I’m sitting writing this and drinking Bumbleroot’s Baobab Drink Mix (it’s the Lemongrass right now…I’m trying to decide if it’s my favorite flavor…it’s in a neck to neck tie with Pineapple Vanilla at this point).
Two and a half years ago, I was sitting at Starbucks in Boulder with the charming Chef Barr Hogan, asking how we could create a drink using Baobab, a nutrient-packed fruit I’d found while volunteering in Zimbabwe. I wanted to create a drink that would get the superfruit to more people, while creating economic opportunity for the people in Africa who harvest the fruit. It was April 2011. “Can we get something on shelves by July,” I asked Barr. She laughed.
Now, in November 2013, we have a product to put on shelves.
I am so grateful that I was ridiculously ignorant in understanding how difficult it would be to create a new product using a little-known ingredient and how long it would take. If I had known, I may have never started on this journey. But I am so glad I did and I thought I’d share a few observations I’ve had along the way.
1) People are amazing. Bumbleroot has been influenced and created by numerous people – more than I can even mention on this post. And looking back, I’m humbled and amazed at how the right people have contributed to Bumbleroot at just the right times.
In the early days, when I was just thinking through what Bumbleroot would or could or should be (it didn’t even have a name), long conversations with Tamsin Chislett and Margaret Rose (co-worker and boss in Zimbabwe with TechnoServe) helped grow ideas into something tangible.
When we needed a logo, I happened to meet the phenomenally talented graphic designer Michelle Polizzi through mutual friends at a food truck party (she has since become one of my dearest friends) and she created the logo and design for Bumbleroot that perfectly represented our brand.
When we needed to better focus on what the Bumbleroot brand would stand for, two friends and brand experts from business school came to the rescue – Julia Kropp and Jamin Hemenway.
When we first started, I really wanted to source the Baobab from Zimbabwe, but there wasn’t a supply chain set up yet. And then thanks to the efforts of Gus Le Breton and many others, there was! And they were so gracious in letting me travel to meet the baobab harvesters first hand so I could really understand the process and understand how baobab could help improve their lives.
When we needed a chef to help develop the product, I was introduced to Chef Barr Hogan, and then when I moved to Singapore for a year, my flatmate Matt White (also a chef) joined the effort. This international tag team developed some great drinks!
Then we needed an attorney, and a good friend, Liz Oertle jumped to the rescue.
Then we decided to start increasing our social media presence and launch an Indiegogo campaign and a childhood friend entered the picture – Currie Corbin with the experience of heading marketing for a lifestyle and wellness company. In addition, to great marketing insight, he brought laughs and lightened up the most strenuous days.
Nick Polizzi, internet marketing expert extraordinaire continuously provides incredible advise on how to get our message out.
Karen Bridges did an MBA project on Bumbleroot, offering fantastic marketing insights into opportunities and challenges.
To understand the financial end of things, friends Brendan McDermott, Renard Ihlenfeld, Bob Myers, John Giles helped look through term sheets and advise on how we could best fund the company.
And then when we needed funding for the first production run – hundreds of friends and family and strangers joined the effort by supporting Bumbleroot’s Indiegogo campaign. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank the Indiegogo supporters enough!
Once the product finally arrived, we participated in a Pitch Slam put on by the wonderful folks at Naturally Boulder, and were took by complete surprise when we were a top three finalist! The support and input from the Boulder community following that event has been overwhelming (in the best of ways)!
And so many other people have been so helpful along the way – taste testing, offering support, advice, and introductions. Thank you!
People ask why I always use “we” when talking about Bumbleroot, and it’s because it’s a group effort. Bumbleroot is everyone who’s helped support and grow it.
2) First production runs don’t go perfectly. Everyone I talked to who has ever done a production run for anything told me this. And I thought we could be the exception. Haha. Silly me!
But we’re learning and taking the insights we learned to make the next run even better. The Pineapple Vanilla flavor is clumping – but we know how to fix it next time.
We’re taking input on all the flavors and will tweak the formulations for the next run. Maybe we’ll add more baobab into the drinks, maybe we’ll make them sweeter, maybe we’ll switch out a flavor for another. We’re waiting from the feedback from you, so let us know how you’d make the drinks better.
3) The journey continues and Bumbleroot will continue to evolve. We’re excited about creating new products, bringing more stories to our customers, having more impact. But as we change, we’ll stick by three principles:
- Supporting sustainable agriculture practices and fair prices for farmers and harvesters
- Creating healthy and delicious products
- Using the most eco-friendly packaging we can
So what now? We need to get into stores! I have become a bit of a stalker to grocery buyers in the Boulder/Denver and San Francisco/Berkeley areas. Hanging out at the stores, calling A LOT, repeated e-mails. Buyers are some of the hardest to get ahold of people ever! (Not all, but most : )). If anyone has any advice on how to get five minutes with these elusive gatekeepers to the supermarket shelves, please let me know. Bribes of drinks, kombucha, dates with cute single friends?
Oh…and we have an online store now! Check it out and if you can, please spread the word. We added a small sample pack <$10 with shipping to try all three flavors to make it affordable to find your favorite flavor. Click here to go to Bumbleroot’s online shop.
Not only are we selling the Baobab Drink Mixes, but pure organic Baobab powder is also for sale, to add to your smoothies, oatmeal, etc. Click here for a delicious smoothie recipe created by Chef Matt White.
Until November 21, we are offering 10% online products. Just use the code: THANKYOU
And thank you to each of you, from the bottom of my heart for supporting Bumbleroot. We’ll continue to keep you up to date as we grow and evolve.