Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dustin Finkel, CEO of Awakened Foods and its subsidiaries (Ka-Pop! Snacks, B.Fine Foods, and Awakened Food Crafters) located in Erie, Colorado, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Hey, I’m Dustin Finkel, the creator and CEO of Ka-Pop! and Awakened Foods (a new Holding Company that owns Ka-Pop!, Bubba’s Fine Foods, and Awakened Food Crafters). We are an innovative and fearlessly delicious snack company. I started these businesses to create snacks that were genuinely authentic and absolutely craveably delicious. It’s disheartening how many consumers have lost their trust in ‘healthy foods’ because they are either misleading in their claims and/or require you to give up taste.
Ka-Pop! is an Ancient Grain snack company using only 100% Ancient Grains, Cold-Pressed Oil, and Natural Seasonings. 80% of the grains grown worldwide are Corn, Rice, & Wheat – they damage our soils and our gut biomes. Ancient Grains or what we like to call SUPER grains! – have been the same for thousands of years without genetic modifications to make them bigger and sweeter. If history hasn’t changed these grains for thousands of years, why should we? Sorghum is also incredibly sustainable. It needs little to no irrigation to grow (91% of the land it grows on uses zero irrigation), and it revitalizes our soils. Our snacks are top 12 allergen-free, vegan, dairy-free, but definitely NOT TASTE FREE!
Bubba’s Fine Foods is our second brand focused on what we call, Food Churches. Most natural food consumers have a nutrition path they like to follow or enjoy following multiple directions. Whether consumers are Paleo, Grain-Free, Keto, or want simple ingredients, we are here for you. Be You.
Finally, we created Awakened Food Crafters to manufacture our brands and be a facilitator for other brands, whether they are at ground zero or a Fortune 500 CPG.
Tell us about yourself
Before Ka-Pop! I had worked for blue-chip multinationals such as Goldman Sachs, Kellogg Food Company, and General Mills Inc. I also had experience in smaller companies ranging from start-ups to fast-growing enterprises. I had a goal of running a company, but I never thought it would be my own.
My turning point happened when I was working for General Mills. I had helped create gluten-free Chex and received a letter in the mail soon after the product launched in stores. A mother reached out because she wanted us to know just how amazing it was to have gluten-free cereal for her daughter. She went on to tell us how one day she found her daughter crying under her covers, eating a bowl of Chex. When she asked what was wrong, the girl responded, “I can finally eat real people’s food.” I never imagined that an idea I came up with could be so impactful on others’ lives. Since that time, I have helped launch multiple brands and products that positively impact consumers’ lives. With these experiences, I felt confident I had what was needed to start my own company.
As a certified personal trainer, nutritionist, and avid weightlifter, health & wellness have always been a focal point in my life. Creating Ka-Pop! all started with wanting a better snack – something I could grab or feed to my family without all that guilt that comes from empty snacking. I turned my home into a test kitchen and started crafting our perfect snack-- using ingredients straight from our pantry. When our insanely picky 6-year-old would not stop asking for more, we knew we had something!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
As a business owner, our biggest accomplishment was taping and airing on Shark Tank -what an unbelievable experience. However, on a personal level, learning how to be a better leader and person is beyond rewarding. Finally, walking out and seeing 60+ people building our business based on something we started as an idea is very, very cool.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
It is beyond hard, emotional, and tiring. I just got off the phone with another entrepreneur, and we both agreed that no one understands our life unless you have done this yourself. It is an emotional rollercoaster and endlessly frustrating, and the rewards are not as tangible as one might expect. There is no one behind you - every one of my employees is counting on us to stay in business and provide for their families. I take that VERY seriously.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
I have learned so much after starting my company, and I think I will continue learning for a long time to come. From what I’ve learned so far, I would say that my top tips for starting a business are:
- Understand the business’s financials. Too many entrepreneurs are not inclined to focus on the numbers, but that is where the business story lives.
- Get ready to be knocked down time and time again – it’s the ones that get back up that win.
- Bootstrap if you can, but raise more money than you think.
- Surround yourself with a great team, great mentors, and people that can share in your journey.
The biggest tip – get started. “Strategy without Execution is Hallucination!” – Thomas Edison
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.