In episode two of this series, we will be reminiscing on the story of Gary Erickson and his company, Clif Bar.
With the huge popularity and ubiquitousness of Clif Bar, chances are, you have likely enjoyed one of Gary's bars yourself. Gary grew up in a family that loved cooking and developed a love for great tasting food and baking as he grew. After forcing down one too many unappetizing energy bars, he decided to take matters into his own hands and make a better tasting one himself. Thirty-three years later, his creation, is an essential snack trusted by adventurers all over the world.
"I can't remember a day where I didn't believe that we could get through anything." - Gary Erickson
5 Key Lessons I Learned:
Direct your income and time after work in your current job to fund your venture. Before Clif Bar, Gary started small bakery called on the side called Kali's Sweets & Savouries, while working his full time job at a bicycle company. He would bake all night and then head to to work!
Always look for feedback on how to improve your product. Gary wanted to make a better power bar, so he started to make fresh ones in his kitchen. He would then take them straight to his biking friends and get their feedback on how to improve them.
It is not about the money. Gary could have sold Clif Bar and cashed, but he believed in the vision and legacy of his company more than a bigger bank account.
Treat your employees like family. In 2010, after stepping down as CEO, Gary handed 20% of the company to his employees! Valuing employees and ensuring they know it is crucial to the success of a great brand.
Don't be afraid to challenge the big guys. Gary was determined to transform the energy bar industry despite having to take on Power Bar, a company with tremendous power and market share. From his little kitchen, he worked with his two hands to make what is now one of the most popular bars in the world.
Most Surprising Thing I Learned:
In 2000, Gary received an offer to sell Clif Bar for $120 million. The deal was as good as done. The lawyers and investment bankers were ready to close the deal, all they needed was Gary’s signature. On the day Clif Bar was to be sold, he took a deep look inside and realized he could not let his company go. An hour before ownership of Clif Bar was to leave Gary's hands, he stopped the motion, taking on $60 million in debt to stay in the game.
To say I was inspired by the story of Gary and Clif Bar would be an understatement! The journey was anything but smooth sailing and there are so many great lessons to be learned from how he traversed through them. I learned that if you have the conviction and belief to see your idea unfold in the world, you can make it happen. You can start small and do things manually like baking bars in your kitchen and passing them out at the local track. If you make a great product, people will notice and soon your business will begin to grow. We all come across problems and annoyances in our daily lives and Gary was no different. He hated the hard and unpalatable energy bars on the market. And one day, after eating his final one, he turned to his friend and said, "I can make a better energy bar than that."
Production started in his mothers kitchen the next day.