Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Entrepreneurialism 101: GüdBar becomes Fresh Bar

A couple of years ago, two freshly minted university grads — twin brothers as it turns out, one who attended Wisconsin-Madison and the other Georgetown — put their heads together and set off on the entrepreneurial adventure of creating a new style of nutrition bar. The plan was to create a bar that was totally fresh and without preservatives, needing, in fact, to be sold from the refrigerated case in stores, not on racks next to checkout stands.

They decided to call their bar GüdBar (pronounced "goodbar") because the bars tasted "güd", they were "güd", and the name sounded "güd". So they went about developing the recipe, designing the packaging, securing time in a commercial kitchen, getting food safety certifications, buying insurance, setting up a legal entity, and doing the countless other things necessary to start a food business.

At the time, one worked full time for the online division of a large retailer and the other for an energy consulting company, so their GüdBar work had to be done in the evenings and on weekends.

Initially their product was just one flavor of bar that they distributed in Twin Cities food coops and the local supermarket chain Lunds & Byerly's. But making and distributing the product became so time consuming that one of the partners (Will) chose to leave his position with the large retailer to concentrate full-time on GüdBar. Meanwhile, the other partner (Ross) was offered a position as an online science writer and editor, which allowed him more schedule flexibility. At about the same time they added three friends to the company and renamed it Five Friends Food.

But a problem arose, one that they had been warned of earlier: In the same week that Will left his job, he also received a letter in the mail from lawyers for the Hershey Company saying, in essence, that the GüdBar name and product type were too close to Hershey's Mr. Goodbar, which the company had owned and nurtured since the 1930s. In short, GüdBar would have to change its name.

Yet instead of being harsh, the tone of the letter was rather nice and accommodating, saying that Hershey would give the two young entrepreneurs a certain amount of time to accomplish the changeover, to be negotiated, etc.

Fighting Hershey would be rather silly, Will and Ross decided, so they secured the services of a friendly attorney who negotiated a deal (at a reduced fee) with Hershey for a changeover period. Then they set about retooling the brand.

Because this week is when they introduce the new product, called Fresh Bar, it's a good time to make a few points about entrepreneurialism.

Yes, to be an entrepreneur it takes creativity, intelligence, hard work, diligence, detailed thinking and planning and all those other wonderful traits we hear about. But it also takes a lot of help and a little bit of luck. For instance:
  • Will and Ross had the availability of a nonprofit commercial kitchen where they could make the bars.
  • They have friends — some partners, some volunteers — to help them with the enterprise.
  • They are free from burdensome college debt, thanks to scholarships and jobs when they were attending school. This has allowed them to self-finance. (Blatant editorial comment: If we want to encourage young entrepreneurs we need to free them from college debt.)
  • When they made an honest mistake, an understanding national corporation allowed them time to rebrand, and a helpful attorney negotiated the deal at a reduced fee.
  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — yes, Obamacare — allowed them to stay on a parent's health insurance plan till age 26. (Another blatant editorial comment: The lack of a simple, single-payer national health insurance plan covering all Americans is perhaps the single greatest deterrent to entrepreneurialism in this country.)
More can be said on the subject, but this is a good place to stop. So, for now you have it: The story of GüdBar —> Fresh Bar ... thus far.

To be continued ....


Blogger Patrick Dempsey said...

They didn't build that. Someone else made that happen.

4:19 PM  

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