Lab Notes

ENTREPRENEUR SERIES: NO GRAIN, ALL GAIN

We value curious minds. We love learning from people who are doing cool things out in the world, so we’ve made it a regular pursuit. The Entrepreneur Series is a GoKart-hosted guest speaker event focused on startups and the individuals who built them. We invite a business founder to share their startup story, and some of the challenges and lessons they have encountered along the way.

Name: Mary Kosir

Startup: WholeMe, LLC (2013)

Title: Co-Founder and CEO

Background: Nonprofit Organizations, Intercultural Communication, Career Development, Program Evaluation, and Academic Advising.

Story: As a result of a major shift in her family’s diet, Mary Kosir noticed a sizable void in the food and beverage industry—healthy grab-and-go snacks that actually taste good. Shortly after, Kosir connected with Krista Steinbach, the former pastry chef at Bachelor Farmer. The two professionals partnered their genius to develop the truly authentic, delicious and healthful convenient foods brand, WholeMe.

As scale grew, so did pressure to become faster, smarter, and more invested. Kosir left her job at the Carlson School of Business to jump in full-time and hasn’t looked back since. Today, with the help of WholeMe’s razor-sharp board of directors and 4.5 employees, the two entrepreneurs have their incredibly tasty, grain-free, all-good treats in stores across the U.S. and online.

 

Learnings:

Surround yourself and your business with smart, engaged individuals. Kosir is a believer in the tried-and-true idiom, “it’s all about who you know.” WholeMe is insulated by a group of influential business leaders and professionals who have provided invaluable guidance and resources.

Be scrappy. Small businesses have some big disadvantages. For example, acquiring consumer, market and product data can be wildly expensive and often out of the question. Luckily for WholeMe, Whole Foods Market provides their vendors with fairly robust data about the product. Kosir says, “you’ve got to take what you can get,” be creative and have thick skin. All of that goes a long way.

Sell your story well. Knowing how to effectively share the brand history and paint a picture of a successful future is crucial when selling to potential and present partners, investors, and consumers.

Conquer your backyard. As shiny an idea it is to take on the world as quickly as possible, it’s important to focus on growing strong regionally—especially when working with a perishable product.

Do your research. What works in some geographical areas and stores won’t work in others, WholeMe has experienced this first-hand. So, do as much consumer research as possible but know that there will always be considerable trial and error.

Future:

Investing in plans of opportunity, including product innovation that will grow WholeMe into a lifestyle brand. Kosir sees the potential in WholeMe to become a whole lot more than healthy snacks.

Regrets:

As difficult as running a startup can be, Kosir’s biggest regret would have been not starting WholeMe at all.

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