Keeley Tillotson began Wild Pals out of her dorm room along with her roommate, Erika Welsh. Seven years later, their women-run firm distributes its distinctive, wholesome nut butters nationally.
On a mission to “make meals pleasant” for his or her prospects, suppliers and the planet, they make their merchandise with brief lists of fresh elements, excluding palm oil, hydrogenated oils and added sugar.
Wild Pals’ giveback program donates 1 p.c of gross sales to assist ladies and women fund their goals. Their first nonprofit accomplice, Ladies Inc. of the Pacific Northwest, offers sources and alternatives for ladies of all ages to develop up sturdy, good and daring.
Bard MBA candidate Caitlin O’Donnell spoke with Tillotson about creating an organization tradition, balancing fundraising and each day operations, and what retains her going as a younger entrepreneur.
Caitlin O’Donnell: What’s the mission of Wild Pals?
Keeley Tillotson: Our mission is to make meals pleasant. We began with peanut butter — so, taking a product that folks love and taking out all of the non-essentials. There’re no hydrogenated oils, no palm oil, no sugar in our plain traditional creamy. We make totally different flavors, which is enjoyable, and ensure they’re actually revolutionary.
We lately expanded into breakfast gadgets. Our new “oats and nut butter” is a single-serving oat cup with a nut butter pack within the lid. It delivers twice as a lot protein and half the sugar as plain. We’re engaged on extra innovation and launching new gadgets. It’s been a very enjoyable and eventful final seven years.
O’Donnell: How has your staff grown since your founding, and the way has your tradition modified?
Tillotson: For the primary couple of years we have been very scrappy. It was Erika (Welsh, Wild Pals co-founder) and myself doing all the pieces. All of the administration of producing, all of the advertising and marketing, all of the gross sales. It’s solely over the past three years that we’ve began hiring staff members.
We introduced on our first staff member in 2015 and now there are 11 of us. We now have three individuals on our gross sales staff, two advertising and marketing staff members, three operations staff members and a pair folks who assist us handle all the large and little particulars of operating the enterprise.
An enormous realization for me was that tradition isn’t simply one thing you can write down. You’re all the time constructing the corporate tradition. Each particular person you rent is the tradition. We search for individuals who already display components of the tradition that we would like as a result of they’re going to carry these to the corporate. Oftentimes, the actually superb staff members we’ve introduced on make the tradition higher or carry their very own components to the corporate.
O’Donnell: What was your capital elevating technique, and the way do you stability that with the work of operating the enterprise?
Tillotson: Fundraising is certainly laborious work. We’ve fundraised thrice, and every time was totally different. However the technique is identical in that it’s like relationship: you simply must go on so many first dates with so many individuals earlier than you discover someone who’s an excellent match for each side.
I want that somebody had defined that to me once we first began fundraising. You hear tales of parents having one assembly with a dynamic funder who writes a examine within the second and slides it throughout the desk, however that’s not very many individuals’s experiences. Most of us wind up doing as a lot networking as potential to have as many conversations as potential with a purpose to discover the perhaps one or two individuals who will put money into you.
Our tactic has been to maintain our power up. It may be difficult, as a result of whilst you’re fundraising you continue to must run the enterprise. It’s actually useful to have a co-founder for that purpose. I spend my time centered on fundraising, and Erika focuses on the day-to-day execution of the enterprise.
Very early on we knew the place every of us needed to focus our power and what our strengths have been. Erika’s actually engaged with the exterior, consumer-facing side of the corporate, and I’m engaged with the inner and the buyers.
O’Donnell: I found your product by way of social media. What’s your advertising and marketing technique?
Tillotson: Most of our advertising and marketing funds is geared towards in-store advertising and marketing and what you as a client won’t even consider as advertising and marketing: issues like placing the product on sale, getting a show in a retailer, couponing and actually investing in discovery. So, how the patron can discover us for the primary time. If you’re a brand new firm, that’s what you’re actually centered on.
O’Donnell: What recommendation do you’ve for future entrepreneurs?
Tillotson: Being an entrepreneur is basically laborious. We left faculty two years in to run the enterprise. It’s necessary to have an excellent community and a help system of associates. I’ve discovered that this journey isn’t sustainable when you see it as a dash. It’s positively an endurance occasion, and it’s important to have a very sturdy community to help you.
This Q&A is an edited excerpt from the Bard MBA’s March 15 The Impression Report podcast. The Impression Report brings collectively college students and college in Bard’s MBA in Sustainability program with leaders in enterprise, sustainability and social entrepreneurship.