for those things. So for us, it was trying to solve for bacon. We just could not find a solve around that, and so we could not get into a full vegetarian lifestyle because bacon is heavenly. I'm anxious to try these pork rinds that you've produced.
Bill Glaser: Yeah, and I think that's important in any business is that if you have to have someone change a behavior or adopt a new behavior, you have an uphill battle to climb because if people aren't used to doing something it's hard to stick to it. With food in particular if Beyond Meat was trying to sell a bean burger to people that bought Whoppers and Big Macs, they might get some people that were open to trying it and let's see what this is. I would much rather eat the plant based version than from an animal, or I'm into the environment, or whatever it might be so let me give this a shot. Are they going to stick with it? Most of them no because it's a completely different taste, a completely different texture. Even if the motivation is there to try it, the sticktoitiveness for most people won't because it's a new behavior. And so I think that in any product that any company launches, if it requires a new behavior then you're already halfway lost a battle at least if not even more.
James McKinney: You know one of the things that when it comes to solving problems and innovating, it's identifying who our ideal persona is, who is our buying persona. When you consider Outstanding Foods is your buyer the plant- based diet person? Is your buyer someone who is health conscious but still a meat eater? How do you identify your buyer?
Bill Glaser: So for us, the market is the mainstream. So in that mainstream there are people that consider themselves "flexitarian," trying to eat less meat, trying to eat more healthy products. There are certainly vegans and vegetarians or pescatarians. And so we're going after everyone because our products taste great and we have a brand that we think is accessible and relatable to people. We're a brand that we don't judge people. We don't make people wrong for their choices. We don't preach. We're not trying to stand up on a soap box and tell you why you shouldn't do that and you should do this. We're trying to make it easy for anyone to incorporate more plant based foods into their diet because they're not losing anything from what they have. They taste great and they're highly nutritious.
James McKinney: Why is a plant based lifestyle important for you from a consumer adoption perspective? Not just important for you personally, but why is it important for you to lower the barrier to entry to a plant-based lifestyle for consumers?
Bill Glaser: Well we're not trying to convert people to a plant-based lifestyle. If some of them are inclined to do that, that's certainly their prerogative. And if they're not, that's certainly their prerogative. We're not telling people what they should do or how they should do it. Again, we're just making it easy for them to incorporate more plant based foods into their diet because our products taste great and they don't require a sacrifice. Again, we don't preach to people this is what you should do and why you should do it. We know people are already interested in trying to eat more plant based foods. Many reasons are now motivating people. Environment is a big one for a lot of people. You can preach all you want about something, but if the product doesn't deliver... like I said, the first lesson I got from my first post college company, if the product doesn't deliver it doesn't matter all of the rational why you should eat a product like that. What matters is how good the product is. With a food product, the first thing that is the good part is the taste and the texture. So that's what we lead with. We also lead with high quality nutritious ingredients. I think there's this trend right now of a lot of science in plant-based food products. A lot of ingredients that are hard to pronounce. I think as people start eating some of these things and start associating being more… identifying more as someone who eats plant based foods then the next wave in my opinion of plant based products are the ones that are using cleaner ingredients, are using more nutritious ingredients. So we like to think we're innovating on that space as well.
James McKinney: I love it. Now when you and your cofounder got together, and obviously your cofounder has extensive experience in creating nutritious, well really innovating in the plant based space. Again, Beyond burgers, all the other things that he's been a part of. So when I picture roles and responsibilities, I can picture the manufacturing and the recipe building and the development of product on his side. On your side, I'm going to assume a lot of the operations and capital, and the fundraising and the branding side of things. Is that a fair assessment of the two roles when you first started?
Bill Glaser: Yes, but there is an overlap to those because a product development also has to be mindful of the category and how it's going to be positioned, and the flavors, and of course the costs and everything else. At the early stages when it was just myself and my cofounder, we now have over 20 people. We're still early but growing fast. We were both very integral in both sides of the equation because they connect. You can't have complete separation because one person is developing a product and the other is focused on the marketing and sales, the positioning, the market psychology, the differentiation of the product and its unique selling proposition, there could be a disconnect. You have really holistically, and this is in any early stage entrepreneurial company, holistically a lot of people wear a lot of hats but I think it's not just from a resource standpoint or resource needs, but I think it's important that people wear a lot of hats because then you can understand the business better and not just compartmentalize the skills or the roles to understand how they all fit together, and how they all need to be communication with each other to figure these things out.
James McKinney: I love it. You brought up a great point when you talk about the unique selling proposition. Some of the early decisions, and again not coming from a food background, not coming from a CPG space, but I would assume one of the harder earlier decisions is to figure out what is our coming out product, what is the first Outstanding Food that we're going to produce. How did you get to what your first product was?
Bill Glaser: So you would have loved the first product idea which was bacon strips, plant based bacon strips. So when we looked at the market, when my cofounder Chef Dave Anderson and I were sitting down, we looked at okay there are a couple of companies doing burgers really well, there's some cheese companies plant based that are doing it really well. Where do we have the biggest opportunity? Because Dave has a breadth of experience in developing products in multiple categories, so we weren't limited by okay he's just good at this or good at that. It was where do we find the biggest opportunity. Initially for us that was bacon. We felt that the bacon market was substantial. It was over $6 billion in the US that there were no plant based companies doing it well. All the plant based bacon strips on the market and still today are preach to the choir products. They're vegan bacon strips for vegan consumers. For someone that eats bacon, if you try any of the products that are on the market right now you'll likely be repulsed but it has no similarity to bacon other than the strip and it has some smokiness, and some elements. But it doesn't have the consistency or the texture, or the flavor that real bacon has.
So we saw that as the opportunity. When Dave started developing the strip, what I started thinking about was the marketing strategy and the positioning. While the paradigm is shifting where more plant based meats are now being sold in the meat aisle, most are still sold in the plant based meat aisle. If you don't shop at the plant based meat aisle, you're not going to shop at the plant based meat aisle. So again, with habits we didn't want to have to change people's habits. We adapted then our first product to fit the category that people were already en masse going to, and most people are shopping the snack aisle. So that's we pivoted that initial idea to go into the snack aisle. We're going to come back to bacon at some point, but we launched our brand with something that we felt we could reach the most amount of consumers, and without having to change any habits.
James McKinney: That is brilliant. Just to hear the mental processes behind that is so incredibly rich. Again, part of why I love The Startup Story and love hearing from founders like yourself is just to hear some of the new thinking that goes into what, again, what SKU do we come out with, how do we approach product development, how do we approach our unique selling proposition. All the things in which every founder thinks differently, and that's the value of this collective of sharing this information, so thank you so much for sharing that.
To continue on with the early day decisions, the early day conversations that take place, you had some success before Outstanding Foods, as did your cofounder. But I don't want to assume that this is a self funded venture. Are you venture backed? Are you a Series A? Where are you at in your fundraising process right now?
Bill Glaser: We raised a $10 million Series A that we closed on late 2020. So we prior to that though, we were more strategic and we financed our business a little bit atypical than most businesses finance. We do have some venture capital investors but we limited them in terms of how much they invested. Most of our early investors before the Series A are strategic investors, and most of those strategics are celebrities and influencers because we're in the age of influencer marketing. People follow what their favorite celebrities or influencers are promoting, and it's very hit or miss if you pay influencers or celebrities to get an ROI. So my strategy was instead of going down that path and potentially not getting the right ROI and paying a lot of money, especially if you bring in celebrities, was attracting them as investors.
So also we were in an environment where a lot of celebrities were already conditioned to doing that. We didn't have to convince them of why it made sense. People like Ashton Kutcher and 50 Cent, and Jennifer Aniston and others who have invested in companies and made substantial amount because they use their personality and their audience to promote the companies and products that they had invested in. there was already a pathway for us to then go to other celebrities and influencers without having to convince them of why they should be investing, and why they shouldn't have their manager or their agent part of these conversations. So we did that and we were fortunately successful in attracting a wide range of celebrities and influencers. We have people like Snoop Dogg and Rob Dyrdek and Emily Deschanel, influencers that you might not have heard of but that have millions of YouTube subscribers and Tik Tok and Instagram followers. And so we've used them not only to promote our products organically but many of them have created content for us, and many of those we've used in paid ads that have performed really well for us.
James McKinney: I love it. What I love about that too is had we had this conversation five or eight years ago, that probably wouldn't have been something one heard of. I mean 50 Cent was really the first one with Vitamin Water, 50 Cent and Baron Davis, the two of them collectively together with Vitamin Water. But it wasn't spoken of a lot. Even Dr. Dre and Beats, the way that collaboration came to be was a very similar model but it just wasn't spoken of a lot. Now, within the last… within the 2020 episodes alone you're the second guest I've really had that has launched a product with a similar model. The other one being Magic Spoon, the high protein cereal company. Gabi Lewis and team, they did a similar model as well. So just it's fascinating to me to see the shift in the go to market strategy leveraging equity within the influencer market. And so when did your product hit the shelves for the first time? When do you consider your launch date?
Bill Glaser: February 2020 was when we launched our Pig Out Pigless Pork Rinds direct to consumer, and in March 2020 we started taking it to retail. So DTC for us was always the centerpiece of our marketing strategy. I had a company about 10 years ago. We used 30 minute infomercials to sell our fitness DVD series, and so at that time any product that was sold through infomercial or other media always got best shelf space in retailers. You'd always see "As Seen on TV". They'd get the best at checkout in the center aisles because the retailers knew that consumers are walking into the store likely having seen those infomercials or heard those radio commercials, and are more likely not only to know that product but more likely to buy it. So that was the strategy we used in using direct to consumer first.
We benefited greatly from the early parts of COVID where when a lot of advertisers stopped advertising so customer acquisition costs were low, consumer behavior was trending towards buying food products and having them delivered safely at people's homes. So we were in the right place at the right time in direct to consumer to really grow our brand fast. We went in just a few months, we were doing over $400,000 a month in our direct to consumer channel. So we grew that channel fast and continued to grow it. It's now become very crowded. A lot of food brands, a lot of brands in all categories have pivoted into DTC as well as a lot of multinational companies, and so the costs are higher. But that was where we launched initially in February 2020. We started taking our product to retail in March, initially with Independence Regional Chains. Now we're in Walmarts, Kroger's, 7-11s and others, and growing our distribution domestically and internationally.
James McKinney: You know when you think of again the fact that you launched February of 2020, just last year, we're talking 13 months ago. When you think of the many challenges and obstacles that you've had to deal with over the last we'll say two to three years, what do you look at as some of the maybe the singular greatest obstacle you've had to deal with in bringing Outstanding Foods to market?
Bill Glaser: I think there's always, no matter what you do, there's always going to be obstacles, challenges, and opportunities. It's how you navigate those. So we launched a food product without having a single tradeshow. Food products in particular, but all products, typically you have tradeshows where the buyers are attending, they're sampling the products, they're seeing the products, they have an opportunity to have one on one conversation. We launched a product to retail market with zero tradeshows, which is an unusual time… the last year or so has been unusual in multiple ways, but for a new food brand unheard of. We can complain about that. We can complain about retailers initially in the first part of COVID were focused on restocking their shelves and didn't want to hear about new products.
We can choose to complain about that, or we could adapt and say okay, this is what the environment is now, how do we penetrate this market? What are we going to do? We're not going to wait for a new platform to come along. We're not going to wait for the environment to change. What can we do to make sure that our product is getting where we want it to go and get it on the shelves? There were certainly some COVID casualties of retailers that weren't bringing new products onto the shelves, but we made things happen no matter what, and I think that's what any company during any product launch has to figure out is not the tried and true way that things have been done before, but when challenges happen how do you navigate that challenge, how do you figure out solutions and be creative to adapting.
James McKinney: I love that. It makes me think of this one quote from Jason McCann from Vari, formerly Varidesk. One of the things that he had mentioned numerous times about entrepreneurship is that there's this idea that entrepreneurs are risk takers. The reality is that we're not necessarily risk takers, we're risk managers. We understand that there's a risk to be had with bringing our own venture to market. Again, you could have delayed until post COVID era to bring Outstanding Foods to market, but you didn't. Again, back to risk management. Every decision is a management of some level of risk. We're trying to mitigate as much as possible. But when you think of your entrepreneurial journey and again, in this episode you've listed quite a few different industries and products which you have brought a venture to market. So when you think of risk, how do you think of risk and how do you manage or mitigate it?
Bill Glaser: As a New Yorker that talks with my hands, I live in Los Angeles now, you've probably seen I've been talking with my hands a lot and I have this little thing on which I broke my wrist recently, and had surgery, had to get a plate and screws put in. it was from being a risk taker. I was at a ski mountain with my 8 year old daughter. We were sledding, it was very icy. She wasn't really having it. It was too bumpy and too icy. We were looking for a better spot on the mountain where she might enjoy it more, and I saw this jump that someone had built for snowboarding, and they had built it when there was snow, not ice. When my daughter was out, didn't want to sled anymore, I was like I have to hit that jump.
So I went to the top of the mountain. We had friends there that one of my friends was like, "You're going to hit that?" And I'm like, "Yeah." He's like, "Dude, go for it." Normally before I do something I'll assess the risk, and I will mitigate the risk, and I will set intention and I will visualize what I'm going to do and how I'm going to do it. In this case, I went to the top of the mountain. It was icy, I didn't purvey and look at where I was going to land. My friend said, "Go for it," and I went for it. I had a great time going down the hill, I had a great time hitting that jump and flying in the air. Landing, have to work on a little bit.
And so I came away from that with some valuable lessons. One, I shouldn't be wearing metal frame sunglasses. I don't know if you can see but I got stitches on my face after I fell as well. Broke my wrist. And so I came out of that with reflection of yes, I didn't do some of the things that I normally do of assessing the risk of planning for what I was going to do, and that was a real lesson and I paid the price. I think as an entrepreneur, it's good to take some big swings and to take some risk. But if you take that metaphor into baseball where it started, there was a lot of homerun hitters that all they do when they step up to the plate is they take that big swing. There are some of these guys that have 40 or 50 homeruns in a year, but batting average is hovering around 200. That's not sustainable by just taking the big swing.
It feels good when you connect and when the ball goes over the fence, but if that's all you're doing that's not going to be a sustainable thing as an entrepreneur. You can't just take wild swings. You can't just take wild swings regularly. You have to mitigate your risk and you have to assess how you're going to operate, and you have to be adaptive and not have tunnel vision because sometimes even with the most thought out, well developed plans. The environment isn't what you planned and things come into your environment that you couldn't anticipate that you have to adapt to. If you're traveling with tunnel vision, you're also not adapting to the ever-changing risks. So I think it's important to take risk, but to be adaptable and to be self reflecting so that you can actually navigate as you're going, and not just have blindly following your initial plan because almost in all cases things change.
James McKinney: I love that. That was so rich. Thank you so much for sharing that. It leads me to ask this question, though. For you, from your perspective, from your vantage point, from your years of experience, do you think anybody can be an entrepreneur or is there a certain makeup in order to be an entrepreneur?
Bill Glaser: Well I think like anything, skills can be developed. There's an inherent mindset that I think is certainly helpful. If you're someone that has been a risk taker, someone that is not afraid to put yourself out there, someone that is creative and adaptive, I think those are all qualities and all skills. But like anything they're skills that you can develop. I developed some of those skills by observing my father as I mentioned. Those weren't necessarily inherent; those were things that I observed and things that I decided and made decisions on. Then I got better at selling. I got better at building products by having failures and learning from those failures. They were actually successes to me because I learned from them and I adapted. If I didn't learn and I was just pigheaded about I'm just going to sell something and figure out the product as an afterthought, then they would have been failures.
So I think those are things that are learned, and that are skills, and that take sharpening and development over experiences. Really being open to seeing things as they unfold and as you reflect on them, those are really where you can gain wisdom and not just from your own reflection, hearing other people's input and hearing other people's thoughts, and then processing that information to make decisions. So yes, I think anyone can be an entrepreneur, but you have to be determined to build your craft and build your skill, and learn and adapt. And become more of someone that thinks outside of the box, but is able to adapt. I think I have this analogy that a lot of people read a lot of books and they get motivated, and a lot of us have read the book Think and Grow Rich. There's this story in Think and Grow Rich of four feet from gold. Are you familiar with that story?
James McKinney: Yes, yeah.
Bill Glaser: Where someone digs for gold and then gives up. Someone else comes along and they say, "Oh this is a big hole that has already been dug. There's probably gold down there. I'm going to go in and I'm going to dig," and four feet after the other guy gave up, they strike this gold mine. The persistence is something that you need as an entrepreneur, because things often don't come easily. You have to persist. But as I mentioned, you need the ability to not only adapt but to discern, because sometimes you should abandon the plan that you had and go elsewhere because if you keep digging four feet from where you stopped, you're not always going to hit gold. Sometimes you're going to hit a sewage line and all that sewage is going to spray all over you. So you have to have the ability to persevere, but to discern when the time is to change and adapt your plan, and then persevere through that new plan.
James McKinney: Oh man, that was incredible. Thank you so much for sharing that. One of the things you also mentioned in that was the idea of just kind of listening to those around you, listening to some outside influences. It reminds me of the false narrative out there about entrepreneurship, where it's kind of this you and a laptop in this isolated vacuum of just building your venture. Entrepreneurship can be an isolating event. A lot of people do kind of just tuck themselves away as they're working on their craft and their business, but it's not the norm. It's not the best path to success if you will. I believe that's in community. So when you look across your entire entrepreneurial journey, who are the people that you look to with such immense gratitude for their contribution to where you are today?
Bill Glaser: When I was younger I was a go it alone type of guy, and I was more shy. I was less outgoing. It might seem a little surprising seeing me now, but I was a go it alone guy. I often made decisions in isolation and sometimes those served me well, and other times I did myself a disservice by not taking feedback. I've been fortunate that as I've grown not only in age but in shedding some of the walls that I had built up as a kid, and becoming more of who I truly was, to then be more humble to get people's insight, to get people's opinion. I fortunately have a lot of really good friends, many that are entrepreneurs that go through their own journey. I've been in entrepreneur organizations that are kind of a support group for entrepreneurs where you can share your experiences and your journey and learn from other entrepreneurs.
I think there are also iconic entrepreneurs that have had their path, that are always worth studying and looking and modeling certain things. There's always things from successful entrepreneurs that anyone can adapt, and also things that you have to be able to discern that aren't the right things for you. So I think taking feedback is very important, but also the discernment of not blowing in the wind and listening to every opinion, and every thought that other people have, but processing those to find where you can get those valuable nuggets that can serve you well.
James McKinney: Absolutely. Before we get to our last question because I want to honor our time together as well as honor our listeners time, but before we get to the last question if we were having a "where are they now" episode in let's say five years from now, where would Outstanding Foods be?
Bill Glaser: Outstanding Foods, everyone is going to know about us. Our products are going to be in their homes. They're going to be surprised at how great foods taste when they're not made from the ingredients that they grew up eating, and those are ingredients that are both meat, dairy, and then all of the crap. There's a lot of crap in a lot of traditional foods. So they're going to be surprised that something healthy for you, something made from plants tastes so good and that they really enjoy. Because the paradigm where the healthy things were the kale chips and that were they might be healthy for you but they don't taste great, and they don't have an experience that you enjoy. So I think for us, five years from now we're going to be in just about everyone's homes and we're going to be in multiple categories.
We have a big vision. We start that vision of being very, very hyper focused. So we're in a category of snacks. We're developing innovative snacks. We're dealing with the same buyers from one product to the next so we don't have to build new distribution for each product. But over time, the vision is bigger that we're going to go into other categories. I mentioned cheese before, I mentioned bacon. So look for us to be in different categories. I think we will likely be a public company. We're seeing an opportunity in the market. There's more of a demand for companies since Beyond Meat and other companies have gone public in our space. And I think as a company that has the kind of product development resources we have, later on we can even aggregate some companies and bring them under our umbrella, and help those companies and products improve, and gain distribution.
James McKinney: I love that. Absolutely love it. I look forward to that. I look forward to that future episode to unpack and kind of do a compare and contrast, and see how the trajectory went. But as our time does come to an end, I would love the opportunity for all of my listeners to have some one on one time with you, to unpack your brain, for them to get their questions answered direct if possible, but it's just unreasonable. With 85,000 listeners I just can't afford that. So what I try to do is I try to simulate something like that, and that's the one on one coffee chat if you will. So if you were having coffee with one of my listeners and they were just trying to talk about the challenges that you've had in let's say the last year, the last 12 months navigating COVID. Some businesses are hanging on by a thread and they're also trying to navigate the D2C market. They're within the CPG space but they just continue to hit hurdles. What would be some words of encouragement you would leave them with as you're having your time together?
Bill Glaser: I think the biggest thing is the attitude of how you approach those challenges. Because a lot of people, when things don't go the way they expect or the way they want, they get disappointed and they get overwhelmed in a lot of cases. So if you're like, "Oh this sucks because of COVID," or, "This sucks because of that," you're already defeating the potential of you finding a solution. So I think instead of that attitude, I think it's the most important thing is first shifting the dynamic of okay this is now what's happening, where is the opportunity for us? What could we do to adapt to this? That actually creates an environment for creativity and for new ideas to come about, new ways to tackle and find solutions to obstacles or a problem.
So I think the first thing is change your attitude and look at these not as bad things that have happened to you and don't feel like a victim. But look at these as this is an unbelievable opportunity for us to stand out because everyone is going through the same thing. Everyone has the same obstacles. We now have an opportunity to stand out and to differentiate ourselves in a big way through how we figure out and solve this problem.
James McKinney: Once you've had a few moments to process all the value Bill Glaser brought us in this week's episode, please hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and share with me your thoughts on this episode. In fact, I hope you'll show up for Bill and visit outstandingfoods.com and give their products a try. You can try their Pig Out Pigless Pork Rinds or the Meal in a Bag takeout Puffs. In fact, don't just try one bag, buy a variety pack and share it with your friends. If you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs, so let's show up for Bill Glaser in a huge way by visiting outstandingfoods.com as a show of appreciation for all the value he delivered to us today. In fact, if you're an overachiever then share the URL outstandingfoods.com on your social platforms. You know just as well as I do awareness is everything to a startup. And now for my personal ask.
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