Raising the level of your leadership

Do You Want to Get Bear Naked?

For lunch today, I had vanilla yogurt mixed with granola (very embarrassing for an Okie). The granola was triple berry crunch by Bear Naked. Actually, it was good…not as good as Five Guys, but good and I am feeling very virtuous for eating healthy.

I stumbled across the Bear Naked story in Seth Godin’s book, Tribes. Intrigued by the name, I googled for info and wow…what a story! Bear Naked was started in 2002 by Kelly Flatley and Brendan Synnott. Kelly was the granola expert; Brendan the market guru and visionary. Investing their life savings of $7000, they started in Kelly’s parents’ kitchen making 100 pounds of granola per day which they sold at sidewalk sales and small local health food outlets. By the end of year one, they had about 25 customers, all in Connecticut. Only three years later, Bear Naked was on the shelves in 10,000 stores nationwide and had the #1 and #2 granola products in the U.S. In 2007, they sold the company to Kashi (a Kellogg Company) for $60+ million. Not bad for a $7000 initial investment.

There is much more to their story than I can include in this post. Go to bearnaked.com/ourstory for all the details. Some things that really caught my eye are:

◊  Bear Naked—what a great name—an essential for a start-up; Kelly would spark interest in the product by asking customers, “Do you want to get bear naked?”
◊  Passion for their product—they were all-in with their time and money
◊  An uncompromising commitment to quality
◊  Knowing when it was too soon to let go (they said “no” to venture capital money) and knowing when it was time to let go (they said “yes” to Kellogg)

One of the highlights of their story is their breakthrough into Stew Leonard’s chain of Connecticut grocery stores. After the buyer wouldn’t even return their phone calls (for months), they decided to surprise him with an early morning Bear Naked breakfast. They showed up at the corporate office with a presentation of granola, fresh fruit and Stew Leonard’s yogurt on china (borrowed from Kelly’s mom), only to find out that the buyer was on vacation. However, as they were leaving, Stew Leonard, Jr., walked in and they quickly redirected their attention to him with, “We brought you breakfast.” He was intrigued by their audacity and two hours later they walked out with an order for fifty cases of granola. The rest of the story…so to speak…is history.

Take a few minutes to read their story on the Bear Naked website, then let me know what you learned…what jumped out at you and will help you in your business—large or small.

© Copyright 2011 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

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