Frustrated by the landscape of baby foods in 2016, Joe and his wife Serenity, decided to start their own healthy and nutritious baby food brand, and Serenity Kids was born.
Troy: Good afternoon, Austin. I hope everyone's having a good day today. this is the Austin spotlight and today I am joined by Joe Carr of my, serenity kids. and so, appreciate you joining me today, Joe. Great
Joe: To be here. Thanks.
Troy: so is it quick kind of thing, one of the things I noticed on your social handles everything's my serenity kids, but the business is serenity kids, correct Yes,
Joe: Correct. Yep. Certainly kids.com was owned by somebody else. So we took my serenity kids for the internet and social handles, but the company's called serenity kids.
Troy: Nice. And, obviously not necessarily, obviously, unless you guys know who Joe and certainly the kids are, but you guys are a baby, children's food manufacturer here in Austin.
Joe: So try it. Yup. We make foods for really ages zero to about two or three years old. Right now. We're continuing to expand that age range though.
Troy: Cool. So maybe you can kind of go, a little bit into the origin story of the business and how it kind of got, got going and what prompted you guys to decide to start that
Joe: Sure. Well, my wife serenity and I both had very difficult childhoods. we were essentially sick kids. She was very sick from all the nasty food of the eighties, packaged food and sugars. And she was a sugar addict, had really severe gut challenges, way too many antibiotics, and just got to the point where she couldn't even drink water without pain and having to take prescription medication every day and decided to do something different D w discover the paleo diet and changing her diet really changed the whole way of your shoe, you know, related to our body. and she got on this health mission about 10 or 12 years ago, and, I'm autistic. I wasn't diagnosed as a child, so I had a lot of social challenges as a kid, but also a lot of physical challenges, diet plays a big role in affecting autistic people.
And so I had been on my own journey of integrating autism into my life and diet played a role. And when I met serenity, she introduced me to the paleo diet and basically fell in love with her and with paleo at the same time. And we got really serious and started talking about having a baby. And the first thing we did was talk about food. What are we going to feed this thing You know, we didn't want our kid to grow up sick and, and struggling like we did. So what kind of baby foods are there We looked, and we were very disappointed that we found, we were very surprised, at how it really, how bad baby through it was. And it happened to be the same moment where we were looking for another business opportunity or some kind of entrepreneurial opportunity and of all the different things I was considering, the baby food opportunity was the biggest and the most, you know, resonated with our vision so clearly. So we decided to jump into it and never having brought a food company before, not really having any idea what we were really getting into or how big it was going to get. and, started making the foods that our kitchen tested. A lot of babies, you know, start sourcing ingredients from factories, got and built a little board of advisors. and that it's been a rocket ship since the
Troy: Very nice, yeah, it's, it's, one of those where when you, when you find a career or a business that you have a big passionate about, and obviously you guys have that from a food standpoint, even prior to getting into the baby food space, but then also then having a kid, most parents are pretty passionate about their kids, so that, definitely, increases that, that passion for wanting to do something that can have an impact on your child's life. For sure.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely.
Troy: So going back, obviously you mentioned a little bit about childhood, about being autistic, but not necessarily being diagnosed that way. What's a little bit more, kind about your origin story. I always like to hear about people's because so many people here in Austin, aren't from Austin, right. So it's always interesting to hear kind of what people, either did to kind of get to Austin. What prompted, you know, having had, was being an entrepreneur and running a business, or starting a business, something that you guys had done before. What prompted you to have that kind of, mission or idea Because for a lot of people, they would just research and try to find the best baby food out there instead of starting their own company with baby food, right. Like that's not necessarily how everyone would go about trying to solve that problem. So what are kind of some of the things in your potential background that maybe would lead to that entrepreneurial tendencies
Joe: Yeah, so, you know, I had a very big energy as a kid. I was really loud, really intense, you know, took up a lot of space. And, my mom discovered that the performing arts where my gifts that I on stage that big energy was great in a classroom or a small friend group, not so great. The kid teachers hated it and other kids hated it. So I was bullied and excluded a lot. I was in trouble all the time. and you know, but, but on stage I got to, to shine. and so I was became a professional actor as a child. I was doing little TV spots. Like I grew up in Kansas city, Missouri. So I was like one of the, if there was a part for a kid in Kansas city at that time, and I was me, both on stage or, or behind the camera and then in middle school, this, I was annoying this girl in English class one day. And instead of being mean to me, she turns around, she says, you know what, I'm going to teach you how to be cool. and this girl is like one of the coolest, like most popular girls. and I was like, I will do whatever you say. You know, it'd be cool. And she and her friends stopped me. That'd be cool. They told me what to do. And, and I learned the most support and lessons of my life, which was that I can take feedback and become better, you know, that I can grow myself. I'm not stuck being any certain way. and that started me on a personal growth path that opened my mind all kinds of opportunities for growing more. in high school, I had a spiritual awakening where I realized I could also change the world in addition, changing myself.
So that looking up, you essentially became a social justice activists, and about age 16. So got really involved in, various activism, causes. And given my difficult childhood, I came to the realization that I wanted to specifically change the welfare kids that I wanted to really create alternative education systems or parenting models, or, in this case food systems, for children and tried all different ways of that. I didn't want to work in the schools. I really did not. Don't like the schools much. I, I thought I was going to try to be one of the good teachers in the school, but I tried that and it was like, no, the prison guards or the prison, you know, I can't deal with it. So I moved to Austin cause there was a lot of youth nonprofits here. So I was working outside of the school system with nonprofits, eventually started my own youth non-profit, which was my first entrepreneurial adventure.
I was never a good employee. I always, you know, was always trying to make everything better. And my bosses just didn't wanna to hear my ideas or hear how I should, how things could change for the better. And then if there were rules, I didn't like, or didn't serve the customer, I just ignored them. And they weren't a big fan of that either. so I kind of had to start my own thing and, in my youth program was really awesome. I had struggled with good business sense. You know, it wasn't funded properly. The books weren't kept well, there wasn't the right exact product market fit. There's a lot of technical stuff that wasn't good about it. So I learned a whole lot, from that, that set me up. my wife had a corporate background. She was mostly working in supply chain logistics for fortune 500 companies, John Deere, Dell, so forth.
she came to Austin to work for Dell and then took a severance as soon as she could cause she hated it there and started paleo coaching. So she was, she became a paleo food coach, which was her kind of, experiment with entrepreneurial-ism very difficult business model. Both of our models were very difficult. So we both sort of have failed businesses. when it came time to look for baby food for our future baby, as well as thinking, what are we going to do Like how do we, get out of this, you know, working for other people thing. And I read the four hour workweek, a four hour workweek by Tim Ferriss, totally changed my perspective on business, you know, particularly helped me see that a product was a great way to make a bigger impact and be less involved as less hour for hour.
so I start looking for a product that fits his criteria, you know, which is like a niche market that you're a part of a gap in that market. You know, a problem that you can solve, how you solve the problem, how you can market to that niche community, then how you can eventually increasingly outsource the production and sale of the, of your, of your product. so I was looking at a lot of ideas and then we discovered this lack of what we, at the time we called paleo baby food. It was, it was specifically me, fat vegetables, you know, no sugar, no grains, no industrial seed oils. and it just low sugar in general and that didn't exist. Everything was either fruit or grain or initial seed oil. That was like the whole baby food aisle, other than us to this day, it's still basically fruit, grain and industrial seed oil.
And it's like, that's the worst stuff you'd ever figured your kid were in. So we were just flabbergasted that there was no good meat astounded that there was no healthy fats given, you know, how important that is for babies. Breast milk is 60% fat, you know, so it's like got to get fast, got to get animal products in there. so we decided to take the leap and do it. originally we were planning to use to small little, we had bought like paleo baby.com. It was just going to be like a paleo theme, baby food. And I, we met with Taylor and Katie, the founders of epic bar who had just sold their company general mills. And they were six months pregnant and they told us how big our idea was. And this is way bigger than paleo. This is way bigger than just a niche, little Amazon business. Like you're going to be in grocery stores all over the country. You're going to be huge. You're going to grow during a triple your revenue every year. And we were just like, well, you would know, you guys just did it. So I guess what you say, so we're going to do it. And, and we set forth to do that and essentially accomplished everything that you said we could do.
Troy: That's awesome. Yeah. It's, it's, always super beneficial to have people that have been there before, because as much as your product is kind of is trailblazing. Like there's very rarely are there ideas or companies that are truly unique, right Like, so like the product can have, its has its differentiation and can be kind of unique that way, but you know, baby food, food, consumer good products, like that's something that's been around for centuries. And so having someone in that space that, has done it before and can has, negotiated some of the terrain and, and understand what is all in, what is all there to be had is obviously a huge benefit. I'm sure.
Joe: It's totally key in our success. I mean, we wouldn't be here without all of our amazing advisors and people give us advice. Like we just, just, we're very humble about the fact that we didn't know what we were doing and that we needed help and we would seek out advice or we would take it and we'd go back to them and say, Hey, we did all that. Now, what do we do And they were always amazed that we took it. So the best way to get more advice is to actually take advice you can ask, like we just, we get to the number of somebody, we'd call them up and say, do you have 10 minutes And we talked for an hour and you know, and then they say, who else can we get an Octa And they'd give us a list and we'd call them. And we just continue to ask and ask and ask and take it and take it and take it, and eventually built a more formal advisory board of folks that wanted to be ongoing advisers, and have continued to grow that board and have some of the leaders of the industry helping us out over here.
Troy: So your, your lessons for middle-school of taking advice from the popular girl has translated well to taking the advice of different people in the industry here too. And like I say, it is one of those things where there are a lot of, skin. It's a, it's an interesting mix because as a business owner, you have to be relatively strong-willed in order to see your vision play out. But to then balance that with, with being able to take good feedback and listen to good advice and use that advice, is challenging for people in all walks of life. But I think definitely for entrepreneurs who kind of have an idea of really how they want to run their businesses,
Joe: Totally. Now we're taking feedback from our staff. You know, that's where in a big place now where we're like, man, not only did we know much about food companies, we didn't know about company culture. We have 30 employees now. And like with third of them are remote. We have no idea how to run a company like that, to keep people connected, help them feel like they're liking their job. And that's been very important to us to create a company culture that fits with our values, that families feel supported, that people are healthy. People are happy, fulfilled, connected to the mission. so that requires a lot of listening so that our current exercise in humility has been to let our staff tell us, this is how that feels when you ask us for that thing, or this is what, you know, the culture that the human I know about of like over there, silver works.
This is still happening. Despite our connect commitment to that, or there's still some lack of trust or perceived lack of trust. So, you know, but we wouldn't know any of that without asking our, our staff regularly, what they think and what they want. And we had an all staff, our first all-staff treat last week was awesome. We broke them all into groups and they brought us proposals of how to solve some of our cultural issues. And they gave us the best ideas we could ever come up with. You know, we never heard a couple of this goes,
Troy: That's awesome. Yeah. The, going like say, oh, that's another thing I think that is, can be challenging for business owners or people starting their own business. Right It's one of the reasons you guys didn't, you guys are like, Hey, we don't want to be in this corporate culture or want to be in the school system. We want to do our own thing. And then as you grow, not, not that you, you at least get to try to set the culture or you have obviously more pull, you don't have a manager saying, no, we're not going to change it this way. Even if you really feel like this is going to be best, but you go from having one manager who says, this is how things are to now having 30 employees that you have to kind of, not that they get to tell you exactly how things are, but like, you're not going to have a good company unless you can retain employees, which has been a huge struggle for so many companies over the last couple of years, especially.
and I suppose, and again, not that, not just now, but the other thing after listening to the advisors and how to get things going now, you've had probably do a lot of listening to the consumer as well, to see where, how, you know, how their feedback on products on, how, you know, how they're getting the product, whether it's direct to consumer, whether it's in different, store, you know, storefronts online, those kinds of things. And so that's, another tricky component now, instead of just 30 employees, you now have thousands and thousands, tens of thousands hundred thousands, however, many different customers that you kind of have to listen to as well.
Joe: Yeah, no, it's a huge PHL. It helps a lot that my wife and I were our target customer. So we started off with the product that we wanted for us. We made sure there were other parents who wanted it. So we asked all our friends with kids, all our family members, you know, that was, we started very, very personal, very small, but it was clear. It was resonating a lot than everybody, either. If they had a kid, they had looked for low sugar baby foods, couldn't find them, they'd look through, couldn't find them. you know, and so we started off very simply with that, the more we grow, the more different products we make, you know, the bigger the risk is and trying something that may not resonate. So we, now we do a lot of listening. We do a lot of serving our current customers, serving the market in general, we have all these really great grocery partners.
So we're meeting with our grocery store, you know, buyers and the people who make those decisions to really get a clear sense of our ongoing innovation. What are new products that they're looking for What, you know, should it be used this word or this word, this design, or this design, you know, like really getting too technical, because so much of our consumers now are from the mainstream when Walmart or target, you know, we're an HEB, right Where we're, we're grown well outside of the, the whole foods, co-op, natural stores. We still do a lot of businesses. Most of the natural customer is still very important to us, but now we're, you know, Kroger nationally target Walmart. So, you know, we're moving into that a little more mainstream customer and we don't know them quite as well. They're not as exactly like us. So requires a lot of abusing using your data and taking feedback, you know, figuring out how to consolidate that.
Troy: Nice. So with the company, w what was kind of the evolution of the product line, for you guys obviously, you know, starting off with cause, right. There's a difference between zero to six month old food and even two year old food kind of stuff. And so obviously if you, if you still only stayed up to two years old, that does mean that does keep it in a smaller window at least. But what has that evolution kind of gone with the company
Joe: Sure. The, the largest segment of baby food is that, you know, they start on solid foods right in about six months, and then they don't have any teeth, so they need purees. So the need for purees from that six months to 18 month timeframe before they have enough teeth before they can really chew a lot while they're getting used to foods, while their stomach getting used to digesting food, purees are the, are the main thing. So we started there nowadays. Purees are all in these squeeze pouches. They used to be in the little jars, a and P you can still get them in jars, but most baby food is now sold on these, pouches, a little cat, most spousal, the baby can actually hold it and eat it themselves. Or you can put it on a store, and they're shelf stable and really easy to use.
And so we started there, all of them were fruit, you know, so they were an average of nine grams of sugar per pouch, which was just in our opinion, her ridiculous, for 15 pound baby, first as 150 pounds of milk, that's like 90 grams of sugar. So really problematic sugar it's fruit. In addition to being high in sugar, it's also just low in nutrition. There's not that many vitamins, there's not any other fats or proteins. So we're like babies, breast milk is the nature's perfect baby food. My wife did a ton of research on breast milk, determined that fat is really important, the carbs, but what kind of carbs are important and proteins important. And then animal products report turns out because breast milk is an animal product. Babies are highly prone to digest other animal products, meat, dairy, eggs in there. And those fruits also happen to be some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet is when you're trying to pack it a lot of nutrition into, every bite that you managed to get in there, starting with meat and, and vegetables and fats are key.
So we made our first three pouches, which were, we had a grass fed beef with sweet potato and kale. free-range chicken with peas and carrots and uncured bacon with butternut squash and kale. you know, so pasture-raised meats, organic vegetables, you know, we added avocado or olive oil, to boost the fat in there as well. and came out with those. Initially, they actually took us a long time to get them out, a lot of manufacturing challenges, and, but they eventually launched on the same day our baby was born. So we started the company, got pregnant, develop the products. They were supposed to launch way earlier. We were supposed to have them all done, but they kept getting delayed, delayed, delayed. Maybe it was early broads were late, same day, August, 2018, or a little baby. Donald was born along with certain kids products launched on our website and, we started on the website with the three pouches we had met with target already. They'd already told us they were interested, but we needed more than three. We needed six. So we'd started developing a wild caught salmon product and three veggie fat products that were vegetables plus fat. so no sugars or, or fruits, but, but you know, if it's still that good fat carb balance, and, good thing we've started on that because whole foods called us a couple of months after we launched and said, we want to take you national in like three months, we've got a spot to fill. You need five pouches nationally, can you do it And we were like, yup, we'll put up
Troy: Exactly where you say yes. And then you figure out how to make it work.
Joe: Exactly. It's like, well, I have no idea how I would guess we're going to do it. So we, you know, had to use that opportunity to raise more money, to bring up a better factory, to hire some more staff and put it, put it could all put the pedal to the metal. And we got those salmon veggies products out. And so we went live with whole foods and February of 2019, literally overnight from one store to 500 stores, in February, 2019. And then that's catapulted us to more retail because of all foods as it's selling well, everybody else wants it. So our, our numbers were really strong in the beginning. Our sales were really strong and whole foods. And so that selling story has been really easy to build on. we launched four pouches, you know, we launched we've after that, we launched a couple of new needs.
We launched our, our, grass fed bison with the first type of bison, baby food regenerative farm raised out here in Texas sexier and out in Fredericksburg, just reading the land out there. and our Turkey redid a pasture raised Turkey product. then we came out with our bone broth line. We did a line of, of more complex flavors for older palette. So, you know, six months old, what very simple foods, they don't, every flavor's very rich as they get to be two, three years old. They want their regular food. They want it to taste better. So it extend the age range. We, as well as to boost nutrition, we added bone broth and herbs and aromatics. So we have like our beef pot roast or Turkey, Poland, yeas, tuner, chicken, things like that. and we've always been asking, but asking for a puff, which is a little chewable, stack that a baby with a little few teeth can chew or be with no teeth can just gum and it will dissolve.
So it's a tricky product to make, cause it's gotta be crunchy and doable, but also dissolve. and they're all made out of rice. Everybody makes another rice, which are super high in arsenic. And of course, nutrition, rice is just empty calories. So we made ours completely grain-free out of cassava flour and dehydrated vegetables and dehydrated bone broth plus all the oil. So we had that fat protein, vegetable combo and a puff also took a long time to get out. Cause it was hard to make that those logs last year and exploded, like people were so excited for those really, really ready for them. There was this big crisis of heavy metals and baby food that came out right around that time. And the arsenic and price puffs was one of the big focuses of that report on how much arsenic is in these rice puffs.
And so our grain-free heavy metal testing, clean label, project approved puff came out right after that, which was just fortunate timing for us. and we always wanted to make a formula, which certainly struggled with breastfeeding and, delve into yourself at nine months old. And we had to turn to formulas and, again, terrible ingredients, you know, the worst of them F you know, corn syrup and industrial seed oils. even the best of them still had some industrial seed oil, and you know, not good carbs. They almost all use non-fat milk. In fact, before us, we were the only, we were the first whole milk formula. They've left the fat in the milk. and you know, so we give that formula later last year as well. and right before there's been all this crisis with formula formula recalls the ban on European formulas.
So we've been able to position well there. And, you know, we truly have a formula that is the more like breast milk than any other formula ever created. The amount of science to studying breast milk that went into creating that product is, you know, unprecedented. our ingredients are truly, truly unique. and again, well-timed for people needing formula, given the shortages and the, the ban on European, heavy metals or European formulas. And, we're working on lots of others. We're working on more couches we're working on, we've been adding herbs into things. We just released a new pouch line that has more herbs in it. So grass fed beef with time, you know, free range, chicken and Rosemary, things like that. and then we're working on more segments in the, you know, to keep aging it up along with our daughter,
Troy: Got to keep her fed. So you might as well help keep, other, other people's kids fed
Joe: Permanent taste tester right there.
Troy: Yeah. So do you think, like, as far as the poor quality in those baby foods, do you think that's a product of, obviously, you know, if your co is you're new to the market, a lot of the baby foods that are out there are, have been around for a lot longer timeframe frame. And so is it just something where the understanding, or, you know, again, new nutrition in the last 10 years has changed dramatically, just everywhere, adults for everyone, right So like a lot of these baby food companies and food companies in general have been around for such a long timeframe that, you know, when they first came around, having just clean, safe, healthy foods was revolutionary versus having food that's spoiled all the time, can compare that to, versus also, obviously some of these companies being a lot larger, like, you know, I'm sure it's more challenging to produce on large scales with the types of ingredients, and quality that you guys produce as well, too.
Joe: Yeah. So, you know, baby food is dominated by five major companies. They're all massive corporations, right So they're all huge dinosaurs. They take very long to innovate. so they bought up, they were, they purchased all these baby food companies, you know, so Nestle owns, or, you know, bought Gerber dyno, and this large natural food company bought happy, baby Campbell bought plum and so forth. So interim entrepreneurs like my wife and I 10, 15 years ago, starting as baby food companies as better alternatives, based on the science they had at the time. So we've got the low fat movement, you know, of the eighties that trickled down to baby. So they took the fat out because pat was perceived to be unhealthy. and then we have the demonization of meat in the natural food space. This idea that need to somehow not good for you or not good for the planet, which was all not true, but that was that idea at the time.
So this kind of filtered down to the baby aisle, where we ended up with these, you know, fruit purees that are very easy to get babies to eat cause they taste great because they're full of fruit, not a clear understanding of fruit. Sugar is still sugar, just because it's from fruit and it's not white sugar doesn't mean it's any different other bloods, you know, blood sugar level, but people didn't quite understand that. And then they forgot that they just like took the fat out, cause the people thought low fat is healthy or something. So like you said, all the rest of the, the industry's changing paleo movement really changed our understanding of how important meat and animal products is, how you can do them in a healthy and environmentally friendly way through grass fed pasture-raised systems that regenerative agriculture, and the fact that the right fat is key, you know, the bad fats, industrial CBO fats for short and nasty, but, the right fat is really important.
particularly saturated fats having been demonized under the industrial seed oils were like, these are heart-healthy fats, which are actually pretty essentially carcinogenic. Whereas animal fats we've been eating for thousands of years are the best fats. So, you know, that understanding had happened. Other places that just hadn't made it to baby, it's very hard to innovate and baby, because it's dominated by this huge company. So the barrier entry is very high. So like it says straight out two years to get our products even just made, you know, we had to raise, almost a million dollars in startup capital just to get the products on the shelf. A lot of people aren't willing to do that, especially if they've had a baby and they don't realize that the lack of a baby food until they have a baby, well, wait, you're going to start a company with an infant.
You know, so we had a lot of advantages that we started hearing before we had our baby. We were part of the paleo movement. We've seen it success. We had these incredible advisors. We had the wherewithal to really like, just keep going and find a way, we had this very clear vision that we pushed towards. and, and now we're making it very large scale. I mean, it's not true that you can't make it as large scale. Like we're, we're, you know, we're in, over 6,000 grocery stores nationwide where usually millions of pounds of vegetables, millions of pounds of Regina farm to meet, every year. So, you know, for sure it can be scaled. We had to charge more, you know, that we had to charge double what the others were charging. So you're paying a dollar 69, a fruit puree, or 3 99 for meat and veggie puree, which the stores were uncomfortable with that idea.
They're like, cause people are going to pay that. And of course they did. They saw the difference. They saw that meat and veggies are a different price than fruit that the use case was, was more universal. So, so we had to charge more, I don't know what their profit margins are, but I assume they are better than ours. I assume that the, if they're charging a dollar 69 for blended fruit, you know, that they're probably making a lot more money. So there is some, you know, margin stuff that we're able to play with that bigger companies with all these stockholders and all that. Sure. Maybe can't get away with it, you know but it absolutely can be done, must be done, but you know, we're, we're showing what's possible, in, in baby food and leave it all under there. And they're in our gusts, man, we're the top selling baby food in every story you go into.
So we're at the top selling baby food in the entire, a health food space where the top selling and Kroger, you know, we're on our way up in Walmart and target, Gerber's the only one ahead have us. And they have three-quarters of the aisle at our little one shelf for their entire aisle. and you know, we're in, we're selling faster than any of them were years. It, you know, with brand new, still know so many people haven't even heard about us. and then we do an incredible amount of business online. And on Amazon half, our revenue is still online, which is very unusual for a food company because most food is bought at the grocery store, including baby food. Only about 10% of baby foods bought online at all and 50% of our baby food fall in line. So there's an immense amount of growth in grocery that we still have to look forward to. And no reason that the bigger companies can't follow suit and start to include needs, start to include that lower the sugar. I mean, they've got to our babies, need them to
Troy: Sure. And again, right, the market again, as larger corporations, it's one of those things where sometimes they need a push from a bottom line standpoint, more so than from a, ideological standpoint. And so again, the more and more you guys are able to eat into their market share the more and more that'll be like, okay, Hey, we need to make a change to stay competitive in the market, place that way.
Joe: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
Troy: What, so is there, you know, what's on the horizon other than, so it sounds like for the main thing on the horizon is probably kind of starting to age up again as your daughter age is up as well, too. What are kind of the big things happening for serenity kids over the next 12, 24 months
Joe: Yeah. You know, so innovation wise, we're continuing to make them couches where we haven't reached our maximum number of pouches. Yet most of our competitors have 30 ish factors on the aisle. We have, you know, anywhere from eight to 10, depending on the store. So continuing to create more so we can take up more space there. We are looking at the other segments on the aisle, the other, you know, form factors that age up a little bit and meets a different need. So we're working on deciding the next one of those that we'll watch probably some time next year, but this year for us is really a lot of, what are called roots. Growing. Our branch has grown a lot. Last year, we launched all these new products, aren't revenue, almost triple. We doubled our staff. We opened an office, we built this whole remote team all during COVID and, and, we started to feel that topple effect, you know, our staff I've started to feel like the pressure. And so this year it's like, okay, let's launch a few, not quite as many products, you know, we're still gonna double in revenue, but we've got to stop burning cash. We've got to like become more profitable. So we're trying to cut our burn in half this year while doubling the revenue. So that's tricky in and of itself to grow more, but spend less, and culture, culture, culture. I mean, we've always wanted a strong culture and then retention, makes it a business essential to focus on the happiness of our staff. So we have these really strong goals around being a great place to work around, working smarter, not harder, and really developing these systems and going a little slower, taking more time to build the foundation so that this rocket ship growth can just keep continuing cause there's, you know, we eventually, we want to be a children's food company. We're going to grow off the baby aisle and into, you know, products for ages all the way up to, you know, 11, 12 years old, school lunch, alternative snacks, drinks, all these things, all that. Stuff's terrible. If you look at anybody who has,
Troy: You're saying that the profit process, meat and cheese cracker meal, isn't the
Joe: All right. So nasty is like sharing, you know, you know, this like all this industrial seed oils and yeah, I mean, we could, we could improve the Lunchable all day long, you know, so we have this, commitment to what I call the serenity Trinity, which is nutrient density, great taste and convenience, right So there's gotta be convenient for parents, like easy to prepare. It's gotta taste good. Kids have to like it, but it's gotta be genuinely nutrient dense. It can't just be the organic Mac and cheese, you know, like the organic version of a, of Canti, right Like it's like, it's still candy. You know, we want the genuine nutrition, not just a little bit better for you. and animal products are key to that. So we always look at animal products first, how can we get animal products, you know, featured in our, in products because it's the best bioavailable, protein and fat most nutrient dense provide. and, and it's just sorely lacking in the food industry, like really good quality meat and, and, you know, and, and Perry and eggs and all of that mixed into children's food in a way that tastes good as convenient. That's the secret. And we're gonna, you know, we're going to take over children's food with that.
Troy: That's awesome. What's been kind of the biggest challenge as far as, you know, having a, that has now again, 30 employees,
Joe: That's what really keeps us up at night, like where the most trustful challenges are, is in the people's side of things, relationships, the coaching, the feedback, the complaining, you know, like it's, it's the absolute hardest part of running a business is that side is like hiring the right people. How do you develop them How do you give them the right feedback How do you know, are they not performing Because I haven't given them good feedback or they were the wrong person. They need to go, you know Or like, you know, he's a Vivitrol, is it their fault Like is, or some combination. So, you know, performance reviews and training. And especially given the certain, I had no experience in this industry. Like, we don't even know what good is, looks like. Is, are you doing good You have to tell me if you're doing your job.
You know, so it's been huge. We brought on this executive team late last year, which was early for our stage to hire VPs and have these high-level of what we knew that the growth was coming and that we wanted to be ready for it. So we brought them on and that's been very helpful and also an additional challenge because now we've got industry experts who are way smarter than us in these particular fields. And yet we still own the strategic vision and direction of the company. So, you know, when we disagree, it can be really hard because they're like a ministry perspective. This is the industry knowledge. You can't do it this way. And we're like, yeah, we're going to do it that way. And it's like, so, or sometimes we're like, you're right. We can't do that. We got to let it go. But sometimes we're like, no, I think we can do it differently. Let's try it. And then it usually works. So it w when it works is when we get them on board and we negotiate long enough to be like, okay, we can take this thing, you know, and this idea we have and, and try it out. So there's this longer processes, a lot more feedback, a lot more humility, thicker skin, ultimately like learning, not to take it personally, you know, when people are frustrated with something. and just always remember why we're here.
Troy: Well, especially if they say it now that you're hiring like industry experts, right. And those kinds of roles, like you said, like we, like we talked about with the food, the baby food industry, being very few people owned by large companies. That means that these people have come from one of these handful of companies that are large corporations. And so that's going to be a very different mindset and different workflow for people that way versus, Hey, we're a startup, and we're trying to completely not quite blow up the system, but basically blow up the system.
Joe: Yeah. We were, you know, we tried to, we were looking for unicorn. So we wanted people who had large enough company experience that they could lead us to where we're going, but small enough company experience that they wouldn't be super surprised at how different things are, you know, so very few people, we have Kemper actually from baby foods. We have, we're just buying from the food we're creating from the food industry. More generally, there's been a lot of great startups, particularly in Austin that have grown and sold or, you know, grown and gone national or whatever. So, so we've been very fortunately about, we really have an amazing team. the great resignation was awesome for us, but we did the best hiring last year we've ever done because so many people were looking for work. We were able to really, recruit some of those people away from their current companies. And we offer a remote work option. We offer very family-friendly benefits. So we brought on a lot of like working parents, and then some remote staff, that have really added a lot and really brought a ton of value to the team. and now the trick is just how we get them back. Some of value out of them. How do we make sure they're well used
Troy: Sure. Yeah. Let me say that's, the challenge and also say, because, you know, similar to the great resignation while it was good for you, like making sure that you're not burning through those people as well, too, because that's going to be, I think a challenge for all businesses and especially small businesses, going forward is like trying to have that company culture where you can get people to stay, because it does make a big difference when you can have that person stay for five years instead of two years kind of thing. That's a huge,
Joe: Yeah. Yeah. Our turnover has been relatively low compared to the industry, though, we have had turnover. We have had people stolen away, you know, so more important than ever is to listen to your employees, to develop them, to respect them, to show them that you trust them, to help them connect to the purpose and the bigger picture of why you're here taking that time to explain decisions, taking the time to get additional feedback. It's just a slow, a lot of us started. People were like, you know, ask lots of big decisions, quickly, change them slowly, you know, like hire slow fire fast, you know, like all these, like these idiots that have, are also true, we have to be a movement. We have to keep going. We have to keep that hustle. and you know, sacrificing process for that does more harm than good I've learned when I try to push through a decision, I think is really important. No matter how, where that decision was, the wreckage that causes by knocking people's feedback as even if the decision was going to be the same,
Troy: Even if it was the right decision. Now
Joe: Thinking the time to listen to them, to hear their feedback on it, to make sure they're enrolled, understand the outcomes, to have them share in the decision. So that it's not just me. If there is a risk we're taking, we're taking it as a group. So if there is a fallout that affects them, they at least know that they have an opportunity to prepare for that. Versus if I do something unilaterally and then they have to clean up the mess, you know, we've all had situations at work where we're cleaning up our boss's mess and this, nobody, nobody likes that.
Troy: Sure. And, and, or even just understanding why, like, sometimes you don't get their buy-in because they just really don't think that's the right decision. But if you can say, here's why we're doing it. I mean, we'd love to have your buy-in, but we're going to do this regardless versus just unilaterally having this, you know, Oz character behind curtain. That's doing stuff that no one understands why it's being done at all. Makes it, harder, harder, you know, regardless of that, at that point, you wonder what's what's going on.
Joe: Yeah. There are a lot of parallels to parenting in that regard, parenting a toddler to very similar, got to take the time to explain, even though they may not agree and they may not like it, like taking that time to explain why it helps them understand and
Joe: You know, letting her be free, where she can, but then setting boundaries where I have to, like, that's my job as a parent, also as a boundary,
Troy: We will, we won't pretend that you just called your employees toddlers, but Sometimes,
Troy: so for people that are trying to, will want to find out more about you guys, first off you mentioned, you guys are in about 6,000 grocery stores now kind of, where are the places, physical locations where people find your guys' food products,
Joe: You can get us in any natural food store. So nationally whole foods, natural grocers sprouts. Co-ops right. So they'll, they'll have a larger selection. we are in most mainstream stores as well. So Walmart target Kroger, locally HEB, you know, places like that, our website of course has the biggest lecture. We got everything there. My serenity kids.com. We also have really great a subscription option on there. So you can get really great prices, if you subscribe and have it auto shipped to yet. and then on, it was on everything we sell is on Amazon. So you can just search straight and kids, baby food on Amazon as well. most other online grocery stores and wildlife thrive market and, and Vitacost to places like that also happens.
Troy: Very nice. Cool. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to, to jump on and talk a little bit about it. kind of an interesting way that we initially connected a couple of years ago in that regard as you guys were really kind of getting, getting going. So it's been cool to kind of catch up again and awesome to see your guys's continued success and growth it's really Yeah.
Joe: Yeah. I'm really appreciative. The Austin community has been massively important to our success. Like just the attitude here, the personalities and the startup mentality, the willingness to go outside the box, try new things. It's that couldn't, couldn't ask for a better place to be running a business. So we're all very fortunate.
Troy: And on top of the website, like you can find them the, my serenity kids on pretty much all the different social channels,
Joe: All those places.
Troy: Awesome. Cool. Well, again, appreciate you taking the time and, hope you have a wonderful day.
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