Urban Raccoon Snack Bars founder shares startup tips

Food for thought

Five years ago, Brad Indoe was a twentysomething guy from Ohio with a desk job and nagging digestive issues. Today, he’s president of Urban Raccoon Snack Bars, which he founded after discovering that a gluten-free diet cleared up his health problems.

Dissatisfied with the gluten-free snacks on the market, Brad started making his own on-the-go snacks to take on business trips. “It slowly evolved into a business as I started to share my tasty snack bars with others who had the same desire for better tasting bars made with premium ingredients — something most big-name bars on the market fail to provide,” he explains.

Urban Raccoon Coconut BarAnswering the entrepreneurial call

About a year after launching Urban Raccoon, Brad took the plunge and quit his day job. He has no regrets.

“I worked in a very competitive corporate working environment for five years. I worked hard to be all I could be. However, it always seemed like no matter how much I gave, I could only go so far. I learned a great deal of business acumen working for large companies, but at the end of the day, I wanted to be in better control of my own destiny.”

Urban Raccoon Active LifestyleThat destiny includes plenty of hard work, but also a healthy dose of the great outdoors. Brad likes to run, hike and visit national parks. And his business philosophy is well aligned with his active lifestyle.

“I’m a strong believer that a true entrepreneur follows the ‘survival of the fittest’ philosophy in life,” Brad says. “You must constantly discover and identify ways to improve yourself if you want to succeed.”

Brad’s survival strategy in the snack bar business is to focus on quality.

 

“Always offer quality over quantity,” he says. “Ingredients do matter. That’s the biggest difference between the small-business American entrepreneurs versus the mainstream big corporate brands.”

Before launching Urban Raccoon, Indoe did a lot of research on gluten-free products, including tasting gobs of bars — many of them not so tasty. Most bars he tried were mass produced and used the same inexpensive ingredients.

“My goal was to develop a gluten-free bar that would surpass all of those low industry standards. I did this by discovering new ingredients like amaranth and avoiding all of the cheap oat and rice fillers that the big brands use. Urban Raccoon prides itself on using premium ingredients such as lots of nuts, seeds and fruits. We also use premium sweeteners like coconut nectar and homemade maple syrup made on our Ohio family farm.”

Urban Raccoon Making Syrup

Urban Raccoon goes online

As a brand, Urban Raccoon has an outdoorsy, made-from-scratch vibe, but Brad knew that being online was going to be key. “One of the first steps I took was creating an online presence,” he says. “I understood how important it is to have an attractive website and online store. So that’s when I first contacted GoDaddy to set me up with the online tools I needed to launch my new business.”

With the domain UrbanRaccoon.com in his pocket, Brad continued to add products and services to help his small business grow. He also uses GoDaddy’s Online Store, Email Marketing, Search Engine Visibility and Professional Email products.

Urban Raccoon Website
Brad says Urban Raccoon’s Online Store from GoDaddy is his business’s “most utilized tool. It’s very easy to manage and make edits to product pages. We like to offer customers promotional online coupon codes, which Online Store allows us to set up, as well as free shipping options, which customers like.”

Today, UrbanRaccoon.com is a simple, on-brand storefront that offers individual bars, 10-packs of single flavors and multi-flavor “fun packs.”

Urban Raccoon Grainless BarFinding customers

Brad considers himself a very determined person, and that’s a good thing, because like most entrepreneurs, he has learned that acquiring new customers can be tricky. “The biggest uphill battle is getting the word out and reaching customers,” he says. His advice for launching a business: Don’t wait for customers to come to you — go to them.

“You can’t depend on people to come to you everyday — especially when you’re just starting out. If you want new customers, you must find a way to go to them. Implementing a mix of a good online store, email marketing program and grassroots efforts will help get the ball rolling.”

To drive more traffic to his online storefront, Brad relies on GoDaddy Email Marketing. He sends several email campaigns each month, often including a seasonal promotion. “We like to email customers special limited-time offers with the Online Store coupon codes through our Email Marketing tool,” he said. “This has increased our online sales to more than double in some of our past promotions.”

Urban Raccoon Award
Urban Raccoon’s Coconut Grainless Paleo bar was named a winner in the 2015 SupplySide CPG Editor’s Choice Awards.

Looking to the future

Urban Raccoon currently sells its bars direct to consumers online, as well as wholesale to select stores like Whole Foods Market. “I hope to add my own retail store in the near future,” Brad shares.

In addition to opening a retail location, he would love to sell his products in airports and convenience stores — places where people need healthier on-the-go snack options.

While Urban Raccoon’s signature bars have been popular, Brad also sees an opportunity to expand into other types of snack food. “I’ve been working on developing different types of products, and I can’t wait to offer more for customers,” he says.

Sharing entrepreneurial insights

Five years into his business, this 32-year-old entrepreneur has learned a thing or two. His best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Do your homework before spending your limited startup money.

 

“Always prioritize what is most important and what can wait for later,” Brad stresses. “Always evaluate your return on investment for every dollar you spend. And don’t ever be afraid to negotiate business terms and wheel and deal. If you don’t have any leverage, it’s OK to walk away.”


Also published on Medium.