Stay humble, dream big. That’s one of the big entrepreneurial lessons that Christy Goldsby, founder of Honey Mama’s cacao-nectar bars lives by. And, by the looks of it, that positive and level-headed modus operandi seems to be paying off.
What started out as a two-person operation sold at the local farmer’s market in 2013, has now grown to a company of over 40 with products in over 2,500 stores across America. And Christy has shared some insights into how other businesses can grow just like hers did.
Christy has worked in the food industry all of her adult life. Hailing from a family of bakers, farmers, gardeners, and cooks, she was first bitten by the entrepreneurial bug when she teamed up with her mom and sister to start a local Portland coffee roasting company.
They started with their own brick-and-mortar store and sold products at a local farmer’s market before tapping into the wholesale market with two frozen take and bake products: cinnamon and pecan buns.
But in 2007, Christy left. She was ready to branch out on her own. Her experience up to this point would be invaluable—but first, she had to figure out what she wanted to do.
When a friend was suffering from what would later be determined as Celiac’s disease, Christy joined her in undertaking a cleanse so she didn’t have to do it alone. Cleanse changed her life. She started to look at food in an entirely new light.
“What I realized at that moment was that I’d never really been able to eat sugar or metabolize it. I had just discovered the impact of food is medicine at that point and got really excited about the idea of bringing that to the marketplace,” Christy said.
She experienced boosted energy levels and reduced anxiety. It had her feeling like a new woman, and she decided that she wanted to share that feeling with others.
Creating Healthy Treats
Christy knew that she wanted to return to the food industry, but she wanted to do it on her own terms. She wanted to bring something truly unique. And she found it when she discovered a raw food protein bar. It made her feel great while igniting her taste buds and she knew it was exactly what she wanted to create.
Honey Mama’s started small. Christy changed the original recipe from what she’d found to what it is today, designed four flavors, and took them to a local Portland farmer’s market to test the market.
Honey Mama’s cacao-nectar bars provide a healthy but still delicious alternative to your standard chocolate bar. And it turns out people love them!
She knew that getting the product in the hands of their audience was key to spreading the word of their delicious bars—though COVID-19 has slowed this down, so they spent much of their marketing dollars on trials.
But social media has also played an important role in the growth of their brand. Influencers have played an important role in the growth of their popularity, though so far they haven’t used paid partnerships.
Their social growth has been organic. Done through good ol’ fashioned word of mouth by those who have discovered and loved their cacao-nectar bars. And their audience loves it enough that they’ve even managed to grow a cult following.
Christy believes that timing and awareness has a lot to do with their success. They created the right product, for an audience looking for healthy choices but still wanted to experience something sweet.
They’ve even managed to snag a few awards, like the 2019 Good Food Award: Best Sweet Snack for their Mayan Spice bar or the 2018 Gold Sofi Award: Sweet Snack for their Nibs & Coffee bar.
While Christy share’s that it’s challenging to gauge the effect that any awards they receive have on their products, anything helps when it comes to being taken seriously in the food industry.
“You’re just not deciding that you’re awesome,” Christy said. Somebody else is agreeing.
Changing in COVID-19
COVID-19 has changed how every business interacts with the world. It has impacted bottom lines, changed the way consumers purchase, and modified operations. Honey Mama’s has felt this impact.
Though both online and grocery sales are up at the moment, Honey Mama’s is a manufacturer which means there are added changes to figure out what “what this means from an everyday workplace experience.”
They operate SAF food certified facilities, which means they already have a stringent food safety program in place. But Christy shares that COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for them to up their game and be hypervigilant about safety standards.
She sees the current challenges for the company as opportunities. Running online sales for refrigerated goods has always been a bit of a challenge. It can be pricey to get the product from the manufacturing facility to the consumer, so online sales have thus far been limited.
But the current changes in consumer behavior have given them a chance to look at ways to improve their online sales capability. They’ve put the gas on in some areas of development. Specifically when it comes to improving online capabilities and lowering their shipping costs.
Growing a Business
Running a business isn’t always easy, but since being bitten by the entrepreneurial bug Christy has embraced the challenges. Christy shared that one of the best money-saving actions that she took with Honey Mama’s was when she hired a part-time Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Your CFO’s goal is to help your company spend money in the best ways possible. And bringing someone in that can truly help you understand the finances, and give you insight on how to pinch pennies and watch your budget can be an invaluable resource.
She also warns against assuming too much about future growth. While you should always have a plan and vision for your business, it’s important to make sure that you don’t spend like you’re already there.
But perhaps the most important business lesson that Christy has learned is to stay nimble and surround yourself with a hive of people that are much smarter than you.
“Your decisions have a much bigger impact as those zeros get added to your revenue,” she said. So having a great, supportive, and engaged team can help you stay successful, continue to develop, and stay relevant in your industry.
The Next Steps
Honey Mama’s wants to give people the opportunity to eat “bad” foods and treat themselves while still choosing to thrive.
Christy would love to see their cacao-nectar bars next to the candy bars like the true treats they are offering healthy ingredients at an affordable price instead of hidden in the refrigerated isles. She’s hoping that someday soon, she’ll get a chance to see it.
At the end of the day, Christy believes that everyone should have the opportunity to eat delicious food and feel great. And she’s up to the task of making that happen.