The CEO’s 2014 Recap

January 03, 2015

CEO Jesse Thomas on his thoughts on 2014 and what he sees for 2015 (including a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ or two…)


Selfie stick during Matt’s enthralling Finance & Ops talk at our company retreat because OF COURSE

We’ve finished 2014, and like any ex-engineer-tri-dork-data-geek, I’m pouring over Picky Bars final stats. Like examining a pace chart, power file, or race report, I spend my free time in Excel analyzing and reanalyzing all the details to see what happened, what went well, and what didn’t. And like any athlete, I do it in the hopes of better understanding how I can do better next year. The more our company grows, the more complicated it becomes and the harder it is to take all these data points and create themes around improvement, but it’s a challenge I love, and one of the main reasons I’m an entrepreneur.

I’ll save you the regression analysis and 3D pie charts to give you headlines:

  • Sales increased by about 45% over 2013, with growth coming mainly from the Picky Club, a full year of sales at REI, and a few other top retailers.
  • We hired six new employees, and had two move on, leaving us at six F/T and three P/T, not including Lauren, Steph and I.
  • We moved into our first ever real life office space.
  • We completely redesigned our website from the ground up, integrating the Picky Club with our online store, and allowing Club members to chose three levels of membership, change flavors and shipping addresses all through their own accounts.
  • We rebranded everything – our website, our packaging, our marketing and sales materials, and even our internal documents.
  • We successfully launched #lifepoints – which puts customer-submitted pictures on our packaging, something totally unique in our industry. The feedback and participation has been incredible, and is having the supportive, inclusive impact we hoped it would.

Most CEOwners would be pretty stoked with a year like this. And part of me is definitely stoked, but part of me is a little….eh (head tilted, shoulders shrugged). While we certainly accomplished a lot – and each of those things listed above is significant – our sales numbers are below my original goals. I’ll admit that my “goals” were a little arbitrary, in that I’m not sure what’s appropriate for a company our size in our industry, but nevertheless, we finished below them. We also finished the year less profitable, and made too many mistakes that cost us time, money and growth.

So what happened? You might call it an “investment year.”

We started the year with a plan to create three tiers of the Picky Club. This seemingly simple project eventually turned into a complete website redesign and entire company rebrand. Project creep like this is normal, and the decision to re-do it all was a good one. But it was a significant investment that cost us a lot of time, effort, and money.

old site new site picky bars

Upgrade! We’ll miss ya, brown and yellow…

I’d say we were near the limit of our capacity internally when we lost an employee in each of the first and second quarters. With the projects well underway, and requiring more attention and time than expected, we simply couldn’t be as focused externally as we had in the past, and our sales and marketing efforts slipped as a result. We also had manufacturing issues that delayed shipments, cost us time, money, and supplies. I had a crazy summer trying to qualify for the World Championships off an injury and had less time to spend in the office and find suitable resources (people) to help. We scrambled A LOT this year to make things work, and it got admittedly crazy during the toughest times. I’m proud of our team for keeping their cool and keeping it together.

But ultimately, we hit a plateau of what we could accomplish with the people we had, and it took longer than it should have for us (me) to realize the full extent of the help we needed to not only stabilize, but take the next step. So as my season winded down, Patrick, Lauren and I developed our best guess at a structure that would take us to the next level, and added 4 full time roles (Sales, Marketing, Voice/Brand, Finance/Ops), and 1 part time (Sales/Customer Service). While the team is still new and definitely learning on the job, the plan seems to be taking hold and working as we hoped.

pickyretreat fb

The whole crew, heavy one mustachio’d, PBR-and-selfie-stick-loving snowman

So where do we go from here? Hopefully, we grow. 

We have to grow, really. We will continue to focus on growing the Picky Club by making it more than just a convenient service for people that want a premium, healthy product. We will invest in developing the community around the club and provide more exclusive benefits and real value to our Picky Clubbers. We hope that people will share our club with their friends because they love it and believe in the brand.

And we’ll be MUCH more active with our current retailers and gaining new retailers as the result of having our first dedicated staff to our wholesale business. We will create our first real retail merchandising programs and maintain more supportive, consistent relationships with our current retailers. We will also expand significantly in a few focused channels. Be on the look out for us in more stores around you soon!

Develop & Innovate

While we hope to improve our current services and products, we’re also going to have our first planned and concerted effort at new product development. We will launch a new flavor in the early summer, and hope to launch our first product extension by late summer, and maybe a brand new product by the end of the year. We’ve realized that a massive key to sustainable happiness of our club members and retailers is new flavors, new products, and new cool stuff in general. So while our number one focus is to grow our current offerings, we will continue to innovate as well.

Overall, I’m pretty stoked.

Picky Bars grew up a lot in 2014. We’ve gone from 3 people in a shared garage with a bunch of beer bikes (Cycle Pub) to 10 people in a full blown office with a conference room and of course a HotShot basketball game. You don’t have to worry, we’re still securely grounded in our young, eager, and wait for it, “hungry” ways. Our two words for the year are Smrappy (smart & scrappy) and Focufficient (focused & efficient) – coined by yours truly (that’s why I get paid the big bucks) – both are meant to help us keep those scrappy startup roots while feeling enabled to invest in focused, high-return opportunities.

I’m really excited to see what this new team is capable of. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of ups and downs, fail at some of our goals and accomplish others we don’t know exist. In any case, it will be an awesome ride and we’ll continue to learn from each other, our customers, and our industry. Thanks a ton for all of you who have supported us over the years, and we appreciate your continued support as we take the next step in 2015. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas, as always feel free to comment below or email me at Thanks again!

– Jesse, CEO


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