Starting a company is often a leap of faith for its founders—come up with a cool concept, do your research, scrape together the necessary capital, and hope once you roll out your product or service that customers respond. If that startup is being launched into a new—or nonexistent—product category, the task for founders is that much bigger. How does a company go about building a brand while simultaneously educating the market?

Podcasts Insight In Person

Kellogg Insight From Startup to Sale — Part One: A Foot in the Door at Whole Foods.
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Kellogg Insight From Startup to Sale — Part Two: Six Months to Change Everything.
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Kellogg Insight From Startup to Sale — Part Three: From Survival Mode to Sale.
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In this month’s special three-part Insight In Person podcast series, Kellogg School professor Linda Darragh and lecturers Daniel Weinfurter and Joe Dwyer join Enjoy Life Foods founder and CEO Scott Mandell to look at how he founded a company that was instrumental in creating the allergen-free foods category, how he scaled the business, and how Enjoy Life was financed from startup to sale.

— Part One: A Foot in the Door at Whole Foods.

— Part Two: Six Months to Change Everything.

— Part Three: From Survival Mode to Sale.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPTS

Episode 1

[Music prelude]

Fred SCHMALZ Hello, and welcome to Insight in Person, Kellogg Insight’s monthly podcast, produced by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. I’m your host, Fred Schmalz.

This month we have a special treat for you: a three-part, in-depth look at the entrepreneurial journey of Scott Mandell, Founder and CEO of Enjoy Life Foods, who took his company from idea to startup to acquisition—and in the process helped to establish a product category around allergen-free foods.

Our first episode examines the origin of Enjoy Life Foods.

How was it able to establish itself as the first major brand in its category? Episode two looks at how Mandell successfully scaled the business. The third episode dives into how timing, preparation, and a bit of luck helped the company overcome financial setbacks.

So stay with us…

[Music interlude]

SCHMALZ As a student at the Kellogg School fifteen years ago, Scott Mandell had a conversation with a colleague that spurred the concept for a startup.

For the millions of Americans with food allergies or sensitivities, finding safe and flavorful foods—especially prepared foods—can be difficult, time-consuming, and fraught with uncertainty.

Scott MANDELL One of the guys in my group, his mother has multiple sclerosis and is on a diet free of many things as a result of having MS. She said there is a need for these types of products—products that are free of things. There are not many products on the market. The ones that are out there don’t taste very good.

SCHMALZ So Mandell and his colleague conducted research to find out if there was a market for this type of product.

At least initially, what they found was encouraging: the industry was much larger in Europe and Canada than in the U.S., and studies were showing that conditions like celiac disease—an autoimmune reaction to eating gluten—and various food sensitivities were much more common than previously thought.

MANDELL There’s a seismic shift going on in the food industry where people are looking a lot more at what they’re putting in their bodies. They’re reading ingredient labels.

Another piece of it that made it really interesting to me is the fact the core of what we’re doing is medically driven. It wasn’t a diet: “Oh, I want to lose a few pounds and here’s the greatest new diet fad.” This was medically driven. We were truly solving a problem, which, if you can solve a problem you’re onto something, right?

SCHMALZ But was that opportunity real, or was Mandell just operating from a naive assumption that he was establishing his business in a space with little competition?

Here’s Linda Darragh, a clinical professor and executive director of the innovation and entrepreneurship initiative at the Kellogg School.

Linda DARRAGH The number of times I’ve heard entrepreneurs state they have no competition is unbelievable.

It usually means 1) you haven’t done your homework, or 2) no one really wants your product or service.

Now in Scott’s case, he did his research and he found that there were a few companies but no one was really scaling and no one was really thinking about building a brand or a category.

SCHMALZ The absence of a category—or of any particularly strong brands making allergen-free baked goods, baking mixes, and snacks—left Mandell with a different kind of task in assessing the viability of the market. Here’s Linda Darragh again.

DARRAGH Getting into a space where there’s not a lot of customers, it looks like a niche product or service, I would still say be the detective.

Medical research was beginning to show that there were more issues that were being driven by gluten intolerance, and so you knew that the pain point was going to be increasing across a larger population: they were going to be looking for more services and products that would help them. If you aren’t finding actual research about a particular item, look at the value chain. Look at other parts of the supply chain or the knowledge that’s coming up in the area that will help you determine the trend is coming, and you can see where that hockey puck is going to go in the future.

SCHMALZ The lack of an established product category gave Enjoy Life inherent advantages: if it moved first, it could be the first recognized brand in the space, outmuscling more modest competitors. But this open space also came with questions, like how does an entrepreneur find out if the market they are entering can even sustain a new business?

[Music interlude]

MANDELL We used to kid for many years, we were the leader in a category that didn’t exist. So we had to create the category.

SCHMALZ There are eight foods that account for 90% of all food allergies in the United States as defined by the FDA: wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and fish. Enjoy Life eliminated all of them—and set about building a brand that embraced what it omitted, producing brownies, cookies, and other baked goods for an audience looking to avoid these common allergens.

But before customers would adopt the brand, Mandell had to lay some groundwork. Here’s Linda Darragh again.

DARRAGH You have to realize if you go out and you have to educate in a market, you’ve tacked on possibly two or three years to get to the market. You have to manage your expectations going out that this is a long-term haul and that you have the funding to keep you going—or the wherewithal to keep this business going—because the revenue is going to be minimal for a very long period of time.

SCHMALZ Mandell designed his company’s market strategy to educate and make advocates of a broad spectrum of influencers.

MANDELL From day one, one of the things we did from an education standpoint is we put together what we still call our “survival guide.”

SCHMALZ This brochure included information such as how allergens may be listed on food products. It was distributed to dieticians at trade shows, support groups for people with food sensitivities, and other groups that had coalesced around issues related to dietary restrictions. Enjoy Life began to be seen as a trusted brand rather than just another food company.

They also spent their first years focusing on selling directly to consumers and to small natural food stores, which Linda Darragh sees as a valuable strategy for young companies in the food industry.

DARRAGH Any early stage venture, when they go out, they think they have a great product, they got a great service. It’s not. It takes a long time to fine-tune that product or service so it really serves the customer and, more so, the right customer. You’re never going to know what to do to refine and iterate your product unless you’re with that consumer on the front line all the time.

Even when we see companies that their ultimate goal may be selling to larger businesses, they have to start with the actual people who will be touching, using, feeling that product or service to understand how the best product can be made. Then they can go into building partnerships with businesses who can sell to that end user. But they have to start with that initial consumer first.

SCHMALZ While Mandell was much more interested in selling to wholesale distributors than to individual customers, he also knew that, with a little prompting, the early customers the company had attracted could help him by advocating for the product.

So Enjoy Life slipped a form letter into each order, for customers to hand to retailers, asking them to order Enjoy Life products for their stores. Those stores, in turn, asked their distributors if they carried those products.

MANDELL So, we started getting calls from retailers all over the country asking us for our product: “Never heard of you guys before but consumers are asking for your product. How do I get them?”

We essentially had this grassroots sales force out there, people we weren’t paying but who were motivated to help us because by helping us they were helping themselves—being able to get more product at a better price. It worked beautifully.

SCHMALZ They were, in effect, attempting to “reverse engineer” the supply chain by starting from the consumer and working up through small retailers to access distributors that had contracts with larger supermarkets.

It helped that Mandell was leading the retail sales force personally.

MANDELL What I did was I threw a lot of our product in my car with collateral material and basically hit every single one of these stores in the Midwest. And what was great about this was I had now built up a direct relationship with these retailers and they felt invested in this brand.

SCHMALZ This customer proximity is essential to perfecting the product for early stage companies—when calibrating everything from ingredients to packaging to distribution requires the kind of anecdotal feedback that doesn’t come just from crunching sales numbers on spreadsheets.

With the company off the ground and growing, getting into small independent natural food stores was routine, but the big fish—cracking the crowded and coveted retail space at Whole Foods—remained out of reach. Until, at a meeting with Whole Foods’ Midwest regional buyers in 2004, Enjoy Life’s focus on education led to a creative solution.

MANDELL The guys said the product looks interesting, nice, don’t really have room now. I said well what about if we had an off-shelf rack. We would supply the rack with all of our products. He said well we can’t do that because we have a clean-floor policy, they don’t allow racks.

What I said was, this isn’t just a rack of products. This is an educational resource center.

SCHMALZ The Whole Foods buyers bought into this rack idea, and Enjoy Life had reached a big milestone.

Through hard work and good decision making, things were going well for Enjoy Life up to that point, but Mandell’s larger vision for the company indicated that it was time to make a move.

[Music interlude]

SCHMALZ This program was produced by Sarah Aylward, Jessica Love, Fred Schmalz, Emily Stone, and Michael Spikes. Special thanks to Kellogg School of Management faculty member Linda Darragh and Enjoy Life Foods CEO Scott Mandell.

In our next episode, you’ll hear how Enjoy Life grew its business in a way that was as much revolution as it was evolution—from hiring to production to branding and packaging.

You can stream or download our monthly podcast from iTunes, or from our website, where you can read more about entrepreneurship and innovation in Insight’s New Venture Creation series. Visit us at insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu.

Episode 2

[Music prelude]

Fred SCHMALZ Hello, and welcome to Insight in Person, Kellogg Insight’s monthly podcast, produced by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. I’m your host, Fred Schmalz.

In this three-episode special edition of the podcast, we take a look at how entrepreneur Scott Mandell, Founder and CEO of Enjoy Life Foods, took his company from startup to sale.

In our second episode, we are joined by Mandell and Daniel Weinfurter, an adjunct lecturer of management and organizations at the Kellogg School, founder and CEO of the integrated sales effectiveness firm GrowthPlay, and author of Second Stage Entrepreneurship. We look at how Enjoy Life Foods scaled its business, in the process becoming one of Inc. Magazine’s fastestMgrowing private companies for three years running.

Once Enjoy Life landed a coveted slot at Whole Foods markets in the Midwest, the stage was set for it to become a major player in a still-forming category. But expectations for allergen-free foods had traditionally been low. In order to exceed them and really stand out, the company would need to take some radical steps.

Stay with us…

[Music interlude]

SCHMALZ In its first two years, Enjoy Life was deeply concerned with educating the market —after all, it was entering a nascent category—allergen-free foods—that had no major player.

While it had small-scale successes, Mandell wasn’t satisfied with the company’s progress. Owning the market meant scaling.

For Mandell, the question of how to scale was complicated by the unsettled nature of the category itself. He had to envision not just where the company was positioned at the time, but what would happen when the allergen-free category it helped to create began to mature.

Scott MANDELL Although I ultimately wanted to grow fast, I didn’t want to grow too fast, because I wanted us to make the mistakes in a small way, which there were going to be mistakes. The products initially were okay, but it was okay to be okay at the time because there wasn’t a whole lot out there. Over time that was not going to be okay. It had to be a whole lot better.

Daniel WEINFURTER If you were to ask Scott back in 2001 how big the business would get to, he may have had an aspirational goal, but my guess is he didn’t know specifically what that number would be, nor how long it would take.

SCHMALZ That’s Dan Weinfurter.

Second-stage entrepreneurship is often when companies fail. Scaling requires a different skill set than starting up: the focus shifts to execution, which means hiring right, developing processes that are easily replicated, optimizing back-end systems like accounting, and building a brand.

Mandell and his team took a long look at the product line they had spent two years honing—the line that helped it get a foot in the door at Whole Foods—and decided that if the company was going to scale successfully, the products themselves needed to be reimagined from the ground up.

MANDELL So we basically said, ok, we have 6 months to get everything done and that included: we were going to discontinue some products. Some of our existing products we liked but needed to improve. We were going to bring new products to market. We were going to completely rebrand the entire business as well. We didn’t like our logo. It needed to be stronger. New tradeshow booth, new collateral material, new everything.

SCHMALZ Customer feedback helped Mandell realize that scaling the brand would mean significantly increasing brand identification in-store. They chose a bright red Oval logo and placed it prominently on all of their packaging.

MANDELL Once people know our brand promise—again, gluten free, free of all common allergens—all they need to know or see is that red oval. They pick it up and throw it in their shopping cart and move on with their day. It takes the stress out of it. That’s why branding is so important, especially to us in having that strong brand that people will not confuse with anything else in the market place.

SCHMALZ The decision may seem like a no-brainer for a company still defining itself, but the costs involved complicated the choice.

MANDELL It’s very difficult when you are a two-year-old company to say, “we just put a bunch of money into this other packaging; we’re going to make a change here and it’s going to cost us a lot more money.” Any dollars out the door then… You treat those dollars as being so precious. You make a change like this, and you think about the costs involved, it’s a kick in the gut, but the cost would be higher by not doing it than by doing it at the end of the day.

SCHMALZ Taking that kick in the gut and making these changes proactively—before a company feels the heat from external pressures—is tough. According to Weinfurter, a lot of second-stage companies never do it.

WEINFURTER I give Scott a lot of credit for being willing to in effect, a) ask for the feedback (not everybody does that, they assume that they’ve built whatever it is that’s perfect, or is as good as it’s going to be), and then b) have the wherewithal to act on it to try to continually innovate or to improve the product, because not everybody does that.

People usually resist change and they do it when things have conspired against them and they see that they don’t really have an easy alternative path.

SCHMALZ With the product and packaging elements coming into focus, Mandell and his team prioritized scaling the company’s operations.

They soon realized that the systems needed to scale efficiently and effectively were different from those required to get the company off the ground. After all, scaling isn’t just about churning out more and more snickerdoodles.

MANDELL We knew as a business that we couldn’t operate in the same way we did when we first started, where many of our processes, almost all of them, were very manual. That meant moving from our initial location where we started, to our existing location in 2006.

[music interlude]

SCHMALZ For young companies, operations and staffing are inextricably bound. Getting the right people into the right positions is the most important strategic factor in a second-stage company’s success. It’s also pretty hard to get right.

WEINFURTER If you think about it, it’s responsible for everything: the evolution of the strategy, the evolution of the product or service, the way that you go to market, the way that you interact with clients, the way that the management team interacts with subordinates—it’s all driven by the people.

SCHMALZ And that strategy is not just about temperament, or that elusive “fit.” It’s about aligning the skill sets of the employees with the stage of the business.

WEINFURTER In the early days, the entrepreneur founding team can literally touch everything: every decision, every customer, product interaction, service interaction—they literally have their hands on everything. Then as the business grows into the next stage, it’s about hiring a team. By definition, if you’re going to do that and make it work, you actually have to empower the team to make some of the decisions that the founder or the founding team heretofore was making.

SCHMALZ But there are complications for a growing company when a lot of new people are walking in the door.

In a company like Enjoy Life Foods, which was founded on the premise of an allergen-free product line, it was natural that the company culture that developed from the outset was one where both employees and customers related to people with food sensitivities. The company’s first hire—a marketing director—had long suffered from celiac disease.

MANDELL Especially in those early days we had quite a few people on our team who had food sensitivities. To have those core people in the business who have it and know what it feels like everyday was really important. I think it sets the tone, because that translated into our customer service.

When a consumer calls up they’re not treated like they’re talking to XYZ Company and here’s your customer service department.

They get it. We talk to them about it when they first come aboard. We have testimonials up on big canvas boards out in the production area. They know who our core consumer is and why it’s so important in ensuring that we deliver a quality product.

SCHMALZ That culture, and the brand trust that it brings with it, are essential elements to a company making the leap and scaling the business. Here’s Dan Weinfurter again.

WEINFURTER It would seem to me it would be hard to have one without the other. So if you don’t have people that have trust in your brand, it’s going to be really difficult to scale, because scaling, by definition, in almost anything I can think of, requires repeat usage, and if the brand somehow is impaired through either a lack of trust or a lack of performance or a combination thereof, it seems to me it’s going to be difficult to continue to scale.

At some point the wheels are going to come off.

SCHMALZ Cultivating that same brand trust internally has huge advantages as well.

WEINFURTER So if the brand isn’t trustworthy or it doesn’t perform as advertised, for most people that work at the company that have integrity, they actually have trouble with that. They actually in most cases have to believe that what their company is doing is somehow noble or needed or fulfills a purpose or mission. If the company doesn’t have that, if their reason for existing is to make money and it’s not much more than that, I have a hard time believing they’re going to keep anyone over the long haul.

SCHMALZ With the right teams in place at the right times, a strong product, an increasingly recognized brand, and wide distribution, Enjoy Life had navigated the second stage of its existence.

[Music interlude]

SCHMALZ There’s one aspect of Enjoy Life’s story that we haven’t touched on, which may be the most important question of all for a fledgling company: How did it finance its rise from startup—through scaling—to sale? We’ll follow the money in the final episode of our three-part series.

This program was produced by Sarah Aylward, Jessica Love, Fred Schmalz, Emily Stone, and Michael Spikes. Special thanks to Kellogg School of Management faculty member Dan Weinfurter and Enjoy Life Foods CEO Scott Mandell.

You can stream or download our monthly podcast from iTunes, or from our website, where you can read more about entrepreneurship and innovation in Insight’s New Venture Creation series. Visit us at insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu.

Episode 3

[Music prelude]

Fred SCHMALZ Hello, and welcome to Insight in Person, Kellogg Insight’s monthly podcast, produced by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. I’m your host, Fred Schmalz.

In this three-episode special edition of the podcast, we take a look at how entrepreneur Scott Mandell, Founder and CEO of Enjoy Life Foods, took his company from startup to sale.

In the first two episodes, you heard how Enjoy Life Foods started, educated the marketplace, and adapted its brand, operations, and company culture to scale the business successfully.

For our final episode of the series, we are joined by Mandell and Joe Dwyer, adjunct lecturer of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School and a partner at Digital Intent, to look at how Enjoy Life Foods financed its growth.

How did Mandell navigate a tricky funding environment in order to become a category-maker in the allergen-free packaged-food industry? What can other startups learn from Enjoy Life’s successes—and its numerous setbacks?

Stay with us as we follow the money trail…

[Music interlude]

SCHMALZ One of the most difficult parts of any startup is scraping together the money to get it off the ground. Not only is passing the hat tough for a new business, it’s incredibly time-consuming. To free up founders, startups need to develop realistic strategies and time their fundraising efforts to recognizable milestones.

And as startups go, Enjoy Life needed more capital than most. That’s because the company made the decision to manufacture products in-house from its inception. The goal was to give the fledgling operation full control over production—important, Mandell felt, because how the company’s allergen-free foods were made was critical to the brand promise. Mandell simply didn’t trust anyone else to manufacture his free-from recipes.

But while this decision made a certain kind of sense, it also asked a lot of potential investors.

Scott MANDELL When I look back on it now, I think, “How would anybody invest in this business?” On the risk-profile spectrum, this was off the chart. Not only were we two guys who didn’t know anything about the food industry, we were going to manufacture products from day one.

It made it really challenging, obviously, trying to grow a business in the way that we were doing it.

SCHMALZ Enjoy Life’s decision to manufacture is…surprising. The company probably had less expensive, less risky options when it came to getting its products right.

Managing a startup is a little like operating a Rube Goldberg machine. Startups are incredibly complicated. There are so many balls that need to be kept in the air, that anything a founder can do to make them less complicated is nearly always a smart idea. And as tasks go, the actual manufacturing of your product is generally the most easily outsourced—freeing you up for everything else. Here’s Joe Dwyer.

Joe DWYER The things that are much more complex are consumer behavior, distributor behavior. Do they like this? Are they going to buy it? How much are they going to buy? Which formulations should we have? Those are all really, really complex parts to this Rube Goldberg machine that you could figure out without being a manufacturer. Then, once you’ve figured them out, you’ve reduced the risk of your business. You’ve reduced great uncertainty, and suddenly, your business is worth more.

SCHMALZ In other words, Enjoy Life took on a lot by insisting on handling the manufacturing itself—which leads us to Dwyer’s first takeaway for entrepreneurs: if at all possible, keep things simple. Give investors as few reasons to balk as possible. This is particularly critical at the beginning, when your strategy is all you have going for you. Here’s Dwyer again.

DWYER It’s awfully hard to justify investment in an early stage business without having some asset value already established against which to invest. For obvious reasons, until you have some track record in the business and potentially outside of the business, then it’s awfully hard to get money from people.

When you deal with a company that has a lot of uncertainty, and there are certain parts of the model that haven’t been proven, it’s very hard to allocate value to the business.

SCHMALZ In late 2001, in need of a lot of capital—and without a single product yet in hand—Mandell and his partner struggled to round up investors. Moreover, the timing of Mandel’s initial fundraising effort couldn’t have been worse. The September 11th terrorist attacks brought great market uncertainty. It took Mandell roughly a hundred presentations and a year to raise the $850,000 needed to get off the ground.

Contrast that to 2004, when the company had a viable product on the shelves. It raised a similar amount in 30 days, almost all of which came from the original investors.

[Music interlude]

SCHMALZ Companies can be defined by their successes, but just as often, the strategies a company implements to pivot after near misses and setbacks can set the stage for its future.

Two crucial funding moments—when big fish got away—caused Enjoy Life to re-examine its growth strategy and rethink how it sought capital.

The first unraveling started in 2007. The company had started to turn a profit and was having conversations with private equity groups.

In trying to maintain its momentum, the company increased spending, assuming that more money was coming in.

Not only was it premature for the company to be spending in advance of securing capital, Dwyer’s view is that the timing of Enjoy Life’s efforts was not conducive to getting investors to open their wallets.

DWYER The times when not to raise money are when you’re flatlining, some core KPIs are not doing well, when you’re out of money.

SCHMALZ Enjoy Life jumped the gun on spending and didn’t close the deal before their quarterly numbers softened. Investors got spooked, and with the market crash of late 2008, any deals were scuttled.

How can startups be prepared for this kind of seismic setback? Here’s Joe Dwyer again, offering a second takeaway.

DWYER Have an exit plan in case things don’t work. Don’t jump off the cliff without a parachute, or something like a parachute. In most cases there are things you can do. You can cut your costs as deeply as possible. You can scramble and get loans from family or friends I guess. It’s suboptimal; it’s possible. Realize that the market cyclicalities, external events, and sometimes internal events can wreak havoc on your scheduling plans, and try to keep a cushion so that you don’t run afoul of those.

It’s tempting not to because you’re going to optimize your own economic returns potentially by waiting to get money until as late as possible when you’ve made as much progress as possible. You’re also sort of taking a crazy risk sometimes when you do that.

SCHMALZ In Enjoy Life’s case, it acted quickly to tack from an aggressive growth strategy into survival mode at the end of 2008.

Mandell’s father provided an emergency loan on good terms, the company instituted essentially a brownout, and the leadership recalibrated to become self-sustaining, taking its focus off of top-line growth until things turned around.

MANDELL It was about staying above water. Had to let go of quite a few people. People that stayed, we reduced salaries. Marketing pretty much went dark for a year, almost nothing. The good thing is we were profitable. That was our lowest growth year, but we knew it was going to be, and we still grew 10%. We fought our way through it.

SCHMALZ This was not the last time Enjoy Life would need to retrench.

In late 2010 and early 2011, the second blow came, and this time it was a flurry of punches.

Having gotten back on track, Mandell started negotiations with a pledge fund that operated much like a private equity group. That deal soured after four months of work—as did a similar deal with a private equity group shortly thereafter.

That deal was nixed at the pledge fund’s final approval meeting, when a committee member voted against it.

The hits kept coming when a woman in Utah falsely claimed to have found two green pills in a bag of seed and fruit mix. The company removed its products from store shelves as a precaution.

And costs were adding up.

Lacking the capital infusion to support their growth plans, the company had to make some difficult decisions. It implemented cost-cutting measures, installed a chief sales and marketing officer to keep the company’s focus firmly on growth through sales, and put a plan in place to grow in the absence of additional capital.

This resulted in three years of aggressive growth, even without funders coming to the table. In the end of 2013, the company started looking to bring in capital, this time via a strategic buyer. But again, timing was everything.

MANDELL There was some interest but the interest wasn’t high enough at that time, for various reasons. We continued to work the business and say let’s get another year under our belt.

SCHMALZ Aligning its activities around visible milestones, for example a measurable reduction in risk, or in this case rapid year-over-year growth, and timing financing efforts to those milestones, is exactly the type of strategy that Joe Dwyer believes can draw out investors and buyers.

DWYER And you should be seeking those very explicitly. You should be thinking in your head, “Well, that is going to make this business worth more and more attractive to certain kinds of investors,” and that will be a good time to get money. Then you’re going to plan ahead to make sure that you have the resources and the time to achieve that milestone with some padding in the bank so that you can then get money.

SCHMALZ By 2014, the situation at the company, and for the industry, had changed enough that an opportunity was there if the right buyers came along.

MANDELL We felt, okay, the market is really evolving the way we think it should and expected it to be. We are the leader in this market, in this category; there’s an actual name behind it now. It’s the Free From category that we helped create. That’s a big category. The brand looks good. The sales are good. Things are coming together. We felt it was the right time to start talking to a bigger universe, strategics and financial buyers.

SCHMALZ In February, 2015, that buyer came along, as the snack food giant Mondelez acquired the company.

It was the financial win Enjoy Life had been looking for, though being bought by the company behind Oreos, Ritz crackers, and Velveeta cheese presented a bit of a quandary. After all, Enjoy Life had built an enduring bond with customers through its brand promise to produce verified non-GMO products.

Still, it was an opportunity that Mandell couldn’t refuse. The sale would allow Enjoy Life to benefit from the distribution and supply chain muscle of Mondelez. It would also give it the capital to launch new products, improve current product quality, expand its sales team, and build a production facility five times the size of its current plant.

MANDELL We’re really excited and we have tremendous opportunity moving forward as a business. We’re looking to bring in some great people and continue to build this brand and grow it in an accelerated way over these next number of years.

[Music interlude]

This program was produced by Sarah Aylward, Jessica Love, Fred Schmalz, Emily Stone, and Michael Spikes. Special thanks to Kellogg School of Management lecturer Joe Dwyer and Enjoy Life Foods CEO Scott Mandell.

You can stream or download our monthly podcast from iTunes, or from our website, where you can read more about entrepreneurship and innovation in Insight’s New Venture Creation series. Visit us at insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu.

We will be back next month with another Insight In Person podcast.