Interview: Beryl Stafford, Founder Bobo's Oat Bars

CD: Tell us a little about how Bobo’s started.

BS: Bobo is the nickname of my daughter Alex, who created the first Bobo’s Oat Bar in our home kitchen 15 years ago.  She began baking these gooey oat treats with corn syrup and refined sugars, so I tweaked the recipe to make a delicious vegan and better-for-you oat bar with less refined ingredients. I wrapped them in Saran Wrap, stuck a label on them...a label drawn by my friend and is still on our package today...and started selling them in neighborhood coffee shops and small health food stores. What started as a rainy day hobby soon became a favorite snack in Boulder and eventually around the country. We are now producing over a million bars each month and are found nationally within all natural food retailers and conventional stores too, Kroger, HEB, Albertson’s Safeway, Lucky’s Market, and launching nationally in Canada next month.

CD: You founded Bobo’s in 2003 really before “bars” became so mainstream. How has the competitive landscape changed for Bobo’s and how have you continued to thrive?

BS: To succeed in this market Bobo’s has always been committed to maintaining our simple, home-baked taste and feel with its perfectly imperfect shape. I never chased trends. I am still using the few simple ingredients from my original recipe and we are still using the same baking pans. We just have a lot more in our Boulder bakery now. Our ingredient list is still all things you’d find in your own home kitchen.

CD: Bobo’s has maintained its’ “baked at home” feel despite its’ growth. Tips on how brands can do that?

BS: Always stay true to your values and mission. At Bobo’s, when demand grew and orders started coming in, to maintain the value and integrity of our hand-made product, I hired more people, avoiding the automated engineered product. I now have 85 people in the Bobo’s bakery.

CD: What is the best part about playing in Natural Foods space?

BS: People in Natural Foods Business are those who want a clean, simple and delicious source of food for their family and our communities.  When your entire industry is built on an altruistic premise like that, you find big-hearted, like-minded people surrounding you, andthough we work hard we tend to also have a total blast with each other.  Workingour trade shows has been some of the most fun I have had in my life, and its because of the great friendships I've been able to create in this industry.

CD: Most challenging thing about playing in Natural Foods?  

BS: The creativity in Natural Foods is rapidly changing. In order to capture a holy grail like national promotional end caps with Whole Foods, a company has to be the best at relevant innovation, building relationships with an ever changing retailer community, and totally nail it on execution of your product (quality, in-stock rate, pricing strategy, etc.). There is no resting on laurels for anyone in natural foods...to find yourself in a top position you must have the best team, the best brand and most importantly the best product. Its not easy.

CD: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?  

BS: Love what you do with a passion…and that will get you through the humbling moments because there will be many.  Living an entrepreneur’s life is not always glamorous. And be prepared to go to work if you want it to be a success. And one more thing, do it…it’s fun!

CD: How do you take care of yourself?

BS: I’m a tennis junkie.  I exercise a lot, but I feel the happiest on a tennis court….winning of course.

CD: What's your favorite book?  

BS: Gone With the Wind

CD: Who would you most like to have dinner with?  

BS: Robin Williams or Audrey Hepburn.  Oh now?  Roger Federer.

CD: What's your favorite vacation spot?  

BS: Probably St. Bart’s if I ever get there.

Beryl Stafford-LIFE SMART by Carrie Dorr