Building a business that solves a problem for a lot of people is commendable, but truly bringing it to commercial success is a whole another ‘nother ballpark. Today’s guests sought out to help parents give their babies the nutrition they need to be healthy. This is the impetus behind Square Baby. In this episode, this dynamic co-founder duo joins Elliot Begoun to share their journey of building a business. Katie Thomson and Kendall Glynn, the CEO and COO of Square Baby, share the evolution of the brand and the journey to a more commercialized approach. Katie and Kendall’s partnership is well-balanced, and they have done very well in problem-solving. Tune in to this episode to learn more!

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The Evolution Of The Brand And The Journey Of The Dynamic Duo Of Square Baby, Katie Thomson And Kendall Glynn

Before I turn it over to Katie and Kendall, the dynamic duo Square Baby, I’ve got to do my two commercials, as always. The first is to talk a little bit about the TIG Collective. For entrepreneurs, having a cadre of advisors across all different subject matter areas is incredibly beneficial and important to you in this entrepreneurial journey. At the TIG Collective, we have over 40 advisors across many functional areas and you get the benefit of also learning how to be more effective with your relationships with your advisors and extract more value out of them.

Plus, you’re doing something that’s bigger for the industry. You’re doing something that helps all of us put more diversity into our boardroom because we are working to cultivate a group of advisors that are more diverse thinkers, diverse in lived experience and diverse in gender, ethnicity, and orientation. If you want to learn more about how the Collective works, please reach out to any of us here at TIG Brand.

Commercial number two is around the TIG Venture Community. I’m going to be blunt here. I’ve had this conversation with a few investors and, certainly, with many founders. To a degree, our industry is failing our entrepreneurs. Here’s why. While there are and will remain those brands that can build to true ubiquity that have mass appeal and will cross over many boundaries, there’s also a growing number of brands that are meeting specific customer and consumer wants and demands.

We have a reality that we have a very tribalized approach to that, whether it’s a diet tribe like keto, paleo, and plant-based or its athletes who want specific foods for functional benefits. Also, those folks that are particularly wanting to be clean, not only with what they put in their bodies but what they put on their bodies or folks that are advocates and activists around climate action or social justice.

There’s this segmentation of our industry happening where brands that are specifically speaking to certain constituencies build powerful relationships with their consumers and defendable moats, but they’re unlikely to scale to that 100 or 200 million. They’re not necessarily going to be ubiquitous and play across mass and all of the other channels that are out there.

The reality is that many of these brands are building a much faster path to profitability and cashflow positivity. As an industry, we haven’t figured out how to fund them. We haven’t done it. With the Take Venture Community, we’re trying to do that. We’re going to be bringing innovative structures and terms that are both founder-friendly and investor beneficial to these companies and bridge them to optionality where they have choices in terms of the direction they choose, whether that is to platform and build into a more venture-based business or potentially be attractive to PE or become bankable.

We want to see more brands like that because that’s what our consumers are asking for. That’s what our retailers want to put on shelves. That’s what we need to fund. If you want to learn more about how you can participate in the TIG Venture Community as an LP or to be looked at as a brand, please feel free to reach out to any of us at TIG Brands. I’m done with my two commercials. I do them differently every time. Now I want to turn it over to Katie and Kendall and let them both introduce themselves. We’ll start with Katie, and then we’ll talk a little bit about the brand. We’ll dig into where things are, all the fun experiences they’ve had thus far, and those they’re looking forward to. Katie, you go first.

Thanks for having us. I’m Katie Thompson, Cofounder and CEO of Square Baby. I’m a mom of two boys and a registered dietician with a Master’s in Nutrition. I started my career as the first nutritionist for Starbucks and learned how products come to market and are marketed. I sat within the regulatory affairs team. I was in charge of every claim and ingredient statement and then took on a more strategic role in the company. That experience taught me what a dietician could do on behalf of the food industry but also how to take an idea and push it through to completion.

I had my first baby in 2008 and became very passionate about the baby food aisle and how it was letting us down as parents. I thought the aisle was a sea of one-off products, and no company was helping me understand what to feed my baby, how many meals a day, how do I know he was getting enough veggies and protein, and is this going to help him grow up to be an adventurous eater? I found many other products to be very fruit heavy and high in sugar. I left Starbucks to set out and solve that for parents. Fast forward eight years later, meeting Kendall and proposing to her to join me on this crazy journey we launched in 2018.

That’s a great segue to you, Kendall.

I love when Katie says she proposes. We can talk more about that later. I’m Kendall Glynn, the Cofounder and COO of Square baby. My background is in medical genetics, so I have a Master’s in Biophysics and Molecular Genetics. Prior to this adventure, I worked in genetic counseling, so I’m a Certified Genetic Counselor and was here in San Francisco with the largest private hospital.

I then joined the leadership team of that hospital and eventually joined forces with five of the perinatologists I was working with. We started a private practice, the first of its kind here in San Francisco. That practice was my first baby. I learned a lot. It was a sink-or-swim moment in terms of a healthcare startup. I loved every minute of it.

I had three babies, which are well beyond the baby food stage, but I’ve always been passionate about women, infants, health and wellness. As a mom myself, I made my own baby food because what was offered for my kiddos out there at that time was not something I was super interested in. When Katie and I met, I caught wind of what she was doing and then she proposed. I was thrilled to join in and create change in this space.

If you feel stunned by the ages of your children to make you feel better, mine are older than yours.

You, at least, know that you’ve been successful. We’re still at that point where there’s a bunch.

It’s up for debate. It goes so damn fast. It’s crazy. You talked about the proposal but you didn’t talk about how you two did meet. How did that happen?

I moved a lot of times. After leaving Starbucks, Seattle, I moved to New York, Virginia, and then moved to the Bay Area. My oldest was in entering kindergarten, and at that time, I had been working on what became Square Baby. I put it down a bit to focus on the kids in this big move and was thankful to meet a couple of moms that introduced me to the best. That’s how I met Kendall. It was 3 or 4 women coming for a play date and a happy hour thing.

I was always at a happy Mom’s night out.

She and I were so heavily volunteering in the community in our school that we decided to take on the school lunch program, which I still giggle about because there are so many stories about that. It was something we were proud of. It was like running a small business. We took on this created nutrition education at the elementary school. She and I got to work together. You seldom get the chance to see people in how they operate in a work mode, and that’s when I knew, “That’s my girl.”

That’s your soul sister. That’s an important point. A lot of friends have started businesses together, and it’s been both bad for the business and the friendship. It doesn’t always translate that friends make great business partners, and not always do great business partners make friends. It’s magical when it works both ways. As you guys have built this forward, what was missing? You said you were not satisfied with what was available in the baby aisle. What did you feel specifically you needed to attempt to solve a Square Baby?

I feel like the list was long, which is what gave us many challenges to solve but also so much opportunity. With my son now, when I was first going through the baby food aisle, it was different. The plums and the happy babies were starting to come out, which I felt like, “Finally, brands that are trying. There’s some cute marketing. Here are these pouches. That’s so convenient,” but then we dug into it a little bit further. That’s where we started to see the fruit-heavy, misleadingly marketed products come to market, which disappointed me as a dietician. As a mom, I was like, “Why isn’t anyone thinking about the parent and the child’s nutrition in this state?”

I also found premium proteins impossible to find. I always joke that my lowest nutrition parenting moment was when I gave my son these little beanie weenies in a jar because I felt like none of the other baby foods had enough protein in them. It was such a disgusting moment but a realization that was definitely missing on the market.

As the market’s evolved and we’ve seen more and more vegan-only companies, it’s important to have options for vegetarian vegans as well as those looking for animal proteins, eggs, and seafood. We leaned into that as well as the new research that shows that early allergen introduction helps prevent food allergies from developing. That’s another keyhole we have filled and something we’re proud to lean into.

Elliot, for me, anecdotally as a parent, we say what was missing when I was shopping. Some may buy into this, and some may not. A sweet potato is not always a sweet potato, and how things are made and processed varies. What I had hoped for was that there would be this very fresh product on the market, like organic. Organic, as Katie mentioned, there were great companies coming out with that next level of innovation, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for.

I wanted a fresh, homemade product. I felt like my kids were getting the flavor profiles and that I was setting them up the right way so that when it was time for them to eat the family meal, it didn’t taste completely different. What I’ve been so excited about with this is that Katie and I have control. We are able to source the ingredients and talk to the farms, the bone broth providers and the dairy farms. That’s been an exciting part of learning about this industry and how we can best make our products. I love the ingredient side of this.

I want to get into a little bit more about what’s been going on in the journey and all the opportunities, challenges, and fun you’ve had. I want to take a little bit of a left turn first. As you both were talking, this started as a mom-first-driven, mom-motivated enterprise. What do you think your kids have learned or have benefited from in watching their moms be these amazing entrepreneurs?

I love that you asked that question because it’s something I reflect on all the time, and I might even get emotional talking about it. That’s one of the greatest gifts of this. There’s no promise in starting a company. There’s no great salary or PTO, and there are certainly a lot of things that are challenging about being an entrepreneur. Having my two boys watch me and Kendall and Kevin, my husband, who helps us with brand and advertising, do this and chase our dreams shows them that you don’t have to follow such a traditional path.

Maybe you do it for a while, but then you get this idea and have to solve it. It shows them, too, what two women coming together can do. There’s so much of that. If we walk away with nothing from this whole thing other than shifting the baby food industry towards more allergen-inclusive, veggie-forward meals and balanced meals, what our kids have seen and have learned, is one of the greatest.

Kendall, do you want to add anything to that? You don’t have to, by the way.

I 100% agree. I had pushed hard in the healthcare space in my career, and when my husband and I started our family, we quickly realized that I don’t balance very well. It was challenging for me to devote enough time to that medical practice and our family. I’m feeling very good about where I was putting my career on hold and thoughtfully stepped away to focus on our family. For me, being able to step into this type of a role with, we’ve talked about this before in our meetings, you never put your work down.

At the same time, this has allowed me to show them that you can have balance and run your own. As Katie said, follow your dreams but also do it in a way that works for your own life and lifestyle and allows everything to be a priority. That’s been great. I will also say, functionally, it’s nice to have a tangible product to show your kids this is what we’re making. It’s hard to tell little ones you’re going to a hospital, and they understand seeing patients. They don’t quite get it the way that they get excited when you hand them a meal.

Square Baby: Follow your dreams but also do it in a way that works for your life and lifestyle and allows everything to be a priority.

First of all, I’m so thankful that you understand the gift that you’re giving your kids. I talk to many entrepreneurs who don’t. They feel the opposite. They feel guilty for the work that they’re always bringing home or the stress they’re carrying with them. The gift that you’re giving to your kids is that incredible lesson on independence, resilience, perseverance, and being able, in a way, to control your own destiny. Those things are irreplaceable.

My mom was an entrepreneur. Before we used that term, she always saw white space or opportunity. I remember when we were young kids in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, she kept thinking, “This is so stupid I’m packing these lunches. What if I just bought these lunch snacks in bulk in Costco ESS.” She negotiated deals with manufacturers and sent my brother and I to school with order forms. Once a month, a semi would show up in our garage with hundreds of cases of school lunch and snacks that we would sell, and a parade of cars would line up to stop. What she taught us was doing things, seeing, and chasing those. It’s such a great thing.

The other thing you mentioned, and it’s hugely important both to recognize but also to challenge yourself regularly and accept routinely, is balance. There’s this myth out there of work-life balance. The challenge I have with that is that by using that as the descriptor, you’re bifurcating that you’re carving work separate from life, and it’s not. There’s no way to separate it. It is a component of life like parenthood, being involved in a relationship or anything else. The key to being an entrepreneur successfully is balance. It is very difficult for an entrepreneur to set work down completely.

It’s hard, but one of the few benefits of being an entrepreneur is that you get to design the place you go to work. You can create your own boundaries, your own way that you interact with them, and see how you can fit it all together. I think that’s great. Changing gears now to business. This has been a long journey, and you have taken a step now to go more to a commercialized approach where you’ve engaged co-manufacturers and so forth versus doing it more of a commercial kitchen model. I’ll start with you on this one, Kendall. Share a little bit about the evolution of the brand and the journey thus far.

When we launched in July 2018, we very thoughtfully decided to run our own commercial facility here in the Bay Area. Part of this is because we have been committed to providing a comprehensive meal system for our families. Giving them choices, as Katie mentioned, in dietary preference or lifestyle, vegan, vegetarian, and the allergen introduction. Because of that, we couldn’t launch with 3 flavors or 3 SKUs.

We needed to have a more comprehensive menu, which meant trying to do that at a co-man early on was going to be prohibitive from a capital investment perspective. We went to the commercial facility and stayed in the Western half of the US for three years, which was dictated by a smaller ability to produce only a certain amount of inventory out of our facility.

Katie and I were showered and dressed, but we got in a hairnet and put on the gear like nobody’s business. We were in there. It wasn’t that we had a big team running our facility. We’d bring in some help here and there but we essentially made the first 100,000 meals on our own. We hand-filled and hand-labeled the whole thing.

Looking back, I don’t want to speak for you, Katie, but we’ve had discussions. We feel grateful, and that’s where we started. From a recipe evolution perspective, understanding our product for me, I would not have been there had we started with a manufacturer. Now, as we’ve evolved and as you said, you’ve interviewed several co-mans, and we’ve landed with such a great partner. Being able to have conversations about how we want this product to come out on a commercial level, I never would’ve had the ability to discuss all of the considerations on such a detailed and knowledgeable level had I not had three years making our own product.

It’s the glamor of entrepreneurship.

That’ll be our podcast too, where we’ll do a slideshow of some of the photos. We were saving those. It’s been an incredibly valuable evolution and an important step for Katie and I. I’m also thrilled that we have now scaled this production up.

We’ve had lots of conversations around this but one of the things that both of you do so well is problem-solving. You’ve been confronted with plenty of opportunities to test that skill. What have you learned about yourselves, whether those moments when things aren’t working out as you thought they would and you have to adjust and move in a different direction or consider letting things that you felt were somewhat ideal go? Share, Katie, a little bit about that, if you would.

Like any entrepreneur, you start a business because you’re so passionate about something. You cannot stop until it’s gotten to where it needs to go. You cannot launch, think about it, dream about it, and push forward on it. Certainly, you don’t go into this adventure thinking that it’s going to be easy and the path is going to go exactly the way you think it’s going to go.

Square Baby: Like any entrepreneur, you start a business because you’re passionate about something. You can launch, think about, dream, and push forward. You can only stop once it’s gotten to where it needs to go.

It’s having that mindset of resiliency and problem-solving. There’s no other option. We’re moving forward. We’re going to figure this out. There’s always a moment when something comes up, especially with COVID and things taking longer than they should, but you expected that too. In the commercial kitchen, we were incredibly in control of everything.

Our supplier was slow to provide us with organic carrots, cool. We can go to another one. All we need is 50 pounds, for now, kind of thing. We could always figure it out and very quickly move through without our customers knowing. When you scale up, clearly, there are things that are less in your control. You have to be a bit more patient. In general, there’s no other outcome but to figure this out and to push. There is always a way. Sometimes it’s not exactly the way you thought it was going to happen but a lot of times, what I’m learning, and this has always been my defense mechanism in life, is that there’s always a silver lining.

Even the things that have happened that are the toughest or what feels in the moment the biggest letdown or disappointment or, “Why did that happen to us,” you take a second to look at the positives. That prevented us from going down the wrong path. Our product is going to be better because that happens. Shifting from, “It’s me, and this is hard,” to, “We got this, and we’re going to figure this out together,” is what you need and then having a partner like Kendall who pretty much gets out of bed with a whistle, does 30 burpees and has already made banana bread for her kids. She’s the best human. My point is that she’s such a go-getter and a superstar that it motivates you as a partner because you’ve got this counterpart kicking butt on the other side.

Square Baby: Even through the biggest letdowns or disappointments, take a second to look at the positives. This will prevent you from going down the wrong path.

Thank you, Katie. You’re so sweet. Before you said that, I was going to say to everyone reading that now that everyone knows why I was so excited to partner with Katie. That silver lining attitude has brought us through some of the most challenging meetings where I come away. I say this to people all the time, “I feel like that’s it. We’re stuck.” I’ll turn to Katie, and she’ll be like, “It’s great. That went pretty well. We’re onto the next step.” I’m like, “We’ll keep going.”

One of the things you’ve learned is that you guys balance each other well. I get to be the observer, and this is true. One of the differences between most people and entrepreneurs is that entrepreneurs seem to naturally become entrepreneurs because they have unique skillset to solve problems. When things confront them, they’re immediately fixers. They’re thinking, and in many cases, that serves them extraordinarily well. Sometimes it doesn’t. Personally, sometimes I’ve had to learn to turn that off.

When my wife comes to me and shares something with me, I immediately begin to try to fix it. When I quickly catch the look in her eye, she’s like, “He wanted me to listen. I’m not fixing it. I’m just going to shut up and listen.” I then had to lock myself in a room and vocalize all the ways I would’ve fixed it to get it out because otherwise, I’d go crazy. The reality now is that you’re at this relaunch phase, about ready to fully turn on the ignition of this amazing new vehicle that you’ve built and have been constructing over all of these years. What excites you and terrifies you the most about that? I’ll start with you, Kendall.

What excites me the most is where we shine is the ability to provide a true solution for families and support their kiddos, nutrition, and all that goes along with being a parent of and starting solids with a baby. It can be an anxiety-producing time even as an eCommerce business, Katie and I learned how to connect with our consumers and do that in very direct and indirect ways. She and I are both teachers, and we love to support and counsel people by nature. I’m so excited to get back out there nationally and shine in that way.

I know we have such a product and some ancillary services for our consumers so that excites me the most. I’m the operations gal. I don’t want to miss anything. What terrifies me the most, as Katie said, is that I was so used to being in absolute control over our production. Again, nothing against our partners, who I love, who we’ve been matched up with, and we’re ready to go. As a triple type A personality, what makes me nervous a little bit is a little less control over production.

Katie, same questions for you. What excites and terrifies you?

Probably somewhat similar, but I’ve realized the joy in having customers and relationships with our customers. When we launched the first time, of course, you were terrified. You’re like, “Is anybody going to know who we are? Is anyone going to like our food? Is anyone going to care?” It’s because we’re such a lean, bootstrap, capital-efficient company. Thanks, Elliot. We were our own customers. We were the ones cooking the food, our own customer service and social media managers.

We did it all, and because of that, we had the gift of truly interacting with thousands of families and having interactions with moms looking for advice. It brings that physical product to more of that. We’re doing this for a reason. We see the change we’re making in the industry. We see other competitors shifting towards more veggie-forward products or into food allergens.

We see some of these shifts happening, which feels good from a trailblazing leadership perspective. It’s the one-on-one with the customer that reminds you why you’re doing it. The only thing that scares me, which is why I think you appreciate us as a team, is cashflow. We’re very thoughtful about every single dollar that goes out the door and how it’s working for us. Taking bets was needed to take bets, but making sure that they were on a size that made sense.

The time to get commercialized into the co-manufacturers has taken longer than we thought, and there’s a hit on cashflow. To be very candid, that’s the thing that keeps me up at night. Not whether we’re going to nail it with our customers, our products are the best out there, or we’re going to handle the customer experience perfectly. That’s the thing that keeps most entrepreneurs up in there.

One thing that I’ll say, and I’ll pay this as a well-earned compliment, is that the number one reason that brands and companies fail in this industry is cash. They run out of cash, sometimes because they were undercapitalized and didn’t raise enough. Sometimes they raise too much and therefore spend too fast or we’re trying to grow too fast.

There’s a myriad of causes but the symptom is no cash. The difference is that there aren’t that many founders. I would encourage everyone reading to take a page from Square Baby’s Playbook and be dedicated to reviewing and constantly looking at your cashflow. I wouldn’t do it with the crazy model that they’ve done because they’ve got Kendall’s overachieving influence on that one or triple type A as she described herself.

The fact that both of you are disciplined, you’re looking at that. Although it is terrifying, it’s also incredibly empowering to know because what you’re able to do is to look with more foresight in terms of where the business is, where the pinch points are going to be and be planful so that you can navigate through and around those versus what too many do. This is to fear it, know it, and then confront it only when it’s at its height and when you are reactive. It’s very difficult, more so now than ever, to be in that reactive place. Owning that is hugely important.

Switching slightly direction-wise, as you’ve gone through this journey and have begun to learn what it takes to launch a brand, build a brand, scale a brand, and so forth. Any surprising lessons or things that you didn’t think would be as important or as impactful as they’ve turned out to be? I’ll let either of you jump in.

The first thing that comes to mind is, honestly, when we were talking about the work-life balance in the beginning, I remember Kendall and I having a very thoughtful conversation after my proposal. We spent a lot of time talking about the realities of this. This is basically a marriage. We are in this together. This is going to be super fun. It’s going to be really hard and a huge commitment. We had very thoughtful conversations about what that meant to us, what our goals were, and what was important to us as far as when we walked away from all of this someday, we will be the mothers and the spouses that we wanted to be.

When we look back on that time, we’ll be like, “We kicked butt.” We also did it in a way that was right for our families and us. It’s not as though we don’t work our tails off, but we do both protect and be intentional with our time with our families. The biggest lesson for me is to see all these other examples, or maybe it’s how people talk about it.

It feels like it’s so all in that everything else fails. It’s like, “I hardly see my husband in a month. This is super stressful, and I’m never at my kids’ games.” I’m proud of how we’ve, as much as possible, kept enough little boundaries for ourselves and rules that make sense for each of us. We come through all of these crazy sprints and still feel like we did it the way we wanted to do it. We’ve proven to ourselves that it’s possible.

I’m going to take host prerogative here and pontificate for a second because what you said is so important. When I ask this question a lot, we don’t often get the answer that we got from you. As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to confuse activity with results. When you’re feeling like you’re not making progress or things aren’t happening as quickly as they need to be, the mindset is, “I’m going to outwork the challenge. I’m going to make sure that I’m crushing it from dawn to dusk, 24/7 and do what I can, thinking that you can work your way through the problem and the challenge.”

There’s very little truth in that. Where the truth lies is that you are the two most important assets of Square Baby. There is no more important asset to invest in this business than the two of you. If you think about it that way, then doing what you need to do personally, from family and spousal relations to self-care and all of those things, is an incredibly important investment.

When you do come to work or your focus is placed back on the job, you are doing it with the best, most impactful, powerful version of yourself. It seems so selfish at the time. You’re always worried about, “What are my investors going to think or what have other people going to think if I’m chilling out, going on a hike, taking a vacation, going out for a nice dinner or doing all these things.” I promise all of you that if you don’t try to outwork it and instead make sure that you’re appropriately working, no doubt, but prioritizing yourself because it’ll pay itself back. It’s a good business investment to put priority back on yourself and your family.

The other thing I always want to call out is that as cool as being an entrepreneur, as remarkable as the journey is, I promise all of you that you’ll never come to the end of life and you wish you could work more or do more. You will come to it regretting that you didn’t make time for the people that were important to you. Make the time. Off of my soapbox. Kendall, you get now to follow that up.

I don’t think I can. I’m not even sure I remember exactly what your question was, Elliot.

Was there a lesson or something as you’ve gone through this journey that has surprised you as being more impactful or important than you expected?

I completely agree with what Katie said. Something that’s been not surprising for me but very impactful is this notion of partnership and being cofounders. It was so interesting when we first joined forces. We had a lot of community friends in common. We got, at least I did, Katie. I don’t know if you did, but I have a lot of questions about how that’s going to work and how oftentimes, friends don’t make great partners.

What has been so impactful for me, and people will follow up, “You’ve been working together for four years now. How’s it going? Are you killing each other yet?” Those kinds of questions. What I’ve learned and why I was so excited to join Katie is that we did have very candid conversations in the beginning when we were thinking about joining together. I knew this, but what I’ve come to value it even more is the importance of that cofounder relationship and how great she and I do it.

I’m going to toot our horns because we are so different, and yet what I love about both of us is we can be direct, candid, disagree, be respectful and keep it issue-based. That is a communication skill that I’ve come to know that not every adult is able to do. It’s able to disagree, feel completely different, come to a solution and buy-in and not look back thinking, “I didn’t think that was going to work.” I do think Katie and I have done a good job of that.

You only need to look as far as our politics, media, and social media to recognize how rare it is to be able to disagree, debate, and find a compromise. It’s unfortunate that it’s come to that. This is not an easy journey that you’re both on. It’s hard. I mentioned the onset about how I feel, to a degree, that we, as an industry, are letting our entrepreneurs down in terms of not recognizing businesses. Where could you benefit from more help or support from the industry and the greater ecosystem as you try to build this? I’ll open it to either of you.

You talk about it a lot, Elliot, and it’s a big reason why so many brands appreciate your voice in this because, as an entrepreneur and probably as a female entrepreneur, you feel people aren’t telling their stories about fundraising. It’s not something that we all share. It’s like when you have a baby and you don’t talk about the hard stuff. You realize, “There have been challenges for everybody, not just me.” It is interesting. To start the company the way we did, there’s no way we could get to a million-dollar revenue in the commercial kitchen. We couldn’t produce enough food. We could have, but we’ve been able to produce enough food.

It wasn’t a matter of whether we couldn’t retain enough customers or sell enough food. That was the model that we chose, go to market with a complete solution and with what we want to scale with a test. Every pitch stage we’re on and everything, we had many incredible experiences and so much great feedback about the brand, us, the team and the product. It’s all the things that you want to hear at a very young startup. Knowing that early-stage investors are early stage once you first hit that first million.

For us, it was trying to find the right investors that truly wanted to invest in seed stage investment which ended up being a lot of friends and family. As I take a step back against the silver lining part of it, I would have loved to have had all the offers popping off the Expo West Pitch stage six months after we’d launched our company. Wouldn’t that have been easy? I look at what we’ve built the way we’ve built it, and I’m glad that some of those things didn’t work out the way I thought I wanted them to work out. We didn’t raise too much in the beginning and didn’t scale too fast and did not take the time to learn what we needed to learn and fine-tune and get to know our customers.

What I’m getting at is that you shine a light so often on how hard to find the Rolodex of the Angel investor world. Those usually come through introductions, which is wonderful. It’s a lot easier to find the BMGs, and for us would be our next stage. Those considerations would be at the next stage for us. It’s that who’s going to invest in this super early stage.

It is interesting and challenging because every brand and business has its own Jigsaw puzzle of Angels that they put together. Very few Angels are across multiple categories or things. There are things that resonate with them. They feel they are important and/or certain types of entrepreneurs. There are some folks trying to build databases around that. Also, there’s a guest and Angel list and so forth.

The other thing I will say is that as entrepreneurs, and this is something that all of us can work on, we need to get better at understanding what we’re asking investors to do. We’re asking investors to give us money, and our responsibility with that money is to make them more money. A lot of times, what I wish I could encourage more entrepreneurs to be as creative and as brilliant as they are with their products, their brands or their marketing is to put that same level of problem-solving, ingenuity, innovation, and ideation toward how they show up and converse with investors.

Not just follow, “Here’s my convertible or here’s my safe,” but have a conversation around, “Can we develop a structure? Can we have conversations about how you can help me fund this mission that I’m on? I can build a return that works for you and how we develop it so that it’s mutually beneficial. The business can make it work and you can get the return back.”

We all need to get more conversant in that. For all entrepreneurs reading, this is your craft. Entrepreneurialism is your craft. If that’s your craft, like any artisan or craft person, you need to be committed to honing it, learning every aspect of it, and becoming truly the expert in your craft. If that’s the mindset, then you have to recognize that part of the craft necessitates that you understand capital, how it works, what mechanisms exist, and what investors need and look for, and then apply that entrepreneurial mindset to that challenge. If you can do that, you’re going to be more likely to find funding.

It’s going to take a long time for the industry to recognize this segment of the business, as I mentioned, which are brands that can build $20 million and $30 million, be EBITDA profitable and cashflow positive. We don’t have a mechanism. How does that investor make money there? That’s where entrepreneurs can help solve the problem. Kendall, you always come after my soapbox moments, so what’s the struggle? What do you need from the industry to help you succeed in this enterprise?

I echo what Katie said and, certainly, Elliot, your comments. As part of the TIG team, what’s been so helpful for me is doing some work around this in terms of how the conversation goes with investors, the ask and the opportunity. You’ve been incredibly helpful in coaching Katie and I through that. We are good at telling our story, explaining our differentiators for anyone who wants to be a change maker in this space, and starting with baby food and thinking about infants or toddlers, and school-aged children. With nutrition, we have a compelling story.

The more opportunity we get to have a conversation around the investment and the opportunity, the better. When we first started on our fundraising journey, what we felt was not a formula but a pattern. Maybe you hope for a second meeting and additional information is requested of you. They want the term sheet. We’re learning that maybe it is okay to have more of a conversation and if investors and industry can help entrepreneurs say, “Let’s talk a little bit more about what the investment is and what the opportunity is.” To your point, we need to be proficient in how we talk about it. It would be helpful to have more of a dialogue around the opportunity.

Hopefully, we will find more people who want to engage in that conversation and brainstorm. Again, we’re going to try to do our part to help there too. I want to come back to the topic you guys were talking about your relationship and partnership. One of the things that changed in the pandemic is that you went from living relatively close to one another to not. Now you’re more distributed partners. How has that impacted and changed things that you can’t connect on a physical basis with the same regularity?

I moved to Bend, Oregon. Kendall and I both lived in the same town of Bend, where our kids went to the same elementary school. We had a storefront in our town for the first three years. We lived a mile from each other, essentially. We were going to the commercial kitchen nearly every day together, so there was a lot of she and I being in the same room.

When our family started to think about the idea of moving, the first conversation I had, even before talking to Kevin, my husband, was, “Talk to Kendall about it.” If this wouldn’t work with us, first of all, we do have such an open, honest relationship when we care about each other as partners and people that I know that if I asked her and she hesitated, I know she would be honest about it.

She knew how big of an opportunity this was for my kids and they’re growing up. We never saw this coming. The ability to work from anywhere allowed us to move to an area that was right for my family and my kids. As we started building a remote team, we’re on Zoom anyway. Every person on our team and whom we work with on a daily basis in a different state would be on Zoom anyway. It’s because we talk and see each other on Zoom all day, and pre-calls and after-calls, we forget the last time we saw each other in person.

At the co-manufacturer, we get to have a glass of wine at the Hilton afterward. We’re like, “Look at us. We’re in the same room. Isn’t this fun?” We forget that we’re not down the road because we are still the same team that we were. I am incredibly grateful because I can tend to give myself my own guilt trip so that I would feel that guilt hard. She gave this to me. I remember we were in the commercial kitchen, and she looked up at me. She’s like, “Katie, you’re going. You’re doing this. You have to do this.” I was like, “Thank you. That was the biggest gift.” There you go.

It is remarkable to do it, but it’s also a testament to the relationship that you guys have. One of the great benefits of this post-pandemic world that we live in is that we’re all more comfortable having virtual relationships and building good friendships or maintaining good friendships via video. Certainly, it’s helped the sweatpants industry grow pretty significantly.

That’s called active wear. You’re not allowed to call them sweatpants anymore.

Last question because we’re right at the top of the hour. I’ll start with you, Kendall, this time, and that is if you could go back to any moment in this journey and give yourself a piece of sage advice that could have helped you avoid a challenge or maybe made things easier, can you think of a moment and a piece of advice that you’d give yourself?

I think about this, and I’ve told Katie this. Mine is very tactile. As Katie said, our brand, culture, working relationship, and friendship have been so incredibly solid and rewarding. My sage advice is very functional. It’s not some great words of wisdom that would translate to a lot of other things. I’ve had other entrepreneurs at an earlier stage than us ask for advice, “Looking back, what would I do?”

As an eCommerce company and direct-to-consumer, I would have invested in an awesome team for digital marketing in Instagram and Facebook world to help us maximize that plan very early on. I know it’s changed a lot now. I don’t think any company wholly invests in that avenue. You obviously want to watch the analytics there closely, especially when you’ve got a minimal budget. That’s one thing.

I remember as we’ve now had a great team that runs and does all that all day long, all they think about are Google ads and Instagram algorithms. When we turned on our website for the first time and put our first post and ads out there, we were like, “That’s okay.” As CEO, if you’ve targeted ads, you realize, “This is one super not fun. This was definitely something to outsource.” I agree. That was a learning curve for us.

Elliot, part of that, I must admit I say that because Katie’s husband, Kevin, got a real career and a real job, and he always is helping. He’s incredible, and he is an advertising guru. He very generously said, “I will try to take this on and learn it.” I will never forget him. I feel like I owe him a vacation from that whole situation. That’s part of why I give that advice.

My advice is also very generic but I keep reminding myself is trust your gut. I know it’s so simple. Not any new news. There are so many times where I have been glad that I’ve trusted my gut and kept churning on a certain big decision or something. Maybe you go back and revisit or you bring everything back to the table.

How important it is through business, life, parenting, friendships, and all those things, we have this magical intuition that usually tells us exactly where we need to go. I feel like it’s always right. Taking it in, and I so appreciate it. You’ve learned that Kendall and I, as similar as we may seem, are so different. I trust that she’s going to challenge me, and Kevin’s going to challenge me creatively and is going to push us to be outside of our comfort zone. It’s so important to take all of these things in and consider every angle and not forget that your own gut is a big vote too.

Square Baby: Through business, life, parenting, friendships, and all those things, it is important to have a magical intuition that usually tells you exactly where you need to go.

It’s hard. In a lot of ways, we socialize ourselves out of that trust as we get older. This was awesome. Thanks so much for hanging out and having this conversation. I, for one, am excited to see what the future holds for Square Baby. It’s going to be awesome, and I’ve been impressed by both of you from the very get-go and continue to be. I appreciate you sharing with the broader community what’s going on.

Thank you, Elliot.

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