This week, Series W talks to Eleanor Foote and Emily Schofield, the co-founders of theSaladBar, who won first place in the Founding Well pitch competition this week!
theSaladBar is a low-sugar, high-fiber, vegetable-based nutrition bar. We now have two flavors, Kale-Quinoa and Carrot Spice; both are packed with fiber and all-natural ingredients to help you eat well on the go. As we like to say, it’s the nutrition bar that is actually nutritious!
How did you develop the idea for theSaladBar? How did you make the decision to take the plunge and continue working on it after FIELD 3?
Eleanor: 10 years ago I did a big bike trip across the U.S. and we ate a ton of nutrition bars. At the time, power bars and nature valley bars were pretty much the only things you could get and we constantly talked about how we wished there were better options. The industry has come a long way since then, and yet I realized last year that there still wasn’t one bar I was excited about eating…especially on days when I wasn’t being super active. The first ingredient of most leading bars is still sugar (e.g. Clif Bar has over 24g of sugar) which is totally unnecessary. I didn’t think it needed to be that way; I believe healthy food can also taste good. Finding that other people shared this frustration, and the feedback we have continued to get post FIELD 3 has kept me working on it!
What resources (HBS resources and beyond) have been most helpful to you in starting up?
Emily: HBS has been a tremendous source of support through both formal and informal channels. FIELD 3 resources obviously gave us a great jumping off point. Since then, the VIP program at the iLab and the Rock Accelerator program have really opened a huge number of opportunities for us through mentor matching, skill-building programming, funding, etc. And of course maybe most importantly, the support of our friends and family has been such a great source of energy keeping us motivated and moving forward.
How did you fund the business? What do you spend most of your funds on? Knowing what you know now about how to raise and spend funds, what would you have done differently?
After FIELD 3 ended, we were in a tough spot because we had no additional funding through HBS, but we have significant working capital needs to fund the gap from when we purchase our bars from the manufacturer until they sell through our website or at a retail partner’s store. Two things have helped us fill this gap: a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $10,000 and funding provided by the Rock Accelerator program. Now that we have enough funds to cover our working capital, we are directing our funding towards marketing/branding (e.g., free samples to build brand awareness). In retrospect, we should have started fundraising earlier because we lost several months to fundraising efforts that could have been directed towards selling efforts.
Tell us about the relationships you have formed with vendors? Tell us about how you’ve learned about your customer base?
We love our vendor partners! They’ve been really supportive of our cause and graciously flexible in dealing with growing pains as we get our brand off the ground. One of our best days was when one of our vendors emailed us to say “I am very interested in [selling theSaladBar] for you as I had people asking for them every time we sold out after a shipment.” We try to learn about our customers by using Google Analytics and attending relevant conferences to get direct feedback.
What has been your greatest WFIO (we’re f*****, it’s over) moment so far?
Eleanor: When we got our first order of our first attempt at making a Kale bar and it tasted….very very heavy on the kale. Super bitter and not what we were going for. Luckily, we kept at it and kept iterating and added in other flavors like coconut, ginger and cinnamon; now it’s my favorite!
What have been the most exciting moments so far?
Emily: When we get good feedback from our customers! I remember we were handing out samples at a fair in Harvard Square last spring and at first nobody was buying, and then a customer tried the bars and loved them so much he bought 24 bars on the spot and kept asking how he could get more once he ran out. It’s such a good feeling when you see your customers really enjoying the product that you worked so hard on!
Eleanor: Our website is back up and I love when we get orders from totally random people that someone how have heard about our bars. We often hear things like ‘I’ve been looking for something like this!’ and it’s great to get thank you’s from people who say we’re helping them be healthier. That really motivates me.
Any exciting new flavors in the works?
We talk about this all the time! Eleanor is excited about exploring a beet bar or sweet potato, while Emily really wants to look into making a bamboo bar. We also love input from our fans, so if you have any suggestions, please let us know!
If you could give an aspiring entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
Have fun! It will be a ton of work and there will be high points and low points, so just try to make sure you enjoy working with your team and you’re learning along the way. Good luck!
How can we try theSaladBar?
Order your bars today!
Special Promo code for the WSA (FREE SHPPING & 20% OFF): HEALTH