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Jesse's 2021 Company Recap

February 07, 2020

Jesse's 2021 Company Recap

The dual life of an athlete-entrepreneur dino...


 

Most evenings, after the last toy has been cleared off the table, the MUST HAVE cup/spoon/plate of the day has been fetched, and we finally get both kids in their seats for dinner, we have this tradition that Lauren taught us called “High, Low, Cheers.” The idea is that each of us thinks through our day, and identifies a 

  • High - Something good that happened or something we’re happy about, a
  • Low - Something bad, or that we didn’t like, was tough, etc. and a 
  • Cheers - To someone or something that we feel grateful for.

For those of you who didn’t pay attention last year (I don’t blame you at all if you checked out, I certainly needed to at points!) - Picky Bars was acquired in May by Laird Superfood, a rapidly growing company based out of Sisters, Oregon. Needless to say, that definitely dominated the year. It was clearly the biggest transition we’ve ever gone through as a company, and that I’ve ever gone through as a leader and in my professional career in general. 

There’s soooooo much to talk about there, I could write a whole book, or at least a chapter, on my experience (maybe one day I will…) But this isn’t the time for that, plus Sarah gave my talky talk talk brain a nearly impossible 1500 word limit and I’m already at 228, sheesh!

So anyway, “high, low, cheers” feels like an appropriate way to distill 2021 at Picky Bars into something… digestible (DAD PUN ALERT) and appropriate for the phase we’re in. So here we go!

 

HIGHS

Getting Acquired by Laird Superfood

As I wrote about in ourannouncement, I feel so lucky that we attracted an acquirer who truly and uniquely checks all these boxes for us:

  • Shares many of our same values
  • Makes great products with clear intentions of positive impact on the food industry and the world in general
  • Invests in bringing our products and values to larger audiences
  • Provides opportunities for our employees
  • Has good people that we genuinely like, and bonus - is based just 20 miles from us!

We weren’t looking to sell at the time - Picky Bars was in a great spot, experiencing strong growth and well capitalized with an All-Star team. But when Lauren, Steph and I considered all those things above, it was hard to imagine ever finding a better opportunity than Laird Superfood brought to the table. And while it’s still early, so far the acquisition has lived up to expectations - not that I really knew what to expect, ha!

While aspects of the acquisition have been professionally difficult for me (more below), it has significantly decreased the stress that owning the business had on our family, which I’ve written and podcasted about extensively. It’s also allowed me to spend more time with my family, and be more present during that time, which has been invaluable. We even took a family vacation... and I didn’t work at all not even once! I know, amazing! It also allowed us to award bonuses to our employees and support our community in ways that we couldn’t have done otherwise, and those experiences have been some of the most rewarding of my life.

New Products

It’s hard to believe looking back on this year that, in addition to getting acquired and all the stuff that went along with that, we launched FIVE new products!

  • Picky Pancakes - Nutritionally balanced, taste great on their own, plus one of my favorite April Fools Jokes That’s Not a Joke, the Breakfast Hotdog.
  • Granolas - Ready to Rumble Apple Crumble and Double Dip Coco Chip, which is definitely the best granola in the history of the world. I might not be allowed to say that anymore with public company regulations but I’m gonna just do it and see if anyone notices!
  • Pop-up Oatmeal Cups - I (and our customers) love this packaging innovation. Look for more of this to come down the road!
  • Get Pump’d Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal - Our first seasonal product, and first post-acquisition product. We actually created an oatmeal WITH Laird Superfood Coconut Creamer in it! What a fun project that became one of the better selling products on Laird’s website!

DEI Efforts

We entered into company-wide DEI training in late 2020 and I’m proud of our team for the collective, personal, and professional growth that resulted. We created DEI goals, an equity statement, and improved the diversity of our marketing and advisory efforts. We still have a very long way to go obviously, especially now as part of a larger brand, but we’re proud of the work we have done and what’s to come. 

 

LOWS

All the tough stuff that results from getting acquired

Highs and lows, amiright!?!? Obviously there’s a double edged sword to any acquisition. This isn’t any one person or company’s fault, it’s just the natural result of acquisitions. You gain this big opportunity with combined products, employees, and resources, but you also relinquish control, are faced with new and daunting integration activities, and no matter how aligned the companies’ values are, there’s still an adaptation to a new combined culture that impacts each employee's personal role, and the business as a whole. I think we (both Laird and Picky) have experienced all the typical “tough parts” of integrating two companies for the first time, including: 

  • Employees taking new roles. While I’m proud that virtually every employee got offered new roles at Laird Superfood, some of them eventually decided to take opportunities elsewhere. I’m personally happy for all of them obviously, but as a leader, it’s tough not to see that in some way as a professional failure. 
  • The transfer of control and loss of autonomy has been a huge change for me obviously both professionally and personally. This could be its own chapter that I know at least my mom and her closest friends would read. Similar to combining cultures - no matter how aligned, there will still be tension to work through in combining product philosophies, marketing strategies, and operational systems. And while it’s been tough, we’ve done an excellent job navigating these conflicts as best we can, largely due to the quality of people we’re working with (see below). 
  • Speaking of combining operational systems… We’ve definitely run into some headaches integrating our warehouse, shipping, fulfillment, sourcing, and general supply chain operations, which has resulted in some negative impacts on you all with out of stocks, delayed shipments, refunds, and general annoyingness. Of course, like every other company navigating this circus of a world right now, we’re already facing massive supply chain disruptions as a result of Covid, so this extra complication only added to all that! I’m genuinely sorry to anyone that’s had a negative experience the last month or two, and know that we’re collectively busting our asses to make it better asap!

 

CHEERS

Like all years, there’s no way to navigate all the ups and downs without a lot of help and support. And so my cheers go deservingly to:

  • Our customers and partners: We put you all through a lot this year, and I cannot adequately state how much we appreciate your support both for the years prior and of course through this transition! There’s more to come as we continue to integrate and we appreciate your continued support ahead of time. 
  • Our employees - both current and former. Similar to our customers and even more so, you’ve all been through some massive changes this year, and I really appreciate your honesty, communication, feedback, flexibility, and willingness to jump on Jesse’s Wild Adventure Whoa Where the Hell Are We Going Roller Coaster with me. You all are awesome, and the best part of owning a company for sure.
  • The people at LSF: Overall, I’d give us - collectively Laird Superfood and Picky Bars - a solid score on the acquisition. Sure, it hasn’t been perfect - nothing hard is! There have definitely been hurdles, debates, and tough stuff to work through, but the people at Laird Superfood have been generously conscientious, respectful, and accommodating, and that’s gone a long way in making a naturally tough process as positive as possible.
  • My family and friends - since all business is a mix of personal and professional - shout out to all the personal support I’ve received as I navigate this massive change - lots of Jesse feelings on display in 2021!

 

Next Steps:

As a company, we have a few big integration steps coming in the next 3-6 months with the Picky Club, our website, products, and the brand in general. We’re all working hard to ensure these are as smooth and valuable for you as possible, but I appreciate your support ahead of time as we inevitably encounter bumps and bruises along the way.

For me personally, as I mentioned in the acquisition announcement, I’m officially now a VP at Laird Superfood, working on new products, brand positioning, and other VP-related this-and-that. Not sure how many more “Company Updates” you’ll get from me, but I’ll do my best to continue to keep you all informed (and slightly entertained) as long as I can! 

1513 words, Sarah! Always breaking your rules.

 

 


UPDATE:

Since the time of this writing, the exciting news broke of a new CEO joining Laird Superfood! The full release, along with a bio of our new leader, Jason Vieth, can be read HERE.