Sunday, December 13, 2009

Made-to-Order Energy Bars

(Post: English)
"No matter how great a new product is, it can't succeed unless would-be customers know about it."

Jonathan Miller, 29, has understood this from the get-go.

A student at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Miller had been making his own high-protein nutrition bars when his wife, Jennifer, introduced him in December 2007 to another DIY energy-bar baker, Maria Sutanto, a PhD candidate in molecular nutrition at the University of Chicago.

Within a month, they had a business plan: custom-producing fresh, all-natural bars to the specifications of each customer.

They brought in a third partner, Jonathan Kelly, to help set up a Web site and oversee operations at a contract bakery in Chicago, and in April 2008 the three incorporated Element Bars.

Then Miller got busy marketing. Copying tactics from his years running price-comparison site, he bought keyword ads on Google and Facebook.

He also e-mailed blogs and got picked up by, which profiles Internet startups.

Element Bars grossed $18,000 by year-end 2008 and was selling about 1,000 batch-baked bars a week - at $41 for each minimum 12-bar shipment - through last summer.

That's when Miller really scored. Last May he had pitched Element Bars to Shark Tank, an ABC reality-TV series, and on Sept. 13 the episode aired.

Element Bars sold more in the next 24 hours than it had in the first six months of 2009.

Moreover, the show triggered inquiries from a national nutrition-products retailer and a national chain of gyms.

Turned down by banks for loans, Miller, Sutanto, 28, and Kelly, 27, pitched in $70,000­ to launch the Chicago company.

CEO Miller says Element Bars turned profitable post-Shark Tank and he projects sales of $200,000 this year.

Source: BusinessWeek

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