Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Brendan Cummins, founder of Cracked Energy, located in Miami, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Cracked Energy (under the holding company "Pm Protein") strives to create the most innovative products in the functional food space, primarily focusing on our caffeinated and ultra-low-calorie gummy worms. Cracked Candy has as much caffeine as an energy drink, tastes like real gummy worms, and is only 100 calories while using no artificial sweeteners.
Originally starting off manufacturing sleep aid Pm Protein bars with 5mg of melatonin, the R&D process has always been about manufacturing and designing food products that not only taste great but fulfill a real purpose in someone's day-to-day and provide an added benefit. It not only distinctly separates our products from competitors, but the people who give us a chance, end up sticking with our products because they genuinely help them and provide a benefit beyond just taste.
Tell us about yourself
Growing up having Crohn's disease, I've always had a difficult relationship with food, and as someone with a sweet tooth, it definitely didn't make my life any easier. After years of reading nutritional labels and supplement facts, playing college baseball, and working out, I began to develop a better understanding of the ingredients that went into most CPG food products we buy in stores. After I stopped playing baseball, I took a lot of interest in bodybuilding and powerlifting, both of which require pretty acute attention to daily caloric intake. As I began to shed a lot of fat through diet and exercise, I became extremely lean. As almost everyone can relate, after a while of dieting, the cravings start to kick in. Every product I will ever work on will always have a focal point of fulfilling cravings for junk food by providing better-for-you alternatives.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment would be originally starting out as predominately an e-commerce brand, having marketed the product through Google/Meta ads and various influencers. It was a colossal failure. I was left with a lot of money spent on online marketing with little to no sales, but those who tried my products, reordered. Combined with customer reorders, I genuinely believed in what I was doing more than anything in the world. It was only a matter of having enough people try the products, and still not knowing how to really run a business, I sat down one day and mapped out almost 100 independently owned gyms, supplement shops, and convenience stores. In the following weeks, I drove around Southern Florida, just coldly walking in to speak with managers about onboarding my products. From there, only a few stores accepted me, but repeated sales and reorders established a proof of concept and has resulted in sales data I've used to expand into chains, led to contact with distributors, and a business that's performing a lot better than it was prior.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The biggest challenge was really the R&D process, connecting with manufacturers that would be willing to work with a college student's budget, given typical industry MOQs. I was told by everyone I spoke to that it was impossible to produce a protein bar or candy at the order volumes I could afford. I ended up taking on a significant amount of responsibility.
I sourced every ingredient myself and handled and designed product packaging. Prior to warehousing, I stored 7,000 protein bars in my dorm room and then drove to UPS and manually shipped out orders, some days holding up the line for an hour. These were all challenges that come from attempts to mitigate start-up costs, but they helped me learn an incredible amount really quickly.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Find a niche, start googling, and then ask questions to everyone you meet with experience in your industry. My favorite podcasts are "The Consumer VC," "A16z Podcast", and "Y Combinator," which have all helped shape the way I view start-ups alongside monitoring Pitchbook and Crunchbase.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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