Episode 003 | Kate McAleer of Bixby Co. - Dirigo Collective | Marketing Agency

Episode 003 | Kate McAleer of Bixby Co.


Kate McAleer takes us into the journey of building Bixby & Co., an organic, non-GMO chocolate company based in Rockland, ME. We learn what it takes to become a national distributor and go against the heavy hitters, all without sacrificing your values and mission.

Follow Kate on instagram @KateMcAleer, @bixbychocolate, and @bixbyco

To see what delicious confections she has whipped up recently and to catch the latest deals, check out her website at bixbyco.com

Kate also mentioned a bunch of really great resources and networks that helped her in launching Bixby Co. We’ve created a list (in order of their mention) of links for easy reference for you. If you’re looking to launch a biz here in Maine you should definitely explore these resources.

RESOURCES KATE MENTIONED

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Kate McAleer 0:01
I felt like I was a composer trying to pull it all together to make our Symphony happen. But I think it was because of all those resources and the network that I leaned heavily upon.

Intro by Kevin Oates 0:17
From Dirigo Collective this is Renegades and Mavericks, sharing the stories of people interrupting the status quo and breaking new ground in their field.

Kevin Oates 0:33
If you were one who is prone to having a sweet tooth, you came to the right place, and all because of one word, chocolate. In the United States alone, consumers spend roughly $22 billion a year on chocolate. That’s right, billion with a B plus the average us consumer eats about 12 pounds of chocolate each year, which may sound like a lot, but it comes out to about one ounce per week. However, it’s the quality of the Chocolate that determines whether this is a healthy habit or not. Enter Kate McAleer. Founder of Bixby and Co a chocolate company that moved to a small Maine town and then became one of the heavy hitters in clean natural chocolate that is made with a conscience. Launched in 2011, Bixby and Co has made a dent in the industry, making organic and non GMO chocolate confectionery products. In 2017, Bixby and Co became the first bean to bar craft chocolate maker in the state of Maine. This is Kate McAleer, and she is a renegade.

So I want to go back to 2011 you’ve had this background and you said kind of with I think I’ve read in a few places you’ve it’s with the help of family and friends really that encouragement to kind of go to do the culinary track and you know, you have that background of Pastry Arts but like what uh, what about chocolate? What was it about chocolate and making confectionery products to you that does really drew you in.

Kate McAleer 2:03
Right. So I’ve done a lot of thinking about why chocolate. And I think it was the fact that it was an interesting medium through which so many things could be explored and researched and thought about. So, you know, I think in my time as a chocolatier and chocolate maker and chocolate business owner, I, the one thing that is clear to me is that there’s a there’s a rather large disconnect between chocolate and people who eat chocolate, right? So there’s, um, a lack of knowledge of where it comes from, that it’s a fruit that grows in a tree. And so for me, you know, I was a liberal arts major. And I had that sort of foundation of just being really interested in a lot of different things. Chocolate was really like a way to sort of still be interested in everything but through the lens of one thing. So, you know, and and I also was really interested in the food food movement, if you will. So, um, I really became sort of obsessed with natural and organic foods in, I would say. So I grew up with my parents were always very conscientious about what we ate. But then, when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, we really sort of amped it up and became really interested in organic and natural and chemical free and, and so then, of course, when when I wanted to make chocolate, I wanted to have a subset of what we made that was certified organic. So we are, I mean, I’m gonna put a little asterisks that I don’t know how to verify this, but I think we’re the first certified organic chocolate company in Maine. And we were one of the very first certified organic candy bars in the US probably like one of five organic candy brands.

Kevin Oates 3:59
Wow.

Kate McAleer 4:00
Yeah, so that’s that’s obviously a niche market. But um, you know, I think it was a way to have a conscientious aspect of socially minded aspects because being organic and fair trade and rainforest alliance certified and direct trade, you know, that all gets into the sustainability and responsibility aspect of making food. So all of those things come together for me in the in the realm of chocolate, so history, art, culture, and activism, business, it all comes together and I think it’s endless,

Kevin Oates 4:38
Right and it’s ever evolving. And one thing that has been interesting, was it because there’s so many aspects of it that brought you brought all together to chocolate, was there a steep learning curve as far as like, as far as like sourcing because you talked about a lot about sustainable sourcing and clean products that you guys use, but to to get to that point, like, was it was really hard to kind of figure all that out or was that something you kind of just were really excited to do and just go into the deep end and see what happened.

Kate McAleer 5:08
This has all been an incredibly steep learning curve, I think that, you know, you come into it as a consumer, right. And so you’re educated at a certain level as a consumer. And then when you’re doing the business aspect of it, it’s so much harder and so much more nuanced. So for example, you know, just to become certified organic. I think that that can be taken for granted that it’s really hard to be certified organic. There are so many layers of paperwork and programs and audits and labeling and everything that goes into being certified organic. It’s a federal program that’s been administered by your state agency, if you choose to go with that route, for example, and MOFGA is one of the oldest in the US. It’s not, I believe, the oldest state certifying organic agency. So then you have to follow like MOFGA’s procedures with the federal program. And so yeah, you have to become an expert on the minutest detail. And then you know, the most complex thing like, I remember really early on, we were setting up our first order for Whole Foods. And there was this whole question on well, what’s your pallet size? And I was like, I’ll get back to you on that. I had no idea what they were talking about. And I had to go research pallets and how you build out the box configuration on the palette and because your palette has to be a certain size, and there’s limits because the trucking companies don’t allow more than certain levels and it’s all very important. Like, it is no joke, your palate, tie high levels, all that box size. Once you do it, you can’t change it because you you’re set up in these complex systems. So those are sort of just some examples of you know what I had to learn and still in learning you know like what is Tick Tock? [laughs]

Kevin Oates 7:06
Have you have you gone into that realm yet with with the company as far as Tick Tock?

Kate McAleer 7:09
No no but I’m doing all the social media, so, Instagram and Twitter and not that we do Twitter that much right now but Instagram and Facebook, you know, prior to starting this business I wasn’t really on social media and I think that’s been a another learning curve and, of course, you know, website marketing, email marketing and all that jazz. Yeah, so I feel like I’ve had to learn a tremendous amount MBA

Kevin Oates 7:36
Have you learned to enjoy some of them?

Kate McAleer 7:39
Yes, yes. But I think you know, I attribute a lot of the learning to sort of amazing programs that I was able to partake in. So, um, you know, one that I am a big fan of is the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development MCED, really like spew out a bunch of acronyms, but they did a Top Gun prep and then Top Gun program. Like back in the heyday, and that was an accelerator for Maine businesses. That was great. And we talked about a lot of different things there. And then I did the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses with Babson College. And that was phenomenal. So I think I’ve had some great learning experiences along the way to help me take down the curve. But it’s a lot of burning the midnight oil and, and trying to figure stuff out and yeah, I mean, I think I I like certain aspects. Others, you know, like accounting and there’s things called like chargebacks, which is an evil food industry term. Slotting, another word that gets me with the heebie jeebies. Yeah, so those sort of really complicated things. I don’t know just like linking QuickBooks with like Shopify and Square seems to be like a nightmare. So those sorts of things I don’t care for as much but you got to learn all of that to keep keep your hand on what’s going on so.

Kevin Oates 9:08
And now Bixby and Co you guys are based in Rockland, Maine. And for those who don’t know, it’s about three hours north of Boston an hour 15 north of Portland, Maine. Like why Rockland? Like cuz you aren’t from Maine. But you like you said here we are like, I’m gonna go start this in Rockland, Maine.

Kate McAleer 9:28
So some background, my mom’s family has roots to the Spruce Head Mentos area. And so she spent a lot of her childhood in Maine. And then I guess the story goes that when my parents were, I don’t know, dating or maybe they’d just been married or something. My mom brought my dad to Maine, and he was like, this is where I want to retire and and they all that was their big plan. And then I kind of came along with the ride because I had started Bixby in upstate New York. And then it was, it was at this point where it was like we got to move into a factory. It was because I was in like 500 square feet. And then my parents had this whole life goal. And then the food movement in Maine was amazing small business environment in Maine is amazing. And so it was just like, we’re just gonna move to Maine. That’s what we did. We didn’t look back and I think it was a great move. I think the food scene here is incredibly strong and there’s so many committed people that make organic food here in Maine, so I think that that that was the alure.

Kevin Oates 10:41
But you moved to a good so you had this family background with Rockland and the mid coast and you go to this town… and Rockland, for those who don’t know, it’s a beautiful place. It’s really popular in the summertime. During the offseason, it’s it’s pretty rough, it’s really hard to… there are parts of it in the area that are hard to kind of again gain traction. And just sustain because it is a lot of seasonal visitors and and residents. But have you have you found it difficult on a local level? Or have you really seen like that the local side of what Rockland, Maine is a huge kind of backbone of support.

Kate McAleer 11:16
So, first, we never were a seasonal business we, I mean, chocolate has a seasonality but it wasn’t based on Maine. And it’s actually the reverse of Maine seasonality, interestingly enough, but we first and foremost have always been a wholesale, you’ll call it manufacturer. And then we like worked our way back into our seasonal tours based business side of so we do a lot of we have a lot of diversification of channels that we sell into. But like first and foremost, we were like a distributed product. We had products that were sold into distribution and then to retailers. We’ve always had our e commerce website. And then we opened retail, a retail store within Rockland. And that was a destination chocolate factory tour. So that is absolutely contingent on seasonality, but from a wholesale manufacturing perspective on the seasonality Rockland hasn’t really impacted that side of the business. I would say from a personal level, it is a long winter, um, for sure. But, you know, I think I’ve always been an avid fan of winter sports. And so I think you have to plan that in there. And then, you know, before COVID, there’s a lot of trade shows that take place in the winter period. So I was always traveling for some periods of time that can get challenging. If there’s a major snowstorm. Yeah, I mean, I think that it was just a great kind of way to get ourselves as stablish and this is where we had connections. And I felt like Portland honestly got really expensive in the past 10 years. So when we were looking at manufacturing space, and honestly like the way that we networked into our current facility was really interesting. So when we landed here, we ended up in a food incubator, which was in Belfast, so that’s like, shared kitchen space. But that, unfortunately, ended up really not working out. So we were only there for a year. And then we had to basically find a whole new space, which was hard because three times trying to find space. And so it was through networking and economic development that we were connected to our current space, which was previously an ice factory. So ice is considered food so it was already like up to the standards of certain food code requirements. Um, yeah, so it was sort of like a whole of host things that made it work.

Kevin Oates 14:03
We’ll get into COVID in a little bit of kind of where we are with that. But before that, I do want to go to the next kind of phase so like we 2011 you start this, you come to Rockland, you get your factory going, you’re you’re making things 2015, you you get the Small Business administration’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Maine, you know, you’re scaling, I’m guessing at this point production is ramping up and think that having that award may have helped a little bit, it does give you a lot more validity on a national scale. Were there obstacles as far as just like scaling up? I mean, this is something that especially with never doing it before, and never having that background. And again, like you mentioned earlier, the things that you didn’t know how to do, but you were forced, forced to do you know how to work with scaling and was there were there moments of friction as a business owner when this next kind of phase happened?

Kate McAleer 14:55
Absolutely, there was a lot of friction. Scaling is really hard. I feel like I have battle wounds. I so some of the extreme challenges that you nailed are is like literally in the manufacturing process. So when when we started right like I had a table top temporary machine and I would hand dip Bixby Bars, which was our first product. And for the longest time, people just called us Bixby Bar because they thought that was our company. And like, that’s all we made. And I was taking a while to sort of be like, No, that was one of our, that’s one of our products. We also make a lot of other things but so with this Bixby Bar production, you know, we hand dipped, hand wrapped, because we didn’t have a wrapping machine, hand packed into boxes, and it was very manual process. And so we work with some various amazing programs in Maine to help us scale that procedures. So like Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership, big name, Maine MEP is an amazing resource that is they help you figure out your plant layout and how to become more efficient. And it puts together basically like this whole cadre of support and help and money to make that scaling happen. Because at the same time we received MTI funding, I think I had a Lever Future Fund grant too that was for Mainers under 35. I had the Gorham Savings Bank Launchpad win, which helped secure the melting tanks to connect to the rovers that connected to the wrapping machines and I landed a loan from Whole Foods Market, their Local Producer Loan. So that was a lot of hardcore making that happen to make that happen because it is not easy. Because all that equipment everything is so expensive and then you have to have the space and figure out the flow. So it was [?hard]. And it was all at once because it was all connected, right? And then a couple times, you know, I’ve had to pivot, because we launched with bars and just saw a shift towards pouching. So then, of course, you know, when you set up for bars, that’s not the same as pouching, which now is like predominantly what we do. So it’s been a fascinating, a lot to learn a lot to, I felt like I was a composer trying to pull it all together to make our Symphony happen. But I think it was because of all those resources and the network that I leaned heavily upon.

Kevin Oates 17:39
So there’s the new challenges of scaling up you these challenges of manufacturing growth and understand what all that is, but you still want to keep this clean, sustainable, organic product,right?

Kate McAleer 17:51
That’s hard. [laughs]

Kevin Oates 17:53
It’s very hard. I mean, aside from always keeping that as the core of your business, is there a very niche competitive market for this like, did you have a lot of competitors that like your field that might have shut you out of the industry? Or because at the time when you started, this wasn’t a big thing you said you were one to five in the country and…

Kate McAleer 18:12
I definitely competition is is intense. You know, I think we are a small brand and compete against giant billion dollar conglomerates in this space of candy, we’ll call it. Yeah, so it is challenging. I think you have to constantly initiate and show your brand value proposition to your consumer. Right. That’s not the same as the person who’s buying a generic candy bar. Yeah, so it is it is very challenging and I think you have to have that authenticity and and the brand and the products and it was challenging. When we shifted from hand wrapping Bixby Bars to flow, what’s called flow wrapping, which is machine wrapping. That was a lot of critiqued and we lost some accounts that just got really upset. And you know, it was just like you can’t hand wrap thousands of bars, it’s just not feasible and we have to make it a price point achievable product and so you had to kind of take those arrows and then try and keep going and stay positive about it and ultimately, you know, it was the right thing to do for shelf life and distribution purposes and being able to have you know, the date printed on every bar because we used to hand date stamps. I was told way back when that I should add XYZ to make my product easier to make. And that would have, you know, compromised our values and propositions just have clean ingredients. No corn syrup, but it would have been a lot easier if we had done that. But we stuck to it and you know University of Maine with MEP’s help made a special cutter for us because like our product when equipment because it didn’t have certain crazy inclusions and ingredients that make it easier to run.

Kevin Oates 20:18
I want to get to the heart of the business a little bit of less of the business side but more of how you started going back to that but both your parents were there from the start, right? As as team members? As… were they considered employees or were they co- How did you work this with with family?

Kate McAleer 20:37
So my mom and I are co owners, co founders and then my dad you know cuz he’s my dad and her husband really ended up getting roped into this. Like, maybe there was at some point but he just pulled up his sleeves and came in right beside us. They’ve both been amazing partners supporters and employees you want to go that So yeah, I couldn’t have done it without the support of my parents and just their knowledge base and support and because it’s been so hard to navigate so many different things we’ve not that they were involved in food before but they had prior business experience they brought that to the table and yeah, I mean, my my parents and I have done like, crazy stuff. You have these contract deadlines that are no joke like either you get it there or you your order can get cancelled. And so he drove like all night in this u-haul full of chocolate. Yeah, so we’ve all done really crazy stuff to keep things going. And and I feel really fortunate and lucky that they were retired. And, and instead, you know, they came on board.

Kevin Oates 22:04
Now aside from your parents and you do have other employees and staff, or is it still just family owned, operated?

Kate McAleer 22:13
So we have a great team of we, um, you know, prior to COVID, we were a team of like 15 to 20. And now, we have great people who work make it and then we, when we have our store, we have… there’s myself, and I’m a bit of a jack of all trades. So yeah, that’s it’s important to have a really good team.

Kevin Oates 22:45
Now COVID it’s been… prior from the podcast we talked about this is it’s as we all know, it is a very difficult time, especially for the food manufacturing and food service industry. I mean, it’s an I think that’s at least detrimental in a lot of ways. And as you said, like you, your employees are now a lot less. I know it’s a hard topic to talk about. But how have you guys pivoted in a way or at least tried to find, even though there’s so much hard times going on with it? I mean, what have you found be as a good way to pivot and also try to still support the team that you do have during this?

Kate McAleer 23:27
Yeah. So it’s been a whirlwind, and very stressful experience. I think that we’ve managed it by constantly staying abreast of all these moving targets. And we’ve never shut down the manufacturing side of things we proactively and with I think it was at the same time Rockland city mandate made our retail store unaccessible to the public and curbside only because we just didn’t want to have and we still don’t invite the public in because we’re trying to keep the plant really safe. We implemented CDC guidelines, social distancing, I secured a lot of PPP, PPE. So Flow Folds has these face shields secured. Split Rock has hand sanitizer, I like ran and did a hand sanitizer run. The moment that they had some available so we have hand sanitizer all over, we were already wearing disposable gloves and hairnets, but we just kind of like to ensure because you know, all of a sudden these things that no one was really buying except like certain industries are now incredibly popular, like disposable gloves and, and all that. So we’re also running, you know, slower. Umm.. with six feet apart. It’s not that, the same as running prior. So it’s kind of like if, if there were two people, now it’s one person doing kind of a slower, one person doing what two would have done slower, I guess. And I, I really have to say that the team that we’ve had has been incredible, um, you know, my mother and father, they’re older, so they’re in that age demographic that’s like super at risk. My mom’s immuno compromised, as well, because she’s a cancer patient. So we’ve kept them safe, this whole time playing all those procedures, and we’re filling our contractual, you know, contracts with various distributors. We didn’t take a huge.. on certain areas, you know, so if we’re like an octopus with different legs of revenue, we certainly lost quite a few legs, but we’re just keeping the ones that are still going, going and yeah that’s kind of like I feel like the new norm is just a new type of business that’s same and yet very different from what was before.

Kevin Oates 26:10
Let’s go on a lighter note for a sec, this I love the focus has been thing that on in your mission as a company I do love but I don’t understand enough so and that is when you guys say you were the first beam to bar maker in Maine what is bean to bar?

Kate McAleer 26:27
Okay so I’m so glad you asked about this. Um I am incredibly proud that we are the first bean to bar chocolate maker in Maine. Bean to bar chocolate is the aspect of sourcing and chocolate from the cacao beans through to the end chocolate. So a lot of chocolatiers, we’ll call them buy pre made chocolate melt it and make products from that chocolate. Bean to bar makers made the chocolate from the bean and then use that chocolate to make other things. So we became the first bean to bar maker. And that was really through the support of MTI where I applied for and secured this awesome grant program to do this prior to the build out of a subset of our factory because it’s very different because we do source at this point, we’re not able to make enough bean to bar chocolate to fill demand. So that’s my goal, long term goal or vision is that we just make all of our own chocolate for all of our products. But right now, we’re making I was trying to calculate it. We’re sourcing like 10 tonnes and making chocolate out of and cacao nibs out of them and so it’s it’s really awesome because we get to have partnerships and relationships with various different farmers and import direct through a great from uncommon cacao, the bean origins that are not typical in the in the big chocolate world, right? So in big chocolate 95%, the highest number of I’ve ever seen. But let’s go with like 70% is probably more the average of the world’s cacao is sourced from West Africa. And there’s a lot of issues around around that. So all our origins are Haiti, Guatemala, Belize, and a bit from Ghana, which is West Africa, but it’s certified organic. Those origins are not typically used in baked chocolate. So the flavor profile, the fruitiness that you can taste through the different origin, is kind of a new way of thinking about chocolate. Much like wine, where the being comes from can can drive flavor if you treat the bean well. So another approaches we roasts depending on origin to bring out different flavor, and then we create bars with all one origin bean, or we can create blends. So it’s really a whole. It’s like what craft beer is to craft chocolate. But where craft beer was 20 years ago. I’m incredibly proud of that. I think that it that’s been an amazing development for us. And typically we do tours and explain the whole process within our laboratory area. Explain where chocolate come from comes from and how it’s made. I the other development is we’re going to be pressing our own cocoa butter. So cool. I’ve dreamed about that for a long time. So that’s where we take the cocoa nibs and it goes in this giant hydraulic press and you can press out the cocoa butter and then I think we’re going to have cocoa powder is a new product because that’s a that’s like a sub product of the cocoa butter press and Yeah, this sort of like an endless ability to innovate. We just launched a whole line of, we’re calling them smoothie bars, but it’s white chocolate. And I’m doing like air quotes because we infuse the vegan coconut milk powder cocoa butter mixture, that’s our white chocolate vegan base with various spices. So we have a golden milk and that is, if you can imagine a bright orange yellow, and that is from the golden milk spices like tumeric, ginger, cardamom that we mix into the actual bar. So it’s not white, it’s yellow, but it’s technically like a white chocolate and we have a great vegan following so we really wanted to create that vegan option. I think to bring color into chocolate is so fun because usually it’s so brown you know,

Kevin Oates 30:55
It’s such a you know, when we talk more I like how are you pivoting but you’re also you’re reinventing and also we defining how we how we view chocolate, how we consume it and how we buy it. And it’s not just for our most generic reasons that we use chocolate for. But now you’re finding new ways to bring in a new market. And it’s just really inspiring to see that creativity. And then when now that seemed to come to life step by step, just these innovative ideas that I personally would never have thought would have come from chocolate, but now it is. And it’s incredible.

Kate McAleer 31:25
And I think that’s one of the coolest competitive advantages is just, we as a team will sit there and we’ll be like, what are we all thinking? What’s new, what’s trending and, and the whole smoothie bar line came out of that brainstorming and we went from like, brainstorm to having a finished product in less than a year, which is rapid pace. And it’s really cool. And one of the, I think, the coolest parts of what we’re able to do.

Kevin Oates 31:56
Let’s talk about your… what you mentioned… backing up, your I think this is the 2015 story you’re getting ready for distribution of wholesale to Whole Foods. And they’re asking about your pallet size but you are I mean Bixby Bars. And all Bixby and Co is I mean, we’re in Whole Foods, Shop Rite, you know, Walmart, LL Bean, you know, TJ Maxx and Home Goods. I mean you have that’s just some of them plus small retailers. You mentioned how to figure things out as far as mass production with the getting things as far as pallets but was that a difficult point of entry? Aside from that, just forget the logistics of it all, but as far as like getting a small Maine based chocolate company into Whole Foods and TJ Maxx and Home Goods and and yeah, what was that a really hard process or did it or did your products sell itself?

Kate McAleer 32:47
It’s It’s so hard and and a lot of hustle and hard work and I feel really honored. That [distortion] on us. It’s on me. You know, I’m Cuz I was the one reaching out and not like begging but, you know, we’re no we’re not XYZ, but we have a lot of hustle and promise. And I think we have products that your customers are looking for. And one of my favorite things to do is to compare, like if you have this high end shampoo in your product mix, right? That’s like, I don’t know, $50 a bottle or something, then you have room for a $8 chocolate bar. Um, because sometimes you get you get pressure on price. And, and so it’s Yeah, it’s very hard. And I’ve gone through some various specific angles and programs to get in. And trade shows have been incredibly important. And I did some special programs for women owned businesses. So I would say it was a whole hard work, you know, trying to make it happen because it’s it’s very hard. Um, I haven’t met anyone that has a product that just sells itself. Maybe Spanx, I don’t know. But it’s a lot of hard work and you have to keep endlessly continue to build your, your brand and you fit on the shelf doesn’t mean someone’s going to buy it, right, they have to know or care or want what you’re putting out there. So the packaging really nailed down. And I think it’s a whole host of things that that need to happen.

Kevin Oates 34:34
And that’s a great segway to what I wanted to ask and as we get close to wrapping up like you were coming up next year on your 10 year anniversary of the business, which is awesome, a lot of effort in 10 years. And you know, looking ahead at the next next phase of Bixby you know, you mentioned the smoothie bars as something that you have pivoted to and add into the line. Are there things that are You’re really excited that you want to add on as in your dreams that you want to add to the company. And also have you changed a lot since as I have you changed a lot from when you started and back in 2011 as far as like what you set out to do as a company

Kate McAleer 35:14
The company has changed. But it’s eat those of you still keep To this day, but we’ve definitely ended our portfolio tremendously. You know, we started with three candy bars knocked out to the nines and whippersnapper. Um, I think we have over 100 products one of the most popular new items for example, are like these peanut butter lobster claws so we had an actual lobster claw made into a mold and we fill it with this amazing peanut butter ganache, and so I think you know, that was sort of our main Maine-y development. But I think that some of the things we’ve done is pivot And become relevant locally. I think for the future, what I see is more innovation, the beans, and so I’m interested in our hundred percent bar. So there’s no sugar in that. And possibly alternative sweeteners to cane sugar could be on the horizon. I also see I see beer in the future, that’s going to be awesome. That product. And yeah, I think just just constantly trying to innovate, listening to our customers looking for. I also think that the white chocolate realm, I think we really blew that up with smoothie bars. I think our bond bonds also were an incredible innovation. Those are handmade truffles featuring seasonal ingredients. So I think all of those innovations were things that I had to like be dreamed about the hope and then to see them come to life and then executed is really based on our amazing team that that brought that to life. And I think that’s been what’s so exciting is you know, when you started it, now we have this, this amazing people that are that are helping us innovate and make all of our products. So I hope that, um, you know, 10 years from now I look back and say, I survived this pandemic, and we somehow became better as a result of it.

Kevin Oates 37:29
Right? And pandemic or not, I asked this question to Hugh Thomas, who’s the co founder of Ugly Drinks, and just take a second and just think about that feeling. Now, now you’re almost almost 10 years in and seeing Bixby products out in the wild, and even if it’s like even as an online order, or going into a wholefoods or going into a Hannaford or wherever you are, and just seeing your product that back in to 2011 Was just an idea that you moved from New York to Rockland, Maine? And what is it like just kind of reflect on that for a second. So regardless of where we are live to see your product in the wild, like what’s what comes to mind.

Kate McAleer 38:14
I get really excited, and it’s still incredibly exciting for me to find my product, you know, in the early days, I went and like bought my product at Whole Foods and I was so excited because it just made it feel more real, you know, because sometimes it can feel surreal. But is this really happening every day? That getting out there and seeing is so great. And then in particular, the amazing emails we receive are really heartwarming and and really help you get keep going getting through the day where someone’s just like, I love this product. Thank you so much. And and then you’re just, it’s so it’s so, It’s such a happy feeling to read because, you know, there’s a lot of sometimes insecurity maybe on do you know, do you have the ability to do this? Can you do it and and probably, you know, back then I I was not as confident that I could probably do it. And now I definitely gained more confidence through the years. But yeah, I think it’s, it’s incredibly joyful to create a product that people love. It’s so much different than like a service, you know, where I think making things is is such an art.

Kevin Oates 39:39
At the end of every episode, we asked all our guests, that if they had one bit of advice for anyone who wants to break the mold or go against the grain, you know, as someone you’re not only you chose a whole new location, female business owner, you know, you’ve you’ve won these great awards like so if there’s something that was the next up and comer has an idea wants to execute with it. Like, just from your experience, and your viewpoint, your vantage, what what was something you would you’d love this to pass on,

Kate McAleer 40:08
I have a couple of things to pass on. So one, I think you have to have a lot of grit. If you haven’t read that book, grit, you should get a copy and read it. I had the pleasure of meeting that author, Tory Burch program that I won a spot to. And it just for me, totally summed up and this doesn’t even have to relate to business, but life in general, the grity aspect that you have to have to persevere. I think that is so important, because it’s gonna get tough. It’s gonna get so tough and so hard. And you’re gonna want to say, uncle, I’m done and ya gotta keep going. So I think you got to find ways to keep, keep going and keep motivating. And then I think that the other thing I would say is, there are so many resources out there that I think are under utilized to help you start your business and and help you grow your business. And I think that one of the things that I’m really proud of is that I have gone after all those resources, and they have helped me tremendously. And I think that’s key because you’re not doing it alone. You know, I don’t think Spanx did it alone. She had help and resources and I think you have to have that network to help you grow your business. And all these programs are amazing. And I feel so blessed and privileged to have partook in some of these amazing programs like Goldman Sachs and Tory Burch fellow. And I think that a lot of people say they don’t have the time. I think you have to really make the time and make it happen because it’s going to be worth it.

Kevin Oates 41:54
To learn more about Kate McAleer and Bixby and Co go to Bixbyco.com you Could also follow them on social media @BixbyCo. Renegades and Mavericks is production of Dirigo Collective. To find more bonus footage plus other episodes from this podcast, visit renegadesandmavericks.com. To learn more about Dirigo Collective visit dirigocollective.com or follow us on social media.

Benn Marine 42:26
Up next on renegades and Mavericks,

Ryan Adams 42:28
there’s always gonna be something there’s never gonna be the most opportune time to do- nothing, Stars aren’t gonna align and you’re gonna wake up one morning and, you know, birds gonna take the sheets off you and tell you like today’s the day to go independent. That’s never gonna be the case. There’s always gonna be something that’s scary and that’s in your head might, I guess hold you back from wanting to chase those things. You just got a jump. Just gotta go.

Benn Marine 42:55
To hear more from artists and entrepreneur Ryan Adams. Tune into the next episode of Renegades and Mavericks

 

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