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Ep. 020: On How to Launch a Healthy Food Company — The Donn Kelly Interview

Hear about how this entrepreneur started a healthy food product company. Learn his stories about bootstrapping the business; working with retailers, distributors and brokers; and finding a manufacturing partner. Listen as he describes his top joys and frustrations of being an entrepreneur, and how it has changed him.

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Episode Outline:

0:45 – Introduction to Donn Kelly, Co-Founder of Doctor in the Kitchen and the producer of Flackers flax-seed crackers.

2:38 – Start of the “Give Me The Basics” Podcast Segment

2:51 – Donn describes his company as a “natural and healthy food product company,” producer of Flackers crackers: raw and gluten free.  The “healthiest cracker on the market.”

4:14 – Donn talks about how his initial assumptions about the business changed as he evolved the business.  He originally assumed his product would be a very niche item.  He pleasantly learned that the product was not a niche item, and that many more grocery retailers wanted his product.

5:20 – Donn shares the number of employees in his company and their roles.  He explains the other key non-employee partners that help to produce, sell and market the product.

6:55 – Start of the “Tell Me How” Podcast Segment

7:14 – Donn talks about how his co-founder and he originally bootstrapped the business, and how they are now seeking additional investors to help take Flackers to the next level of growth.  He talks about how raising money is nearly a “full time job.”

8:04 – Donn describes his experience in raising capital, and what investors are looking for when considering investing in Flackers.

10:00 – Donn talks about how much money they are raising to grow the business, as well as where he will apply the investment dollars.

11:01 – Donn explains his occasional hesitation in raising capital, as well as his strategy to finding investors.

13:43 – Donn talks about how he found a co-manufacturing partner to produce the Flackers cracker. He describes how he and his staff originally manufactured the product themselves.

19:21 – Donn explains the types of problems that can occur when working with a manufacturing partner, and ways to avoid those problems.

21:50 – Donn shares his top piece of advice on working with a manufacturing partner.

21:52 – Donn talks about the process of selling to retailers.  He explains how he originally created a mock-up package and created interest among local co-op grocery buyers.  And how he made sure he built-in enough profit margins so that Flackers, the retailer and the distributor would all make enough profit on the product when the product was sold to consumers.

26:55 – Donn talks about working with distributors and then (29:07) with brokers.

30:35 – Donn gets into the details of how to work with brokers.

32:30 – Donn explains the company’s approach to increase sales with small marketing budgets.  He talks about prioritizing dollars to support the retailer and distributor programs, as well as product sampling at the store level.

36:14 – Start of the “Let’s Get Personal” Podcast Segment

36:30 – Donn talks about his motivations to become an entrepreneur, including preferring to not work in corporate environments and being inspired by other entrepreneurs.

38:15 – Donn describes his top joys of starting a business.

39:11 – Donn talks about his primary frustrations since becoming a business owner.

40:12 – Donn describes some of the self doubt that accompanies many entrepreneurs amidst startup uncertainty.

41:19 – Donn talks about how becoming an entrepreneur has changed him as a person.

42:15 – Donn shares what he’s learned most about himself since becoming a business owner.

42:53 – Donn expresses who has been most influential to him in his life.

44:01 – Donn offers closing advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “seek out people who have done it” before.  “Talk to people . . .  ask to meet them.”  “A little piece of advice could be a golden piece of advice.”

About the author, John

John Benzick is an entrepreneurship coach and the founder of Venture Superfly. He is a Tech Partner at the venture-capital fund of Matchstick Ventures, a Mentor with Techstars Retail accelerator, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and (former CEO-in-Residence) at the University of Minnesota, and founder and owner in two consumer product businesses. Click the button below to learn more.

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